[travel] The cats of Anafiotika, Athens… and other things…

If there is only one place to go in Athens, I’d head straight to Anfiotika.
Don’t get me wrong. Athens is quite an amazing city. The Acropolis is mindblowing. The food amazing and the coffee incredible. Athens, in a way, reminds me a lot of Hanoi–that bustling, chaotic city with too much heat and too much traffic. Just like how I cannot quite identify my feeling for Hanoi, be it love, fear, hatred, confusion–I am not sure how I felt about Athens. Athens is so different from the Western European cities I have been to; it possesses a totally different vibes from Mediterranean destinations I have visited. I tell everyone I know to visit Athens because, heck, it’s cheap, and I usually stop there.

But if there is one place that makes me want to go back to Athens, again and again and again, it must be Anafiotika.

Continue reading

[travel] Snapshots from Lisbon: fish & pastries & fish pastries

My body was ready for the fabled pastel de nata. That Portuguese pastry, with which I have been harboring a hopeless helpless love for years, was the main reason I booked my tickets to Lisbon. I am well acquainted with this creamy, flaky custard tarts; back in the days in Hong Kong, the bf and I found every chance to indulge ourselves in this precious golden pastry, and I sometimes had to resort to those feeble tarts in Seoul to satisfy my sweet tooth. It was a religious moment when I brought myself to the most famous, oldest pastel de nata cafe in Belém, when I finally saw those real authentic beauties with my own eyes and carefully savored them as tears came out of my eyes and all those wasted years of eating the second-rated tarts flashed by with a tinge of shame and regret.

As much as I adored egg tarts, Lisbon’s culinary scene turned out to spread farther and wider than those pastries. Lisbon has to be my food city in Europe, everything was so cheap and so good, so authentic and so hearty. For 5 days there my belly was filled to the seams with amazing seafood, sensational pastries and, well, let’s throw in some alcohol to make everything jollier, shan’t we?

Continue reading

[travel] Snapshots from Lisbon: the joy of walking

As I mentioned earlier, taking in the view of Lisbon from one of its many miradouros is hands down the ultimate Lisbon experience. But don’t ever think only from a high altitude can you enjoy Lisbon’s distinctive beauty, a walk through the streets of this fine city, especially in Alfama–the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon, is nothing sort of an incredible experience.

Continue reading

[travel] Snapshots from Lisbon: a guide to Miradouro

Finally, finally I got around to write about Lisbon–the last city I visited during my winter break. I booked roundtrip tickets to Lisbon on a whim, simply because the prices on easyJet were tempting and because I wanted to fill my free days with as much traveling as possible (come to think of it, during my 5 week winter break, I only spent 3 days at home!). I did not expect much, to be honest. All that I had known of Lisbon and Portugal were 1) my favorite pastry in the world aka pastel de nata aka egg tart came from Lisbon so I was sure in for a treat and 2) Portugal is not Spain. Confident with my immeasurable knowledge of the world, I hopped on a late flight and arrived in Lisbon at 11pm on a fine winter night.

Continue reading

[travel] Highlights from Vienna

I have so many fantasies about Vienna, or may I call it, Wien. Listening to The Blue Danube played by Vienna Philharmonic every New Year’s Eve has become a ritual. In my heart, Wien is all about the classical, classic, and classy; Wien for me is elegant, resplendent, and dignified. Wien for me is Lacrimosa’s Nachtschatten–calm, imposing, and beautiful..

Und so treffe ich Dich in Cannes
Und vielleicht auch schon in Rom
Vielleicht bin ich der Mann
Der Dich anruft wenn Du einsam bist
Im Grandhotel in Wien

I had so many expectations before coming to Wien that somehow the whole trip, in the end, felt flat. I am so sorry to say this. I wanted to love Wien so badly, but it turned out that for me, Wien was fine and nice, but hardly left on me a lasting impression.

Continue reading

[travel/leisure] Tulips galore: a day in Keukenhof Garden, Lisse, the Netherlands

Warning: heavy flow of photos ahead.

I’m sure we all have heard about the fabled Keukenhof of the Netherlands, otherwise known as ‘the garden of Europe’, where, every Spring, around 7 million bulbs of flowers vie with each other demanding we miserable ugly human beings’ attention and admiration. The legend is true. But, oh, the legend you hear is nothing compared to what you can actually see in Keukenhof in real life.

As an expat living in the Netherlands (or anywhere in Europe for that matter), not making a pilgrimage to Keukenhof from mid-March to mid-May every year is a crime. Simple as that. I am all for a clean record, so, yesterday, amid a shitstorm of papers, assignments and other unnamed tasks, a friend and I still braced ourselves for an adventure into the real heart of this windmill-tulip-clog-cheese-dike country.

Continue reading

[travel] What is there in Cologne?

Apart from this?

After a stressful flight from Rome to Amsterdam, I got back to my room in Utrecht at 11:30pm on 17 January 2014. I rushed to do laundry, check emails, and do some very very last minute packing for yet another adventure the next day. Yes, I have to get up at 5am to catch my 6am train for Cologne. Guys, this is seriously strenuous alright. After 1 week of non-stop sightseeing in Italy, a flight + train ride + biking back, a few hours of doing laundry and waiting for my clothes to dry, I have 3 hours of sleep before getting back to the road.

Given my fragile state on that day, it is no surprise that I did not enjoy Cologne very much.

Continue reading