Monday, May 20, 2019

Ten pointers for living in The Hague

The title of the blog post is intentionally a little cut and dry. While I take immense pride in my extremely emotional self, I wouldn't exactly know where to begin if I had to pen down a sentimental post about leaving this city. Plus it cannot hurt to actually sit down and assimilate all that living here in Den Haag for the last one year has taught me.
So if you live outside the Netherlands and are moving here soon, or already have, then this might be what you are looking for. I wouldn't lie, this might not be entirely applicable in another city but the general advice might still do you good. 

  • GET OUT. EXPLORE THE HAGUE. AND EVERYTHING ELSE NEARBY: I had no intention of screaming this one out but a year and a little more here and I still feel like I have missed out on so many bits of this city and tiny villages and towns close by. The Hague is a melting pot of cultures and yet so deeply rooted in Dutch history. You could be eating an authentic Indonesian meal at one moment and walking across the Dutch royalties' residence the next. The weather plays a dampener on many days and it makes a lot of us expats extremely lazy but honestly, every little park with its own set of flora, every beach close to the shore, every little local snacks pop up across the town will add to your Dutch experience.
  • GET A BIKE. OR LEARN TO USE THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT LIKE A PRO:  This isn't intended to sound hypocritical. I didn't get a bicycle but I wish I had and I hope I do, at least in Amsterdam. Come rain, hail or sun, the Dutch always find it in themselves to get on to their bikes and bicycle through pretty much any weather. It helps that you have some really cute (with basket full of flowers a la Phoebe from FRIENDS) option. The other option is to ace you public transport skills. It took me a bit but I can quite comfortably map my way around any part of the Netherlands thanks to my OV Chipkart
PRO TIP: There's always Google maps to find the best train, tram and bus routes but if you    move to the Dutch app store on moving here, then 9292 is your best bet on the app to download for this purpose. It works around the Netherlands, not just the Hague.

  • PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE TO MAKE FRIENDS: We don't talk about this enough but forming meaningful friendships in adulthood is not the easiest job. Add to that, relocating to a new country at 28 and going from a huge social circle to a relatively cut off freelancer life. The freelancer life taught me to  socialise beyond my husband's friends and find my own. There is this facebook group called Expat Ladies The Hague that I highly recommend. And finally I started my own initiative of #WhatsThePlanNL that brings together women from all across the Netherlands at a monthly meet up event. Look up the hashtag on instagram and also find more on my instagram profile.

  •  LEARN TO COOK: I never thought I would ever propagate learning a life skill that I could barely get around to before I moved here. This is my personal opinion that the Dutch cuisine is not exactly the most diverse and as a result of which eating like the locals could get boring after a while. Regardless of where you come from, you will obviously miss your comfort food. While Den Haag offers a large variety of international cuisines both home delivery and eat out, a little experimenting in the kitchen will go a long way in making you miss your homeland a little lesser and making you less reliant on eating out. 
PRO TIPThuisbezorgd is your best bet for home delivering food in the Netherlands with a whole bunch of cuisine options.

  • INTEGRATING THROUGH DUTCH CELEBRATIONS: If there's one thing you can't fault the Dutch with, it's their zeal to celebrate their festivals. It is almost nigh impossible to not want to jump right in, into the swarms of orange clad crowds on King's Day (and King's Night). The King's birthday sends the whole country into a tizzy of mad day long celebrations but that's just one instance. You will have plenty of opportunities to integrate into the fabric of the fun Dutch culture so make sure you get right into it from your first year. 
PRO TIP: For any kind of costumes or props for Carnivale, King's Day, St. Patty's Day or any other, hit 'So Low' in the Centre on Spuistraat.

  • LEARN TO DRESS FOR THE DUTCH WEATHER: This one has been a struggle for me even after having lived in The Hague for more than a year. I come from India where the summer and winter is quite clearly demarcated and it's fairly easy to maintain two wardrobes. However, the weather in The Netherlands has a mind of its own. I will go as far as to say that I freeze my butt off in this country almost throughout the year. It's windy even during the summer and while global warming has drastically changed the face of the Dutch Summer (it went as high as the 30s last year!), there will almost always be a chilly wind to accompany the sun too. The snow is not too bad but the rain is pretty frequent too. So prepare for four distinct seasons with an overarching theme of a  very cool air (if you feel as cold as I do! ). Also, if you're equipped for the moody weather, you're definitely more likely to enjoy the seasons in this absolutely knockout of a country.
PRO TIP: If you've never had an umbrella in your life, now is a good time to purchase one.

  • LEARN TO UTILISE YOUR SPACE EFFECTIVELY: Not proud of it but I was somewhat of a hoarder in India. Dutch houses (some don't come with storage space either), make you quash your hoarder tendencies and become wiser of what you buy and bring into your house. Use pieces to maximises your space (mirrors for instance), check for a storage space with your apartment and in general adopt a more judicious practice of buying things for your house that require a lot of space. Having said that, the layouts and the facades of the Dutch houses are so chic, for a lack of a better word. There is so much you can do with the large windows, cute balconies, cosy Scandinavian inspired interiors. So leave all your baggage behind, no pun intended.
PRO TIP: A good place to look for a space to rent or buy is Funda.

  • LEARN THE BASICS OF THE DUTCH LANGUAGE: This has been my most controversial takeaway from having lived in The Hague for the last one year. I know a lot of people (myself included) have made it work without a working knowledge of the language. But the gap is undeniable. Everything, literally (no, not metaphorically I'm quite sure yes) everything in this city is communicated (print, oral, otherwise) in Dutch and even if you specify that you do not speak the language, the likelihood of it being a seamless conversation is not a 100%. More tourist riddled spots have English menu options but again, that is not the case anywhere. So in my opinion, a basic understanding of the language (enough to not open Google Translate every time you have to order food) goes a long way in feeling more comfortable and at home in the lovely city of Den Haag. P.S: All your communication from your banks, the government etc comes in through paper mail and is entirely in Dutch.
    P.P.S: A good free service to start with the language might be 
    the Duo Lingo app and then you could proceed to take classes
    by personal tutors or at Universities to get to the next level.
    I'm hoping to start (get back to?) with the app myself on moving 
    to Amsterdam.

  • BE PATIENT AND BE KIND: It's not an exaggeration to say that kindness can wade you through the toughest waters. A new country is hardly a match. My experience with the people I've encountered in this city is 90% good and 10% bad, if I can even call it that. The Dutch are straightforward and no bullshit and that is a trait a lot of us could also do with. At the same time, everybody is not the same and at a lot of times, being an expat and not speaking the language can put you in situations of a little strife. There is nothing you cannot get through if you are patient, kind and smile when you convey what you have to. That kind of disposition will always win you friends and also ease you into the process of learning simple protocols that you are supposed to know. For instance, always enter a bus from the front door (the door next to the driver). 

  • STOP TO SMELL THE ROSES: Last but the most important is to remember to stop to smell the roses (tulips?). The Netherlands is one of the most stunning countries I have ever had the fortune of visiting and living here has been a dream (albeit not always the easiest of course). Metaphorically and literally, appreciate the art, visit the large number of museums (Dutch artists are phenomenally talented!), talk to the local people, meet as many new people as you can (expats, non-expats, it should hardly be an issue) and enjoy the insane number of flowers and flowering variety of plants and trees in the Netherlands. On the literal front, a few seasons to look out for include the tulip season (DUH), magnolias and cherry blossoms in spring, wisteria at the onset of summer and the large number of unidentified flowers all over the Netherlands (that are just as picturesque for your Instagram!). 

Thank you for being a lovely first home in the Netherlands, The Hague. You will always be special. Firsts always are ;)

Wearing: Dress by ASOS, Earrings: And Other Stories

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


'Concrete jungle where dreams are made of..', I know this isn't New York I'm talking about but it just seems to ring true for Singapore as much. Maybe replace concrete jungle with man made tropical jungle? I love Singapore and if you're an old reader, you have probably read my listicle on what to do in Singapore here and a little shoot that I did at The National Art Gallery of Singapore here. (If you're new, now is a good time as any to check out the above hyperlinks.) 
For a compulsory eater and instagrammer like me, a country that thrives on people's urges to eat out and drink out is ideal. I could go to Singapore every month and still not run out of new cafes and restaurants to try. Whether the shelf life of these cafes is even as much as the attention span of the viewers who find them on instagram, is a question for another day. For now, I'm quite set to take you through my top five cafe recommendations from Singapore (ranked and rated on a scale of 10 on the parameters of the food/drinks of course and very importantly, the 'grammability)

  • BEARDED BELLA: Find it here. Somewhere between my love for pastels and a need for good coffee is the perfect cafe that is pretty, pink and whips up the finest freaking french toast. (10 points to Gryffindor for that alliteration). At an address that sounds as chic as the cafe, this place finds itself at the top of the list of cafes I discovered last month in Singapore and would 10/10 go back to for cute interiors (and exteriors), brilliant brunch food and a mean piccolo (in the CUTEST take away paper cup). 
          Food/drinks: 9/10
          Insta factor 10/10

  • MERCI MARCEL: Find it here. If you are already judging me (and my brunch partner extraordinaire, my sister) for our french toast and avocado toast circa 2019 millennial-ish food choices, then wait till you get to the end of the list. It simply cannot be helped. The taste buds want what the taste buds want. This beautiful french cafe located in the hipster locale of Tiong Bahru faired surprisingly well on my list thanks to its al fresco dining option with the perfect amount of greenery and wooden patio furniture. The french toast had a nice crunch to it thanks to the addition of the almond flakes and the avocado toast and poached eggs were pretty yum (especially the bread) too.
          Food/drinks: 8/10
          Insta factor: 9/10

  • COFFEE ACADEMICS: Find it here. Sometimes it's the flukes that land you in the cutest places (complete with neon signage et al). Scott's Square, one of the hippest shopping spots in Singapore is also home to this chill yet very cute in its details cafe. I also discovered that it's a chain that originated in HongKong. If the name wasn't a dead giveaway, they take their coffee seriously and my sister and I found ourselves (very conveniently, if I might add) seated right under the neon signage with the floral centre piece et al. I had this latte with agave pepper and it was particularly yum and our millennial (only in sensibility, not in age) selves also found ourselves ordering the passion fruit 'cruffin' (Croissant+Muffin, YEP it's a thing.) which was a pretty darn good combination of both its mama and papa.
          Food/drinks: 8/10
          Insta factor: 8/10
  • SYMMETRY: Find it here. Symmetry comes with an automatic debit of cool brownie points thanks to its Australian sensibility. Again, the al fresco dining option automatically won my heart (hello, beautiful Singaporean architecture that involves colourful windows). We went quite crazy and ordered ourselves (beat it!) an avocado toast with truffled mushrooms (YAAAAAAS) (also, note the sarcasm) and a stack of pancakes (that I wouldn't reminisce much about, to be honest). The addition of the banana ice cream was cool but the pancake itself was forgettable. Our fresh juices came in cute Tiki style glasses (don't quite know how that fits in the vibe but we loved it none the less). 
          Food/drinks: 7/10
          Insta factor: 8/10

  • PS. CAFE: Find it here. Some good things in life need refresher courses. If you read my first article about things to do in Singapore, you would have found my deep founded love for the PS. Cafe chains somewhere (all over) in there. So it seemed sort of unfair to let this one sit out this piece since the food quality and the general vibe of the cafe seems to be steadily consistent over the years. We went to the one on Harding Road and the larger than life floral centre pieces (and literally nothing else for decor) seemed to still hold its charm over me. It also helps that the menu is extremely elaborate and you can almost go wrong with nothing.
          Food/drinks: 9/10
          Insta factor: 7/10

Share the love with that one friend who is clueless about where to eat and is heading to Singapore. Or even if he/she knows, I promise I know better. My questionable brand of humour aside, I hope you enjoyed the piece. Don't forget to comment below if you have other suggestions and with your thoughts of course.


Monday, January 14, 2019


So this is what cheating on your first love and then realising you couldn't live without it and hence coming back to make amends, must feel like. I had to check twice to ensure my blog was still standing. Thank god for automatic payments.I have now officially been in The Hague for nearly 3 months short of a year and it has been exhilarating to say the least. Endless amounts of travel, adventures with my partner and fashion and food discoveries unending. Without further ado, here is the list of my top 5 most instagrammable (yes, that is a word now) cafes in The Hague or Den haag if you may. Over the course of seven months, I made it my personal mission statement to find the most instagrammable cafes in the city and try out all of them. Safe to say, I've hunted out most of them and listed what I like best about each and rated them on the 'gram factor and food for you. So bookmark it, send it to your friends/family travelling or just pin it on to your '2019' travel goals and make that trip to the lovely city of The Hague.

  • MUGS AND MERMAIDS: Find it here. Mugs and Mermaids is literally straight out of your 'The Little Mermaid' fantasy. It's a cosy little cafe which has a cute outdoorsy set up too with furniture painted aqua blue. The food is quite the instagrammer's delight and here's the best part: it tastes fantastic too. Shades of blue, pink, red with a lot of rainbow-y natural elements in your dish (so no crappy quality colouring business) make it a must-eat-at/must-take-photos-at in The Hague. My suggestion? The mermazing pancakes and the beetroot latte.
    Food/Drinks: 8/10
    Insta factor: 9/10

  • CONFETTI: Find it here. Confetti is a pastel-everything-lover's dream come true. With interiors done up in the cutest tones of pale pink, lilac and a sea foam green, they ensure that everything they serve comes with a luxurious topping of funfetti sprinkles and actual stirrers with bits of confetti on them. They have a disco inspired/ confetti wall that I particularly love and makes for the best backdrop for photos. My favourite element has to be the pile of sweaters kept in the cafe cause it's The Hague and there's always a chance you're cold! My suggestion? The smashed avo sandwich and their everyday special cakes.
    Food/drinks: 8/10
    Insta factor: 9/10

  • PISTACHE CAFE: Find it here. Pistache Cafe is one of the most tastefully done up insta-friendly cafes in The Hague. Everything is pistachio green (yep, if you notice I have a thing for pastels!) and the sheer amount of actual greens (plants, silly!) are a treat to sore eyes. The mirrored accents and the leafy art complete the look and you can't complain about the food either (it's a clean and organic eating format). It helps that it's right opposite the palace. My suggestion? The sandwiches and the toasties.
    Food/Drinks: 7/10
    Insta factor: 8/10

  • HUG THE TEA: Find it here. If a matcha bar didn't make it to this list, what an absolute pity it would be. But given that I am a huge matcha enthusiast, I had to track down the first Matcha bar in The Netherlands which also sells its own blend. They have a very interesting tea menu, needless to say and the matcha flavoured food (both sweet and savoury) gives it automatic instagram points. It's cute and cozy and green and perfect to sit in a corner (and take sly photos of your food).My suggestion? The matcha waffles with fresh fruit and their teas of course.

    Food/drinks: 8/10 
    Insta factor: 8/10

  • LOLA BIKES AND COFFEE: Find it here. I walked in here first because it had the cutest name and was in the vicinity of all the cool art spaces around Noordeinde. Lola Bikes and coffee as the name suggests is a biker themed cafe which couldn't be a more appropriate theme in the Netherlands. The walls have bikes mounted on them which make for the perfect photo op. Also cool instagrammable content includes details about their biking clubs, workshops and the bikes mounted for sale and rental. It doesn't hurt that they whip up a really good flat white. My suggestion? Your style of coffee. They always get it right.
    Drinks: 8/10
    Insta factor: 7/10

The search for the 10/10 continues but meanwhile, bookmark your next insta friendly holiday maybe? 


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Barcelona again and Sitges, 2018

Let me start with two lines on gratitude. Not everyone gets to travel. Not everyone gets to visit beautiful cities and definitely not everyone gets to repeatedly go to their favourite cities across the world. My travelogues are not written with the intention of romanticising travel and giving cliche, pinterest-quote-worthy-but-absolutely-stupid-in-real-life advices about dropping everything you're doing and taking expensive holidays around the world. I do, however encourage investing in experiences sometimes (whenever you can), and that could of course mean prioritising travel. When I first visited Barcelona back in 2015, I wrote a blog post here (albeit slightly over simplified) about things to do in Barcelona but even then I knew it wasn't all inclusive.
It was just the whole bunch of things we managed to cram in 4-5 days. You can read about my experience and travelogue from Barcelona here.
This time around I went to Barcelona with my husband and since we were staying with our friends who live there, we managed to live quite a non-touristy 4 days. We went to a local tapas bar (which was just as good as any other highly rated one from the internet) one night and the general quality of food in Spain just blows my mind. So instead of getting into point by point analysis because I know that tends be a little too much for everybody, I'm going to do the highlights of what I saw, wore, ate, witnessed and things you could do too.

  • I got a lot of questions on instagram about great places to stay at in Barcelona. That got me thinking that I actually did not cover that part at all in my first post. The first time around we stayed at a nice boutique hotel near Plaça de CatalunyaAs a few of you would know, that is a landmark around the city of Barcelona (also a must see) but also more importantly right in the city centre. So that is definitely a good choice for a place to stay. Having said that, this time around we were at our friends' close to the Muntaner metro station and while that is not the centre, it was such a great place to live surrounded by really interesting boutiques, a local market (or mercat as they say) and great tapas bars of course. It helps that the city is pretty well connected via the underground and even the buses.

  • great place for shopping that I also should have spoken about in my first post would have to be Passeig de GràciaThere's a long stretch of more than 100 great shops that extends over  Gràcia and has pretty much any label you can imagine (and more) housed in the most beautiful buildings with the most fairtytale-esque facades. Even a basic Adidas shop in Barcelona looks like a castle!

  • The Gothic Quarter. This was again a touristy miss for me the first time around but since I had seen more of the city than the boy, we decided to walk around and just admire the architecture in the centre of the old city. The buildings and structures in the Gothic Quarter are something else. There is the city square, a chapel and many others. The best decision that we made, however, was to go with a suggestion to grab lunch at a tiny open air tapas place (mostly the case in Europe in good weather) which was *wait-for-it* right outside a beautiful cathedral! The food didn't blow my mind but the view and the good wine more than made up for it! This was outside Santa Maria del Mar.

  • If you can rent a car (with a proper driving license/valid permit) or if you're staying with friends who own one, a drive out and about Barcelona into Cataloniya would definitely not be something you regret. One such absolutely beautiful coastal town is that of Sitges which is known for it's cute quaint alleys with seriously Mediterranean architecture and feels and a great open sea facing boulevard of cafes, boutiques and houses. Also obviously a popular port since we saw the ships dock too. The drive up hill is just as beautiful as the town itself. We got ourselves some paella, some churros and walked around unendingly. Also popular for some water sports, if that is the kind of thing you're into. Strangely enough it has beautiful weather all year round but we managed to go on the one day it rained. Sigh. Still worth it, to be honest.

  • The last bit of awesomeness we managed to pack into our trip was the carnival in Barcelona at Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.  Again, if the cultural madness and the flea markets, the music acts, the markets turning into tapas shops for the whole night is the kind of thing that interests you, then look up the carnival calendars and book your tickets accordingly. The highlight of it all was dancing amidst the 'gigantes y cabizudos' or as we say, the giant bobble heads. The characters are all obviously of famous kings and queens and characters pertinent to the Spanish history and it's a sight to behold. There is also a far extending flea market that sells everything from jewellery, trinkets, yummy fresh empanadas, local desserts, local brews et al. When that started to shut down, we followed crowds into Mercado de la Abaceria Central (one of those beautiful markets selling all kinds of groceries housed in old beautiful building called Mercats in Spanish). To our surprise it was Tapas night in the Mercat and all the vendors were selling just the yummiest and the most diverse sort of Tapas in there. To top it off, there was a live music act making its way through the market! Again, I think it all ties into the carnival celebration so we just happened to be there at the right time thankfully. (This happened to be the 5th of May)

Have more questions? Don't forget to leave your comments.
Also, for more than just my words and photos, find my doing a whole bunch of video content on my YouTube channel. Don't forget to subscribe!


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Staycation with Svelte Suites

Picture this: You are checking into a hotel (which is either of the two scenarios; work or leisure) and you are actually treated like 'not-just-every-other-guest' and actually made to feel valued as a customer. Not too many times you can say that, right? And before you fire up the accusations, 'but you're a blogger', your visits are paid and valued because you cover the property, let me also clarify that I saw every guest checking in receive a warm welcome like they really mattered. Now that I have set the premise for my #Sveltecation at the Svelte Suites in Saket, Delhi, let me tell you all about how it went. 
In the middle of some fabulous welcome drinks and a huge beautiful bouquet of roses to welcome me, I noticed that the entire staff even the security guards all made that effort to smile and appeared genuinely happy to see their guests. That to me is the promise of a property that keeps its employees and its guests happy alike. We checked in, ordered some lunch because we were lazy and decided to just chill in our suite. Interesting fact: Svelte actually just has suites. No normal rooms. Cause honestly, why regular room it when you can SUITE it?! 
As if the magnificent views from our suite weren't enough, we were greeted with a bottle of the Chef's finest red and some beautiful artisanal chocolates (which I barely waited to polish off). After a hearty meal with some ginormous portions (sorry, I am always impressed with hearty portions) of some Thai curries and spaghetti (squeezed in a nap somewhere there too on the ultra cushy beds), we decided to hit the rooftop pool. For me, it's always the little things and the tiny gestures which a hotel executes that make for a fabulous stay. Piña coladas by the pool? Hell yes, that definitely makes the cut. 

I am going to admit, I was very tempted to utilise the extremely well equipped gym at Svelte(mostly to do a pretentious photoshoot) but I steered clear of anything that could break me into a sweat and stuck to being a vegetable that posed for beautiful photos. It worked out alright, don't you think?
The only cardio I indulged in, at my extremely luxurious Staycation was my little trip to the mall which has an exclusive direct entrance to, from the Svelte suites. Imagine a secret passageway that leads you straight inside, to the heart of Select City Walk. I can tell you, that is what my dreams are made of.

The chef curated a special menu from scratch for us that included an Asian spread that we really couldn't get enough of. I tried everything and we attempted to do justice to some brilliant preparations. P.S: How good was the fish in lemon butter sauce!
Always taking a moment to mention the other little details of a very seamless experience. Not only were my clothes set out, all ironed for me before my shoot that was to take place at Svelte, the hotel also very kindly kept my entire team fed and watered for the entire duration of the shoot (because honestly, what else is the key to minds that create interesting content). 
To a flawless stay and an even better experience, all complete with the perfect photographs for me to take back as memories and a box of their best artisanal chocolates (all because I wrote an instagram post on how much I LOVED the chocolates). If that isn't attention to detail, then I don't know what is.

Select photographs by: Mohit Khetrapal
All details on Svelte, Delhi right here.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fashion tales from the beyond

This is not a tale of supernatural anything, except maybe my magical fashion prowess. Could unexpected layering and playing with textures really be a super power? Because this time, at Humayun's Tomb in the freezing Delhi winter with the entire team struggling to resist one shiver at a time, we might have made magic with the natural light and man made structures. Ironic, if I think of it that a tomb could provide an inspiration so real, so as to give birth to an absolutely spanking new piece of work. I tried this time around, as I do many a times, to step out of my comfort zone and recreate my personal style with a whole bunch of colours that the colour wheel would usually not suggest putting together. But like a cheesy fashion mom, I would tell you that fashion rules are meant to be broken. My kids are so not letting me dress them.
Maternal instincts aside, I worked with layers, colours and a lot of textures of clothing alongside textures occurring most naturally in nature to create what might be described as fashion's call from the beyond. Props to the spectacular team for making my vision come to light.

Photos by Devansh Jhaveri
Assisted by Shreela Singh



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...