The Soul of Seoul


Ok, I admit that the title sounds a bit big, huge even – and all-embracing, but I couldn’t resist.

Seoul is a city both quirky and cute. Fascinating, bustling, vast. A megacity of contrasts. And very much about taking a lot of pictures.

Spicy kimchi; the extremely busy Gwangjang market offering everything you could ever think of from black bean pancakes to electronics; shopping malls that are open 24/7; underground shopping malls; nightly food stands that serve late night shoppers; photobooths that are ubiquitous. So many cozy cafes, offering a wide range of imaginative coffee drinks (both hot and cold), such as sweet potato lattes. And divine egg tarts. It is funny that despite the fact that there is a café in every corner, many of them still attract a queue. Like did the 2D Café we visited in Yeonnam-dong 223-14: a hotspot for those who want the perfect IG shot in a cartoon-like setting. Try the red velvet cake: it was juicy and delicious.

I love to observe street fashion and I spotted a very popular trend on the streets of Seoul – and what makes this slightly peculiar was that it was in late December: a long padded jacket (either black or white) paired together with flipflops. No scarf, no mittens, no hat and above all, no socks!

Another unique dressing sight is the hanbok, the traditional Korean dress worn mostly at traditional occasions. It is characterized by vibrant colors and a bell-shaped form. We spotted young people dressed in it at the Changdeokgung palace area and in the Bukchon Hanok Village. There are also plenty of hanbok rental shops, especially near the famous sights, in case you want to try on traditional Korean style for yourself.


What else, what else? Seoul is safe, super safe one could say. We were sitting in a coffee shop (when in Korea…) and a young man left his wallet on the corner of a table when he went to the men’s room. And there it was, exactly in the same spot where he left it, when he returned.

And the food is purely delicious: Kimchi, tofu, Korean bbq, hot pots, the list goes on. I love Korean food.

Seoul is a fascinating combo of history, culture, Korean cuisine, pulsating energy, endless shopping opportunities, cute details and cuter cafes. I’ll share my best Seoul tips in my next post!

Christmas Vibes in Lecco, Lake Como






A pre-Christmas visit to Lecco, located in the eastern branch or “foot” of Lake Como pampered us with sunshine, tasty pizza and the beautiful combo of the lake and the mountain range in the background. The highlights of our extempore yuletide visit included:

A long and sunshine filled Saturday outing which began as a jog, continued as a stroll by the pretty waterfront, turned into an afternoon coffee moment by the lake (tasty freshly squeezed orange juice and espressos in a small café at 6 Lungolario Piave) and culminated in sharing two juicy slices of pizza on a park bench – with the appropriate gelato for dessert. My favourite kind of a workout.

The Xmas spirit created by abundant Christmas light decorations all around town, the  Christmas market on Piazza Mario Cermenati – with booths selling roasted chestnuts, thick hot chocolate, Italian cheeses and ham and knitted wear – and as the most  impressive sight: creative light projections on the facades of the houses in the town centre. And not to forget the classic lake boat ride in Santa’s sled.

And third, feasting on Italian treats, of course. Yummy pizza was found at Il Forno di Nonna Pallina (Piazza Venti Settembre 35). And the best seafood dinner at Mamaioa Bistrot (Via Carlo Cattaneo, 80): fresh and purely delicious. The menu varies according to the catch of the day.

Lecco really delivered. A delicious and sunny getaway on the base of the Alps.


Discovering Antwerp, the Hotspot of Chocolate, Diamonds and Fashion


The city of chocolate, diamonds, fashion, art, antique and architecture. And beer! That’s quite a list of highlights for one city. We visited this Belgian gem two weeks ago and now I’ll share my selected tips.

Antwerp is convenient when it comes to getting there: a 2,5 hour flight from Helsinki and then a half hour train ride from the Brussels airport. We took the afternoon flight on Friday and were strolling along the cobbled lanes of Antwerp in search of an atmospheric mussels restaurant during (late) dinner time. And found a tasty one (Xaverius, Oude Koornmarkt 21)! Let’s dive into the culinary delights shortly.

First, must say that on Saturday, November 16, it was slightly tricky to find a nice and cosy late breakfast spot with two available seats as that day marked the yearly arrival of  Sinterklaas to Belgium,  an occasion we were utterly unaware of. The streets around the Bonapartedok were packed with families, strollers and children who had exceeded their sugar overdose for the upcoming week as well.

The Sinterklaas festivities begin in mid-November as he arrives by boat from Spain. In Belgium he always arrives in the port of Antwerp. Then he parades through the streets, the children are singing and the assistants of Sinterklaas, the Zwarte Piet, throw small spiced biscuits and candy to the cheering crowd. In the coming days children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or on the windowsill in hope that Sinterklaas will come and bring some presents during the night time. The anticipation culminates on the eve of the Feast day when the main Sinterklaas parties take place. This tradition has received criticism because of the Zwarte Piet character but based on what we saw that Saturday, the tradition, or at least the parade, is still very popular.


Now, back to my Antwerp favorites. The best restaurant, without doubt was Fiskeskur (Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai 20b). This place is excellent. We both had a fish curry: super rich and delicious, fireworks for the palate really. The wine list was delightfully impressive, the service was warm, and the mood was cosy and laid-back. Extra points for the Latin rhythms. We found the place by following the tempting fish aroma when we were walking towards the Port Authority.

The architectural wonder: the Port Authority Building. Its architecture combines tradition with futurism. The building is captivating, a real eye-catcher, and the stroll to see it makes for a good (and windy, in November) afternoon walk. Antwerp is Belgium’s biggest port and infact world’s fourth largest port complex and back in the day (like more than 400 hundred years back) it was one of Europe’s most important cities. On the way back the yummy fish curry awaits. Architecturally impressive is also the Antwerpen-Centraal train station, check it out!



The most interesting chocolate experience was the Chocolate Nation (Koningin Astridplein 7), which manifests itself as the Valhalla for chocolate lovers. The visitors are taken on an audio-guided journey to the history of Belgian chocolate. It was quite exciting: the execution was creative and interactive and I bet it appeals to both children and older chocolate aficionados. And, as one would expect, in the end we got to taste many different flavors, in liquid form. As they say, the only thing better than chocolate is more chocolate.

As for the diamonds, didn’t buy any (I’d rather save up for the next adventure, be it big or small); antiques (carry-on baggage pretty much excluded purchasing any antique dressers or mirrors) and fashion: I bought one beautiful leather hand bag from the Old town, an item which I’ll very likely use for years. And the Leonida’s chocolate ended up in a very safe place as did the Belgian waffles: the best one was purchased from a tiny cart on the street while we were on our way to the Grote Markt (market square).