Thursday, November 27, 2014

First Meal in Japan: Udon, you are not my kind of Noodle

We flew from Amsterdam to Tokyo via Fukuoka, a large city in the southern part of Japan. Japan's airports are divided into domestic and international and they are a (free) shuttle bus away from each other. Because our flight from Fukuoka to Tokyo is a domestic flight, we have to transit from the international airport part to the domestic part, but first, we have to go through immigration and then pick up our luggage.

Finally arriving at the domestic airport of Fukuoka and having just checked in for our flight to Tokyo, I was looking forward to my first meal in Japan: A warm noodle soup lunch. I was not feeling well and I needed some hot soup to warm up my stomach. The Dutchman on the other hand did not want anything.

The noodle bar at Fukuoka Domestic Airport.

Udon noodle with a vegetable tempura fritter. 

Fukuoka is famous for its Hakata Udon Noodle and I have read that Fukuoka is apparently the birth place of Udon, so that made me a very curious foodie. I need to try Hakata or any Udon noodle in Fukuoka! And so I found this noodle bar just beside our boarding gate which was very handy.

Udon is a typically Japanese type of noodle, a thick wheat flour noodle which I realised I do not really fancy at all. It may have to do with its girth, too thick for a usual noodle, and the texture, a bit slimy for my liking. There are however other types of Udon, varying per region, some are thinner and flat, whilst others are shaped differently.

Perhaps I will like Yaki Udon which is similar to Yaki Soba, a stir-fried noodle dish garnished with vegetables and meat. Stir-fry dishes are always good.

Have you tried this thick Udon noodle? Do you like it?

Travel Period: November 2014
Destination: Fukouka, Japan

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tokyo, Japan Skyline

Hello! Konnichiwa!

Tokyo skyline by day from the Mori Towers.

Tokyo skyline with the lighted Tokyo Tower at dusk. The tower is an observation and communications tower similarly designed with the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Finally, Tokyo skyline at night.

I have been battling Influenza and Bronchitis in the last two weeks. The sad part is this all happened just before and during my travel to Tokyo, Japan and the Philippines. The timing could not have been so perfect *sigh*, and well, hence my silence.

Having said that, I have not seen much of Tokyo, which is really a let down as I have so many things packed in our travel agenda. I spent most of my days in the metropolitan city snuggling under the sheets, with a high fever and a persistent cough in the four corners of our hotel room, luckily with the Dutchman nursing me.

I am now in Cebu, Philippines with my family, and have since rested well. In fact, today marks the day that I have indeed slowly recovered and come out from this dark hole of sickness because today is the first time I have finally opened my laptop =). Now that is a good sign!

Travel Period: November 2014
Destination: Tokyo, Japan

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Monschau (Germany): The Pearl of the Eifel

I am always happiest when I am at home and with the Dutchman or when I am travelling, with or without him. When you are happy, you become contented. Now this means that the act of travelling makes me a very contented woman. It is a vicious cycle I guess, the happiness and travelling thing, alhough recently, my thirst for travelling has slowed down a bit. I guess contentment has slowly catched up. It worries me somehow though because I still want to see the world, but at the same time this brings a warm, and new, yet familiar feeling within. Can you relate?

This trip to Monschau was a last minute plan when I missed my flight to Riga, Latvia last March. It was all my fault so I am not going to moan and cry over milk that I spilt over myself. Instead, I took charge and moved on. Monschau and Lille became the substitutions =)

This is Monschau on Google Maps and my driving route from Utrecht, the Netherlands:

You can move the map by holding it with your mouse, as well as zoom it in and out by clicking on the + and - signs at the lower right hand side.

Monschau [click for tourist info] has been described as the ‘Pearl of the Eifel’ because it is a very charming and picturesque village with preserved half-timber houses in the Eifel mountains on the Rur River Valley. The whole place not only exudes with history, architecture, but also with romance. Yes, it is a dreamy little village.

Not many people know about this village except for the locals and neighbouring cities and countries (Belgium and Netherlands). In fact here in the Netherlands not many people know about the place, only in the southern part in Limburg and North Brabant are people more familiar with it, and I reckon because of its Christmas Markets.

When I arrived town I right away had lunch on the market square. I had a warm schnitzel and fries and had a good view of the square from where I was sitting. After lunch I did some strolling and window shopping. Yep, literally window shopping, if you know what I mean =)

I wanted to try the Monschauer Dütchen which is a sponge biscuit cake formed like an open cone and usually filled with cream or ice cream, but I was so full from my lunch that just the thought of it made me sad. Perhaps next time.

And like most villages in the mountains, Monschau becomes a sleepy town after 17:00 when all the day tourists have gone back to their hotels and homes.

The town has more than 12,000 residents and the core centre is very compact and can easily be strolled within 30 minutes to an hour.

Only residents can park inside the town. Parking for visitors are located outside the village and there is a huge parking area at the back.

The River Rur flowing through the village.

One of the shopping streets in Monschau.

A little bit of history:

The settlement of Monschau (until 1918 Montjoie) owes its foundation to the castle built by the Dukes of Limburg in the 12th century.

The rise of the town was connected with the development in the manufacture of cloth since the first half of the 17th century. Its heyday was in the 18th century: Through a continuous improvement in its quality, fine cloth from Monschau became a brand article that was also exported outside of Europe. With the occupation by the French and the transfer of the Rhineland to Prussia began the demise of the cloth industry.

You can see the old castle ruins above the hills. I actually went up there.

Hanging art (from the bridge): metal fish bone

A local specialty: Monschauer Dutchen which is a sponge type of biscuit cake and usually filled with cream or ice cream. I so wanted to try this but I was too full from the schnitzel lunch.

This is another local specialty: Monschauer Vennbrocken which is a mix of marzipan, nougat, cointreau liquor and truffel.

The market square filled with cafe terraces.

You can find small cafes in the corner and narrow back streets of the village.

The church is located on the market square and beside the River Rur.

A peek inside the church which has a half arena type set up. The altar is placed on the left side (see candle, red table and pulpit on the mid left) and what you are looking straight into is the organ (not the altar).

The village was quite busy for a sunny end of March winter day. Many tourists were local German tourists from neighbouring regions on a day trip.

A house on the other side of the river.

I wanted to eat at this restaurant with the hanging terrace, however it was closed for the season.

A quick stop for coffee is always good. I managed to pick a National park Eifel tourist brochure from the tourist office.

This was at the outdoor terrace of Hotel Horchem which has a very nice location on the river and just before reaching the market square.

Travel Period: March 2014
Destination: Monschau (North Rhine-Westphalia), Germany

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Book Market & Board Games at Lille’s Old Stock Exchange (Vieille Bourse)

The stunning building on Lille’s Grand Place is the Vieille Bourse, the old Stock Exchange building. It is a remarkable piece of architecture and a defining landmark of the city. Best of all, it is open to the public for free.

The building dates back to 1652 and is Flemish Renaissance in style. Quite interestingly, the building is divided into 24 merchant houses inside. The open inner courtyard is where the trading takes place for the merchants back then.

Nowadays, the trading that takes place in the open courtyard is a book market on the arcade gallery. Here they also sell art pieces such as paintings and portraits, as well as old post cards and what nots. In the middle of the open courtyard are older men playing board games such as chess and draughts.

It’s a nice place to hang around for a bit. There is an old world charm about it that lets you step back in different stages of time. There's the historical architecture that sends you to the Middle Ages. And there's the hard bound and paperback books, as well as the board games. They too are a part of our historical past, albeit recently, as we are nowadays siezed and literally hi-jacked into the endless tunnel of technology madness. We now read books digitally and play board games virtually.

I really liked this place and it is definitely a must visit for everyone when visiting Lille.

Hard bound and paperback books are already a bygone era. I mean, let's admit it shall we, so they indeed aptly belong to a historical place such as this.

Local men playing board games in the open courtyard.

Old photographs and portraits for sale here as well.

Chess and draught board games. These reminds me of Greece where retired men gather together in tavernas and play the whole afternoon over drinks.

It is a public area and everyone can get in and out of the building.

The Old Stock Exchange building has 4 entrances.

Travel Period: March 2014
Destination: Lille (Nord Pas-de-Calais), France

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