My New York loyalty, French education and Mediterranean pride, as well as a very busy summer move-logistics schedule upon my arrival to London almost a year ago, made me quite resistant to an instant British infatuation… Initially, I didn’t find that there was anything particularly unique or novel that I had not enjoyed or experienced in a prior place I lived in or travel to… but what I didn’t realize is that London had a lot of what I actually loved or enjoyed in one place and mixed in a harmonious way that made me feel increasingly at home. I gradually realized that London is brilliant in how it seamlessly mixes between the urban feel of a major city and a quaint calm village-y vibe in certain parts – all within minutes of each other. As the sun made its way back to this island and as I started to increasingly trust my nanny, I had the chance to discover more hidden gems both in my neighborhood / Chelsea (which offers lovely birds singing in the morning, cherry blossom filled streets, Camelias, a crazy squirrel that hangs on the edge of my garden’s tree branches and amazing “bespoke” shopping…) and beyond. This past bank holiday weekend was particularly inspiring, as I had the chance to enjoy a lovely tea time with friends in Mayfair, explored the Wallace Collection and the icing of this culinary and visual treat was spending a day in Cliveden – a gorgeous estate at Taplow, Berkshire set near the River Thames, which includes a mansion that was previously home to an earl, three countesses, two dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor! Cliveden was described in a journal entry by Queen Victoria with the following spot-on words: “it’s a perfection of a place,…the view is so beautiful”. Thanks to a Relais & Châteaux hotel now operating the mansion and the National Trust’s amazing work maintaining the estate, one can truly relive this estate’s prior glory and create a fairytale getaway just 40 minutes from south west London! My daughter kept on asking me if a princess actually lives in the mansion and at one point an employee of the estate overheard her and came up and told us that the latest Cinderella movie was filmed in part on the estate! However it was only when he pointed to the clock and confirmed that it was the clock used in Cinderella that he truly succeeded in capturing both her (and my!) imagination… each hour the clock bells rang to signal the time, my daughter’s eyes would open widely and a smile would instantly appear on her face as she relished in her British Cinderella moment… a magical moment that caught me off guard every single time and filled me with an instant rush of childhood dreams and motherly joy…
Stylish and unapologetic, Catalonia’s capital captured my imagination from the first day. I really think we’re gonna be very good friends… She dresses her buildings in couture-like detailed designs, juxtaposes them with ultra modern buildings, drizzles the art of a visionary artist here and there and throws in a beach for good measure!
With its hilarious knock-offs (think Canal street with a Lebanese touch), to fruit colors that will knock you off your feet, to colorful characters of all ages (think old men sipping Turkish coffee & smoking shisha at local cafés with the colorful Hamra-shopping local fashionista walking by) Hamra street (Hamra means in English the red one) may be shunned today by the Beirut fashion snobs as a destination for the masses, but I certainly recommend a stroll through it to tourists as a way to get a more local feel of west Beirut and a taste of a stretch that has not wavered throughout all the Lebanese turmoil as one of Beirut’s main commercial streets. You’ll note that there is an efforts being made to bring back some lost glory and prominence to Hamra and that it certainly looks nothing like its dodgy depiction in Homeland.
An enchanting collection of islands in the Indian Ocean balancing by virtue of its location and history striking tropical beauty and a devotion to religious spirituality.
Vacationing here is a speedboat trip to the senses: from dipping in the crystal clear turquoise ocean to touching the soft white sandy beaches to savoring the delicious Indian inspired food to relaxing to the healing scent of coconut oil during a traditional Asian massage to hearing the Friday call to prayer in Arabic from a small local island next to the resort… A humble traditional country drizzled by luxury resorts attracting the world to dots barely visible on the world map… The many contrasts invite you to relax, reflect and be inspired…
My mom’s idea of supporting me through the pre and post labor phases has meant for the most part cooking and cooking some more… of course she went way overboard and I’m enjoying every bite of it, each bringing back unique childhood memories and a lot of comfort as it reminds me that I have the support I need to go forward…
I particularly want to focus on Meghleh, a traditional Middle Eastern pudding served as a treat to family and friends after the birth of a new baby.
Meghleh has been flowing in my house for the past couple of weeks and I have consumed industrial amounts of it! Not only is it smooth, delicious, festive and addictive but more importantly for breastfeeding mommies, it can give you a much needed and quick energy boost to cover those extra calories you’ll still need to insure your milk supply while benefiting from its healthy ingredients:
- Spices: caraway and cinnamon (Grandmas swear that those spices help stimulate the breast milk production)
- Rice flour
- Toppings: shredded coconut, raw walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and pistachios, each boosting your diet with filling protein, fiber, healthy unsaturated fats and important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.