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.

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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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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Postcards from Glossa, Skopelos

Just a few pictures of Glossa, the second largest town on the island of Skopelos in the Sporades (Greek Islands).

Glossa Town in Skopelos

We visited Skopelos Island twice but it was on our second visit that we checked out the town of Glossa in the northern part of the island.

Many boats and ferries ply the Skiathos Port to Loutraki-Glossa route (and onwards to Skopelos town) on a daily basis between May and October. I will tell more about our visit another time when I have sorted out my pictures. For now, just posting a few ones!

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Friday, June 16, 2017

A Day at Vromolimnos Beach in Skiathos, Greece

For a small island as Skiathos, it has unbelievably over 60 beaches!

Dutched Pinay Vromolimnos Beach, Skiathos, Greece
Vromolimnos Beach, Skiathos, Greece

But many of the beaches on the island are unorganised beaches and some are even called virgin beaches because they are very difficult to reach. We tried locating a beach we were eyeing in the north but decided to give up when we realised there is no road to get there. One will have to hike.

We have not visited all the 60+ beaches, but Dutchman and I have for sure our own favourites. We tend to fall for smaller, cosy and organised beaches that have a cool taverna and a smattering of sunbeds with parasols. Throw in some cool music and we are happy beach campers. On top of our favourite list is Vromolimnos Beach located in the southern part of the island on the corner of Kanapitsa cape.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Skiathos, Greece: Dinner on the Harbour at the ‘Fish Market – Old Port Taverna’

Dinners in the Greek Islands are what I always look forward to during the summer island holiday because for sure it is going to be alfresco.

Dinner at the Fish Market - Old Port in Skiathos Island, Greece

I am very fond of eating outdoors especially during the warm holiday season when everyone seems to be living outside their homes. In the Netherlands, people would flock to the city and village squares for a drink and locals would be dining on their balconies or gardens. I don’t take the sun for granted these days, I revel when she shines and I work steadfastly my agenda around her. This is the product of 15 years living in gloomy and wet Netherlands where any outdoor activities and social plans are mostly controlled by the darn unpredictable Dutch weather.

For me, there’s just an overwhelming sense of excitement and living the life when you are sitting outdoors clinking chilled glasses and forking your lunch or dinner on a terrace with stunning views of the horizon or at a busy harbour during a holiday or even on the beach with the relaxing sounds of waves turning in the background. But I look forward to these dinners (also lunches) during our yearly summer holiday in the Greek Islands.

Fish Market Taverna - Old Port in Skiathos Island, Greece

A nice dinner setting on the harbour of Skiathos.

This year we have chosen Skiathos Island, part of the Sporades group of islands in the Thessaly region. It is the busiest and most developed island for tourism among Sporades islands.

Naturally, I researched in advanced restaurants to dine in. But for the first night, I wanted to keep things easy for us since we were still checking out our bearings. So we settled on having dinner on the harbour, at the Old Port at the taverna called Fish Market – Old Port.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Postcards from Skopelos Island (Old Town)

For this Greek island summer holiday, we have visited neighbouring island Skopelos twice.

Dutched Pinay in Skopelos Island

The first time was on an organised boat trip from Skiathos with Agios Nikolaos boat tours to its 2 nearby sister islands, Skopelos and Alonissos. We have only visited the capital towns of each island, Skopelos Old Town and Patitiri.

The second time we visited Skopelos, we did it independently taking the scooter with us on board on the ferry to Loutraki nearby Glossa, the 2nd largest settlement in Skopelos. It was a day to visit some of the highlights of the island and its beaches which I will for sure post an entry about in the near future.

Skopelos Island - Old Town Port

For this post, these pictures were taken on our first trip to the island, during the organised boat trip. These are just a few pictures of the bazillion pictures we took of Skopelos!

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Friday, June 09, 2017

First Day on Skiathos Island, Greece

Hello there – Kalimera!

Skiathos Old Port
Skiathos Old Port Cafes

Moi here lounging at the Gold Fish, one of the many cafes on Skiathos Old Port... having a chilled Greek frappe here to welcome our summer holiday on Skiathos island.

Dutchman and I have been on Skiathos Island for a week already. It’s both our first time on this lovely Sporades island. Our original plan was to go to Karpathos in the Dodecanese Islands but we saw this Skiathos deal that we could not just pass up, so instead, we booked Skiathos =)

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Sunset View Skiathos Town from Agios Nikolaos Church & Clock Tower

Kalispera from the Greek Islands!

Skiathos Old Port
Skiathos Old Town Panorama

I am in Skiathos Island right now which is part of the Sporades group of islands in the north-west of Greece in the Aegean Sea in the Thessaly region. It is a small island so we have been visiting the neighbouring sister islands as well.

This sunset view of Skiathos old town is taken on top of the Agios Nikolaos Church and Clock Tower. Skiathos is a very charming place!

Will, of course, be blogging about the island in the days and months to come.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

View from our Room: Ben Thanh Night Market in HCMC

In Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam, we booked our hotel in District 1 right beside the Ben Thanh market. We wanted to be centrally located to the important attractions and in an area that is oozing with activity day and night.

Ben Thanh Night Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I took this picture from our room at Avanti Hotel, zoomed in.

By day, the Ben Thanh area is busy with many local shoppers, street vendors roaming around and curious tourists eager to taste a bit the local Vietnamese market life. But by night when the market closes down, the adjacent market streets come to life!

What is sweeter for us is that from our hotel room, which has a floor to ceiling one-way tinted glass wall, we were indulged with a fantastic view of the goings-on of the night market below. This was our view every single evening. There is a feeling of being one with the market for sure. You know, that feeling that despite we were not actually down there below, we felt like we were.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Lost in French Menu Translation in Verdun: Who Wants Pig’s Feet?

The Dutchman and I have a love and hate relationship with France. We liked going to the French Alps for our winter sports holiday and to a few places in the country as well. I know for a fact for myself that there are a number of regions, cities and towns that I would love to explore in the south of France. But I am not rushing, I will get to see and experience them one at a time =)

Last week, we went on a 4-day little trip to Verdun in the Lorraine region to visit the World War I battlefields, the war memorial monuments and the cemeteries.

Lost in French menu translation case: I ordered pork but not pig's feet?

But there are certain things that we do not look forward to when visiting France. In general, French people are not very helpful at all and they will insist on speaking French even if they know damn right that you are a tourist and you do not speak the local language. They will ignore your pleas and people will just continue speaking French even if you said NO FRENCH. I mean, why? Non-parlez-vous Francais! They all fall on deaf ears.

There are of course exemptions to this notorious stereotype rule but we have been coming and going to France, for years already (the Dutchman since childhood days), that this has become a very predictable issue that we have to live with during our visits. Every single time. So our experiences and struggles are definitely not a one-off or a few times cases only.

Do we need to learn French to correct this? Hell, no. But I can learn a few words and phrases which I always do in every country I visit anyway. Just the same for French people visiting the Netherlands, I would not expect them to speak Dutch. Does that make sense at all?

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