First stop – Florence

flew to Florence the very moment my program stops (12 hours after my final paper – enough time to pack my 4 months all together in one suitcase, 1 duffle bags and 1 huge handbag (i learn how to stuff/ throw away stuffs after 7 years of studying abroad). Florence welcomed me and Bella (Bella flew in from London) with a relatively warm weather (at the time it was cooler than Barcelona, but now that I am comparing to Boston, hmm).

The moment we puts down our bags in a little cute B&B and unpack our camera, we literally ran outside to the streets. Though the city is tiny, it is packed with museums ( 30 to say the least). Fortunately, we have little arguments of which to see so picking out POIs was easy. Of course, we had to head over to Accademia Gallery to pay the perfectly sculpted David a visit. It’s a master piece so yes, it was very beautiful, given the fact that it was created in the early 16th century. What was more interesting was how other sculptures of the same timeline were presented along the walk toward David. It has no doubt, built up anticipation, but it also emphasized the expertise of Michelangelo. A must see – I would say.

We wandered around the city a little bit as almost all the museums closed around 3-4pm (except those of Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo). Duomo – OMG – was beautiful. It was not an elegant simple looking church but its vibrant colors will literally stop you for a few seconds. We stopped here for half an hour I think for photo takings. Just a lovely place, I should have walked in, though :(.

We were hungry by then and stopped for a random pizza near the church, but man it was good, a lil expensive (compare to other place in Florence, only). Another post on food in florence shall be posted. And gelato of course, before heading to the Museum of Gucci – this, also, deserves a separate entry! No further ado, here are the pictures, and they shall speak for themselves ;), how beautiful this lovely city is.

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Home or where the heart belongs

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Finally, after 20 (21) days of constant travels, I am finally back “home”, to where my car and a permanent phone number reside. Though all my friends were complaining about feet of snow and the polar vortex, I was so happy to see them. Europe had a Black Christmas and though I adored the 40s weather, I secretly wished for some little white flakes to fall.

Quickly, very quickly though, my feet miss hours of walking through the little streets in a bearable weather. The 20s weather really freezes me to the bone and I could hear them on strike after a couple of minutes outside. I can feel lipid depositing and my body adapts absurdly rapid to the new lifestyle. All I did for a whole day was laying on bed, with netflix and cuddling. My limbs refuse to even type and hence, the delay in updating my blogs, though I promise myself to blog everyday the moment I am back.

Regardless, here I am, now that the temperature is more breathable and I have successfully pulled myself out for a short walk (10 minutes walk is nothing compared to all days walking the months before that), I have all the energy to type again (didn’t know writing requires much of calories huh). Can’t wait to share all the pictures with you! 10 cities in 20 days, so much things that I learnt and captured.

Prague – the heaven of Bohemian food

I seldom book Michelin Star restaurants when I travel. Besides the very obvious reasons that I need to save to spend on activities (#collegestudentproblem), I want to experience the street food, the typical restaurants that tourist/ local run into, and also to let myself indulge when it wants too, instead of following the booking hour). I arrived to Prague on Friday and reached to the my “home” at 8pm. By the time Bella and I were in the center, it was almost 10pm. We were starving and decided to order separate portions (my apologise for not remembering the name of the restaurants, I am bad at names and non-English names scare me off). The portions are very generous in Prague (in all three restaurants that we went to) and we had leftover for breakfasts.

We did not follow any recommendation but intuition when choosing restaurants in Prague. Apart from the price, the quality of food were consistent, all very lovely done! From the street vendor (2 euro for a huge sausage) to the restaurants opposite the famous clock! So unless there is any restaurants that you really wish to try, I suggest just take a stroll and stop whenever a restaurant appeals!

My only recommendation for place is a street vendor for sausage: as you walked down from the West side of the castle, you will run into three small vendors with twisted potatoes, refael and hotdog (50koruna/each), have as much as you can!

Bohemian dishes are very bold, meaning, they eat almost everything from the animal, aka, pork knee, pork cheeks, pork neck. I loved them but I understand many will find these disturbing :). Come with bravery and I promise you a burst of flavors!

Food to try (you will regret if you don’t): Trdelnik, pork knee, pork cheek, roasted duck, Prague sausage.

I am pretty sure that I will revisit Prague one day, so guys! if you have any suggestions on Czech food, please advise me!

E.

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Prague – a tales that never ends

Prague makes me feel like I’m living in a fairy tales. The architectures, the details, the scriptures, those turquoise domes, the gothic arts, the archeology clock, the squares, those castles, the bridge, the small little shops, the cobblestone roads. There were nothing more I can ask for. Bella and I had the best trip of our life, no joke. We felt in love with the city, from the very first time in the city (let’s just exclude the journeys from and to the airports) till the very last moment.

The city reminds me of my childhood tale: The little match girl. The weather was beautifully cold (I know it sounds weird but Prague is just one of the cities that unveil their charms as the temperature drops). We spent hours and hours walking and walking from islands to islands, just letting the scent of burnt sugar, hot coffee and happiness sipping through every cell. I kinda had my first snow (2-3 seconds of rainy snow) in Prague and I was so contented I thought I could die without regret.

But it was not only the city that made the trip a fairy tale. Bella and I did not fight, not even for a second, something that seemed impossible! They say some people grow apart as they grow apart, but I am blessed to know and feel that we are closer day by day. I certainly do not wish our relationship to be a myth like fairy tales, but I do pray for a happily ever after.

I can never emphasize enough the significance of Prague in my heart. I know it sounds hypocrite (honestly, I only spent roughly 50hours in the city) but really, make Prague your destination on your trip in Europe, and you will not be disappoint, I promise. Whatever expectations I had of Europe, it had it all (except for the different currency).

Many pictures were taken. Many memories were created, many thoughts were shared. And thus, an entry would never be enough. These posts are my attempts to translate my experience with the lovely city into words. I shall be quick, as feelings stay but details fade.

Must see places: The National Museum, Municipal House, the Castle, St. Nicholas, the Clock, Old Town Square, Charles bridge, the Dancing House [ we did not make it there though)

Transportation: Metro and trams are relatively cheap, unless you happen to pump into an inspector

Activities: Segway tour (sooooo much fun!), and get lost in Prague!, travel by foot in the Old Town center, pictures pictures pictures, by paintings, and have as much Prague sausages (food) as possible!

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Dos Palillos Restaurant

Again, I searched for the top 10 restaurants in Barcelona. This time, though I decided to only tackle a few. Reasons: I am trying to maintain my weight while enjoying fresh baked bread (why can’t I have it in America???), and handmade gelato. And also, I have been receiving recommendations and strangely enough those restaurants did not make it to the top 10. Being me, I value my friends suggestion more than TimeOut so I reserved the places for other places like Abac, Tickets, Comerc 24, etc.

Nevertheless, I took the walk to Dos Palillos for a try. And I am so so so glad I made it. I will take my little sister – Bella here when she comes (if she decides to move those fingers to book tickets…). So a little bit of background on the chef, I know I usually don’t share these facts, but I got so excited and hopeful for a great meal after reading information about Raunch, the head chef. So here it is:

- Worked in El Bulli for 10 years, in charge of building up recipes and books

- Travel with Ferran many times

- And if that was not enough, he was awarded a Michelin Star for Dos Palillos

I was so determine to get a table but decided to try my luck the next day. My class finished at 12.40 so I walked from there to the place and hang around the area till 1.30 – right when it opened. I thought I would be the first one but no a couple made it before me. Guess they must have walked in while I was browsing some book at the bookstore opposite.

I was directed to the asian bar (with an open kitchen). I think the space was very well designed, simple and clean-cut, very homy yet luxurious. I went for the Festival Tasting Menu (10 dishes vs 13 dishes for Grande Festival Menu). I choose to replace the seaweed salad for Vietnamese spring roll (no offense but I regret it deeply).

Presentation: no doubt, perfect, simple, elegant, great emphasize on the main ingredient

Staff: in this case, chef, they prepare and serve you the dishes right away, much like a bartender

Service: very attentive, the food keeps coming out with negligible waiting time. Bad thing about this is that at the end, I feel like stuffing myself, literally. But I believe that with such a long list of tapas dishes to serve, in 2.5 hours, that was the only way to do it.

Atmosphere: most of people came in pair. Everyone was sharing their work and experiences with moderate noise, and you can always hear (and see) what happens in the kitchen, so it was very lively to dine in the restaurant. Very Spanish, shall I say?

Food: Unique, distinct, mesmerizing and yummy combinations of flavor. I will provide my detailed opinion about each dish below. However, except for the lightly torched calamari, which earned me two free desserts (which I was too happy to forget to photograph them), I enjoyed my meal very much. Oh and to the Vietnamese out there, the spring roll is a Chinese version … (I complained it to the chef so hopefully they will make some changes lol). Must try dish: the seaweed salad (okay, let me be honest, I did not try the dish but looking at the delicate process of putting 5 different seaweeds together (he looked like he’s making art, right there), in a stone bowl with 3 (or 4) types of clams stimulated my gland to the core), lobster tail, burger, and Iberico pig in Cantonese style!

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Always start with a cocktail – Lychee infused sake, more like lychee infused water with a very light hint of sake, to clear out your tastebud. Me gusta!

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Alaska king crab leg in Japanese spices, yumm

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Japanese picked vegetable

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Lobster tail and spinach in vinegar <3
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Marinated mackerel and fish floss

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Seared calamari and yuzu juice
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Calamari kimchi – The kimchi was perfectly fermented but the squid, well I just can’t take raw squid

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Cherry tomato tempura. Gosh those things burst in your mouth, like I had to resist myself groaning

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Grilled unagi – the best!

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Shrimp dumpling – light and delicate, though I prefer those a DimSum shop in Boston
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Nippon Burger, perfectly cooked with Chinese bun – reminded me lots about home

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The meal ended with Iberico pork in Cantonese Style. Though it was very fatty, despite how full I was, I was very tempted to order an a la carte for this dish

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Strawberry jam mochi with matcha powder. Though I prefer mochi ice-cream, the jam was very freshly made, given that I am extremely allergic to artificial jam

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He must love strawberry. Here is shaved ice with Strawberry syrup and sesame sauce

Overall, I really enjoyed my lunch in the restaurant. The chef was very friendly and attentive. I highly recommend to stop by the restaurant if you are in Las Ramblas (oh well, you know you will be in the area at least once, if not all the time during your visit ;)). Drop a line and let me know what you think!

E.

Fabulous Finds

The chess board at BNC

The chess board at BNC

 

What I love about Barcelona is that one will always discover new little things (shops and cafe mostly), no matter how many times you have been to the area. Most of the times, I wish I had discovered these earlier, just to make my life a lot easier. But well that’s part of the fun of living in a foreign place, isn’t it?!

I will try to make a list like these every few weeks, hopefully it can come handy to those who are in Barcelona, for travel, for work, for study or just simply to discover your own city more!

I stumbled upon this scrapbooking shop Scrap House y mas and spent almost 20 euro on stickers (they have an awesomely pretty and affordable collections of supplies – I think I would get a bill of almost 50, for buying those in FNAC) [Metro: Catalunya]

Nearby is a skate-shop, hosting one of the most unique boards I have ever seen. [Metro: Catalunya]

El Colectivo is a very neat cafe for a calm morning with cafe con leche and catching up the news. Properly brewed cafe, I must say! [Metro: Catalunya]

The place to go for wine! Vila Viniteca. Try Bott Geyl Gewurztramier Les Element 2011 if you enjoy sweet (with a hint of rose) wine.  [Metro: Catalunya]

“The Library” – not open for public, but the garden is worth seeing, and you can play chess with chess pieces as tall as your a 3 year old kid. [Metro: Catalunya]

Paella is not rocket science with this recipe. First time and it was a grand success.

How was your week? Did you find any interesting stores in the area? Please share!

E.

A walk around the neighborhood

Do you sometimes have the feeling of just wanting to splurge? I get that a lot, not on monetarily (since that would have to depends on my monthly allowance) but in caloric term. I had a really good sleep last night, finally falling asleep before 1am and slept heavily till 9am. I woke up and feel the urge to go to a cafe shop for tea and breads. But guess what, I have my own balcony (mucho pequeno pero buen), my favorite jar of tea leaves from Fortnum&Manson is still in the cupboard, and I have at least 5- 7 bakeries within 3 blocks of my house. And a beautiful bouquet was sent with love from London.

So this is what happened. Now I am writing this while sipping tea and enjoying the gentle Mediterranean sunlight. Sounds like a dream, but everything can happen if you believe ;)!

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Purple rose

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No present is complete without a hand-written card (Even if it’s written by the florist <3)

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Since I don’t have a table, my chair shall be my table and the floor shall be my chair

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Panellets de pinyons; Caramel pie with sesame, pine and pumpkin seeds; and heart shaped pastry (sorry I can’t rmb the name)

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The pastries are bought at 3 different places: Turris, Macxipan, and a local little bakery. My favorite of all is the Caramel nuts pie (Turris) and Panelletes from the local shop)