Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The ‘Painted Ladies’ of San Francisco

You know what makes me go WOW about San Francisco? The adorable Victorian and Edwardian houses. I have a weakness for period style architecture and these beautiful houses are everywhere in the city and I just can’t get enough of them. They are just simply WOW.

The 'Postcard Row' Painted Ladies on Steiner Street near Alamo Square. I was supposed to show off the beautiful houses but instead it looks like I am showing off the San Francisco skyline. Bummer.

These wow-factor gorgeous houses are nicknamed, the ‘Painted Ladies’ of San Francisco and the famous ones are on Steiner Street facing the Alamo Square with the San Francisco’s Financial District skyline in the background. The dainty houses are often referred to as the ‘Postcard Row’ and I guess they fit in well to the picture perfect feminine representation of San Francisco, while the Golden Gate Bridge I’d say is the masculine representation of the city.

There are about 48,000 -+ Victorian and Edwardian houses and mansions in the city and they are all over the place, however, many of the lovely ones that makes you go wow are located around the Alamo Square, in the Western Addition neighbourhood, Nobb Hill and in Haight-Ashbury and Lower Haight as well.

Dutchman complains that every time we go out for a walk he is waiting much longer for me in alleys and sidestreets. He often jokes about it that I tend to come along only after a few minutes as I am always 1 or 2 blocks behind. You’d probably ask what is keeping me? Well simple, taking fotos of the beauties and ogling at them as well. I cannot help it.

It is very interesting to learn that the trend of painting houses into different colours only started in 1963, revolutionized by artist, Butch Kardum who started painting his own house in bright primary colours. This lead to heavy criticism from neighbours and conservatives, but eventually, and perhaps due to the rise of the legendary hippie culture at that time (picture this: Janis Joplin in psychedelic coloured outfit), the idea unravelled into a scorching fashion itempainting houses in bright colours! Up to now, the house colouring movement is very much alive in San Francisco. Thanks to trendsetter Kardum.

Hope you enjoy the fotos of these exquisite wooden mansions. Hmm, I wonder how much they cost?

And my only regret: I wish I had taken more fotos of these gorgeous beauties.

Travel Period: March 2011
Destination: San Francisco (California), USA

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Utrecht: An evening at Restaurant & Brasserie Luden and some dose of Gooische Vrouwen

Last week, like the rest of the Dutch women in the Netherlands, I went to watch the ‘Gooische Vrouwen’ movie with Blondine, but before I delve into my quick film review, I’d like to talk about a restaurant I have discovered that night: Restaurant & Brasserie LUDEN (this restaurant badly needs their website upgraded, seriously)

I was really impressed with the grandiose interior and ambiance of this restaurantCHIC. Where have I been? Why have I only seen this now? The place was lovely, elegant and stately. Vintage as well which really brings the character out of this restaurant. And oh, I had to be careful with my hair getting on fire from those tall candles as they were about my height. And in eating places like this, you do not have to complain about the elusive customer service in the Netherlands.

The unspoken rule of tipping in this country (based from what I understand how the locals handle this): Tip if you must, but most people here just round it off, so that is usually about 5% to 7%. Now, for those outside of Europe, you might want to know that service people in this continent have normal salaries and benefits, and tips are just additional income on the side.

At home the Dutchman is eating dinner that I especially made for him the night before. I hate it when he is feeding on some frozen pizza or microwavable lasagne from Albert Heijn so I make sure I fix him something (contrary to my rat race status, I could/should be a perfect housewife) while I go out and eat in... Luden, haha!

Blondine and I shared the starter: Warm goat’s cheese with bacon and a soft honey flower sauce with walnuts and greens. 4 stars out of 5. We are not dieting per se but our stomachs can only handle so much.

Then we both ordered the same thing for our main course: Grilled albacore tuna steak with dill – wine sauce under a bed of pasta, and a glass of white wine (think it was French from Languedoc, can’t remember anymore) to go with our dinner. 5 stars out of 5!

No more space in our tummies for dessert (not that I was looking forward to it, nope) except for coffee. I love food but not too much. So I had double espresso while Blondine had cappuccino.

Luden is located in Janskerkhof, Utrecht. I am coming back here, with the Dutchman.

Now for the ‘Gooische Vrouwen’ movie, don’t be misled with the poster design and layout. Looks like a copycat of Sex & the City and the Beatle’s Abbey Road right?

Firstly, the storyline is not even close to the Sex & the City except for the fact that the 4 leading girl characters love to shop. I think Gooische Vrouwen is a chaotic mix of the story line of Desperate Housewives (they were desperate housewives indeed with very interesting issues, lol), Sex & the City (the shopping, the fashion and the girly bond and get-togethers) and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (living up to the statuses and riches).

‘Het Gooi’ is like the Beverly Hills of the Netherlands, that’s why it’s called Gooische Vrouwen (Women from Het Gooi), and Gooische Vrouwen is actually a successful TV series in the Netherlands (and televised in Belgium and Germany as well) that ran between 2005 and 2009.

Secondly, that isn’t Abbey Road but some random street in Paris. In the movie (after each had one setback after another), they all went to France to find themselves aka Eat, Pray, Love thingy but ended up shopping in Paris instead, lol. SIGH, I need to get my bum to Paris as well, soon!

I won’t bore you with long stories or more reviews about this movie but all in all, it was light and nice. Shallow yes, yet very funny, it kept me laughing until the end. And I have to admit that they did exaggerate many scenes in there but I guess that is part of the whole story line for these types of light comedy girly flicks. Go watch it if you are in the Netherlands and if you can understand Dutch. It’s gonna make you laugh and make you want to go back home to cuddle your man =)

Visit Period: March 2011
Utrecht, The Netherlands

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A stroll on the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

It is a fact that almost everyone who comes to San Francisco has in one way or another have in mind the world renowned Golden Gate Bridge to experience. Either have a foto taken with the bridge as the stunning backdrop or truly experience this San Francisco icon by walking on it. Well, taking our fotos with the bridge as the background was definitely not enough, we have to walk on it!

The opportunity came during the day of the tsunami warnings (which was downgraded to an advisory). We went down to the beach front after an hour of waiting on Telegraph Hill for the waves to arrive. Firstly, we went to the park (part of the Golden Gate Bridge National Recreation Area) just below the bridge where we saw a news crew as well patiently waiting for some tsunami action, afterwards , we went up to the lookout park and we were lucky enough to have quickly found a parking spot.

Great! Now it’s time to stretch our leg muscles and walk on this renowned bridge!

But before doing so we have to take our necessary souvenir shots. The lookout park was quite busy with many tourists in busloads arriving and leaving. Seeing the bridge up close is pretty much on every visitor’s MUST DO or SEE list. Satisfied that we have enough souvenir shots, we set off to the bridge. One thing one must be aware walking on this steel bridge are the bikes. Pedestrian and bikers share the same pathway, and 2-way traffic as well (?!), so you really have to be mindful. Check your left, your right, your front and your back at all times, especially during peak seasons when the bridge is full of sightseers. We decided not to walk all the way to the other side. I didn’t like the feeling of the bridge wobbling a little bit under my feet so when we reached halfway we decided to turn back.

Here are my collage of fotos:

It was a lovely blue skies day, great day to stroll on the bridge and take fotos.

We also saw serious warnings on the bridge:

This is not a joke, many suicides happen here.

Unfortunately, the Golden Gate Bridge is nicknamed as the ‘Suicide Bridge’ as there is no other bridge in the whole wide world that has had more suicides under its belt—over 1,200 on the counter, and sadly, counting. Thus the reason for the counselling and warning signs. I also noticed that there are no real safeguards on the bridge, it just takes a little bit of effort to climb on the rails and jump off. I hope the authorities can do something, perhaps install some kind of protection that does not disrupt the design and function of the bridge? I am sure I am not the first person to have said this.

Important facts for the visitor:

On both sides of the bridge there are beautiful lookouts with car parking, the one in the San Francisco side is paid parking while the lookout on the Marin County side is free.

There are no toll fees to get out of San Francisco by car, but to get into San Francisco by car, either through the Golden Gate Bridge or the Bay Bridge, you pay $5 at the tollgate—cash as they do not accept credit card.

Undercover Assignment on Market Street, San Francisco, USA

While having coffee in Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop on downtown Market Street, San Francisco City, we spotted this Filipino guy with big printed capital letters of the ‘Philippines’ on the back of his jacket. Great advertisement, I reckon. Keep it up!

Everything is Filipino about him, his jacket, his baseball cap, his looks of course and should I bet a hundred euros that he is singing a Tagalog/Filipino hip-hop song?

He was humming to a tune that we don’t really know because he was seated outside the coffee shop and we have this massive thick glass that separates us, but in any case, I can only surmise, by the way he is dressed up, perhaps along the hip-hop type of music. Then we realized that he was actually filming himself. Oh wow, this is so cool!

And the undercover agents in us thought—ah, we’ll help him, and film him as well =)

Umm, are we breaching privacy laws here? Aw, not really =)

There are unbelievably SO MANY Filipinos in California. When we landed in San Francisco Airport, we were welcomed by an array of coloured airport personnel, perhaps more than half were Asians. Filipinos? I was hearing Tagalog spoken, like in every corner I went to haha. When we left for Amsterdam, the guy who checked us in was a Filipino as well. He even said SALAMAT (thank you) to me =)

Nevertheless, here is another undercover assignment we did on Market Street. I guess we are feeling so very paparazzi today. Cannot help it if there are easy targets. Even if its a tad colder, the sun is shining, perhaps that is the reason why!

A few passers-by posed with the model for a foto as well.

The girl was really getting a lot of attention from passers-by and I respect her courage to walk on those skyscraper heels, as well as how she braved the 15C with a bare shoulder and without stockings weather for several hours... and not to mention that clown of a dress (looks cute though).

Travel Period: March 2011
Destination: San Francisco (California), USA

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dungeness Crab at the Fishermans Wharf: A must when visiting San Francisco

Before the trip, I knew about the ‘Dungeness Crab’ specialty in San Francisco, so I made sure that I treat myself to these delectable crabs. It is by far the most popular and most commercially important crab in the western states of America. A lot of people depend their living on this ten-legged creature, as well as the palates of many gastronomic sea food lovers, like me.

And although these crabs are not as massive as the king crabs you see on Discovery Channel’s ‘The Deadliest Catch’ series (I have watched this quite a few times, like, last night), they are still quite big for individual consumption. OK, maybe their size is just good enough =)

So where to go to get this sea fare goodness?

I like eating them at home or somewhere where it is not awkward to make your hands dirty and stinky, and your cheeks spattered with crab juice (eww, I know! haha), but for this Dungeness crab experience, I thought it’s best to eat them raw, right on where it was originally marketed, on the streets of San Francisco’s fishing harbour. That means heading off to the Fisherman’s Wharf.

There is a row of seafood stalls or crab stations that are still selling steamed Dungeness crab traditionally on the streets of the Fisherman's Wharf. Back then, crab food was for the poor, but this has changed nowadays when a piece of crab can fetch you $18, like my first crab order! Here, you can order your crab to-go or eat it on the spot while standing. There is also this ledge, a sill along the corridor where people can place their food fares and eat while they stand. Much better; I have actually done this =)

The other option is to sit inside a restaurant just beside the food stalls which was a no go for me as I prefer to be outside. Luckily, I found this crab station called Tarantino's located right on the main street with little coffee tables outside, thus on my second Dungeness crab for lunch (on a different day of course) I chose this place. Much easier to sit while eating than standing. The Dutchman who does not eat anything from the sea disappeared and scampered off to a nearby American fast food chain for some moo.

So what are my taste bud impressions? 5 Stars! Literally, I could not get enough of the Dungeness crab. So fresh, so meaty and just simply delicious.

In summary, the ‘Dungeness Crab’ experience is a MUST DO and MUST EAT when in San Francisco, unless of course you are like the Dutchman who is a sea food snob. He actually called me a ‘Crab Murderer’! Says it is hearltess of me to break the crab into pieces just to eat its white meat. I must admit though that on certain occasions I have similarly pitied the animals that met their fate on the human food chain, but tell me, what can I do when these yummylicious Dungeness crabs were actually beckoning, silently at me, saying, ‘Please! Eat me! EAT ME NOW!’—LOL.

Crab prices ($10 - $25 per crab) are based on weight, so the bigger it is, the more expensive.

Fotos of my Dungeness Crab experience:

Fresh Dungeness crab catches of the day. These are already steamed, thus are ready to eat.

Moi here enjoying my first Dungeness crab for this holiday.

The evidence against this crab murderer, haha.

The man who prepared my crab on the sea food stall, the Tarantino's where I had my second Dungeness crab on a different day of course, showed me the real thing:

These poor crabs are still alive and we actually saw them moving. Dutchman thought it was so sad. Aw.

Then they are thrown one by one into this big boiling water tanker to be cooked and then scooped out when ready.

Here are fotos of the rest of Fisherman’s Wharf sea food stalls and what they are selling:

Row of sea food specialty stalls or crab stations as they are popularly called locally. You have the option to eat the sea food fares outside while standing or sit in the restaurants inside or have them to-go.

The buzzing activity of the fish vendors in the Fisherman's Wharf . Many accept credit cards here as well, so convenient.

If you fancy Dungeness crab less, then you have a plethora of other sea food fare choices.

Tip: If you come very early in the morning at the Fisherman’s Wharf, you might see the fishermen at work in their fishing boats, as they unload their day’s catch at the marina.

I have actually wanted to do this but was too lazy =( to get my butt up very early in the morning. Helaas...

Friday, March 25, 2011

San Francisco Epicurean delights at the Fisherman's Wharf: Boudin and Ghirardelli

Two companies that profited from the California gold rush, managed to engrave their distinct brand on San Francisco's hills and live through the decades, in fact over a century. Boudin Bakery and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company are one of the oldest culinary companies that exists in the USA today.


Boudin Bakery, founded by French baker and immigrant, Isidore Boudin is largely known for its sourdough bread; a bread that is indeed sour because of the bacteria in it--a wild yeast or so it is called which makes the bread taste a bit acerbic. This yeast was successfully developed more than a century ago by Boudin, and the same method is still traditionally followed, up to this day.

The best known Boudin sourdough bread is the sourdough bowl that goes with Clam Chowder soup, see here for my post: Hot Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread, a very typically San Franciscan dish.

Its flagship bakery in Fisherman’s Wharf is also a museum. I didn’t go into the museum but did watch the bakers through the glass from the side street a few times while they mould the dough by the hand into interesting sea creature designs, which include a massive crocodile! This display of impressive baking and culinary artistic design skills always attracts all sorts of passers-by that it can get teeming with people outside the sidewalk busily clicking their cameras away. A free baking show!

Here are a few fotos of Boudin Bakery:

So what is sourdough? Read the above.

Big crocodile sourdough bread. The woman is making a miniature version.

And a dungeness sourdough crab as well! Very apt.

Boudin Bakery, Cafe and Museum.

A peek into the oven of Boudin.

Stuffing the dough with some paste in really quick moves!


Ghirardelli Chocolate company on the other hand was founded by an Italian immigrant, Domenico Ghirardelli who immigrated from Italy to South America (Lima, Peru) and was lured by the gold rush and sudden riches opportunity to California, USA.

The Ghirardelli Square in the Fisherman’s Wharf where many of the original factory and buildings of the Ghirardelli company, was declared in 1965 by the city of San Francisco as an official city landmark. The square has 2 Ghirardelli chocolate shops, the one by the entrance with the sundae shop is always jam-packed with people ordering their favourite hot fudge Ghirardelli sundae.

We had coffee in the other Ghirardelli chocolate and caffe shop located inside the square and I bought a small box of chocolates to give to the in-laws as a San Francisco souvenir present when we are back. I am not the chocolate sweet-tooth type so I didn’t buy anything for me, or rather, for us. Besides, these Ghirardelli shops are very generous; to every chocolate shop visitor, as a tease, they give away a free sample of Ghirardelli chocolate caramel square anyway. This sample is enough for me, in fact I got 3 chocolate caramel square samples and gave 2 to the Dutchman. I am probably one of the very few women in this world who do not fancy chocolate.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is now owned by Swiss chocolatier, Lindt and Sprungli (from Switzerland).

Fotos of Ghirardelli Square and the Chocolates:

The square that houses the original Ghirardelli buildings is actually an open little mall with a fountain.

We did not have chocolate drink, coffee instead =)

And an old advertisement of Ghirardelli's Chocolate drink.

Ghirardelli premium chocolates.

This is not a sponsored post.

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