a la tarte

A woman started making quiches and pies. With that vision she opened a charmingly bohemian café serving just that. For her, this café is a place she has always wanted to run.

A la Tarte is more than just a coffee shop, it serves organically made pies, quiches, cakes and cookies made in-house every day and (I am personally excited) to see a variety of other savoury treats. You can find this cafe on Darmstädter Straße 19 in Köln’s popular Südstadt area.

The cafe’s additional charm comes from being located in what used to be a milk shop. With high ceilings and decorative tiles you can right away feel the transcendence of the predecessors.

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I simply love the feel of this place. It makes me feel at home and appeals to all my taste buds. The baristas are incredibly sweet (and well versed in English, should one need it). There is nothing better on a Sunday morning than settling down right by the window at A la Tarte with one of the papers they supply, sipping on a cappuccino while nibbling on their freshly made organic strawberry white chocolate pie or – for the more discerning foodie – fresh basil white chocolate pie, another personal favourite.

On the savoury side, a special fall treat is the orange fennel quiche.

I would rate this cafe right up there with another favourite and equally satisfying cafe, based in Vancouver, called Aphrodite’s Cafe & Pie Shop.

I found my place on this side of the globe!

gallery images © Bernward Malaka – Café A La Tarte

haida gwaii

-inspirational self journey-

is the simplest, truest statement I could come up with to describe my sailing experience in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlottes) back in 2010.

I will do my best to describe a paradise that should be experienced firsthand in order to understand its true beauty.

The West Coast has been and will always be the mecca of natural wonders; however, Haida Gwaii takes it to another level. For me, Haida Gwaii is the most astounding place one can sail to – and nothing tops making that journey on the Ocean Light II, a 71’ ketch-rigged sailboat, and of course, with the enormous knowledge of the BC coast wilderness provided by Tom, Jen and Sarah.

Sailing gives you the advantage of a close campground to a varied assortment of the rarest marine wildlife. I say you can also do this trip in a kayak but it will be less comfortable and extremely challenging at times. Sailing also gives you the advantage of self reflection which I think is extremely important when you are surrounded by the magnitude of such beauty. When I entered this perfect world all my worries were lifted and they seemed far behind and I transformed into something I would like to call, “agent of nature.” There is no shortage of wildlife here. I was amazed to see lots of seals, humpback whales, porpoises, crabs, all sorts of fish, coloured starfish, and that’s just to name a few.

There is not a feeling in the world that describes the serenity of being out in a zodiac in the morning embracing the calm water in search of wildlife.

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Day 1 captured:

  • Kayaking in a sea of algae watching the pink, purple, orange starfish looking all proper in their nooks.
  • A half day hike that took me to a place where I felt like an eagle on top of the world, and on the way down I dove into the cold sea water, aching to be that much close to nature and wanting to become entrenched with more of my poetic surroundings.
  • After that full day I retreat back to the sail boat for a freshly caught crab dinner.

Imagine 7 full days of captivatingly serene adventures. I would retreat at the end of each day to the sail boat trying to not let go of anything I just experienced. I was bursting from it all…

Most of all, this paragon of nature offered me a peaceful cover to reflect, ponder, and explore myself and the very nature of humanity.

For me this is a special place that I can forever tap into.

images © Mike Bernard

tofino

Aside from surfing, Tofino is a gem for photographers, nature enthusiasts and a vacation spot for many.

I have surfed the icy ocean waters of Tofino and can say it was a special treat.

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What continues to attract me to Tofino is a somber nostalgia for all those things I experience as soon as the car passes the Long Beach sign on the major road leading towards the highway. There is nothing quite like it – as I sit in the car driving along and all of the sudden the only thing I can see in front of me is a warm fog sheet covering the sky. It’s quite the sight. I’ve met a lot of people that use the word ‘depressing’ to describe Tofino, yet they all keep coming back for more.

Photographers can have a field day out there. The perfect photos appear onto your camera as though they belong.

As for nature enthusiasts, you can literally spend hours and hours walking around simply looking and taking it all in. There are many hiking routes – a popular one is the Pacific Rim National Park trails. I mean one can’t go wrong with any trail really. Once you are here everything is about fresh ocean air, animals, and watching nature just doing its’ thing.

Vacationing in Tofino is a real challenge because you never want to leave. There are many amazing spots, for example, the Wickaninnish Inn with a renowned restaurant – The Pointe – where the chef works wonders with local ingredients and storm watching is particularly personal and mesmerizing. There are also pretty unique camp grounds and private villas/huts one can rent: Ocean Village right on the water offers a romantic, secluded experience.

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What is one to do with all this beauty? Take it all in and keep coming back for more.

cliché – YES…

koelsch-250Beer beer beer, oh my…

So every region in Germany has their own breweries with their own version of what a beer should taste like. Since I live in Köln I am writing about Kölsch, a Kölnian favourite.

Description of the beer: mild, crisp and should be served in a test-tube-like glass

Price: let’s just say for about €20 invested in your Kölsch, you’ll need a friend to walk you home!

Where can you find it: everywhere – there is certainly no shortage of Kölsch in Köln

One thing is for sure, I can forget about gluten-free beer in Deutschland.

Step 21

Fellow expatriate Adam Fletcher wrote a blog-post-turned-book on “How to be German in 50 easy steps”, which inspired this post.

Step 21 in Fletcher’s book is entitled “Watch Tatort”. I was eager to see what a religiously watched German detective show airing since the 1970s would be like.

So, last Sunday, I watched Tatort. This particular episode was shot in Münster, which provided for a wonderful backdrop. As for the content – it was dark, dramatic, action packed at times, and easy to follow.

The attractive part about this particular episode was the premise – a dead Chinese princess/artist who was known to deliver abstract art exposing the hidden truths of the Chinese political system. Now, I found that premise incredibly stimulating because it reminded me of a similar great revolutionary artist – Ai Weiwei.  Someone has done their homework on this show…

After spending 90 minutes watching, I think the show is quite cute, and I’ve developed an intriguement surrounding the forensic specialist by the name of Professor Boerne. Step 21, check!

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 Ai Weiwei (pictured) vs. Tatort interpretation (linked)

hOrseZ

Riding a horse for me is a personal healing experience. The experience is exhilarating and humbling. To be riding this incredibly tall, lean and fast animal makes me feel like I am on top of the world. The humbleness comes from riding these amazing creatures that have a mind of their own and unimaginable grace and composition. Horses, in my opinion, make humans look strange and ungraceful.

A sanctuary/a paradise for horses tucks itself away in Ashcroft, BC and calls itself Sundance Guest Ranch. For any horse lover out there this is the place where one can truly say, “I’ve arrived!” The trails surrounding the ranch are breathtaking. The ranch itself is situated up a hillside overlooking the wonders and beauty of the warm Okanagan desert terrain. This Ranch is a slice of paradise and rates right up there as my favourite places in world.

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wurst anyone?

I believe each country has a staple which they are defined by. Germany has two staples; wurst and beer.

On a sunny autumn afternoon I was taking a walk around a neighbourhood in Delbrück. Suddenly looking up I marvel to see a vending machine full of wurst and cured meats. I needed to investigate to be able to judge for myself. It turns out the local butcher feeds the machines with meat from his shop so that people will have access to it even though his store is closed (for instance on Sundays, when everything comes to a halt here). Tasting the meat myself I can say – an organic delectable little treat.

Germany, I like you already!

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