Friday 28 December 2012

Getting Around Paris

There are a lot of options available to tourists wanting to get around Paris. Two of the most popular, aside from walking, is taking the bus or the metro. Every time we visit Paris, the big K and I prefer to take the metro because it's faster and more convenient.

Don't be confused! There are two kinds of trains in Paris, the RER and the Metropolitain or metro for short. The RER (Réseau Express Régional) are suburban trains that take you to/from Paris and its outskirts. While the metros are the Paris subway (some are overhead) trains that go around the city. 

If you will be arriving at CDG airport (Paris Charles De Gaulle), one option to get into Paris is by the RER ligne B. It is about a 45 minute train ride. One-way fare as of Oct2012 is EUR9,50. Most passengers get off at Gare du Nord to transfer to any of the several Metro lines serving Paris. The EUR9,50 fare is good until your final destination in Paris. No need to buy another ticket for the Metro (as long as you don’t exit the station).

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Hong Kong Anniversary Trip Part 2

Two of the things we look forward to every time we go to Hong Kong is the food and the shopping. Not necessarily in that order. This time was no different. Once again we had our fill of traditional Hong Kong chow. We also discovered a new store that sells quirky, novelty items.

Flaky, gooey egg tarts and pork pies, still steaming from the oven, from our favorite bakeshop in TST.

Monday 24 December 2012

Hong Kong Anniversary Trip

The big K and I just came from Hong Kong on our yearly anniversary treat, which by the way is still a month away. Too early to celebrate, you say. Well, if you're in a profession that does not afford you a regular working schedule you learn to make plans quickly on your free days. This month the big K had four straight days free! Bags packed, we were off on another adventure! Either that or wait for next month's work schedule. Plus there was that matter of the "end of the world".

We love going to Hong Kong in December. The Christmas lights and decorations are all up. Weather is just right, comfortably cool to walk around.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Petrin Tower and the Jewish Quarter, take 2

The Observation Tower at Petrin Hill is Prague's equivalent to the Eiffel Tower except that it is a whole lot shorter at 63 meters as compared to the Eiffel's height of 320. But then again the Petrin Tower is located on a 318 meter high hill giving it a good view of the city.  
The Petrin Tower was built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition much like the Eiffel Tower during the 1889 World's Fair.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Prague: Jewish Quarter and the Thirsty Deer

Arriving at the Jewish Quarter, the big K and I were wondering why there weren't too many people around. Seemed like we left everyone at the Prague Castle. Or the place was just not popular with visitors. Anyway, it was quite a relief really after having to deal with the crowd at Prague Castle.

Heading straight to the Old Jewish Cemetery, we saw that the gates were closed. Uh-oh, now what? "Closed for the Holiday" a sign said. Really? It was a holiday? We later found out it was Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Just goes to show how little we know of the Jewish religion.

So, the big K and I ended up just walking around, admiring the beautiful buildings and browsing the shops that were open (obviously they weren't Jewish).

I love the sunflower door on this apartment building. And it comes with a clock too!

Monday 12 November 2012

Prague Castle

Second day in Prague the big K and I had to start out early. We had to pack our bags and transfer to another hotel. When I made the booking at this Náměstí Republiky hotel a few months ago I think I was having a dyslexic moment as I got the dates all mixed up (well, at least we have a place to stay at next year!). Long story short, we had to look for another hotel as they were fully booked. Thanks to Trip Advisor, we found an inexpensive hotel in the Smichov area (Prague 5). 

Taking the metro to Andel, we arrived at Aparthotel City 5 and was greeted by the red-haired, vivacious owner, Kristina. "Hello, hello! Good morning! Welcome! How do you want your coffee?" Talk about a very warm welcome on a very cold day. All at once the big K and I felt at home. Kristina offered us breakfast with our coffee but the big K and I declined since we wanted to head off to the Castle early to beat the crowds. Since it wasn't check-in time yet, Kristina stored our bags and gave us a map with instructions on how to get to the castle district.

The massive and awe-inspiring St. Vitus Cathedral.

Friday 9 November 2012

Prague: Choo-choo trains!

While in Bangkok with the big K in one of his company trips, I saw this restaurant featured in one of the travel shows on TV. It had a miniature railroad running around the restaurant. It was a complete railway network with tunnels, draw bridges, ponds, rock formations, houses and trees. Nothing out of the ordinary you'd say, right? But, wait until you see the trains! What makes this place one of a kind are the miniature trains that chug along the tracks, carts loaded up with drinks and serving them straight to your table. Now how cool is that?  

And, where is this unique restaurant? In Prague, of course!  

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Prague: Old is New, Less is More

Did you know that it was only in 1992 that UNESCO inscribed the historic center of Prague as a World Heritage Site? The five areas that comprise the historic center are Old Town (Staré Město), Lesser Town (Malá Strana), New Town (Nové Město), the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) and the Castle district (Hradčany). Thanks to the fall of communism in the former Czechoslovakia we can enjoy the beautiful city of Prague today. 

Thursday 1 November 2012

Prague: Two Squares and a Bridge

Emerging from the underground metro, the big K and I were greeted by this  beautiful scene. A big square filled with tall, graceful, old buildings and classic trams running on cobbled streets. Old World Prague at its best! 
Náměstí Republiky is just steps away from Old Town Square.

Monday 29 October 2012

Dobré ráno Praha!

It was a bright and sunny morning when the big K and I stepped onto platform no. 7 of the Prague main train station otherwise known as Praha Hlavní Nádraží in Czech. For a central train station, it was on the small side (no. 7 was the last platform). 

Certainly looks can be deceiving, entering the underground terminal we were pleasantly surprised to see how expansive the interior was. It had several levels filled with shops and restaurants. Shopping and eating! Two of my favorite things. I would never get bored in here! The other facilities inside the terminal were a grocery, 24-hour luggage storage, a spacious ticket office, ATM machines, money exchange counters and a tourist information office.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Tot Ziens Amsterdam, Till We Meet Again!

Our last day in Amsterdam, the big K and I decided to splurge a little bit for dinner. Read: find a local restaurant that will serve good food, cold beer and not cost an arm and a leg. But where?

In the meantime, we went to the nearby cheese shop to look for some  good ole cheese (we did get to buy a four year old Gouda) that we could snack on on the night train to Prague. 
Cheese heaven!
They say pigs can fly, apparently so do cows.
Found a four-year old Eden cheese in our fridge but it wasn't as good as this four-year old Gouda.
The cheese shop also doubled as a cheese museum.

As luck would have it, we overheard the cheese guy recommend to another customer apparently in the same boat as us, a local restaurant that served good food. Trying out my best impersonation of a spy, I took notes of the restaurant's location. "Go around the back, make a left at the flower shop then hang a slight left, right by the dead tree which isn't there anymore, pass the parked van whose color is tan, look for Dan who'll be talking to Fran holding the golden AN...." Huh?

Actually, it was just down the street from the shop. 

The De Reiger (The Heron) we later found out is one of the oldest pubs in the Jordaan district. It still had its original interiors from the late 1800s, high-beamed ceilings, old lamps and paintings in the Art Deco style. The pub was later transformed into what it is today a cafe-restaurant primarily serving Burgundian cuisine. Hmmm..... No Dutch food? Nevertheless, the food and beer were good!  
The sign is upside down and it is for beer. The two may be connected. 

Our bellies content and our hearts filled with wonderful memories of our visit, we bid Amsterdam Tot ziens! Until we meet again!

Friday 26 October 2012

Amsterdam: Two Little Piggies Go to Market!

The big K and I love going to local markets, mainly because of the local food! There is something intrinsically special with local markets. The explosion of colors, the different sounds, the aromas that will assault your senses once you arrive is something else!  

As my blog moves along you will be reading a lot of posts about the different local markets the big K and I have visited in our travels. On this leg of the trip, we visited two well-known markets in Amsterdam, the Bloemenmarkt or the Flower Market and the Albert Cuyp street market.

The Bloemenmarkt is the world's biggest floating flower market (assuming, of course, that you believe everything you read on the internet). But whatever. It is big. It is located on the Singel canal, they have just about everything plant related and a few that aren't.
Flower stalls on floating barges.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Amsterdam: Houses, Hoists and Horses

First time you walk around the canals in Amsterdam, it is surprising and more than a bit alarming to look down a street and see the houses, all in various stages of lean, some rather more severe than others, like a long line of drunks caught in mid-stagger.

Monday 22 October 2012

Amsterdam: Lunch is served!

Lunch was proving to be quite a challenge. It wasn't as much a question of where to eat but what to eat! Everything looked good! Breads, cheeses, herring, sweets and the list goes on.... We didn't know where to start!

Solution? Try everything! 
A bit pricey but oh so good!

Friday 19 October 2012

Amsterdam: Art and Bags (not the eye kind.....)

After a hearty breakfast and another oh-dear-we-forgot-about-the-time chat with Carlos, the big K and I were finally off on another fun-filled day.

Our first stop, Rembrandtplein or Rembrandt Square. We were pleasantly surprised to find an art market set up at the square. The big K and I thoroughly enjoyed the different displays of sculptures, paintings and drawings done by local artists. It was so tempting to take home an item or two as souvenirs of our visit but the big K didn't fancy lugging a painting on a three week trip. 
There's Mr. Rembrandt making sure all goes well. 

Thursday 18 October 2012

Amsterdam: History, Water and Sex

The Rijksmuseum
One of the things the big K and I share is the love of history. Far from being history experts we do appreciate the stories that go behind it. So the first thing we do when we hit a new place is to visit the local museum(s) as it offers us the opportunity to get to know the history of the place. 

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Getting around Amsterdam

When we were planning this trip the big K and I were toying with the idea of renting bikes to see the city but after the slight misadventure I had on one in a recent trip we completely abandoned the idea. Good thing that we did after seeing all the bikes whizzing past us, weaving in and out of traffic trying to avoid people mostly gawking tourists unaware of bike lanes. 

Yup, we are definitely walking. Or taking the tram.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Amsterdam: Sunhead Canal House Inn (formerly Sunhead of 1617 Bed and Breakfast)

If you're wondering what happened between breakfast at Sara's and day 2 is that nothing much happened. We were told earlier that our room would be available by 11 AM so we decided to go back to Sunhead, freshen up before we joined our free walking tour of Amsterdam at 1 PM. Well, that was the plan. 

It was too early for the tour so we decided to take a little nap, just a little. Oh dear, it must have been the most comfortable bed or our age was showing (I'd like to think it was the former) that we woke up at midnight. Oh well, there goes day 1. At least we had those pancakes to show for.

Monday 15 October 2012

Finally, Amsterdam!

After months of planning and much anticipation, the big K and I are off on a three week trip of Europe. First stop, the city of bicycles, Amsterdam!

Sunday 14 October 2012

A local wannabe in Paris....

I have always wanted to start my own travel and food blog but for the life of me I couldn't think of a catchy title for it. Then in one of the souvenir shops in Paris I saw this postcard.                     

And what better way to start my blog than with a post from the City of Light or City of Love, whichever you prefer. To me it will always be Paris!