Saturday, August 12, 2017

Walking Belgrade: Stari Grad to Vracar

One of the best ways to discover a new town or city is simply by walking. And it is free!

Kralja Milana, one of the main avenues in Belgrade with many historical buildings such as the Oficirski dom (mustard coloured building).

Not many people I know would prefer to hike around when on holiday but it has its own advantages as well, namely, burning the calories for the day, getting to see local things up close and personal and feeling the raw side character and personality of the city, which you can only experience when you walk on its streets. Most especially, when you venture out of the centrum.

But first things first, we have to understand the layout of Belgrade, known as Beograd by the locals.

Belgrade is divided into neighbourhoods:

Helaas, I have only visited Stari Grad (Old Town), Vracar and Zemun. I have, however, and I am sure of this, been around with my rental car and the taxi in the nearby surrounding neighbourhoods, including Novi Beograd. I even got lost in the city when I was looking for my hotel because my GPS did not properly work.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Road Trip: A Day in Preveza, Mainland Greece

When we were summer holidaying on Lefkada Island the other summer year ago (2016), we did a day road trip to mainland Greece, in the coastal town of Preveza located in the region, Epirus.

Church tower in Preveza centrum
Preveza in the evening

The evening scene in Preveza town.

Lefkada Island does not have an airport but luckily it is connected to the mainland in the area of Preveza by a small bridge. The nearest airport is, in fact, the Preveza Airport, approximately half an hour travel to reach the island and about an hour to Nydri where we were staying for the holiday. This is where we landed and then transferred by buses to our hotels.

We normally go for a 2-week summer holiday so that gives us enough time to explore the island and the nearby surroundings.

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Last April in Amsterdam and The Seafood Bar for the Second Time

When girlfriend Bubbles was in the Netherlands last April, we visited many people and of course, Amsterdam cannot be missed, even if we are only going for 1 day.

The Seafood Bar in Amsterdam

Dinner at The Seafood Bar in Amsterdam.

PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam

PC Hooftstraat, a luxury shopping street in Amsterdam nearby the Seafood Bar.

Bubbles have been in Amsterdam a few times, so we only allocated a day to spend in the city. Well, an afternoon and an evening to be precise as we don’t want to behave like rabid tourists. We want to sleep in and have a late breakfast before hopping on the intercity train to Amsterdam. No need to rush.

Now Bubbles wanted to visit the famous Dutch museums as she has never done this in her previous visits. But because of a lack of time she had to pick only one, and so she decided to visit the Rijksmuseum. She really wanted to also visit the Van Gogh museum but I guess this will be another time, well another year I suppose =)

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bologna Aeroporto: Plane Watching and a Ham, Salami and Rosé

While waiting for my plane in Bologna back to Amsterdam...

Snacking and waiting for my flight in Bologna
Alitalia Bologna

The airport isn't really that great. I arrived a bit early because I had to return the rental car. So I have exactly an hour to bum around in the airport.

La Vecchia Trattoria slash Italian gourmet souvenir shop is the only thing interesting and worthwhile dining at in the airport. My flight is scheduled late in the afternoon and it wouldn't be bad to have a late real Italian snack (well early dinner for me already) before boarding my flight.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Day in Parma, Italy (and My Photos!)

Architecture Parma, Italy

The Baptistry (the rose pink building) and the tower of the Parma Cathedral just around the corner.

Parma ham and clothes for sale

You know you are in Parma when retail clothing stores sell and hang (Parma) ham beside their clothing and shoe products =)

I have been wanting to visit the foodie capital region of Italy – Emilia Romagna for a long time already. I knew that KLM flies direct to Bologna from Amsterdam which is handy so I made it happen in spring last year. I think it’s a good thing to visit Italy once a year, just for the food and the amazing architecture.

Together with Bologna, I visited the foodie cities of Parma and Modena as well. I even managed to swing by to San Marino, one of the smallest states in the world!

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Hello ‘Aperitivo’ in Parma, Italy

One of the special things about Italy that make me love about the country is the tradition of aperitivo, which is by the way practised mostly in the northern part of Italy.

Apertivo hour Gran Caffe Cavour in Parma, Italy

My aperitivo at Caffe Cavour in Parma.

Gran Caffe Cavour in Parma, Italy

I have a few reasons why I love this Italian happy hour and I’ll tell you why.

When I was in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy last year, where I stayed in a fabulous B&B country mansion set on a hill with a fantastic view in a small village just outside Bologna, I managed to visit nearby cities such as Modena and Parma. Just their names are enough to make foodies salivate, haha.

In Parma, I planned to eat and have dinner but it did not turn out the way I had in mind.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Cologne, Germany in Pictures

I took these pictures of Cologne last October (2016).

Cologne, Germany

Many of the shots were random street scenes during my walk from the Cologne Hauptbahnhof (central train station) to the office, to the hotel and to the core centre.

I do not go to Cologne anymore as I have moved on to a different role in a new company since this summer. I cannot say I miss Cologne but I do not mind visiting the city in the near future again.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

“Meet & Eat” Street Food Market in Cologne, Germany

During one of my regular Cologne business trips last year, I managed to schedule an after work visit to a local street food market, the “Meet & Eat” at Rudolfplatz.

Meet & Eat street food market in Cologne, Germany

I learned about this street food market through someone who happens to chance upon this blog. He is from Germany, also very well-travelled and is into food markets. He emailed me about this street food market tip in Cologne after having read that I visit the city regularly for work.

Don’t you just love travel, culture and food tips like this? Thank you so much!

So if you have a tip for me, fire away =)

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Amsterdam: Lunch at BAUT & Dreesmann, Shopping and New York Film Academy Cafe

This is a very long overdue post.

The view at BAUT & Dreesman in Amsterdam

The view at pop-up restaurant BAUT & Dreesman.

Last October, Bru and I spent an afternoon in good old Amsterdam. A city that I am quite familiar with having worked here for many years altogether.

I have however changed jobs this summer and that means I have stopped going to Amsterdam (where my previous job was located) on a daily basis. Do I miss the city? Well, I am not sure, haha. My nonchalance may have something to do that Amsterdam is just around the corner for me. I have since been back though in the city but just for a quick business visit. I will for sure, in the coming weeks and months, be popping in and out of Amsterdam, both for work and pleasure =)

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Netherlands: Rotterdam Stroll in Pictures

This entry is a picture essay (lots!) of our stroll last summer (2016) in Rotterdam.

Erasmus Bridge Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Markthal Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Summer in the Netherlands is a hit and miss situation. It is mostly a miss, which means we rarely have very hot days and if they do come, they drop by sporadically, making us wonder if they really did come!?

We came with the intercity train from Utrecht and it was lovely to see the new Rotterdam Centraal Train Station. Just outside the station was an exposition, De Trap (The Staircase) which leads to the rooftop of the Groot Handelsgebouw offering panoramic skyline views of the city. This is a rare occasion to have access to the top of this old building so we grabbed the opportunity and hiked up the stairs. After which we went out for a stroll through the busy shopping streets, paying a quick visit to the Markthal (Food Market Hall), then passing some of its architectural landmarks and then continuing towards the old harbour and the Nieuwe Maas that flows through the city.

After a few hours and with burning feet and legs, we ended up having dinner at Prachtig Restaurant on the harbour, just below the Erasmus Bridge. From our table, we could even see the bridge. We would have wanted to check out a cosmopolitan bar on top of a tall building for some drinks and city lights view but it was getting late and we were tired, so we called it a day.

I have not been back to Rotterdam since, but who knows I will be in the coming weeks and months.

[To see the rest of the pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Netherlands: Lunching with a View to the Highway at Van der Valk Hotel Restaurant Vianen

Last March the Dutch mother treated us to lunch at the Van der Valk Hotel Restaurant in Vianen (Utrecht).

Lunch at Van der Valk Hotel Restaurant Vianen

When I told the Dutchman that we are going to a Van der Valk Hotel Restaurant, he responded with a very sourly-looking face, ‘Bah’. His knowledge and recollection of the establishment are not very positive at all—along with the highways hotel restaurants with boring and shabby-looking interiors inside 1960’s buildings. I couldn’t really counteract him as I haven’t been to a Van der Valk hotel restaurant recently but the Dutch mother heard very good reviews about the one in Vianen recently.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City: Delicious Vietnamese Dinner at Chao Em! Viet Bistro

We discovered this lovely bistro-restaurant purely by accident one evening when we were looking around the area of Ben Thanh for a place to eat.

Vietnamese food - Chao Em! Viet Bistro in Ben Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City

We didn’t want to go somewhere else and we just wanted to eat in the area near the hotel.

By the way, I am totally rocking Vietnamese food... really loving this refreshing and healthy cuisine, maybe because of its prime adoption of vegetables as a main ingredient and garnishing. This is my kind of food!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Water Puppet Show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Ho Chi Minh City

While in Saigon, the family went to see a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show one evening.

Water Puppet Show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Ho Chi Minh City
Water Puppet Show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Ho Chi Minh City

The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre is located in District 1, at the Tao Dan Park along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai road.

I was more keen on watching a theatre dance, perhaps a ballet but I was also open to a concert or an opera show, however, there were no shows on the evening we planned on going out in Saigon. The only event I found playing in the city was the traditional Vietnamese water puppet show. Well, why not?

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City: Lunch at the Top with Panoramic City Views at Shri Restaurant & Lounge

There are many lovely places to dine with a view in Saigon, one just has to search on Google and a wide array of restaurants, cafes and rooftop bars will pop up on the search result list.

Because there are a lot of options, it is quite difficult to make a decision. What can I say, a luxurious problem indeed, haha!

Rooftop Shri Restaurant & Lounge in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Lunch at Shri Restaurant & Lounge in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

We had lunch at Shri. It was a very hot and humid day in Saigon, however cloudy. It would have been impossible to sit outdoors on the terrace if it was a blue-skies-sun-is-out-shining day.

So I had to look into what the family really want to eat for lunch, what they want to see and experience in order to make an informed decision on which restaurant, bar or café to go to.

Well, I am the type, and so is my family, who travel for the love of food and the beautiful places to dine at or even simply to hang out with a drink. They do not have to be exclusive and expensive at all, but I tell you, they surely enhance (or decrease) the overall experience, as well as the quality and enjoyment of our holidays.

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City: Notre Dame Cathedral and the Book Cafe Street

When people in my and the past generation think about Vietnam, people right think about the Vietnam War and the American occupation. But before this, the Vietnamese also fought for their independence from the French during the French Indochina War.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon, Vietnam
Vietnamese girls in ao dai traditional dress

Vietnamese girls in blue and white ao dai traditional dress waving the Vietnamese and South Korean flags just outside the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Vietnam was a colonial possession of France and like many of the European imperialists, they brought along with them their culture, their standards and values, a way of (political) governance, their arts and architecture, their education system, as well as their religion.

The Note Dame Cathedral in District 1 of then Saigon is one of the remaining important French colonial architectures and is a great testimony as well to the diversity of religion in Vietnam today. The current statistics point to about 8-9% Roman Catholics in the country. Not bad at all for the Catholics in a very religion fragmented society.

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Monday, July 03, 2017

Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office (and Café de la Poste)

One of the beautiful conserved buildings in Saigon reflecting European influence during the French colonial times is the city’s Central Post Office.

Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office, Vietnam

The building was built in the late 19th century (1886-1891).

This building is a functioning postal office and a well-known tourist attraction as well. From the main road of Cong xa Paris in District I (old city centre), the striking palatial edifice in bright yellow colour is quite difficult to ignore. The façade looks very grand from the outside, something the Vietnamese I am sure are quite proud of.

We were here late in the morning. Our plan was to explore this area of Saigon. My parents cannot walk that far and will need to rest from time to time from the walking and standing, so we took the very slow sightseeing route. We were practically here the whole morning.

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