[VENICE] HOW TO EAT AND DRINK LIKE A LOCAL IN…

Couple of days back, I chanced upon this interesting site that arranges professional gourmet food tours in Italy. The foodie in me was jumping for joy! I wish I had done more research before my trip to Venice (2014), which led to sub-par pastas and touristy rip-offs (although you never go wrong with seafood risottos). Venice is a perfect locale for sightseeing, but at the same time the hustling-bustling city is bound to overwhelm you unless you come prepared with a solid list of where to go and what to do. Loads of pizzerias and pasta houses would lure unsuspecting tourists into their midst and serve up mediocre cuisines, tricking you into believing that this is the best you can get in Venice.

There’s this Italian saying, “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.” – literally translated as “not all donuts come with a hole”, metaphorically alluding to things not always turning out as we expected. I’d projected all Italian restaurants to be fantastico. Truth is, locals have got way higher expectations than the average tourist, so it turns out you can actually hire a tourguide to bring you around for the best cuisines! Next time round probably I’ll be engaging tours – what better way to pamper your belly than Emilia Delizia’s filtered list of delis, chosen through personal samplings from the native Italians themselves. Way too cool!

Where: Emilia Delizia

Who: Experts in food and wine travel in Parma, Modena and Bologna

What: Holiday planning to various Italian destinations in your native language (Russian, English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, you name it)

What I love: Cicchetti Crawl
The same question popping up in your head right now was in my own, the first time I read about cicchetti. What’s that?

Well essentially they are snacks, rather like Spanish tapas, served in wine bars and taverns. According to Emilia Delizia, a cicchetti adventure should begin at bacari (wine bars) or osteria, both of which serve such simple, traditional snack foods: chunks of salami, pieces of cheese, fried olives and fried seafoods. However modern cicchetti can be much more elaborate, and can even be dinners in miniature. Also what better way to sample the best local wines than to get locals to drink them with you! The Italian vocabulary for wines is amazing: did you know, ombra are small glasses of wine (about the size of a double shot), and also nicknamed ‘shade’ after wine sellers in the Piazza San Marco, who kept in the shade to keep the wine cool and fresh. I remember having an aperitivo (a pre-dinner drink to whet my appetite) during my trip, and was awed by the wine selection. Due to our language disparity, unfortunately, the Italian wine connoisseur could not express what was in the aperitivo – I think it had something to do with sparkling wine and bitters. Which is why a food tour would be extremely helpful, and could save you a lot of trial and errors in the Venetian food-maze.

I should probably warn you not to read Emilia Delizia on an empy stomach…I got so hungry after reading their gourmet descriptions. I needed no further proof that these guys know their stuff. Popular cichettis include “tidbits served on toast (crostini) or on squares of savory grilled polenta”, and “squid ink toast with or without curried shrimp”, and “tramezzini (little triangular sandwiches) made from special, soft white bread, stuffed with a delectable variety of fillings including ham, olives, cheese or tuna”. Tramezzini. What a mouthful.

Where To Go: Rialto Fish Market
The best seafood based bacari and osteria are in San Polo, where they serve “swordfish croissant and scallops served in the shell – all served in a buffet style” and “hearty plates of polpette (meatballs) served with an aioli sauce, topped with truffles, cheese and mushrooms”. Honestly, I never knew these existed till I read this off E.D.!

Venice, I’ll be back for you with a hearty appetite!

P.S. All pictures are my own, circa 2013

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

SEOUL DIARIES OO5: HANGANG PARK

Yeouido Hangang Park

March 22, 2014: DAY THREE
I picked the perfect day with a gorgeous weather to explore the Yeouido Park! The trail cuts off at an intersection before leading to Yeouido Hangang Park (여의도 한강공원), which faces the Han River. Following this park trail, you can choose to jog along Han River or cross over to central Seoul via Yeoui-daero and Mapo-Bridge.

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With the endless, cloudless sky above and a shimmering crystal-blue waters of Han River before me: I’m one very blessed solo-venturer. No filters were used on these photographs! Look at the serene blueness of this beautiful scenery. I could wake up to this river every morning and lose myself in its immeasurable depths.

Hangang Yeouido Park

HAN RIVER KOREA

flowers at han river

han river seoul

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

The Love Lockdown

Eiserner Steg Frankfurt Love Bridge

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Couples lock down their vows over the Eiserner Steg in Germany, which stands proud over River Main linking Frankfurt’s city centre to the district of Sachsenhausen. Another lover’s bridge marked with everlasting passion symbolized by the act of locking with a sense of resilient security and firm, unyielding permanence. The irony of these very metal locks surviving way past expiry of its owners’ heartfelt promises, we may never know.

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Once you look beyond the riveted steel truss, everything else can be forgotten. The scene of River Main from the centre of the bridge took my heart and mind away, just for a little while.

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Eiserner Steg Frankfurt 4

Eiserner Steg Frankfurt 5

Eiserner Steg
Mainkai, 60311 Frankfurt,
Germany

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg

Swans at Schloss Leopoldskron

A glimpse of the rococo villa from the bank across, while surrounded by a gorgeous bevy of swans. Contrary to popular belief, the Schloss Leopoldskron palace was never used as the Von Trapp villa in Robert Wise’s Sound of Music!

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Leopoldskron Palace is privately owned and not accessible to the general public, unless you’re a registered resident of the castle accommodations.

Schloss Leopoldskron River Palace
We were in Salzburg mid-September while temperature hasn’t descended to an insane low, though dark clouds and rain weren’t merciful enough to spare us.

Swans Schloss Leopoldskron
One of 3 scenes filmed here was of Julie Andrews and the children falling into the Leopoldskroner Weiher. I remember that so well now!

Schloss Leopoldskron

Sound of Music Tour
Our larger-than-life, don’t-seem-like-she’s-been-doing-this-everyday-for-twenty-years tour guide.

Swans at Schloss Leopoldskron

Schloss Leopoldskron Swans riverside

Schloss Leopoldskron Salzburg

Schloss Leopoldskron Salzburg
Friends who were excited at meeting swans who aren’t people-shy.

Schloss Leopoldskron
Leopoldskronstraße 56-58
5020 Salzburg

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

The Hills Are Alive…in Salzburg Austria!

When I was in Salzburg, I had the pleasure of exploring the rolling hills of Mondsee via Panorama’s Tour of the Sound of Music! I shared an afternoon singing along to “Do Re Mi Fa”, “Climb Every Mountain” and “Sixteen going on Seventeen” with 20-odd tourists who grew up also singing and dancing along to tunes from Julie Andrew’s 1965 film musical.

This is a view of Mondsee as our tour bus cruised the winding roads that led to Mondsee Abbey – the Benedictine monastery in which Julie Andrew’s character wedded Christopher Plummer (Maria and Baron von Trapp).
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Fun fact: The film shows von Trapp family hiking over the Alps from Austria to Switzerland. However, the family did not intend to leave Salzburg on foot. They could have driven through the night nearer to the Swiss (or Italian) border before embarking on their hike.
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35 bumpy minutes later, we had passed organic farms, beautiful lakes, hideaway resorts of the rich and famous, as well as many chapels tucked away in the mountain of Mondsee.
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We also caught a glimpse of Mondsee Lake…a very quick glimpse as it was pouring rather heavily!
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The fun sing-along ride lasted 45 minutes, taking us from Salzburg’s city centre into Mondsee’s small village of a Town…
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…where finally! The Mondsee Abbey greeted us warmly!
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The elaborate wedding ceremony of the von Trapps was held right in this chapel.
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We hid from the rain at Cafè Braun, a place best-known for its apple-strudels!
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I loved walking in the rain, though utterly chilled to the bone, in the quaint little village where locals are quick to welcome you to their humble dwellings. Each of these sidewalk cafès and eateries offer a variety delish bites, as well as elaborate local dishes!
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A pity we were hurried back on the tour bus in under an hour, so our guides can swish us back to Salzburg train station in time for home-bound transport. Nevertheless I did enjoy the lush greenery of Mondsee immensely! Seeing the mountain upclose was breathtakingly surreal.

In the span of an afternoon, Panorama’s tour had driven us to several locations prior to Mondsee: Leopoldskron Palace, Hellbrunn Palace, Nonnberg Abbey, Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang (where panorama shots and scenes of the picnic were filmed). All the film locations were pretty well-preserved and resembled what was filmed in the ’60s! Very much as picturesque and lively as the scenes from our best-loved musical movie 🙂

Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love & Fiberglass

I received this book from Beating Windward Press in exchange for an honest review, and here it is!
boatg
Published October 1st 2012 by Beating Windward Press LLC

MY REVIEW:
Melanie Neale’s memoir evokes a scenic memory of the Bahamas and Florida – an elusive beginning to a heartbreaking story of growing-up and falling apart in more ways than one.

Each memory from her growing up years are detailed with the dates and year, giving us a complete picture of family whose lives revolved around living in a confined 47-foot sailboat cruising between the US East Coast and the Bahamas. The rocky lifestyle shapes the person Melanie gradually became. Her way of thinking, behaving and even eating.

“Part of it was a feminist streak and the other part of it was the ultimate in antifeminism: a deeply rooted need in me to be accepted by my dad and by other men. If I could do the same things as them, I would be accepted into their world.”

The author is a tough cookie who believes that women can rise in a man’s world despite the obstacles in her path. Acceptance became a huge part of her psyche and drives her will to make it out there on her own – Melanie’s own boat and Melanie’s rules.

This is definitely an unusual contemporary memoir that shifts between telling the full story of what actually happened, to what the current Melanie Neale hopes could have happened – a brilliant psychological mapping of a girl who simply wants her own life…with or without the boat. Has the boat become part of her life or has she been simply dictated by it? Definitely insightful if you wish to understand a nomadic life on the rocky seas!

SYNOPSIS
“Boat Girl” is the heart-breaking memoir of growing up aboard a sailboat. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, Melanie’s family lived aboard a 47-foot sailboat, spending their summers along the US East Coast and their winters in the Bahamas. But the cruising life was not all fun in the sun. The family had to work hard to pay for their way of life. They dodged hurricanes, overzealous federal agents and bullying land-kids. And they endured a boatload of family drama. As her father published articles about how living on a boat brings families together, Melanie secretly struggled with an eating disorder, the alienation of being a boat kid, and confusion over her developing sexuality. As an adult, she lived aboard her own 28-foot sailboat and had several relationships trying to find someone who wasn’t intimidated by her stubborn independence and free-spirited lifestyle. “Boat Girl” weaves all this together into a story about a girl who, once all is said and done, simply wants her own boat and her own life. Melanie paints a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of family life aboard a sailboat without drowning the reader in the technical details of sailing. “Boat Girl” strikes a perfect balance between a coming of age story and a sea tale, enjoyable for boaters and land-lovers alike.

Photo-diary: Island Life, Maldives

The beauty of Maldives never fails to take my breath away
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Honestly would love to stay on this island and work for peanuts,
if it means that I get to see this every day of my life.
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Also, Kurumba Maldives is a crazy good place for getaways! It has 2 outdoor freshwater pools, 3 tennis courts, a yoga pavillion, spa and a fitness centre. Snorkeling was insanely fun, because you don’t even need to be a good swimmer – the crystal clear water in the lagoon sort of buoys you up naturally.
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Kurumba Island
Vihamanafushi
08340, Maldives

Travel-diary: Salzach River, Salzburg Austria

Along Makartsteg, a bridge over the Salzach River:  photo DSCN3326.jpg
It is the ‘Pont Neuf’ of Salzburg’s city centre, where lovers lock down physical embodiments that signify the fidelity of their love.
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Makartsteg Bridge was named after the 19th century Historicist painter Hans Makart, born and raised in Salzburg, who became famous as a painter of the Viennese Historicism.

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Salzach River is 225 kilometres (140 mi) in length. Salzach, the name, is derived from the German word Salz, meaning “salt”. Until the 19th century, shipping of salt down Salzach was a crucial part of local economy.
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With Salzburg being a university town, the bridge was dominated by lots of students in the afternoon, chilling with their picnic lunches and beers. What a life! Makes me wanna go back to being an undergraduate all over again.

From Milan to Venice

Fresh off a 12-hour flight to Milan,
we hopped onto a three-hour railway tram into Venice.

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Grabbed lunch at the train station
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And off we go
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Our stop: Santa Lucia
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Buon Giornata, Venezia
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One of their prime, very beautifully hand-crafted, tourist rip-offs
which are too elegant and gorgeous to look at to be of much practicality. photo DSCN2150.jpg

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Dinner at Trattoria
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Mr Keith Chow, Milan buddy!
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Yes just take my breath and heart away
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At one of the many bridges over the canal
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Italy – the start of my gelato frenzy
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This is how they entice people to stay the night at their B&B
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With Paolo Sarpi
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GONDOLES – great way to spend a lazy afternoon drifting down the canals of Venice
but just beware of the speedboats
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More Gondoles
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Heading back to Milan at sunset…
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I must have left my heart behind…

A slice of Copenhagen

Officially am the mad Asian girl snapping away with her iPhone,
at architecture that citizens of Denmark would have seen all their lives.

Here’s a slice of Copenhagen:
the streets of Vester Farimagsgade 9
as seen through my eyes.

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Taking shelter underneath my umbrella in the drizzle proves to be a disadvantage,
for my hands were really unstable,
and I had zero sense of angle/perspectives.

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Mad love for vintage architecture!!
Classical to be exact, but I’ve not exactly learnt how to differentiate the two.  photo IMG_9760.jpg

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Walked quite a distance considering I have 3 hours to kill between waking up and lunch with the crew. photo IMG_9749.jpg

My favorite hangout in the neighbourhood!
If I could wake up to this everyday, it would be such a blessing.
Felt so at peace with the world just by standing on the jogging path
overlooking this river.
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Beauty in the mundane —
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The hotdog seller was giving me a strange look,
as if he found it incredulous that I was snapping a photo of his hotdog stand. photo IMG_9827.jpg

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All these within the hour and I’m still in time for lunch.
Well-worth the 12hours we took to arrive at Copenhagen!

xoxo
Jean

P.S Biggest bonus of my job: catching sunrise 35000 feet above the ground
This is such a bad shot but you can see the sliver of red that indicates the rising sun…
Upclose, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
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fragile things

“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet,
yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon.
You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her,
but everything you think you know is wrong.
Passion flows through her like a river of blood.

swing

 

She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell.
All your tomorrows start here.”

– Neil Gaiman