Saturday, May 31, 2014

Postcards from Eger, Lillafured & Miskolc (Hungary)

Beautiful towns and cities in the north eastern part of Hungary.

Except for Eger, I did not really encounter tourists. In Miskolc, people were staring at me because I guess I stood out. The only coloured person in town with a little camera =)

Eger

Eger is perhaps the most picturesque but it is undergoing a massive street renovation in the city centre.


Panoramic view of the city from the castle ruins.


Lillafured

Lillafured is a nice nature oasis in the mountains that locals love to hie away during the weekend or on special public holidays. I have even seen school excursions here.


The tallest waterfalls in Hungary is found here at Lillafured, 12 kilometres from Miskolc.


The palace hotel with hanging gardens in the forest mountains.

Miskolc

Miskolc on the other hand is a thriving city with lovely pastel-coloured architecture.


The main downtown street of Miskolc is a pedestrian and trams only zone.


Soon, more about these gorgeous Hungarian little cities.

Travel Period: May 2014
Destination: Eger, Lillafured & Miskolc (Northern Hungary), Hungary

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Postcards from Oradea (Romania)

And another not so touristy city under my belt: ORADEA

I tell you I am having sleepless nights about Romania. I have only seen a glimpse of this amazing country through Oradea and I cannot wait to see more. Hmm, I may need to plan my next trip to Romania very soon. To Transylvania (Sibiu, Brasov, Sighisoara)! Yes please....


Beautiful Hotel Astoria and Crown Pub.


A graduation ceremony (I pretended to be part of the group to get in, lol) held inside the lovely Oradea Theater.


Yours truly after gate crashing the graduation ceremony haha.


Stunning Baroque Art Nouveau architecture in Oradea: The Black Eagle Palace and old world trams.


The Oradea City Hall (on the right) along the Crisul Repede river.

More soon about Oradea...

Travel Period: May 2014
Destination: Oradea (Bihor County), Romania

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Postcards from Debrecen (Hungary)

Well it is a lovely change to be in a not touristy place! I have seen a few tourists here and there though but very, very few and far in between. I must have reached a ceiling in this travelling game because low-key cities like Debrecen are now high up my alley.


At the Debrecen's main square: Kossuth Square


The modern and old trams run side by side in Debrecen.


The beautiful Deri Museum.

Travel Period: May 2014
Destination: Debrecen, Hungary

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Experiencing Laid Back Spain at Girona Ticketing Train Station

Spain and the Mediterranean in general are a different world altogether in Europe. Life, as well as business just tends to go slow, and in the afternoon depending on which sector, things may not only dawdle but stand still. Which is perhaps the reason why countries down south are the best places in Europe, apart from the climate of course, to holiday.

In addition, the food is great. Plus there is culture. Oh yes, did I say it’s relaxed? Yep, we got it. Everything can wait while you enjoy that glass of chilled sangria or have your 30-minute siesta nap. Disfrutar de la vida!

Nevertheless, let me tell you a little observation I had at the Girona train station.


I queued up at the ticketing office to buy my train ticket to Carcassonne, France. It was close to mid-day and the ticketing area started to become really busy, unfortunately there were only two cashiers open. Although at the back of the office I could see five more people milling about on their desks. I have no idea what they were doing really except that only two cashiers are serving queues that almost stretched the entire lobby of the train station.

Whilst in the middle of this queue-long lock situation, one of the cashiers excused himself and closed his window. I am not sure where he went. Perhaps to the toilet to relieve himself? Take a break? I stood there dumbfounded that someone could actually do that in front of a long queue of prospective customers. He did came back after about 10 minutes and resumed ticketing operations. Moreover, none from the group of desk people behind the ticketing office ever lifted their finger to help, nor even took notice that there are two long queues to be served.

No one. Nada. Niks. Nein.

Not a single one from the Girona train personnel seem to really see the obvious need to assist? But what is more perplexing was that the locals queuing up were cool about it. They didn’t seem to mind at all, except moi who was quite baffled why no one is taking action. We all just stood there waiting... at their beck and call. And those that had their moment with the cashier took their time, not really caring much that a queue-long of people were waiting. There is no need to hurry.

I am a business person and for me time = money. And the same goes for efficiency, customer service (experience/satisfaction) and turn-around time.

It is amazing to see (time and time again) that this is just pretty normal in Spain. The laid back approach. The come what may mind set. The waiting game. Relax. Calm down. Don’t worry. Don’t stress out the little things. CHILL. Be happy. Be content. It is just an ordinary day.

Sometimes I think that this is actually the secret to enjoying life to the fullest. Alright, be patient with me now. I am learning, I tell you.

More pictures at the Girona train station:


Figueres-Vilafant is the last train station/stop of Spain before entering the border to France. All trains make a changeover or transfer here.


Travel Period: November 2013
Destination: Girona (Catalonia), Spain

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Dinner at Ron Gastrobar in Amsterdam

Let's back track in time, to Christmastime last year =)


Light Dinner at Ron Gastrobar
Website: Ron Gastrobar

In December of last year, Bru and I went to celebrate our holiday season's dinner which was just a few days before Christmas at Ron Gastrobar in Amsterdam Zuid. This is a relatively new restaurant last year and quite famous as well because the owner is the Netherland's renowned and crowned 2-star Michelin topchef Ron Blauw (from the Ron Blauw restaurants).

Ron Blauw Restaurants have ceased operations though and as told in the local news the acclaimed chef wanted something else in his career. He found a new mission. He wants to bring haute cuisine to everyday people by making it affordable. I can only think along the DISRUPT logic. Many businesses in general nowadays have adopted this type of philosophy in order for them to stay competitive in the market. Although I am not sure if this was his goal. When you are accomplished in your field, sometimes money is not anymore the motivating factor. You just want to make a statement.

Nevertheless, Ron Gastrobar was opened serving affordable (all dishes at 15 euros!), modern and hip haute cuisine food to the supposed to be less uptight crowd, and in just a year's time from its opening the restaurant received its first 1-Michelin star. Great job huh?

This is perhaps the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the Netherlands. But I do warn you, it really is not  that cheap as cheap. If you want to eat right, you will pay at least 70-100 euros for 2, which of course is much cheaper than the usual Michelin starred restaurants. The 15-euro dishes are small and you need to have at least 2 + drinks + coffee + something else maybe, you get the drill =)


So we started with some bread (in the paper pouch) with butter and cracklings (this was GORGEOUS!) and some marinated preserved olives.


We did not reserve a table so they gave us a seat at the bar.


But then one of the staff re-seated us and gave us the best seat at the bar. We have the whole view of everyone at the bar =) Nice, thanks!


The menu is printed in newsletter-style and with the Merry Christmas message. This was after all last December.


A little 'haute' burger.


Grilled cray fish on a bed of spinach.


Three types of stinky cheeses with fruit bread and jam.


Little ice cream desserts. Yummy!


The restaurant has its own dry aged meat collection for the serious meat eater.


Then we had coffee but I have no idea what these condiments were, except for the white which is I am sure is sugar.


I had a good time here at Ron Gastrobar and the food was quite good. 4.3 stars out of 5 in my book. Although I must admit that I did expect more.

I guess this is the hardest part for a chef and restaurant owner who is much accomplished in his career. Your previous credentials follow you everywhere and your present ventures are judged based on them.

Visit Period: December 2013
Destination: Amsterdam Zuid (Amsterdam - North Holland), The Netherlands

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Panoramic Views of Barcelona

Taken from the tower of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia...


The entrance to the tower is a separate fee and you are taken up by a lift and you have the option to take the lift back down or hike the stairs. I like to keep my life simple so I took the lift both ways.

Views from the Sagrada Familia tower were spectacular! More information about the towers here: Sagrada Familia Towers

What makes it more spectacular than it already is... was because I went there at the end of the day. The sun was bellowing its last breath and from afar I could see the horizon changing its colours from blue to orange and yellow. Breathtaking. The pictures I took doesn't really do justice to what I have seen and experienced.

I love panoramic views like these. Sometimes I wish I am an eagle that flies above cities and places. As I fly to my next destination, I look down to appreciate the gorgeous views and contemplate on the restless scene of everyday life below me.


Somehow the views and layout of Barcelona reminds me of Paris.


One of the square parks (there are two) flanking Sagrada Familia Church.


Sunset is inevitable.


The narrow stairs going down. It is quite open and a bit scary because the protection legde on the left is not that high. Anyone can fall down through the crack you know, which is why children up to 6 are not allowed here and up to 16 should be supervised.


Souvenir picture in the tower, using a flash this time as it is too dark inside.


The tower hole. Glad I did not have to walk down.


Travel Period: November 2013
Destination: Barcelona (Catalonia), Spain

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