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Have you ever heard of the Chinese expression – a daughter is her father’s lover in his past life? 

I don’t believe in past life, but I think the saying is beautiful.

Pictures taken in Maldives.

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I’ve been flipping through pictures recently and came across a delightful set of pictures from a family gathering trip last winter in Maldives. It was such a magical place, it really is hard to not love your life when you are there.   It was my first time to get on a water plane! It is the only transportation that gets you to the hotels on different islands in Maldives (well, for the closer islands boats are also possible to get to). I was so excited to get on the little plane and what made me even more excited was that the pilots were bare feet!! True island style, and I loved it!

From Above looking down, the islands look like fragile thin sheets, peacefully floating above water. ( These aren’t the best photo because they were taken with my iPhone)

I proudly introduce you my lovely family!

I miss times on the island.

By the way, I have officially started my wedding planning. Did I ever mentioned that I am getting married this July? We are having a small DIY wedding at home. Just like another family gathering. But I want to used as much recycled items as possible and eco friend is the key! If any of you have great blog, websites or ideas to share please do – as a little wedding favor for me! I am also doing lots of crafts myself for decorations. Throw me fun and rustic wedding ideas please!!

It almost seems unreal to me, that now I am lying on my bed at home all the way in Vancouver, Canada, trying everything to fight my jet lag, while just what feels like minutes ago, I was holding my lover’s hand, strolling down those charming little streets in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, settling down in the Jardin luxembourg for a picnic, some reading, and cuddling…

  Let’s see…  It has only been 5 or 6 hours since I’ve arrived vancouver. I was exciting to see my family and eat amazing sushi again, but after all that is over and which took 2,3 hours, I am back on the Paris mode. I feel like my heart is still at Paris… That’s probably why I forgot my phone in the apt. in Paris, where I stay for the past 3 months. I subconsciously wanted Paris to keep a part of me… ??

Jardin Luxembourg – where we made our last memory in Paris… before we return again.

At Jardin Luxembourg, a public concert on the sunday afternoon. Free entrance! How lovable!

Paris Paris… Thank you for everything. It had been beautiful. We will be back.

It is our last two days in Paris. I am already tearing in my heart. These three months in Paris has to be one of the most precious period in my life. This city has taught me so much… even changed my life value.

The weather in Paris for the past few days has been especially strange and moody, as if it is also sad that we are leaving it behind. But we still feel the obligation to explore, to explore the very last bit of Paris, and the very best.

With the up and down gloomy weather, we found ourselves lining up in front of the Sainte Chapelle. This humble little church, located within le Palais de Justice, erected by Louis XI, king of France.  Though little, Sainte Chapelle is the most outstanding example of the Rayonnant Style of Gothic architecture. The masonry structure of the church is reduced to the bare minimum, leaving the seemingly fragile skeleton to support 6,456 Sq ft of delicate traceried glass imbedded in all facades of the church.

Lower Chambre of Sainte Chapelle

Upper Chambre of Sainte Chapelle

We did not visit the church at the best time because they were doing renovation on the glass work on the some of the window facades. At least a quarter of the traceried worked were covered up with a gigantic ugly white box. Hence a less majestic view of the church interior. But it was still an absolutely gorgeous space – light, intricate and colorful.

Architects:  Viollet-le-Duc, Peter of Montereau

Address:  Palais de la Cité, 4 boulevard du palais

Getting There: Metro:  Cité, St-Michel, or Chatelet-Les Halles / RER: St-Michel

Holland, our last stop for this restless euro trip. This time we did not have to take an 18 hour over night train to arrive in the another spectacular city. Arriving Thursday evening and departing sunday afternoon. We got about 2 and a half day to hang out with the Dutchers. It was short, but I think we saw the very best of Holland. We had two destination for the trip, one is Amsterdam of course, and the other is Rotterdam. The initial primary reason to visit Rotterdam was because and old friend of Alex is there and she was sweet enough to share her lovely place with us, but oh Rotterdam, you excel everything I’ve expected from you…

Like Berlin, Rotterdam is one of the cities that suffered severed bombardment from the war. Until nowadays, Rotterdam is still under going reconstructions. So this is the land for building and rebuilding! How could I not be overwhelmed already not to mention some of my favorite architects are based in Rotterdam (and you know the rocking dutchitects are one the very best in the buiss).

Our day in Rotterdam was lined with all the buildings that we could see. Walking through the city non-stop, we were trying to get to all the buildings I wanted to see in the agenda but one can only walk so fast and see so much. Of course we couldn’t get to every single one of them on the list, but I was excited and lucky enough to see a lot the the famous building which I would otherwise never be able to witness but only text books and magazines. Well, say no more and lets see some blocks!

Gebouw Delftse Poortby Abe Bonnema. It is impossible to avoid seeing this complex in the area. It’s not only enormous but reflective. The complex is situated on top the underground railway of Rotterdam. Right next to it is the Rotterdam Central Stationwhich is current undergoing drastic transformation.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. An Scandianavian inspired architecture. The major use of material of the building is brick and copper beams.

After buying my ticket, I was surprised by the Merry-Go-Around coat rack by Studio Wieki Somers!  I have read about this coat rack on all the design blog but apparently I did not pay enough attention to remember that is it here in the Museum Boijmans!  I am delighted that I did not only get to see it but experience the brilliant coat rack!

The interior of the museum is very elegant. About 40 years after the museum was very built by A. Van der SteurTwo more exhibition halls were added. So the museum was huge, consisting not only the permanent collection of fine arts and some modern works including the ones of of the master of surrealism Salvador Dali.

An amazing art studio in the museum.

NAI and the Museum Park. NAI – Netherlands Architecture Institute, by Jo Coenen, was simply my very best favorite out of all the things we went. Mainly because it was hosting an amazing exhibition right now call Making City.

The show as an archive of all major urban planning projects around the world on how to improve, transform, and recreate cities and urban life under different conditions. I felt rushed going through the exhibit because we just didn’t have enough time. I would suggest anybody who study or interested in this area, who are also currently IN Rotterdam, go visit this exhibition before it goes out. I am hoping that this show will be going on a tour so I can have the chance to go and again and spend my sweet time in there for the details.

Interior of NAI

NAI was one of the museum in the Museum Park. There are many other awesome ones of course. This Museum Park is so much more exciting to me than the one in Berlin, since it not all about history. Well, in this park, we see history through buildings.

Huis Sonneveld, by J.A. Brinkman and L.C. van der Vlugt. This house is one of the most well-preserved and best representations of Dutch modernist architecture. The architects were commissioned by Sonnevled to build a villa of modern living. It is known to be the ‘most modern’ design of the time. The Huis Sonneveld is a very classy example of the ‘Nieuwe Bouwen‘, the Dutch International School of Modernism.

Chabot Museum, is also a good example of the typical Dutch modernist style. The museum was closed when we were there but pictures of the exterior, for free!

I don’t know anything  about this house. It was in the Museum Park and I liked it.

Ok, let’s get out of the park and move on. Voila, everybody know this yea? Rotterdam’s famous Cubic House by Piet Blom.  As interesting as the original concept of the project (creating a forest by each cube representing an abstract tree) it is surprising to me that there are people actually LIKE to live in these ‘tree houses’.

Het Witte Huis, the white house of Rotterdam,  a 45 metres and 11th stories high office building, designed by W. Molenbroek, was the first skyscraper in Europe!

And the surround areas

These balls on the Rijn Harbour in Rotterdam will become the showcase and centre of expertise for the National Water Centre. Walked by it on our way to dinner.

To proved you that we did actually walke SO MUCH in Rotterdam. I present to you the three bridges we walk crossed.

Willemsbrug, vibrant.

Railway Lifting Bridge De Hef, showcase the pure engineering art and skill.

Finally, the icon, the swan of the city – The Erasmusbrug.

Phew~ what can I say. I enjoyed rotterdam very much simply because the city itself IS an architecture phenomenon. To me it was eye opening.

To be continued… on Days with the Hollanders – Amsterdam.

Our long weekend trip to Prauge is soon ending. As I am writing, we are waiting in the Praha Holesovice station for our overnight train back to Paris. We left on a thursday night train, and it took us 18 travelling hours, including transfer and layover, to get here in Prauge in a bright and beautiful friday morning.

We were lucky enough to get in the bunk bed compartments this time. I would like to advice a quick travelling tip for other bear travellers out there; This is a sincere warning to all who travels in Europe; if you are planning to go on an overnight train ride somewhere, try to get a bed, really. It is a little more expensive then reclining seats, but its way worth it. Our last trip to Berlin was also an overnight train but the bed space were sold out, so we had to go with the reclinings. It was a DISASTER. The design of the compartment is absolutely ridiculous. Trying to squeez 6 people in a tiny glass cube is not the best solution for an overnight train ride. So get yourself a bed. We got the ones that are in the six bed compartment. It’s not the most luxurious but the cheapest and gives you a humane space to sleep, a BED.

Our adventure in Prauge begins right after we settled our luggages in the hostel. I was stupid enough not to bring my camera with me for the first day when we went to most of the important sites. But oh-well. I got the rest of the days covered.

Our traveling kit

The city of Prauge is picturesque. Everywhere you go, if you put a frame aroud, it it’s a painting. Wandering around the city, mainly the historically preserved zone (probably circled in green on your tourist map), its hard not to run into one of those lively public squares, intricately detail building facades, glorious clock tower, or monumental medival architectures. One of those always pop up just about every other corner you turn.


But once awhile you would encounter with some rare modern architecture poping out in a line of traditional buildings. Mr. Gehry, what a pleasant surprise to run into you in such old charming city of Prague.


We’ve crossed the river many times during our stay and we decided to get on a peddle boat for a little while in the afternoon and get a good view of the city on water.


We saw the ugly duckling!!

There are plenty of museums in Prague. Some small, such as the Museume of Torture, Museum of Wax we went, which I don’t really recommend; some prestige, like the Museum Nationale, which unfortunally was closed for construction during our visit. But in the museum hall there are mini classical music concert being held every other night. It was not an extremely formal concert. Seats were set up on the grand staircase of the entrace hall of the museum. We went to the one of Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, and Dvorak by the Prague Instrumental Soloists group. It was professional and worth it only for the view of the interior of the museum.

And finally there were musuems that were bold and modern, such as the Artbanka of AMoYA Museum of Young Art and the DOX/Centre for Contemporary Art. The later which I highly recommend is a farely new museum, but the exhibition space was very interesting.

Restaurants and Recommendations! It is always my favorite part of writing about restaurants because I can go back to my yummy pictures and re-experience my deliecious moments.

Cafe Savoy, serve some exepctiaonal czech inspired cuisine, lured us to visit twice, once for breakfast and the other dinner.

Address:  Vítězná 124/5  150 00 Prague 5-Malá Strana, Czech Republic

Breakfast

Algerian Coffee

Parissien Breakfast

Omelete Savoy

Dinner

Sear Tuna with Beets

Beef Tartar

Strawberry Czech Dumpling (dessert)

Cafe Imperial, it is a cafe/restaurant located in the Imperial Hotel. We only went for breakfast, which was cheap for the kind of atmosphere. The entire interior of the cafe were covered with some very delicate tileworks. It looks like they serve fine meal for lunch and dinner too, but we didn’t have the chance to experience it.

Address: Prague Imperial Hotel  Na Poříčí 15, 110 00 Prague 1  Czech Republic

Sir Toby’s Hostel. Again, for budget travellers, this one is highly recommended. The atmosphere of the hostel is great with unique deco. We reserved a double private chambre (toilet shared with one other room) this time for a decent price. The room was decorated very simply and with vintage touches. A very cozy lounge located at the basement where they serve drinks and food, and you can also just relax and chill if you want to. A Huge kitchen is open for everybody to use provided with some basic ingredients such as salt and pepper and other seasonsings. A cute backyard where they host parties and free barbuecue in different days of the weeks. Staffs are very helpful, nice, and CUTE! Most importantly, it is very clean through out the entire hostel. Though price is adjusted by seasons, I think the quality of this hostel is WAY beyond a low cost hotel probably in any season. I always think that “better no design than wrong design.” Some cheap hotels or vacation rentals just make you MAD for the kind of interior they put up, trying to put as much crap as possible try looking “luxury,” “modern” or other hotel like discriptions. Quality hostel can really surprise you sometimes with their friendness and unique design.

It was a pleasant journey in Prauge after all. However it is a little off from what both of us were imagining before we saw the city. Aparently we both have very different images of Prague in our head before the visits, but we both touched on the point where we imagined Prauge to be old and untouched everywhere. It was beautiful but it wasn’t as “untouched” as I imagined it would be. We would often see people re-painting building facades and sometimes adding on details. Of cause most of the major historical sites were kept as original as possible, but I cannot help going around wondering how clean and new a lot of the seem to be historical looking building facades were kept. I cannot really tell whether its a good thing or bad thing the way people going around “keeping the building nice and clean,” but I personally would like to see the unpainted version of the buildings, because after all, this is what we are here for, the originality of culture and architecture. The sad part of it is Prauge IS slowly turning very touristy. Like in the old town square, though architectures were beautiful, it is obvious that restaraunts and cafes are mainly doing tourism business, so they don’t care about their food quality. To me it’s almost impossible to find a good restuarant that does not serve tourist food in the square. Shops are almost all souvenir style and none really represent the local culture of Prauge. Within the entire historical district of Prauge, you can easitly witness that everything is tourist oriented. I really hope that the original charm of Prauge will not be lost within all this bullshit tourism cosumer culture. Otherwise it will just be terribly sad and once again proving this idiotic human “ability” to distroy something exceptional that we had once built.

Cheers!




This last post of Berlin is mainly to share with you some recommandations of mine. Berlin is really an amazing city and there are certainly things that I don’t want you to miss if any of you are happen to be traveling to Berlin anytime soon or in the future. It will be too selfish of me to keep it to myself for some of the most wonderful things I experienced in this magical city. So here you go:

1. The Alternative Tour of Berlin. This is a MUST. A large portion of my last post was dedictated to this tour. I saw and learned so much about Berlin just because of this tour. You may go back to my previous post “Alternative Berlin” for some picture previews if you are interested.

2. The Sunday Market in Mauer Park. One of my favorite thing about europe is the public market culture. I visit all of the markets if I know there is one reachable anywhere I go. The Mauer Park Sunday Market is probably the BEST one i’ve been to so far. It is not only a gigantic market, the variety of venders are as impressive. In the middle of the tightly packed venders, there are also beach bars with bouncy music and cooling drinks! This IS the Berliners’ way of rolling. This sunday market is definatly a party! On every sunday, not only markets are set up but also a kareoke in the middle of the park. Speakers and microphones are set up under beach umbrellas. Layers of crowds are watching the kareokes sitting on stairs. Everybody can go on the stage and perform your famous songs to the crowd. We’ve seen some pretty brave and amazing “singer” up there, of all age! Visit to the Mauer Park was definately one of the best day we had in Berlin.

Address: Gleimstraße 55  10437 Berlin, Germany

Area: Prenzlauer Berg

Mauer Park Kareoke

3. A Gourmet Journey at the 6th floor of KaDeWe. KaDeWa is probaly the biggest department store in mainland Europe (not including England). I was not so intrested in shopping in a department store, but I would never turn down a gourmet trip. On the 6th and 7th floor of KaDeWe, there is a glorious food court with some of the finest dishes you could ever find in a food court! It is nothing like food courts in your everyday shopping mall! May be if you’ve been to Harrots in London it’s a little similar to that, but to me KaDeWe was THE HEAVEN. Saussage, fois gras, dry goods, currywust, antipasti, hor d’ourves, gourmet beer, just about anything you can think of. It is not far of a walk away from the Bauhaus Archive, which is also one of my recommandation of Berlin. Get a snack or even lunch at the KaDeWe after your Bauhaus trip would simply make your day perfect in Berlin!

Address: Tauentzienstraße 21  10789 Berlin, Germany

Area: Between Wittenbergplatz and Breitscheidplatz

Currywust with sauerkraut

Antipasti Platter

4. Bauhaus Archive. This is probaly my favorite out of all the museums we visited through out the trip in Berlin. I’ve mentioned about it in my “Monumental Berlin” post, so I might not go into too much detail of it again. But the architecture, along with the amazing variety of collection in this archive worth every minute and penny to visit. Bauhaus is the official beginning of school/institutes of design. Most of the industiral design products took off from the time of Bauhaus. If this is your area of interests, the Bauhaus Archive will not let you down.

Address: Klingelhöferstraße 14  10785 Berlin, Germany

Note: Bring your student card for student discount!

The above four are what I would consider the MUSTS of berlin. I am going to mention some of the best restaurants/cafes we had in the trip. If you are close by those districts may be you might want to swing by.

5. Anna Blume. Food was gorgeous; price is suprisingly cheap! But really is the quality of the food makes the price seem so unbelievable. We went there for breakfast on our first day of arrival. We stay at a hostel in the center of Mitte so it was a nice walk to Anna Blume. Menu is all German (like most of the restaurants in Berlin) but all of the waiters speaks very good english. And just by pointing at other tables, there will be no problem getting youselve a beautiful petit dejeuner!

– Photo to be uploaded –

Address: Kollwitzstr. 83  10435 Berlin, Germany

English Info: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187323-d948161-Reviews-Cafe_Anna_Blume-Berlin.html

6. Baeckerei. A small cafe tucked in a corner of a quiet street. It is actually a cafe opened by the restaurant across the street called Alpenstock.  Breakfast was simple and delicious. Though there were only three different platers to choose from for savory side (mainly cheese and chacuterie platers), their pastry bar is fascinating.

Address: Gartenstraße 9  10115 Berlin, Germany

7. Hofbräu Berlin (beer garden). We LOVED this place! I was told that beer gardens are one of the most popular type of restos of the Germans. It is a HUGE restaurant set out with mostly communal tables. In the middle of the restaurant there is life band performance. Dance floor in front of the band was PACKED and ROARING for the entire night! Everybody in the restaurants were singing along and almost every table is dancing in or outside of the dance floor in between their courses! It makes me so happy just sitting there and watch because everybody there were enjoying themselves so much. I wished I knew what they were singing so I could laugh along! Food was not bad but nothing extraordinary, but everything was cheap and selection was wide. I was happy that they had non-alchoholic beer so I could actually join the party! I believed that there are beer gardens everywhere in Berlin. We went to this one because it was right next to our hostel. But it was bad after all!

Address: Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 30 10178 Berlin

My non alcoholic beer. It’s embarrassing but oh well.

8. PangeaPeople Hostel & Hotel.  I really want to mention about the hostel we stayed in for the trip. If you are looking for a budget accomandation on the road, P Hostel is not a bad choice. We’ve been travelling so much and trying to avoid going bankrupt with all the other upcoming trips and a wedding in the summer to plan, we’ve decideded that hostels are the best way to go. I am picky in the cleaness of places I stayed, and PP Hostel was definately one of the cleanest that I’ve ever been to. We stayed in a 6 bed mix dorm, but they also have private rooms with of course a high price. Everything is very clean, service is exellent, staffs are helpful, location is great (center of Mitte), room size is decent, price is very reasonable. Their breakfast buffet was not worth it though for a 5 euro per day. But do consider if this is the type of accomadation you are going for, its decent and most importantly very clean and friendly. NOTE: NOT FOR LUXURY TYPE.

Address:  Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 34, 10178 Berlin, Germany ( less than 5 min walk to AlexanderPlatz)

Booking: PangeaPeople Hostel & Hotel

After travelling around for almost a year now, Berlin is so far one of my fave after London. I could actually see myself moving here if we ended up not being able to afford to survive in London in the future.

Alors. Enough blabing of Berlin, we are acutally waiting for our train transfer in Koln continue on to Prague now. Stay tune for some Eastern European travel stories. Cheers.