Salon des vins des Vignerons Indépendents, world’s biggest wine fair in Paris

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If you are in Paris this week-end I warmly recommend a visit to this wine fair. Not only it’s a very nice way to spend a day off, sipping wine and getting to know french viticulture but also you can make good deals when purchasing wine directly from the producer. I also love the fact that I actually know what I’m buying because I could taste the wine while the producer explains the characteristics of the product. And isn’t it nice to open a wine that has some kind of story behind and not just some random bottle you picked up from a supermarket?

I also like the values behind the label Vigneron Indépendant. Respecting the traditions, an independent wine maker does practically everything himself; he cultivates and harvests his wine yard and bottles his wine in is own wine cellar before selling it. I can’t imagine all the hard work behind it all. I think next time grabbing a bottle from my supermarket I will pay extra attention to choose a wine with the label Vigneron Indépendant!

Salon des vins des Vignerons Indépendants

from 27th November until 1st of December at Paris Expo in Porte Versailles

Restaurant Mirabelle, Belgian cuisine in Brussels

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This week-end we had some friends from Paris visiting us in Brussels. As usual I had work on Saturday in Paris and straight after finishing my day I hopped into Thalys and arrived to Brussels to meet B and our guests.

Our Belgian home is in Ixelles, one of the 19 municipalities of Brussels Capital Region and perfectly located nearby the Cimetière d’Ixelles neighborhood which is mostly known for bars, restaurants and beer drinking students. I might not be a student anymore but I love the liveliness of the Cimetière d’Ixelles and that’s where we wanted to take our friends too.

One of my favorite restaurants in Brussels is Mirabelle. It has 40 years of history and it is an institution in this neighborhood. What I love about their menu is that you can find all the traditional dishes but also modern bistro food. And most importantly, it is well prepared and delicious. Portions are generous and it is impossible to leave there hungry.

This high quality picture is taken from my favorite part of the menu.

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The interior of the restaurant is cozy and in the summertime they open a terrace at the inside court. Actually I really love the terraces in Belgium because they are often not in the front like in France but hidden at the back where you can enjoy your meal in the calm (and not in the middle of the street next to trash cans and pedestrians like in Paris).

Mirabelle is open everyday from 12 a.m. to 2.30 a.m and you can find it at Chaussée de Boondael 459, 1050 Ixelles.

Hotel The Exchange, Amsterdam, Holland

Last year we went to a short week end break to Amsterdam with B and as usual I was in charge for the organization of the trip. First thing to do was to find a nice place to stay so I googled “design hotel Amsterdam” and found Hotel The Exchange, fashion hotel in central Amsterdam. A couple of clicks later I had booked a room for a very reasonable price in this fashion hotel, where the rooms are dressed like models as they tell on their web site. The interior decoration is done by the students of the nearby fashion school The Amsterdam Fashion Institute.

This room has a feeling of a 90’s rave party

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Black and white

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All white and crispy clean

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So when we arrive I’m really excited and a bit scared to find what kind of room we’ll have. I’m telling B that it’s a design hotel and it will be a fashion experience for us and even if we’d hate it it’s only for one night. And so we get our key and go up to our room which is….. all white and with no decor what so ever! (Ok the reading lamps were golden metallic colored…)The room was tiny so the good thing was that the completely white interior made it feel more airy. So this had to be the budget traveller’s fashion room, extreme minimalism! The bed was big and comfortable, television worked well and in our small bathroom we could have a nice hot shower (which was much appreciated by us because that week-end the temperature dropped significantly and there was even a snowstorm… I get chills even just remembering that!).

View from the hotel corridor to the cafe Stock

Hotel Exchange

In the hotel there was a small cafe style restaurant and next door you can find a cool shop called Options which was great for small and original souvenirs. The hotel was well located and it was easy to go everywhere by foot. We came from Brussels by car and the hotel gave us a discount card for the parking hall. The parking was almost the same price than our hotel room (around 70 Euros), so next time if we go for longer than a week-end it would be better to go by Thalys.

We really liked the feeling and the atmosphere of this small hotel. The communal spaces were colorful and quirky and I was happy to find myself there for that snowy Dutch week-end.

Christmas market in Aachen Germany

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Mulled wine and XXXL Curry wursts, that’s what Aachen Christmas market is made of! I have visited this Christmas market twice and definitely would advice anybody who wants to get to the Christmas mood to go there too. Aachen is near Belgium, Holland and France and 1,5 hours by car from Brussels but you can also get there easily by Thalys. The old town is charming and when the sun goes down and all the Christmas lights starts to sparkle it all becomes magic.

Aachen old town just before opening of the Christmas market

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You can forget the winter darkness when the Christmas lights are lit up

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I’m more of a window shopper what becomes to actually buy stuff from my travels. Instead I’m more focused on what we can find to taste! For B with whom I travelled with it was obvious: german XXXL curry wurst. After the curry wursts we sipped hot drinks to warm us up before heading back home.

Not hungry yet?

Aachen, Christmas

Aachen, Christmas

Aachen’s Christmas market is open this year from the 21 November until  23 December and it is perfect for all the Christmas lovers who want to start early and for those who are so busy in December that they don’t have time to visit anything. As I’ve been there twice before I might try something new myself this year!

Aachen, Christmas

One day in Lille

I had a Saturday off (very rare) and was looking for train tickets to go to my second home in Brussels. 2 weeks in advance and the rates were high (around 80 Euros). After having a look in Google maps I suggested that my boyfriend B would come to meet me in Lille, we could spend the day there and then head back home to Brussels with our car. Also the train tickets were really cheap, 38 Euros in 1st class!

It’s an hour trip with the TGV from Paris and I arrived around 11 am to Lille. It was really sunny and warm for the 1st of November.

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B came with the car, we parked it and saw that the parking hall was filled with cars from Belgium. Apparently in Brussels all the shops are closed the 1st of November so people came to the French side to shop and spend the day off.

Our plan was to find a nice place to have lunch. We didn’t know Lille very well and just started to walk around without any specific destination. Then suddenly we saw a nice little street and a small terrace, we stopped there and decided to have our lunch at the Berliner. It was very relaxed and nice and simple menu; bagels, falafels and burgers.

Nice touch on the drink list was the German organic lemonade!

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After lunch we just walked around, visited some interesting shops. It is so nice to see independent shop keepers instead of chains. We had some ice cream on a sunny terrace and then after the sun started to go down around 4 pm (we almost forgot it was November with that lovely blue sky and 20 C!) we headed back to the car and drove to Brussels which was around 1,5 hours away. Every time we take the car in Belgium there is something strange with the traffic. This time it was a lost cow under a bridge one meter from the motorway! Scary and dangerous…

A fashionable dessert in Lille “le merveilleux”. These photos are taken outside of the boutique Aux merveilleux de Fred

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