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 the Moci pounding is going on.



Thursday, September 6, 2018

Unforgettable Day Trip to 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


Friday, August 31, 2018

Cloister Inn Hotel, Prague City

Of all the hotel rooms we stayed in our previous trips this hotel has the most massive carpeted room with high ceiling and the most dated as well.

We have a coffee table with two cushioned chairs aside from a separate study table; the wife appreciates the walk-in cabinet while I immediately stored our valuables and document inside the electronic vault. The T&B is also spacious and immaculately clean. We have a wall-mounted flat screen but sadly without an English channel; strong wifi signal too.

Our room A207 is overlooking the main street but from the reception we have to go at the back side of the hotel before turning around a long and narrow hallway before going back towards the street. It is quite creepy especially when you are alone.

Massive Windows

Comfy chairs

Our T&B looks like a hospital room

Surprisingly for its price, we don't have complimentary tea and coffee inside our room thus when I need a caffeine shot I need to go down to reception area where there is a coffee brewing machine available 24/7; yup it's free. This is also the first hotel that we have stayed that offers welcome beers; I got 2 canned beer inside the small fridge.

They serve complimentary western style breakfast at the fourth floor; nothing special about it though.

The hotel is within the Old Town area thus most touristy places are within walking distance such as the Jewish Cemetery and the Astrological Clock.

Reception is manned 24 hour with a single elevator servicing the entire building. Special electronic key would be given to the guest upon check in to access the main glass entrance door. You are requested to leave your room key to the reception whenever you go out and retrieve it upon your return to the hotel.

On our last day, the reception assisted us in booking hotel transfer to airport. We were fetched by a coat and tie limousine driver from the hotel lobby.

All told, I would recommend this hotel to any tourists due to its security and proximity to old town and tram stations.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Umeda Sky BUilding, Osaka City

Going to Umeda Sky Tower observatory is quite confusing though locating the actual building is pretty easy since it is near Osaka and Umeda Stations.

On our last day in Osaka, we raced to Umeda Tower and waited for it to open.

Upon locating the actual towers, we proceeded to third floor by elevator then walk across to the opposite building then take another elevator up to 39th floor where we purchased the entrance ticket.

After paying 1500 Yen entrance fee you need to take a "sky tube escalator" to reach the observatory. On your way to the top, the geometric pattern of the escalator is simply impressive.

sky tube escalator

love locks

couple's chair

To be honest, the view from the top is not that stunning compared with other towers I have visited but offers the best view of Osaka City.

Surprisingly, they allow love locks in one part of the deck; it even has a couple’s chair, lol.

Since we were early birds, we had great opportunity to enjoy the view and the entire observatory. It was a perfect time for selfies.

On our way down, we used another sky tube escalator and bought souvenirs at the shop. There is also a café/restaurant just below the observatory.

Arguably, I don’t think you need to prioritize this place over other historical places in Osaka; we just came here to spend our remaining free time before checking out from our hotel. However, if you have spare time to spend then it’s worth visiting this place.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Heian Shrine - Kyoto, Japan

From Kyoto Imperial Palace we walked back to Imadegawa Station then travelled to Karasuma Oike Station. We transferred to Tozai Line and get off at Higashiyama Station. Heian Shrine is around 10 minute walk from this station.

Approaching the shrine, you’ll immediately notice "The Main Gate" or Otenmon. Our kids raced to the gate, too excited to have some selfies.

Otenmon: The Main Gate

The hundred year old place boasts of massive wooden structures colored with vibrant red and orange and wide courtyard at the center with several Kimono wearing ladies strolling around. There were few visitors at that time so we all enjoyed unli-selfies, lol.

Having just visited Kyoto Imperial Palace and enjoyed its lovely gardens and pond, the whole family opted not to enter the garden beside Heian Shrine anymore due to 600 Yen admission fee. If it was "Sakura" (Cherry Blossom) time then we would definitely enter the place.

The whole family enjoyed the long walk inside the area since the chilly air was pleasant especially for us who are living in tropical country.

It was past noon when we decided to leave the place. Sadly, we left through Otenmon again on our way back to Higashiyama Station thus we weren't able to see the huge Torii Gate at the back.

Famished, we tried to search for a place to eat. However, those near the shrine were “too local” for our kids’ taste so we opted to trek back to the train station since we remembered passing on some restaurants on our way to the shrine.

We were lucky to find a “TripAdvisor” recommended restaurant on our way back to Higashiyama Station. It has English Menu and family room enough for five of us; the warm tea was perfect for the chilly atmosphere. The place offers superb and delicious local dishes on a typical Japanese setup; low table and floor sitting. We were all excited to have some selfies since that was the first time we have eaten in a typical Japanese way.

So when you visit Heian Shrine, I recommend this restaurant if you want to experience Japanese way of eating.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Spotted - Paellas in Madrid City, Spain

I spotted this Paella billboard in one of the restaurants in Madrid, Spain.

Being a colony of Spain for more than 300 years, Filipinos have been exposed to Spanish cuisine since time immemorial but I doubt whether typical Filipinos are aware that there are many kinds of Paellas. As for me, I know only Chicken and Seafoods Paella.

Surprisingly, many restaurants we have visited in Madrid offer Paellas only during weekends; we didn't have any slightest idea why is that so. Fortunately, on our way back to our hotel at Plaza Sta. Ana we found one restaurant that offers Paella every day.

If you can easily find Paellas in Madrid, it is the opposite in Barcelona or perhaps we didn't know where to search. Our local hotel staff told us that they eat Paella for lunch but seldom during dinner since it is too heavy for their tummy.

Long story short we're able to have a taste of authentic Spanish Paella. Not once but thrice, lol.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Kyoto Imperial Palace, Japan

We left our hotel in Osaka at 7:30 am and proceeded to Umeda Station. We found Rapid Express Train at second floor platform 2. Don't take the Semi-Exp on platform 3; it will take more time to reach Kawaramachi Station.

From here we boarded the Hankyu Line to Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto. The trip lasted for around 45 minutes. At Karasuma Station we transfered to Karasuma Line and disembarked at Imadegawa Station. The chilly weather was perfect since we have to walk for 10 minutes from the station up to the palace.

The entire trip was pretty easy and convenient since we're able to use our ICOCA card for Hankyu line; fare was 800 Yen each.

Upon arriving at the palace, it seemed we were transported to the past. The palace is enclosed with long walls with several huge gates. And as expected, the gardens inside the palace are truly amazing and indescribable.

After security check we were asked to wear a lanyard while inside the compound. We explored the place on our own though we noticed some guided and group tours.

Be aware though that you cannot enter any wooden structures or buildings. Nevertheless, the old and massive wooden structures were a sight to behold for any foreigners.

The ground is mostly covered with gravel so avoid any fancy footwear. Since there were less crowds during our visit, we had good opportunity for selfies while having a peaceful stroll.

We stayed and enjoyed the place for a couple of hours.

Admission is free.