Sunday, 29 June 2014

A summer stroll in Oslo

You might have suspected this - since it has been awfully quiet from me lately: Yup. I have been traveling. Flying off again. Back to my home country Norway, for holidaying. The days are long and bright and the air fresh and crisp. And the best part is reuniting with family and friends.

This time we started off in Oslo, Norway's capital. Being with our loved ones there, but also also taking time to, equipped with camera, explore Oslo with curious touristy eyes. Here are a few moments from our summer stroll in the center of Oslo, captured by my talented photographer companion, my daughter:
The Royal Castle 

I love this statue of King Haakon 7, who was king of Norway during 2. World War:

And, as always, wherever I go, if there is (even just a tiny) scent of sea in the air, I will search until I find it, and so also in Oslo...So, we ended our stroll walking for hours along the seashore...Aaahhh, I tell you: there is nothing more refreshing and alive than that sea breeze filling my lungs and clearing my mind...
The beautiful scenery
Perhaps take a moment to enjoy in a orange sun-bed?.. I certainly did
Ooooo, what beautiful nature ;)

Taking a stroll
Sailing is popular here

Ok ok. Enough of sea and nature. Back to the street life of Oslo, and the joy of bubbles:

So, dear reader, more of Norway is coming up.. Stay tuned:-) 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Foodie's favorites in Matunga

So, I had a revelation. You see, exploring Matunga, there was an aspect (of the exploration) that I instantly knew deserved a blogpost of its own. And if you are a foodie like me, you will completely understand....

Because, dear reader, those south Indian flavors...oooooh yum!

We started our morning at Cafe Mysore - or as the sign outside says: The oldest restaurant in Mumbai for South Indian delicacies. The coffee here is served like this:
... and then you have to mix the coffee, milk and sugar yourself by pouring from one tin cup to the other - a few times. Or have a skilled waiter do it for you in a very elegant way. Our attempt ended ... well on the table in a not so elegant way - but fun and very tasty. We were told that coffee is more of a south Indian drink than India's national drink tea. Our tour guide from Travel-logs told us that a popular story goes that a Muslim saint on a pilgrimage to Mecca, smuggled 7 coffee beans from Yemen into India, and planted them in the hills of Chandragiri in Mysore. But think again if you think this is a place for coming and hanging out over your coffee while chatting with friends for hours. The message is clear:

I have to admit we might have bended the rule a bit because we did a lot of chatting over those coffee cups... However, we did try the local specialty: 
At Cafe Mysore we had toast omlet - because as being (the first ) udipi restaurant in Mumbai .. for the south Indians coming to Mumbai to work and settle down these restaurants were set up to provide quick, simple and cheap meals. And the omlet had no eggs in it  ---- a very tasty vegetarian version.

And the foodies moved on, and I tell you now: if you love idlis, like I do, you will be in paradise at The Idli House. Also a small come-order-eat-and-leave place, and with a "waiting room " on the pavement outside - because this is a popular place!

...and if you do not finish your pudi, you will have to pay 8 rs penalty.. Ha ha - how great is that?!

.....aahhhh - in idli heaven... before:

..and during.. My favorite was the coconut idli - with a sprinkle of chili powder on top, but all so yum!!

After the idlis we were strolling on, and passed this cute little book store - can you imagine going treasure hunting in there? - and what could be more perfect than having a coffee bean outlet next door:

Ayappan Idli Stall was a very busy place - perfect for dosas and vadas - a quick bite on the sidewalk - a very popular place.  Centred on a busy street corner you could also drive up, jump out and get your fast food - but so not for a minute think it is a drive-in-restaurant- . You have to get out of your car/bike/rickshaw and yourself go up and order...

And if you have eaten south Indian food, you have probably, like us, had some kind of banana - or maybe had it beautifully served in banana leaves. Well, the banana market said it all:  

In my quest to explore my adopted city Mumbai, I have, in addition to heading around (sometimes like a headless chicken) on my own, also tried out different tour guides and companies. Walking tours are my favorite, and this time I for the first time went with Travel-logs. According to their site they are: a bunch of intrepid travellers, who love travelling … seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, trying to de-mystify history, and of course eating different foods! We are a team of loosely connected but tightly bonded individuals. And what binds us together is our deep passion for India and discovering her, everyday.

I have to say I felt that passion:-) I enjoyed their enthusiasm and level of knowledge, so Chief Explorer Dhiresh and co: you will see me again for sure. Your tour was interesting, varied and fun:-)  

NB: This tour was not sponsored. And as always: my opinion is mine and mine alone:-)

Ta ta from Mumbai! 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Some Matunga moments

Mumbai is a melting pot of different people, religions and cultures. People from all over India have settled here and foreigners too. I spent my Saturday in an area where south Indians live, and looking through my pictures, I quickly realized that I will need more than one blogpost to show you what I saw... So today let me give you just a small taste of south India in Mumbai... 

A stroll at Matunga market, and especially at the flower market is a delight for all senses.. Jasmines, roses and garlands in all possible colors and those wonderful aromas. Fruit, vegetables and pottery and colorful temples. Just have a look: 

Doesn't it look wonderful? It was. This was just a small taste for you... And talking about taste...

You know my love for Indian food right? so you might not be surprised to hear that I grabbed the opportunity to explore also the south Indian kitchen with both hands... Idlis, dosas, vadas... Mmmmm - Need I say more?

Stay tuned, dear reader, more Matunga moments coming up soon...

Thursday, 5 June 2014

How to settle in to your adopted country?

- So, how did you settle really? she asks me via email, the woman who is now physically still in Europe, but mentally exactly where I was 2 years ago. She is preparing to leave her comfort zone behind - and move with her family across the world - to Mumbai, India..

And she is doing exactly what I was doing: searching, digging, scrolling, scanning and absorbing every bit of information she can find, in order to be as prepared as possible when they will move in a couple of months. 

I did that too. But even arriving like a bursting India - encyclopedia could not have prepared me for that first meeting with our new adopted country, India. 

Now, we have lived in Mumbai for almost 2 years, and I am the one being happy to share advice to prospective Mumbai expats. Recently I was asked by HiFX to contribute to their making transitions for expats easier - campaign and also add my experience to their Advice from Expat Experts - site. I did. 

So, how to settle in your new adopted country? Well, I can only talk for myself, and these are a few things that made the adjustments easier for me: 

1. Go with the flow: accept the fact that things are not the same as back home. Sometimes you have to let it go, and make the best of it. Try to focus on what you do like, and not to get stuck on what you don't like

2. Nurture your curious side and be open to get to know your new country; religion, language, culture, history, food... Think of it as a new and exciting world - just waiting to be explored by you!

3. Be open to new friendships, and do not fear putting yourself out there. Most expats are like you - far away from family and friends. For me, the network of new friends - both locals and expats - has meant the world!
4. Ask for help and advice from locals and other expats. Most are happy to share their experience, and a lot of useful knowledge is spread by word. The best way to get the best tips - is to ask around, I think.  

5. Accept that you will have some blue Mondays.. It's ok to curl up and just treasure the memories of your old life once in a while...just don't get stuck back there.. Enjoy your moment, live here and now - and make the most of your adventure. 

 Related posts you may also like and find useful: 
- How to spot a Mumbai expat - 7 signs to look for. - A friendly warning to people back home
- Our first 6 months in Mumbai - The different expat transition phases you might find yourself in
- Our first year in Mumbai - From complete chaos to weddings and summer parties..

So, dear reader: Have you done it? Settled in a new country? How was it for you? Please share your own experiences from moving, adapting and settling....

And PS: Yay! My "followers" - gadget finally seems to work!

Have a great evening:-) 

Ta ta from Mumbai!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Exploring Mumbai hotels

Scenery from 2012: - Ok, my friend said: - You are sure you are moving to BombayI nodded. She looked at me, still with the what-on-earth-are-you-thinking expression on her face. She had moved to my country, and now I was telling her that I was moving to hers. Finally, she smiled: - Ok, you go to Gateway of India, and then you go for tea at the Taj Mahal Hotel, ok? I smiled back. Sure, I could do that.

And almost 2 years down the road: here I am, sipping tea at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, and with it, sending some warm thoughts to my friend. At The Hotel. Not staying. Just visiting. Because - we don't do that do we? Hotel-ing in our home town? Yet, surprisingly often, I have found myself -  in a hotel here lately.

For 2 reasons: 1. That's where some of my leaving friends spend their last few Mumbai nights, after they have packed up their house, and before they are flying out. So: a natural place to drop by for a last coffee /drink /hug. 2. Some writings I have been doing lately, has brought me the fortunate task of researching various hotels around the city. Oh, let me tell you: hotel-ing in India.... Wow. New adventures await also for you experienced hotel-ers out there.

Take Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. From 1903, the first grand landmark in Bombay harbor, built 21 years before Gateway of India. Walking into that hotel is like traveling back in history..

I was impressed to find out how they, through 110 years, also have managed to renew the hotel. In 1972, India's first coffee shop opened, they were the first to serve Bombay street food in their fine dining restaurant and India's first Japanese restaurant opened here. As I sip my tea and look out the window at the Gateway of India, the sea and the colorful boats, a feeling of grandness and comfort overwhelms me.. I like how they maintain the history, and at the same time seems to keep an eye out for new trends and new ideas.

Well. I finish my tea, take my bag and wander off through the long hallways, already with the next hotel lined up in front of me. But, I have to admit that I have developed a soft spot for the nostalgic atmosphere of this place. But let's see what comes up next.. (and PS: my opinions are mine and mine alone. No sponsored tea this time:-) )

And then.

As I sit in the car, going home, forming fancy sentences about the hotels in my mind, being all focused on ideas on how the places will appeal to tourists... I look up and I look out the window. And there, hanging on to the back of the car next to me: 3 boys. The little one is struggling. I can see he is holding on so tight. Its like his hands are slipping. And all of a sudden, my hotels are wiped off my mind, gone with the wind, and all I can think of is: please please don't let them fall off, please don't let them fall down...

Oh, Mumbai my Mumbai -

- You take me on an emotional roller coaster Every Single Day...

Have a wonderful week ahead dear reader and thanks for following:-)

PS: By the way - do you have a favorite hotel? In Mumbai or elsewhere? Please share!