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Travel

20 useful things a backpacker needs when traveling

septembre 9, 2018

You have made the choice to travel as a backpacker?  Congrats, you will live a thrilling adventure! It is a way to discover a place by really connecting with the people, their culture and …  it is also a to solution spend less money when travelling (come on that’s the reason number 1 let’s admit it!). You may change very often of place to sleep, leaving room for surprise and the spontaneity of each moment.  So you will need a few useful things to make sure your travel will get as comfortable as possible but it all have to fit in one bag that you will carry with you everywhere just like a turtle ahahah. How to pack light but efficient when you travel as a backpacker?

Here are 20 things a backpacker needs when traveling:

The Bag

Investing in a good bag really worth it since you will carry it during all your travel and for your numerous next travels. What is a good backpacker bag? 1. It should not be too big since the bigger it is, the more you will carry. A 50L-70L is enough! 2. Choose one that you can totally open with a zipper. It will be super practical to find something without emptying all the bag since according to the law of Murphy the stuff you need will always be at the end although you really organized it well ahah. 3. Make sure it has a rain protection!

Local SIM card

Getting a local sim card is really useful for a backpacker to stay connected in places where there is no wifi. It can save your ass when you will be on the road to geolocalise yourself and check if the taxi or bus you are taking is going to the right direction, to check out a place to sleep or to eat and see the comments in TripAdvisor, to call to book a restaurant, a taxi/ tuktuk/, get extra information on the place you are visiting.

Notebook & pen

Always good to have some sheets of paper to write down advices and good locations you can receive from the people you meet during your journey. It is not bad neither to write down a few addresses if you wish to send some postcards or relatives phone numbers if you loose your mobile phone and you are in danger ahahaha. Personally I love to write a diary when I’m traveling, I gather also all my crazy ideas, feelings, maps I ask people to draw to find my way ahahha. And the pen is always useful for any boring F*** form you will need to fill in at the airport, hotels etc…

Download the app Maps.me

This app is really great for a backpacker to find its way without any internet connection. You can get offline maps for free with a geolocalization to guide you at each corner.

Universal Adaptator

Super practical when you realize you end sleeping in a little guesthouse in the middle of nowhere with no equipment!

Photocopy of your passport

I never ever leave my passport! But in case of, it is always good to have a photocopy of your passport.

Cash

First of all never forget to inform your bank that you are going to travel. Sometimes they can block your credit card if they see withdrawals of cash from an ATM in another part of the world, thinking you are victim of fraud. In some places, there are very few ITM and it happens they have no money. WTF you would think?! But it is a reality and in Sri lanka we even ended no eating lunch to save enough to pay the accommodation at the end of the trip… If you want to avoid this situation, bring CASH! At least a pair of two bank notes of 100 euros. Anyway in many countries it is even cheaper to convert than to withdraw money so travel with CASH$$$.

Hand washing detergent

The best way a backpacker reduces the weight of its bag is by bringing a minimum of clothes. In fact very few items are really necessary to survive like 3 shirts, 1 sun shirt, 1 polar sweater, 1 denim, 1 short, 6 underwear, socks, 1 pair of flip-flop, 1 pair of tennis and sunglasses. Since you will bring fewer shirts than the amount of days of your travel and I guess you are a clean person, you will need to wash it often. In some places it won’t be difficult to find a laundry but in case of, you can bring a hand washing detergent.

Towel

I am obviously not talking about your parents’ towels that take a huge place in the luggage and weight 10 kg when they are wet! For example Decathlon are making super light & thin towels that are really practical to dry super fast.

Water purification tablets

Depending where you decide to go, you way get in the middle of nowhere totally thirsty and desperate to find drinking water … and suddenly alleluia you find a river !! but don’t feel safe to drink it! Fortunately there is a way to purify water that takes no space in your bag. You can use some Chlorine Dioxide Tablets and you will have to wait just 30 minutes for the tablets to effectively neutralize Giardia and up to 4 hours for Cryptosporidium.

Travel guidebook

Personally I already enjoy the travel before travelling from the moment I buy my tickets and my travel guidebook such as Lonely Planet. Really love to read everything about the country details, weather, culture etc and love to write, corner pages and take notes on it. It is also a trick to get a good treatment when you arrive in a guesthouse or restaurant and show the guide explaining you came thanks to your guidebook.

Plastic bags & travel vanities

If you do not want to mix you smelly & dirty socks or underwear with the rest of the clean clothes you may appreciate to have a plastic bag! Also a waterproof vanity or pouch are really practical when you are a backpacker to get together and find easily your little things that you might need all the time such as a pen, money, passport, sunglasses, key, phone, hand sanitizer etc.

Hand sanitizer

Did you know that your hands are the dirtiest part of your body? A hand sanitizer is a must-have when you eat some local street food served by a guy with some long and dark nail or when you enjoy the pleasures of going to a public toilet with no water and soap! ahahah

Cleansing wipes

What would you do if you cannot take a shower or there is no toilet paper in the public toilets? We all had no choice but to go to some very disgusting toilets for our own survival right? So don’t forget your cleansing wipes 🙂

Travel health kit

First of all you must check if you have all the required vaccines done for your destination. The basic travel medical kit would have:

  • Analgesic (pain relief) medicine such as paracetamol or aspirin
  • Cold and flu tablets
  • Motion sickness tablets
  • Antiseptic solution for cleaning wounds or bites
  • Blister and wound patches
  • Diarrhoea medicine, e.g. Imodium (loperamide)
  • Low potency hydrocortisone cream

Mosquito repellent

I know you are tired to hear your mum saying « don’t forget your mosquito repellent! » when you travel in exotic places. But do you know what is the most dangerous animal in the world for humans? The mosquito!! Check out this chart about the world’s deadliest animals. In some areas you will need to use a mosquito repellent to avoid being devoured by mosquitos and catch one of the diseases they can transmit such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and the list is long!

Rain jacket 

It takes a very little space and you will be so thankful to have it on you when you get caught by surprise by these crazy tropical rains!

International driver license

That’s just a small piece of paper but if you want to rent a car in some countries and avoid a fine by the local police, get your International driver license.

Sunscreen

Obvious right?

Camera & memory card

And last but not least the camera & extra memory card! Many people are just using their phone since today smartphones make great pictures that you can directly post on the social networks. However if you are into photography a reflex, Go pro or drones make pictures incomparable!

That’s all folks! Enjoy,  Melissa ♡

backpacker

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Sri Lanka

décembre 6, 2017
Best places to visit in Sri Lanka

Hi Guys, I feel so happy to be back and share with you some great places to visit in Sri Lanka. It has been quite long and difficult to erase like thousands of pictures (I guess I have some Asian blood haha) and select the best pictures I took during our amazing travel but here they are!! First of all I wanted to let you know that at the beginning I was half enthusiastic to go to Sri Lanka because we originally booked our trip to Bali. It was like a DREAM to come back there, since I lived with my parents in Indonesia as a kid and felt very special vibes in Bali. We decided to change our trip due to the volcano Agung that could have entered into eruption at any time and did not want to take the risk of a stress on holiday. So one week before the travel, we just changed of destination (yeah rocknroll), thinking that Sri Lanka was a very interest place to discover and last but not least affordable! Since we traveled there with a very low budget and wanted to see a maximum of places in just 10 days, we discovered the island in a backpacker mode. It has been an intense travel, with an average of 2hours of public transport per day, every day a new place to discover, we sometimes slept in creepy guesthouses with no electricity, no water, no Wi-Fi in the middle of nowhere but we really love Sri Lanka! We loved the kindness of the people, there are so many temples and cultural places, to visit, you can practice hiking in mountains similar to the Alpes, meet wild animals while doing a safari, dive and see the amazing underwater world around the island, walk in the tea-fields, surf, eat delicious tropical fruits, and the famous rice&curry and also just chill on great wild beaches! We could not see everything so I cannot promise you that this is the best trip ever and anyway we all have different interests. Since we only had 10 days, we spend 4 days in the cultural triangle, 2 days in the mountains and 4 days to relax at the end of the travel on the beach. So find below some amazing things to do and places to visit in Sri Lanka!  Bisous, Melissa♡

10 amazing things to do and places to visit in Sri Lanka

  1. Polonnaruwa

It is a royal ancient city declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You will travel in the time while walking through this archaeological city and discover an old castle and Buddhist temples. We preferred to visit the ancient city by tuktuk but you can also do it by bike. I recommend you to visit it early the morning or the weather will get too hot and the place is getting crowded. After the visit we ate at Priyamali Gemara Farmer Lunch a really delicious rice&curry in a lotus leaf with a stunning view overtaking a rice field.

2. Sigiriya

It is the greatest wonder of Sri Lanka that dates from the fifth century and was totally forgotten in the jungle! You will cross stunning gardens and climb a rock where was build a palace by a king after killing its own father and kicking out of the kingdom its own brother. You will see beautiful paintings in very good conditions during the climb and the view is really breathtaking! Just a special place that you should definitely discover early in the morning to avoid the crowd and it will makes you feel like your are the kind of the jungle! That day we slept in the guesthouse Kalum Homestay that was fantastic because of its view overtaking Sigiriya and it was affordable. While we took the breakfast outside we got the visit of a monkey family! Kalum was very friendly and helpful. You cannot miss also the kottu roti at Chooti restaurant filled with avocado, or chicken, banana and even chocolate and also try their fresh juice of mango or banana they are excellent!

3. Minneriya National Park

If you love elephants, when you travel to Asia avoid the places proposing to bath, feed and ride an elephant. These elephants are tortured and slaves living an unhappy life… The Minneriya National Park is one of the greatest park of Sri Lanka to watch elephants into the wild while doing a safari   There are many great safari parks in Sri Lanka, we chose this one because it was one of the most renown and it was on our road. To pay the cheapest price for a safari you need to be a group of 4 or 6 people in a car so you can share the cost for the rental of the jeep and the guide.

4. Dambulla

The Golden Temple at Dambulla was really a crush that you should not miss. We climbed a rock under the rain and sweat anyway, crossed many monkeys on the way but the view was worth it! And the best was to discover the 5 caves inside this rock and see thousands of Buddha statues. Really amazing!

5. Kandy

Kandy has a special atmosphere, the streets are overcrowded, sari and jewels shops at every corner, it can be judged at first as messy, smelly, noisy. And suddenly we entered in a small hinddu temple by mistake and felt we were in a parallel world, filled by peace. We really liked to take a walk by the big lake that is surrounding the city until the rain surprised us and buy some fruits at the local market. This city is an interesting stop to connect with the Sri Lanka of nowadays.

6. Nuwara Eliya

We arrived to Nuwara Eliya by train from Kandy and the trip was wonderful. I highly recommend you to get your seat in the mythical Observatory wagon, which is the last wagon of the train that has a panoramic window at the end. We got the change to sit just in from of this window and were totally thrilled by this trip! You will see at first tropical landscapes changing progressively into very green fields of tea. Nuwara Eliya is in the mountains on the highest point of the country. When you are up there it is getting really cold and it rains like in England so get your winter cloths on! (Sweater, rain jacket, hat are super welcome). There you can visit very old Tea Factories such as Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Estate or Bluefield Tea Estate that will propose you a visit with a guide and a tea degustation for free but you should obviously offer a tip. Then you can take a walk and get to the beautiful waterfalls of Ramboda. To finish perfectly the day, we took the dinner in a delicious Indian Restaurant called Grand Indian Restaurant.

7. Ella

We also did the travel between Nuwara Eliya and Ella by train and this time we did not get any seat reserved so we did a part of the travel standing up and the atmosphere was crazyyyyyy! All the people with no sit booked were singing and dancing together, it really comforts! Ella is like a mini boho chic village in the mountain. There you can enjoy hiking on the little Adams Peak and eat a vegan burger with a green juice. Also we had an Ayurveda massage together that was really nice and relaxing. We got the most incredible night there in the Ella Mount Relax Cottage that has cabanas on stilts with crystal walls so you have an amazing view overtaking the mountains from your bed, the shower and even when you are on your throne 🙂

8. Tangalle

We discovered the beach of our dreams in Tangalle and it was totally desert! We couldn’t belive this wild beach was just going to be our private playground!  The water in this area has really big waves and the current is strong so be careful, it is not recommended to swim alone. To have a delicious grilled fish on the beach you can go the beach of Goyambokka or to Cactus Lounge that is on a very cool little beach and the seafood is so deliciously prepared.

9. Unawatuna

By chance we found on the beach of Unawatuna our little Paradise on earth to chill the rest of the holidays. We arrived late at night by bus to Unawatuna, had no idea were to sleep, but finally we discovered Dream Cabana and did not know this place was so famous on Instagram for its rope on a coconut tree! We slept in a little wood cabana on stilts with a very cool terrace that offers a wonderful morning view overtaking the beach. This place belongs to a very friendly family that is always available to share good plans to discover and enjoy the area. In addition they prepare a very delicious homemade breakfast with fresh fruits! We planned to stay there 2 nights but felt so good that we stayed 1 more night. This place is ideal to learn surfing but if you already have a good level, you can go to Hikkaduwa that is one of the most famous surfing spot. We also dived there and I was really impressed by the beauty of the underwater world at 24meters of depth. This place is also special because sea turtles use to come at night to leave their eggs. Ok I tried several nights to find them but got unlucky. If you really want to see turtles you can visit the Turtle Hatchery, this organization tries to preserve the sea turtles and collects the eggs of the turtles to avoid them being eaten by other wild animals. After 65 days, the baby sea turtles leave their eggs and the organization releases them into the sea after 2 days of life. If you want to have a romantic dinner on the beach with the light of a candle I recommend Kingfisher Restaurant.

10. Galle

You should definitively have a stop at the old town of Galle and its fortifications, it is such a charming place to be. It feels like traveling in the past, very small streets, old Romanian roofs, colonial architecture, coconut trees and sea view. The beauty of this city and heritage value of the fort is so special that it has been recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Gale was a nice last stop to end our travel in Sri Lanka, from there we took a bus to get back to Colombo airport.

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Travel

Ibiza

juin 17, 2017
Ibiza

Looking for a cool destination to spend your spring holidays or Indian summer? Ibiza or Eivissa is a great place to go during these periods and it is at just a couple of hours from the biggest European capitals. I came to Ibiza for the first time in April and had a real crush with this island from the minute 1 I left the plane! Yes it may seem over-enthusiastic but I just loved the vibes there and when discovering this place I felt in love with its wild countryside, its white ibizan style houses surrounded by cactus, the sandy beaches or calas with its crystal water, the chillout chiringuitos on the beach, the charming old city of Eivissa, the hippie market, Formentera island… Ibiza has a lot more to offer in addition to its crazy parties! If you have never been to Ibiza and want to discover the island, here is a list of 15 cool places and things to do in Ibiza:

Cala salada

Ibiza old town

Harbour of Ibiza

Bicycle in Formentera

Tropical water in Formentera

Hippie Market – Las Dalias

Hippie market

5 activities or places to visit in Ibiza:

  • Beach life: You will be so impressed by the magical beaches and calas that are on this island and their transparent water. You can find some secret calas and feel you are at the end of the world, or enjoy a drink and dance in a chiringuito on the beach. Oh and do not forget to watch a sunset on the beach which is a spectacle there that is applauded!
  • Dalt vila: get lost in the bucolic little streets of the old Ibiza! The panoramic view from the castle that is at the top of the hill is really breathtaking. You will contemplate a canvas of white old roofs surrounding the port in Ibiza Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; mixed with the blue sea and the green wild cliffs full of pines as a background.
  • Formentera: this peaceful island is a treasure. It has tropical beaches, salt works and beautiful landscapes that you will love to discover by scooter or bicycle if you are sporty!
  • Hippie market: there is a community of hippies that still live in Ibiza and you can see their art at the Dalias market. This hippie market is really cool to have a walk, have a lunch or drink and shop some jewels, clothes, decoration and other stuff.
  • Night life: Ibiza is the most famous place in the world for its crazy nights and parties. In fact you can feel the parties vibes anytime, day and night. On the beach you have plenty of bars where you can listen to really good music and dance, also in the car you can keep on partying because the music at the radio is excellent, and even our hotel was putting some cool music all day and a part of the night by the swimming-pool!

Playa las salinas

Cala d’Hort

Es Vedra

Cala Comte

Cala salada

Playa de ses illetes

5 beautiful calas or beach to enjoy in Ibiza:

  • Las Salinas: to get there you have to cross by walk a pine forest and you will discover a wild beach surrounded by dunes. Ok I said wild but you will not escape the chiruguitos with DJ mixing chill out music. The party is everywhere!
  • Cala d’hort: I advise you to park a bit before the cala and you will enjoy a fantastic view from the cliff overtaking the bay and see the fascinating island of Es Vedra. This pyramidal island is very special because it is considered as one of the most magnetic place in the world. What does it mean? Well this pyramidal island is the source of inspiration of many myth, legends and paranormal stories. Some say that this magnetic rock would attract aliens, upset compass, cause disorientation and even make disappear object and persons! Ahhaha. More seriously I really loved to have a picnic there and feel I am at the end of the world. And by night it is an incredible place to watch the stars!
  • Cala comte: this cala is just incredible for its transparent water! A must see.
  • Cala salada: a wild little cala that you will find after walking 5min. Very charming.
  • Playa de ses illetes: this is the beach you cannot miss if you go to Formentera!! It looks like a tropical beach that never ends.

Harbour of Ibiza

Sa Platgeta

Chiringuito Sunset Ashram

5 places to eat or take a drink in Ibiza:

  • Sa Vida: you will find this small and cute restaurant on the port of Ibiza town. It is a place for the gourmets that know where to eat well in Ibiza! If you want to taste their high quality tapas I highly advise you to book or you won’t be able to eat there! Address: Carrer del Bisbe Carrasco, 14, 07800 Eivissa, Illes Balears, Spain
  • Bai Bai: it is another tapas place in Ibiza city where the people living there use to go. The best about this place is that the food is really delicious for a reasonable price. Address: Plaça sa Riba, 9, 07800 Eivissa, Illes Balears, Spain
  • Sa Platgeta: is a tipical chiringuito hidden on the coast of Formentera. You should try their fried pulpo and their paellas! Address: Spagna, Camino de Can Simonet I, 3062, 07871, Spain
  • Chiringuito Sunset Ashram: this bar-restaurant is at Cala Comte and is fabulous for its panoramic view overtaking the coast. An advice: really do not go to Café del Mar, it has nothing special except its high price and rather go to the sunset ashram! Address: Carr. de Cala Conta, s/n, 07829 Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Islas Baleares, Spain
  • Blue Marlin: a very cool bar-disco to party on the beach! Address: Cala Jondal, s/n, 07800 Ibiza, Islas Baleares, Spain

 

I hope you will love your holidays in Ibiza! Bisous, Melissa ♡

Inspiration

25 funny French phrases that you should know

novembre 30, 2016

If you feel like to laugh or at least smile, you have come to the right place ! A while ago my best Friend offered me a book named « Plouc toujours » (translation: hick forever) and said: « This is sooooo you!! ahah! ». This book is a compilation of the funniest French phrases that are totally hick. When I started to read this book in the subway, I almost died laughing in front of everybody… she was so true 🙂 I have always been fascinated by the strange expressions and I especially love to use the forgotten and hick phrases because they can be really hilarious. I have picked some of them directly from my grand-parent’s vocabulary (they were farmers in Normandy) or from my Dad who also has this same passion for the funny phrases. Today I have selected and translated for you 25 funny French idioms that are essential to have in your hick vocal list to impress your French friends, family in law, boss or the girl at the French Bakery in your neighboorhoud! What a great cure to cheer up with the arrival of winter right?;)

Here are my 25 favorites French phrases or How to sound like a French hick (me) !

  1. On est pas sorti de l’auberge * Translation: we are not out of the inn * It means : it will take a while before we solve the problem.
  2. C’est à se taper le cul par terre * Translation: you would break your ass on the floor * It means : it is delicious
  3. « Saperlipopette » or  « Bon sang de bonsoir » *  Translation: good blood of good evening* It means: Damned!
  4. T’as craqué ton slip ou quoi? * Translation: did you break your underpants ? * It means: are you crazy?
  5. J’y go d’agneau * Translation: I am going lamb * It means: I am leaving
  6. Cours Forest, cours * Translation: Run forest, run * It means: hurry up
  7. C’est pas la mer à boire * Translation: It’s not the sea to drink * It means: it’s not complicated
  8. La classe à Dallas * Translation:  the class at Dallas * It means: very elegant
  9. J’ai la patate or J’ai la pêche * Translation: I have the potato or I have the peach * It means: I am energized
  10. T’as une haleine à décoller le papier peint * Translation: you have a breath that could peel off the wallpaper * It means: your breath is horrible
  11. Ya baleine sous gravillon * Translation: there is a whale under the gravel * It means: there is something hidden
  12. Ca craint du boudin * Translation: it sucks of the sausage * It means: this situation is embarrassing
  13. Ca a marché comme sur des roulettes * Translation: it worked like on castors * It means: It went good
  14. Les doigts dans le nez * Translation: the fingers in the nose * It means: no problem
  15. En voiture Simone * Translation : in the car Simone * It means: Let’s go
  16. Va te faire cuire un oeuf * Translation: go and cook yourself an egg * It means: leave me alone
  17. Autant pisser dans un violon * Translation: it’s like pissing in a violin * It means: it’s useless
  18. Dacodac * There is no translation * It means: Okidoki
  19. Je suis chaud comme une baraque à frite * Translation: I am hot like a chip shop * It means: I’m on fire or I’m motivated
  20. J’ai les dents du fond qui baignent * Translation: my back teeth are bathing * It means: I’m full
  21. Il fait un vent a décorner les boeufs * Translation: there is a wind able to dehorn cows * It means: it is blowing great guns
  22. Faut pas pousser meme dans les orties * Translation: don’t push grandma in the nettles * It means: don’t go too far
  23. On a du pain sur la planche * Translation: we have bread on the board * It means: we have a lot to do
  24. Ca fait pas rire les mouettes * Translation: It is not making laugh seagulls * It means: it is not funny
  25. Pastis par temps bleu, pastis délicieux * Translation: Pastis (anise-flavoured spirit and apéritif appreciated by hicks while playing pétanque or at the camping in France) with blue sky, Pastis delicious * It means: I’m happy to drink Pastis

Bonus: If you want to achieve the highest level of the squareness, your sentence can be followed by a name that rhyme with the sentence. Here are some great suggestions:

  • Tu l’as dit Bouffi * Translation: You just said it Bouffi * It means : I totally agree with you
  • A la tienne Etienne! * Translation: To yours Etienne * It means: Cheers
  • Cool Raoul! * Translation: same * It means: Relax
  • A l’aise Blaise * Translation: comfortable Blaise * It means: comfortable

I hope you enjoyed reading these French expressions and at least smiled once. Which one is your favorite? If you know any other French phrases that are very funny, I would love to read them in the comments! Bisous, Melissa ♡

Travel

8 surprising cultural differences when living in Spain

octobre 15, 2016

Living abroad is an experience that opens your mind, let you meet new people, discover another culture, lifestyle and even passions! My first experience as a French expat was in Indonesia and definitely influenced the person I am today. After living and traveling in different places in the world, I thought that nothing would really surprise me in Spain since it is a neighboring country. However each country has a unique culture and I have to admit that sometimes I experienced some cultural shocks when living in Spain that made me feel a bit mad or laugh! One essential lesson I have learned to live a happy expat life is: never compare your home country to your new country because the term « normal » doesn’t mean anything; just focus on the best things and don’t loose your energy and time thinking about the things you may have lost or miss. With this mindset, you are ready to be happy almost anywhere in the world! If you are willing to start a new life in Spain, here are 8 surprising things about living in Spain from my f*** French point of view of course!

8 surprising cultural differences when living in Spain

1.Timetables

The timetables in Spain are really unique and different from the rest of the world. First of all, 12pm (noon) in Spain is still the morning since they usually have lunch at 2 – 3pm. Then the afternoon is until 8pm so the dinner is usually around 9 – 10 pm! Personally my body is still not adapted to this timetable and I really feel like a starving monster all day long, waiting impatiently for the time to eat! One advice, make sure to always have some survival food in your bag just in case of.

2. Siesta

I though the siesta in Spain was an urban legend but the majority of shops are really closed between 2pm and 5pm! People that work close to home use this long lunch break to eat at home with their family and they even have the time to have digestive nap before to go back to work. I have discovered that there is real science about practicing a good siesta! The ideal siesta to be in perfect shape (according to siesta experienced scientists) is to sleep just 10min. I just can’t understand how it is possible to control your napping time! I guess I should practice harder 🙂

3. Olive oil

The olive oil is being used in almost all the dishes and Spaniards are really proud of its health properties. In fact Spain is the number one producer of olive oil in the world and it represents over half of the world’s olive oil production. Although the Spanish cuisine is delicious and very tasty, it took me some time to get used to eat oily and fried plates. However the Mediterranean diet is renown as being one of the healthiest in the world since Spain has the fourth highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries (after Switzerland, Italy and Japan)!

4. Food

If you love to eat, Spain is definitely a paradise for you! Indeed children are taught it is healthier to eat 5 small meals 5 times a day. This is something I never heard before living here! In fact people have a breakfast, then a snack at 11am, a lunch at around 2pm, another snack at 5pm and a diner at 9pm. The tapas culture is also very typical from Spain. It is the degustation of different small plates put in the middle of the table to share with friends or family. When you order a drink in some bar in Spain, they even offer a tapa but they are usually very cheap anyway. I really love this concept because it is a way to taste several plates. However be careful with the tapas, you have to choose between speaking or eating because people pick little by little the food directly from the same dish!

5. Noisy

Bars or restaurants are quite noisy because Spaniards can speak very loud. It may be sometime difficult to follow a conversation and moreover when you don’t speak in your mother tong! Often the best solution is too speak even louder to get understood and you will notice that you are finally behaving like everybody 😉

6. Touchy

Imagine the snow queen (Elsa in Frozen) living in a country with very touchy people! That’s what I felt when I arrived in Spain ahahah. To say « Hello » people use to kiss each other on both cheeks (not on the mouth hopefully) and it is normal for friends to hug, even between male friends. I remember I felt quite upset when I saw my boyfriend (he is Spanish) hugging within 5 minutes 5 different girls! But he explained that it was a normal thing to hug your friends to say “hi” no matter the gender. So today I have become a real hugging machine! Also when having a conversation, it is normal to sit very closely to each other, to the point where you feel a bit invaded but they may be offended if you move back or they may just follow you! Relax that´s just another cultural difference.

7. Family

Spanish people are generally very close to their family and can eat with their parents almost every week. In addition, due to the crisis, a lot of them are still living at their parent´s home until their 30s. If you are dating a Spanish, you will have to accept to give a big space to the family and build a good relationship with them, especially with the mother who is generally the boss of the family (who run the world? Girls!!).

8. Language

People speak in a very direct way and it may seem a bit rude for foreigners. They just say what they want and do not use “thank you” or “sorry” for everything. In addition, swearing is usual and some expressions can be shocking and funny at the same time. I remember being so surprised when I first heard “Me cago en la leche! » (« I shit in the milk ») which is a very common way to express anger or frustration! However, they can also be very lovely when they start a conversation asking you “Que tal guapa?” (How are you beautiful) although they do not even know you! They are quite spontaneous and do not feel ashamed like French people to express that they appreciate you or that they are totally in love with your shoes. When a French friend would say “Your shoes are not bad!” a Spanish friend would say “ Que chulaaaaaas, me encantan tus zapatos!!!! (So coooool, I love your shoes!!!!!). And while smiling, I think that my friend is so much cooler that my shoes 😉

What other surprising cultural difference have you experienced in Spain ? If you wish to know more about the expat life, check out the article: 10 things that expatriates feel when living abroad Bisous, Melissa ♡

Travel

10 things that expatriates feel when living abroad

mai 21, 2016

Do you dream to say F*** to your boss and quit everything to start a new adventure abroad? Well you know that the difference between dreams and reality is ACTION, right? First of all, you will need to be really brave to fight against the scare to leave your comfort zone and trust me this is hard because you always know what you loose, but you don’t know what you will get. It has been very tough for me to leave my country to follow my dream of starting a new chapter of my life abroad. Sometimes I have doubts about my future but anyway I really do not regret my decision because I am learning so much from this experience. If you finally take the decision to move abroad, you are going to live a very rich journey that will change who you are forever. As I was an expat child who was raised in a multicultural family, I have developed a strong curiosity to discover the world, meet new people and my lifestyle is driven by passion. The expat life will immerse you into a new culture; you will try new things, gain new skills, and get to know you better. In fact, you will experiment a rainbow of emotions and experiences; learning, improvising, dealing with the unexpected. So get prepared for this amazing new life and discover 10 things that expatriates feel when living abroad:

1.Lost

You feel especially lost when you live in a country where you do not speak the language and there is no way to communicate with people. When I lived in China, the simplest task like taking a taxi or ordering a meal at the restaurant was a huge challenge. And let’s not forget the paperwork that you have to manage when you arrive which can be a total distress moment ahah! But that’s part of the expat life and you will soon be amazed by your problem solving abilities! Your survival instinct will always guide you to find a solution.

2. Cultural shock

Each country has a different culture and is unique. You will experiment some cultural shocks that will surprise you; make you laugh or sometimes make you really mad. These cultural shocks are anyway good for you because you will learn a lot from them. They will open your mind and make you realise that the notion of normality doesn’t mean anything. You discover there are other ways of doing things, and after a while, you will surprise yourself embracing a new habit or belief. When I arrived in Spain, I was so surprised to see people putting olive oil instead of butter on their toast for the breakfast! I finally think it is not that disgusting (with a bit of jamon iberico) and even healthier. Your lifestyle is changing and this is cool, it means you are adapting.

3. Thrill

Starting a new life abroad is a thrilling project! Each day will surprise you since you are discovering a new culture, lifestyle, people and maybe a new language. You left your reassuring routine, many things are so different from your country and it is really exiting. Personally I am quite addicted to this feeling and this is precisely the reason why I particularly loved my expat life in Shanghai. Because the Chinese culture is an antipode to the occidental culture!

4. Disconnection

After living abroad for a while, you will have discussed with different people, adopted different habits, your opinions may have changed and you see your country and your past life with fresh new eyes and from an external point of view. You will start to follow closely the actuality in your new country and miss some news about your native country; your preoccupations are being different from your friends and family and feel sometimes too disconnected from their lives and your country. Sometimes I do not speak my mother tongue during one week or more and cannot even find my words when I speak with my relative from my home country. You will note that you do not speak your mother tongue in the same way and start to integrate some words used in the other language you practice. All this means that you are very well integrated in your new country.

5. Loneliness

♫ My loneliness is killing me ♪ !!!! Seriously, unlike when you study abroad, making new friends when you are an expat is not that easy and takes time. When you arrive to a new place, nobody is waiting for you and everybody has already its group of friends. So your integration will only depend on you! You have to make the first step if you want to meet people. One of my tips to meet people was to go to an institute to learn the language; it was a very good way to get to know other expatriates that are living the same situation. Then I got involved in expat blogs and forums such as expat.com, I finally met some of these people in the real life and they became one of my best friends! Although you meet a lot of new persons, they will not become immediately your friends and you will feel often alone and it is normal. You have to be patient.

Sometime, one of these new friends you made, that became like your “family” will go back home and you will feel really alone. In addition, keeping in touch with your friends or boy/girlfriend from your home country takes a lot of effort. You will feel that a gap is setting up between you and your friends due to the distance, the time difference but above all because you are not having the same life and sharing moments together anymore. And the most difficult is that they will not always understand or be always interested in your adventures because they are also busy building their own lives. Be humble, ask and listen about their life. Take the initiative to keep the contact through whataspp, messenger, facetime or skype.

6. Deception

Living abroad will not always be a happy journey. In fact, you may be very disappointed by your new job that is not that interesting, be heartbroken by your boy/girlfriend that you left at home and you will loose the contact with some friends because long distance relationships aren’t easy. You will notice that some friends are not contacting you anymore or don’t answer to your 1000 words emails because they are very busy and because it is such a pain to answer to a long email. Forgive them and anyway remember that you never loose a real friend. And after all, you are lazy and busy too and will certainly forget about their birthdays because you are quite disconnected.

7. Freedom

♫ So freeeee to do what you want to do ♪!! (I am a karaoke fan) When you will have organized your new life abroad, found a new home sweet home, met cool friends, work in something you wanted, you will have a great freedom feeling, being self-confident and proud of what you achieved. After having given up every thing in your country, your comfort, your security and made it work thousands of miles away from home… you feel like you’re capable of anything and it is true!

8. Guilty

Expatriates have no choice but to miss some big events happening in the life of their relatives. I have missed so many birthday parties, a bachelorette party, a baby shower, a wedding and felt terribly guilty not being able to come. I am afraid to disappoint for attending to my dad’s 60th birthday or going on a family trip instead a bachelorette party or wedding. However when you live abroad, it is impossible to attend to all the events for money and time reasons so you will have to prioritize and choose. The choice will be difficult and don’t look back after making your decision if you do not want to suffer too much.

9. Homesickness

This really depends on people, while serial expat got used to it, some persons can feel homesickness from the first day or after a while. One of the things that the expatriates use to miss is the relatives (especially at Christmas) and the food! As a French, I could kill ( not literally of course) for a plate of very smelly and creamy cheeses with a good wine from Bordeaux! There are so many little things you never thought you would miss and you would give anything to teleport home just for this whim (going to the cine to see a movie in VO from your country….). Sharing that feeling with an expat friend is very comforting and creates obviously a strong complicity because this person will understand you.

10. Different

In fact moving abroad has changed you, so it is normal if you feel different. You will realize this when you go back home and everything looks the same. Flying back home always gave me the strange feeling of regressing and this why I have always been attracted by an international lifestyle. And your best friends will be foreigners or big travellers.

Living abroad is the opportunity to be alone with yourself and you are the only responsible of your happiness and integration. Don’t expect that going far away is the solution to solve your biggest problems. But it will open your mind, enlarge your horizon, you will discover new passions, perhaps learn a new language and make your feel more confident.

However I have lived in 4 countries, I feel confused when I have to answer to the existential question: where are you from? “Well its complicated you know, born in Bordeaux, but I lived in Toulouse, Indonesia, then Ireland, Paris, China and now I’m in Spain!” So what do you think about this mess? Bisous, Melissa ♡

 

 

 

Travel

5 reasons to discover Senegal

avril 17, 2016
discover Senegal

When leaving Senegal, we were already thinking to buy new tickets to see all the treasures of this country that we did not have the time to discover! Senegal is not a « trendy » destination compared to Australia, Mexico or Thailand and it seems that many people feel scared to travel in Africa due to Ebola, terrorist threats and I don’t know what other reasons… However Senegal is a great place to visit for travelers with wanderlust genes. If you too guys, were born to travel, always searching for something new and different to see, you should be interested in visiting Senegal! To all the open-minded travelers hungry to explore the world, I am sharing with you pictures of my favorite places and moments in Senegal and telling you 5 good reasons why you should discover Senegal.

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Here are 5 good reasons why you should discover Senegal:

Culture

Senegal has not only a unique culture, but also unforgettable sites that give a real change of scenery. You will also be chocked by its strong history marked by slavery, commemorated on the Gorée Island that has been the center of the slave trade in Africa. You will be inevitably seduced by its picturesque markets, its music, dances and fascinated by the marabout culture… all these reasons are making this destination a perfect introduction to Africa.

Colorful

One of the things I love about Senegal is that it is a very colorful country. From the beautiful dresses in wax of the women to the paintings on the pirogues or on the legendary « car rapides », you will be impressed by the mosaic of colors and the patterns that illuminate the landscapes. Art is everywhere!

Peaceful

This is an important point: contrary to what people believe; it is safe country and I really appreciated the teranga spirit (welcoming spirit), coolness and sense of humor of the Senegalese. In fact, Senegal remains a stable democracy and is a good example of peaceful inter-religious and ethnic coexistence.

Wild

From the lush delta of Casamance to the Sahel savannah, the country is still wild and adventurers will really enjoy all the outdoor activities that Senegal can propose. The coastline attracts those that enjoy sunbathing and surfers will have a good time on its waves. Personally I loved being in the bush because of its magic atmosphere and the landscapes with its majestic baobab trees are breathtaking. Quad biking in the desert and rolling down the dunes is also so much fun! Natural parks such as Djoudj are amazing, rich in all kinds of birds and others wild animals; and let’s not forget the pink lake that is a wonder of nature.

Food

Trust me, you should definitely taste the Senegalese cuisine, which is one of the best and most varied of West Africa. The traditional recipes offer a multitude of flavors such as the thieboudienne of fish that is the national dish, the succulent chicken yassa (the recipe is available here), mafé of beef, bissap juice (hibiscus juice) and even the peanuts are the best I have ever eaten in all my life!

Bisous, Melissa ♡

 

Food

Chicken Yassa

avril 1, 2016
poulet yassa

I am very exited to share with you this African recipe that is so special to me! First of all, the chicken yassa is one of my favorite meals and it is a recipe that I learned from my mum who is from Senegal. When I am feeling down, cooking a chicken yassa for the people I love or just for myself have the magic power to make me feel happier 🙂 Everyone that has tasted it loves this exotic flavor, so of course it makes you feel great! But what is this magic recipe?? Well, is it a Senegalese recipe of a chicken marinated in a lemon sauce with onions. It looks simple but this recipe is really tasty, healthy (almost no fat and the lemon has extraordinary virtues for the health), cheap (just 4 main ingredients) and easy to cook. Ok you may think I am totally crazy, it is just a chicken with some onion and lemons! Well try my family’s recipe and you will see that I was not lying 😉

Ingredients (4 persons):

  • 4 chicken legs
  • 4 onions
  • 4 limes
  • 200g of basmati rice
  • 1 glass of water
  • Oil
  • 1 hot pepper
  • Salt & pepper

Preparation:

This recipe is a fast version of the original recipe. The chicken should normally be marinated (in oil, minced onions, limes juice, pepper, salt and hot pepper) during at least 2 hours before to be cooked. If you are in a hurry, this recipe below is very practical and as tasty I promise. Time: around 1 hour.

  1. Brown the chicken on both sides in a pan or in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mince the onions while the chicken is getting a nice golden color. Don’t forget to check the chicken!
  2. Once the chicken legs are brown, set them aside in a big cooking pot. Grill the onions in the same pan where you have browned the chicken. While the onions are cooking, press the limes’ juice.
  3. When the onions and limes juice are ready, add them to the cooking pot with the chicken legs. Add also the water, the hot pepper and more salt& pepper.
  4. Put the cooking pot on a medium fire during minimum 30min. However, more time it is one the fire, the better it is. You will notice that the chicken yassa is even better and tastier when you warm it the next day. While the yassa is cooking, prepare your basmati rice.
  5. The cooking pot smells deliciously well. It’s time to enjoy!

Bon appétit!!!

Melissa ♡

 

Travel

A weekend in Barcelona

février 15, 2016
Palau Guell

Barcelona is really one of my favorite cities. I have been there already 4 times and I am not tired to come back and would love to live there. According to me, what is great about this city is its nice weather with mild temperatures all year, then the city is at the edge of the sea so you can go to the beach by walk or using public transports, it has a very rich cultural and artistic life and it is also a cosmopolitan city where you can meet people from all around the world. As I celebrated there my 30th birthday almost 1 year ago, I was thinking about all my favorite places. This town is so crazy that a weekend is really short to fully enjoy all the best of Barcelona. If you have never been there and want to discover the city, here is a list of 10 cool things to do for a weekend in Barcelona:

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5 places to eat or take a drink in Barcelona:

1.La Boqueria: it is a fantastic market, quite busy, but it really worth going early for the lunch, to sit at the counter of a stand and have a nice glass of wine. There you can taste a delicious Jamón Ibérico, and traditional dishes such as the rabo de toro, octopus, mussels and many fresh fruits! Address: Las Rambles, 91 – 08001 Barcelona.

2.Carpe Diem: this lounge bar-restaurant is an amazing place in front of the beach with exotic recipes. The decoration, music and atmosphere will transport you to Asia (similar to the Buddha Bar in paris). The quality of the products is excellent (you can find kobe beef) but it is also a cool place to have a cocktail under the sunny terrace. Address: Passeig maritime 32 – Barcelona.

3.Suculent : If you want a culinary orgasm, I recommend you to have a dinner at this restaurant in the center of Barcelona. The food is amazing, refined, mixing different influences and the dishes look like works of art that are above all tasty. Address: Rambla del Raval, 45 – 08001 Barcelona.

4.Sagardi: chic and great place when you are starving. Why? This place is only proposing nice pintxos (tapas – bread) so it feeds the hungry and as it is self-service there us no time to lose with a waiter! Address: C/ Argenteria, 62 – 08003 Barcelona.

5.La champaneru: it is a good rustic tavern where cheap Cava that flows abundantly and you can eat very good meat. Address: Carrer de la Reina Cristina 7 – 08003 Barcelona.

weekend in Barcelona

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5 places to visit or take a walk in Barcelona:

1.Old city/ Barrio Gótico : it is nice to walk and feel lost in the narrow streets and take a look at all the flowers in Las Ramblas.

2.Parc Guell/ Sagrada Familia : unique places where it feels like you are in another dimension! They are both great masterpieces of Gaudi. I like the pink filter on the photo of the Sagrada Familia due to my pink umbrella that has rubbed off on the picture! Address Parc Guell: Carrer Olot 5, 08024 Barcelona/ Address Sagrada Familia: Carrer de Mallorca, 401 – 08013 Barcelona.

3.Museu Picasso: I would have liked to have a ‪wining and dining with this character who seems to have been very funny – beautiful exhibition of photographs about his life and I will never be tired of reviewing his art works. Address: Montcada 15-23 – 08003 Barcelona.

4.Fundació Juan Miró/ Montjuic : I really love the colors and spirit of the art works of Miró. You really should go if you appreciate contemporary art. In addition it is situated in the Montjuic parc that is on a hill overlooking the Barcelona harbor, perfect to breath and relax. Use the Cable Car and you will feel the king of the hill! Address: Parc de Montjuic – 08038 Barcelona.

5.Seashore: What happiness to stroll along the harbor promenade and enjoy the sun lying on the sand of the beach! There are also many bars where you can sip a cocktail practically with the feet in water.

I hope you will love your week-end in Barcelona! Bisous, Melissa ♡

Travel

From Paris with love

novembre 20, 2015

As French and ex-Parisian, I would like to dedicate this article to Paris. Making a long speech about what happened is not really my cup of tea and I think that everything has already been told. I prefer to replace words by pictures of Paris I took while I was living there. I thought about all the nice little moments I spent there and made a list of my 15 favorite places and activities in the capital! If you think about other nice places & stuffs, I would be glad to read them in the comments 🙂 Peace & Love, Melissa ♥


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15 nice little moments to enjoy in Paris:

  1. Taking a fat brunch in the Marais at Breakfast in America (4 rue Malher, 75004 ) and take a walk around Beaubourg – Place Georges Pompidou, 75004
  2. Having drinks on the terrace of Nuba or Wanderlust – 34 quai d’Austerlitz, 75013
  3. Watching street dancers and artists at Espace 104 – 5 rue Curial, 75019
  4. Walking around chinatown and eating chinese dumplings in the street in from of  the asian market – 48 Avenue d’Ivry, 75013
  5. Seeing a strange art exposure at the palais de Tokyo that you won’t understand and taking pictures in the old school Photo Booth  – 3 avenue du Président-Wilson, 75008
  6. Playing pétanque with a glass of pastis on the river side (Metro Jaurès)
  7. Eating a delicious crêpe close to the river saint martin and walking around the neighborhood  – 67 rue de Lancry, 75010 
  8. Go shopping useless stuffs at Colette, or streetwear at Citadium 
  9. Getting totally lost in the city doing vélib 
  10. Listening live jazz at Charlie’s bar – 5 rue Daunou, 75002
  11. Walking around naked under a trench! Kidding of course, having a drink at the Kong – 1 rue du Pont neuf, 75001
  12. Eating under the no-sunshine on the rooftop of Printemps and enjoying the beautiful view of paris’ roofs – 64, Blvd Haussmann, 75009
  13. Hugging Mickey at Disneyland Paris – 77777 Marne-la-Vallée
  14. Having a cup of tea with or without a cloud of milk but with macarons at Ladurée – 16 Rue Royale, 75008
  15. Dreaming to adopt one of the pets on the Seine river side – Quai. de la Mégisserie, 75001
  16. Bonus: Chatting about the big bang theory and your life projects lying down on a deckchair in the garden of the Louvres – Metro Tuileries