Sunday, February 28, 2010

When All Good Things Must Come to an End

Don’t you just hate that saying?

We returned from our Europe trip yesterday, and I can safely say that we're all suffering the effects of jet-lag and the unbelievably hot weather in Malaysia.

Shot of us before leaving Frankfurt

Out of the 3 of us, I had the hardest time adjusting to the time difference and weather changes. When we were first in Paris, I could barely keep up with those 2 and wanted to go to bed at 6pm (of course, I’d be the earliest to rise and cursing myself coz really, there isn’t anyting to do when you wake up at 5am).

An obligatory shot of the Louvre in Paris

I hated the cold and dry air the most, and it was so taxing on my body. I’d have bloody nose, my skin was flaking, my face was just so red all the friggin time. So it is suffice to say that I did not feel attractive at all in the most romantic city in the world.

Another obligatory shot of Le Eiffel

But as our trip went on, my body was able to adapt and I started to feel more and more in the mood for fun.

Our day out at Montmartre, Paris. Behind us is the Sacre Couer.

We even met up with an old friend of mine, Lyana, while in Paris.

And just as my body has finally gotten used to all things Europe, our adventure had to end. Isn’t that ironic?

This is the nice old local man we met outside of Mozarthaus in Vienna. He was telling us the legend behind the Blutgasse street.

We spent a good chunk of our day at Berlin Zoo to say hello to some of our furry friends

Wished we had more time to explore Berlin. That city is rich with history!

Part of this trip was for me to try things I normally wouldn’t do, such as going on a roller-coaster ride at Disneyland (I’m terrified of such rides as I feel like I could die of a heart attack on it!) and eating veggies & onions (I’m mostly carnivores btw).

We would've entered Notre Dame if only the line going in wasn't too long! *sigh*

More obligatory shots of Paris. This one is of Arc de Triomphe.

The people that we met on our trip certainly added more flavor to our adventure. Like that Kirk Cameron look-alike who shared our couchette on the sleeping train from Paris to Vienna. He was so helpful, and friendly, and cute. But like all good good-looking men, he’s already taken.

The 2nd best waiter we met on our trip. He works at Connection Cafe in Frankfurt International Airport, so do say hi to him if he happens to be serving you (he's very friendly btw, and not to mention, very funny). And yes, all that food was ours ;P

And that’s one of the things that we learned from this trip. I think you’d have a better chance getting struck by lightning than meeting good-looking, kind single guys on a trip.

The best traveling companions EVER!! This photo was taken in Prague.

Our travel may have ended, but rest assured that our blog would remain active as we still have many posts to write (sight-seeing adventures, some bloopers, reviews on the places we’ve dined at, stayed at, etc)

The best honey cake ever... this was in Prague. But if you want to know the specifics, I guess you'll just have to read our future entries on our trip! ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The End, almost

Saying goodbye, our way ;-)

The rooms looks a mess, and it truly is. Tomorrow we leave for Frankfurt where we will have less than a day before we all part ways and fly home. The trip is so close to the end and yet we feel like we have not had enough. But do we ever?

Berlin has been short but eventful. Other than doing moooore random shopping, we spent almost the whole morning and afternoon at the Zoo. Here are the few specimens we saw.

We saw some lions just hanging out, chilling...

We saw Knut... or maybe not...

A very hungry fox-dog animal thing...

The cutest little thing you do not want as a pet...

A pair of wild monkeys...

Very cute lemur-like animals

& a macho zookeeper feeding lemur-like animals

We also saw Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Berlin Wall and the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz covered in heavy mist, etc etc. I got a new rucksack because by now you can imagine all our suitcases are 2 times the weight they arrived in.

Well, one more day to go!!! And we still have tons of stories to share ;-)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Prague is loving us loving it!!

Tyn Cathedral in Old Town Square

Prague has been really good to us. There has been no snow or rain, no food poisoning on my end, no cold air filling up our bedrooms!! What more could one ask for when away from home???

In the last 2 days we have seen, done and bought a lot, so tomorrow will be dedicated to looking for bags for all the extra luggage we have accumulated, but not after checking out the Prague Castle and the Toy Museum. We also hope to catch the Ghost Trail tomorrow night to end our trip here in Prague.

On top of everything, I must say that the apartment we rented is the highlight of our visit. It is spacious, clean, warm and very affordable. (A full review will come soon, courtesy of Lydd I am sure!). Just see how happy we are in the photos below!

Lydd and myself at the entrance of our apartment being very serious

Nice spacious kitchen for us to pose in, and... maybe... hmmm cook? Maybe...

And this is only ONE of the beds in this apartment

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guess what are we doing now

Listening to Smurfs's soundtrack in our hostel room, that's what.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Paris in not so small a nutshell

(I am actually in my room in Vienna now but this was a post I wrote a day ago on the night train from Paris, re-edited)

I'm on the TGV from Paris to Frankfurt now and as I have nothing else better to do, I thought I'd write a summary of the last 6 days in Paris.

Even the road signs intrigue!!

DAY 1 : Arrival & the Louvre
This being my second time in such a short time span to the Louvre, I wanted to make the best out of the experience. The last visit was rushed and aimed only at visiting the main attractions like the Venus, Mona Lisa and Ramses II. This time I wanted to see the rest and less notable artifacts the Louvre houses.

My best finds were,

i. Unknown statue of a guy with a wound on his left thigh. The audio guide I rented had no information on him and the plaque next to him only read French. (I have yet time to do a search on him online) Who is he??? I am curious not because he is naked (sheesh!!) but if you look to the right of err, yeah to the right, you see his open wound. See!! And he seemed to have dropped his sword and not realized it yet.

ii. Napolean's travel kit
I'm pretty sure it was his beauty kit for daily use but it was pretty neat to imagine that he would carry his toothbrush platter on board the ships he sailed ;)

N is for Napolean...

...and N is for Nora!!

iii. The letter 'N'
Marking Napolean's reign over the country, it was fun looking for the majestic 'N' insignia he had carved into the ceiling and also sewn into his royal robes. (By evening, I realized that I had developed an odd but very real crush on the dead emperor simply from perusing his apartments and looking at the many paintings of his beautiful self! He did if once, brainwashing his citizens, blinding them to his faults, and he is still doing it today, unto me!! *_*)

There was so much more to the Louvre that was amazing like the painting of Josephine's coronation that was painted over the original painting of Napolean (yes, that dashing dude again) crowning his own self. You can still see the original artwork beneath the new layer. The artist even included a cameo of Julius Caesar in the updated version!

Say NO to the guide! Unless he is tall, blonde, and handsome, of course.

((TIP)) I won't get the audio guide if I were you. It only acts as extra dead weight hanging off your neck as it covers only the main artifacts and paintings, which are very very few compared to ALL that was there. My system also hanged a few times and you could only get them exchanged at selected desks in the museum and this museum is HUUUUGE!

DAY 2 : Sacre Couer, Pere Lachaise Cemetery & Eiffel Tower
We had to change rooms at noon due to a rat problem (explained in Hanie's and Lydd's entries) and decided to explore the art district of Montmartre, so began our hike up the Sacre Couer. It was unfortunately cloudy that day so the view atop the hill of martyrdom was not extremely spectacular.

A different view of the Sacre Couer, due to lack of a better shot XD

Hanie making the hike up easier with crepe in hand!

Sacre Couer actually sits on the summit of Montmatre, believed to be the place where Saint Denis was beheaded, after which we picked up his head and walked 6 miles preaching before actually falling dead at where Saint Denis Basilica stands today.

After the room exchange (we were downgraded to a smaller room >_<) we quickly made our way to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery but for some odd reason all their gates were closed. We followed the other visitors around the the cemetery walls to see if there was another entrance but it was sealed shut. Hanie blamed zombie infestation to the closure. Imagine Jim Morrison Zombie and Oscar Wilde Zombie in a fist fight!! That would have been a spectacle to witness for any amount of money. No graves for us to marvel at today but there is always chow to find!!

Met up with Lydd's pal visiting from Brisbane at the Eiffel Tower and due to extreme wind, opted for warm food (again!) instead of making the hike up the tower. It was already dark and it would have made zero sense to go up as the night was not only black, it was very cloudy. To me, the Eiffel Tower is best visited from afar. Hitler agrees. Remember this?

"Savvy, non?"

DAY 3 : Grande Mosque Paris, Pantheon, Notre Dame, L'As Du Falafel, Asemblee Nationale, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphie & Laduree

((TIP)) Just because winter is called low-season doesn't mean you're the only one out traveling the world. Everyone else is trying to beat the crowd and end up taking a holiday in winter, so be prepared to wait in line for major sights and time your daily travels appropriately. A low side of winter traveling is that many sites are closed for maintenance so access to crypts and monuments may be limited to the main halls.

DAY 4 : Disneyland Paris
You can probably imagine what took place here. ;-)

DAY 5 : Sick in bed with food poisoning
I had to take a rain check on one of the places I was anticipating the most on this trip, Versailles. Lydd and Hanie will have to fill you in on their adventures in Marie Antoinette's wonderland.

DAY 6 : Basilique St Denis & departure to Vienna

Review on Hotel Clignancourt in Montmatre, Paris

From the reviews we've read on Hotel Clignancourt in Montmartre, this hotel showed so many promises. And  at first glance, it really did look like it was living up to its reputation amongst travelers.

Our first room was spacious and bright

- it is near the Anvers metro station (about 3 minutes walk from the hotel). Alternatively, you could get off the Barbes-Rochechouart metro station, but that's like 5 mins walk from the hotel AND you'll have to walk pass people who try to sell you fake unoriginal items (which btw, you can EASILY get from everywhere especially if you come from Asia >.<).

- near the Sacre Coeur

- the lady boss was very good and it was certainly helpful that she spoke fluent English.

- we could take the bus to Paris Est train station (Gare de l'Est) by simply hopping on bus 30. We opted to take the bus to the train station after checking out for our trip to Vienna. The bus cost us 1.60 EU (the bus uses the same ticket as the metro). If we were to take a taxi instead, that would cost us around 20 EU per person... so taking the bus was more economical.

Nora trying to take pics of the room

Unfortunately, when we got to the hotel, disappointment was probably an understatement.

- On our first night, we had a 'visit' from Ratatouille the Rat, only he didn't bring us any food >.< Instead, he ran across Nora's bed and didn't even stop to say hello. hahahaha! But on a serious note, a rat?!? In the room?!? That's just gross.

So we actually requested to have our rooms changed.

- The heater in both our old and new rooms was not working.

- No elevator. When we enquired the receptionist about the elevator , the conversation went like this:
Nora: We have some suitcases downstairs.
Receptionist: No, that is your job.
Now that's French hospitality to you.

- The toilet we had in our first room had a funky smell to it.

- After we changed our room, the toilet that we had was clogged, so there was a day that we couldn't shower :(

- The walls of the room was very thin that we could actually hear people fighting OUTSIDE the hotel.

The view outside our room

The apartment across looked really lovely

There wasn't much to see on the right side of our window

The important thing that we learned from staying in this hotel is that if you have shit loads of bags to carry, you should check whether or not the hotel has an ELEVATOR. Lugging your suitcases up FIVE floors is seriously NOT FUN.

Overall, we rate this hotel a 2/10 and we will never stay there ever again.

p/s: For safety reasons, we will only be blogging about our accommodations after we leave. Not because we're worried about what the hotel people might think of us reviewing their place, but more like what if someone comes knocking on our door in the middle of the night ;)


Here I am in Vienna, sipping piña colada at the behest of my traveling mates. To their credit, it is not half bad, tastes like coconut candy swirled in ice. Vienna is quite relaxing so far. We are taking it slow today, eating sacher torte and baby cow schnitzel and visiting what used to be the home of pompous yet adorable genius Mozart and imagining what life was like for him at the time.

We encountered an old man outside Mozarthaus who delighted us with tales of the 'bloody street' Blutgasse. He is an interesting person despite my initial wariness and left us this precious anecdote: There are many people in this world but only a few that are truly human. You know what I mean.

I hope we run into him again. It's not likely we will. But it's people like these that makes our trip and by extension, our lives richer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bye bye Paree

I am now sitting at the lobby of our hotel waiting to bring our bags down to the bus stop. We are going to bid Paris goodbye for now and going to Vienna later this evening. Aside from minor hiccups and aggravances like our elevatorless hotel (Not. Fun. Seriously. When you have a crazy large suitcase it makes you want to break out in Hulk mode and go berserk trying to carry it up 5 flights of stairs and you just pray you don't break a blood vessel in your brain nor get a hernia from the strain) and copious dog poo on the sidewalk, Paris had been most enjoyable with lots of good food, hot chocolate, and cute men who return your gloves to you when you drop them ;)

Au revoir, Paris. Hope to see you again one day!

p/s I didn't get my duck at Versailles. Instead Lydia and I had hot potatoes with different toppings on top, hers smoked salmon with creme fraiche and mine minced beef with carrots and peas and hot gravy, sold by a man who speaks with a British accent. It was divine (the potatoes, not the man, though I generally love listening to any accents of sorts because they ARE lovely but that's besides the points)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Goodbye Montmartre

We are attempting to pack up our suitcases to leave for Vienna. It has been a great 6 days in Paris minus Hanie's broken luggage handle, fiasco with the lock combination on Lydd's bag and my unfortunate episode with food poisoning. We have more than 6 hours to kill before our train departs from Paris Est so we decided to visit. The tombs of the kings and queens of France at the Basilique St Denis before doing some last minute souvenir shopping. Let's hope we have better internet facilities in our accommodation in Vienna for us to do something about this blog.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tea party with the Mad Hatter

We have not been very good with our blog since Paris happened. We find ourselves too tired to do anything but fall into our beds every night after our explorations of interesting monuments and places and not fulfilling our duties here ;)

Until we get our internal-batteries recharged we will continue to etch memories into our head/iPhone to retell them at our earliest convenience.

We're stuck on the RER on the way back from Disneyland which was really great, despite the cold wind. On the way back to our hotel in the heart of Paris or so they tell us, for a real good hot meal. We spent the day replenishing our blood sugar with nothing but hot chocolate and popcorn. So it's safe to say that we are very very hungry right now.

We had some bad luck the last 2 days with a few of the places we wanted to visit but everything else we managed to do has made up for it all. Tomorrow is going to be excellent as we will be going to Versailles and checking out this restaurant close to the chateau where Hanie will finally get her duck!
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Furry Menace

I was awoken last night by Nora saying: "Girls, I think there's a rat in the room."

What happened was that she had sat comfortably in her bed, at her laptop, the lights and tv were shut off as Lydia and I were asleep and a rat crawled over her bed and scampered onto the floor.

In all my years in Malaysia, and travels to other places I have yet to encounter rats in the room! And here it is in Paris. There's a first for everything I guess XD. Just didn't expect it to be in Paris!!

So the light was on and tv was left on full blast in hopes of scaring the rat away, and I think I slept thru an French opera show, and the opening of the Winter Olympics colouring the fringes of my stupor.

On a much happier note, I experienced snow for the first time ever in Frankfurt at 5 pm, on the 11th of February! It was completely magical as the snow fell in soft wispy flecks. I caught the flecks with my gloves and I swear I could see the snow crystals briefly before it melts away. So utterly beautiful.

The wind picks up after that, and it became so cold my face went numb. It's nothing like I've ever experienced before, and it left me in awe somewhat, because seriously I could not have imagined anything can be so cold, and yet it did.

We ducked into a restaurant to have our first German meal after that. How can we not when the restaurant is so warm and inviting. I had beef goulash and bread dumplings (bread kneaded with flour and baked? steamed?) and it was the kind of food that's no-nonsense and stick-to-the-ribs to keep you warm and filled up during winter. The meat is stewed in possibly red beets and tomatoes, it was warm and tart and slightly sweet with a tinge of pepper. The bread dumpling is not my favourite thing as it's a kind of stodgy brick of carbs meant to hold you up, I guess, hence the sticky chewy and heavy consistency. It's not too bad when you douse with lots of the goulash gravy, but I'd personally stuck with just bread and potatoes.

I do love the Kaiserschmann (spelling?) that Nora got for us - it's basically a lovely chopped up pancake doused with icing sugar, raisins, and served alongside applesauce and raspberry sauce. I love textural juxtapositions in food, and this provides just that. It was soft and crunchy (from the bits that had been left longer in the pan and caramelised in its own sugar), and sweet and tart (from the applesauce). I wished I had more space in my stomach to finish this up! I heard that there's a lot of different versions of this dish, some more custardy/ crepe-like than others.. so am looking forward to trying them out!

I would so love to upload the pictures of the FOOD but being a hardcore PC user I'm having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to transfer photos from the camera to this MacBook. Where's the Autoplay function? Why doesn't the control key work like a REAL control key? What's with the funny command key? Why do stupid iTune kept popping up every now and then?? Until Nora wakes up and shows me how to work this out, I'll just try to make my way (albeit like a blind clown trying to light a candle with boxing gloves on) ...somehow.

It's finally light outside in Paris! I can see the morning sun streaming through from the curtains. There's actually lovely smell of freshly baked bread wafting up from the bakery downstairs. Heavenly!! Now all we need to do is just get rid of that rat...

My First Meal in Germany

This food review is rather due as we are actually in Paris now. I haven't found the energy to blog since coming to Europe because of jet-lag. I think between the 3 of us, I'm the one who's having the most difficulty adjusting to the time change (I've been the one sleeping the earliest, and getting up at a godforsaken hour at SIX in the morning!! argh!!!)

As mentioned in Nora's previous post, we had our first meal in Germany in Binding... which was empty when we entered but filled up with people as the night went on.

The place was warm and inviting. It was pretty cosy in there, too.

The funky looking ceiling deco in Binding.

We were served with bread before our drinks and main course arrived (that's Nora's salad in the background). The bread was hard and cold... which made me miss the kind of bread you'd get in an Italian restaurant (which is soft and warm, and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yumm!).

I ordered my first beer in Germany - the Krusovice. Sure, this isn't a German beer (it's from Czech Republic), but I wanted to try something on the menu that has an 'odd'/unfamiliar name.

I have no complains this beer as I've always preferred dark beer to light beer. The beer is smooth and if you're worried about having to drink through the frothy head before getting to the actual beer, then don't as the frothy head disappears rather quickly. But even as the frothy head disappears, you'd still get that 'fresh' beer taste (unlike with, say, Carlsberg, where after the frothy head disappears, the taste of that beer kinda reminds me of drinking my own vomit. lol!)

I really enjoyed the taste even though it felt quite light for dark beer. You'd definitely won't get drunk with drinking just one glass. Also, I thought it went well with my meal.

For my main course, I ordered the Fried Meatballs with potatoes and onions.

(p/s: For those of you who know me, then you would know how much I despise onions. But part of this trip was to try out new stuff and do things I wouldn't normally do. And yes, I did eat 'em onions!)

If there's one word to describe my first German meal, it would be salty. The food was alright for the first 10 bites, but after that my tongue started to feel 'funny' from eating all that salt. Even the potatoes were salty. I'm glad I had the beer to wash it down.

I don't know what else to write about the food coz really, all I can remember about it was it being salty. So yeah, the food was alright but am not too crazy about it :P

Here's the address for Binding Am Goethehaus:
Weißadlergasse 15
60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Seriously my finger are frozen now. This is also a test post using Blogger feature so wait for a proper post after this, heh heh

Von Frankfurt!

I best leave the detailed talking to someone who experienced Frankfurt for the first time as things are always better when it’s new and fresh. I will, have to talk about my dinner last night. We walked to the Kaiserdom from our lodging and found a nice, cozy, and seriously empty restaurant called Binding. It was partially my fault that we went in to this instead of the more busy restaurant next door, because I saw Kaiserschmarrn on the menu (-___-;; Sorry guys).
I ordered Spinach dumplings because it was the only vegetarian meal that did not have goops of cheese in it.

It wasn’t extremely bad but it wasn’t what I initially kept my stomach empty for either. In the end, it was very typical German knudel (bread dumpling) in tomato sauce.

A little too much food for me

We concluded that in the future when we choose to dine lavishly that we would order food to share because we don’t have the capacity to eat as much as the locals do here. That way we have more room for dessert too, which I like a lot.

The night went by with us getting packed and reorganized for our first day embarking on touristy events in Paris. Woke up early in the morning, with enough sleep on my end, we headed out to the train station. Goodbye Frankfurt, we will see you again in 2 weeks!!

The top of Hanie and Lydd's head

Le fast train to Paris