reede, 7. detsember 2018

Mas que solamente una ciudad, Barcelona. Gaudi.

In Berlin our main goal was shopping, sorry sightseeing. In Barcelona the idea was to eat. And then eat some more. Having chosen the main eateries, all our other plans, that we really didn't have, were made around those. On Friday we wanted to have dinner in one small fish restaurant and on Saturday to have lunch in the Argentinian buffet. First monkey wrench in the plan appeared in Frankfurt when I was checking the opening times of the fish restaurant and it turned out that the family who is owning it, is having holidays and the place is closed. Quick Google also claimed that the door of the Argentinian joint has been closed for awhile. Oh, well.

Anyway, the morning had broken and us, who booked a quiet room could watch other windows few meters away instead of stretching ourselves on the sunny balconies overlooking Via Laietana. We went out and since our hotel is nicely located in El Born, we made a quick stop in the bread store, where Scott bought bocadilla con jamon y queso and few little chocolate croissants and sat down in a cafe next to the market. Got some more chocolate criossants, coffee and enjoyed the morning.

We walked to La Sagrada Familia. The mentioned life- and post lifework of Gaudi is built mainly using donations and ticket money. Considering the ticket price I'm sort of surprised that they haven't finished it yet. The fee to go up in the tower was 35 EUR. We continued our walk on the ground with no additional fee and went to Gracia, because as far as I knew, this area was filled with cute little cafes with delicious food. We took seats in one of the cafes on a square and had some few days old churros and not really tasty patatas bravas. On the way back we took a look at my favourite churros joint (still there and opened) and decided for a safe choice for lunch - a local place in El Born that I knew from previous trips was good. Turned out that even though the place was good 15 years ago and 10 years ago, by 2018 the things had changed and the food fairly disappointing.

Before going back to the hotel we also walked a bit in El Raval. Nothing had changed there - the girls with short skirts and priced per hour were still standing on the street waiting for Richard Gere to arrive. Half an hour before the sunset I had that amazing idea of going and watching the sunset on the beach. We sprinted to the beach with speed that would have left Usain Bolt in our dust. We sat on the sand, watched the sun setting and since 30.000 steps were not enough for Scott, we walked up and down the beach some. For the dinner we chose based on a trustful recommendation a small bar in Barceloneta and had some delicious pork (Scott), OK cod fish salad (me), fairly disappointing patatas bravas (neither of us), delicious Crema Catalana (me) and some homemade chocolate truffles (Scott). I had ordered the cod salad, I knew exactly how it's supposed to look like and the waiter brought me a bowl full of lettuce with some pieces of crab meat and tuna. Turned out that in his mind I ordered Ensalada de atun, not Esquixada. Despite me even pointing my finger at what I want when placing the order, it was still somehow my fault that I got the wrong salad. Patatas bravas were supposed to be best in town in that joint. Apparently the ones claiming that, hadn't eaten those anywhere else. We paid and returned to the hotel. 33.000 steps and then some.

pühapäev, 25. november 2018

Berlin - being abroad in Germany. On the Karl Marx Allee

I woke up in the middle of the night when Scott called the reception and voiced his disapproval about hearing vulgar words from next door. And once again he proved to be effective party killer.

In the morning we had planned to go to Silo for brunch, but by the time we got up, dressed and packed, it was almost noon and once again we made our way to our own eatery and had some sandwiches and corn flakes. Also when passing the reception, Scott used the chance and and told them how disappointed we are that an esteemed hotel like that allows closed parties where neighbours are not invited. And offered that a small discount might make up a bit for the fact that we were not invited. We got one night's money back and the girl apologised that without manager's approval she's unable to refund the second night too.

Main goal for the day was to walk down Karl Marx Alley and check out those pompous buildings lining the alley. We walked to the Boxhagener Platz, visited the only open Christmas Market in town, which turned out to be closed after all, walked some more and went back to Alexanderplatz to have lunch there. After pizza and salad we had around one hour before we had to head back to the hotel to pick up our bags and leave to airport. The TV Tower was still hidden in thick fog, so we thought it would be a good idea to go there and see, if with the zero visibility we can go up for half price. Turned out that the package was full price for zero visibility.

laupäev, 24. november 2018

Berlin - being abroad in Germany. Travellers. Not Tourists.

Since we covered bigger part of the sightseeing objects yesterday, our main goal today was to focus on food. And TV tower. Once we left the hotel, it turned out that also thick fog had decided to focus on TV tower. We started our way towards food. Walked through neighbouring streets, checked out terraces of the cute cafes, visited the wall museum, had some cakes in the Princess Cheesecake and made our way to the Gendarmenplatz to have some Wiener Schnitzel in the Augustiner there. The Schnitzel was just as thin as in Vienna and with crunchy breading like the caramel layer on Creme Brulee.

The plan for the night was to go out, because Scott wanted to watch football. When the night arrived, both of us were sitting in the hotel room with no going out in sight. I decided to go for some more shopping and for the last quarter of the game Scott also joined. Turned out that the only bar in the city that was supposed to screen the game, it didn't do it and since Michigan was losing anyway, we went to have some snack. Scott wanted hot dog. Or rather I wanted that Scott would try the German sausage and that's what we ordered for him in a joint. Nicely in a bun. Once the sausage came out of the fryer and before we managed to get a word out, the dude had already sliced it. We explained that we wanted the hot dog in a bun, not on a plate and with french fries. Then he tried to to squeeze the pieces of sausage in a bun. That was also not what we expected and we asked him to fry another sausage.

reede, 23. november 2018

Berlin - being abroad in Germany. What's the party without champagne?

I woke up at 4am hearing Scott swearing next to me. Turned out, there was a little party in the next room and Scott was slightly dissatisfied with the fact that he wasn't invited. I found him the phone number, so he could call the reception and send them to represent him on the party. We fell back asleep.

Since it was Scott's first trip to Germany, we had planned hardcore sightseeing and bigger shopping for Friday. After the breakfast the plan was to start walking towards the TV tower. But what wasn't there, was the TV tower. What was there, was thick fog and a part of the tower's stem. We crossed the Alexanderplatz and made our way to the Berlin Dome, form there to Brandenburg Gate and past the Reichstag. Next there was the holocaust memorial and Checkpoint Charlie. If someone would ask me, what is the one and only thing, you have to see, if you don't have any time for anything more, without hesitation my answer would be the mentioned holocaust memorial. It is so powerful that our glass cross on the Liberty Square doesn't even make into the same list.

It was lunch o'clock and we started to look for a place to eat. The streets were lined with boring hotel or shopping center's restaurants until we reached Nikolaiquarter and they had opened the mulled wine kiosk and raclette kiosk. They told me that they only carry red wine (I asked for white) and after he placed my hot red wine on the counter, he informed me that merely a minute away there is another yard, where I could get white wine too. We took also potatoes with raclette cheese and ate there on a terrace.

Next few hours were spent on shopping, after that we took the purchases to the hotel, stopped in a grocery store on the way, got the most expensive champagne of the store (2.79 EUR per bottle), set that on ice, changed and went out to meet Flaco for dinner. We had some Asian tapas and once the food was finished and Scott asked for more tap water (they brought the water in glasses that are in suitable size to pass the security control in airports), the waiter told us that it's actually not allowed to bring even as much as he already has. One tiny glass for each customer. We left and went to have some sweets in Lisboa Bar.

Without consulting the Google Maps I had the grandiose plan to take the tram No 10 to Alexanderplatz and from there the tram No 4 to the hotel. After we had been riding the T10 for some 15 minutes, but no fog-covered TV Tower still in sight, I started to look at the map. Turned out that before reaching the Alexanderplatz we circle the whole city center. It also turned out that the next stop is just a 5 minute walk away from our hotel. Jumped out and walked to the hotel.

neljapäev, 22. november 2018

Berlin - being abroad in Germany. The Rebel.

The spontaneous decision in the beginning of July took us now, end of November to the capital of Germany. To see the Christmas Markets (which were not opened), drink mulled wine (which was not sold on the yet closed markets), learn about the history (the less superficial half of the couple) and shop (the less sophisticated half of the couple).

Unexpectedly it turned out that the city has reorganised the train lines and so we made it to our hotel through Alexanderplatz. Since we managed to buy the tickets in the last minute before running to the platform, we didn't think of validating them and took the ride as courtesy of Berlin public transportation. Being financially and environmentally conscious, we saved the tickets to use them on Sunday on the way back to the airport.

We had some Nepali and Tibetan food in our 'hood and walked to the center to take a look at the closed stores and the TV Tower. Turned out that Berlin is a country of its own and doesn't think much of the laws of the welfare state that makes the employers to send their employees home at 8pm sharp. Different stores were opened until 9 or 10pm even.

laupäev, 10. november 2018

Finally it's not me

I know, I was supposed to write about Larry's house and the savings on highways, but so much other thrilling things have happened that those topics will remain on hold for a bit.

When walking to the market in the morning, there was Chococoo on the way and we decided to make first truffle stop of the day. Scott chose raspberry nad lichee truffle and me one with passion fruit and another an award-winning chantarelle-salted-caramel truffle. I'm aware that recently it's becoming more and more popular to mix all kinds of flavours, but I'm not a target group for a sweet that tastes like porcini risotto in chocolate. We kept walking to the market to buy an Italian rice ball on the market. I didn't succeed last time, because once I finally managed to get the attention of the guy, working on dough, it turned out that the Italian joint is actually closed and I'm more than welcome to come back and get my rice ball the next day. Today, the kiosk was open and rice balls on the tray and ... we were still out of luck. Because the girl behind the counter didn't have any change and they didn't accept cards.

We walked through the main square and watched the preparation to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus in the commercial world and made our way to Drink Bar. Because they have the best cheese balls in the country there. We planned to compliment those with house made potato crisps. The cheese balls were as good as ever, instead of potato crisps we got a bowl full of soggy and oily potato slices. Scott touched one and tossed around another one, took the bowl, walked with it to the counter and told the girl that those potato slices don't look much like crisps and could we please get some that are fried slightly longer. Ten minutes later we got nice and crispy chips.

Well, since the diet already flew out the window, from our deep-fried lunch we walked around the corner to Chocolala, because I had mentioned to Scott that they have a chocolate museum now in the basement too. After we had seen through the exhibition and found ourselves in front of the chocolate shelves again, the owner, Yussuf, came and offered some truffles and we ended up talking about the world of cocoa and chocolate for quite a while. We tried already familiar salted caramel, juniper gin and chili ones and a new, seasonal gingerbread truffle. Additionally we got to taste a pink, but 100% chocolate. From flavour and look I would have guessed, it's white chocolate with raspberry. We bought a tablet with champagne filling and a box of truffles and walked home.

pühapäev, 4. november 2018

Velvet Massage

I got a gift voucher to Thai Orchid Massage Salon, for an hour velvet massage. I booked the time on the web page and imagined already the masseuse softly working my back and me leaving the salon after the velvety and silky massage totally relaxed. First suspicion raised when I noticed that there is no massage table but just the mat on the floor and I had to change into the usual pajama they use in Thai massages. And when the tiny Thai lady first jumped on me and then started to do some headstands on her elbows on my back, it was clear that there's gonna be no silk or velvet. Finally when I managed to take a breath, I quickly asked where they're hiding the velvet and wtf is going on? She asked slightly worried if she's too hard. Well, I can always return the next day and show my bruises, if she was doubting her skills. But when next day my back, that had been hurting for a week, didn't hurt anymore, I decided to not to bear a grudge any longer.

I wanted to buy a pair of slippers for the office, because in the shoes I took there, my feet are cold. I considered the 20 euro ones from Amazon too expensive and the 5 dollar ones from Aliexpress too ugly. Today, while walking through the shoe section in the department mall, I noticed some slippers on one shelf and made my way over there. Could already see myself wearing those without waiting for several weeks. The price tag attached to the slippers informed me that they cost 79,99EUR. I decided to invest my money into Tallink stocks rather than bling slippers and left the department store.

Other than than the usual and daily complaints there are few more things from US that need to be brought into daylight, but I haven't managed to complain about yet. Like dessert menu. Unless you go to a pub or diner where the all sweet section is containing of ice cream and a slice of cake, in restaurants until you've finished your veggies, there is no talk about dessert. You take a seat, get the menu and drink card and have to notice with disappointment that the menu is limited to non-sweet food only. Always difficult for me, because I'd like to see the dessert options too. If there's something I'd like, I would order a starter and dessert. But if they only have pancakes and ice cream, I would just go for main course. However, during the time I've learned to plan ahead and I'll check the menu on their web page first to not to confuse the waitress, why I want to see the desserts before even ordering my greens.

The ice cream kind of makes the introduction for the next topic, which is our bad timing and Dairy Queen. As I've already mentioned, all last fall we planned the visit to Dairy Queen like a long waited holidays on Bora Bora. Constantly talked about it, never made it there. And when we finally landed in front of the ice cream joint (after an hour walk), turned out that as of last night it was closed for the winter season. This year we managed to go there and even get the ice cream and do it twice. And since they had a sign that last day of summer season is October 7th, our plan was to go and get an ice cream right after returning from D.C. Well, guess again. We arrived there shortly before 6pm, it was 75F outside and they had turned off the lights and locked the door.

Continuing with food topics, I still haven't figured out why in US the apple juice is called apple cider, but the orange juice is still orange juice. Both are made of crushed fruits. I googled and found out that cider is either an alcoholic drink made from fermented apple juice or an unfermented drink made by crushing fruit, typically apples. So, still unclear, why they have apple cider but not orange cider.

I also wanted to write about savings on the highways and Larry's house and weed and everything you can subscribe to in US, but since I've heard some feedback that every now and then my blog posts are too long, those burning topics remain on the waiting list.