Sandboarding in Port Stephens, Australia

sandboarding

Have you ever tried sandboarding? It’s a little like snowboarding except you’re doing it on sand dunes instead of alpine slopes. Also, you don’t have the same control a snowboard gives you since a sandboard is literally a skateboard with all the wheels and lower half removed.

sandboarding dunes

It’s quite fun though since the sand dunes in Port Stephens, Australia is very high. You’ll be surprised since there’s not a lot of shadows and contrast in the desert (it’s actually a beach) so it’s hard to tell distance and height. This sand dune we went down on is easily 30 feet high.

sandboarding port stephens

I hear that some children can actually stand up while sandboarding and do stunts. I don’t know how though since you’re not physically attached to the sandboard (unlike a snowboard, so you can do an Ollie, which is just about the only trick I know). Haha!

Check out the video of me sandboarding! I managed to go the furthest. The only way to control your descent is to use your hands to steer / slow down. You can actually carve the slopes dunes if you’re good enough, but the sandboard itself is pretty basic so you need at least one hand behind you to navigate.

sandboard

…and unlike other places where we actually have to *climb* back up the sand dune to do it again, we were on a quad bike expedition (also known as ATVs in the US) so we had the quads to drive back up the sand dunes (as you can see in one of the photos as I forgot to take the protective cover off my head).

It’s a blast, I’ll love to do it again! :)

A whimsical review of Strictly Ballroom The Musical at Sydney Lyric

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived”

strictly ballroom musical

This is the Australian production of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, which is based on the classic 1992 film (you’ll know it if you were born in the early 80′s – it was the one of the most famous Australian films of all time, up there with stuff like Crocodile Dundee). The latest production is fairly new – the global premiere was at Sydney Lyric in April 2014 and we caught it a couple of days ago.

strictly ballroom tickets

I didn’t realize I’ve watched the original movie and knew most of the songs by heart so when it was described to me, I thought it sounded like a the love child of a threesome involving West Side Story, Romeo & Juliet and Dirty Dancing.

strictly ballroom merchandise

I’m a huge fan of musicals, and caught a lot of them during my 2010 backpacking trip through Europe, starting with Wicked in West End. I even watched Les Misérables in French!

I did not understand a single word. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement, maybe I understood 7 but it’s definitely something you can count with your fingers.

strictly ballroom sydney lyric

To be perfectly honest, I thought I was in for a slightly dry Australian play but I was keen to catch a musical here, especially a local one.

strictly ballroom australia

As I settled in my seat and took in the gorgeous period posters and large disco ball on the ceiling of Sydney Lyric, I started to get into the interactive elements where your section of the theater cheers for a particular ballroom dancing competition couple. I won’t spoil it for you, but don’t worry, it’s nowhere near the over-the-top madness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

strictly ballroom pose

…and then there was the pivotal scene, a familiar snippet of lyric which was done in conversational spoken word, the part where ballroom dancing movements were taught to the Latino main female lead (which arguably is the best scene in the musical)

If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re *lost*, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you WILL find me.
Time after time

The spoken word segued into a beautiful and powerful sotto song from the male lead and I thought to myself “I KNOW THIS SONG!”.

Memories flooded back and I was hooked – all the songs were familiar and I found myself tapping my feet, singing along and wanting to go on the large conga line that formed after the encore with the cast leading members of the public up to the stage.

strictly ballroom stage

It was the best musical I’ve watched in Australia. I wanted to sing, I wanted to tap my feet and I wanted to dance! It made me feel alive and loved every single moment of it!

strictly ballroom props

In that way, Strictly Ballroom lived up to “The story that inspired the world to dance”, at least for me, an a little old lady in her late 60′s, wheelchair bound and breathing oxygen, but clapping her hands happily as the musical went through songs like Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and of course, Time After Time.

strictly ballroom program

I guess if I had one negative thing to say about Strictly Ballroom The Musical, it would be the Coca-Cola advertisements / product placement, which I found to be intrusive and detracts from the entire experience.

…and with that said, let’s move on to:

(let me do the intentional irony smirk first)

smirk

Short mention:

I’m still in New South Wales, having a lot of fun taking photos and videos with my Xperia Z1. I’m staying at Ramada Resort Shoal Bay, which is about 3 hours from Sydney. It’s located in the Port Stephens area and we had a lot of water activities, sandboarding and ATV riding over sand dunes which can be really bad for regular smartphones…

…but not for the waterproof and dust resistant Z1! I did all those activities and just washed my smartphone and it was as good as new! I even took a walkthrough of my wonderful beach facing suite as soon as I got back. Check out the video above, it’s shot in 1080p Full HD. I’m looking forward to the Xperia Z2 coz that has an even higher recording mode – 4K! :)

strictly sydney

I just came back from a night of Vivid Sydney, experiencing lots of interactions, including one that’s inspired by Strictly Ballroom The Musical! It’s called MirrorBall Heart (Installation # 19 – it’s the one with the disco dance floor and a heart with “Strictly Sydney” on it) and it’s just a short walk away from the hotel. Catch up with what I’m doing on my other social media channels:

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:26 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

Dinner at Little Beach Boat House, Port Stephens

boathouse

Little Beach Boat House is a quaint little place just beside the bay at Port Stephens. You can hear the waves coming in at night and the wait staff is a duet of twins! The two Aussie girls look so much like each other that I just had to take a photo of them.

waitress aussie twins

The service is attentive and friendly and they had a special of the day, which I ordered. I actually recorded one of the twins reciting the dish in question so I can remember it, and she kindly obliged. Heh. This is one of the best restaurants in town according to Sharon, who dined with us last night.

popcorn

There was popcorn on the table – a growing trend that I’ve noticed in a lot of restaurants, who serve this in lieu of bread. I think it’s great! The dishes has a bit of a modernist twist in them too, with foams, purees and jelly sauce components on most of the dishes.

Entree

Seared Scallops ($19.00)
Cauliflower puree, chorizo, salsa verde, roasted corn

seared-scallops

This is really good! I like how the seared scallops and chorizo pairs up. Wei Zhi and I ordered different entrees and mains so we could try different things on the menu and this is her order.

Beef Cheek & Potato Croquette ($18.00)
W/ pee puree, binnorie feta & black garlic mayo

beef cheek croquette

I was more interested in beef cheek – a cut which is really flavorful if done right and they do it well here. It’s generously mixed into the crispy potato croquette and a nice touch is the black garlic mayo (the fermented garlic we use to make bak kut teh back home).

turkish bread

Toasted Turkish Bread ($10)
W/ balsamic & olive oil, garlic & herb butter, hommous and olive & feta tapenade

Mains

Miso Glazed Salmon ($33.00)
W/ soy roasted sweet potato, cashews, steamed greens and sesame & rice wine dressing

miso glazed salmon

I’m not a huge fan of salmon but according to Sharon (who also watches MasterChef Australia and offered me some) they did everything right in the “checklist” – crispy skin, no bones, juicy inside.

Seared Veal Medallions ($34.00)
W/ Jerusalem artichokes, baby spinach, green beans and parmesan & sage butter

veal medallions

I’ve cooked Jerusalem artichokes before, which is totally different from the globe artichoke. I ordered a Sauvignon Blanc which goes very well with my fish dish but makes the veal tastes rather bitter.

Crispy Skin Barramundi ($39.00)
Saltwater barramundi with roast pumpkin, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, bacon and a pee puree

barramundi

This is my order, the special of the day. I didn’t know it was fried though, since I don’t particularly like grilled fish (any other cooking method is better) but I kept an open mind. I wanted to eat barramundi since Australia is one of two countries where you can find it. I asked the waitress for a wine pairing and she suggested either Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling but “personally I’ll go for the former”.

sauvignon blanc

I took her advice and it tasted great with the barramundi! The Sauvignon Blanc is very sweet and pairs well with the fish. The skin of the barramundi is crisp and it’s a classic white fish which flakes well but has a stronger taste than other popular white fish like cod and John Dory. The barramundi is excellent when eaten with the sweet and smoky roast pumpkin though!

Boathouse ’3 Pigs’ ($36.00)
Crispy pork belly, pork schnitzel, prosciutto, parmesan, chorizo, corn cob, bacon mayo & apple jam

boathouse 3 pigs

This is probably the restaurant’s flagship dish. It came on a huge wooden platter and has 3 (three) different pork items on it, including a crispy pork belly the size of a small steak! It’s beautiful and the apple jam has been jellyfied, giving it a bit of a modernist twist.

little boat house

The dinner at Little Beach Boat House was great, and the company better – we talked late into the night about everything, and I learned a lot about the Port Stephens area too. Tourism New South Wales and Tourism Australia picked up the bill (thanks Duglass and Sharon) and we all had a bit of fun with the friendly twin waitresses who look so much alike! :)

twin waitresses

I’m still at Port Stephens, heading back to Sydney later! I’ll be here until next week and you can follow what I’m up to on my other social media channels coz I got an AUD 2 per day data plan!

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:53 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

I’m heading to Sydney to work!

australian 400 work visa

I’ve got my Temporary Work (Subclass 400) Visa from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of Australia and I’ll be there for about a week! :D

Australia has gone paperless in their visas though, I wish they still issued proper ones. It costs AUD 185 (about RM 555) to get this class of visa. I had a study/work visa when I was in uni – had to apply for it and there’s a limitation of 20 hours per week. It came just like my student visa (like a US 10 year visa or the front page of your passport) – there’s a photo and the description and it fills up the entire page. It’s awesome if you like to collect passport stamps and visa.

I’m flying to Sydney in an hour! I have Internet access so you can follow me and see what I’m up to in New South Wales for my 7 day working holiday! :)

P/S – There’ll be a lot of interesting things for those interested in MasterChef Australia!

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Erdinger Weissbier jelly candy from Germany!

erdinger weissbier jelly

Yup, this is real jelly candy (sorta like Haribo in texture, or gummy bears in the US) made from Erdinger Weissbier beer!

erdinger weissbier sweets

My better half saw me looking at it at the confectionery shop in Frankfurt and bought it for me. The lady there offered me a taste and I was surprised to see it’s a sourish candy that actually has a hoppy beer note so I asked what it was made of.

erdinger weissbier

The jellies are actually made of Erdinger Weissbier (and sugar and flavourings) but the fact that it’s candy made of beer really sold me on it. It tasted a bit off too – certainly not for kids. I don’t know if it has much of an alcoholic content after so much cooking but I have grown to like munching on these slightly bitter sourish jelly candies!

erdinger weissbier liter

I like how the used the proper 0,5 liter glass and also made the “foam” with marshmallow mice! The marshmallow is not sweet either, there’s just a slight hint of sweetness to it, which makes it an awesome buy at 10.90 Euros.

erdinger jelly candy

An adult candy and a great souvenir from Germany, you can’t ask for more!

erdinger weissbier candy

There’s also a 3 liter version for 60 Euros! smirk

marshmallow mice

Why did the 3 mice go blind? Coz there was methanol in their beer! :D

Okay, that was quite lame. Haha!

A meal by 28 Michelin star “Chef of the Century” Joel Robuchon at our Paris apartment!

joel robuchon tv dinner

The statement above is perfectly correct and true! smirk

joel robuchon

I present to you, a line of ready-to-eat meals by Joel Robuchon! This is his Le fameux Parmentier de Canard or “The famous Duck Parmentier”. There are several different meals, partnered with Fleury Michon. It’s sold in supermarkets and convenience stores like Monop’ (of the Monoprix chain – they have everything from stores to all sorts of food from cookies to milk!). There was a Monop’ just around the corner from our apartment and we were so tired the first evening we arrived in Paris that we just wanted to cook something easy.

monop

I was quite surprised to see Joel Robuchon lending his name to what seems like TV dinners but such an American term would be out of place in France for this is one quality meal for 5.13 Euros!

parmentier de canard

The serving bowl it comes in is not made of disposable and flimsy plastic but solid ceramic!

ceramic bowl

Duck Parmentier is a classic French dish that looks like a cottage pie. We saw some Cuisses du Poulet Roties (Roasted Chicken Thighs) on sale for 5.19 Euro (original price 13.95 Euros). These are the miniature chicken breeds (also called bantam chicken) which you can *fit in the palm of your hand*! They’re really quite cute (and tasty)!

french miniature chicken

I used that to plate up the dish so it looks like the serving suggestion (just 3 minutes 30 seconds in the microwave) and we ate it with some pasta for our first night in France. It was quite delicious, despite being a ready-to-eat dinner. They pride themselves for ingredients being 100% sourced from France too, as the labels clearly states.

joel robuchon dinner

We actually got to eat through all his collection – it is wide and varied indeed, and although it costs more than other ready-to-eat meals, I convinced my dear that we should get them. It’s not everyday you can have a 28 Michelin star chef “cook” for you at your apartment after all…even in France! ;)

Our 2 Michelin star lunch at Le Relais LOUIS XIII

relais louis xiii paris

I’ve always wanted to bring my better half to a Michelin star restaurant coz she’s never eaten at one before and decided it would make a great birthday present for her! I booked a table for two and set aside one day in our Paris vacation for this.

relais louis xiii

Le Relais LOUIS XIII fits the bill perfectly coz:

  • Chef Manuel Martinez got 2 Michelin stars in 2014
  • The restaurant serves classic authentic French cuisine
  • This is the very spot Louis XIII was proclaimed King of France in 1610 (thus the name)

michelin star

Oh, and did I mention that Picasso used to live across the street? smirk Relais Louis XIII is a very historical restaurant and they’re proud of it – the interior has the original old stones, wooden beams and valuable portraits of Louis XIII and Marie de Medicis as well as stained glass windows and antique Louis 13 chairs.

relais louis xiii menu

I had booked a spot at 12:15 pm when the restaurant opened and the waitress patiently explained and translated each of the menu items from French to English for us! There is no English menu, but the staff can speak English so there’s no worries there.

cream puff

We were served warm cheese puffs upon arriving and the table is perfectly set with butter, salt and pepper as well as a bread tray. The wait staff to table ratio is at least 1:1 – which meant we had our very own waitress and at least one other staff to help…and help they did!

relais louis 13

It was a little disconcerting, the level of service that was given – move your glass a little and they’ll come over with a smile to refill it and move it to just the right spot where it was before, facing the correct way.

amuse-bouche

More about Michelin star level service in another post, I want to talk about the food!

Entrées

Ravioli de homard Breton, foie gras et creme de cepes

ravioli de homard breton

This is their signature appetizer which got them the Michelin stars. It’s what my dear ordered and it’s absolutely fabulous! I can eat this every day and not get sick! The beautiful ravioli is half lobster and half foie gras.

ravioli foie gras

It’s topped with a porcini mushroom foam that’s so intense I’ve never had anything like it before. A beautiful start to the meal.

Toast de tete de veau / sauce gribiche / encornets

calf brains

I ordered this solely on the waitress’s recommendation. She said it’s a classic French dish – the kind the restaurant does best. This restaurant serves classic French haute cuisine with minimal modernist touches and I thought this would go well.

tete de veau

It’s toast topped with the brain of a calf and comes with nicely seared pieces of squid that makes an interesting texture combination, especially with the toast it’s served on. However, their flagship ravioli dish is slightly better I have to admit I secretly coveted my better half’s appetizer. Haha!

Main Course

Lieu jaune de ligne / fricassee de legumes / tomato confite / emulsion aux herbes

john dory

This is what my dear had! It’s a John Dory fish with tomato confit and a herb emulsion.

We’ve always wondered what John Dory tastes like and when the waitress explained what this was, she ordered it immediately. It tasted great – the fish was cooked perfectly (moist and tender) but it’s the kind of white fish that is popular in the West – bland by itself but absorbs flavors well, which is where the herb emulsion comes in, as a bit of a modernist touch.

Quasi de veau de lait “Hugo Desnoyer”

hugo desnoyer

My order is sweetbread! I’ve always wanted to eat sweetbread cooked by a classic French chef and here was my chance. I wasn’t disappointed!

sweetbread

There’s an option to add macaroni with morilles (morel mushrooms) for an additional 14 Euros but I opted out as I wanted to taste it by itself and we ordered a lot of desserts. Sweetbread is the thymus gland of the veal and it’s a very rich and creamy dish. There’s also a bed of perfectly caramelized asparagus at the bottom which cuts down on the heaviness of the dish. I loved it!

Cheese

Assortiment de nos fromages

fromage

There’s nothing more French than a cheese course before the desserts and we both opted for it. This is one dish divided into two, instead of sharing from our own plates, French restaurants can actually portion one dish into two upon request!

The selection of their cheeses also came with a delicious apricot chutney on the side!

Desserts

MilleFeuille, crème legere a la vanille Bourbon

millefeuille

This is their famous millefeuille with Bourbon vanilla light cream! It’s probably their most famous dish and dessert and we opted for a shared dish (one dessert portioned into two plates).

mille feuille

The awesome thing about Relais Louis XIII’s mille-feuille is that it’s deep fried! Words cannot do it justice, the crunchy texture of the dessert and the vanilla bean speckled custard made me nearly lick the plate to finish everything up!

There’s a reason why it’s the restaurant’s most popular dish, you can’t get a better mille-feuille elsewhere!

La Pomme – Gelee au Gin et sorbet Citron basilic

molecular gastronomy apple

This is my adorable dessert, the mysteriously named “La Pomme” (The Apple). It’s one of their rare molecular gastronomy forays. It’s a piece of art – there’s a cream filling inside the small “green apple” (complete with a fake chocolate branch and candied basil leaf).

relais louis apple

I was pleasantly surprised by the intense basil flavor of the crunchy “apple leaf” made of sugar infused with basil and the chocolate stick goes into the faux green apple (which consists of just a very thin layer of real apple tasting jelly) which in turn bursts with the filling. It’s a very intelligent dish that plays with your mind and mouth.

There’s a sorbet on the side to cleanse your palate too!

(along with crunchy bits of juniper tasting sweets)

Tarte minute au chocolat “Grand cru”

grand cru tart

This is my dear’s dessert! It’s a chocolate tart that oozes with rich and creamy molten chocolate. Not just any chocolate – Valrhona Grand Cru! It’s on their daily special and the wonderful spin they put on the dish is with the two ice cream you see – there’s a vanilla quenelle and a chocolate rocher.

The interesting bit is that the “chocolate ice cream” is *hot* and the vanilla bean ice cream is *cold*! The former is actually a ganache, plated like ice cream. It really plays wonders with your palate – it’s genius, how they pull off these things!

crumbing table

We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 Michelin star lunch at Relais Louis XIII. The restaurant has a few mixed reviews on the net about bad service but we received excellent service throughout, it’s the exact opposite of the snobbish French waiter stereotype.

relais louis us

Our waitress was warm, patient and translated each menu item for us, and one of the younger waiters took this photo of us. It’s an excellent place to go for classic French cuisine in Paris! Relais Louis XIII has consistently been one of the best value 2 Michelin star restaurants in Paris, France – delivering fresh, classic French cuisine you won’t be able to sample anywhere else! :)

Ladurée macarons at Champs-Élysées, Paris

Ladurée Champs Élysées box

Ladurée is widely credited as inventing the macaron as we know it today! The double decker macaron with a ganache filling was first made by Louis-Ernest Ladurée (which the shop is named after). We actually tracked down their biggest tea room and bakery in Champs-Élysées and took the Metro right to the place before even visiting the Arc de Triomphe. :)

Ladurée Champs Élysées

Champs-Élysées is a very prestigious address in Paris, the equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York (although it was Parisian culture which started the latter). It’s very expensive to maintain a presence here coz the real estate is incredibly desirable. Ladurée actually calls their branches as “houses” or “boutiques” even though they’re technically a tea room – that’s how seriously they take their heritage!

Ladurée Bakery Paris

Their restaurant, tea room and bakery at 75, Avenue des Champs-Élysées flies their famous green-and-gold Ladurée, Paris sign and is a huge old and stately building that has al-fresco seating during spring. This is the place that we’ve been looking for and we made a bee-line right into their bakery…

Ladurée queue

…to run into a long, slow-moving line of people.

Ladurée Paris

It was more than a queue, it was like watching the human equivalent of rabbits breeding! There are tourists, locals glaring at the camera toting tourists, and bemused passer-bys who got dragged in by the sheer force of the crowd swarming for Ladurée macarons. It was chaos, but organized chaos.

Ladurée menu

We were each passed a brochure listing their macarons, including the seasonal specials. My better half wanted to get ½ a dozen so I asked the patient and professional Ladurée wait staff for their recommendations. I only changed one and here’s our list:

Laduree macarons

  • Vanille (Vanilla)
  • Reglisse (Liquorice)
  • Fruits Rouges (Red Fruits)
  • Pistache (Pistachio)
  • Marie-Antoinette
  • Caramel Fleur de Sel (Salted Caramel)

Ladurée France

The blue Marie-Antoinette and the Red Fruits macarons are seasonal specials for Spring 2014!

fruit rouges macaron

The six (6) macarons are all awesome and there’s one thing I noticed about vanilla in France – no one uses vanilla flavoring, it’s like it’s a culinary sin! Every place we’ve been, from Michelin star restaurants to cafes uses real dried vanilla fruits (which is the second most expensive spice after saffron!) and it makes a lot of difference!

Ladurée macaron box

I quite liked some of the Ladurée macarons – the Marie-Antoinette, Salted Caramel and Vanilla are awesome but the best one is the one I switched to – Liquorice (swapped this for the recommended Lemon). The Liquorice macaron is black and when you bite into it, you get a mouthful of dry ash and acrid bitterness…and then the mild sweetness of the licorice filling hits you, for just a short while before it disappears and leaves a pleasant aniseed aftertaste in your mouth.

marie antoinette

It’s ephemeral and epitomizes the macaron perfectly. I’m not just trying to alliterate my words, but that’s how I felt about the Liquorice macaron. However, as for the others, I felt that Pierre Hermé macarons tastes better.

Champs Élysées

I’ll do a review of Pierre Hermé macarons soon – we tried both of the great French maracons and both were good! I know that both has branches here or close to us but they taste totally different. Macarons are supposed to be temperature controlled and eaten within 3 days and it doesn’t take well to importation or local ingredient substitution.

ladurée seasonal macarons

You can never get macarons here that’s as good as the ones in France and I’m glad we managed to eat these delicate French creations during our Europe trip! Oh yeah, our 2 Michelin star meal at Relais Louis XIII is coming up next! :)

8 beautiful moving themed Easter displays from around Europe!

easter displays

These are themed Easter displays we saw at a mall called Skyline Plaza in Frankfurt, Germany. Each Easter display is intricately made – with a lot of detail and even moving parts! They depict cities all over Europe, each with it’s own unique touch.

1. Vienna, Austria

austrian easter display

This is one of the more elaborate displays. The Austrian Easter display features a full-size moving Ferris wheel! The amazing thing about it is that inside each car, there’s a different posed Easter bunny couple, each pointing at a different place.

2. Edinburgh, Scotland

scotland easter display

This has a full sized castle at the front with a pastoral land vista at the back. There are two teams of Easter bunnies playing tug-of-war!

The tug-of-war display actually moves back and forth using hydraulics and is probably the longest one in the history of the world since no one actually wins – the moving parts kicks in and reverses before a team goes over so they’re perpetually tugging!

3. Barcelona, Spain

spain easter display

This Easter display has a charging bull as it’s main centerpiece. The black bull is set on sand and even has marks made near the hooves so it looks like it’s charging. There’s an Easter bunny with a piece of red cloth as the matador.

There are even bystanders and people in the stands cheering!

4. Helsinki, Finland

finland easter display

The reindeer graces the display for Finland! The Easter bunnies are seen tending to the reindeer and each of the graceful beasts are slightly larger than the bunnies, making them life-sized in comparison. There’s also a running body of water beside it.

5. Rome, Italy

italian easter display

Well, since this is a secular display, there’s no Holy See in this Easter special from Italy. However, there’s a scene depicting the canals of Venice (complete with an Easter bunny operating a gondola), the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a sign that points to France!

pizza easter bunny

Also, there’s an Easter bunny with a pizza, considering the pie was invented in Italy!

6. Paris, France

france easter display

The Eiffel Tower is the most prominent feature of this Easter display but there are touches that makes it very France! There’s an artist to the side that’s painting watercolors from a board and also a café setup with a French waiter (carrying baguettes).

drunk easter bunny

However, the funniest bit in this creation is a drunk Easter bunny with real bottles of wine lying on a bench! Hilarious!

7. Amsterdam, Netherlands

netherlands easter display

This windmill dominated Easter display is from the Netherlands! The windmills all have moving parts and the best thing is that there’s a canal (like the ones in Amsterdam) running through the display with a pump that allows the water to flow!

There’s also two Easter bunnies carrying a wheel of Edam cheese – the most famous and popular cheese from the Netherlands. I just love the detail.

8. Berlin, Germany

german easter display

This is the home Easter display and shows the flag of Germany over a group of three Easter bunnies all doing different things. There’s a car featured prominently as Wolfsburg is home to the Autostadt. Interesting fact: The Autostadt is the second-most popular theme park in Europe after Paris Disneyland!

germany car

The scene at the back depicts Berlin but in a humorous touch, there’s actually a mini-desk inside the display with travel brochures and you can grab one for Frankfurt. Haha! I thought that was pretty smart.

europe easter displays

Happy Easter everyone! :)

Nutcrackers and other wooden toys from Germany

handmade nutcrackers

The nutcracker (nussknacker) is one of the most popular German souvenirs to bring back…but where can you buy an original German made nutcracker with all the cheap China made products flooding the market? I did a bit of research about this and came out with two locations in Frankfurt am Main.

nutcracker germany

Germany has a long history of making quality wooden toys and the nutcracker was originally made in the rural areas of Germany. It’s usually shaped as a soldier and has a large mouth which can be opened with a wooden lever at the back of the doll. You can insert a nut inside the mouth and push down, cracking the nut – although the figurines are mostly used for decorative purposes now.

german made nutcrackers

Steinbach is the most premium manufacturer and all their nutcracker dolls are hand carved. These would run in the hundreds of Euros for just a small figurine. It’s not about the size (haha, no really) but the quality! There are huge 1 foot nutcrackers for 20 Euros but those are mass produced China made dolls.

seiffener volkskunst

I couldn’t afford a Steinbach but I still wanted a German made nutcracker so I went with Seiffener Volkskunst instead. These nutcrackers are not only handmade, but also hand painted in Germany! That’s why every nutcracker looks a little different – the paint on every single one isn’t the same. Their wooden toys are all individually made and painted!

handwerkskunst ulrike scheit

I got a 1 foot nutcracker for my dear as a souvenir for 48 Euros. The nutcracker dolls can run from 50 Euros – 200+ Euros, depending on the size and detail. There are two shops in Frankfurt which is reputable – the big Handwerkskunst am Romer and the smaller, more cottage industry-like Handwerkskunst Ulrike Scheit.

wooden nutcrackers

The prices are same in both – avoid the tourist traps that sells souvenirs, these are dedicated stores which sells wooden toys and only handmade wooden toys. I went *twice* (running up a 30 Euro taxi bill each way) so I could get another nutcracker doll for my dad. Old German folklore says the nutcracker dolls are keepsakes to bring good luck to your family and protect your home by guarding your family from evil spirits and danger.

german wooden toys

Don’t be afraid, my beard is long, my head is large, my look is grim but that matters not. I won’t bite you. In spite of my big mouth and grim appearance, I look with my heart for your happiness.

Posted: 6:13 pm Frankfurt time (GMT +2) on the 14th April – we’re still one day behind and it’s our last day in Germany!

Updates on our 10 day vacation through Germany and France:
http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...