I heart London

For people who are not too much into the semi-literal meaning of sentences and who need clarification for above title: I love London. I love Paris as well. But in my head, whereas I always saw Paris as bright, effervescent, illuminating, whimsical, romantic and artistic, I consider London to be Paris’ dark, brooding, melancholic, grey, cool and brilliant brother.

My girlfriend and I went for a long weekend in the context of a ”just the two of us” kind of city trip. It was a freaking success!

We always tend to walk a lot but I think we might have pushed it a little this holiday. I do think it is the best way to see as much as possible and to experience local life to the fullest.

I’ve drawn an approximate walking route on Google Maps to illustrate which neighbourhoods we tackled and when. Please note that it was never this straight as our walks were coloured by walking into random shops, sipping tea at quaint little bakeries and tea rooms, snacking, detouring, etc.

Day 1:

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Day 2:

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Day 3:

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My top 10 of London experiences, not in any particular order:

  • Camden Market: colourful, intense, counter-cultural, exotic and local (you know what I mean), dense food market in Camden Lock. I had the meanest Mac ‘n Cheese there (The Mac Factory) and discovered a massive amount of awesome tea at Yumchaa
  • Homeslice Pizza in Neal’s Yard. Crisp, thin, creative pizza in a pleasant, urban atmosphere
  • Fantastic views in Primrose Hill
  • Primrose Hill Books: quaint, little, very charming bookshop which despite its size contains a wide variety of genres. Proper selection
  • Camden Town & Lock neighbourhood in general. I like to compare it to San Francisco’s Haight and Ashbury
  • Walking through the little Soho streets and entering its plethora of independent cafes, stores, bookshops
  • Foyles needs no introduction. I think I got lost in there. Their selection is definitely more of an asset than the store itself
  • Koya Bar in Soho – cafe-style, orgasmic Udon noodles served on a communal table. I’ll be back for you, Koya Bar
  • Krispy Kreme – needs no introduction AND YES, I did manage to recommend a ¬†giant chain doughnut corporation on my blog.. because.. oh, mamacita!
  • Brick Lane Market & Brick Lane: don’t expect an extremely picturesque walk and mind-blowing views. Its eclectic, traditional, folk-like street spirit and tiny slightly torn down side streets and alleyways provide for a fuller, more wholesome travel experience. I loved the graffiti cladded walls and the infinite amounts of touristy Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi eateries.

 

 

Oh, the places you’ll go!

This is the absolute last book by Seuss and man, did it become my constant comfort during tough times.

Like a lot of awesome things in this universe, the book is advertised for kids but is carrying a lot of deep, meaningful messages for adults. Apparently, this book is often gifted to college graduates before they head off to ”the real world”.

Compared to his previous works, the illustrations are a little bit rusty but it is clearly compensated for by its content and meaning.

The main message of the book: Life can be extremely tough at times. Just keep on the road and face your challenges head on.

The hero of the story is a little man who heads off for a life long journey and receives the writer’s best wishes. During his travels full of exhilirating, colourful landscapes he finds himself in a variety of situations – some wonderful, some depressing, some frightening.

Just to show off the use of the metaphors in the book, in the middle of the story, the hero gets stuck in ”the Waiting Place” where ”everyone is just waiting”.

This is a piece of my heart and I warmly recommend it to anyone.

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Tamino – EP

Recently I was sauntering around town with my girlfriend. Her cousin called and asked if we wanted to join them in the park for a free concert. ”A fellow countryman of yours is about to perform. Tamino or something”, he said. For those who do not know me at all, I am a Belgian living in Amsterdam.
Upon his invitation, we tried to hurry so we could get there in time but sadly the performance was already over. We ended up having a lovely time, nonetheless.
When I got home, I was curious and searched him up on my Spotify. And am I happy I did! What a freaking revelation.
For now, he only released one EP but a spectacular one, at that.
I looked up some background info on him, because after all, he’s a fellow countryman and awesome musician. He’s only 20, born and raised in Antwerp (same town as me), with Egyptian roots, an aspect you can definitely withdraw from the music at times. I’m talking about the occasional Middle-Eastern vibe.
I was clearly on another planet because in one year, Tamino managed to win ”De Nieuwe Lichting”, a talent contest for up and coming musicians on Belgian’s alternative radio station Studio Brussel, sell out a large concert venue twice and play at Rock Werchter, Belgium’s biggest rock festival.
What is so special about his music is that he has a unique sound. A very shy, deep, melancholic tone of voice that can be brazen when necessary. The musical arrangement is very minimalistic. The sonic landscape is quite barren but you rarely feel like you need more than what he provides. A dear friend made a comparison with Jeff Buckley. I think there is something there. What they both convey is a kind of inherent beautiful sadness that they meticulously translate to musical ingenuity.
Sounds like an intense dream..
Listen to his EP – it’s on Spotify. Give him 20 minutes of your time.

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My take on Bergamote 22 by Le Labo

I recently sampled Bergamote 22 by Le Labo.

Artist behind this fragrance is Daphne Bugey. We know her from creations such as Graine de Joie by Eau d’Italie and other Le Labo masterpieces like Neroli 36.

The listed notes are: amber, musk, grapefruit, vetiver, petitgrain, bergamot (the best kind imaginable) , vanilla, orange blossom and cedar

In my opinion, this is a balanced, extremely crisp, well-blended bergamot scent. I mention the bergamot exclusively because when you take an initial sniff, you realize it’s clearly the dominant note. After the first few hours, the bergamot starts to dry down and leaves room for a base of high quality vetiver. I, for one, don’t really notice any slight transition to the heart note of petitgrain like it has been suggested in the community but I have might have missed it and am eager to sample it again. I reckon the other notes gradually blend in amazingly well in order to give off a very well-rounded smell.

 

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In regards to bergamot scents, this one is in a class all by itself. I wouldn’t compare it to other citrus scents because that would not do it proper justice. It does play the bergamot game, but it plays it incredibly well and uniquely. Upon first spray, you receive a fresh blast of citrus of the kind that is very uplifting and, strangely enough for initial sprays, not sythetic or strong smelling at all.

The only thing is, and the price to pay for the fact that it indeed does smell natural, that it doesn’t have too much staying power. When I sample a scent, I always spray it on the back of my hand so I can take a sniff during the day and this one was gone within two hours. Some people might take offense for this fact, considering the relatively high retail price for this gem, but I’m not one to let it bother me.

This is a fantastic scent and a well-rounded creation for the summertime. You can wear this any time of day or for any kind of setting. Think work, outdoors, barbecues, pool parties. It won’t offend anyone. It does have a slight hint of sophistication to it so it might not suit the very young crowd (think high school, early college) but anyone above 25 can clearly pull it off.

Sample it!

 

On religion/spirituality

On the ”about me” sections of my Twitter and Instagram pages, I describe myself as follows:¬†Cultural Jew, semi-practicing Buddhist, hopeless humanist, reluctant agnostic, unflinching liberal, inept occasional guitar player, bookworm, yearning traveler

I always like to refer to that description because it forced me to summarize myself with a limited set of characters.

I don’t adhere to any kind of organized belief system. I do identify myself as a cultural Jew. What does this mean? I grew up in a family of non-practicing Jews and more than anything else, and because Jews and Judaism can be classified as ”a people” and ”an extremely old tradition and set of values” next to merely a monotheistic religion, I have grown very attached to this part of my upbringing. I am agnostic, which means I do not actively believe that anything is known or can be known of the existence of God. I am a strong believer, however, in the fact that in Judaism – believing in God is optional. How I interpret it (because that’s how it works – whether you like it or not), is that this traditional backbone provides a spiritual framework for me. Is it better than any other? No! If I had grown up Muslim, I’d have probably chosen to continue being a cultural Muslim. The thing with Judaism is that it’s MINE. Consider it more like a strong cultural identity than anything else. It doesn’t define all of me but it’s an important part of my heritage.

I am completely, 100% aware of the fact that, purely based on logic, any religious scholar would lose in a debate with a devout atheist. But if I’m absolutely certain of one thing, it’s of the fact that we’re not always looking or even should be looking for logic. If you spend your whole life trying to understand your fellow human being by purely and solely applying logic to each moral or practical dilemma, you’ll soon be left clueless and very frustrated. There’s a big part of ourselves and others we can’t even begin to understand. I don’t claim any kind of God is the answer because that is very dangerous and I do believe we need to extend our logic and knowledge for as much as possible. What I do mean is that I’m trying to be forgiving and even loving of this big part of us that is irrational and abstract.

I won’t ever condone someone forcing their religion or any kind of belief on me.