Monday, November 12, 2018

Dad's Review - SONY 1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphone

After more than two years my Bose QC25 left speaker eventually went "kaput" without any reasons at all. In reality, I have used this headphone for around two months only if would I count the actual hours it has been in use. I bought it for 20,000 pesos in the Philippines hence I was really disappointed as if I have thrown my hard earned money down the drain considering that this unit was refused for repair by Eleksis marketing, the distributor of Bose products in Philippines.

So I started scouting for a new and better noise cancelling headphone in the net, Bose was definitely out of the picture.

Read my post about my Bose QC25: Avoid Bose Quiet Comfort 25

It was pretty easy to find several techreview sites that give a list of 2018 best noise cancelling headphone and unexpectedly I found SONY 1000XM3 in the top of the list. Several years back, all the lists were dominated by Bose QC25 and SONY was relegated further down but this year it is a completely different story. Almost if not all tech reviewers are in one in saying that SONY 1000XM3 is the best noise cancelling headphone while Bose latest product QC 35II is far behind; yes folks, far behind. Aside from that, SONY's price is comparable to other headphone brands latest products.

As for me, I bought this unit because of two main reasons:

1. Obviously because of good reviews.
2. Bang for the buck because while having the same price with its nearest competitor Bose QC35II, I got extra features such as touch control functions, more battery juice, better active noise cancelling, better sound and mobile app.

So now we go to my actual experience but I won't delve on technical aspects since you'll easily find them in many tech review sites.

I used my new headgear on my way back to my work in Africa. I am very picky in selecting a noise cancelling headphone in order to have a comfortable trip to my work site in Africa otherwise I would be reporting for duty like shit.

From Manila, my first flight to Bangkok lasts almost 4 hours. My second flight to Addis Ababa is around 8 hours while travelling to N'djamena City will consume more than 3 hours and finally another hour of local flight. I have to add another two hours land travel by bus. Lay overs at different airports are not included.

During those times, I find it annoying using the touch control. When I wanted to manipulate the volume, by mistake I was pressing the next song and vice versa. You need time and practice to familiarize yourself with this feature but once you have perfected the "techie move" then you'll be thankful that such feature has been added to your gear. However, this feature works only in Bluetooth.

On my trip to Addis Ababa, I noticed that my old Bose QC25 was a bit comfy than my SONY, I mean the ear pad of Bose is slightly softer than my SONY probably because I have been accustomed with my previous Bose since I am have been using it for around two years. Also, SONY's speakers housing is a finger print magnet compared with Bose; it's like comparing a glossy finish against matte and to be honest I prefer matte, even with my car decals. But those are the only aspects where Bose is ahead of SONY.

Initially, when I tried my SONY at home, I was a bit satisfied but when I connected it to my Walkman the original equalizer setting "Rock" which was perfect for my Bose became "bassy" so I need to modify it. But when I downloaded the headphone mobile app and fine-tuned all parameters including the noise cancelling optimizer it became a blissful experience to listen to my favorite songs. I am not an audiophile but I know when my favorite songs from the 80s can fully satisfy my senses or not. And I am telling you guys, SONY's bass is definitely better and with a lot of oomph compared with my old QC25.

It is normal that when you have a new toy you play with it whenever possible so while on-duty in Africa, I used my new head gear before I go to sleep. I noticed that without any music my gear was producing a slight pressure or a a very minimal but distinguishable hissing sound. I didn't remember hearing this before while using it inside a plane. Using the mobile app I optimized the noise cancelling function. That was it! The slight pressure or hissing sound disappeared. Like magic, lol.

There are several sound enhancement modes that can be utilized using the mobile app such as the surround mode, equalizer and so on. I never like Spotify since its downloadable music produces a so-so quality especially when transmitted wirelessly but now with my SONY's head gear plus the mobile app I started to download my favorite songs; my ever reliable SONY Walkman is now accumulating dust inside my locker. I learned to love the Bluetooth connectivity of my new headphone. It is perfect with my Iphone 6S Plus.

To shorten this, SONY 1000XM3 is definitely bang for the buck if you compare its price to other brands. You get plenty of extra features as well while enjoying a superb sound reproduction and enhancement using the mobile app.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Visiting the medieval city of Toledo, Spain

Imagine visiting an entire hill top city that has been declared as World Heritage Site due to extensive historical landmarks and monuments dating back to the Roman Empire period giving you the eerie feeling that you have been transported back in medieval time. It would be an experience of a lifetime, isn’t it?
My wife and I were lucky to learn about this place during our preparation for our second European trip. I learned about this place from my Half Brazilian and Half Spanish colleague in my work site in Africa. He specifically mentioned two places that we need to visit when we are in Barcelona and Madrid; we have to see Montserrat Monastery while in Barcelona and when we are in Madrid we need to visit Toledo. I am really thankful to him.
Hence, while spending several days in Madrid, we made a DIY day trip to Toledo City. It is quite easy; just buy a train or bus ticket then off you go.


Toledo on top of the hill

View from the top


Inside Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca

We arrived here by train from Atocha Station; it took us half an hour to reach Toledo Railway Station which is by the way an attraction in itself due to its Moorish design and walls covered with ceramic tiles and plaster mouldings. We rode a waiting taxi cab at the station and after a few minutes disembarked at Plaza Zodocover avoiding the escalator on our way to the top. We just followed the throngs of tourists and road signs of different monuments and landmarks such as ”Catedral de Toledo” and “Alcazar.” In so doing, we were totally amazed while exploring the entire place as if we were in the middle of “Assassin’s Creed” movie, lol.
Puente de Alcantara
Puente de Alcantara

Surprisingly, we find the entire place walkable or maybe we haven’t visited all those numerous and magnificent landmarks. The wife and I returned back to train station by foot, we followed the rocky stairs down to the Roman bridge “Puente de Alcantara” and had coffee and snacks outside the railway station while waiting for the train.
Notice the crusader at the back, lol

We never bothered to enter all those museums or religious landmarks though they were open for tourists because by simply exploring the city itself we were overwhelmed by the medieval structures, buildings and religious monuments. The three great religions, Christianity, Islam and Jews co-exist here in Toledo in the olden times. In addition, unbeknownst to us, Toledo has been a traditional sword making center even during the time of the Roman Empire thus my eyes feasted on numerous shops selling knives and swords. 

At that time, there were less tourists so we fully enjoyed the place while having leisurely stroll along its narrow and winding streets.
So when you are in Madrid find time to visit this medieval city.
I tried feasting on Paella too in Toledo.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Visit Prague's "Old Jewish Quarter" and travel back in time

Don’t leave Prague without visiting “The Old Jewish Cemetery,” the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the most important Jewish monuments in Prague.

To enjoy and understand its history, I suggest that you avail the complete tour package "The Jewish Quarter" which includes not only “The Old Jewish Cemetery” but also the centuries old Synagogues and other historical Jewish landmarks. The tour package can be avail at the small office beside the exit of the Jewish Cemetery. Map will be provided so as to pinpoint the exact location of these Jewish monuments. No worries since all these places are strategically located within a few blocks and they are walkable.

Centuries old Josefov Synagogue

Inside the Synagogue

Inside the Synagogue

Inside the Synagogue

Pinkas Synagogue
Inside Pinkas Synagogue

Inside Pinkas Synagogue

Name of 78,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust inscribed on the wall of Pinkas Synagogue

"Kippah" returned by visitors
It was our first time to enter a Jewish synagogue. Having visited many sacred places in different countries, the wife and I were properly dressed; shorts and bare shoulder attires are not allowed inside these places. For men, you’d be given and asked to wear a Kippah while inside. You’ll be amazed upon visiting these old synagogue as if you’ve been transported back in time. At the exit you may return the Kippah; in my case I brought it with me as souvenir. 
Picture taking is allowed inside these places. 

This is where they prepare the body before burying

This is where they prepare the body before burying

For the cemetery, seeing those overcrowding gravestones in miniscule space is somewhat surprising. We learned later on that due to limitation of space they covered the old ground with new layer of soil to accommodate more bodies. As sign of respect, the gravestone of the previously buried body is elevated and relocated beside the gravestone of the newly buried body. As time passes by, several layers of soil have been added resulting to the old gravestones being elevated from time to time.

We initially thought that they just dumped the gravestone in that small area for tourism purposes; we were wrong. The owners of those gravestones are actually buried underneath them, on top of each other.

There is a small building inside the cemetery; this is where they prepare the body before burying it. Admission is included on the tour package.

We visited the place using Tram but you can also trek to this place from the center of the “Old Town.”

Forget about tour guide, the wife and I toured these places on our own. All information about these places are available on the net.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Nara's Famous Mochi Pounders at Nakatanidou

After visiting the famous and adorable deers of Nara we passed by at Nakataniduo.
A couple of weeks before our Osaka trip, while watching an Asian Food Trip channel, my attention was catched by a Mochi pounding activity somewhere in Japan. I would never thought that I would see that actual pounding of Mochi with my own eyes.  
The family tried their soft and tender Mochi. I wouldn't be surprised since after tremendous and repetitive pounding any Mochi could be transform into sponge like texture. To be honest, it was yummy and with very tasty filling. 
You'll immediately notice this shop since crowds would normally gather around while Mochi pounding is going on.



Thursday, September 6, 2018

Unforgettable Day Trip to Spain's Montserrat Monastery

It would normally take several moons of planning before the wife and I would embark for an overseas trip.

By luck, the system engineer who was sent by their UK office to our oil and gas plant in Africa to assist us in our expansion project is a half-Spanish and half-Brazilian lad. We spent a couple of weeks working in our control system hence I had befriended him. Upon learning that his mother is a Spanish I asked him which places are good for day trip if we would be staying in Madrid and Barcelona. He replied that when in Madrid I should visit Toledo and when in Barcelona I should visit Montserrat Monastery.

That was it! We escaped to Montserrat during our stay in Barcelona.

That was one of the most awesome places we have visited in our life. Probably because we have never been to such kind of place before; the panorama was simply stunning. While exploring the monastery which is nestled on a mountain, the feeling was surreal and blissful at the same time. Luckily, the weather was perfect too.

We booked online a 5 hour group tour at "Get Your Guide" tour company for 98 Euro for two person. We were fetched at 10 AM at Plaza Catalunya. We can go there actually by train but my Spanish friend told me that it is better to go with a group tour so as to gain more info about Monserrat and to enjoy the view since the train would be travelling inside a tunnel from time to time. He was correct, we learned why the place was called Montserrat and the legend or story about its Madonna.


Funicular Station

After an hour our bus arrived at the parking area at the foot of the mountain. We took a funicular that hugged the mountainside while on our way to the monastery. Funicular fee is included in the tour package.

Upon reaching the monastery, the wife and I opted to separate from the inclusive group walk tour; we hate walking group tour actually. We prefer to explore the place by ourselves in our own pace. Having visited several European museums we decided to forego the monastery's museum.


We had plenty of time for selfies and sweet moments while sitting on the edge of the cliff and enjoying the view and the breeze. I consider them as priceless moments in this life where our bond gets stronger and deeper. We would surely treasure those memories when we get older and unable to travel anymore.

Due to time constraints, we didn't bother taking another funicular that reaches the mountain peak and walking downwards to Cross of San Miguel. Haha.. It was actually my fear of having panic attack that prevented us from visiting those places; the wife and I won't forget our experience when I had a panic attack while climbing Arc de Triomphe in Paris. One of the perks of getting old, lol.

The Basilica

L'Escolania de Montserrat

At 1 PM we watched and listened to L'Escolania de Montserrat - one of Europe's oldest boys' choirs. You should reserve your place inside the church at least 30 minutes before they start otherwise you'll end up standing. This is the main event of your visit to the place. We learned about the history of the boys' choir from our tour guide.

After the boys choir event we had a sandwich in one of the restaurants. Our bus would wait for us at the parking area of the monastery at 3 PM. So we had ample time to enjoy the jaw-dropping panorama.

The bus left the place through the winding roads of the Montserrat mountain.

Montserrat Mountain

From afar, Montserrat Mountain looks like a jagged sawtooth. In fact, it is where Montserrat has derived its name.

We have visited several touristy places in Europe and the wife and are in one in concluding that Montserrat has its own charm and magic. Trust me, you won't be disappointed in having a day trip to this place when you are in Barcelona City.

We regretted not booking our "skip-the-line" Sagrada Familia entry from this tour company. Instead we booked our Sagrada Familia ticket from "Isango" which failed to send our entry voucher on time. They ruined our Barcelona vacation.

Read my Isango review: Dad's Review: Beware of "Isango" or Local Barcelona Tour