Sunday, March 31, 2013

New York, New York ( Part II )

My tour guide (hubby), despite having been to New York twice already before this trip, has never had the opportunity to climb up to the viewing deck of the Empire State Building. When I was much younger and cheesier, it had been my lifelong dream to climb up there. But now, I wouldn't mind still doing it, but I have come to dislike queuing on long lines. Fortunately, my husband booked a ticket online and when we got there at 9:30AM, there was no queue at all. And it took us all but 15 minutes maybe, to climb to the viewing deck.

An escalator and two elevators later, we made it to the 86th floor, the viewing deck. And the view did not disappoint.

View of the Chrysler Building from the Empire State observation deck

You can see all the way out to the Statue of Liberty and beyond

Brooklyn Bridge

You can still go higher up, but we didn't bother. Instead we headed off to Fifth Avenue for some shopping.

Hubby was looking for this men's clothes shop called Brooks Brothers because he's really finicky when it comes to office wear. It was suggested by one of his friends here in Toulouse because apparently it's of really good quality. And you can get some shirts that require no ironing. How convenient.

Image from thefrugalprepster

Just last night, I found out this Brooks Brothers is a famous and old American brand when I was reading in bed A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. The author mentioned that it was worn by F. Scott Fitzgerald when he first met him at a bar in Paris. I told my husband about this brand being worn by famous people, and concluded it's probably why the Lola saleslady back at Fifth Avenue was so snooty.

On the way to lunch, we passed by Times Square. I know it's better to have your pictures there taken in the evening, when all the bright lights are aglow, but we just couldn't resist. Later during the night, I came back to take this picture:

 We had a hearty lunch of good old American burger at a place called HB Burger, just a few meters from Times Square. I super loved the ambience, and the food, and the service. I wasn't able to finish everything because it was too much for my small tummy.

browsing the Empire State Building pics while having a beer and waiting for my burger

Back to Fifth Avenue to continue with the shopping, we passed by Tiffany's. and the famous Apple Store.

too bad i already bought some apple stuff in SoHo, didn't bother going inside here

and these:

the skating rink at Rockefeller Center

the Philippine Embassy along Fifth Avenue, would you believe? bonggah!

Later in the afternoon, we went back to Times Square, corner of Broadway to purchase some tickets on show.

i was at first repelled about the queuing. but these ticket booths are selling discounted Broadway tickets. i was just glad we came really early so we didn't queue for a long time.

this is where we bought our discounted tickets. we got 40% off of our tickets to Mamma Mia!

I wanted to watch either The Book of Mormons (that funny South Park episode) or that thing with Matthew Broderick, but they were unavailable. my husband wanted to see Rock of the Ages, but we settled for Mamma Mia instead.

We headed back to the hotel with some Starbucks coffee in hand and had a bit of nap before going back to Broadway again for the show.

At first, I didn't like that I was seated right in front of the stage. I mean, the stage is practically right on my nose. And I was sitting right next to the music director. I could also see the rest of the orchestra below me, underneath the stage.

view of the orchestra instruments below the stage from where i was sitting... you can see all their clutter -- the books, the empty cans of soda and bottled water, some small stuffed animals, etc. it was quite messy

In the end it was such a cool experience, because I was able to see all the details in the stage, all the actors'/actresses' pores, the miniature microphones that they hide in their hair, under the fringe or behind the ear, etc. LOL.

lots of keyboards and that inside the sound-proof booth (left) was the drums set... i took all these pictures with flash, before the orchestra members started to arrive

 And the music director, Wendy Bobbitt Cavett who was sitting an arm's length away from me, was so into it. She even said thanks to me after the show. It was so cool and I felt a bit starstruck. I would've asked for a pic with her, but taking pics inside the theater was supposedly forbidden. :)

this is where the music director was sitting, right to my left. and directly in front of us is the stage floor... that computer there sitting behind the keyboards is a mac.

 After the show, we took some more pictures around Times Square. and had some hot dogs in one of them hot dog stands. we chose the one right in the middle of Times Square. it was awful. but the evening was great.

more next time!

Friday, March 29, 2013

New York, New York ( Part I )

As a kid, whenever New York comes to mind, that cheesy 80s song called Arthur's Theme would start playing in my head. Now, at thirty-six, I'm glad this is not the case anymore.

New York has always been at the top of my list for places to visit. I was just so ecstatic to find out that hubby and I could visit this famous city at 50% off on flight (via KLM) and accommodation (at the heart of Manhattan) with breakfast and airport-hotel transfers included, courtesy of hubby's company. And how convenient it is to just have to cross the Atlantic than to come from the Far East (where I used to live) to go there.

Later we found out it could be such a hassle to go on a trip with a large group of people. So much time wasted waiting for everybody else to finish this and that. So we swore never to go on group travel again. Fortunately, we only got to be part of this group on the way to, and out of NYC.

Upon arrival at the JFK International Airport, there was the longest immigration queue I have ever seen in my entire traveling life! We arrived at 8:30 PM but made it to the hotel at midnight, and so wasted a lot of precious hours on our trip. We were too tired to do anything but sleep.

First impression of the locals at the airport: they all seem to dress and look like the homeless people here in France. No offense, just stating an impression. Fortunately, the rest of NYC did not dress and look like this. I guess because we were in the touristy part of the city.

Breakfast at our hotel (Doubletree by Hilton Chelsea) was the usual American stuff -- bacon, eggs, coffee, bagels, fruits. I loved having this big hearty breakfast!

crispy bacon! what a dream! :)

The next day, hubby and I took a boat ride to Staten Island for a better view of the Statue of Liberty.

Bright sunny day on the way to Staten Island from South of Manhattan

It was a cold day, but thankfully sunny.

La statue de la libérté, le cadeau de France aux Etats-Unis
And then we headed off to Soho (South of Houston Street, according to Wikipedia) for some shopping.

Lots of shops have comfy couches like this for weary shoppers to rest... how thoughtful!

At a Vans shop, my hubby's favorite shoe brand

I suddenly realized how the Philippines has copied some of the US places' names like Trinoma - which sounds a lot like Tribeca, which we passed by on the way to the Staten Island ferry.

Typical smoky NY street scene

Federal Hall façade along Wall Street

Lunch was at Le Pain Quotodien... ah, the name has to be in french in order to sound classy. ;)

Bread and charcuterie at Le Pain Quotidien

We had some Mediterranean food. like we were really missing it. LOL. Found out this chain is of Belgian origin actually. I think they also have it here in France. Haven't really been to one of the branches here, though. And like in the Philippines, all the Starbucks branches are fully-packed. We decided to have a coffee break while still in Soho.

Having a coffee break at some Starbucks branch in SoHo

I super loved the friendly service in all the establishments and restaurants. Shopping at Soho and Fifth Avenue was a lot, lot more enjoyable than anywhere else I have been to for shopping because the salespeople were so nice and helpful.

After the shopping, we headed off to the hotel for some quick nap. We took the High Line on the way there. This is an overhead walking area that was previously a railroad.

Interesting architecture high above the High Line

These brownish red bricks remind me a bit of Toulouse.

that famous WW2 kissing scene all colored up

We ended the evening meeting with an old childhood neighbor / high school classmate who made it big in New York.  He treated us to Japanese Barbecue at Gyu Kaku after meeting at SNAP Sports Bar for a pint of beer.

I super loved all the stuff that were served before us. But my favorite was the green tea crêpes. Unfortunately, i was too tired to take a picture of it. We would've gone somewhere else after dinner, but hubby and I were dead tired from walking all day, so we decided to call it a night.

More of New York next time...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Un Weekend Aveyronnais

one of the many, many things that i will definitely miss in France is the marché. there is nothing quite like it. as you already know, France is all about food. and all the territories have their own specialties.

this weekend, there is the Marché Aveyronnais at the Place du Capitole. we took the opportunity to go this morning since it was quite a mild winter weather we are having today.

my husband, as you know is of Aveyron origin. for those who do not know where it is, it is still in the south of France and still in the region of Midi-Pyrénées (like Toulouse) but it is a few notches higher up in the map.

image from:

it is a region famous for roquefort cheese (that smelly moldy blue cheese), laguiole knife (we received them as wedding gift from my parents-in-law), and the world's tallest viaduct (Millau viaduct).

we were greeted with this huge sign of a stall selling farçous upon entering the vicinity

farçous is made with eggs, and some leafy veggies that look like spinach, which they call blette in french. my mother-in-law made them last christmas (see here) and they tasted a lot, lot better than these ones.


aside from farçous, you have all the different kinds of humongous bread. can you imagine the size of the oven where they were cooked?

i always say you can bludgeon somebody to death with these huge thick-crusted bread... and i know somebody whose gums bled after eating them. i'm used to them by now, though.

you can pair them with some confiture (jam) like these:

cherries and honey jam -- i just had to buy one of these because the Lola selling them was so nice. and they tasted so good.

of course, it's not a real Aveyron market without the presence of Gateaux à la brôche.

gateaux à la brôche

and i was able to see how they were made for the first time.

how to cook gateau à la brôche

we also bought something to drink.

different kinds and flavors of alcoholic beverages

hubby and his Aveyronnais friend even made me choose the wine to buy. we chose something from Marcillac. that place we visited last year when my baby was just a couple of months' old.

other stuff you will find in the market, aside from food:

some nice rustic-looking pottery

these pottery items reminded me of a present my husband's Lola in Millau gave me the first time i visited France. unfortunately, it was broken in transit when we moved from Singapore to France.

and lots of grandmother stuff like these ancient-looking tapestries.

you see a lot of stuff for sale that mostly old people will like. Aveyron has quite an aged population, like most of France's countryside. fortunately, my husband is not among this elder majority. :)

a brass band of Lolos. Aveyron, i think has one of the most number of senior population in all of France.

we bought quite a lot of good stuff for lunch. and to complete the weekend aveyronnais, we even had a guest from there -- my husband's childhood friend. he bought us a huge slice of cheese which is from the terroir of Roquefort. and also, a gateau aux noix (cake with nuts).

top left to bottom: fricandeau (paté), gateau aux noix (cake with nuts), saucisse de canard (duck saucisse), some cheese

it was quite a good meal. heavy, but really good.

the gateau aux noix was a bit dry but still delicious.

the wine that i chose was quite poivré (had some taste of pepper). i seem to like this kind of wine. it might be too strong for some. but it kinda reminds me of the wines from Chile that i used to like a lot when i was still in Singapore.

i find it quite fun that they made an acrosstics of their wine label. :)

and of course, my duck saucisse! the only ones available in the market were a bit too dry, though.

duck saucisse

bon weekend à tous! :)

Friday, March 8, 2013


for non-french speakers: photo captions are in english.

il faisait très beau le weekend dernier. pour profiter le soleil, on a décidé d'aller à Lourdes.

je ne suis pas très catholique mais je trouve les vieux architectures comme les vieilles basiliques et cathédrales vraiment intéressants. et il faut profiter le reste de temps que je suis encore ici dans le sud de la France pour visiter tous les beaux endroits.

en route, dans la voiture, on avait la vue magnifique de la chaine des Pyrénées. ils sont plus magnifiques dans l'hiver avec les glaces partout.

approaching the ice-capped mountains of the Pyrenees

doesn't this just make you want to run around with your arms wide open, singing, "the hills are alive with the sound of music" ? :)

avant d'arriver à la basilique, on a trouvé un restaurant Italian qui est vraiment sympa pour déjeuner.

ham, chorizo, artichoke, dried tomatoes and olives for the entrée at an authentic Italian Pizzeria called Amalfi... makes me want to visit the Amalfi Coast. :)

some creamy vanilla-flavored dessert with nuts

la Basilique du Rosaire est très originale et impréssionante. à droite, on se trouve la grôtte. avant la grotte, il y a quelques robinets pour prendre de l'eau bénite. j'ai achété quelques petits bouteilles pour en prendre et pour en amener à mes vielles grand-mêres catholiques aux Philippines.

the Byzantine-inspired Rosary Basilica

la façade de la basilique est très belle avec les mosaïques partout. ces mosaïques se trouvent aussi partout sur les sols, sur les murs, et sur le dôme à l'interieur.

the entrance to the basilica with words saying, "door of life". it's very original because of the mosaic everywhere.

this basilica is ornamented with mosaic from floor to ceiling.

on avait de la chance quand on a visité parce qu'il n y avait pas trop de monde. c'est pas comme d'habitude. normalement, il y a plein de visiteurs dans ce site tres connu.

the Lourdes Grotto

this magnificent basilica was built on top of the grotto

bottling up some holy H2O for pasalubong to my religious grandparents back in the PI

bon weekend à tous!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shakespeare and Company

if you are ever in Paris, take the time to visit Shakespeare and Company. It's a really old bookshop along the Seine, right beside the Notre Dame. It was frequented by a lot of famous writers back in the day. If visiting old bookshops is your thing, you wouldn't want to miss this one.

View of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral from a park right beside Shakespeare and Company; couldn't resist taking this pic because it's so beautiful in this golden winter light.

I was able to drop by when I visited Paris for the second time. All the books inside were English books ranging from the classics to the contemporary. But when you go up the old rickety stairs to the premier étage, you are transported back in time as you find yourself surrounded by old, dusty, hard-bound books, complete with cozy nooks that temptingly invite you to sit down and read. These books are not for sale though.

The entrance to the bookshop; outside, there are plenty of books on sale

It was not an easy task finding a book to buy as the ones that I was looking for were not available. Luckily, my husband found an Ernest Hemingway book for me, which was sitting right on the cashier counter. The one he found was written in French. I think it was the only book in french that they had for sale. But since it was written by an American author, I of course opted to get the English version. This one was obscurely tucked away for some reason, and they needed the stepladder to retrieve it.

i super love the packaging.

Despite having read a lot of the classics back in high school, I have never really had the occasion to read anything from Ernest Hemingway. For one, I had already supersaturated myself with all the Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters' novels before I made my way up to the likes of Ernest Hemingway. And by that time, I couldn't take in any more of cheesy drama since I was forewarned that Hemingway had the propensity for this.

The fancy book cover featuring Hemingway himself posing in front of Shakespeare and Co

When you buy a book, they ask if you'd want to get it stamped. why wouldn't I? :)

The book I bought was called A Moveable Feast. It is a personal diary of Hemingway, recounting his experiences back in the days when he was living in Paris as a struggling young writer. So far, I have read a couple of chapters, and I still find it interesting. There was even a chapter about Shakespeare and Company, back when it was still a library kept by Sylvia Beach. Somehow, reading this book makes me feel like i'm revisiting Paris for the third time. No regrets about buying this book for a meager price of 12 euros.