Month: January 2008

Smoking terrorism

Despite the fact I have smokers amongst my friends, I couldn’t resist to rant a little bit about smokers (“terrorism” is currently a buzzword in Belgium and in the world, so I put it in the title). While some smokers I know understand that “One’s freedom stops where others’ freedom starts“, I am about to think that many of the smokers are still thinking they are the only ones on this planet and, if one dares to complaint, they will grumble, act as if they are victim of some sort of segregation or, worse, retaliate.

In Belgium, a law forbids to smoke in public areas. But it’s allowed in some restaurants and bars where you have a clear separation between the two areas (smokers and non smokers) and enough ventilation (for both parts). For lunch, we decided to stop on a terrace of some well-known restaurant in Liège (Belgium). The waiter guaranteed us that the “tent” (on the terrace) was a non-smoking zone. Of course, after 30 minutes, 5 to 7 smokers were already drinking, eating and smoking … But well, I didn’t mind too much since there was enough air for everybody (I can bear some smoke). England goes smoke-free. by Patrick Mayon on Flickr Then one young lady sat next to me and took a cigarette out of her bag. I kindly asked if it was possible for her not to smoke for some time since 1. it was supposedly not allowed there, 2. I didn’t want to inhale smoke while eating my lunch and 3. a pregnant woman was sitting nearby (and passive smoking is also bad for pregnancy). The girl looked at me as if I asked for an impossible mission, as if I was very rude, as if I hurt her deep ego, as if I was some kind of tyrant, as if I was mentally torturing her. She said rude words and threw verbal abuses (in French; fortunately for you, I don’t know their translation in English). Before I had the opportunity to reply, her friend told her I was reacting like one of their male friend who is taking care of a pregnant lady, if I correctly understood. They both got up and went to sit a few tables further. (I’m not describing the dark looks the young lady sent when she was leaving the tent before us)

Walking for a few minutes in the city afterwards, I noticed a lot of Belgians are actually smoking everywhere (“Welcome to the real world” you could say). Most of them hardly care where they exhale their smoke (in the air or on a passer-by who didn’t ask anything, what’s the difference?). Can’t they just take care a little bit of other people?

Photo credit: “England goes smoke-free.” by Patrick Mayon on Flickr (license CC by-nc-nd)

Three restaurants in Germany

Potsdamer Platz by night - photo by Jean-Etienne PoirrierA small post to report three very interesting restaurants in Germany. The first one is in Berlin, on Potsdamer Platz: Ristorante Essenza (website). It’s a very stylish and very classy Italian restaurant. The decor is very sober, the ceiling is very high and I really liked the rugged wall with small cases for different wine bottles. The (English-speaking) service is impeccable and waiters are very tactful. But we don’t enter a restaurant only to enjoy the place … Food in Ristorante Essenza is also delicious, pizzas are served in good proportions and sea food is really nicely cooked. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste their wines (by choice; but they looked all very fine on the menu). Finally, icing on the cake, prices are really, really affordable for this advanced standing (Italian restaurants in Belgium will have many lessons to take in order to beat that standard).

A second interesting restaurant is a real German tavern, also in Berlin (on Alt-Reinickendorf, next to the Ibis hotel ; it’s name is simply Alt-Reinickendorf). It is so small it doesn’t have any website, not even visiting cards. But the atmosphere inside and the service are really warm, friendly and German at the same time (don’t ask me what is my definition of “German atmosphere”: I won’t be able to define it; you just have to know it’s positive). I guess there are many other places to taste real German food, cooked by Germans. But here the owner comes to welcome you and makes sure you have a non-smoking area (*), the waitress is speaking enough English to guide you in the menu and the service is very fast. If you want to taste native food, you have to go there.

Finally, the last restaurant we really liked in Germany is in Hannover, on Vahrenwalder Straße and it’s a Vietnamese one, Lotus. They don’t speak English (and I felt so bad not knowing a word of Vietnamese cuisine) but they have an English menu. The decor is classical for a South-Asian restaurant (I’m always wondering why Vietnamese restaurants are calling themselves “Chinese” although they don’t serve Chinese food). Pick whatever you want in the menu and it’ll be served fast (my suggestions: fried duck or chicken with plain rice ; sauces are served aside as it should be). And, of course, it’s tasty (we went there twice).

Enough! (I’m hungry now). I’m not a critique, these choices are of course personal but these are places I would certainly come back 🙂

(*) It’s one thing that was surprising in Germany: people can still smoke in public areas, including restaurants. In Belgium, it’s forbidden and we didn’t pay attention to this “detail” at first when we planned our trip.