2 years of coffee and travelling…

peaches and golden ringThe Aypau blog is 2 years old this month, meaning 24 months of coffee and food reviews mixed with travel stories and blogposts about cities and work.

One of the original ideas with this blog was to write coffee reviews. However, I don’t spend all my days in coffee bars, and quickly decided to opt for the “I’ll write a review each time I visit a place that really impresses me” instead of “quantity over quality.” It’s about more than just drinking coffee and eating a slice of cake. Writing these reviews means taking a very good look around the cities I visit, spotting a nice coffee bar, being impressed and producing a post. This can take some time, because not every city hosts cosy coffee-places that pop up on every corner of the street. It also means tasting your beverage properly, trying to describe it with some detail, looking at the menu to see what other treats the bar offers.

Other than coffee, I’ve always been interested to see (and taste) what happens abroad. I so enjoy travelling, which has found it’s written way to this blog. You can expect a review on Warsaw (Poland) as from the second half of August.
I have ideas for other articles as well, more details will be released during the months to come. What I can tell you is that this blog will host a pop-up section: combining my interest in decoration, pure beauty products,… with inspiration drawn from other online platforms. The main part of my blog will continue to focus on coffee, food, travelling and work, so consider the pop-up as an addition, an experiment.
That’s all for now, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my birthday (yes) with some chocolate and a film.

A.Y.P

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A trip to Stuttgart (Germany)

maypole
The maypole on Marienplatz

I looked forward to this trip for weeks. Stuttgart was on the menu because I hadn’t visited that part of Germany yet, and because I could meet up with a friend who now lives there. I also tremendously enjoy travelling by train, on this occasion the train offered a beautiful view on large patches of yellow rapeseed flower fields.
Stuttgart is the main city of the Bundesstaat (comparable to a province or county)Baden Württemberg. It’s situated in the South-West part of Germany

I arrived on the last Friday of April and noticed something peculiar…
Several girls and boys were wearing traditional costumes. The girls wore Dirndls and the boys were dressed in Lederhosen. 
My friend explained that the youngsters were dressed this way for the Frühlingsfest or spring festivities. The Stuttgarters installed a Maypole at the Marienplatz. Food, drinks and concerts were abundant. Apparently the youths also celebrated at other places in the city.

Bread & Butter

bretzel
This Bretzel looks ‘compressed’ but tastes the same as the classic version

The first thing I ate upon arrival was a bretzel. This lovely bread product is sold in various foodstands, bakeries and supermarkets around town. I had mine sliced in half, spread with butter. Yes I had a second one…can’t wait to do that again.

At my friend’s place we had a cute breakfast with organic products: pancakes with fresh fruit and wonderful spreads. Many organic brands are also available in my country, but the full range of their products aren’t. Which is one of the reasons I love to travel.

And now, what I always try: coffee and cake! What amazes me every time I’ve visited Germany (wether it was Berlin, Köln or Stuttgart,…) are the pies. They are quite large compared to Belgian or French pies and sometimes look as if they were made for Alice in Wonderland. (I am very enthusiastic aren’t I). Even better is that a large piece of pie is inexpensive in a regular tearoom. So is a cup of coffee.

What I enjoy foodwise in Germany is that you can eat well organically, the range of available products and dishes is wide. But if you want to eat non-organically or good more traditional dishes then that is also possible. You choose

Chocolate

ritter sport
mini Ritter sport (marzipan, yoghurt, milk choc, with cornflakes, nougat)

Let’s not forget about the chocolate. How can one if the most impressive object in the Stuttgart main railway station is a tower of huge Ritter Sport chocolate replicas (no it’s not real chocolate inside because that would melt). Instead I bought a mini chocolate tower of the square chocolate bars. Yes, I ate 1/3 of the tower on the trip back home. The Ritter Sport advertising posters mention that their chocolate is practical (praktisch). I sure do feel less guilty about eating them because hey, they’re practical.

That’s not all, folks

Other than sampling good food you can also visit the television tower, it is 150m high and offers a stunning view on the city.

porsche ducktail
I’m saving up to buy a bigger one

Stuttgart is also home to the Porsche and Mercedes Benz musea. I visited the former (as a Porsche 911 enthusiast) and tremendously enjoyed that experience.

If you like shopping then there’s a long shopping street near the railway station – on the Königstrasse – with classic main street stores. If you’re into smaller, independent shops with a twist then visit the fluxus gallery at Calwer Passage (U-bahn Rotebühlplatz).

More Germany? Read my post about Aachen

A Fresh Start…

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Last week I received the news that my work situation will soon change drastically. Talking about monday blues…

It shook up my whole week, and my plan to publish a new read at the end of each month on this platform. I didn’t want to post a draft coffee review because it was time to contemplate, to reflect and… to look forward.

Time for a fresh start. To do more things that bring me joy and help me evolve. Time to write more, because that’s what I do. I don’t need anyone’s permission to write or to confirm that I’m a writer. I just am. Time for a vacation, to allow myself more freedom, and to enjoy good coffee and good food.

So, what’s next? With my work situation… I don’t know yet. I’ll allow myself some time to figure that one out. What’s next coffee- and travelwise? I will travel to Germany in a few weeks, so expect a review about my culinary adventures there, publishing time: beginning of May.

Good night, day or mid day where ever you are

Aypau

 

Time for healthy: Raw Bite Review

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Raw Bite’s colourful fruit and nut bars caught my attention in the supermarket a few weeks ago. So I bought the lavender one called Vanilla Berries. It tastes and smells so sweet and qualifies as a healthy snack, mmm… We’ve got ourselves a win-win situation here. I was planning on having healthier snacks anyway and decided I want to write a few food reviews. These ideas gave birth to a fruit snack haul which I  describe below.

Raw bites offers 8 varieties of fruit bars in happy, sweet colours. They are made with fruit such as dates, (berries), raisins… as well as nuts such as almonds, cashews…
The specific combination of ingredients will be different according to the type of bar: e.g. the orange cashew bar will contain more cashew nuts than for instance the vanilla berries bar. The company that makes these delicious treats is based in Denmark. So this is another product for my scandinavian collection.

My three favourites are :

Spice Lime: a daring combination of chili pepper, ginger and lime. Try this one for breakfast and you’ll have a buzzing start of the day.

Vanilla Berries: lavender packaging, sweet vanilla, mmm.. what else does a girl need…

Apple Cinnamon: The winter is not quite over yet, so let’s indulge in some warmth and sweetness

Good to know: these buddies are free from added sugar, the dates make them taste sweet. They are free from animal products, so if you’re vegan try ’em out. I shared a bar with my colleague who’s aiming to go gluten free, so are the bars by the way.
I bought the bars at a small Carrefour supermarket in Brussels. There they’re sold for € 1,95 a piece, which according to me is a very reasonable price, given the high quality and organic ingredients.

*wait a minute, you wrote that there are 8 varieties, but you’ve only photographed 5. Well, I’m not denying that…I ate the other ones!

Did I have coffee with Maurice?

Coffee and fun at Maurice coffee and knits in Antwerp
Coffee and fun at Maurice coffee and knits in Antwerp

Not quite…I had a capuccino actually. Are the golden letters in celebration of Maurice’s birthday? Who knows…
What I do know is that they have some pretty good capuccino at Maurice. With enough milk, just the way I like it, without even asking.
Maurice is the name of Veronique Leysen’s Antwerp based coffee bar. I heard Veronique talk about her professional plans in a Belgian tv show a few years ago. She named her coffee house after her grandfather, whose picture is proudly displayed above the counter. This young lady also sells knitwear (e.g. scarves, pullovers) in a corner of her coffee house. This sounded so original I decided to visit ‘Maurice’ the next time I was in the neighborhood, which was last weekend. They were open and I wasn’t in a rush. If a coffeebar is on my ‘to drink’ list I will get there, sooner or later…

You can find Maurice at the end of the Meir, the well known and large shopping street of Antwerp. You know, just in case you get hungry and/or tired from all your shopping…the entry is through the KBC bank (they share the ground floor)

Address: Schoenmarkt 35
2000 Antwerpen
Belgium

 

Papounet’s couscous against panic

Couscous makes good comfort food. Because boy did I need comfort and calming down a few weeks ago. I used to scramble down my writings in the ‘drafts’ part of wordpress before publishing. One day I logged in and read the words ‘NO DRAFTS’. They might as well have told me “there’s a boa constrictor in your bathroom”. A large one, with an A+ for constricting… I started panicking. Several features had disappeared from the dashboard, such as wp administrator and media library. I posted the case on the forum, but without receiving an answer. Somehow, today the drafts have re-appeared. Christmas magic? I somehow managed to retreive my second article on Sweden, but felt tired and nervous afterwards. It was way past dinnertime, and very near bedtime. Luckily my dad had made a batch of couscous earlier that week, and insisted I took some home. Couscous is made from grains. This food is made with a steamer (and tastes heavenly when you add some butter). In papounet’s version a sauce with chickpeas,olives,cowmeat and sometimes even shrimps is poured on top. The dish originates from North Africa. That couscous was so good it made me smile, the evil IT perils seemed less worse. Hence the name papounet’s (informal French for dad’s) couscous against panic.

Aypau

Sampling Stockholm: The old & the cool

So, here it is…finally: part two of my travel story in Stockholm. The trip itself was made a few months ago, due to a busy work and home-schedule the second part arrived a bit later than planned. However, since this part focuses on shopping and style, so the places I mention can be visited all year round…

What’s typical

When planning to visit Sweden’s capital there are several hotspots you can read about in loads of travel guides and brochures. One of these is Gamla Stan (the old town). Although several of its streets are quite touristic, I really think it’s worth visiting. Just follow your curiosity and wander. If some streets seem a bit too busy, take a turn and you’ll discover new ones. The Stora Nygatan for instance is a long street with interesting clothing stores, jewelry with a twist and eating venues (they have a Ben&Jerry’s ! for instance).

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Polkagris artisanally made sweets (on the right) and Naturfrisk Danish lemonade (on the left

 

If you’re into sweets, especially artisanally made ones with cool packaging, do visit the Polkagris shop (picture with polkagris above). You can find the shop at Lilla Nygatan 10.

*tip: the Swedish word for sweets is godis (wonder why I remember that one so well…)

Acting Cool

This doesn’t concern the temperature, but a trendy and cool part of town called Södermalm.

Södermalm is home to well known shops such as Acne (jeans,sweaters,coats,…) and Stutterheim (high quality raincoats).You can also visit small, independent shops such as Caroline Hjerpe’s jewellery shop, which sells beautiful rings, bracelets, earrings with a pure and modern design.

Caroline Hjerpe rings
Rings from the Caroline Hjerpe shop

 

 

I got off the tube or Tunnelbana at Medborgarplatsen and walked to åsögatan . From there I wandered to the rest of Södermalm. The Stutterheim and Caroline Hjerpe shop can be found at åsögatan. Another interesting place in this street is Söders café. They have the definition of Fika written on the window, the staff is very friendly and enthusiastic. It was so warm in July that the guy behind the counter greeted me with “welcome to the sauna”. However,one can also choose to sit outside and enjoy the sun.I had a bagel with smoked salmon,dill and a zest of lemon.

Watch your watch…

If you want to go on a shopping spree,you’ll find that opening hours between 10am and 6pm are quite common. However on saturday the shops tend to close earlier: at 4pm. So, watch your watch and be an early bird.

The Swedish Style

Aypau at Malarstranden - Stockholm, in holiday mood
Aypau at Malarstranden – Stockholm, in holiday mood

I like to ‘blend in’ while travelling, so I try to keep moments when I have to fold out my tourist map to a minimum (thank you smartphone). I find it interesting to experience some of the day-to-day things locals do. One of these experiences concerns sampling local treats for instance, you can read part 1 for more tips on this subject.

What I mean by ‘The Swedish Style’ is not only trying local specialities but also trying out the local look. Buns for instance: I noticed that several Swedish girls/women like a hassle-free style, and ‘wrapping’ your hair into a nice bun fits in with this idea. So I blowed out my fizzy frizzy hair and had a bun-moment (so comfortable).
And, coincidentally, in the photo above I happened to be wearing a t-shirt and trousers from a large Swedish clothing brand. ‘Blend in’ mission complete?