Friday, August 24, 2012

Where she goes

I have an imaginary happy place. No, it's not as childish as it sounds. Actually it's a quite serious thing and it got me through some quite shitty, restless, sleepless nights. Because I only go there before I fall asleep.

For the sake of being thorough, I have to mention that I actually have 3 happy places: a solitary, fully functional, a family one, for specific weather needs, and a tropical one I haven't developed a lot yet. Which one I visit depends on my mood or whatever needs I have on that particular night, but I think the solitary has gotten the most usage.

The solitary is an igloo. It sits atop a hill somewhere in a Polar landscape, and although I make it a point that there is absolutely no one around for miles (human or animal), I can see a small settlement in the valley below. I never go there, but I guess it gives me comfort to know I could if I wanted to. I always imagine there's a strong wind, but my igloo entrance is always set sheltered from it, so I can hear it howl, but it doesn't blow inside. The igloo is small - I don't know if you know this, but the smaller an igloo is, the warmer it is inside. And it's cold out here. Really cold. That's what gives me so much comfort, in the end: finding insanely cozy shelter in a crazy hostile environment and knowing I'm perfectly safe because there's no one else there. I like imagining what I'm wearing, layer by layer. That's usually what I do first thing when I come here, as the landscape is already quite well established in my head and I see the geography as soon as I arrive. I start with a thermal onesie and a normal pair of socks. I then add a turtleneck, thick sweatpants and sport socks. Next, sweater and thick knit woollen socks. The last layer on top is a full-body ski costume, warm but light (remember it has to be comfy, I come here to sleep), woollen booties with a soft sole and a soft balaclava that is then covered by the ski costume's hoodie. There's gloves too, proper ski ones. I usually proceed by imagining how it feels just laying there, how warm I feel, how the wind sounds, how odd it is that I feel so good in such an unwelcoming place. I never imagine anyone else in here. I'm always alone. Please don't come. Actually I'm starting to question why I wrote all this down. Will it corrupt the integrity of the place? I really hope not, I guess I'll find out tonight.

The second happy place, the family one, is a cabin in the woods. Actually "cabin" isn't the right word - more like a one-room shack, because Timo and I built it. Here it's always autumn and always raining. There's not much in it, our bed, Fiona's crib and to be honest I haven't worked on the rest of the furniture yet. I do imagine the technical aspects of the shack though, that's my favorite part - they have to be something I could realistically help build, this is very important. It's usually built out of thin tree trunks, although I sometimes like to make it sturdier. There's a sloped roof, so rain pours off of it easily, and our windows are brutally-cut holes in the wall structure covered by large woven branch slates - if we want the windows open they have to be lifted outside and propped on sticks, but they are so long that the rain still pours off them harmoniously, not abruptly. I'm sure Timo would find some more sophisticated solution, but this is my happy place. Here we usually just lay in bed, holding each other, listening to the rain fall and to Fiona sleeping in her crib right next to our bed. Sometimes she's in bed with us - other than afternoon naps and special occasions we avoid this, she only sleeps in her room, so this is a treat.
I wish I could understand why it makes me feel so good to imagine I'm in this frail, hand-made structure in hostile weather (the igloo is quite similar if you think about it) and yet feel so safe and content. Maybe it's a primal thing. There are two moments from my childhood (the real one) that might explain my fondness for this kind of existence. One, stealing potatoes from my grandma's pantry and going outside with the neighborhood kids and cooking them on small fires we built. When I was growing up, you could get away with stuff like this. It obviously wasn't about eating those potatoes, it was about us providing sustenance for ourselves, feeling so powerful because we were feeding ourselves "in the wild". Stealing the potatoes might have cancelled some of that "ourselvesness", but we didn't care. It's not like we had time to grow them. Two, being caught in heavy rain while trekking in the mountains behind our country house with my parents and my brother and our dog and taking shelter in a suspended hay barn. I have very vivid memories of that experience and it is one of the purest moments of happiness in my life. The sneaking onto someone else's property, the feel and smell of the hay we lay on, the comfort and the stillness, the sound of the rain and the fact it was just us, the togetherness of the moment. It was perfect.

My third happy place, I don't really know why I keep pushing it on myself. It's supposed to be a hammock on a beautiful beach, sound of waves, maybe a nice drink in hand. Not sure if alone or not. I'm having trouble getting into this one, I always seem to start and I lose interest quite fast which is crazy because I'd love to transport myself in that scenario, even right now. I'll probably keep working on it. We'll see.

I have no idea why I felt the need to put all this down, since it's something very personal. I wonder if it will feel weird now I know other people know about it. And one last note: this is not a work of fiction.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Foodie food food

Season 2 of Heston Blumenthal's feasts started and oh boy, did it start big: the first show had Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an inspiration. I am still struggling to find clips from it, which is frustrating, because it was so cool words are not enough to describe it and I think everybody in the world should see it, it is so beyond food. It's basically making magic come true. But watch this space, I just might deliver the goodies. Let me just say... there was lickable wallpaper. Dude!

Talking about food and foodies, I've been thinking about something that kind of upsets me. I have so much respect for these professional cooks who have obviously been through so much sweat and so many years to refine their art, and trust me, after seeing a pretty stirring documentary about the Michelin star craze, even without that, it's just so soul consuming, passion for food and doing it right professionally, isn't it? So in light of this, just because you cook at home and then write about it on the internet, I really don't think gives you the right to call yourself a Chef, not even as a wise crack. Especially if you are a food lover, thus supposedly have respect for people who dedicated their whole lives to it. Upsetting.

With that in mind, I shall resume my clip hunt. Heston, where are you hiding?

Monday, February 08, 2010

My perfect day in Amsterdam

I recently managed to spend the perfect day in Amsterdam, on my own even, and I was so happy with the plans I had made I thought it would be worth sharing. Obviously, this was all tailored to my current interests, but still, I think I managed to fit in a good day's activities, varied and quite relaxed at the same time. It all started when I very suddenly jumped on the train and went over for the week-end to keep my husband company, since he had to work there for a week. But since the company resumed to the PM, as he was working during the day, I had to keep myself amused. I also have to mention that the first time I was in Amsterdam I found the city to be pretty unfriendly and not particularly lovely in any way. But this day really changed my perception of it all. So here's my itinerary, very happily fulfilled on a cold but sunny Saturday.

I woke up in one of the coolest hotels I've ever stayed in, CitizenM. It really is a concept hotel and our room resembled a futuristic moon pod. It was small, but so awesome that it just doesn't matter. It makes you feel different about having the toilet in the middle of the room, and the bed was more of a big, high playground! Plus, the remote that controlled everything from the colors of the neon lights to the TV and the blinds gave everything a very handy feel. Also, the texts on the shampoo bottles and soap were a really good read. I warmly recommend it, there's a lot of really nice quirks to it and you have to experience it to fully grasp it.

I decided to walk to the center (4 km distance), where I actually wanted to visit the famous 9 shopping streets, since I was in a vintage/antique shop browsing type of mood. And browse I did. There's something still charming to me in looking around in one of those really crowded antique shops where you find anything from old plastic Mickey Mouse toys to silver milk cups to vintage coloring books. The center was also oddly quiet when I got there, and that teamed up with the really cold, crisp morning light, made for a cool little atmosphere.

After walking around for quite a bit, I went and had a nice surf and turf in a steak place and decided to head for my next destination: the Kochxbos art gallery, a very small but very cool little place that displays lowbrow art. The first thing that jumped at me when I walked in was this Mark Ryden print, big and lovely and swoon-worthy. I also spent a few minutes staring at a Lori Earley painting, wondering if it was the original, only to realise it was simply printed on canvas. It looked amazing and I am now starting to understand why they are so damn expensive.

Really close to the gallery, on the street, there was a really cute handmade/vintage market. Even though the stalls were already being taken apart since it was pretty late already, I saw some really nice things and I'd definitely go back there to check it out properly. Actually, I think this is what I liked most about my day: walking around from target to target you come across a lot of things you didn't plan for or expect, and that just makes the experience even better. Walking around like this is a really good photo op as well, as personally I am a sucker for mosaic tiles at building entrances and just small cute details that pop up here and there, which you can only notice if you attack the city by foot.

My last destination meant I had to walk all the way over to the train station, which in itself is a beautiful place (from the outside at least). But my final stop was actually a vinyl toy store I sometimes order stuff from over the internet, so I thought this would be a good oportunity to see it live. I looked around, I picked up a few tokidoki pieces I've wanted for a while and I started to make my way back to the hotel, where the husband was waiting to take me to dinner. Luckily enough, although I was almost okay with the idea of walking all the way home, I came across the perfect tram station, and thus proceeded back in style.

Back in the room I looked through all the little things I had collected in my day's travels. The "pray", as it were. The best investment, next to the colorful and fun bits i picked up here and there, was an American Apparel dress you can wear in around 15 different ways. So as I spent the next half hour trying it on in every which way possible, I reflected back on my hard day and I realised I shall never again plan for too much, as I have in past holidays, and will be easy on myself, my brain and my legs, letting the city make stuff happen rather than me forcing it to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

C'est Christmas!

Yep, we are officially inside extended Christmas times. They smell like candied almonds and strawberry waffles, and they taste like sage and bread candy, mushrooms with garlic sauce, roasted chestnuts and warm raspberry punch. Because I am not one for mulled wine much.
What's it look like you ask? It looks like this...

Driving to Paris in a few days, good stuff to look forward to.

Thing of the day: Eyesores. Everything I wanted to say but didn't know how.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What's new, pussycat

* I'm lazy. Haven't written here for so long, and I'm kind of sad about it. Back in the good days, I was smart enough to keep this as an archive of whatever interested me at that particular moment or what was going on in my life. I lost that and I want it back.

* I've been spending a lot of time with art books (the low brow kind) and my toy collection, finding quirky patterns. Like designers having wives of Asian origin (David Horvath, Ray Caesar, Tim Biskup) or shockingly similar artists pairing up romantically (see Mark Ryden and Marion Peck or Brandt Peters and Kathie Olivas). It's kinda funny to come across little trivia things like that in my travels.

* We've done so much fun stuff lately. Just little things, like playing Guitar Hero 'till late at night (me on drums, husband on guitar), or baking (legendary cheesecake from the hubby) or making our own toys or cooking fancy meals at home or going to have all-you-can-eat shrimp at this place on the same night they do speed dating (watching that stuff's better than a show). But my favourite has to be going for dinner to our sushi place and then driving around. It's not voyeurism in a bad way, but I really love it when it gets dark and you can see inside people's houses. Every little glimpse of a strange cupboard or a cool wall or a collection of pictures, or whatever one might spot while passing by in the car looking at the lit windows... it's special. It makes you think of the people who are living there and what they might be like. It's a good exercise of imagination and it makes you look at your own life from the outside a little. I don't wanna get overly romantic, but it is something I find quite cool.

* Movies. Loved: The Boat That Rocked, Tattoo (2002, Germany). Hated: Babel. Not sure about: Watchmen. It's either brilliant or retarded, I just can't decide yet. It certainly didn't leave me indifferent, but on the other hand it did feel too long and that's never a good sign.

* Books. Been reading a lot of Nick Hornby, and he never disappoints me. No frills, no fancy crap, just honest stories with really nice insights. The guy has quite a gift for taking on different characters' voices. After being really charmed by The Magus and The Collector, John Fowles' The Ebony Tower left me cold. Also reading Nick Cave's The Death of Bunny Munro, but it takes a certain mood to go there. And to add to the insanity: yes, Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy is a really good crime read. Looking forward to the second movie, but I know by now they will never live up to the books.

* Now looking forward to a few husband and wife days in Paris before Christmas, then going home for the holidays. We have a few concert tickets lying around waiting for their cues (Dropkick Murphys, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Skindred and Dave Matthews Band) and I hear there's a David Lynch photography exhibit nearby. Also, for the first time in many years, we're doing something on New Year's Eve. Something other than protesting against the pressure of partying on the night and spending it in PJs in front of the TV. We are getting all dolled up and going to the fanciest hotel in town's Silvester Ball. There's gonna be a jazz band and a 7-course meal and we're gonna pretend we're grown-ups. I wonder if they will think the pink hair is strange.

* In the end, I can not stress this enough: watch Peep Show, Flight of the Conchords and The Mighty Boosh if you get the chance. Brilliant comedy series, and as a devourer of such I still have not found anything as good yet.

And that's what's new. Above, Bunny Love by Marion Peck.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Down to earth, simple, practical and kinda brilliant

If you wanna make sure your kid grows up to always be cool, Rules for my unborn son will help. A few of my faves:

If you aren't hungry enough to eat an apple, you aren't hungry.

Never push someone off a dock.

Don't pose with booze.

Freud was wrong. Let's move on.

You don't get to choose your own nickname.

Never eat lunch at your desk.

If you need music on the beach, you're missing the point.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Heston's Alice in Wonderland Feast

So here's something I've never done before: reporting on something I saw on TV last night. Channel 4 has a lovely food extravaganza called Heston's Victorian Feasts, featuring Heston Blumenthal experimenting with old and insane recipes, turning this whole show into basically tripping on acid in three courses. In a surreal ambiance, the guests were invited to jump through the rabbit hole and enjoy a feast made up of reinventions of old Victorian recipes cloaked in inspiration taken from Heston's favourite book, Alice in Wonderland. And this was the menu (more or less accurately, it was late and I didn't wanna take notes):

"DRINK ME" potion - inspired by the same drink in the book, Heston infused milk with six different flavours (toffee, hot buttered toast, turkey, cherry pie, pineapple and custard), then tinted them all pink and jellified every flavour slightly, so he could layer them in the glass. Which by the way was not a glass, it was more of a test tube. Therefore, as the guests indulged, every sip tasted totally different and it all became a "guess the flavour" game. I have to say they got quite a few right, the coolest thing was the look on their face as the flavours changed so dramatically in their mouths. Magical.

Mock turtle soup - this was by far the prettiest food I've ever seen in my life. The dish consisted of a soup plate and a teacup. The soup plate had in it a small turtle-shell made of turnip and swede I think, tiny mushrooms, black truffle cubes, a terrine of condensed pork fat and braised ox tale, micro greens and some other bit I forget. I'm so pissed I didn't find a picture of it on the internets, it was just delightful. Think of this colourful little wonderland in a plate, everything small and cute and colourful and flavoursome due to its condensed state. The teacup had in it the Mad Hatter's teabag: a pocket watch-shaped concentrated beef stock covered in gold leaf, which you had to infuse in hot water, thus making a soup which was then poured over the food toys in the soup plate. Double magical that was.

EDIT: got some more pics and you can see the soup being served here.

The main course I wasn't so enthused about. The idea behind it came from the fact that at some point during Victorian times when food was scarce, this smart fellow decided people should eat more insects - full of protein, free, what's not to like about them? The result was a Victorian garden the size of the whole table, with everything in it edible: flowers, greens, veg, potato pebbles, soil and gravel alleys made out of eel, anchovies, black olives and nuts and many other wonderous things, all this topped with crispy insects injected with a special sauce for extra taste. Now don't get me wrong, it looked great and it was funny to see the guests spoon up earth and eat it, but I just thought it was more of an artifice and I'm not sure the tastes worked great together, it felt more like a mish-mash of stuff put together for the sake of making the garden. Although, maybe it did taste good... I can't know, I wasn't there.

For dessert, Heston made a humungous glow-in-the-dark wibbly-wobbly Absynthe jelly, shaped like a, well, elephant cock, complete with a shaking table operated by dildo motors. It looked quite great. And while this one was more for show, I think, the individual desserts where strawberry, Absynthe and something else jelly with a creamy custard (?) center and served with Earl Grey ice cream. The adult desserts where also served with green balloons filled with helium and Absynth flavour. Inhale and enjoy.

I just really had to get that out. It was pretty freakin' brilliant and I wanna put it down while I still have it fresh in my mind. I'm exhausted.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A bit of Blixa never hurt anyone.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I was just watching Project Runway Australia, and it happened to be the "make clothes out of fruit and veg" challenge. And look what a beaut someone found! Never seen it before, it's a type of citrus called Buddha's hand, I just got really excited by it. Nature's so freakin awesome... Okay, back to my cage.

City of the day: Brussels, because I'm shipping my ass there for the week-end in a few hours.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Japanesia, here I came - Introduction

So, Japan... where to start?

Before we got there I was pretty freaked out about the time difference. I really like my sleep and the simple calculation that if I would have to get up at 9 am there, it would be 2 am for my body, did not make me happy. Oddly enough, because of the long trip my body was totally confused by the time we got to Tokyo, so the next morning I woke up body and mind harmonized, believeing it was indeed 9 am. But let me back up here a little to the first day we got there.

We arrived in Tokyo at 10 am, exhausted and with our bodies basically giving us the finger at every move. It seems my legs don't appreciate being in the same position for 10 hours straight - the nerve. It took us three or four hours to get out of the airport, buy a subway card, get to the hotel by changing two subway lines and check in.
I had been warned that in Japan hotel rooms have a tendency to sway towards the small side. But man, I wasn't ready for this. Let me put it this way: how they got the bed in there, I'll never know. We didn't even have enough room to open our bags, unless we climbed them up on the bed. Otherwise, our bath had everything it needed (other than space of course), the bed was super comfy, there was a TV that would supply many joyous nights of Japanese programming and most importantly, we had air conditioning.
We took a nap and then we went out with some friends Timo made via his company - gotta love international networks. It was my birthday, and I really couldn't have spent it better. We went for a walk in the corporate part of Shinjuku, then to a restaurant where you had to fish for your own dinner, and then to a karaoke place where they had rented us a room.

At the restaurant we had one of the best meals in all the time we were there. Me and Timo both failed at fishing, but one of our companions, Yamamoto-san, took only two minutes to return with the one we proceeded to call "Poor Richard". We had Poor Richard as sashimi, and after his bones served as very exotic decoration, they also turned into a soup, because Japanese people respect their food and nothing is wasted. We also had blue pickles (it was actually aubergines, but still) which broadened my food color palette.

The karaoke part of the night was a true "Lost in Translation" experience. I mean, these folk like their karaoke! So much so that there are numerous skyscrapers (yes, SKYSCRAPERS) full of private karaoke rooms you can rent for yourself and your friends. See, they don't like it our way, where you monkey around with an audience. They are private people. The song choice was so broad that it even got Timo to do a few duets with me - "Country Roads" by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and "Time Bomb" by Rancid. That's pretty good karaoke in my book any day.

So that was our first contact with Tokyo. I'm gonna structure my thoughts on this trip a little, since there's so much to say. I think there will be a post about the things we've done / seen that made the biggest impact on us, and another one on the things we found strange and different from what we know, culture and social environment wise. I was thinking of also making one with tips and tricks and practical advice on getting around, but meh, just ask if you're thinking of going there, I'm happy to help in private.

"Song of the day": Greg Graffin - Cold as the Clay.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Making a wish (1)

That one day he will fly me off on a plane, simply to have an anniversary photo shoot with him.

"Song of the day": Dredg - Ireland.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's official: you suck.

Here's something I've been pondering quite a bit lately. It's a list of things that used to be cool and new and exciting and special, but that I think are now taking a fast dive into the depths of sucking. And not a moment too soon, might I add.

1. Girls saying stuff like "I've always been more of a tomboy, never getting along with girls, but always really good with boys. When girls were playing with dolls, I was smashing racecars and lusting over that new robot in the toy shop. I'm just one of the guys..." Erm, unless you've got a penis, no, you're not. And if you do, well, that's a totally different discussion.

2. Girls wearing colored dresses at their wedding or Converse shoes instead of proper shoes. Which yes, is a sin I am comitting myself (the latter I mean), but at least I am aware of the suckiness of it all creeping in slowly.

3. The trendiness of celebrities having babies is also living its last days I think. This one doesn't suck actually, it's just not as cool as it has been in the last few years. A lot of babies have been had, a lot of swooning over the little buggers has been done, I guess it's on to the next thing now.

4. Protecting the environment done wrong. I much more respect someone who quietly takes their phone charger out of the plug when the battery is full and all these little things you do around the house out of common sense, than someone who blabs on about how much they love the planet and makes superior speeches about it in public, like they've found some sort of ship they can board to make themselves feel worthy of the space they take up on said Earth. It's just so off-putting it makes me want to set a tree on fire, but I guess this is what happens whenever something good becomes a trend.

More will be added down the line, but to end this for now, let me tell you a little story. A few years back, I bought a skateboard. I wanted to use it as a mean of transport or an alternative to the bike I didn't own then, and obviously not to learn to do tricks or break my neck on some half pipe. Even back then I was too old for that kind of stuff and I am very much aware of the strict limits of my athletic abilities. So I buy it, I ask a friend of a friend a few things about where I should put my feet and such technical details, and I proceed to the park to make myself familiar with the object in question. To make a long story short, after careful scouting for empty alleys where I could suck at it in the process of learning, after countless stupid remarks from random idiots passing by at the sight of a girl meddling with a skateboard, after being banished even from the parking lot of a supermarket because what I was doing seemed "dangerous to the parked cars", I gave up. In total, I think I took that skateboard out ten times. My husband's using it now, so all was not lost. But what I want to say is, sometimes it's okay to let people suck at something. Allow sucking as a learning process.

I guess this is number 5 on my list. Complete morons not letting other people suck in peace. And if you find yourself doing that, well, my friend, you yourself suck.

I conclude with my artist of the day: Travis Louie.

Reading Stephen Fry's "Moab Is My Washpot"

[...] "Music is the deepest of the arts and deep beneath all arts. [...] I don't know if you have ever taken LSD, but when you do so the doors of perception, as Aldous Huxley, Jim Morrison and their adherents ceaselessly remind us, swing open wide. That is actually the sort of phrase, unless you are William Blake, that only makes sense when there is some LSD actually swimming about inside you. In the cold light of the cup of coffee and banana sandwich that are beside me now it appears to be nonsense, but I expect you know what it is taken to mean. LSD reveals the whatness of things, their quiddity, their essence. The wateriness of water is suddenly revealed to you, the carpetness of carpets, the woodness of wood, the yellowness of yellow, the fingernailness of fingernails, the allness of all, the nothingness of all, the allness of nothing. For me music gives access to every one of these essences of existence, but at a fraction of the social or financial cost of a drug and without the need to cry "Wow!" all the time, which is one of LSD's most distressing and least endearing side-efects.
Other arts do this too, but other arts are for ever confined and anchored by reference. Sculptures are either figuratively representative or physically limited by their material, which is actual and palpable. The words in poems are referential, they breathe with denotation and connotation, suggestion and semantics, coding and signing. Paint is real stuff and the matter of painting contains itself in a frame. Music, in the precision of its form and the mathematical tyranny of its laws, escapes into an eternity of abstraction and an absurd sublime that is everywhere and nowhere at once. The grunt of rosin-rubbed catgut, the saliva-bubble blast of a brass tube, the sweaty-fingered squeak on a guitar fret, all that physicality, all that clumsy "music-making", all that grain of human performance, so much messier that the artfully patinated pentimenti or self-conscious painterly mannerism of the sister arts, transcends itself at the moment of its happening, that moment when music actually becomes, as it makes the journey from the vibrating instrument, the vibrating hi-fi speaker, as it sends those vibrations across to the human tympanum and through the inner ear and into the brain, where the mind is set to vibrate to frequencies of its own making.
The nothingness of music can be moulded by the mood of the listener into the most precise shapes or allowed to float as free as thought; music can follow the academic and theoretical pattern of its own modality or adhere to some narrative or dialectical programme imposed by a friend, a scholar or the composer himself. Music is everything and nothing. It is useless and no limit can be set on its use. Music takes me to places of illimitable sensual and insensate joy, accessing points of ecstasy that no angelic lover could ever locate, or plunging me into gibbering weeping hells of pain that no torturer could ever devise. Music makes me write this sort of maundering adolescent nonsense without embarrassment. Music is in fact the dog's bollocks. Nothing else comes close." [...]

I conclude with my "song of the day": The Grit - Straight Out the Alley.

This sequel did not suck

A few words of advice, if you haven't seen it already: it's damn long, so don't go to late screenings because if you're tired it's hard to follow the metal screeching and fusing and battle action. You won't know who's who and who's winning or whatta-whatta's going on. Two, try to sit as far back as possible, that transforming stuff's fast and you totally can't fully enjoy it if you're sitting too close to the screen. Thrice, I wish that ice-cream van got more screen time, but I guess Bumblebee's gotta do.

I conclude with my "cool person of the day": Invertebra.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What's in a name

Let's face it, every word and therefore name has a unique personality stigma attached to it. You hear it and it triggers a certain mood, or instantly gives you a certain feel of the said word or name. If you're Romanian, when you hear the name "Vasile" you think of a thick-skinned, sun-burnt man from the countryside, if you hear "galoshes" you think of a posh English man trotting about on a rainy London day, if you hear "cinnamon" you think of warm childhood mornings and your grandma's cooking. Of course, every interpretation of any word depends on the hearer's perspective on things and life experience, but there is, as in all things, an agreed "general" opinion established by the majority or if you will, by the so called "normal" class. The reason I'm going on about this is that this past week-end my perception of one certain name has done a very unexpected 360 on me. I'm talking about The Hague.

I'm not sure what imagery others get in their heads from hearing of this city, but for me it used to be, until this past Saturday, international politics, trials, Queen Beatrix and Milosevic. When I thought of it, I pictured something dry, grey and boring, resembling the UN quarters in Vienna. Which shows how much imagination I have.

On Friday, the husband, kind of tired of my moaning about how because of the wedding costs we can't really afford to up and fly to wherever we feel like when we're bored of Düsseldork, said he'll take me out for a roadtrip. I like roadtrips, especially because I get to pick the music and we make numerous stops at gas stations to buy guilty pleasure snacks under the pretext of "hunger". So on Saturday morning we left the house armed with our cameras, CDs galore freshly picked off the shelf and an assortment of beef jerkey he brought back from the States. We drove and drove (I had no idea to where, and as it turns out, neither had he) until we hit a roadblock and I fell asleep. I tend to do that in cars.

When I woke up we were stopped in a gas station in The Netherlands and the husband was getting directions. He shyly admitted he was going to take me to this one place, but it's so remote it doesn't even show up on the GPS, so the man in the gas station told him to take me somewhere else, really close. This is how we ended up in The Hague, the Scheveningen district to be precise.

Now, I've never been a girl to get excited by the sea, the beach, a colorful pier, a lively promenade, pink candy stalls, rainbow pillows, lime-flavoured drinks and carousels. And by never I mean always. And this is exactly what we found here. I kept asking Timo if he's sure we're in The Hague. He said yes. And I'll tell you what, it wasn't just the beach. We drove around the city a little before heading back home and I literally wrote down names of streets I want to walk down when we go back. The harbor looked cute, the area next to it was full of little bars where locals were playing poker while tending to a jug of beer each, then we got lost on some little residential streets that were quiet and looked like a film set, then the posh streets with expensive houses so beautiful and different, yet harmonious and understated. Yes, I am officially a fan and officially pleasantly surprised, for the first time in a long time. This is so not how I imagined The Hague. And I can only hope these accidents will keep happening in the future, otherwise there's a lot of little gems that I'll lose in the travel dust due to some unfortunate name mishap.

I conclude with my "song of the day": Bouncing Souls - Sounds of the City.
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