Monthly Archives: January 2014

French medical humour

Unfortunately, I had a small back-related medical emergency yesterday and needed to spend one night at hospital. Today everything seems much better and inch’allah stays that way! However, this small excursion in the French medical world struck me as one of those moments when one has no choice but to fully accept the foreign mentality. One is at the mercy of another culture and feeling as helpless as this tiny African statue that reached my home in a suitcase many years ago.African statueMy degree of assimilation was tested in various ways but there were two particular moments that now make me laugh. They happened while I was leaving one hospital for a more specialized one.

Incident number 1. When I was inside the ambulance on a rescue stretcher, my husband noticed that the back door of the ambulance was not properly closed. And the driver was about to take off. He called the driver’s assistant and gently asked shouldn’t the door be locked. And you know what the assistant responded? “If your wife falls from the ambulance, then maybe it means that it is a good moment to change your wife.”

Incident number 2. The other hospital I was taken to is specialized in neurosurgery, but most of all it is famous for its psychiatric services. So, upon entering the hospital complex the assistant decided to joke again and asked my husband “are you sure they are going to let your wife out when day?”

My husband just responded ce n’est pas très drôle (it is not very funny). Even he did not have the courage to laugh.

If you are not French or have never lived here, these examples may sound cruel and mean. Many expats have hard time with this kind of humour and in my case, it is only my mood that decides whether I laugh or not. And in this case, I did not laugh. In fact, the second “joke” only made me feel like Leonardo DiCaprio in the Shutter Island…

So, if one day I disappear from the blog writing, you know where to find me. In the abyss of the Parisian psychiatric world. Munching butter croissants with Leonardo.


PS If you live abroad, when was the last time your patience was tested?

Revisiting Angkor

Today was the last day of the exhibition Angkor, Birth of a Myth- Louis Delaporte and Cambodia at Museum Guimet in Paris. Coincidentally, it was almost one year ago that I visited these ancient temples myself. Angkor exhibition, museum GuimetEven if we spent a rather long time (five full days!) in Siem Reap (Eat Drink Sleep Siem Reap (survival guide to Siem Reap) visiting nearby temples, I still felt it was not sufficient to really absorb and understand what had happened in the past. “Who what why when” became more complicated than ever! There were the Hindu Kings, then Buddhism; there were many different empires. To notice architectural details each religion brought to different temples during different times was not always easy, and having a lousy guide did not help. Indeed, it felt very overwhelming to be honest. And maybe this is why I still have not written anything about the Angkor temples (after one year!!).Angkor, museum GuimetHowever, visiting the exhibition this afternoon enlightened me. It was such a great pleasure to see old drawings, photos, maps, paintings, moldings, replicates, etc. that I now feel one step closer to actually being able to write something about this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Meanwhile, have you ever felt the same about a historic or archaeological place somewhere in the world?

More information about the exhibition: 

Museum Guimet: www.guimet.frMuseum GuimetPS Museum Guimet is an architectural pearl. It hosts one of the best Asian art collections of the world, if not the very best. So pay a visit if interested in Asian art.

Top Ten of 2013

One year and one week ago I started my blog, encouraged by a friend. I will always be indebted to her as this has been such a wonderful experience and one hell of a ride if I may say. The blog has brought an entirely new dimension to my life; I could have never thought about making so many new friends and attracting so many followers. My sincerest thanks to everyone of you!!

To celebrate this one-year anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to look back and see what the highlights of the year were. Enjoy, and pick the post that most interests you!

1. The most read postBus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Laos is a fantastic, rewarding country, but traveling inside is not always simple. I am happy that my post has helped so many thousands of travelers to enjoy Laos!

2. The second-most read postEat Drink Sleep Siem Reap (survival guide to Siem Reap). Nothing to add. Angkor temples, initially built by the Hindu kings, continue to fascinate the entire world. And Siem Reap is the base for exploring this UNESCO World Heritage site.Angkor temples

3. The third-most read postKoh Lipe: mixed feelings. Thailand. Well. I did not fall in love with Koh Lipe, a tiny island in the Andaman Sea near Langkawi, Malaysia. I hear Koh Lipe was quite a paradise ten years but to me it seems the word “sustainable” was forgotten along the way…

4. The most-read post about FinlandIce swimming in Finland. One of my favorite posts, too! Have a look if you haven’t already but do not believe everything I say.

5. The most educational postEating oysters in months without “r”. Oysters, this ancient delicacy! A lot of people wonder when it is safe to eat them. Read my post and tell me, “r” or not to “r”! oysters

6. The most read recipeCôte de Bœuf (ultimate French meat dish). A classic French dish; so simple but delicious! Now you know where to get your iron boost.

7. My first-ever post!Thursday night in Paris

8. The most family-oriented postFranco-Finnish Christmas meal. Christmas in Paris with my parents, husband and French delicacies.

9. The best design object portrayedAlvar Aalto bell lamps from 1937 find a new home in ParisAlvar Aalto lamp

10. The post about friendshipMaking friends over the Indian Ocean. A story about friendship that developed over the Indian Ocean and developed in Tanzania.

PS If you are on Facebook, why not to follow Pearlspotting there too?

Istanbul fever

Last week, while eating Healthy Salmon Salad, I run into the Silvertooth album by Ethan Daniel Davidson. Soon after I started listening to it, I was very vividly brought back to something. Place: Istanbul. Time: many times, from 2001 to 2007.roofs of IstanbulI first visited Istanbul right after the 9-11. It was supposed to be a one-week trip but I ended up staying for a long time. So long, that even my airline (Swissair) went bankrupt during my stay of two months. Wow. And yes, it was that hip of a city that ever since 2001, I have tried to return to this half-European, half-Asian city whenever I can. During some years, I was even lucky enough to have a contract with a company that had a regional office in Istanbul! 

No need to explain, I love Istanbul and it is one of my all-time favorite cities of the world.

But now back to Silvertooth. In November 2007, I had returned to this super cool, fantastic city with my now husband and some friends for a long weekend. We stayed at the Kybele Hotel and this is also where Silvertooth’s Ethan (guitar, vocals) and Gretchen (guitar) were staying. We became friends and spent a couple of crazy nights together enjoying Istanbul: climbed centuries’ old roof tops, explored mezes and drunk raki. Many crazy photos, too. One of those weekends I would love to time travel back to!

So, while I was having dinner in Paris last week –accompanied by me, myself and Silvertooth– Istanbul suddenly came back to me and I started missing it. And this feeling, urge of returning, has been growing ever since last Wednesday and it does not seem to go away. Istanbul, here I come, soon, I hope.


The Kybele Hotel:

PS Have you already checked out Pearlspotting’s Facebook page?

Twisted cauliflower risotto

Last fall, upon my brother’s recommendation, I visited a blog specializing in the Paleo diet and found a cauliflower risotto that contains no rice. Today I finally decided to try the recipe, but me being the rebel I am, I had hard time following the instructions. My cauliflower risotto (or a cauliflower side dish, if you prefer) became something between Oriental and Indian, and it is delicious!! Here you go: modified cauliflower risotto

1. Sauté finely chopped onions, garlic, fresh ginger, leek and celery in a pan with coconut oil until the onions turn golden brown.

2. While sautéing, add turmeric, Indian chilly powder, black pepper and Himalayan salt. I added extra ginger powder because I did not have enough fresh ginger root.

3. Add fresh lemon juice and stir. I used an entire lemon.

4. Add raw cauliflower chunks and mix well.

5. Add coconut milk and let it simmer until the cauliflower is soft. Unfortunately I cannot give you the exact duration: it depends on the quantity and how you like your vegetables (I don’t like mine too soft).

Enjoy with whatever your imagination sees it with! We had salmon.

PS If you don’t want your dish turn yellow, then skip turmeric. I added it because it is super good for health.

Cauliflower risotto recipe by Paleokeittiö that I found last fall: (in Finnish)

Health benefits of turmeric:


Palazzo Stern in Venice

Palazzo SternPalazzo Stern is one of those romantic, historic and beautiful hotels that makes one dream. Built during the 15th century, it follows Moorish style. Its inhabitants have been art collectors and traders, and who knows what else. Today, its premises are full of sculptures, mosaic, paintings and pieces of art that reflect these different owners and periods of history.Palazzo SternWe chose this hotel based on an offer on; a French website that sells hotel deals around the world. We liked the fact that Palazzo Stern is situated right next to the Ca’ Rezzonico Alilaguna stop and many important art collections.  Palazzo SternThe day of our arrival I called the hotel about our late arrival and was told that upon availability we will receive an upgrade. This is exactly what happened: there was an upgrade from standard to deluxe and we had a room overlooking the courtyard and the Rio Malpaga canal. Palazzo SternPalazzo SternThe deal we got from included a bottle of prosecco, which waited for us in the room. With ice and a weather forecast, of course. prosecco with iceOur room was comfortable. Nothing trendy, not very large, but cute in a way. It felt like being away from home. The heating worked very well, so well in fact that we had to turn it off as it was getting too hot. The bathroom was something that made me smile every time I entered it. Not the decoration I would like to have at home, but something you would expect in a renovated 15th century palace.bathroom in VeniceThere is no restaurant at the hotel but buffet breakfast is served until 10h30. In addition, there is a sumptuous bar that we did not try because we were too busy to learn what Aperitivo hour in Venice is like… Palazzo SternOur three nights were very pleasant, so would I stay again at Palazzo Stern? Yes, I would, if I got a very good deal. But then again, there are so many palaces in Venice, so why not to be adventurous…?


  • Very easy Alilaguna transport to and from the airport
  • Alluring design and architecture
  • Room very warm, even in January
  • Very pleasant and not-too-touristic neighborhood (Dorsoduro): perfect for art lovers, excellent restaurants


  • The front desk staff was always polite and correct, but I would have expected something special from a four-star hotel of that price category. Smile more people, smile, especially in a city like Venice that relies so much on tourism!
  • I would have liked to learn more about the history of the building right at the arrival or the first morning. Maybe a leaflet in the room? So much must have happened during the last 600 and plus years!
  • The front desk had no information on the nearby museums and galleries, which I found strange because Dorsoduro is The Art Collection quarter of Venice (a tip: if you don’t know something, maybe call to find out?)

Hotel Palazzo Stern – Dorsoduro 2792/A – 30123 Venezia – tel. 041 2770869 – fax 041 2412456 –

Cicchetti e l’ombra in Venice

Cicchetti e l’ombra is a Venetian tradition that includes a little bit of something to eat (=cicchetti) and something to drink (l’ombra), usually toward the late afternoon or early evening. Similar to enjoying tapas in Spain or apéritif in France before the real dinner, Aperitivo hour in Venice continues to fascinate both locals and tourists, and we certainly had our fair share of Cicchetti e l’ombra during our recent trip in Venice.cicchetti in VeniceCicchetti in Venicecicchetticicchetti

But what does this tradition really mean? In this case, the word Cicchetti refers to small appetizers ranging from prosciutto to baccala and aubergine slices on bread; basically anything that makes a tiny snack. L’ombra refers to a glass of wine, Aperol or other aperitif drink.

According to a common belief, l’ombra (which literally means the shade) refers to the drinking part because “the gondoliers used to snatch a glass in the shade away from the glare of the sun or the water” (DK Eyewitness Venice & the Veneto, 2012).

Cantine del Vino già SchiaviBy a pure coincidence, one of the most famous wine bars of Venice, Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, was located very near to our hotel. What was even more incredible is that we run into it just like that while returning to our hotel during our second evening. And what a fantastic world waited for us inside! Cantina del vino gia schiaviFor a few euros, we sipped prosecco, pinot grigio and local red while tasting dozens of types of cicchetti. These tiny breads were filled with pistachio mousse, dried flower petals, mushrooms, salted cod, cheese, salmon eggs, artichokes, grilled vegetables, sardines, anchovies, eggs with truffle, pumpkin puree, etc. –you name it! It was such a paradise and we kept returning every night…

When in Venice, try to look for these traditional wine bars that continue to respect the tradition of Cicchetti e l’ombra. In addition to our local pearl, Do Mori near Rialto is also very well known and appreciated by both locals and foreigners. Just do not arrive too late, as delicious cicchettis find mouths very fast!

Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi: Fondamenta Nani 992, Dorsoduro, Venise
Telephone : +39 041 523 00 34






Healthy Salmon Salad

Venice was wonderful and I only have only complaint: there is so much wheat everywhere! Of course nobody forced me to eat all that pizza, pasta, cicchetti and tramezzino, but there is something in the human nature called temptation…

So, this week has been about avoiding gluten. Tonight I prepared a salad that I improvised for my parents over Christmas: it includes salmon, vegetables and nuts, and I am pretty sure it would win the prize for the healthiest salad in the world. This is what it looks like and what you need for making it: healthy salmon salad

Healthy Salmon Salad: 

Mix these ingredients in a big bowl:

  • celery (raw, cut into slices)
  • leek (raw, cut into slices)
  • broccoli (boiled or raw, cut into chunks)
  • flax seeds (I used crushed ones)
  • walnuts (I used entire ones; they look prettier)
  • garlic (crushed)

Add according to your taste:

  • olive and nuts oil
  • Herbes de Provence, oregano, dill, black pepper
  • lots of fresh lemon juice
  • a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar

Let them marinate for some time.

Next: I had salmon from our lake in Finland, brought to me by my parents before Christmas (Bringing a little bit of Finnish Christmas to Paris), so I baked an entire salmon in the oven, let it cool down, cut it into small chunks and added them to the salad when they were lukewarm. Alternatively, you could use cold smoked salmon (or any other smoked fish).

Lastly, depending on the type of fish you use, add salt. I sprinkled the salad with truffle-flavored salt, which gave it a very subtle final touch.


Lastly, following a common recommendation of French doctors, I suggest you eat the salad with a glass of white wine, ideally organic and French. I had vin primeur by Domaine La Grave, Coteaux de Peyriac (Hauts de Badens) (see Marriage of oysters and nouveau wine) but only your imagination is the limit!

Bon Appétit.

PS The wine glass is Finnish design by Tapio Wirkkala, 1952 (

Venice: ten shades of pink

It was dark when I returned home from the airport and it was grey this morning when I went to buy milk for my coffee. They say Paris is the most beautiful city in the world and I do agree to some extent, but this morning I truly noticed how grey Paris is. Especially compared to Venice: a city full of deep and rich colors that can compete with the colors one usually only finds in India!

This said, I think there is one color that is more prevalent than others in Venice, and it is pink and its different shades. Hence some pink photos from my recent weekend in Venice:




Such a beautiful reflection on the water:Venice





Venice San Marco

…even at night there is always that pinkish shade somewhere! Venice Grand Canal

If you have been to Venice, do you agree with me or do you think I might have as well written about yellow or green?

PS Have you already checked Pearlspotting’s facebook page?

Aperitivo hour in Venice

Between the visits of the day and the dinner of the evening, there is this hour (or two) when one sits down, relaxes and reaches to a glass of prosecco or something else. Tonight, we returned to the hotel to rest a little bit but will now head back to this amazingly cute and traditional wine bar and shop called Cantina del Vino Gia Schiavi, so conveniently located almost next to our Moorish palazzo. It is going to be another moment of Cicchetti e l’ombra in VeniceCantina del Vino Gia SchiaviYesterday we shared six little cicchetti whose flavors ranged from pistacho mousse to truffle and dried flower petals. Delicious!!! One flavor I did not taste yesterday is pumpkin, so I must hurry up now –Cantina del Vino Gia Schiavi closes at 8 p.m.!

Buona sera a tutti!