Lifestyle · travel · Uncategorized

Summer in Europe: Rome

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My second city on this Europe trip was Rome.  I have been to Europe several times, and this was my first time to Italy.  Rome, was always a city that I wanted to visit.  I have planned 4.5 days since I expected that there will be many historic landmarks that I want to see.  I was also prepared to walk a lot.  Rome’s public transportation is not that great.  Especially inside of the Rome City Center (Old City), all the places are only accessible by foot.  There are only two subway lines and only run along the perimeter of the City Center. We had an early afternoon flight from Amsterdam.  We stayed in the Generator Rome Hostel with a private room.  I Stayed in Generator Hostel in other cities in Europe.  The experience that I had in other cities was pretty good, for the money that I paid.  The design of Generator Hostel is always contemporary, fun, creative, and targeting young adults.  The communal areas such as the lobby, game, bar, and dining always have a stylish and pop design.  Sometimes I even forget that this is a hostel, instead, I feel like this is a boutique hotel.  The location of Generator Rome Hostel is very close to the Rome Termini Station, which is the main transportation hub of Rome.

Day 1

It was already late afternoon after we checked-in and I was extremely exhausted because I didn’t sleep well the night before.  I was debating if I should just rest in my room or go out and explore.  At the end, I decided to take a walk in the shopping area of Rome’s historic center (near Spanish steps).  In the evening, I took the train back to Rome Termini Station, and I had dinner at the Mercado Centrale Roma, a market that features artisan food stalls.

Day 2

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We went across the Tiber river and explored Trastevere, a charming neighborhood with allies, winding streets, cobbled stones, and colorful houses.  It was a very pleasant stroll, and of course, I took thousands of photos.  Restaurants with outdoor seatings are all over this area.  After we had lunch in one of them, we headed back to the Rome city center.  Just roaming around in this historic town, we were able to hit several popular places: Campo de’ Fiori (farmer’s market), Piazza Navona (largest piazza), Pantheon, and Altar.  Before heading back to our hostel, we walked up to the Capitol Hill for the sunset view.

Day 3

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This was the most exhausting day of the entire trip—Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pristine Hill, all clustered in the city center.  From my research online, visits to each of these places requires long waiting in a queue, so we decided to join a private tour (all these 3 places were included) so we can “skip the line”.  I was not so sure initially, but it was totally worth the money even though we paid triple the actual admission price.  The private tour was able to bring us up to the highest level of the Colosseum, and also the underground, where all the animals stayed.  These two areas inside the Colosseum are excluded from private tour only.  Then we continued the tour to Roman Forum and Pristine Hill.  Roman Forum, was the social gathering place or a marketplace in the ancient time.  It is a huge plaza with several ruined government buildings.  We started the tour from the top of the hill and then descended.  Please do take advantage of enjoying the overall view of the Roman Forum if you are on the hilltop; it was amazing.  I wasn’t too impressed of Pristine Hill.  I would say, if you are not joining the tour and running out of time, you could skip it.  You also have an option to split the tour into two days if you are too tired.  Part of it made this day so tiring was the weather.  Walking outdoor the whole day under the sun with 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Could you imagine?!

For dinner, we went to a wine and tapas bar in a local neighborhood, Tree.  It has a very good vibe with a good mix of people, outdoor seating (my favorite), and good food. I highly recommend if you want to stay away from the tourist area.

Day 4 

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Exploring the Vatican City, located on the opposite side of the river from the city center, was another long and intense day.  Because of the awesome experience that we had with the private tour the day before, we decided to join a private tour for Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Square (all were included in one tour).  After the tour, we climbed up to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.  I highly recommend doing this, if you are physically capable.  You have an option to take the elevator to the roof level, and then continue taking the stair and climbing up to the top of the cupola.  The winding stair gets narrower and dimmer while proceeding to the top, and it made the journey even more interesting and mysterious.  Once we were at the top, the reward was amazing — view of the whole Vatican City.

Later that night, while we walked toward to the Castello Castle to take some pictures of the exterior, we spotted there were lots of restaurants under the bridge and along the waterside.  The overall vibe looked amazing.  Without a thought, we decided to hop into one of the restaurants, Bar, and dined there.

Day 5

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Although there are still more tours that I want to join and learn about the Rome history, we decided to chill on our last day.  We spent the whole day in the city center, including stops at the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain which was jam-packed with people.  We walked around, shopped a bit, and just wanted to get the feeling of this city vibe.  When we got tired, we took a break in a random piazza’s restaurant, chilled, drank, and people watching.  For lunch, we found a really nice restaurant randomly — Angelina Restorante, the interior is contemporary and super cute, surrounded by plants.  With the garden type of tables and chairs, I felt like I was dining in a garden.  For my meal, I ordered pasta, and surprisingly it was very good.  The actual size of the pasta bowl was extremely large.

 

outfits · travel · Uncategorized

Summer in Europe: Amsterdam

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Shirt: Banana Republic | Jeans: American Eagle | Jacket: Forever 21

I went to several cities in Europe during August, and Amsterdam was one of the destinations and first on this three-week trip.  When most countries in Europe are hot during summertime, Amsterdam is always cool.  I have learned that it maintains the same temperature throughout the year.  So in addition to all my summer outfits, I also brought a lightweight military jacket and a gray cardigan.  These two can mix and match with any dresses and tops.

I stayed in an Airbnb house near the street “Beethovenstraat”.  My host told me that this neighborhood is the most upscale part of Amsterdam, and it is very safe.  It has lots of coffee shops, bistros, and high-ended boutique shops.  The public transportation is also great.  Few lines of trams are running along the Beethovenstraat street, and they can get you to the city center and all the tourist places.  For all the trams, metro, and buses, it is 2.90 euro per ride or you can get an unlimited ride ticket (1 to 7 day ticket, 7.50 euro to 34 euro).  I won’t suggest getting the unlimited ride ticket because the city is not too big and most of the tourist places are clustered.  Most of the time, you will be walking from one place to another, or you might want to bike, which is the most popular transportation in Amsterdam.

Day 1

I arrived in the late afternoon.  Right after I dropped off my luggage at my Airbnb, I headed out to check around my neighborhood and get food.  Afterward, I went to Anne Frank House, which I did not purchase an advanced ticket.  From what I read on the internet, if you didn’t reserve the ticket in advance, queuing in line could take few hours to get in.  I didn’t make any plan and just wanted to try.  The last entry to get into the museum is 9pm. I got there at 8pm, and surprisingly the line wasn’t that long.  Guess what?  I got in at 8:30pm, only waited for 30 minutes.  So, for those who couldn’t get the advanced ticket, you might want to go there during a later time of the day.  The visit to Anne Frank House was so great.  It is the showcase of all the things happened in this house during that time.  I highly recommend.  The last stop of the night, I went to check out the Red Light District, which is well-known in Amsterdam.

Day 2

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Whenever I think of Netherland, I will see windmills situated in a beautiful natural landscape.  While I was doing my research before the trip, I found this historic town Zaanse Schans, which is quite near Amsterdam.  There are two ways of public transportation to Zaanse Schans, by Bus or train from Amsterdam Central station.  Bus—takes 40 minutes and will take you right there.  Train—takes 17 minutes, but requires additional 15 minutes walk.

I spent almost the whole day in this picturesque Dutch village.  It is so beautiful, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the surrounding throughout the day.  There is a huge river, surrounded by 6 wooden windmills on one side, and a row of traditional houses on the other side.  You can also hop on a boat and take a windmill tour.  Besides the iconic view of the windmills, there are also museums, restaurants, shops along the river.  If you have extra time, you can also bike around in this village.  I had a long lunch break in the restaurant right next to the river.  I sat on the outdoor patio, with an awesome view of the river and windmills…very relaxing!

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The EYE Film Museum, has a unique and futuristic architecture, is located on the north bank of the river, along with the waterside.  Since the museum is conveniently located right across from the Central Station, after I came back from Zaanse Schans, I immediately took the ferry (free) to the north bank.  I wasn’t really into the film collection and the exhibition, but I couldn’t resist taking a closer look of the architecture.

Day 3

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The last day here I decided to rent a bike and tour around the city, instead of by foot and tram.  The whole city is very bike friendly.  There are bike racks wherever you go, and wide designated bike lanes.  The whole city is not that big, and because I was biking, I was able to hit all the tourist spots.  I started my day in the Museum District.  I visited the Van Gogh Museum, took some pictures in front of the “IAMSTERDAM” sign, made a quick bike tour around the Rijks Museum (I didn’t go in).  Then I went to the luxury shopping street, “Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat”.  I went there not for shopping, but I wanted to see the Chanel Crystal House designed by MVRDV.

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Flower Market

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Nine Street Area
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Top: J.Crew | Jeans: American Eagle

I continued to bike, to the Flower Market, and of course, I crossed many canals connected with small bridges.  I really enjoy biking around in the area where all the canals are.  The area is chilled and peaceful.  The Amsterdam style houses and the rows of trees along the street made the overall scenery even more unique and memorable.  After I made a short stop in the Flower Market, I biked to the Nine Street area.  This area has lots of unique boutique shops, cafe, and cute restaurants.  I can see myself come here often if I live in this city. I had a quick coffee break in one of the cafes, and then cruised around a bit.  Finally, I headed to the Heineken Brewery before they close for the night.

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For restaurants, I randomly talked to a girl while I was exploring the city.  She suggested me to go to Lindengracht Street and the surrounded area.  There are a lot of good and less touristy restaurants there.  So I went there and just randomly went into one of the restaurants, Bleu Bistro…and it was really good.

fashion · Lifestyle · outfits · travel · Uncategorized

Tokyo Trip (Part II)

Continuing from the previous post…here are some more highlights of my Tokyo trip:

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We wanted to have a view of the Tokyo city from high up, so we decided to go up to the Mori Tower.  We went to the 52nd floor, the City View, it is surrounded by full height glass wall.  Felt a bit shaky when I stood right against the window.  We were pretty lucky that it was a clear sky despite it was raining two days before.  We also went up to the roof deck for a better view, as expected, super windy.  Since a complimentary ticket to the Mori Museum on the 53rd floor is also included, we took a quick tour.

 

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Omotesando area is one of my favorites.  It is another shopping hub with upscale fashion shops, haute couture boutique shops, young designer brands, trendy cafes, and pop-up shops.  Architecturally, a lot of the shop interiors and facades are very interesting with detailed design.  There are few shops and malls are designed by star architects.  For example, Omotesando Hills, Prada, Hugo Boss, Tod…etc.  The overall vibe, I would say it is not as luxury as Ginza, but not as young as the adjacent district Harajuku.

 

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The famous busy pedestrian intersection (some referred it as the busiest in the world)–Shibuya Crossing.  It was quite interesting just to stand at one of the street corners and watch people cross when the light turns green.  Within a minute, the intersection was jammed and people were crossing the intersection from all different directions.  The space of the intersection is huge, larger than a typical intersection.

  • Jean jacket: Rag & Bone
  • Dress:  American Eagle
  • Shoes:  Adidas 
  • Belt: Coach

 

fashion · Lifestyle · outfits · travel · Uncategorized

Tokyo Trip (Part I)

I came back from my Hong Kong and Tokyo trip few weeks already and I have been delaying my post.  In Hong Kong, mainly I met up with friends, ate, and hung out.  Since I lived and worked in HK for almost five years, I didn’t do any tourist activities, nor exploring new neighborhoods.

I also traveled to Tokyo and spent there for a week.  Japan is always one of my favorite countries to visit, and I had been there several times, almost each time to different cities.  I am a huge fans of sushi, so eating was almost the main activity for me.  This was my third time visiting Tokyo.  Not to mention the metropolitan vibe and the food that I really like and enjoy, I also love that how every neighborhood in Tokyo has something going on. Each area feels like a city hub to me–with shopping malls and restaurants everywhere.

Here are some of the highlights and photos that I took when I was there (National Art Center, Ginza Six, and Asakusa):

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Besides eating a lot, I finally visited the National Art Center for the first time.  The full height undulating glass wall is amazing.  It is brightening the space with lots of natural light.  Inside the space, there are three floor levels.  No matter where you stand, you still can get a very good view of the exterior space.  The photo above was Yayoi Kasuma’s exhibition.

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The Ginza Six department store, in Ginza, was just opened a week before we arrived (I found out when I was there).  It was extremely packed.  The interior space and finishes looks pretty luxury and well designed.  At that moment when I was there, the central atrium had Yayoi Kasuma’s art installation.

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Asakusa Area — I would say this is one of the most popular sightseeing places in Tokyo.  There is a long and crowded shopping street that leads to Sensoji Temple.  The entrance gate to this street is Kaminarimon.  In this street, shops are selling souvenirs and Japanese food, like a food stall.  This street is not wide and is always packed with tourists.  In term of the actual length, is not that long.  But because there are many distractions, people and shops, it took us almost two hours to get to the temple.  Right across from Kaminarimon, it is the Tourist Information Center, by architect Kengo Kuma, one of my favorite architects.