Brunch in the Belgian Quarter

I’ve been to Köln several times, but never ventured too far away from the Dom and the main shopping street, Schildergasse. I made it a point to change that on my most recent visit two weeks ago, intrigued by bits and pieces I’d read about an area packed with stylish shops and cool cafes, called the Belgisch Viertel or Belgian Quarter.  
This funky district starts from the main street of Aachener Strasse, which, I was happy to discover, was literally across the street from our hotel, the Barcelo Cologne City Center. The extremely helpful Travelettes Smart Guide to Köln spoke of the Metzgerei & Salon Schmitz as a quirky little place for Sunday brunch (and for hipster-spotting), and it was easy enough to find, thanks to the swarm of sunning hipsters on the sidewalk. 
Marlon and I immediately joined the sun-powered Europeans (oh, to what depths we tropical folk have fallen), delighted to be in the sunshine and relieved that no blood had to be shed to win a table.
Drinks are served from the cafe next door, while meals must be ordered at the counter of the tiny Metzgerei Schmitz itself, which is a former butcher’s shop with lovely old tiles and a cozy atmosphere. I was proud of myself for ordering entirely in what’s left of my college German. 
 
In addition to the big brunch plates, fluffy pancakes and large, flavorful quiches, I was delighted to find an incarnation of one of my favorite desserts in the world… tarte au citron! Sunshine and lemon makes Deepa a happy girl.
A post-brunch stroll around the neighborhood led us to the Brusseler Platz, a small, tree-lined square where even more hipsters sat around basking in the sunshine (and in their own their top-knotted hipness)…

… while my nose for bargains led us to a pop-up vintage flea market tucked into an Indonesian restaurant. #score

It was Sunday, so most of the cafes and stores were closed, like this interesting little “crepresso bar” that would have otherwise drawn us in for a taste.

So we decided to simply enjoy the little details of this neighborhood, from quirky street art…
… to quirky real art (like this mockup of a Swedish favela)
… to evidence of quirky residents. 
Determined shoppers will always find something that’s open… even in a European country on a Sunday afternoon. The Boutique Belgique was an especially satisfying find. While Marlon pretended to get his inner thug on, I seized a pair of fabulous Balmain brogues on über-markdown. This was literally my face when I found them; Marlon heard me gasp and immediately pointed the camera at me when I whirled around to face him with the shoes. Good man. 

Down the street, we stepped into Simon und Renoldi, a super chic store for home, fashion and lifestyle. Aside from the hip styling and great brands, we also saw… the ubiquitous banig. Level up ang Pinas, ha! Dati pang-Divisoria lang itey.

Our attention now directed to the floor, Marlon and I spied this beautiful woven cotton rug by House Doctor, which reminded us of a Indian block printing made modern by the coral on gray palette…

… and is now on our living room floor. Yay for conjugal impulse buys! They feel so much more justified. 
I wonder how much success/fun/damage the Belgian Quarter has to offer when all the stores are actually open. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t try too hard to find out.
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Studs and chocolate

Apologies for the non-activity on this blog. I’ve gone out of the country on each of the last two weekends, been busy in between, and it’s caught up with me. I’ve spent the whole day in bed with a bad cold and a slight fever.

I have lots to post about our spectacular weekends in Prague, Czech Republic and Köln, Germany—also about a few new developments at home. But those will have to wait until I feel better. In the meantime, let me leave you with by two of my favorite impulse purchases from last weekend.

So, between:

a) These gorgeous studded Balmain (Balmain!) leather brogues for €49 (Php 2,800)… or
b) A Ritter Sport Nugat chocolate bar as big as my freaking face for €2.65 (Php 150)

… which was the better buy? Help me decide. Shoes versus chocolate, it’s a tough choice!

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the warm, humid frenzy of Manila!
I flew home with Marlon via KLM last Saturday. Since then, we’ve been spending time with family and friends whom I’ve missed, thus the inactivity on this blog. Next week, we’re off to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary in Boracay (yay, warm waters and white sand!) so there will be more radio silence through New Year’s. 
In the meantime, let me leave you with some photos that should get you in a lovely Christmasy mood (if you aren’t already feeling it!). I’ve always wanted to visit the famous German Christmas markets, so Marlon and I took the train to Koln (a.k.a. Cologne) a few weeks ago for a weekend trip.
I’ve been to Koln with the Glee Club. That was 10 years ago, and I never thought I would come back. Being there with Marlon, and looking up to see the massive Dom (Cathedral) all lit up, gave me goosebumps. I simply couldn’t believe I was there again. It was another one of those “funny how life works out” moments.
Being at a Weinachtmarkt, or German Christmas market, was like being in a Christmas Disneyland. I’d been warned by German friends that Koln was rather commercial as Christmas markets go, but that didn’t faze me.
With much to gawk at, laugh at, buy, eat, drink and enjoy, how could I not love every single shimmering, sparkling moment of it?

After the Christmas market at the Dom, which is the biggest one in the city, we walked to the one in the Alter Stadt, or Old Town. This one was smaller, more intimate and felt more quaint.

It was also mobbed by 10pm!

This year, the Alter Stadt market was all done up in an adorable gnome theme that I loved!

On our last day, before catching the train back to Amsterdam, we dropped by the Markt der Engel, or Angel’s Market, at Neumarkt.

Three out of eight Christmas markets is not too bad, right? It was a wonderful weekend that really put us in the holiday mood. I would love to visit other markets, in other towns, next year. I’m sure each one has its own charm… and its own selection of tasty treats and pretty baubles.

Wherever and however you’re spending the holidays, I wish you lots of laughter, music, good food and great company. I wish you joy and belonging amongst the people you love most and who know you best. Because that’s what Christmas is to me. 
Merry Christmas from me and Marlon!
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