Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chez Mariannick

One of our favorite restaurants here is fortunately quite close to where we live so on a Friday evening we don't have to face tons of traffic to get there, or we can take a 20 minute walk. It's called Chez Mariannick, and is a place with so much unique atmosphere I had to post about it.

It was created and is owned by a lovely couple, Shashi and Mariannick - he's from London and she is from France. My understanding is that they built the place themselves, it's basically in a field off the main road, and it has a lovely rustic feel to it. The centerpiece is the amazing brick ovens, where they make bread, quiches, desserts and some of the best pizza I've ever had. During the week they're open for lunch and dinner and serve all those goodies - they even deliver croissants and other things to local residents:

Making pizza

Cleaning the oven

The patisserie case
On Friday and Saturday nights they also make amazing crepes, so that's when we love to go. It's such a great way to wind down after a busy week. As soon as you arrive (after an effusive welcome from Shashi) you get fresh bread and huge bowls of salad with the excellent French vinaigrette.

Bread and salad

My favorite crepe, La Dijonnaise. Cream, mustard, chicken and mushrooms

Thumb of approval from Toby

Dara prefers a plain buckwheat crepe

The main course pancakes are made from buckwheat flour. Apparently they had some trouble sourcing the right kind of flour at first, but now the quality of the crepes is consistently excellent. The dessert pancakes are to die for:

Peaches and cream crepe

La Belle Helene: pears, chocolate and cream

Look at the amazing texture on the edge of that crepe! Yum. 

They also have a really nice outdoor section with granite tables and benches, and a cool climbing fort for the kids. Toby and Dara always make new friends when we're there. 

Outside the restaurant

Shashi and Mariannick

We've taken a lot of visitors to the place, and if you're in town I highly recommend a visit.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stormy Weather

We got back from Singapore to a huge storm. Fortunately the plane landed before it got bad, but as we were waiting for our driver at the airport the power in the terminal went out, and we could see loads of lightning flashes in the sky. While we were in Singapore there were quite a few storms, it being a rainforest and all, but everyone took it in their stride - no power cuts, and while people drove a little slower, the traffic still moved calmly and efficiently. Not the case, of course, in Bangalore.

On the drive home a lot of the roads were flooded. We're fortunate we don't have to ride in a rickshaw or on a bike - they must have been totally soaked. Within five minutes of getting home the power went out. We actually have two circuits in the house - one for low-energy appliances like lights, ceiling fans, the fridge and regular power outlets; another for high-energy like the kettle and kitchen appliances and the hot water heaters and air conditioners. The lights etc came on pretty quickly but the high-energy power stayed off until late in the morning so it was a cold shower for me before work in the morning.

Mahesh, our driver, was very late to pick me up in the morning - loads of underpasses on the main road from his house were really flooded so the traffic was terrible for him and on the drive to and from work. The power has been shaky for the last couple of days - we did get high-energy last night but it's been on and off all day so we had to have unheated lasagna for dinner. It was tasty enough but would have been better warm.

The other aspect of the rain starting has been the wildlife. We made the mistake of leaving the porch light on last night and this morning the porch was totally covered in dead beetles and flying ant things - apparently they hatch like crazy when the weather gets like this. It's a bit strange to see so many discarded shells and wings all over the place when you leave the house in the morning.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Neither Emma nor I have written anything for the blog in ages. I knew from various friends who have done the expat life in Bangalore before that after a few months it's just kind of life, and you stop noticing all the differences from your home country, like the traffic, the trash, the sights and sounds etc. Actually you do still notice the traffic and trash, but it becomes redundant writing about it all the time. It's just home and where we live and work. The kids are still really enjoying school and we're very happy with it, my work is going really well (although it's pretty exhausting, especially with the arduous commute on each end of each day) and Emma's going great with friends and exploring the city.

What's possibly more interesting is that we're starting to explore this side of the globe a bit more. We really enjoyed our week in Sri Lanka, and we're planning to go back again sometime, maybe to the south of the island. A few weeks ago we went for a long weekend in Goa which was wonderful. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Resort, and ended up not even leaving the resort the whole time. This was partly because we so enjoyed not having to drive anywhere, but also because the resort and its beach were so wonderful - great food and services too. Also it was really hot for exploring - we're thinking of going back sometime when it's cooler to take a look at the old city - when we got too hot we just jumped in the ocean, which was loads of fun.

This weekend we're taking advantage of the May Day holiday to do a weekend break in Singapore. It's somewhere I've wanted to go for ages, and it's a wonderful change from the chaos of Bangalore. Everything is incredibly clean and it all just works efficiently. The traffic is busy but everything runs smoothly and calmly - we've only heard one car horn in the four days we've been here. The sidewalks are also clean and despite the heat and humidity it's really pleasant to walk around (compared with Bangalore where the sidewalks are strewn with trash and there are often whole paving stones missing, resulting in a hole through to the drainage ditch below. A few weeks ago I saw a sidewalk in downtown where the trash under the paving had actually caught fire, resulting in four foot high flames coming out of the paving, which everyone just seemed to ignore). There are high rises and malls all over the place, all of which are clean, have nice public restrooms, and loads of food and coffee places. We've had Starbucks for breakfast each day - it may not be the absolute best coffee in the world, but when you don't have anything close in the country you live in, you do miss it. The food's been really good and it's nice to be able to have salads and drinks with ice and not be worried about food poisoning! 

View of Singapore from the top of the Marina Bay Sands
Enjoying a drink 57 floors up

Which brings us to the only downsides of this trip. Firstly the cost. Singapore is insanely expensive. For example at Starbucks for Emma and me to have coffee, the kids to have hot chocolates and us all to have a muffin or bagel, it comes to almost $40. But this is a bargain compared to the breakfast at the hotel, which would run to over $33 each. A beer at most places is about $15, and although the malls are excellent all the clothes are super-expensive too. Today we went to Sentosa Island, which is a big resort location, and each attraction was about $120 for the four of us. We did get a reasonably good deal which included the aquarium, butterfly and insect park, and ten minutes of fish spa, where they have the little fish who nibble at your feet. 

Birds at Sentosa Island

I'd never done it before and it was really fun. By the time we got to Universal Studios and saw that it would have been $250 we decided enough was enough, so we're having some downtime in the hotel before we go out for dinner later. However we have seen some cool stuff. The zoo was excellent - we made it there in time for their special breakfast with the orang utans, then had almost the whole day trekking around and got loads of photos of all the tropical animals. 

Having a snack

Blending in

Having a swing

We also did a bus and river tour of the city and got to see how it all fits together, and enjoy different foods. There's a food court near our hotel in the Marina Bay Sands Mall which has food outlets from all over easter Asia, so Toby had Chinese fried rice, Emma had Vietnamese noodle salad, Dara had freshly made udon noodles, and I had Hong Kong roasted duck and pork noodles.

Fresh ramen noodles

Hong Kong roast deliciousness

Frog leg porridge?

Yesterday we made the most of the British influence and had delicious fish and chips along with a couple of pints at a quayside cafe. 

River tour


Fish and chips!

The other downside is something we experience each time we return from a trip. We do really like living in Bangalore - we've made good friends and there are a ton of positives to being there. But the place is so frustratingly chaotic that it takes a few days to readjust to the noise, traffic and dirt. Hope it's not too rough a re-entry this time.

St. Andrew's Cathedral

Buddha's tooth temple

Anyway it's been a really nice break. We're at the Conrad Centennial Hotel which is nice and central, easy to get on the bus tours, explore places and walk to the Raffles Hotel, where we stopped for a Singapore Sling a couple of days ago. A bit cliched I know, but you have to do these things. Emma actually got quite emotional about it - she said it was something she'd always wanted to do, but then spoiled the effect a bit by saying that it was like having KFC in Kentucky. 

Raffles Hotel

Singapore Sling

Raffles stairs

Singapore chocolate milk

The Conrad has also been great with the kids - they had a coloring activity pack in the room for Dara, as well as Dara-sized bathrobe and slippers. A couple of nights ago we got room service for the kids, which they thought was awesome.