Monday, January 30, 2012

New York's Pasticceria Ferrara

This is a late post about New York City. We visited NYC in the fall of 2011. I was really looking forward to visiting NYC during the fall because it's much cooler and it's easier to explore by foot when you're not constantly wiping your face because of excessive sweating. We walked so much in the city and when we were in dire need of a place to rest, we found Pasticceria Ferrara in Little Italy.

I can't describe my delight but I was smiling from ear to ear when I saw all the colorful and beautifully decorated cookies, cakes and pastries in there.

It looks like pastry and cake heaven.

So many cookies, so little time.

Since we were saving our tummies for Joe's Pizza, Mom and I shared this Strawberry Tart.  This tart tasted almost heavenly.

Since it's fall and it was a bit chilly outside, I ordered a cup of cafe latte to go with my tart.

Here's a little history about Ferrara from their website:

New York in the Gay Nineties had almost everything, except for a place where an opera lover, after a night of Verdi or Puccini, could relax, play a Neapolitan card game called "scopa" and drink a cup or two of espresso.

This situation was remedied when our great grandfather, Enrico Scoppa and my great grand-uncle, Antonio Ferrara, opera impresario and showman, opened a cafe called Caffé A. Ferrara. Caruso thought the coffee marvelous but especially loved the cookies and cakes.

After World War I, my grandfather, Peter Lepore, a nephew of Antonio Ferrara, had stowed away on a ship bound for New York.

At the beginning of the 1929 Depression, Peter married the daughter of Enrico Scoppa. He was to spend the rest of his life at Ferrara's, transforming a charming neighborhood cafe into a world famous shrine of delicious tastes. Times were tough and in order to make sure there was very little waste, they began to bake two, three and sometimes four times a day, small batches of cookies and cakes. These difficult circumstances were a blessing in disguise.

Because of the frequency with which they baked, Ferrara acquired a great reputation for freshness. This reputation and the fact that the Lepore's were devoted to their business almost as much as to each other, enabled Caffé Ferrara to grow and prosper.

Today, Ferrara is still a family owned business operated by the fifth generation. And that's perhaps the most wonderful thing about Ferrara's. Since its beginning in 1892, the spirit has changed very little.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Copenhagen's Nyhavn

Nyhavn is a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district in Copenhagen, Denmark. Stretching from Kongens Nytorv to the harbor front just south of the Royal Playhouse, it is lined by brightly colored 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants. Serving as a heritage harbor, the canal has many historical wooden ships. (Source)

For those in search of the well-loved children's story writer, Hans Christian Andersen, Nyhavn is the place. Nyhavn was constructed by King Christian V from 1670-73, dug by Swedish war prisoners from the Dano-Swedish War 1658–1660. It is a gateway from the sea to the old inner city at Kongens Nytorv (King's Square), where ships handled cargo and fishermen's catch. It was notorious for beer, sailors, and prostitution. Danish author Hans Christian Andersen lived at Nyhavn 18 for some years. (Source)

Nyahvn was busy the day we visited.

The weather was beautiful that day and perfect for walking around the harbor.

Busy harbor.

As ocean-going ships grew larger, Nyhavn was taken over by internal Danish small vessel freight traffic. After World War II land transport took over this role and small vessel traffic disappeared from the Port of Copenhagen, leaving Nyhavn largely deserted of ships.

In the mid-1960s, the Nyhavn Society was founded with the aim of revitalising Nyhavn. In 1977, Nyhavn was inaugurated as a veteran ship and museum harbour by Overborgmester i København (Copenhagen’s Lord Mayor) Egon Weidekamp. (Source)

In my experience, Nyhavn is the perfect place to eat ice cream on any warm, sunny afternoon or the place to have lunch or dinner with friends. While we were there, I enjoyed sitting at the harbor, watching the ships go by, munching on sausages we bought from a street vendor and nodding my head to music played by a band from a nearby cafe.

A perfect afternoon spent at Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Goodbye To Kronborg

I felt a sense of satisfaction as we left Kronborg Castle. I came to Copenhagen and visited all the places on my list. The feeling of relief comes as our trip to Denmark is coming to a close.

A portrait of Shakespeare.

Cannons facing the Sound Oresund.

A tunnel that I have no idea where it goes.

 Our visit at the Kronborg Castle ended with a meal of Denmark's open-faced sandwiches. Before boarding the train back to Copenhagen, Kepi and I ate at a random sandwich shop near the castle. With chilled bottles of Coke, we enjoyed the open-faced sandwiches with liver pate, ham and fried fish.

Whenever I visit a city or a country, I research and try to found out what are their famous eats or what their country is known for. Before I flew to Denmark, I read about the Danish open-faced sandwiches called Smørrebrød (originally smør og brød; Danish for "butter and bread"). According to Wikipedia, these sandwiches are usually consist of a piece of buttered rye bread, a dense, dark brown bread. Pålæg (literally "on-lay"), the topping, then among others can refer to commercial or homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads. This daily practice is the base on which the art of the famous Danish open sandwich, smørrebrød is created: A slice or two of pålæg is placed on the buttered bread, and then pyntet (decorated) with the right accompaniments, to create a tasty and visually appealing food item. (Source)

Just a little history on these open-faced sandwiches: In the Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse bread called "tranches" (late 15th century French) or, in its English derivative, "trenchers", were used as plates. At the end of the meal, the food-soaked trencher was eaten by the diner (from which we get the expression "trencherman"), or perhaps fed to a dog or saved for beggars. Trenchers were as much the harbingers of open-face sandwiches as they were of disposable dishware. As such, open-face sandwiches have a unique origin and history, differing from that of the true (multi-slice) sandwich. (Source)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crypt Of The Capuchins

When we visited Rome in 2010, I was determined to visit the Crypt of the Capuchins, since I never did took the time to visit this place while I was living in Rome in 2007. The crypt is quite easy to find. It is walking distance from the Stazione Barberini (Metro Station Barberini), which is the same stop for the Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Barberini and Via Veneto, which is quite known for shopping and cozy cafes. When we found the Crypt, we paid about 2 Euros, which is more of a donation than an entrance fee. The nun who was manning the desk that day was very strict about observing silence at all times and pointed to my camera saying, "No photographs allowed."

My experience at the Crypt was both eerie and curious. Eeriness because I was walking in the presence of the departed and curiousness of how someone thought of turning bones into art. The place has a very peaceful feel and it was strangely cool inside. It's amazing how many bones they have in there and more interesting is how they are displayed. Since photography isn't allowed, I scanned the postcard I got during our visit.

Bones at the Capuchin Crypt
I thought this is an interesting quote.

From the postcard:
In 1630, the Capuchin friars - so-called because of the "capuche" or hood attached to their religious habit - left the friary of St. Bonaventure near the Trevi Fountain and came to live in the present one, of which only the church cemetery remain.  The remains of the deceased friars were transported from the old friary and laid to rest in this cemetery, underneath the present church. The bones were arranged along the walls, and the friars began to bury their own dead here, as well as the bodies of poor Romans... Here the Capuchins would come to pray and reflect each evening before retiring for the night. Over the years, until 1870, further alterations transformed this burial place into the work of art we see today. It's message is clear: death closes the gates of time, and opens those of eternity.
Apparently, "when the monks arrived at the church in 1631, they brought 300 cartloads of deceased friars. Fr. Michael of Bergamo oversaw the arrangement of the bones in the burial crypt. The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem, by order of Pope Urban VIII. As monks died during the lifetime of the crypt, the longest-buried monk was exhumed to make room for the newly-deceased who was buried without a coffin, and the newly-reclaimed bones were added to the decorative motifs. Bodies typically spent 30 years decomposing in the soil, before being exhumed." (Source)

I thought this was a great way to save sacred space.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Searching For Shakespeare's Elsinore

It is but fitting to start with a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet:

It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."
- William Shakespeare,
Hamlet, 1.1

While researching about the must see places in Denmark, the castle of Kronborg stood out for me especially when I read that it was the castle Elsinore used by Shakespeare in his play Hamlet. It was like walking to a Shakespearean play that came to life.

The town of Helsingor is about 30 minutes from Copenhagen and it is easily reachable by train. From the station, it is about 15 to 20 minutes walk to reach the castle. For those who love Shakespeare, this place is a must see.

Traversing the narrow streets of Helsingor.

From the train station to the castle, we passed through this garden with dancing maidens.

Our first sight of the castle.

The castle has for centuries been one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe and was added to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list on November 30, 2000.

One of the more ornate ceilings.

A really interesting window.

Window overlooking the Sound Oresund.

Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, at the seaward approach to The Sound Øresund, is one of northern Europe's most important Renaissance castles. Known all over the world from Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is also the most famous castle in Denmark with about 200.000 visitors each year. (Source)

Kronborg is known by many also as "Elsinore," the setting of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Hamlet was performed in the castle for the first time to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, with a cast consisting of soldiers from the castle garrison. The stage was in the telegraph tower in the southwest corner of the castle. The play has since been performed several times in the courtyard and at various locations on the fortifications. Later performers to play Hamlet at the castle included Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi, and in 2009 Jude Law. (Source)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

LP: Lungkot/Kalungkutan (Sad, Sadness)

Ito ang "Empty Sky Memorial" sa Liberty State Park, NJ. "Empty Sky" dahil kung titingin ka ng diretso, doon dati makikita ang Twin Towers. (This memorial is called "Empty Sky Memorial" at Liberty State Park, NJ. It's called "Empty Sky" because if you look straight, your vision takes you to where the Twin Towers once stood.)

Ang mga bakal na ito ay galing sa bumagsak na Twin Towers. Isa ito sa mga pinakamalungkot na memorial na aking nabisita. (These were once part of the Twin Towers. This is one of the saddest memorials I've visited.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Five Things I Learned From Cruising

I had have my share of travel experiences from backpacking in Tuscany, Italy, fighting for my space in crowded buses in Kalinga and Sagada, Philippines, hiking to small mountain villages such as Dinungsay, Kalinga, standing room trains bound in some parts of Europe (this experience even included a really stinky passenger beside me and one guy almost falling off the door because the train went on a sudden halt), driving for eight hours from Maryland to Quebec, flying through cheap airlines to some far off small airport to save some money and most recently, cruising the Mediterranean and the Baltics. Cruising is one good way to travel especially if you have at least a week or more vacation time allowed. Some cruises even go for a month-long journey. It's also a good alternative for travelers who couldn't stand the stress of hopping from one transportation to another or sweating in some hotels that were misrepresented on some website; I know, I've been there.

Some people shun the idea of cruising because they claim to be hard core trekkers/hikers and indie travel purists, but understand that we are all different types of travelers and not all of us are into backpacking or trekking, so cruising is just another vehicle to explore the world. Not that there's something wrong about indie travel, but that some of us just don't have the stamina for such travel. After all, the worse thing you could do is travel and you end up miserable and unhappy while on the road. The world is here to explore, explore it the way you see fit and you'll be happier. In the end, what matters most is that you're experiencing places and culture around the world.

With two cruises in my pocket, I learned a few things I'd like to share with you.
  1. Life Is A Cruise: Cruising is a more relaxed way to travel compared to being on the road all the time. I know several cruise passengers who just lounged at the pool even if we're at port of call. Being in a cruise sort of takes away the stress of getting lost, stressing of not making your next flight, or worried that your hostel, hotel or B&B is not to your liking. In a cruise, you get your room cleaned and made up every day and your hotel floats to your next destination.
  2. Group Tours Or On Your Own: There are itineraries available at every port of call. For people who simply wants to see places without the headache of dealing with itineraries, cruise operators offer a variety of group tours. In my experience, group tours offer pick ups and drop offs, so all you have to do is hop on the bus armed with your camera and enjoy your itinerary for the day with an experienced guide. Group tours offer less travel stress and if you happen to have a knowledgeable guide, you'll be given a lot of local information about the city your visiting. Also, it's a valuable experience to be able to ask questions from your guide. On the downside, group tours can range from $50 to $200 per person and can be expensive. The good thing is, you have a choice to visit the country on your own and do away with the formatted group tour. We toured Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland on our own and we had a wonderful time going our own pace exploring these cities. However, I don't recommend going on your own in certain places like St. Petersburg, Russia especially that some of the must visits sites require you to be on a tour group. Another downside to tour groups is that sometimes, tour guides have to rush travelers because they are running late or out of time. You have to understand that tour guides follow a time schedule and that they have to make sure you have to see all the designated places in your itinerary, and still make it back to your ship before time of departure.
  3. Floating City: Boarding a cruise ship means you have a floating room and board to every country you visit. In addition, you also have entertainment onboard, activities such as learning a new language and crafts (for a minimal fee), sports and exercise facilities to keep your body in shape, choice of restaurants (some restaurants you have to pay and some are included in your cruise package) and of course, there's always that buffet table that is open 24 hours when you get hunger pangs even at 12 am. Being in a cruise ship is comparable to being in a floating city where there's a casino, a theater, spa services, laundry services, shops, library, play rooms and more. Sometimes, facilities and amenities available depends on the size of your ship.
  4. Sea Meditation: If you get tired of the casino and the onboard entertainment, you can always look to the sea for inspiration. Gazing at the vastness of the sea can be very relaxing and meditative. While on cruise, take the time to smell the fresh sea breeze, grab a book and find a quiet corner and be lost in a novel, or join an early morning yoga class to start your day right. And if you're cruising with your partner, go to the highest deck to watch the sunrise or sunset huddled in a blanket, nothing can be more romantic than that.
  5. The Ship Is A Destination: The ship's staff  comes from all over the globe. If you want to meet different types of people and personalities in one destination, the cruise ship is a good place. The ships' crew are very friendly, helpful and accommodating. Yes, they are paid to provide customer service but they're an integral part in making your trip memorable. Just think how far these people come from just to make your trip a successful one. After each cruise I took, I started missing some of the staff I met that really made an impression on me. The cruise ship itself is a country and worthy as a destination.
 This was our view while eating nutella crepes and sipping Greek coffee at a shop in Santorini.

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    What's Keeping Me Busy?

    So what exactly is keeping me busy? Two words - textbooks and a cat.

    Next week, I'm plunging back to grad school. I already got most of my textbooks; there's two more books missing which I'll pick up at the bookstore by Tuesday. I'm optimistic this semester will be interesting. I'm taking a class in American literature (elective) and another one on U.S. Immigration history (core). The books are rather interesting especially the readings on my literature class.  I took two core courses last semester and the readings were too demanding. I'm hoping that with an elective class, it will make the prerequisites of my core subject a little less demanding. Or, would at least allow me to spend more time studying for my core subject.

     Textbooks for this semester.

    And a curious cat.

    Happy weekend everyone.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    LP: Balak (Plan)

    Ito ang aking bagong arawang tala para sa taong 2012. Dito ko inilalathala ang aking mga pang araw-araw o taunang mga balak at dito ko rin sinusulat ang aking mga saloobin. Ang pinakauna kong balak sa taong ito ay talunin ang aking aplastic anemia.

    Sana, kasama ka sa pagtalo ko sa sakit na ito.

    This is my new 2012 journal. This is where I write my plans and my thoughts. First on my to do list this 2012 is to beat aplastic anemia.

    I hope you're with me in beating this disease.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    I Travel In My Sleep

    My mind has been working overtime even in my sleep.

    Spring semester is starting next week and I've been busy purchasing my books and trying to get my schedule straightened out. With school, planning trips takes a bit of skill and timing to be able to squeeze trips in between. So even if I'm in school, I intend to travel still. I have realized a long time ago that I can't live without the joys of travel. I was 20 when I first traveled on my own to Alaska and since then, I craved the delectation of the journey as well as the trepidation of traveling to new places.

    For 2012, I have so many things on my list that I want to accomplish. With my health challenges still looming in my mind, I intend to live this year as best as I can and do what makes me happy; this may sound selfish but life's too short to be just waiting for happiness. I am pertaining to finding what makes you really happy and going for it.

    Our first two trips of the year have been booked and I'm beyond elated. For the first few months of this year, I want to:
    • escape winter for a few days and enjoy the lights and warmth of Vegas
    • drive to the Grand Canyon and witness with my own eyes its beauty and splendor
    • enjoy time with mom, kepi and possibly dad
    • eat sari-sari and adobo omelet at Elena's; they're a fave eatery in Hawaii and they recently opened a restaurant in Vegas
    • enjoy watching the fountains of Bellagio with my Kepi
    • feel the energy and culture of Reykjavik
    • soak in the Blue Lagoon and feel its healing powers
    • walk on a glacier
    • take photos and enjoy nature at Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss
    • gaze at the aurora borealis until I fall asleep (depends if we can catch a glimpse of it in May)
    • sink my teeth into a plokkfiskur (wine-dried fish) or see if I could handle hakarl (fermented shark meat)
    • to travel slow and savor every minute of it

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Lunch At Hillerod

    According to the Hillerod's website, the city is "a modern and pulsating city, with its own unique flavour. The bustling life of the town square and pedestrian street set in the surroundings of the fairy tale castle and picturesque lake are truly exceptional. The city centre is dominated by the magnificent renaissance castle and gardens, built and once inhabited by the King and his court. The castle itself is now a museum, but the church within is still very much in use." (Source) This description got it right, and if I were to go back to Denmark, I wouldn't hesitate to hop on that train to visit Hillerod again.

    Here are a few more photos from the Hillerod area:

     This is still part of the castle gardens.

     I think this was an old church. We walked around the lake and found the church closed.

     At the castle gardens.

     The residential area near the castle.

    A photo I took while we were walking away from the castle.

     After that delightful visit to the castle and gardens, we decided to have lunch in the city center. I got me a big glass of cold soda.

     Kepi had a plate of beef, salad and fries.

    I ordered some sort of omelet, salad and fries. My plate was really delicious and very filling.

    The joys of travel - beautiful views and a fantastic meal.

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Interior And Gardens Of Frederiksborg Castle

    The beauty of Frederiksborg Castle resonates inside and out.

    There are times I enjoy exploring one place without a map or a brochure, my visit to Frederiksborg is one of them. Sometimes, I get too involved with the history of one place that I end up ignoring the beauty around me. This time, I didn't pay attention to the brochure or self guided audio tour about the castle.  I simply walked the castle's rooms not minding what it was for, what is it made of or who designed the rooms. By simply enjoying the walk and admiring what is laid in front of me, I saw more and understood deeper the meaning of the place. Sometimes, travel is not about the history or the significance of one place, but simply being "there."

    The welcoming hall - I love the arched ceilings.

    I adore that white dress to the right.

    The chapel inside the castle. There was someone playing the organ while we were there.

    Access to the main chapel was restricted because they were preparing for an occasion.

    One of the painted celings.

    The castle gardens.

    The gardens are well kept and perfect for an afternoon walk.

    A view from the garden. You could see the grey clouds started appearing, but I refuse to leave.

    Luckily, it didn't rain so we stayed longer and too more photos. We also walked around the residential area close to the castle. This is really a beautiful area to visit.

    Here's a bird we saw enjoying the pond. I think he's looking for prey.

    The beauty of this area really enchanted me. While Kepi and I were walking to the train station, I told him that if I could move, I'd like to move to Hillerod, own a house near the castle. The train to Copenhagen hummed through the beautiful country side. Truly, I admit. Denmark has caught my heart.