Sunday, November 9, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

gravity is actually one of the very first English words that i've learned about. i first heard it from Bugs Bunny, in one of the episodes where he was telling Elmer Fudd that he has a serious problem running past terra firma at the end of the cliff trying to chase him... and that his serious problem was called gravity. upon mentioning this word, Elmer Fudd plumetted to the ground. and i was like, wow! this gravity is powerful stuff... i should try to use it in a sentence one day!

and then in school we all learn that everything has gravity -- i attract and you attract. amazing!.. and that the moon's gravitational pull affects the tides, and that it dictates a lot about the huge, mysterious goings on in the cosmos -- from the colossal and complex, like the intricate weave of time and space, down to the mundane and inane, like my crazy mood swings. and then very recently, how it is slowly but steadily winning in the age-old battle against everything in your body heading down south. i feel it more and more now as i approach the dreaded 40s.

now, it's been a long time since i have read and heard about this word until last night, watching Interstellar at the cinema...

this movie pulled me in completely with the gravitational strength of a massive black hole, sucking me in with every geeky bit of rich narrative on time and space and gravity and theory of relativity, and putting all of these to good use -- saving our loved ones with planet earth on the brink of death. it was talking about all the mysteries in the universe: black holes, worm holes, time and space and gravity... and that unquantifiable, unsolvable, and very potent mystery called L-O-V-E. for this, it's a little bit cheesy, but not in a regular gooey romantic kind of way... which i really appreciate.

watching this movie (in all its three-hour glory) made me feel like i was reading my favorite book Einstein's Dreams, which was itself written by a Physicist from M.I.T. every chapter in this book is dripping with rich prose, laced with all the poetry that science surprisingly offers.

this movie takes me back to my old habit of star-gazing at midnight, watching the Hale-Bopp comet appear every sunset back in the early 90's, and daydreaming about galaxies while browsing thick volumes of encyclopedia. it rekindled my teenage fascination about time and space and astrophysics and Albert Einstein, back when i believed that all the answers were out there authored by the stars.

and finally, a very short lesson on theory of relativity: after watching this movie, there will be people who would feel that this movie is too long, dragging like a lifetime for three hours; and then, there would be people who wouldn't really feel like this movie took three hours at all!  :)

rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saint Vincent de Paul

one of the fondest memories of my university life was taking the mass every Sunday at Saint Vincent de Paul's chapel.

i was already not a religious person at the time, but i have always enjoyed good singing. the SVP chapel had a really good choir. and i really liked Saint Vincent de Paul's birthday because it means school holiday. :)

last time i was in France, i took the chance to finally visit his ville-natale.

arriving at Le Berceau de Saint Vincent de Paul in France, which is a short 30-minute drive from my in-laws'

A small church at the center o the small ville

huge tree

Saint Vincent de Paul's house

This is where Saint Vincent de Paul was born

funny message in the guestbook saying "Let me win 1000 euros in the casino" LOL.

inside SVP's house

lighting a candle for loved ones inside the chapel

most of the fond memories in the university was also spent goofing around with my girl friends. going back to the Philippines for a few short days last month has given me one special night to spend with them at the karaoke. it was really great fun, especially with our kids.

it's been 20 years since i first met these pretty ladies!

lovely serenade by Maju and Kuya Keats

the Leons and the Quindozas

 i can't believe i've been friends with these girls for 20 years now! where did the time go? but seeing all the small happy faces of the little versions of ourselves is a comforting proof that all the time that went away were completely well-spent. ;)

have a good weekend, everyone! :)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Le Meilleur de la Toscane Part 4: Chianti, Arezzo and Cortona

driving along the famous SR222 -- the scenic route that cuts across the Chianti Region between Siena and Firenze

the beautiful contemporary architecture of Antinori Winery in the Chianti, famous for its history, restaurant and vineyard visit
breathing in the gorgeous scenery, along with the young vines that make the Chianti Classico

outside the vineyard's restaurant, Rinucci 1180... it had just stopped raining when we arrived.
enjoying the wine sampler

some crostini, charcuterie, olives and pecorino cheese

descending into the reception area for the vineyard visit and wine tasting

inside the cave where the wines are fermented and aged. this cave is constructed of terra cotta bricks.

from Siena, we spent almost two hours driving through the scenic SR222 route. it's basically a road that traverses the whole of Chianti from Siena to Firenze. if you look it up on Google, or click the link i have here, you will see that it is quite famous for the scenery. we were so high on top of the mountains, our trip started out all foggy and rainy. we were a bit scared at first that the GPS was taking us nowhere where we wanted to go because the roads were so long and winding, albeit really breath-takingly beautiful, i had to make several stops to take some pictures. and when we were getting close to the area, we couldn't see any obvious sign of the famous Antinori winery. according to Lonely Planet, it is the best vineyard visit in all of Chianti.

we were not disappointed when we got there. thankfully, the rain had stopped and we were able to see the road signs more clearly. the winery is not very obvious from afar because most of the structure is underground. it was specifically designed to be not-so-obvious like this. and it is indeed a marvelous contemporary architectural structure that very gracefully and beautiful blends with the surroundings.

we first had lunch at the famous restaurant called Rinuccio 1180. the food was so-so but the wine sampler was really good. and you have the view of the rolling Tuscan hills and the vineyard while you eat... which is mostly what we came there for.

the vineyard visit and wine tasting went really well. everything was in English, unlike my first ever vineyard visit in France where everything was in French. the wine, though, was quite expensive. i guess because it is very famous coming from a well-known family of wine makers in Italy. they even have in the building a library and a theater where all their family history and love of wine are documented. it was quite an interesting visit. i learned so much about wine and how the Italians love them.

the entrance to the huge orchard of Relais Residence Borgo San Pietro in Cortona

a beautiful place to have an apéro -- my favorite prosecco and hubby's Spritz

my favorite flowers -- lavender and roses, all seem to be reaching for me. :)

relaxing pool amid the greens

some pears in the vast orchard of the hotel

blackberries in the wild... they were the sweetest!

the hotel's lovely restaurant

the famous Sangiovese of Cortona
inside the Basilica di San Francesco in Arezzo where Capella Bacci is located... that chapel in The English Patient with the Juliette Binoche romantic scene

from Chianti, we actually headed back to Siena for one last night. and the next day, we drove to Cortona. one of the best parts of our Tuscan trip was staying at this lovely hotel in Cortona called Relais Borgo San Pietro. the hotel was set right in the middle of a flower garden filled with all my favorite fragrant flowers -- lavender and roses, and an orchard filled with apples, pears, different varieties of prunes, olives, almonds, etc. it was heavenly and relaxing. we had a lovely dinner in their terrasse with the usual amazing view of the surrounding hills.

we also took an afternoon to visited Arezzo because i've always wanted to visit this chapel which is the setting for the movie, The English Patient. remember that romantic scene with Juliette Binoche? i was quite surprised to find the Basilica di San Francesco quite small. it was charming, nevertheless.

and since i started my Tuscan trip blogs with a video, it's only right that i end it with another video. this one was taken inside the famous Capella Bacci itself. feast your eyes folks:

thank you for reading and i hope i have given you some good tips on how to do a lovely trip tasting, breathing and experiencing life under the Tuscan sun. :)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Le Meilleur de la Toscane Part 3: San Giminiano and Siena

the pines, the vines and the olives... i really am in Tuscany!

loving the potted flowers

ancient clock

inside one of the long rows of shops in San Giminiano
it was quite touristy... although from outside the fortified city, it was quite hard to tell...

it came as no surprise that San Giminiano was lovelier than what we'd expected. we arrived right around lunch time coming from Lucca.

we saw a nice restaurant with a lovely terasse, far from the maddening crowd of tourists. we also spent some time walking around the walled city. there were lots of shops offering crockery and pots and some truffle and olive oil and lots of Italian products -- pasta, leather goods, etc. the red bricks reminded me so much of Toulouse. and it's such a nice color to look at, so wonderfully and comfortably warm, like the weather... and those red-orangey bricks gave us a sneak peak of what Siena might look like... speaking of which...

i have the same color as Siena!

sweets and goodies

Spritz -- a famous local cocktail made of Aperol, prosecco, sparkling water and a slice of orange

one of the loveliest restaurants i've been to

seafood with a view

storm brewing atop the cathedral

i love these colors!

believe it or not this is neither filtered nor photoshopped
of all the places i've visited in Tuscany, Siena is my favorite. there is just no boring corner in Siena. everything around is a feast to the eyes. it's probably why it is the site of some famous movies, including James Bond, Quantum of Solace's horse race scene. it definitely is one of the loveliest places on earth.

i have also found one of the nicest restaurants i've been to. although, the service and the food quality is so-so, the view of the rolling Tuscan hills and the changing colors of sunset enveloping the ancient city was indescribably magical.

i wouldn't mind visiting Siena again. :)

up next and last: Chianti, Arezzo and Cortona

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Le Meilleur de la Toscane Part 2: Pisa and Lucca

from Firenze, we headed off to Pisa, to of course, see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. everybody's telling us there's not much to see and do there except see this tower.

en route to Pisa from Firenze

we noticed that the highway is a bit too narrow. and there were some areas with major traffic jams. nevertheless, it was a quite a short drive. two hours, if i remember correctly.

the parking area was a bit far away from the city center. we parked there because there are restrictions on allowed vehicles inside the city center. on the way there, we passed by a bustling area with buskers and flea markets and this:

Keith Haring's Tutto Mondo

this is Keith Haring's last public art work before he died. i don't usually like contemporary art because they usually look like some kids' crappy doodles/experiments to me. but i like it when it's juxtaposed with the classic, like this modern mural is painted on the side of an ancient church. it makes for a lovely contrast.

it's quite convenient that there is a small café with free WIFI right in front of this structure and we took a bit of refreshments before heading back into the heat to see the Pisa Tower.

teeny tiny chapel right next to the Arno River

we passed by this teeny tiny chapel right at the edge of the Arno River on the way there. it was so cute and small and charming.

crossing the Arno River on the way to the Pisa Tower

i just had to have my pic taken here. it was so hot i was starting to burn like toast. look at my dark tan.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

a few minutes later, here we are at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. we didn't know that we can climb all the way to the top. so we took the opportunity to buy tickets. it was quite a long queue.

and this is how it looked inside:

some metal structures that keep the wall from caving in or further leaning (?)

you can see that they've built some supporting structure inside to strengthen the walls. it was quite tiring to climb. it was so narrow and you can feel the stronger pull of gravity towards the side where it is leaning. it felt so weird.

you are really forced to lean on the wall because it is sloping towards the side

these are the last few winding steps to the top of the tower:

all the steps are curved in the middle because of the pressure of all the millions of feet that have climbed them for centuries

on the way down, i just had to take off my slippers because i was afraid of slipping. nevertheless, the view from the top is magnificent.

life on top!
a bit of interesting excerpts from wikipedia:
On January 7, 1990, after over two decades of stabilisation studies, and spurred by the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989, the tower was closed to the public. The bells were removed to relieve some weight, and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of the tower were vacated for safety. The final solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38 cubic metres (1,342 cubic feet) of soil from underneath the raised end. The tower was straightened by 45 centimetres (17.7 inches), returning to its 1838 position. After a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on December 15, 2001, and was declared stable for at least another 300 years.[20]

In May 2008, after the removal of another 70 metric tons (77 short tons) of ground, engineers announced that the Tower had been stabilized such that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history. They stated it would be stable for at least 200 years.[21]

we're quite lucky to have arrived there at a time that it is already stable enough to be climbed by the public.

view of the cathedral from the tower

right after visiting The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral, we headed straight off to Lucca, where we will be staying the night. we stayed right at the heart of the fortified city where Giacomo Puccini was born.

Hotel Athena's lobby

we stayed in this charming hotel called Hotel Athena with a very nice Italian Lolo as the owner. He has a gorgeous son that looks like a model! he was so nice to pick us up a few meters from the hotel because we had trouble locating it.


everything looks antique inside the room. it kinda looked haunted to me. it's a good thing i was too tired to worry about ghosts at bedtime because i was exhausted from all the driving and walking in the heat.

this mirror is scary-looking old

we rested for a bit and then walked around the city towards dusk where we found an open market selling antiques. but the shops were already closing down when we got there.

antiques for sale

there was also a music festival featuring Stevie Wonder the following evening. too bad, we had to leave early the following day for San Giminiano and Siena.

artists performing at the music festival in Lucca

walking around the fortified city, we saw a lot of small shops with some old Italian Lolos gathering at a corner having some passionate discussion. :)

Italian Lolos having some heated debate

and of course, we searched for a nice restaurant for dinner. i love that there are olive trees everywhere. makes me feel that i really am in Tuscany. :)

charming set-up but we didn't eat here. we just wanted to have apero here but they only serve dinner. tant pis!

lovely flowered bicycle

of course, the restaurant with a lovely terrasse where we originally wanted to eat was fully-booked, so we had to settle for this one:

my dinner date

which was not that bad at all. i liked my fried oysters and rosé.

oysters for dinner

after dinner, if you keep strolling around, you will find all these interesting sites:

Lucca Cathedral

this is Signor Puccini sitting comfortably right in front of his very own birth place, which is now a restaurant under his appellation.

Signor Puccini

sampayan :)

 breakfast at the Hotel Athena was really nice, especially sitting right next to this old statue:

old and beautiful... sitting next to this at the breakfast table

the hotel's breakfast room

i could never get tired of authentic Italian capuccino for breakfast

i asked the Lolo owner of the hotel what this insignia on the hotel keychain means. he said it's the family insignia of the original owner of the hotel

upon check out, the charming Lolo owner of the hotel gave us directions to a nice route on the way to San Giminiano, so i could have a photo-op with these lovelies:

lovely sunflowers basking under the Tuscan sun

that's all for this week! next time: San Giminiano and Siena