Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Europe Adventure ~ Switzerland, I'm in love

After Black Forest, we traveled to Switzerland. Unlike other European countries, Switzerland is not binded by EU. So, we were about to cross the border, there's a checkpoint for the bus driver to declare the passengers he has onboard and there's a certain amount of toll he needs to pay. So, if you plan to drive yourself, please remember this.

I was really excited to go to Switzerland. It has always been a country I want to visit. We were quite careful on the cities in Switzerland we choose to visit and Lucerne received lots of good reviews. So, Lucerne it is. The traveling from Black Forest was not a long one, about an hour and a half.

Switzerland is famous for its snowy mountain, chocolates and of course the Swiss watches and knives. We also thought of getting some to bring home. However, I must warn you. Spending money in Switzerland to buy anything is expensive. And please be prepared with your Swiss Franc cause Switzerland don't use Euro. Though in term of currency exchange, Euro is more expensive, but due to the high cost of living, things are more expensive in Switzerland if you convert to Malaysia Ringgit.

When we arrived, we immediately check in to our hotel called Schweizerhof. This is the only posh hotel we stayed in through out our European journey. We really wanted to enjoy Switzerland so we decide to spend abit more money here. After checking in, we did not waste time. We went for a walk around Lucerne, which by the way is not very big town. Walking across the wooden Chapel bridge is of course mandatory. There's quite a few of halal kebab place near our hotel so food is not a major concern. But, be prepared to spend nearly RM100 for a simple meal.

The next day, we started our day early. We were headed to Mount Pilatus. I know many people recommended Mount Titlis, but I am totally afraid of cable cars, and considering that's the only way to got up Mount Titlis, I gave it a pass. We planned our excursion to Mount Titlis.

The journey there was FUN!! We took a boat from our hotel, about an hour ride. The journey gave us an awesome view of the villages as well as many many mountains. We then took a train up the mountain, about 30 minutes ride but it's far much more stable than a typical cable car.

Mount Pilatus is about 1635 metre high. Please allow the pictures to do the talking as the view was beyond words.

Lucerne is one city we will obviously want to come again too. Remember to mark this in your map, as you should also aspire to come here one day, Insyallah.

Signing off,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Europe Adventure ~ Gutentag from Black Forest, Germany

The next half of the European adventure is a bit tricky. All the travelling was done via land transportation hence we engaged a tour company to provide all of our transport. I have done my math and it's cheaper that was considering transport in Europe is super freaking expensive. However, no way we wanna throw away our freedom so  what we do is still what we choose to do.

We took a flight from Barcelona to Zurich. Again, we got to go to the airport using a posh car, something we will never experience in Malaysia, not until we reach certain level of financial status. We went to airport via taxi, read Peugeot. Don't ask me which model, all I know I don't think I can get similar opportunity ever.

So, we arrived at the airport close to midnight. Our transport will only arrive around 8am in the morning so the most sensible thing to do would be to sleep at the airport. FYI, before we decide to sleep in any airport, we would do our homework first. Yes, there's a website for this, http://www.sleepinginairports.net/. It will tells you whether it's safe to do so to even recommend you which spot you can get some zzzzs.

Once we are awake, we grab some breakfast as it will be a long journey from Zurich to Germany. First stop was Black Forest, Germany. It's about 2 hours from Zurich. It's famous for the clock making apart from their food which almost everything is non halal. When we arrived there, you won't believe what we saw. It was SNOWING! In SUMMER! Yes, in SUMMER! I guess my better half's prayers were answered, he has always wanted to see snow and snow he gets! Even the locals were surprised seeing this. They told us, we brought the snow with us. It was so cold that we have to find gloves. Did not bring any cause it's summer and it's not supposed to be this cold.

Enjoy some photos here, it's simply amazing.

Black Forest is not the only German city we went to. Later, we will also visit a city called Cologne. For now, we will be making our way to Rhine Falls, Switzerland. And you won't believe how clear the water in the river is.

Signing off,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Liza Can Bake ~ Raya Cookies In The Making

My better half often tells me how at times I can be this super ambitious person who thinks I can do anything despite the constraint in time. At times I succeed but most of the time I failed. Yes, failure is never good but as cliche as it may sound, not trying is not good either. Like what Thomas Alva Edison said many many years ago, I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

This Raya is no exception. It has been a tradition for me to make some Raya cookies with the kids. We don't make all the cookies, we just make some of them while the rest, we just order and buy from friends. But this year, I decided not to buy or order any but to make all. And to add more pressure to my life, since every year we also buy Raya cookies for my parents and inlaws, this year they will get to "enjoy" cookies made from our home.

So, yesterday, we managed to make 2 types of cookies ; Chocolate Cornflakes and Kuih Dahlia.

My sincere apology, in between battling with flour in the kitchen and also preparing dishes for iftar, I did not get to take photos while we were making the cookies. Thought of sharing the recipes since the making of this Raya cookies were not that hard.

Chocolate Cornflakes

1 box of Cornflakes, not too particular on the brand. I just bought the ones sold in bakery shop, it's 50% cheaper than Nestle or Kellog's
1 bar of cooking chocolate, 1 used the 1 kg ones
Rainbow sprinkles
Small paper cups

How to make it
  1. Melt the cooking chocolate by putting it on a metal container over boiling water. Remember never to melt it using direct heat. You'll destroy the chocolate
  2. Once the chocolate have been melted, mix all on the cornflakes
  3. Put the portion in the small cup and sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles as finishing touch
  4. Put all this in refrigerator for about 10 minutes

Volla! It's ready and can now be put in the plastic container

Biskut Dahlia

300 gram butter - my preference has always been Buttercup
160 gram icing sugar
2 egg yolk
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
240 wheat gram of flour
100 gram of corn flour
160 gram of custard flour
Red cherries for decorations
How to make it
  1. Mix icing sugar with butter using mixer till it's fluffy. 
  2. Then add the egg yolk and vanilla essence. Continue mixing this.
  3. Add all the flours one by one, little by little in low speed.
  4. Mix till the mixture is soft and ready to be shaped
  5. Shape it using the Bunga Dahlia patterns and top it of with slices of cherries.
  6. While you are doing the  shaping, make sure you have preheat your oven
  7. Then bake the cookies in the oven on 175 degrees for 15 minutes
  8. Remember to only put your cookies in containers once it's cool off

Simple isn't it. If an idiot who don't know much about baking can do it, I am sure everyone can.

Now the challenge, to keep the cookies away from the kids. As of last night, one container HABIS!

Signing off,


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Europe Adventure ~ Viva Barcelona!

Barcelona, how can I ever begin to describe Barcelona. Barcelona has always been the city I wanna go. So, when I was plotting the cities we want to go to for this round, of course Barcelona is in. But, there's so many things I wanna do in Barcelona. 3 days 2 nights may not be enough. The cities, the beach, the buildings! Prioritise Liza, prioritise!

We arrived at Barcelona around 10pm. One can only wonder why we take all this late flights. Well, it's a budget tour, so everything has a budget. The accoomodation, the flights. Subuh flights and night flights are obviously cheaper than the peak hours flights.Our hotel was not too far from the airport, about 10 minutes taxi ride. And taxi in Europe is really posh! My first ride in an Audi car.

We started our day really early, so many things to cover kan? So, first thing first, let's find food. According to zabiha.com, finding halal food in Barcelona is much easier than other cities in Europe. So, we walked around Plaza Catalunya and La Ramblas areas to get some food. So many bakeries and kebab places selling food at such cheap price, cheap in Europe definition. Remember, don't convert to our currency!

So we ended up buying rice and roast chicken from one Arab kebab place. Such big portion for 4 Euros. We decided to lepak at a park while we enjoy our breakfast, and from the portion size, it'll be our lunch too.

Next, finding the City Sightseeing Tour Hop On Hop Off bus. It's right in front of Plaza Catalunya where the huge fountain is. One tip when you go to Europe cities, the quickest and cheapest way to go around the cities would be via Hop On Hop Off. And make sure your hotel is near their stops, then you don't have to take a cab to go back. Coincidently, there was some strike ala Occupy Dataran was going on there. Actually, when we were in Rome, they were also having demonstration near Colleseum and I don't see big fuss about it like here in Malaysia. Police guided the traffic and also made sure everything was in order. Takde lah kecoh pun.

So many things to share on Barcelona. The beaches were so awesome it's like watching CSI Miami. The city was so beautiful and we were blessed with such good weather. And of course, we had to go to Barcelona Stadium, the home of Barca and where Messi plays! Mana boleh tak singgah.

Enjoy the photos here. Let the photos show you how awesome Barcelona is! 

Next entry, kita break dulu. Thought of sharing some recipes pulak. Then, we continue our European journey, Germany is the next destination!!!

Signing off,


Friday, July 27, 2012

Europe Adventure ~ Rome in my mind

We left Dublin and headed to Rome. In Dublin, we were lucky to stay in a hotel where the services were awesome. Actually, we got the same good treatment through out our journey, all hotels or B&B we stayed in provided excellent services. In Dublin, we saved money instead of taking cab to the airport, we took bus based on the recommendation from the hotel. The bus stop was right in front of our hotel, it was so convenient. FYI, cabs in Europe are super expensive. This is one of the expenses that you don't convert to Malaysian Ringgit, cause it will cause a lot of heartache. Another expense you don't want to convert would be food.

Anyway, we reached Rome around 8pm. It was still bright, usually it'll get dark after 9.30pm in Europe during summer. Instead of trying to be adventurous and use the Metro, we decided to take the cab instead. I did my research and cab from airport to city center would be Euro40 flat.

When we reached the Da Vinci airport, it was a shocker. Airport was in bad shape. The service at the Immigration Centre was not good at all. Despite so many passengers queueing, only one counter was opened. However, on the flip side, it was good for us as the Immigration officer did not even look at our face, just lazily stamping our passport. Trust me, when you travel in western countries and wearing tudung like I am, at time, experiece at Immigration counters may not be pleasant one. I wanted to use the toilet before taking a cab to our hotel, but the toilet was so dirty that I changed my mind. And this was airport toilet mind you!

The moment we took our luggage and headed to the taxi counter, we experienced something normal back in Malaysia i.e. ulat. Ulat are drivers who offer taxi services and at times the prices can be ridicilous. Few approached us and some even said "No, we no cheating". It's a good thing we read tips traveling to Rome and walked on towards the right place to get a cab.

The next day was spent sight seeing. We took again the Hop on Hop Off, the same company we used in Dublin. We actually used the same bus company throughout our Europe tour and this entitled us 20% discount by just showing tickets of the previous destinations.

I must tell you, I was amazed the first time I saw many historical building. Colisseoum in particular was mesmerizing. We engaged with local tour operator who took us in via fastrack, if you choose to queue, it may take you half a day as the queue was super long. Again, buy all this tickets online. Save money save time. And engaging local tour operators benefit us as we were briefed on the history of Rome, Colisseum in particular. We were also taken to places which can't be access if you by your tickets over the counter.

We spent few hours at Colisseum before going to other amazing places. We went to Vatican City but did not enter, just snapping photos outside of the area. The queue to enter was also super long.

Halal food in Rome was a challenge for us. Using zabiha.com we received info most of the halal food are sold around Termini station, about 5 minutes walk from our hotel. Otherwise, we would opt for vegetarian meals which were quite common in Rome. It's a good thing the hotel we were staying provided breakfast so we filled ourselves before we start our excursion.

Enjoy some photos snapped in Rome. Yes, Rome adventure was awesome. Insyallah, if we have the opportunity, we would want to go to other places in Italy like Florence, Venice or Pisa.

Rome was awesome but it's time to go. Next stop, Barcelona!

Signing off,


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Europe Adventure ~ Meeting friends in Dublin

When we structure our Europe plans, many asked why do I want to go to Dublin. First reason would be I have few friends who are still there and have been working there after graduation. Another reason would be something that I can't share. But, I have always been telling myself, one day, I will go to Dublin.

We took a night flight to Dublin, cheapest flight we can find via this Irish airline called Aer Lingus. Interestingly, on the flight we made friends with another Malaysian, who are still using Malaysian passport but have been staying in Dublin for the last 12 years. I guess, everyone will likely to be Malaysian at heart.

We arrived around 10pm and we straight to hotel It was a good deal we got, stay one night get one night free so it's worth to be staying there despite arriving so late. We were hugry however it was already dark to look for dinner so we did the next best thing, made Maggie Mee!

We started the day early by taking the bus to Dublin city, about 10 minutes from where we stayed. At first., we thought of walking, about an hour walk which we don't mind doing. However, the hotel advised us against it as some of the alley we might be using is not that safe. So, we decided to take the bus.

I was supposed to meet my good friend for many many years, Cynthia. However, we will not be meeting her lunch time. It was so kind of her to take the afternoon off and bring us around. So, while waiting for her to arrive, we took the hop on hop off bus tour. The bus driver was hilarious and he sang one Irish folk song, coincidently the first song that was taught to me by my Irish lecturer and it goes like this.

In Dublin's fair city,

Where the girls are so pretty,

I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,

As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"

"Alive, alive, oh,

Alive, alive, oh",

Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh".

Cynthia took us around Dublin to many interesting places. And the best part was when she took us for lunch at this Malaysia restaurant called Nyonya. We had a feast and the best dish was Roti Canai. I must say the roti canai tasted even better than the ones sold in Malaysia. Cynthia really made sure we are full, she then took us to the best hot chocolate I have tasted at Butler Chocolate. I was really really full however looked forward for dinner cause we will be meeting more friends.

Dinner was awesome, girls only so my better half stayed at the hotel, kasi chance the wife catching up with friends. Ain and Shari, 2 of my classmates whom I haven't seen for nearly 17 years. Aireen joined us as well. I was lucky I got to meet Aireen when she came back to Malaysia for Raya last year. We shared many stories and I can't resist to ask them whether they have the intention to return to Malaysia. Instead, they persuaded me to come and join them in Dublin. Nakal sungguh!

Yes, we had an amazing time in Dublin and Insyallah, we will be back, this time with our kids. I have many many things to show to them.

Next stop, Rome bebeh!!!

Signing off,


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Liza goes to concert ~ M. Nasir @ Philharmonic Orchestra

After we went for the Aizad's concert at MPO, we got this addiction to go for more concerts at MPO. But, no, not the real orchestra ones. It will be more where there's artist backed up by orchestra. Perhaps, we will venture into the pure orchestra when we are ready. Chewah, nak dengar orchestra pun nak kena ready.

We bought the tickets to this concert nearly a year ago. The prices were not too bad and with Mesra card, additional 10% discount were given. I was actually working on that day, yes, on a Saturday. What makes it worse, I have to work in Penang. I was really careful on my flight arrangement to make sure I arrive on time. My event ends at 5.30pm and I need to be in KLCC by 8.30pm.

Alhamdulilah, no flight delay and arrived in KLIA at 6.30pm. My better half was already waiting at the airport and we went straight to KLCC. Had light dinner and solat maghrib. We were in the concert hall by 8.15pm. MPO has very strict policy about snapping photos in the concert hall once the concert starts. So we took the opportunity to snap photos right after we entered the hall.

M. Nasir started with slow numbers wearing suits. Not used to seeing him wearing that kind of formal attire. Then, there's 20 minutes intermission break before M.Nasir re-entered and this time wearing some weird red shirt which looked more like a blouse. Don't like it, he could worn something better. This round have more fast numbers. He even by pass the typical MPO protocol when he asked all of us to stand, sing and dance with him. I love that moment. Despite feeling really tired after a long day, some how he managed to get me on my feet and move with the music.

Overall, it was worth the rush. Love the adlibs M.Nasir did in between songs. That differentiate between singers and entertainers. I come to see M.Nasir cause he entertains. If I were to listen to songs, I could have just listen to a CD. The interractions he had with the orchestra conductor named Kevin was hillarious!

My only complain was he did not sing my all time favourite, Tanya Sama Itu Hud Hud. Otherwise, that night could have been perfect!

All in all, I'll give this 4 stars. Look forward to more concerts in MPO!

Signing off,