Love and Loss.

I woke up this morning and in minutes, had tears spilling down my cheeks as I laid in bed, body still aching from last week’s ordeal. A couple days ago, I felt that I wanted to do something positive in memory of the babies we’d lost. So I started the ball rolling, and perhaps, if it rolls out the way I hope it does, I’ll share with you what I will be doing in part to help others who may trod this path that Flo and I did (as much as we wish no one else will), as well as to aid us on this continual process of healing.

In the email reply that had me touched beyond words, the lady I’d contacted had shared with me a bit of writing of Henri Nouwen. It read:

Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country to dies… the pain of the leaving an tear us apart. 

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.

In the last weeks, I had some days where I’d wake up feeling hollow inside. The emptiness of loss screams so loud, that it echoes against the chambers of my heart. I go through countless ‘what ifs‘, knowing that none of them will ever give me an answer as to why we lost our children. There are also days when everything feels surreal, as though I had never fallen pregnant, as though our triplets were merely a figment of my imagination, a haze of a dream.

It is true what Henri Nouwen wrote though. “…if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving we will never experience the joy of loving…”. I can be comforted in knowing that our babies were loved immensely the moment we knew of their existence. We, along with our family, loved them greatly without seeing them. Our friends added generous dollops of love on top. To say that our triplets were blessed is an understatement. I believe they were blessed above and beyond most. The joy we experienced in watching them grow and develop over the weeks, and being able to enjoy them while on our holiday, added to the beautiful memories we were accumulating with them right until the end.

The suffering as a result, the feeling of utter loss and despair, is therefore natural and unavoidable. We love, and as a result, we suffer. That doesn’t mean we stop loving. It means that we continue to love, despite knowing that there will be pain that comes with losing. Flo and I knew there were possible risks and complications involved with a triplets pregnancy, but we decided that we would let the babies have the chance to grow and not interfere with what God had given us. So while we never imagined they would be taken away from us so prematurely, there was no saying that everything would have been guaranteed to be smooth sailing.

In a funny way, there is a comfort amidst all the pain and suffering. In feeling the sadness of it all, there is also knowledge that we feel this way only because we loved, and still love, fiercely. For once since a long time in my life, I realise that it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok that my heart feels heavy some days, it’s totally ok to sit with those feelings because they only serve as a reminder that it was only because I have the privilege of experiencing the joy of loving that I now feel the hurt of loss. It doesn’t mean we should stop loving, because what would life be without the happiness, laughter,  and memories that come with it?

I don’t believe that we will ever get over our babies going to heaven way before us. That’s only because we will never forget them, and we will always miss their presence even though their absence may far outlive the time they had on earth very quickly. I do believe though, that things will continue to get better. And we will move forward. Even as we build the family we dream of in the future, there will always be a place for them in our hearts. And the memories of and with them, the warmth of having had them growing within me, the love we feel for them, will overcome all that we are feeling now.

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The Hardest Post I Hope to Ever Write.

I was meant to continue with my Italy journals, but I cannot pretend that this didn’t just happen. I cannot continue writing those entries as though unaffected. So here it is, the hardest blog entry I hope to ever write. 

A few months ago, I blogged about Flo and I finally conceiving. We were beyond surprised to find that we were having triplets, but we soon came around and fell in love with each of them. We looked forward to seeing the babies at every scan, looking at how much they’d grown, feeling their kicks in the evening as we played music for them… It was just wonderful.

We had a successful 15.5th Week scan before we flew off for our big Europe trip under our doctor’s blessing. And how lucky can a set of triplets be getting to taste Swiss foods, Italian foods, and hearing all the sounds of these beautiful countries through my womb? Flo and I were immensely proud of them, happy to share with anyone the wonderful news that we were expecting ‘tre bambino‘!!

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Our family and friends were incredibly stoked for us, knowing how hard we’d been trying and every Sunday, Flo would take a photo of all of us – me with the three bubs, to see how my tummy was growing. It took a while to pop up but a week into out holiday, when we were about 16 weeks, it started to become a bit more prominent.

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And from that point, my belly grew each week like there was no tomorrow. It surprised me sometimes, how quickly it was stretching to accommodate our growing babies. Initially, I felt strange, like my belly was completely foreign to me. It was as though my body was still mine, but my belly, a foreign extension attached to me.

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Even then, I started to come around the idea that I was housing three beautiful babies. I started to embrace the bump, wearing cute dresses and tops to show them off to the world. Many commented that my bump was pretty small to be housing three, but I didn’t care. I knew they were all healthy and moving within me, and that was all that mattered.

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When we returned to Singapore, there was no longer a doubt that I was pregnant. Unlike in Italy where people are a lot more receptive and warm to pregnant mothers, people in Singapore tend to not be quite the same. Often times, they’d stare at my belly as if to question if there was really something inside. I was offered a seat on public transport twice, but that aside, it sometimes felt quite alienating. But honestly, I wasn’t too bothered. I knew that if I really needed a seat, I’d speak up and ask for one anyway.

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I was blessed never to be plagued by a lot of hormonal changes that most mothers go through – I didn’t suffer from acne, nor did I have a sudden spurt of hair growth on my belly. I did suffer from some edema especially when I stood up too long, but it was nothing that bothered me. I didn’t have much aches and pains, except at night when I struggled to find the right areas to cushion my back, but once I did, I was fine.

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Our 20th week scan on Aug 02 2019 showed our gorgeous threesome growing nicely. They were all growing a few days ahead of their gestational age, they were developing beautifully and were waving at us, active within their sacs, with Baby B and C even kicking each other while Baby A chilled below. Seeing our doctor had us in even better spirits as he told us that they were all doing well and he’d see us a month on; and then the following month on. As long as there were no complications, we only had to see him for routine scans.

On Saturday Aug 10 2019, our dearest friends put together a little gender reveal party for us. Flo and I were adamant about not finding out our babies’ genders, so we had the doctor write each baby’s gender on a card, and we had it passed to Les, who passed it to Brandan (whom we’re not so close to) to organise the surprise.

We were praying so hard for a mix of genders, but Flo’s dream of having 3 girls from the night before had me feeling a little doubtful when we were opening the boxes. Of course, we would love them all the same whether all girls, all boys, or a mix, but honestly speaking, with three babies, we still hoped for a mix.

 

We had a great time that afternoon, as we FaceTimed with family from abroad so that they could all watch the unveiling together with us. We were over the moon with the outcome and it just made Flo and I more eager for the babies’ arrival.

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This was taken on Aug 11 2019 at 22 weeks. Our last photo taken with all four of us. 

Only… we hadn’t wished that they’d arrive as early as they did.

On Monday Aug 12 2019, I went into hospital with bleeding. It didn’t look anything too bad, and we suspected it may have been a simple case of being intimate the night before. Doctors found that I had an infection and two days later, after checking on the babies and my cervical length, they sent me home with antibiotics and an order to be minimally active. My cervical length was measured at 2.1cm but I suppose doctor wasn’t too concerned at that point.

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On Thursday Aug 15 2019, the day after I’d been discharged, we were back in hospital after I’d shared with Flo that I was still bleeding and feeling a bit crampy after he came home from work. He insisted we go in to get checked even though at 22+3 days, I knew that the babies were not viable and I feared that the doctors would call for them to be induced – I was not ready for that.

I was attended to quite promptly and checked for contractions. I couldn’t feel anything but apparently I was having contractions. The MO checked my cervix and immediately called for me to be admitted. Apparently, my cervical length was nowhere near 2.1cm and I was already 5cm dilated. My heart turned cold and I felt so helpless.

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The next three days, Friday to Sunday, I was in constant pain. They felt like contractions, initially starting at 10min apart and gradually increasing to 3-5min apart, each lasting about 50 seconds. By Sunday, I’d woken up ready to have them out because I could no longer bear with the pain. I was told by the doctors it may be better to let them pass through rather than be induced since my cervix was now full dilated and the membranes were out apparently, so I tried. Every ‘contraction’ I tried to push. I found that there was a 2-finger gap between my upper and lower abdomen and was convinced that our baby boy below was keen to come out. Then, that evening, after nurses found out I hadn’t peed the whole day, they inserted a catheter into me, draining out 1.7l of urine. That lower abdominal bump disappeared.

That same night, while I kept calling the nurses because of the pain, they asked if I was constipated. I wasn’t sure. I just knew that pain killers weren’t helping me alleviate any of the pain so they gave me 10ml of lactillus and within hours, I was pooping every few hours. By morning, the pains had reduced significantly, and by Tuesday, they were almost entirely gone.

Flo and my spirits started to pick up. We were into their 23 week and feeling more hopeful, thinking that the worst was over. I imagined God being with us, keeping our boy in even as I pushed like crazy that Sunday, alleviating my contraction-like pains and solving the mystery of my split abdomen. I prayed every day that they would reach 24 weeks, but even then, Flo and I knew that it wasn’t any guarantee for their long term health. We had already agreed that should the babies come in the 23rd week, we would let them go simply because survival rates were a mere 20-30%, not considering the multitude of health complications they may struggle with from being severely underdeveloped, leaving them fighting in the first few days, weeks, months, years of their lives.

We hit 23+4 days, but around 10pm. I had been feeling some kind of fluid come out from below but it wasn’t the water bag. The nurses changed me and found that I had green discharge flowing out with a foul smell. The doctor immediately ordered me to be sent to the delivery suite. I panicked but Flo kept assuring me that everything would be ok. I wasn’t so sure.

In the delivery suite, we were advised to have the babies out lest my health is put at risk. With the infection already attacking my womb, and having had fever spikes the few consecutive days before, the doctors said they couldn’t wait. For an hour, Flo and I debated what to do. I, filled with emotions and maternal instinct only wanted to keep the babies, to give them a chance at life, even though days ago, I felt it right to let them go. Flo was more rational but I couldn’t accept that decision. We argued. I was insistent on what I wanted. In the end though, I knew within my heart of hearts that Flo was right.

At 2am, 23 Aug 2019, Friday, one day before my birthday, the doctor broke Baby A’s water bag. He didn’t take too long to come out and even though he was still small, it was tiring. I couldn’t feel the contractions and the midwife had to keep going back to the contraction monitor to tell me when to push. They had me on oxytocin to try and speed up and increase the contractions for Baby B, and had to increase it until I could feel something. Another doctor came in about an hour later to help me break B’s waterbag and get her out. During that time, Baby C’s bag broke too. Baby B came out strong willed and crying. It was heart wrenching and I had to cover my eyes, telling her not to cry. Finally, just before 6am, Baby C was out to join her big brother and sister.

The entire time, Flo was with me, holding my hand, giving me sips of water, keeping me going. When the babies were all out, I think I started to go into shock. I was cold and shivering all over, my muscles tensed, my mouth clenched, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t relax. Then I fell into the deepest sleep and woke up intermittently feeling as though I was stuck in a boiler. I was so hot I thought I’d peed bucketloads on myself and it’d all seeped into the blankets below, sizzling up as though the table below was a grill on high heat. I had Flo remove the blankets from me, to get me cold water, to cool me down with wet wipes as I floated in and out of consciousness. My temperature had shot up.

At around 10am, the babies had been washed and clothed in Angel Gowns (swaddles made from preloved donated wedding gowns that looked pristine white and soft), each had a small knitted beanie over their heads that was a little loose. It took some time for them to be brought to us because of all the admin stuff that had to be attended to.

The babies were brought in for us to see and they were more than we’d expected – they were more beautiful that we could have ever hoped. Baby A resembled Flo already with his thin little lips and thin crop of hair, and Baby B was very fair had full lips like mummy. Baby C was a lovely mix and looked a little of both of us, and a little of her siblings. Seeing them there, doll-like and peaceful, made me realise that we had made the right choice. They came to us together, and they left us together. At least they are together in heaven, under God’s watchful eye, waiting for when Flo and I join them.

A Sister asked if we wanted to take photos with or of them, whether we wanted to carry them. They were so tiny, so delicate, that we couldn’t bear to carry them. We chose to forgo pictures because just as we wouldn’t take photos with ones we’ve lost at their funerals, neither should our babies be subject to them either. They looked perfect and happy, next to each other, and I know that when it is our turn to go to heaven, we won’t need a photograph to recognise them. We’ll just know.

***

Our dear babies, I wish we could have had you longer. I wish we could have got to see you all grow up, take your first steps, hear your first words… But I know that no amount of time would have ever been enough if God’s intention was to take you all home prematurely. Daddy and I miss you all every day. We miss your kicks and punches, we miss talking to you, we miss daddy rubbing my belly every night…

Often, I wonder whether I could have done something more. Maybe I ate something wrong; perhaps I should have insisted on more tests and swabs for infections; maybe I was too active and did not consider just how risky this pregnancy was, especially since everything was going so well. I know as well, that it’s all over now and while Daddy and I are at peace with every decision that we made from the minute you were conceived, we still have moments where we bawl, or wonder, or regret.

We did give you names, but we hope that in time, when we are ready to try again, that we can bestow those names on your future brother(s) and/or sister(s) in your memory, which is why I will not reveal them here. I’m sure you know them anyway. The hospital gave us a little box, each one containing your footprints. I’m glad they did. In a strange way, it gives us some kind of comfort.

In the 1.5-2 weeks I was in hospital on bedrest, and especially over the weekend where I was having those endless contraction pains, I thought to myself and told Daddy as well that I don’t think I dare to conceive again. It’s too scary and full of uncertainty. Still, when you all came out, I felt an emptiness within me that yearned to be filled again. And so, I know, I hope to be pregnant again. I hope to be parents with Florian – a man who was made to be a father. I hope to give the three of you siblings whom you can watch over from above.

Flo stood by me throughout my hospital stay, sleeping on the uncomfortable chairs, not a single complaint when I was waking up 5, 6 times to call the nurse for a bed pan or when the nurses came in two take my vitals in the middle of the night. He held my hand as I delivered each of you, and we cried tears of sorrow together right after.

It was tough. Tough when Baby A came out and I knew I had two more to push out. It was traumatising. It was heart-wrenching knowing that I was giving birth to each of you, but would never get to bring you home the way we always imagined. But I know that Flo also went through his own trauma. He may not have experienced it all physically like I did, but I know he felt it emotionally and watched it all unravel before his very eyes while trying to be strong for all of us.

***

We have been blessed with close friends, and family, who came often to visit us and spend time with us. Mum and Dad especially came down every day, held my hands, cradled Flo and I as tears streamed away. After the babies were lost, I spent another 4 days in hospital because the doctors were trying to figure out the source of my infection and why my temperature was still spiking. I’m now out and Flo and I are building ourselves back up from our ordeal. I know that with all the support we have, and the love we have for one another, we will pull through and be even stronger.

It’s been 5 days now and every day feels like a year. My wish this birthday was simply to be happy just for the one day. It was initially for the three of you to stay in without any further complications. Today, we have our 3rd year dating anniversary but no mood for celebration obviously. All we wanted for today as well was for you three bubs to still be inside me. I look at my belly, it’s like a baby chimp’s – I’m skin and bones all over but my belly is round with a little belly button barely poking out. Every day, I see my bump shrink down. And I know it will only be a matter of days perhaps before I’m back to where I was before I had you three. I’m afraid I will forget, yet I know, I will never forget you three.

I know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to miscarry at just under 24 weeks. I also know there are many hopeful mothers who have lost in their first trimester, some even in their last. No loss is ever easy, and whether it is loss of a single baby, or loss of triplets in one go, I understand there is no such thing as one story being more tragic than the other. The pain is something we will all need to wade through but take heart, that God has bigger plans, even if we may not understand them just yet. Better things are coming. And while we mourn, our babies are together, in a much happier place, watching over us. We, will always be their parents, and they, our children. And we, will always love them. Every single day.

I hope that none of you have, or will ever go through what Flo and I went through, but if you have, feel free to share your story with me. I may not be able to advise you on how to move on, but I hope that my listening ears can be a source of comfort to you. ❤

Bologna, Italy.

11 Jul 2019 – Thursday.

Bologna it was on Thursday, which, like Parma, is only a short drive away from Modena. First on the agenda was going in search for their hidden canals.

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Apparently, Bologna used to be filled with canals, but many of them have since been covered by buildings.

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As with every town we’d visited so far, and every town we’ll be visiting, we went to the piazza where Basilica di San Petronio is located. It’s famous for being half completed on the outside, so the bottom half is covered in a beautiful white and peach marble, while the top remains as bricks.

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We did go in, but we weren’t allowed to take photos unless we gave an offering. It wasn’t as impressive inside compared to the cathedral in Parma. This basilica is also heavily guarded because there have been threats made to it in the recent past.

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We went looking for lunch and found ourselves at Osteria Bartolini which serves a seafood-centric menu.

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Nice, warm, toasty breads to start our meal. Most Italian eateries then to serve mediocre, chewy bread so this was refreshing.

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Flo and I shared a plate of grilled prawns and squid, and a bowl of garlic butter cozze aka mussels.

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The seafood were fresh, and the mussels in particular were so plump and juicy. You’ll see me ordering cozze many more times during our trip.

Cigarette vending machine, literally in a hole in the wall.

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Quick stop for a quick snack. Flo had a lemon aragoste, better known as sfogliatelle (lobster tail). A thin, flaky, almost like puff pastry, kind of pastry filled with lemon cream.

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Light and crisp on the outside,

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Citrusy and creamy on the inside.

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We went on towards the leaning towers of Bologna. If memory serves me right, there used to be about 6 of these leaning high towers. These two, Asinelli and Garisenda, used to stand at around 60m but one was reduced in height, and the other had a height increment where the extra levels on top were made a little smaller in order to put minimal stress on the structure.

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Although Asinelli and Garisenda can be seen from a distance, we happened to walk right by their base because we were searching for St. Stephen Basilica.

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My curiosity about this basilica peaked when I found out that it held 7 small cathedrals within.

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I believe there are still monks living within its walls as we saw them going about their day. While we were able to visit the courtyard, the upper levels of this inner building is not accessible to the public.

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As you can see from the floors and walls, the basilica is extremely old, with some of its buildings being build way way back in the 4th Century!

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After visiting St. Stephen’s, dinner came calling and before we went to Bologna, Flo refused to order any Tagliatelle al’ Ragu, insisting that he would only eat it in Bologna. So I checked with our trusty friend, Google, and found a wallet-friendly eatery, popular with students, that supposedly served a very good rendition of this dish – Osteria dell’Orsa.

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I wasn’t keen on pasta, so I went for a grilled vegetable bruschetta. We were going to order two thinking they’d be a simple two slices of baguette with toppings, but when the order arrived, we were happy to have stuck to the one because it was a whole slab of thin cut bread.

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Flo of course, went for the Tagliatelle al’ Ragu which came looking pleasingly homey – just like how you’d imagine grandma would make it, if you had an Italian grandma.

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It tasted very rustic, with the earthiness from the meat and as usual, tagliatelle cooked perfectly. That being said, I actually made a ragu for us before back in Singapore, and it tasted the same. Even Flo had to give me that!

Always room in Italy for some gelato.

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We went to a random gelateria that we found on the way back to the carpark and Flo found some space to pack away a small cup of pistachio gelato and stracciatella, hands down his favourite. It was pretty good gelato, then again, you can hardly go wrong with gelato from any gelateria in Italy.

Two satiated people, and three satiated babies (in my belly), drove back to our B&B thereafter. Bologna was definitely worth the visit. It’s a little bit more of a student town but it was filled with activity and life, similar to Parma. Modena, compared to the other two, is still a little bit slower in terms of pace, but each has their own character and charm so it’s tough pinpointing which was my favourite.

Modena; Parma. Italy.

09 Jul 2019 – Tuesday.

Flo and I reached Modena around 1.30pm, too early for us to check into our BnB. So we left our luggage there and drove as near to the centre as we could. Do note that if you’re driving in Italy, almost every town and city has restricted zones where only residents with a pass can drive into and park. Yes, even driving in is not permitted.

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I loved the cobbled streets! Modena Old Town was quite sleepy when we arrived. Most of the restaurants were closing for the afternoon, and it was getting quiet. Flo and I quickly legged it to Trattoria Aldina for lunch. I had it penned down as a place that’s supposed to serve really good food.

It was a little hidden away and when we arrived at the door leading to the second floor where the eatery is situated, I had second doubts because I imagined that going up would either reveal to us a place that was exorbitant and snotty, or humble and casual. Thankfully, it was the latter.

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They supposedly close at 2.30pm for the day, but were happy to accommodate us even though we arrived just before. The trattoria was simple and very homely; the service warm and inviting.

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Flo and I decided to share a primi consisting of these delightfully plump pumpkin filled tortellini with balsamic vinegar. I wasn’t expecting much, and even wondered if I’d made the right choice with the vinegar. The kitchen staff kindly portioned our tortellonis onto two plates so we each got three. This was honestly enough to fill me.

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I took one bite into these glorious little packages and found myself grinning with utmost satisfaction. They were possibly the best things I’d ever eaten. Smooth, creamy, sweet pumpkin filling against perfectly cooked, thin wrappings of pasta dough and the balsamic vinegar was like no other I’d ever tasted.

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It was sweet and tart and spicy all together and sang harmoniously with the flavours of the tortelloni. This, was without a doubt, one of the best dishes we had over our entire trip. It was affordable, and impeccably executed. I would have loved to have returned for more of Trattoria Aldina’s dishes but sadly, we didn’t have enough meals there.

As a secondi, Flo and I shared the pork tenderloin in a balsamic gravy. I’m not a fan of pork in general but babies needed protein and as Flo always says, you won’t know whether you really like something unless you try it.

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I have to admit that a bite of one of this slices of pork had me putting my fork down in order to savour its tenderness. The meat was flavoursome, hardly porky and the sauce had a wonderful depth that complemented the savoury meat so well. Still, the tortelloni…

We had a side of spinach because I found myself lacking a lot of fibre while we were in Zurich and Hamburg. The portion was generous. It was simply cooked, tossed in some salt and olive oil, and still tasted amazing. Perhaps the lack of veggies in my system made it taste more impressive that it really was.

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Still, Trattoria Aldina impressed both Florian and I in her givings. It was not only the delicious food made with heart that we thoroughly enjoyed, but also the friendly service that put us at ease the minute we stepped in.

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If we ever head back to Modena, and I hope we do, then I pray to the food gods that Trattoria Aldina will still be around, waiting for our return.

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After lunch, we wandered around the deserted streets of Modena before checking in at our B&B – B&B Igea 50. It was just as well because it started to rain off and on as we walked.

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Our home for the next three nights was situated a short 8min drive out of the Old Town, and of all the places we stayed at around Italy, this was by far my favourite. The bed was comfy and plush, and the room on the whole felt so homely.

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It’s not a very big B&B – there were two other rooms, and a common living area where we could chill and flick through magazines, or even watch tv.

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Every morning, we were treated to a sumptuous spread laid out by Gianna. She’s like a typical Italian nonna fussing over us, ensuring we were well fed before we left for the day. She personally baked all the morning cakes, and cookies. Italians generally seem to lean towards sweeter breakfasts.

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Gianna also provided fresh cut fruit salads, a range of yogurts, savoury items, cold cuts and cheese, as well as breads, some of which she baked herself. Needless to say, we were spoiled.

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This is lovely Gianna. She was such an amazing host, generously sharing with us the best places to visit if we wanted to see where Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar were being made; happily dispensing to us the best restaurants and eateries to visit depending on which area we were heading to do the day; keeping us company for breakfasts and listening to our stories about what we had been up to the day before.

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This was her sharing with us a bit about how balsamic vinegar is made. She had these little bread ‘barrels’ made for her specially by her neighbour, and that little bottle held 25 years old vinegar which she happily poured out for Flo and I to try.

Gianna definitely left the deepest impression on me. I loved how she was so excited upon hearing we were pregnant with triplets, and how she asked us to keep in touch after. It’s not often you come across people who by their very nature, is able to touch your life. And for some reason, without much effort, she has made herself unforgettable to me. I really hope that our paths will cross once more in the near future, and many times more after that.

10 Jul 2019 – Wednesday.

We started the day with me donning on a pair of sturdy Birkenstocks that dear hubs bought for me the day before because my shoes were threatening to fall apart.

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Then, it was off to Parma!

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As with most Italian Old Towns, I loved Parma’s buildings, especially their arches.

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Cobbled streets and brick buildings certainly highlighted the history of each town and how far back it must go. A huge contrast to the white-washed concrete walls of Singapore.

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There is also a tradition for buildings to be painted in terracotta colours. Personally, I feel it worked in some areas, while for others, especially in the drier, hotter regions of Italy, it made the town look washed out and tired.

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There was supposed to be a market going on. I was so excited imaging grocers showing off their fresh vegetables and butchers yelling out to those looking for meat. Sadly, it looked to be a flea market for clothes. We did find this indoor market though, which helped perk me right up.

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Look at those hunky legs of prosciutto!

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And glorious chunks of cheese!

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This was when my belly had just started to pop, although it was easily mistaken as a food baby rather than three babies. Right at the beginning of our trip, the presence of a bump was hardly noticeable. You’ll see as we travel through Italy how all the food went straight to my belly and I returned with an obvious baby bump!

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As with every town, Parma’s piazza.

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We had a quick lunch of nothing particularly extraordinary, before going to visit Cattedrale di Parma.

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It was magnificent! The moment I stepped in and looked up, the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings took my breath away.

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Every painting, sculpture and carving told a story, but against some of the gruesome, heart-wrenching scenes depicted in the artworks, there was such peace and tranquility within the cathedral.

After having our fill of Parma, we scooted off to 4 Madonna Caseificio dell’ Emilia, one of the highlights of our trip.

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Flo and I discussed against joining an expensive tour, choosing instead to go to a Parmegiano Reggiano factory highly recommended by Gianna, where we were blessed enough to walk in just in time for an English tour beginning at 4pm. We had a half hour to spare so we browsed the cheese shop, rehydrated ourselves and had a short rest.

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We were first taken through the various steps that go into making a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. Sadly, we weren’t able to see work in motion because most of their production is done in the morning. Our disappointment was more than made up upon entering this room filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful wheels of cheese!

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Flo and I were in cheese heaven and let me tell you, the sharp aroma of the Parmigiano filled our noses and I swear, we wouldn’t have minded living right there amongst the giant wheels of nutty, savoury, gritty goodness!

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We could have stayed in here forever.

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But as luck would have it, we were eventually ushered out for a little cheese tasting. We got to try some freshly churned butter on baguette, fresh ricotta, 3-day fresh, unsalted Parmigiano (aka Tosone), 12-months, 18-months, 24-months and 30 months old Parmigiano with some jams and balsamic to go with.

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My favourite was actually the 24-months aged Parmigiano Reggiano because while not quite as complex as the 30-month old one, it was still bang full of flavour and I liked that it wasn’t as gritty and dry.

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That’s us with the golden hammer, used to check on how the wheels of cheese are ageing. The hammerman (I make this name up), will usually be so accustomed to knowing what sounds to look for, that he’ll be able to tell whether the wheel is ageing well, or not so well.

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With great reluctance, it was time for us to say goodbye to the beautiful world of cheese and head back to Modena in time for dinner.

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Upon Gianna’s recommendation, we dined at Danilo Ristorante, known specially for their boiled meats and tortellini in brodo. As their boiled meats dished consisted of many parts Flo and I were not daring enough to try, we stuck to the tortellini, had a side of grilled greens to share (mostly eaten by me), and a mushroom crepe.

The veggies were decent. Nothing to moan nor to shout about.

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We were both surprised when the crepe came because it wasn’t what we pictured it to be. In our minds, we were obviously thinking of something more akin to the French-style of crepe where the mushroom filling sits within. This was more like a parcel, almost lasagne like, with layers of creamy mushroom within and a generous portions of melty, gooey cheese on top and around. Needless to say, it was extremely rich and quite on the salty side; quite tasty for the first few mouthfuls, then it gets a little too cloying.

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The tortellini in broth looked like such a simple dish. Each tortellini is handmade, usually around the pinky so they are really small. They’re filled with a mix of veal (sometimes pork), prosciutto and parmesan cheese. The clear broth in which they were served in looked nothing spectacular. The portion below, by the way, was half a portion as Flo and I ordered this to share and the restaurant kindly portioned them out for us before serving.

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This spoon with the two plump, petite pieces of dumplings comprised my first real taste of tortellini. I wasn’t expected much by their looks but it was a total flavour bomb as soon as I bit into them. An explosion of meatiness balanced nicely with some saltiness from the cheese and prosciutto, as well as the sweetness of the veal totally blew my mind. The broth, though light in looks, was wholesome and would warm the coldest of hearts.

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How one little dumpling is able hold so much punch is beyond me! But there you go – the Italians managed to master that art. The only reason why tortellini in brodo doesn’t trump the pumpkin tortelloni I had at Trattoria Aldina is merely because, I’m biased towards vegetables. Honestly though, if you’re ever in Modena, I highly recommend trying this dish once.

To end, Flo decided he needed some good, authentic Tiramisu.

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Unlike most tiramisu we find back home, the cream on this one came a gorgeous shade of yellow from the egg yolks, and the fingers below were heavily soaked in coffee and booze. I did have a taste and it was pretty spectacular. It was rich without being overwhelming, so Flo had no trouble licking his bowl clean without much help from me.

It was a sweet ending to a wonderful day. Next up, Bologna!

Belated Honeymoon Begins in Venice, Italy.

08 Jul 2019 – Mon. 

We finally arrived in Marco Polo Airport to embark on our long awaited holiday. So many people had told me that with the triplets in my belly, we might not get the go-ahead to go on such a long trip abroad, but thankfully, Dr Edwin was quite supportive and even wrote a medical note to say that I was fit to fly just in case any airline staff enquired.

The first thing we had to settle upon arrival was the pick-up of our rental car. This was our ride for the next three weeks of holiday.

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We drove to our hostel for the night, deciding to go simple and no-frills because we were only planning to be in Venice for about 24 hours. We stayed at O&G Hotel and managed to park the car overnight at the multi-level carpark about 70m away. This is generally more ideal in Italy because there’s surveillance within the carpark and we could have peace of mind that the car would be left untouched.

We chose to take a straight bus from right outside the hotel, right into Venice, where I finally got to lay eyes on the floating city.

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It wasn’t as filled as I’d expected – always a good thing. Flo and I meandered our way through small alleys and mini piazzas, and I was struck by the oldness of the buildings.

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With the number of tourists who trod along their paths every single day, it’s difficult to imagine actually living in Venice. The fact though is, many people do!

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We were blessed with the bluest of skies and the gentlest of breezes that helped keep us a shade cooler under the scorching sun. I marvelled at how roads had been replaced by water, and cars, with small boats and gondolas. Indeed, the charm of Venice is in their less hectic way of life because their primary mode of transport felt nowhere near as rushed or as chaotic as the traffic on the mainland roads.

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We stopped by Cantina do Mori, recommended by Everybody Feeds Phil, for a little bite since we hadn’t had much of a lunch. We were also close to dinner so we didn’t want to fill up either.

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There were lots of small bites available on the counter, half of which we couldn’t quite make up although they looked intriguingly delicious.

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In the end, we settled for a Spinach Frittata, Eggplant topped with Cheese, and a Sardine Polpette.

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They were served as they were – cold, but definitely tasty. For hungry tummies, it would have been nice to have hot food go down our throats but these nibbles were enough for the time being.

I also liked how there were fountains all over Venice to ensure that no one suffered from dehydration. These are free, public water fountains so those with empty bottles get to refill them, and those without bottles can just put their hands under, or head, and drink away. On hot days, these fountains also provide water to slap onto one’s arms, legs and face in order to cool down. Most of Italy has water fountains all over the place, but we found that there were a few areas had none.

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Can’t go to Venice and not spot a gondola with a singing gondolia.

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And no, we did not ride a gondola because I’m a cheap-skate tourist. I refuse to pay exorbitant amounts of money for a boat ride even if it should be for the experience. I was happy to experience Venice by foot and I don’t think riding a gondola would have made my visit there any more exceptional. Furthermore, Venice made sure that Flo and I didn’t leave without an experience that will be imprinted in our memories forevermore – you’ll find out what happened nearer the end of this post.

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From where the bus had stopped us, it took us quite a while to locate the main Piazza. All the signs that were pointing towards Piazza San Marco seemed to lead us into a bit of a loop. Just as well because it meant that Flo could get his scoop of gelato, the first of many over our three week Italian road trip.

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We did manage to reach the piazza…

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And marvelled at the beauty and grandeur of the Basilica di San Marco. As well as the hoards of pigeons that possibly outnumbered the number of tourists within the piazza! I mean we marvelled at the population of pigeons, not that they were beautiful or grand. I’m no pigeon lover.

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As you can see behind our wefie, it wasn’t anywhere as crowded as I imagined it would be.

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We relaxed a while on one of the steps surrounding the piazza, taking in the sights, observing Korean tourists do multiple, choreographed jumps to get the perfect photo, Instagram boyfriends or husbands taking photo after photo of their partner in various poses and angles, watching children chase after pigeons… It was really nice to sit back and absorb the activity around us, until my butt began to hurt. That was our signal to go in search for some dinner.

Flo and I settled on Trattoria Al Gazzettino, a restaurant highly recommended on Google, since all the ones I’d listed were closed for the day or only opened at 8pm which was too late for our soon-to-be rumbling stomachs.

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We didn’t have a reservation (should have done the typical Asian thing and made one since every other Asian did! And I won’t lie, I usually make reservations even back home because I’m one of the anomalies who hates queueing up), so we had to wait a solid hour before a table was ready for us. In the meantime, we were treated to alcoholic refreshments at the back, obviously I declined, as well as a little tasting of some kind of cold risotto.

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Once we were seated, we didn’t have to wait too long for dinner to be served. I zeroed straight in for the Seafood Stew. When it arrived, the absolute joy on my face was so obvious that the lady at the next table couldn’t help but smile and comment on how excited I looked. For sure I was excited – being in Zurich and Hamburg meant that I’d hardly eaten any hot food for a week. A week may not sound long but trust me, it felt way longer than a week for me and the thought of hot food sent thrills down my spine.

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The fish, mussels, river prawns and squid were so fresh, and the broth was bang full of crustacean flavour. I was in heaven. A bit of a salty heaven but still heaven nonetheless. The sodium levels were a little higher than I’d have liked but all in all, I was pleased as pie.

Florian too, was perhaps even more pleased with his dish than I was with mine. He had Tagliatelle with Zucchini and Scampi.

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If you have me for your wife, you best be prepared for my fork to go into your food at every meal because I can never resist a taste of whatever Flo orders. This plate of pasta, though nothing to shout about in terms of presentation, was pure delight. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, the flavours of the vegetable and scampi all tossed and coated in a light sauce was pretty amazing. I have to admit, Flo’s dish was better than mine. Mine was delicious. His was damn near perfect! – I’d say perfect but we all know there’s no such thing as perfect.

We were stuffed after our food, so reluctantly declined dinner. Still, we were treated to a slice of chocolate cake with a couple shots of alcohol and biscotti.

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We had a nibble here and there but couldn’t find any more space to pack it all in. It was an awesome first meal in the legendary land of pasta. As we went on with the rest of our holiday, we found a few places that trumped this trattoria, and others than didn’t quite measure up. You’ll see.

Anyway, we decided to take a long stroll back to the bus stop we’d alighted from, to return back to our hotel since we had a lot of food inside our bellies that needed digesting. A quarter of the way back however, we found ourselves in the midst of lots of crashing. We saw restaurants in front of us that had diners eating al fresco, battling with the sudden gush of winds that were blowing table cloths off, and along with, filled wine glasses, and tableware. It felt rather surreal.

Flo and I turned back only to see looming black clouds not far behind us. We ran over one of the bridges and turned right, into a sheltered boat stop, just as drizzle turned to a rush of water pouring down from the sky. Not long after, we could hear the wind howling and the beating of heavy raindrops against the metal walls and ceiling of the shelter. The air turned cold and rain was coming in from both entrances. Then, we found ourselves, along with the others who’d managed to find their way to the shelter, being pelted by hail. From pebble-sized ice, they quickly became about an inch and a half in diameter. Thankfully, someone managed to get the door of one of the entrances to shut so we were able to huddle in the corner, and keep warm.

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It was a total freak storm and when the rain finally slowed, it was still more of a heavy drizzle and Flo and I had quite a way to go to reach our intended destination. In the end, we hopped onto a water taxi, and got ourselves a free ride back to the main station.

There, we bought tickets for the 10.15pm train back to the station close to our hotel. Only, the bad weather meant that it was to be delayed but there was little to tell anyone how long more it would take and whether there were alternative trains we could take. There were lots of passengers getting frustrated and riled up.

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After an hour and a half, we finally departed.

Flo and I were knackered from our long day and fell into bed soon after reaching our hotel. We were up earlier than we’d have liked because our check-out time was at 10am. Once we had checked-out, we stopped over at a cafe nearby for some breakfast.

I had this bread roll with mozzarella, tomatoes and lettuce. It was ok. I wasn’t so impressed by the whiter than white bread but the fillings were nice if not for the slather of mayo. Haha.

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On hindsight, I guess the mozzarella may not have been pasteurised but a lot of their offerings consisted of cold cuts so cheese it was. Flo had a bresaola with goat cheese panini. I believe there may have been some turmeric in the bread dough, hence the colour, and the poppy seeds on top were the icing on top especially after it’d all been nicely toasted.

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Then, it was off to Modena!

Hamburg Stopover.

We spent the 6th and 7th July weekend around Hamburg. It was really a touch and go trip because we were there specially for Flo’s good friend’s wedding. It was located in an old castle about a 2 hour drive away from the city.

The Hamburg weather was decent when we arrived. The ceremony took place without a hitch. It was simple, elegant and quite beautiful.

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After the vows were exchanged, we walked back to the old castle, which looks a lot more like a manor, where the skies turned grey and rain started to pelter down. It went on and off, on and off for a good couple of hours, while the cute couple tried to carry on with photo taking. It was too cold and wet for me and I started to feel sick from all the standing. Babies were obviously a little uncomfy and told me so by making me throw up.

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The initial plan as we heard was to have tea outside on the expansive lawn, but the grumpy weather continued and we were finally led indoors, into the warmth.

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The newlyweds cut into their magnificent cake, each layer a different flavour.

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There was another table on the side filled with more cakes – cheesecake, fruit cake, tortes… And another one at the other end of the room filled with sweets, chocolates, brownies. It was sugar heaven. I didn’t think 100 guests would be able to finish the lot, but polish off nearly everything they did! In Singapore where people are so weight and health-conscious, the wedding cake above would have been more than enough, with more to spare.

There was an open bar as well for guests to ease into the evening’s programme.

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At around 7pm, we were ushered into the dining hall where we were served a soup to begin. Flo said this is a very traditional wedding soup in Germany. It was rather on the salty side, and had pieces of egg, white asparagus and potatoes, as well as a grain that resembled Israeli couscous.

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Thereafter, the rest of dinner was served buffet-style out in the cold. Brrr! They had meats that were smoked on the spot being served so we had a choice of smoked beef, lamb, chicken, fish and cheese for vegetarians, and there was also a table of cold salads. I would have loved to go for fish but swordfish was the fish of choice for the day, so chicken it was. I have to admit that the chicken was well cooked – exceptionally tender and juicy.

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It was a long few hours thereafter, for me at least because I was tired beyond words. We took our leave around 1am, back to the BnB that we were sharing with Jens and Les. I don’t think German weddings are particularly my thing because they last a long time. Of course, that’s not to say I will never ever attend another.

Next morning, we checked out and drove to the city centre to have a look around, and to find some breakfast. We found the only cafe that seemed open and they were offering an all-you-can-eat breakfast without an option for ala-carte. Offerings weren’t great but we made do.

The town we were in, Celle, is full of quaint, dated buildings.

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They looked even prettier because the weather was gorgeous.

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BUT. As we all know, weather in Germany can be so unpredictable and by the time we were back in Hamburg, the weather took an abrupt turn. Warmth turned to cold and sunny skies turned into threatening clouds that unleashed rain upon us while we were in Hamburg city. Just as well we’d already had our fill of Bismarkherring Brötchen from dock 10 and were already on the way back to the car – only had to run a few hundred metres in the rain to reach it!

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Sidenote: Couldn’t be sure if pickled herring is safe pregnancy food so sadly, I couldn’t have one to myself. Instead, I had a bite of Flo’s and had to be satisfied with it. So much yum especially when it’s off my current menu.

Days 3-5 Zurich, Switzerland.

03 Jul 2019 Wed.

Midweek, upon Flo’s recommendation, I walked to the lake once more, but this time, going to the right side of it instead of my usual left.

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I also walked a different route that was off the Bahnhofstrasse, and found myself appreciating a lot of the architecture of the building along the way.

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The right side of the lake also had a little garden where people were lazing on the grass, walking their dogs and doing the usual morning shenanigans that Swiss people enjoy doing on a lazy weekday morning.

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Flo had mentioned that further down, there was a public bath. I walked further down to reach it thinking it would be a bigger park not unlike the one to the left of the lake. I only found out upon reaching that it was an area that you had to pay to get into so I scrapped that idea and returned to this first place.

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There were boats docked in the marina.

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And some benches facing the calm of the lake. So I picked a spot and did some reading.

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Thereafter, as the sun raised a little higher, I carried on back towards the main city, still finding reasons to be in awe of it.

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From the South of the city, I walked all the way up to the North where the University Park was.

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I love how Zurich is filled with greenery and water. It’s such a beautiful, calming balance. It makes the air feel so fresh and even in the heat, there are lovely spots to cool off under.

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Found another reading spot to continue with my book while resting my feet.

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After this stop, I made my way back to the hotel to be a lump the rest of the evening. Dinner was at Hiltl – the oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant in the world. It’s similar to Tibits (I believe Tibits are a spinoff from Hiltl), and basically, you fill your plate with whatever you want from the myriad of dishes that they have, and based on weight, you pay.

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Being in Switzerland means that your plate is generally never very cheap. Haha. I told Flo to avoid adding gravy on our plates because that’s unnecessary weight.

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The food was pretty awesome although as with all things, there were some hits and some misses. Thankfully more of the former than the latter. The food somehow managed to sit quite heavy in my tummy that evening so we took a nice stroll after dinner before retiring for the evening.

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04 Jul 2019 – Thu.

Next morning, I had on my agenda a walk to the Aqueduct area. But first, a daily walk to the lake. And a short read.

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My reason for wanting to go to Gerwerbeschule which was a bit of a walk out of the main city was because Zen had shared with me that a friend of his from when they were in culinary/hospitality school in Lucerne, had a little coffee cafe running there.

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The area is quite ‘hipster’ and the coffee shop was a little hidden within a residential area. Still, there was a hive of people rushing in and out for their morning coffee. I believe they are barista champions, hence the good coffee and strong following.

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Since breakfast was still digesting, I had to skip the tempting looking pastries. I also had to skip the coffee unfortunately.

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I settled instead for the Rooibos tea.

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Unfortunately, Zen’s friend was out that morning owing to a late night the night before. I did meet her partner who was very warm and hospitable though.

After the tea, I carried on further to the aqueduct. There was quite a lot of construction work going on there but the area within the curve was quite lovely. They had lots of concept stores as well as bistros and restaurants.

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There was also a huge park where children and parents were playing under the gentle rays of the sun. It looked the perfect place to go with friends to relax and not worry about a thing.

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It was quite a walk and I was pretty tired after covering the whole of Zurich from bottom up. So as usual, I spent the rest of the day resting my feet before Flo and I had our picnic dinner up at Lindenhof once more.

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Dessert was Täuscher truffles. We had the white chocolate ones first.

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They weren’t anywhere as sweet as I thought they would be. I think they were still dark chocolate, just covered in icing instead of cocoa. And their liquid centres were just heavenly – rich and smooth and luxuriant. They weren’t very small but they went down too quickly.

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05 Jul 2019 – Friday.

Too quickly, my week exploring Zurich city had flown by but I think it was the perfect amount of time to see most things I wanted to see. Any longer and I would have needed more company.

Skipping the lake because of all the hustle and bustle from the festival set up, I went to the old botanical gardens.

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The grounds weren’t particularly big but there were some pretty flowers to be seen.

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The garden is set up a lot like a small hill. So you go up, up, up and at the top, there’s a little viewing point.

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It wasn’t particularly busy at all but they were people taking their morning walk around there which was nice, otherwise I might have felt a little too alone.

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I enjoyed the quiet and the stillness of the old botanical garden. I haven’t yet been to the big botanical garden in Zurich as I wanted to save it for our next trip… which might be when we actually move there for good. Maybe.

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Once I’d had my fill of greenery, I walked back down and went in search for something for our bubs.

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Flo and I thought we’d pick up a little onesie for our babies – one in Germany, one in Switzerland and one in Italy, since these three countries comprised our holiday this time around. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to find anything fitting in Germany. We found a onesie and a pair of socks in Italy but my poor judgement meant that that one’s size was quite a bit smaller than this one I bought in Zurich. Boo! Anyway, still super cute and I’m still super happy with this set!

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After this picture was taken, I walked over to the tram station to get a ticket to the airport where I was to meet Flo for the main course of our holiday – ITALY!!!!