Friday, October 30, 2009

Paris with L

We visited VM and CC in Paris this weekend. It was a short trip, and as with all trips to Paris, too short. We got there on Friday evening in time for dinner with CC at Restaurant "Aux Lyonnais":



Soup de Beaujolais (made with red wine - tangy, spicy, sweet - I had fun eating this):



Boudoin Noir (Blood Sausage. It's fantastic, especially with the baked quince on the side):



We spent the next day walking from the Marais district to the Musee D'Orsay. It was rainy and a bit cold:









Dinner was with VM and CC at Clos de Gourmet, which was just alright:









The next day, after brunch, we again walked around Paris to enjoy the sunshine and the autumn leaves:














We were smiling too. Look, macarons!



We hopped on the train at seven pm, and were back in our apartment by eleven pm. Sweet.

Manila Food

I gained five (or ten) pounds in Manila, and am now on a (not so) strict low carb diet to get down to normal size. The added poundage was expected - who can properly travel through Manila without eating?

Manila is a wonderful food town, and we visited a lot of great restaurants. As can be expected from mga balikbayan, we concentrated most of our energies on Filipino food, which is sadly and inexplicably unavailable in its finer forms outside The Philippines. This is all the more unfortunate when you actually realize that the Manila restaurant scene is undergoing some sort of renaissance - so many interesting new restaurants have sprouted up all over the archipelago, and most have Filipino food (in its various forms) as their base. I've been waiting a long time for this to happen, and I earnestly hope the development of local cuisine continues on this path.

An outstanding restaurant we went to thrice (yes, thrice) during our stay was Bistro Filipino at The Fort. Local favorites with a twist, and presented well. Here are some of the dishes we had:

Sisig


Lumpiang Sariwa (with frozen sinamak vinegar)



Sinigang (Gelleed! in a Martini glass! With Coconut!)



Kaldereta



Bistek Tagalog



And the best dessert in the world, Halo-halo:



As you can see, all very pretty, and according to my over-used taste buds,  heavenly.

Still, Filipino food is all about camaraderie and good times, and nothing quite compares to the delight of eating around a table with friends, with such admirable speed and precision that I can never take a picture fast enough:


Nutella Pizza



Ashamed to admit how much I like it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Manila via Hong Kong

After a year and three months, L and I finally traveled back home.

But first, we stayed two days in Hong Kong with Mr. and Mrs. MC. I spent my birthday eating my favorite Cantonese dishes at Peking Garden, and shopped for clothes that were made for more petite people.  We met up with old friends, and I felt very sentimental - L and I remember Hong Kong fondly, and it was great to be back.

After a few days in Manila, that feeling was magnified about fifty times. Despite five years of living abroad in as many countries, Manila, I realized, will always be the place I'll understand completely, and it will always understand me. We were in Manila at the height of both Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, and though there was a lot of  sadness and destruction, I was glad to see the people of Manila as a great community of helpful, hopeful people.

I took some pictures, and if you know my facebook page, its all there. My brother got married, I saw a lot of family and friends,  I ate four Filipino meals a day, and L and I even went with some friends to Ateneo's victory bonfire.

I can't wait to go back.

A Week in Vienna

L had to attend a week-long conference in Vienna, and I tagged along. I've been to Vienna before, but it was a whirlwind tour that took as much time as saying "Wiener Schnitzel." This time, I had more than enough museums and monuments to keep me busy for a week, though a bad cold and cough kept me down all day Thursday and nothing much could be done before my flight back to The Hague on Friday. I'll definitely try to be back to see more.

One of my favorite sights was the Kunsthistoriches Museum, a spectacular building with one of the most impressive Old Masters' collections:










As a fan of Vermeer, my favorite painting was, of course, the one and only Vermeer painting they had:



There was also The Belevedere, famous for housing "The Kiss" by Gustave Klimt, but have you seen the gardens?







I couldn't take pictures of Egon Schiele's works in the Leopold Museum at the  Museumsquartier. The area, and especially Schiele's works,  are a definite must-see:



Seeing old monuments from the Austro-Hungarian Empire makes you understand what the word "grandeur" really means, and how you know the world will never see days like that again:







And, yes, the food. Heavy, yummy, saucy and hearty:








Waregem

CC left for Paris a few hours after we arrived back in The Hague. L and I lazed around, did laundry, and tried to eat very little.

The next day we left for the little town of Waregem, in the Flanders part of Belgium. Our friends RT and SW invited us to watch horseraces, and we were curious. But first, a quick stop in Brussels at the Delirium Tremens Bar, which boasts of at least 2,000 beers available:




Waregem is a little, pretty, laid-back town. We partied with the locals until 3:00 a.m., slept, then got up the next day ready to watch the races:



Not many great pictures (the Belgians are tall), but it was a festive atmosphere we won't forget.

Next day, it was back to work.


Tuscany Day 9: Many pounds and bottles later

With heavy hearts, L, CC and I left Siena for Florence. We were scheduled to leave and return to The Netherlands early the next morning. We walked around, happy with our new tan and the memories, but not so enthusiastic with the extra five pounds or so we put on. But it couldn't be helped.

In fact, we decided to go at it again, one last time:











(Really, we have to stop eating like this.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuscany Day 8: Wine Touring in Montalcino

One of the highlights of this trip was a wine tour of Montalcino - we went to three small vineyards, makers of the famous Brunello, and got a tour of the surrounding countryside as well. The wines were wonderful (we hauled home more than three crates), and the sites were unforgettable. 


The abbey of Sant'Antimo:





The vineyards:











And the views: