Archive for the 'Food' Category

Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast – Part 2

February 9th, 2015

After 5 days in Naples, Bee and I moved to the relative tranquility of Sorrento, on the Bay of Naples, on the Amalfi Peninsula, and the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and Capri.  We had ten more days to explore this part of Italy, rich in History, Art and Nature.

We went to Capri on our first day there – the weather forecast was not ideal for the week to come and we thought we wanted to take advantage of a reasonable day to explore the island.

Unfortunately, two cruise ships had arrived overnight, and all passengers from the ships were also going to Capri.  Our ferry into the island was full and we could not get the return trip we wanted, so had a return earlier than we wanted initially.

Still, the day started positive – we booked a boat trip around the island, which included a visit to the Blue Grotto and wandered around the harbor while waiting for the departure.  It was very interesting to see that even though this is a very touristy island, there are still people here doing traditional work, such as fishing out of small boats.

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Here is a general view of the main harbour.  On the side of the mountain in the background, you can see the first few houses of the second town in Capri called Anacapri.

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Taxis on the island have been somewhat modified to cater to the expectations of local tourists.  It is obvious that the maximum expected speed on the island is very low, or this type of roof on a car would not survive very long.

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On the trip around the island, we first passed by the Blue Grotto.  We were told that unfortunately the tide and the wave were too high to be able to visit the grotto that day.  The entrance is very tight and it is often impossible to go through.  However, it looks like some people are making it, so I am not sure if the boat captain was telling us the truth or not.

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At the Western tip of the island, on Punta Carena, stands a very tall light house.  It is critical to mark the entrance to the Bay of Naples where there has been a busy port for many centuries.

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Again, we can see that normal life continues around tourism – this gentleman was fishing probably in the same way they were doing it 100 and 500 years ago!

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London 2013

January 4th, 2014

I do not want to be constantly late with new posts to my blog.  And I have also decided to try and be more regular in the posts, so those following me are not disappointed week after week when nothing new comes along.

I am not going to post something every week, but will try to do something at least monthly at the start.

And here we go with a short trip to London.  Since it was a short trip, I only took 4 cameras and not my big one! The pictures come from my little Casio Exilim and some have been “improved” in Photoshop with the treatment that I usually do with my regular photos.

Bee and I left work for the airport where we took a train to the Midi Station in Brussels and there caught the Eurostar to London. It was only my second trip on the train, and the first since the high speed rails had been opened in the UK.  It took us the better part of 20 minutes to go through Checkin, security and emigration – glad we were early.

We arrived in St Pancras and took the tube to Green Park where our hotel was.  Very nice location, but the hotel was a little dated for a Hilton.  We still had a nice room and it had all the amenities we would have expected.

As it was already late, we went to dinner in the neighbourhood and found a good Turkish restaurant.

The next day, the weather was not great so we decided to do museums.  We started with the Victoria and Albert Museum.  On the way there, we saw the Christmas Windows at Harrod’s which were quite nice.  V&A is a huge complex and it took us a while to get oriented.  We wanted to see the modern glass exhibit, but had to go through several others, very interesting sights just to get there.  We saw an exhibit of copies of famous statues and architectural pieces made in the 19th century.  Some of these were used to restore the original.  Also saw a great display of Chinese artefacts and clothing.

After a couple of hours we had enough so we went to China town for lunch.  Had one of the best Chinese food in a long time!

We bought tickets to the Opera – Mozart’s Magic Flute, tried to get reservations at Jamie Italian (they do not take reservations) and did our share of shopping at Kathmandu.  The opera was very nice, even though I was a little disappointed it was sung in English and not the original German.  However, now I understand the story a lot better and will enjoy it even more when I listen to it at home.  We tried Jamie Italian again – 45 minute wait at 9:40 PM so we went to another Italian Restaurant near Leicester Square

The weather on Sunday was great, so we went to Hampton Court.  An adventure to get there as the normal trains from Waterloo were cancelled due to maintenance work.  We took the Tube to Wimbledon then a replacement bus, which seemed to be taking forever.  I knew we were in trouble when the driver looked back and asked if anybody knew how to get to the station!  Fortunately, some one did and we got there in the end.  This is not the first time we had problems with drivers of replacement busses.

Hampton Court is really majestic and a great day trip from London. The main entrance at sunset!

When we paid our entrance fee, we were told that re-enactments would be going on throughout the day and the next one started in the main court at 11:00.  Since it was close to that time, we waited and sure enough a lady in period costume did show up and start telling us of her love story, not for the King but one of his aides.  However, the king was in love with her etc, etc, etc…

We followed along, and in the main dining room, we got the meet the king!

Of course, the story is full of intrigues and misunderstandings and political moves.

We stopped following it as the Royal Chapel was about to open.  In the chapel is a recreation of Henry’s own crown (the original was destroyed by Cromwell).  We had good audio guides so we continued the visit on our own.  We did the kitchen and we also did an exhibit on the life of Henry as a young man, up to his divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella who had reunited the crown of Spain and sponsored Columbus to look for an alternate way to India.  It was very well done as this also included the break-up of the Church of England when the English Cardinal who supported Henry could not convince the Pope to grant him a divorce.

We had lunch then spent some time in the gardens which are gorgeous as always in England

This swan came quite fast when he saw us – if he expected food, he was disappointed!

As I said, it was a beautiful day and the views of the palace were magnificent.  I was surprised to see palm tress in the garden! I wonder if they resist to the winter or have to be replaced every year? Continue Reading » (672 Page Views)

Portugal – Part 1

October 13th, 2013

In May, Bee and I spent two weeks traveling around Portugal. I had only spent a few days in Lisbon and therefore most of it was a new discovery for me as well.

We started in Porto. A beautiful ancient city on the Douro River. Walking around town, we ended up near our first church, not a major attraction as it is not even listed in our guide-book, called the Church of the Clergy (Igreja dos Clerigos) but decided to go in and marvelled at the intricate decorations inside – baroque at its finest (for some people I guess!)

What is more remarkable, and listed in the good book, is the Torre dos Clerigos, the church’s bell tower. The view from the top is reported to be quite nice, but 225 steps on a small spiral staircase and the line to buy tickets dampened our enthusiasm…

Much more impressive is the fortress-like Igreja da Misericordia. There is a small park in front of the church from which there is a spectacular view of the Douro River and the other bank, full of storage and ageaing warehouses for the Port.

This was taken inside Igreja de Sao Francisco, one of the best and most elaborately decorated churches in Porto. It is next to the Palacio da Bolsa (the local Chamber of Commerce) and attests to the wealth of the merchants, at one time, in this city. We visited the Bolsa as well. Continue Reading » (1451 Page Views)

Tuscany after New Year

August 5th, 2013

After five great days in Florence, Bee and I decided to go explore the Chianti area between Florence and Siena.  We took the long way there, stopping in Pisa first.  I had not been in Pisa for a few years and the last times I was there, the Campanile, also known as the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” was leaning a little too much and under severe renovations.  That is all done now, and the view coming into the Piazza dei Miracoli is back to where it should be, to me, one of the best sights in the world …

We started by visiting the Battistero, not visible on the picture above but facing the Cathedral.  The interior was surprising to say the least.  It looked as much as a formal meeting place for political discussions as a place where young babies are introduced to the Catholic faith.

You can climb the tower again.  This is done in groups of about 20 people every 1/2 hour.  You book your ‘time’ in advance and hope the weather does not change too much just before you get to go in.  It was threatening to rain, but held off while we were in line.  The visit begins inside, at the bottom of the tower which is hollow! I forgot that.  There is an explanation of the history of the tower and the restorations, which reduced the lean by a few degrees and actually stopped it from going further.  Quite a success considering that 10-15 years ago, people thought there was nothing to do and the tower would eventually collapse.

There are instruments inside the tower which measure its position to make sure that everything remains safe.

It is a bell tower and therefore there are bells at the top.  Here is a panoramic view of the carillon.  Being so close, I Was happy it was not time to ‘ring’ the hours, or call the faithful to mass.  That would have been very painful, I bet.

The view of the Piazza dei Miracoli from the top is spectacular.  The Cathedral is in front, obviously, then the Battistero and to the right, you can see the roof of the Campo Santo.  In the distance, Marina di Pisa, now a place where beachgoers go to private beach resorts but formerly the source of the wealth of Pisa with access to the Mediterranean Sea and the spice trade.

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Flash visit to Perth, Australia

February 23rd, 2013

I needed to be in Singapore for business for two weeks. During the week-end, Bee and I decided to make a quick jump to Perth to see friends I had not seen in over 4 years.  We arrived late on Friday night, actually very early on Saturday morning so we made a late start on Saturday.  We had lunch with Rajan, Julie and Georgia on the shore of the Swann River just to catch up on the last four years.  as it often is the case with good friends, it felt as if we had seen each other the previous week!

However, Georgia had changed a bit since the last time I had seen her…

We decided to have a pic-nic on the beach at Cotesloe – I had been there before, but never really had a chance to swim as I never came at this time of year.  We arrived around 5PM and had a quick swim first. The water was really nice and I felt refreshed.

We had a light pic-nic, with good wine! That is what we always did in the past too. Bee enjoyed the day.

and so did Georgia

Rajan had brought a special bottle of wine for the occasion.  We really enjoyed that.

Here is the full spread, with the view, Rajan and Julie

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MITRA – BRUXELLES – BELGIUM

June 18th, 2012

 

 

Restaurant Review – by pierreo

Name:            MITRA

Country:        Belgium

City:                Bruxelles

Address: Place St-Catherine 15
1000 Bruxelles – Belgium

Telephone: +32-2 217 9012

Map:

Review:

This is the best Thai Restaurant I have been to outside of South-East Asia.  I have lived 8 years in that region and visited most countries in and around Singapore.  I have had Thai food in most of them and really love it.  This is the first time I have experienced the same sensations and flavors outside of Asia.

MITRA can make authentic Thai food, but you have to ask for it!

We had the Green Papaya Salad and a Mango Salad that was made with fresh, sweet mangoes, not the green mangoes typically used.  Both were just as zingy as the real thing.  We asked the waiter, who spoke Thai to the chef, if this is the way they normally serve these dishes, and he admitted that they only did it this way because we asked.  So you have to ask!

We finished with Steamed Bar with Lemongrass, not Sea Bass, but almost as good.  The fish was not as big as the usual Sea Bass, but still plenty for us after the salads.  Once again, the spice level was similar to what I was used to, and it had all the flavors and smells that this dish is supposed to have.

I will come back – the cost was reasonable for two, with beers (Belgian beer of course!)

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Singapore and Bangkok

April 25th, 2012

On my way to and from Bhutan, you will see more on this later, I made whistle stops in Singapore and Bangkok.

I only stayed three days in Singapore, but had a great time thanks to my old Dragon Boating friends who all came to a party at Patrick’s Restaurant!

There have been quite a few additions to the team since I left Singapore!

We had a really good time, and before any of my (so called) friends make a regrettable comment about this picture, we did not, I repeat DID NOT do anything that we should not have – just having a good time.  Jessica certainly thought so …

Freddy does not need any instructions … but mother is watching carefully!

It was right around my birthday and so I was rewarded with a green cake! This is my skeptical look – wondering what it is made of.

The problem is that as you get older, the simplest things become harder and harder to do.  I am glad there was not the requisite number of candles on this cake or it would have (1) burned down the place and (2) taken me all night top blow them off!

I want to thank the photographer who obviously did not consider that memory, while cheap, still has a cost when you are traveling far from home and have to back-up each and every photo that is taken (with a size in excess of 30 mb each! in raw format)

I was a great evening that could only conclude with a family portrait with the whole (almost) gang.  Too bad that Ben and Vincent could not make it!

Patrick and Geraldine, you have a great place and the food is fantastic! Everything I remembered and better.  Please keep it up so that I can come again next time I am in town.

On the way back from Bhutan, I spent just one day in Bangkok, and one night at the Hilton right on the river.  The view from the room was great.  Too all the photography buffs out there, this is a composite of 10 shots taken late at night, though the hotel window and without a tripod or a remote control!

No other pictures from Bangkok as I spent most time shopping! Yes, I caught the bug (well actually not, but there were very important things I Needed to get while in Bangkok, and did get).  Had a really great meal not far from the hotel in a restaurant right by the river.  A mixture of Tourist and Local place with really authentic Thai food! Yum just thinking about it.  Just a very quick entry to keep you ‘amused’ while I sort and improve the picture from Bhutan.  They will be coming later … soon … when I get to it OK? (702 Page Views)

Loire Valley – Episode 1

August 3rd, 2011

As indicated in the last post, I spent a week along the Loire River in June.  It was a very relaxing vacation.

After a half day drive (I Left Brussels very early in the morning) I made it to Blois for lunch.  I walked around the town for a while before sitting down to eat in front of the famous castle (one of many…).  Here is the view of the old city with the Loire River in the background.

Here is another view with the beautiful cathedral

I went to visit the Cathedral which shows the typical Gothic style of the time it was built.

Actually, the current church is build on top of an earlier edifice, much smaller and in Roman style.

Part of the old church remains underneath the new one!

This is the back side of the Chateau de Blois (1)

And here is the view of the front entrance.  It is not very impressive from the outside, but a lot better once you get in…

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Singapore Visit

April 4th, 2010

After Laos (I will cover that trip later), I spent 10 days in Singapore.  I realized as I was there that this is the first time that I am visiting Singapore – all my other stays were either on business, or because I was living there.  For the first time, I was a tourist, and I acted like one…

On the Saturday, I was lucky to be able to attend the EM Dragon Boat Carnival, an annual affair that has been growing each event.  There were over 80 teams entered this year.

From the start

To the finish

All teams worked really hard to do the best they could.

For me, this was an opportunity to see a lot of my friends and I spent most of the time walking around from one team to another reminiscing…  The weather was not very good that day.  As a matter of fact, it rained most of the time.  I decided to leave after the inter-site race, which was fortunately scheduled early this year.  Chemical won again, proving that last year was no fluke!

On the Sunday, things were more serious for me.  The main reason for this whole trip was the Aviva ½ Ironman to be held once again on the East Coast.  For Richard and I, this would be our fourth participation – Dave had done the last two with us and therefore he will be doing his third.  I left the hotel very early (around 5 AM) as I was awake anyway. 

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Japan – Himeiji, Kyoto and Mt. Fuji

June 22nd, 2008

Sorry for the delay in this last installment.  It was a combination of: diving trip to Manado, too much to do and computer problems.  Problems solved; need a little rest and no diving, hence, I am back…

From Hiroshima, we went to Kyoto, with a stop in Himeji.  This is where one of the best preserved, original feudal Japanese Castle is located.  The approach already tells you that this is something special

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We were guided inside the castle by a very nice volunteer guide on the left …

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I tried to visualise in my mind what this picture would have looked like a few weeks before, when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom …

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From Himeji it was back on the Shinkansen and off to Kyoto.  This was not my first visit to this city.  I had been there in 1985 and 2006, and really enjoyed both visits.  I was hoping to see a side of Kyoto I had not before, and I certainly did.

On the first evening, we went “Geisha” hunting.  Very quickly, we had initial success, but at a distance

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We had mixed success later until we ran into this beauty just coming around the corner

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On the second day, we went to visit a few of the ‘highlights’ of Kyoto.  First, the most famous ‘rock garden’ in Japan – we were there early and therefore the crowd was sparse.  Some of us took this opportunity to practice the meditation techniques learned in Koya San

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Then, the golden Pagoda

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We had an opportunity to participate in a ‘true’ tea ceremony

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and had, of course, another memorable meal

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I left Kyoto early so that I could spend a whole day near Mt Fuji.  It was quite an ordeal just to get there, and made me appreciate all the efforts of Hiro for the rest of the trip…

I took the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Mishima, a small station where only one in 5 or 6 trains stop.  There I had ten minutes to find a bus for Kawaguchi-Ko station.  First, I came out the wrong side of the station – the attendants at a shop were kind enough to redirect me after looking at the ticket I had (thanks Hiro for getting that for me).  On the North side of the station, no indications of any bus going to Kawaguchi-Ko.  I ask at the ticket office and am told that the bus leaves from stop number 2.  At stop number 2, there is a bus for Gotemba Station.  Just in case, I go in and ask the driver, who seems to say No!.  So I exit the bus, ready to wait for the next bus, but he calls after me, and explains that I need to change bus at Gotemba Station.  So I get in and an hour later, we get to Gotemba station.  The driver indicates stop 6 for Kawaguchi-Ko.  A bus is waiting, and the driver nods Yes when I ask about Kawaguchi-Ko – good sign.  The schedule says we are supposed to get there at 17:51.  At 17:46, we pull into what clearly looks like a train station, so I get ready to get off the bus … but the driver stops me, indicating this is not it yet.  5 minutes later, we pull into Kawaguchi-Ko station.

I had reserved at a local Ryokan and they indicated that they would pick me up at the station.  All I had to do was call when I arrived.  However, the web site also said that the staff had only limited knowledge of English.  The last test of the day was coming up.  I call the Ryokan and after greetings in poor Japanese, I ask if anybody spoke English and there was a long silence … some one else came on the line and I asked if they could pick me up at the station.  There was no immediate reaction, than I gave my name stating that I had reservation.  In very poor English, I guessed I heard “arrived” and “station” – when I said Yes, I was told 10 minutes and the line went dead.

All I had to do now was wait and hope.  10 minutes later a minibus from the Ryokan pulled up and I was on my way to the hotel.  Great place, very comfortable and great location.  All was GOOD.

Next day was my one chance to see Mt Fuji.  I went back to the station to go to the tourism office.  There I was told there were no buses up the mountain as the roads were still covered in snow.  However, they gave me a map that showed the way up the mountain, and I decided to walk towards the approach.  The sky was partly cloudy, so I had some hope.  About 5 km out of twon, I was walking along the road looking directly at the mountain.

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Unfortunately, the clouds were still there …

In the afternoon, I decided to go around the Kawaguchi-Ko lake.  There too, there are wonderful views of Mt. Fuji reflecting into the lake waters.

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The clouds are still there

For sunset, I took a cable car to the top of hill that overlooks Mt Fuji.  Here I am in front of the mountain.

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Unfortunately, there is still a cloud between me and the mountain.

I guess I was destined no to see it! The next day, the clouds were still there and I decided not to wait and see if they would lift. I took a train to Otsuki, than one to Tokyo and finally to Narita where I arrived in the early evening.  I stayed at the Hilton Narita – my first real bed in 14 days; I had dinner at the hotel restaurant where I had steak and chocolate cake – my first western meal in 14 days.

Every time I go to Japan, I discover new aspects of the culture and society that leave me wanting more.  We explored aspects of food and culture I had never seen before and I am left with more hunger than when I started.  I know I will be back exploring the North of Honshu and Hokaido next time. (916 Page Views)

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