Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 annus horribilis

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
Finally it's over. Has been an annus most horribilis. Colossal mistake, depression, sickness, hate and fear, desperation, nervous breakdown, homeless. but ended among best of friends, a most awesome trip in the beginning of the year, coupled by another that was most enjoyable. Most beloved actors gone. Another company merge that's not for the better. An infatuation (how did it happen? and now I remember a chance encounter years back that reminded me of the English Patient "When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant, who imagines or remembers a meeting when the other had passed by innocently, just as Clifton might have opened a car door for you a year earlier and ignored the fate of his life." wow!)

"You do not know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” –Dr. Seuss

Xmas among friends who assembled the dinning set for me and watched Rogue One. Enjoyable afternoon and evening. Love these guys! Great food (chicken adobo), roaring fire. Stoned at new year's eve.

so now, at the very least, 2 years of the colossal mistake.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

This is the America you have always lived in

Posted by Hippobean at 2:55 PM 0 comments

America has just killed America

Posted by Hippobean at 11:07 AM 0 comments
David Remnick in The New Yorker:

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy… It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.
Jonathan Chait for New York Magazine

Never in my lifetime has the United States seen a period of darkness like the one that lies ahead of us.

Trump will shake the Republic to its foundations. And the Republicans will shake it with him. If there is a central point I tried to drive home, it is that Trumpism grows out of a decades-long trend toward authoritarianism as the dominant tendency of Republican politics.
Ezra Klein for Vox

There is danger in Trump. He’s a man with authoritarian impulses, a conspiracy theorist’s bent, and a taste for vengeance. He has an alarming temperament, little impulse control, and less decency. He has a demagogue’s instinct for finding enemies and a bully’s instinct for finding their weaknesses. He is uninterested in policy, unrestrained by shame, and unbound by norms. He surrounds himself with sycophants and enablers, and he believes both the facts and the falsehoods he finds congenial.


Now we see how strong the American system really is.
Ned Resnikoff for ThinkProgress

This year’s election was a referendum on multiracial liberal democracy. Liberal democracy lost... Instead of multiracial liberal democracy, the United States has chosen white authoritarian populism.
Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine

America has now jumped off a constitutional cliff. It will never be the same country again. Like Brexit, this changes the core nature of this country permanently... This is now Trump’s America. He controls everything from here on forward.

A country designed to resist tyranny has now embraced it. A constitution designed to prevent democracy taking over everything has now succumbed to it. A country once defined by self-government has openly, clearly, enthusiastically delivered its fate into the hands of one man to do as he sees fit. After 240 years, an idea that once inspired the world has finally repealed itself. We the people did it.

S H A M E on America

Posted by Hippobean at 10:39 AM 0 comments
Never knew this country was so full of idiotic stupid people

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Sunday, October 09, 2016

ceramics 2 at Cabrillo College

Posted by Hippobean at 10:31 PM 0 comments

Gordon Morris - Vessel of Dark Matter That Does - 2015
(ceramic, glaze, stains, decals)


Mattie Leeds - First Chinese Irish Wedding 1883

Gail Ritchie Bobeda - Blue Willow - 2014
(ceramic with underglaze, paints)

Gang with Mari's Jouney of Life


Amelia's winner at the Santa Cruz County Fair:


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Offsite - Giants game at AT&T Park

Posted by Hippobean at 9:14 PM 0 comments
Missed all past years, so this time the Hippo decided to make it.

The gang:

the game:

the ballpark:

The video [6.5M]:

Monday, August 08, 2016

Monday, August 08, 2016

2nd time always not so lucky

Posted by Hippobean at 10:14 PM 0 comments
Lots of road constructions in Poland, so we left early to drive to the chopin airport in warsaw. 3.5 hrs with a couple of pit stops. Blew away the extra hour at Chopin without realizing we needed to check in at the machines. And so I was, once again, due to my stupidity, stuck in the middle seat. However, was clever enough to change to a seat towards the front of the plane. Lots of Africans were on this flight and they were all stuck at the back of the plane. It seemed it was their very first flight as they were rowdy, posing and taking shots of the cabin, very loud and smelled very bad. They didnt lock the bathroom door either and I've walked in to one of them. The flight was just about 2 hrs so so long as I dont have to be towards the back of the plane, everything was bearable.

Once in CDG, the now watered down routine of catching the CDGVAL to T3, and walking to the CitizenM. Noticed a new construction next to the hotel. Selected my room and sure enough, it faced the construction site. No matter. just one night and too tired to get it right. Came down and saw veal stew, ratatouille and tomato soup, so I've decided to once again do their buffet. After dinner, saw the huntsman winter's war free on TV and fell asleep.

The next morning woke up a bit late and arrived back at T2 and it was packed. thought it was just crowded, i went out, intending to come back in through another door. but could not go further as everything was yellow roped off. Discovered later that there was some left luggage so they closed part of the airport. When it finally re-opened, of course, multitudes in passport control, security and gate lines. strange, normally cdg-sfo departed from the newer gates. this time it was in an older one, so fewer shops. With still 20 minutes before boarding, i collapsed on a chair after browsing the few shops. Not a very pleasant day. Soon be home and all the sh*t again.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Grodna - now that was nice

Posted by Hippobean at 10:45 PM 0 comments
In the morning I discovered I slept on several dead bugs on the bed!

an hour or so later we checked in to our Grodna hotel, the Neman, another grand soviet style hotel. Why we had to stay overnight at that terrible hotel at Lida, only to check in to another hotel the following morning, beats me!

I like the hotel Neman. It's right across from the square, with a supermarket, bakery and bank next door. The rooms were big and a plush restaurant. it would have been perfect if we didnt overnight at Lida but came straight here for 2 nights.

The augustow canal was a pleasant visit in a Saturday morning. no crowds and the place was green. they built this canal with several locks to go all the way to the Baltic sea! we had our picnic lunch here and this time I had 2 pastries, which i bought from the bakery next to our hotel, one with some fruit paste that was good and another some onions that was horrible. H got one with cooked liver. since they didnt speak any english and there were no signs indicating what the pastries were, we just pointed to some and let luck decide.

The remains of the fort of Grodno had massive walls and we couldnt go inside the fortress because of the mines. But I was quite impress with the thick walls. Then we did a walking tour of the city, the old castle which had wonderful views of the new city on the other side of the neman river with a very pretty bridge, the white st francis xavier church right next to our hotel, the Kalozha Church, the red brick church of st boris and gleb with unique brick designs, the last surviving ruthenian architecture, the very pretty pink Pakrouskaya Orthodox Church, and the great synagogue with interior filled with intricate arches.

Saturday was wedding day in Grodna, and we saw many brides in different gowns, some elegant and beautiful. Women were beautiful in this country. However, the men less so.

Finally we walked back to our hotel in the pedestrian street that had a supermall and a few shops. Found a souvenir shop but there wasnt much there to interest me. Hard as I've tried, there wasnt anything to buy in Belarus. Just managed a few postcards and a semi acceptable fridge magnet of the Mir castle. all they had was woolen socks, gloves and mittens and babushka dolls. quite disappointed at their souvenir department.

Dinner was at a basement sports restaurant adjacent to our hotel. big flat screen TV's were showing the olympics. I had mushroom soup (no more cold slaw) followed by a hot pot of beef, mushroom and potato. this time a much bigger pot but the sauce wasnt as tasty as the one in the park.

back in my room, ready to turn in for the last night in belarus but felt a bit hot. since we crossed the border, the weather had turned cloudy and rainy and sometimes very hot (like yesterday in Lida where we needed AC the most) and sometimes even cold, like in Polostk. So I've tried the room AC. Fowl water smell came out and i thought to let it run a bit. the smell didnt improve so i shut it off and thought of opening the window for some cool fresh air. i was in the 3rd floor so I thought the air should be good. out came lots of bugs into the room. at closer check, the bugs were stuck to the window (for warmth? since the evening was rainy and cool?). so suffered another night of bugs. stupid me!

Grodna photos:

Friday, August 05, 2016

Friday, August 05, 2016

horrible night in Lida

Posted by Hippobean at 9:13 PM 0 comments
Picnic lunch in front of a lake. biscuits and juice. tired of these picnic lunches. Most markets we stopped at to gather lunch materials didnt have much in term of sandwiches (the locals dont eat sandwiches), so we mostly bought biscuits. At one market, we found some cold chicken which was eatable and tasted semi acceptable, but I had to eat it in the minivan as we didnt stop to save time. sigh.

Drove by Lake Naroch, big and pretty but we didnt stop, why? Stop we did at the Valoja village with colorful houses and fences of dual colors. Short walk in the heat, interesting but just so.

finally reached Lida and was immediately taken by the red brick castle. but we didnt go in to visit as it's just a small square castle with not much inside. So we just walked around the castle walls, visited the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross and strolled through some streets and checked in to our very small hotel in the center of town. The reception was so tiny we couldnt all fit in it with our luggage. european style which meant navigating through ever twisting corridors to get to your room. the hotel was next to a bank and there was even a door on the 3rd floor that could get you to the bank. one of the rooms window actually faced the bank vault! We walked a few blocks to a restaurant to partake our dinner. this time i chose the halibut with potato pancakes and salanka soup, the belarusian borcht, which was just a beets soup with whatever meat and veggies they happened to have, thrown in, just to try it. The soup was good but the entree was terrible. ah well, small town.

with nothing to do after dinner, we sat at a bar next door to just drink. It's Friday night and the younglings were out. our teas and beer came in cheap flimsy plastic cups.

the day was 31 degrees C and there's no AC in the hotel room. The room was so tiny, barely enough room for 1 person to move, but they managed to squeeze in a tiny table with 1 chair, a closet, tv and fridge, and had a tiny bathroom that looked renovated, but the bathroom had a rain shower that didnt work. the room was stuffy and hot and had to keep the window open for air, which meant bugs city. the bed was pushed up against the wall below the window, and so it was bug central. The door locks in belarus were moody. one had to put the cardkey just so on the reader in order for it to work. Most terrible night.

Lida photos:

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Thursday, August 04, 2016

lots of fungi, no animals - berezinsky park

Posted by Hippobean at 10:30 PM 0 comments
breakfast in belarus started with a cold slaw. hm ...

walked on a well guided wooden path through the park with stations showing the fauna and flora but all we saw were fingi, big colorful ones. Love to eat mushrooms but they're mostly poisonous. Reached the marshes, ankle deep with tiny frogs and climbed a wooden tower to admire the immense of the marshes and forests. Belarus was totally flat. not hills anywhere the eye could see. End of the park walk, there was an animal refuge with a bison who posed for us, 2 very sick moose and a black bear. Otherwise, we didnt see any animals in the park.

Returned to the hotel, i ate my picnic lunch of bread and cheese and banana, washed down with orange juice. With a mind killing headache, i've opted out of the afternoon walk and just stayed in the nice hotel for a nap to nurse my head pain.

Dinner was again cold slaw followed by a small hot pot of chicken in a savory tomato sauce. Very tasty but very small portion. it only contained 1 small piece of chicken, some tiny pieces of carrot, tomatos and potatoes. Not enough even for the small Hippo.

had wanted another dark evening with tea in front of the hotel and waited till dark to descend. here in belarus (and in poland also) it didnt get completely dark till about 10PM. But a russian speaking group invaded my private reverie. one guy turned to engage me in conversation. he's from lithuania and the group was scientists, here for a conference and spending a day in the park. then the chief, very friendly but spoke no english, came out and offered us potato pancakes. I have had enough of pancakes and with the headache I politely refused and returned to my room. Last night at this amazingly comfy hotel. sad to leave.

Berezinsky Park:

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

how belarus came to be - Polotsk

Posted by Hippobean at 10:01 PM 0 comments
some free time in the morning to visit the 3 bayonets memorial, 3 columns structure with a forever flame burning in the middle. then we visited marc chagall's gallery. it is not a chagall museum as it only housed chagall's Biblical lithographis, all donated by private individuals. never a modern art fan and certainly not one of chagall's (his paintings look cartoonish to me) but what I saw in that gallery completely captivated me. he painted the entire biblical story. oh those colors! what enslaved me entirely were his 12 lithographs of the 12 hebrew tribes, each in form of a tablet. each depicted the character and temperament of Jacob's 12 sons. photos were not allowed, so I bought the book with images of the lithographs. there were many chagall's fans in the group, so we made a stop to visit the house where he was born and lived in his childhood. small 4 rooms house. He had 7 siblings. how on earth could they all fit in this tiny wooden house? bought a chagall fridge magnet that showed the adam and eve painting. I am now a fan.

Throughout the trip I've been trying to find out how belarus came to be and where its people came from. Finally the answer came in Polotsk. Polotsk was where belarus began. the oldest slav town in the region, the name derived from the polota river, a lituanian origin. the principality of polotsk became the powerful Polotsk Duchy in 10-13 centuries and self-governing in the late 1400's. throughout history it was part of the grand duchy of lithuania, later conquered by poland, then by Ivan the Terrible, then by the nazis and finally annexed by the soviet russia after WWII.

We are now in the furthest north of our journey. Polotsk was a small town by the Dvina river, steeped in history. the Red Bridge over the river Polota, commemorating the bloody battles of the Napoleonic wars, Saint Euphrosyne Convent with lovely frescoes inside, the Geographical Midpoint of Europe, the Monument to the Letter U, Monument to Vseslav Charodey, polostk first royal prince, the jesuit academy. it was raining hard now, as if to add more romance to the ambience. We climbed the wooden steps to the st sophie church and rubbed the boris stone that was supposed to make our wishes come true. let's see if it's true.

leaving history behind, we drove to the berezinsky park to spend the next 2 nights amidst forests and marshlands. I was expecting a very basic but rustic hotel. however, the hotel was a 3 story building complete with restaurant, lounge area with free wifi, and even a billiards room. The rooms were big with 2 large windows, TV, AC and a large bathroom. My room on the second floor faced the park. very comfortable and totally quiet at night.

We dinned at the hotel restaurant on very dry fish and white rice with absolutely no sauce, and a cold slaw as starter. The evening tea was at a table in front of the hotel, in the absolute darkness and quiet that I craved so much. another memorable travel moment!

Hippo's favorite Chagall's Biblical Lithographs:

Polotsk photos:

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

wasted morning and attitude in the afternoon - Vitebsk

Posted by Hippobean at 10:31 PM 0 comments

free morning to do minsk site seeing. but there wasnt anything in particular that I'd like to see in minsk. besides, places didnt open till 10 and we're supposed to leave for Vitebsk at noon, so there wasnt even enough time to visit a museum. on top of it, i didnt want to manage the metro where no one spoke english and taxiing back and forth would cost a fortune. so i remained in the area, walked around a bit (strange that in soviet culture, the shops even though were open, do not open their doors and from the outside, everything looked dark as if the store wasnt open at all but all one needed to do was to push open the door to get into the shop) and had a cup of tea at a coffeeshop next to the hotel with J, while others metro'd out to the city center. had I knew they went shopping at Gum, i'd have gone. but i simply didnt want to have a rush morning. just felt like taking it easy and relax a bit. dunno why i felt so tired on this trip. So much for free time in minsk.

after a long drive, we reached our Vitebsk hotel, another soviet remnant. our local guide was upset since we arrived late. She threw her binder and collapsed on the sofa in an exagerated manner to show how upset she was by waiting for us for so long. we were half an hour late. then she had to wait yet another 10 minutes for us to check in. it was past 5 when we finally commenced our walking tour. because we were late, our TL rushed her a bit but she said 'but there's so much to see' and sighed loudly. So we were late and didnt want to waste time listening to her never ending speech about every nook and piece of brick. we were tired of the long journey and hungry and had no patience nor energy to learn about every insignificant piece of wood or painting and who was so and so, and certainly we didnt need to put up with her attitude. she's the worst pre-madona local guide we've ever had. took us to the summer amphitheater and just a few of us got off the bus to photograph the modern glass cover. She finally released us at 7:30 when she ran out of steam and speech.

Vitebsk, the second most ancient city in Belarus tho was truly a nice city, straddling 2 rivers and close to the russian border. the city's history was painted on a wall by the dvina river. The city was mainly rebuilt so everything, including the town hall, looked new, rebuilt on the same spot where once the old buildings stood. the Holy Assumption Church, a gorgeous white structure on the hill, offered panoramic views of the city below with a view of the gorgeous kirov steel bridge over the river. a statue of Alexander Nevsky with his family stood next to the Annunciation church. the church dedicated to him was a small but pretty wooden structure. the city even had a statue of pushkin! The cobblestoned street off the main square had a few cafes and shops. The world renowned summer amphitheater, the main venue of the International Festival of Arts “Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk”, had an unique glass cover, a gorgeous modern architecture. Vitebsk even boasted the perhaps only remaining KGB headquarters housed in a beautiful yellow building, in what used to be a royal palace. across the tiny garden was the Chagall Gallery. so yes, maybe our local guide was right. there was a lot to see in Vitebsk. It was one of my favorite visited places in Belarus.

Witalij took us to another supermall for ready made food for dinner. not sure if it was a blessing or curse. it saved us time and we could look and point at what we wanted instead of sitting down waiting for slow service. but again he only gave us half hour to eat. we had to bargain for an extra 15 minutes. i needed time to eat and get a cup of tea afterwards. back at the soviet hotel, my room was at the 12th floor with good views. since we finally got an early night, i joined the group for drinks at the hotel minuscule bar. soviet hotels, huge reception with empty areas, tiny bar with only 2 tables. what were they thinking.

Vitebsk photos:

Monday, August 01, 2016

Monday, August 01, 2016

most beloved palace and a pretty castle in 1 day

Posted by Hippobean at 9:59 PM 0 comments
woke up at 6 as usual and since breakfast wasnt until 9, i ventured out. the gates were electronically locked, so I climbed over the small mount. There were 2 lakes next to the castle and from there i got good shots of the palace. a few people were jogging and biking around the lake and 1 guy was fishing. the air was cool and refreshing. the atmosphere quiet and serene.

Breakfast took an hour. service was slow and when the eggs and tomatoes finally came, the coffee was already consumed. but we breakfast'd in an elegant room with decorated ceilings and walls, inside the palace. It started to rain by the time breakfast was finally over but the morning was still warm when we visited the inside of the palace. It didnt disappoint. The Nezvizh palace, owned by the Radziwiłł family, was one of the highlights of belarus, and one of the most beautiful I've visited. It's not tremendously big and not exaggeratedly ornate like the russian ones but had an intimate feel to it, and the superb location of situated between lakes and very green belts. The halls werent big but nonetheless stunning and magnificent. The hunting room was filled with animal trophies. I particularly liked the moose heads and falcons. The meeting room boasted of wooden ceilings with intricate golden design and the golden hall gorgeous glass chandeliers and mirrors facing each other so not only could we see the reflections of the chandeliers but also reflections upon reflections through the mirrors. The parquet flooring also had beautiful designs. The chapel was all pastel pink and it had 2 levels. I really liked this palace. It's now one of my favorites. Near the palace, we stopped briefly at the Catholic Corpus Christi church to admire its fantastic frescoes decorating every inch of the walls. The church exterior was a simple white but the interior was stunningly decorated. Most pretty church. Next we walked to the town square but there wasnt much to see.

A few hours on the road and it brought us to Mir, the second highlight of the trip. It was as beautiful as shown online. Mir castle, imposing from the the outside, the inside was more of a museum. I've walked the walls and climbed to a side tower but there was no view from the top. No matter. I still liked this castle. a few shops across from the castle were open and we browsed. bought a semi acceptable fridge magnet. otherwise, nothing really caught my eye

Witalij said we'd stop at a village. The 'village' turned out to be the memorial to the Katyn village which was completely destroyed and all inhabitants killed by the Germans. The setting was sad and beautiful as every second the bell tolled and it echoed across the entire plain. A rectangular block marked where each house stood with a black and red square with open flame. Most beautiful memorial.

We arrived at Minsk late in the day and did a walking tour of the capital. Very soviet with large boulevards, big victory square complete with lenin's statue, eye catching st simon and helena red brick church, big never ending city but not pretty. Only the city gates across from the railroad station was worth a photo but we didnt stop and i couldnt get a shot from the running bus. pity.

our soviet style hotel was in the industrial area (r u kidding?), far from the city center but there's a metro station just outside the hotel. very soviet the hotel was, with huge reception area, a few sofas but otherwise empty spaces, 14 floors, tiny and slow elevators and small rooms. 1 pillow and 1 towel per person. all this didnt put me down because it was expected and the view from the 13th floor wasnt bad.

for dinner we walked to a nearby chic restaurant joint that offered lousy local cuisine as well as burgers and pizza, pretty much everything under the sun. young people frequented this joint. my beef came in rolls with cheese inside. somehow every piece of meat in belarus either came with cheese or tomato on top. they dont know how to cook meat without putting anything on top. and my very salty beef was expensive simply because it's the capital. not a satisfied meal. but the hotel did have an inner garden, a sanctuary for my quiet evening with a cup of tea before bed time.

Nezvizh Castle photos:

Mir Castle photos:

Minsk photos:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

in the dead of the night at Nezvizh

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
never did 2 separate tours back to back before. when the poland trip was over, i already felt tired. but it was just a little over a week, so why did i feel so exhausted. when i moved in with my luggage, Witalij came running to my room. 'good I see you. tomorrow is changed to 8:30 departure'. had i known i'd have a little more time in the morning, i would have stayed at the sheraton for bigger better room with amenities (ibis has no tea making facilities and only 1 bottle of water) and much grander bathroom and much much better breakfast. but no matter, i better start getting used to the lousy hotels, smaller rooms and poor breakfasts. it would have been ideal to begin with dismal soviet style belarus and end with luxury poland. but the timing was that poland had to happen first, so live like a queen first, then back to being a peasant.

after about 3 hours in the minivan, we crossed the border to belarus. the belarus female custom officer asked each of us a different question. mine was 'what's in there?' and pointed at my duffel. 'clothes' i said. what else would be in my luggage? 'alcohol?' did i look like i like to drink? then the currency nightmare began. belarus had just changed their currency by knocking out 4 zeros. so new and old notes were in circulation. for the exchange I got all 10 belarus rubble notes, new denomination. when i used one for a bottle of water, i got old notes back, 10,000 and 20,000, and 1000 and 500 which were not worth anything and that no one wanted. oh, and a bunch of coins which no one wanted either. thus began the never ending quest of getting rid of worthless notes and coins.

towards the end of the afternoon, we stopped to visit the Brest fortress, first off the list. The main entrance was under a 5 pointed star carved on a block. The fortress walls and barracks were in red brick. Then the monuments: an interesting sculpture, the Brest hero, signifying an angry Soviet combatant in front of a banner, the 100 meter Bayonet Obelisk in the shape of a cruciform bayonet, the St Nicholas Garrison church with an golden dome. the place was tranquil and I quite enjoyed the fortress.

then we drove and drove and drove and finally made it to nezvizh palace in the dark. had dinner in a dining hall inside the palace itself, with frescoes on the walls (but i think they were new). my choice was sausages with potato pancakes (thus started the never ending pancakes for dinner choices). the hotel was in a separate building inside the palace compound across a small courtyard from the palace itself. the front gates were shut at night. The room tho was big with a double bed and 1 single. we were on the 2nd floor, the ceiling and windows on it were slanted but through them one could still see the top of the palace walls, just across from the courtyard. unlike what was shown online, the palace itself was not illuminated at night. by 11PM when we finally finished our late dinner, the palace was quiet and dark. we had to walk back to the hotel in the dark using our cell phones light for guidance. i was out in the courtyard with my tea and wow, another memorable travel moment. quiet, peaceful and feeling glorious with the palace as backdrop.

Brest Fortress photos:

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

everything chopin - warszawa

Posted by Hippobean at 10:12 PM 0 comments
was worried there wouldnt be enough time to visit Wilanów palace since today was the start of my belarus tour. but luck held and in the morning we visited the palace, my 2nd highlight of the polish trip. again it didnt disappoint me. not being extravagantly big nor over decorated, the palace felt intimate. the exterior was richly decorated but not overwhelming. the interior was also lavishly adorned but not exaggeratedly so, unlike the ones in St Petes. really loved this palace. and of course, complete with an english and a french garden.

then of course we didnt fail to see the chopin statue in Łazienki park. like everything was mozart in viena, here in warsaw, it's everything chopin. although not a fan of piano pieces, it would have been nice to sit at a chopin concert but there was no time.

the old town was small but it had some nice souvenir shops and i finally found the polish china and bought 2 small pieces. had a delicious perogi lunch at zapiecek,a tiny but packed restaurant specializing in dumplings, that had mouth watering apple mint juice. after lunch, i wandered past the square and came upon the old town city walls, ramparts in red brick. it started to rain finally after an entire week of heat and blue skies. of course my raingear was back at the hotel.

checked in to the ibis warszawa stare miastro and knocked on Witalij's door to introduce myself. all set for the belarus tour for the following day, I walked back to the Sheraton, a 45 mins walk through the nowy swiat, nice street with upperscale shops and restaurants.

the 5 star sheraton was a luxurious hotel. big room with double beds and a wonderful bathroom but the room offered no views. so should I stay another night at the Sheraton, my favorite hotel chain, or sleep in the 2 star basic ibis?

last night we dinned at the buffi theater restaurant literally next door to the sheraton. the food was mushroom soup was exquisite. tonight, our last dinner was in a big tent, at a restaurant on nowyswiat. i had duck in cherry sauce. we walked back to the sheraton in the evening twilight. memorable last night in poland.

since the belarus tour was leaving at 8AM, i've finally decided to stay the night at the ibis so i didnt have to rush in the morning. grabbed a taxi and it deposited me at the ibis. no more luxury hotel from now on. but at least my room at the ibis has the view of the Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East.

Wilanów photos:

Warsaw photos:

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016

Malbork, finalmente

Posted by Hippobean at 10:13 PM 0 comments
finally the moment came. so long was longing to visit this castle. and wasnt disappointed. on the banks of the Nogat river, the teutonic knights castle was a stunning structure of red bricks, with an outer fortress, a middle castle, complete with latrine towers, and an upper castle on a hill through a drawbridge. The outer courtyard in the Middle castle was big and the inner courtyard in the Upper Castle was intimate with the Teutonic Pelican atop the central well, surrendered on 4 sides with 2 stories cloisters of the castle. the entire complex was huge, the biggest brick castle in the world, impressive and absolutely gorgeous. Couldnt take my eyes off it. absolute highlight of the trip.

And now some photos and videos:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

not a square but a long market - Gdańsk

Posted by Hippobean at 10:12 PM 0 comments

second radison blu and another excellent location, right in the old town. however, the room was the smallest of all the hotels on this trip but it did had a nice view of the top of the buildings and i could even see the old town tower from my room window. Wrocław old town was impressive. Poznań even more so but the Gdańsk Stare Miasto beats them all. it did not really have a square. the old town was a long and wide pedestrian cobbled street, the Dlugi Targ, the royal road that began at the golden gate and ended in the green gate, lined with ancient but renovated buildings with the now familiar dutch facades, restaurants, banks and shops. The Radisson Blu was at the green gate corner and as you stepped on the royal road, you could immediately gaze upon the red brick town hall with a high clock tower. Behind it the massive Mariacki Church, the St Mary's, the biggest brick cathedral in the world. one could not fathom how big this church was until you climbed the town hall clock tower and saw it from above. it's ginormous! butthis town was also the most touristy. it's never empty of visitors even in the middle of the night.

had wanted a perogi dinner but checked 3 different restaurants and none had any. finally asked one and was told they had dumplings. but when the waiter came, he said they didnt have any perogi. chose a seafood pasta and they didnt have any seafood either. finally settled for an over priced pasta bolognese and the waiter was so rude and slow that I didnt even leave a tip. later I walked to the end of the street and found a nice italian restaurant and made a mental note to eat there the following evening.

We drove to the old shipyard to pay homage at the monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970 the anti-soviet solidarnosc, a 3 crosses monumnet in solidarity square. But it was the european solidarity center building that got my interest. it was built with rust-coloured sheet metal that resembled the hulls of the ships. very interesting and fantastically beautiful structure. Next we came to the port where the Vistula ended at mouth of the Baltic sea and the Westerplatte peninsula where a monument was erected to commemorate the polish defenders. it was here at the battle of the Westerplatte that the first fight against the germans occurred, thus the first battle of WWII. Was told after the battle, which the polish lost, the german commanders actually saluted the polish almiral because the polish soldiers fought so valiantly. the Gdańsk marina, the lower town, on the left past the green gate, the channel area, was a bigger version of the new haven in Copenhagen. very picturesque, actually my preferred area because it had less crowds and had a slower pace.

In the afternoon, i walked to the train station to get a photo of its decorated facade. waited for a tram to pass by so I could get the red and white locomotive on rails in front of the red brick railroad station. Back in the old town, I had wanted to climb the town hall tower for views of the town below but the ticket line was long and the old dumb looking woman at the cash register just ignored us completely, and kept typing on the keyboard. many just gave up and so did it. climbed the Mariacki spire instead. It was gruesome and tiring but interesting 480 steps up, as they were on 4 sides of the enormous bell on the inside of the spire. however, once up there, one could not really see much as the railing was high and a brick slanted roof was right below the spire. so i went back to the town hall tower. this time the ugly woman was actually selling tickets, so I bought mine and visited the museum building which had breathtakingly decorated ceilings and walls filled every inch with paintings, and then all the steps up to the top of the clock tower. the reward was spectacular views of the miasto and the enormous brick cathedral. I've kicked myself for not bringing my samsung phone for a selfie. it would have been the perfect place for a selfie with the cathedral as backdrop. ah well. knees crumbling with pain in total agony, went for a massage at the hotel spa. didnt expect much since the one in riga was mostly rubbing oil on the body, but this one turned out to be one of the best ones I've had. in the evening I was refresh and re-energized due to the massage and had a wonderful meal of minestrone (which turned out to be simply a veggie soup) and a lightly battered sole which tasted very fresh. had a nice time in Gdańsk, even with the hordes of tourists.

Gdańsk photos:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

copernicus town - Toruń

Posted by Hippobean at 10:14 PM 0 comments
first stop today was to see the famous winged bronze doors of the 14th-century Gothic cathedral in Gniezno. Gniezno was the original capital of poland. dunno why the bronze doors were so famous. not very impressive but the church which contained the tomb of Saint Adalbert, the first bishop of Prague, had a double tower and paintings of the first 5 polish kings, a very pretty cathedral with an impressive organ and gorgeous stainglass.

next we drove through the very good looking Jozef Pilsudski steel bridge over the Vistula river and arrived at copernicus town, Toruń. Founded by the Teutonic knights, toruń exploded of glorious medieval architecture. the red brick city walls were most impressive and well maintained including a leaning tower. the Church of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist was entirely in red brick with a a monumental west tower that was so massive, it took my breath away.

the town had nice shops and cafes and of course a statue of its famous son, nicolaus copernicus. Went to see Copernicus house because it was wednesday and it was free. his family must have had money since the house had many stories and nice rooms, situated in the most expensive part of town.

I've really enjoyed this town which offered a gorgeous panoramic view from the river. The day was very hot but I've enjoyed walking around this town and the beautiful steel bridge.

had some time before departing and so on impulse I climbed the town hall tower, an never ending circular staircase. but on top, the view was spectacular. back down on the pedestrian street, very exhausted but happy traveler.

Toruń photos:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

old town big square - poznań

Posted by Hippobean at 10:15 PM 0 comments
morning visit to the beautiful red brick church of st peter and paul in cathedral island then to poznań old town. If I was stunned by Wrocław old town, poznań Stare Miasto looked even better. The square was bigger, centered on the Stary Rynek, the old Main Market Square, the buildings decorated with market motifs like fish and meat, surrounded the white town hall Ratusz, which featured 2 goats fighting at exactly midday every day. on the west end of the square on the hill the Góra Przemyla, the poznań castle, neglected by most tourists. there's even an elevator to take you up the castle tower so one didnt need to climb the stairs, so how could anyone miss the chance to see the city from above? the view from atop the tower was magnificent. The day was hot and the sun brilliant which made the view perfect.

the afternoon was beer time at the Lech brewery where we walked through rooms over 40 degrees C from fermentation to bottling. The bottling room was ginormous and they cranked out 100,000 bottles a day. 3 kinds of beer ranging from light to very dark and an alcohol free fruit flavor beer were free for sampling. I bought a tshirt that says 'i make the beer' in front and 'still 100% czech' on the back. perfect for D. also bought a Lech beer glass for only $4USD.

the much anticipated sheraton hotel turned out to be next to the train station. the bathroom was huge with a rain shower but the room was small mostly taken by a king size bed. the hotel included dinner was an OK creamy vegetable soup followed by a very dry chicken breast. didnt even stay for dessert. bit disappointed. expected better for a sheraton.

Poznań photos:

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

emotional morning and blown away in the afternoon - Wrocław

Posted by Hippobean at 10:16 PM 0 comments
After dachau, i didnt think i'd want to visit another concentration camp. but auschwitz was the most famous one and couldnt be missed. it was actually closed to tourists this week due to the world youth day but we had special pilgrimage license so we got to visit the camp and without hordes of tourists. Walking through the front gates that read Arbeit Macht Frei was an emotional experience. Although the rows of red brick barracks looked clean and neat, we knew the atrocities, the cruelties that occurred there. the death wall was fenced off and i saw people knelt in front of it, crying. standing in front of the tiny gas chamber, we could only see images of the inside. The doors were shut. across the street from the crematorium, stood the Commandant's house. Ralph Fiennes image came to mind, and I wondered how many ghosts Rudolf Hoess saw every night living there. There's nothing there now on the spot where he was hung. It's simply another quiet street. Then we moved on to birkenau, an immense place with rows and rows of wooden and brick buildings. in some of the wooden buildings, only the brick fireplaces remained. the 2 gas chambers that were destroyed by the nazi before they left were now only rubbles. And i wondered how many ghosts haunt this place at night? an emotional morning. everything in poland was about the war and the hollocaust. it filled me with tears. We were 1 day ahead of the Pope's visit.

leaving the sad war behind, we arrived at Wrocław, the miasto spotkan, on the banks of the Oder river. our hotel the sofitel was just around the corner from the old town. our rooms faced the atrium. unhappy about this, I've tried my luck again, to get a room with a window that faced the outside for fresh air. was told our 'rate' only had rooms that faced the inside of the atrium. so much for an luxury tour! however, the room was OK size and the hotel location superb. right after you step out of the sofitel, the magnificent st elizabeth church was just right there. on the right of it, the Wrocław rynek, the old town blew me away. the buildings, the noble mansions, sported brightly colored facades, the baroque red brick town hall was enormous and imposing. the most impressive old town on this trip. bought a starbuck mug there and sent postcards in the 24 hrs post office. even bought a tshirt picturing a cartoon polska girl wearing a polish dress. walked to the Oder river to have a look and the river was teeny tiny. there were street performers, the square was lively. really enjoyed my time there. loved this town.

Auschwitz photos:

Wrocław photos:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

tatras mountains - Zakopane

Posted by Hippobean at 10:16 PM 0 comments
Didnt know the Tatras in Poland were the highest of the Carpathian mountains. We first made a stop in the pedestrian street in town, lined with souvenir shops and cafes. We took the cable car up the hill but the view was hazy and there wasnt anything much to do up there. Disappointed. Zakopane's weather was rainy as opposed to the heat of Krakow. They said Zakopane was located between 2 mountains and in the rain. We checked in to the Grand Nosalowy Dwor Resort hotel in midday, after a few hours ride from krakow. This hotel was one of the highlights of the trip as it looked very picturesque from the hotel website. however, there was a lot of construction in the area and we were put in the new modern wing which turned out to be the Residency Nosalowy. My room on the 4th floor was big with an awesome view of mountains and a modern bathroom. But I had hoped for a more rustic room in the original hotel. With nothing much to do, I signed up for the tour experience 'treasures of zakopane', which took us to see wooden churches (they call these the ABC tours - another bloody church), the Jaszczurówka Chapel had special stainglass that was painted in the back first. there was a gallery in the basement that contained beautiful intricate stainglass created by students. next we stopped at one of the traditional smoked sheep cheese wooden shepherd's hut. had wanted to buy some but they only came in huge chunks. This cheese was indeed delicious but it's soft and since it's the beginning of the journey, i didnt want to carry that much cheese around for 2 weeks! Lunch was the local perogi, meat, potato and mushroom dumplings, very tasty and a borscht style beats/onion stew, super tasty, with wine and local apple pie in a mountain ranger restaurant. the weather threatened rain, the sky was dark with clouds when we got on horse carriages for a short ride along the trees lined Chocholowska valley. it was cold and they put us 4 in 1 carriage and i was stuck with 2 australian women who did nothing but complained about the rain and cold and an autistic brit. it wasnt a pleasant ride to say the least. normally i enjoy carriage rides but the area was just too touristy and the weather didnt cooperate. another bloody church , and then an interesting cemetery with a sorrowful jesus and wooden statues. famous local skiers were buried here and a famous local writer and his grave was filled with stuffed animals. All and all this optional tour wasnt worth 50 euros.

tonight's dinner was at the restaurant of the Nosalowy Dwór, the third of this hotel chain, just steps away from our resort hotel in a very rustic beautiful wooden building. it was buffet with local cuisine (their local soup was horrible, very fatty) accompanied by local goral highlander folklore music and dance. The food wasnt anything spectacular and the songs and show was boring and terribly long. couldnt wait to get out there and return to the hotel to enjoy the room, the view and the amenities. Got horribly sick and threw up half way back to the hotel. so much for zakopane.

the tatras werent very high and the mountains not very impressive. filled with trees, not my kind of mountains. really had high hopes for the Tatras. quite disappointed.

But in the dead of the night, i woke up and went downstairs and sat in front of the hotel to drink my tea. It was quiet, the air fresh and I felt better. Another memorable travel moment!

Zakopane photos:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

First day in Poland - Salt Mines n Kraków

Posted by Hippobean at 8:19 PM 0 comments
The hotel room most comfortable and view soothing. First stop was the famous Wieliczka Salt Mines. We entered the very baroque building that looked like a castle (the entrance had a sign that says 'groupy'), descended in a miner elevator and suddenly the world was made of rock salt but didnt smell like salty. I touched the walls and leaked my fingers. Very good salt. The Polish had this tour well organized with a very funny guide. the corridors were clean, well lighted, expansive and easy to walk. All around were carved salt statues built by the miners themselves, complete with a couple of chapels and 1 huge church with glass chandeliers. Impressive indeed.

In the afternoon we visited the Renaissance castle, with the cathedral where the Polish Kings were buried and the former seat of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, now known as the late Pope John Paul II. The castle location was on a hill, fantastic location for views of the city. then we drove to see the old Jewish square, mainly boring. Then to Oskar Schindler's factory. this wasnt actually Schindler's factory as nothing remained from the actual building, but we did see where the scene of the girl, all dolled up, waiting on the bottom of the stairs while Schindler came out of the office to check her out, was filmed. It was now mostly a museum about German occupation and the war and it was very depressing.

Later in the day, I ventured out to cross the bridge to get shots of the castle from the vistula river. Returning to the hotel, I got lost and stumbled on the old square, just a few blocks from the hotel. A huge stage was set in the square for the world youth day. The buildings surrounding the square were colorful and the St Mary's church with a very colorful interior. I had wanted the pappardelle again and found a restaurant that had it but with beef instead of bacon. so I sat down and ate my evening meal accompanied by catholic music playing in the square, and watched the teenagers enjoy the world youth day. the pasta was delicious but not as much as the one from the Radisson. Satified, i returned to the hotel for another good read of Preston and Child, lying on the comfy lounge chair with a cup of hot tea, and with music blasting from the park across from the hotel. Very nice first day in Poland.

Kraków photos:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

poland finalmente

Posted by Hippobean at 10:18 PM 0 comments
7-21 A very young blond Pole holding a sign awaited in the arrivals hall. that's my name. His mom pulled up the car and off we went through narrow lanes lined with beautiful cottages. He pointed out the open air music amphitheater and other sites on the way in almost perfect english. gotta tip this teenager. The Radisson Blu was across from a park with very green trees. Was given a room facing the back atrium so I've tried my luck at the front desk. Miraculously I was given a room facing the park with a nice lounge chair next to the big window. No balcony but this would do. I could read beyond the ice limit lying there.

The flight to schilpol was uneventful. middle seat was empty and it was comfortable. 5 hrs to blow at schilpol so I've emailed Borg. he's back on chemo so couldnt come out to keep me company. poor dude! So i've walked, checked out the shops, bought a fridge magnet since i didnt have one from amsterdam. Flight to Krakow was in a small 2x2 plane. short flight with lots of teenagers from the US, wearing bright yellow tshirts with scriptures written on the back. suddenly I remembered it was World youth day in Krakow. Smart Travel had reminded me twice.

so i've finally made it to poland.

7-22 the included dinner started with a nice champagne and a beautiful salad which i didnt eat. followed was a wonderful tasty Pappardelle with bits of bacon in an orange beige color sauce and red wine. loved it. didnt stay for the dessert. retired early to shower and to relax in the nice lounge chair to read preston and child. slept with the curtain open with street lamps illuminating the park and flooding my room, view of very green trees. most excellent beginning of a trip. very happy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

heróis do mar

Posted by Hippobean at 2:52 PM 0 comments
e agora heróis de futebol. Parabéns Portugal!

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Modern Carmen

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
This year's ballpark opera ... heart tugging classic melodies of Bizet's Carmen ... in a raw take modern day Carmen.

See the gang at the ballpark opera

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

annus horribilis

Posted by Hippobean at 9:15 PM 0 comments
Another beloved gone ...

anton anton

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Thursday, June 09, 2016

revenge has a long memory

Posted by Hippobean at 8:01 PM 0 comments
I have been betrayed, too, it seems, by the Iron Master. Another place has been prepared for me - not Evenwood, the dream-palace of my childhood fancies, but some modest dwelling amongst other modest dwelling, where I shall live and die, unnoticed and unremembered, in perpetual exile from life that should have been mine. But I shall not die unavenged.

*The Meaning of Night: A Confession: Michael Cox

no home

Posted by Hippobean at 12:00 AM 0 comments
Where once was light
Now darkness falls
Where once was love
Love is no more

Don't say -- goodbye
Don't say -- I didn't try...

These tears we cry
Are falling rain
For all the lies
You told us
The hurt, the blame!

And we will weep
To be so alone
We are lost!
We can never go home

So in the end
I will be -- what I will be
No loyal friend
Was ever there for me

Now we say -- goodbye
We say -- you didn't try...

These tears you cry
Have come too late
Take back the lies
The hurt, the blame!

And you will weep
When you face the end alone
You are lost!
You can never go home

* lyrics by Fran Walsh

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

humilis et sublimis

Posted by Hippobean at 11:50 PM 0 comments

Talent cannot be adquired. You're either gifted or you are not. In the beginning, there are humilis and sublimis. For the sublimis, sooner or later their peternatural gift would come into consciousness, and great art would be among us. Hippo, the humilis, had the chance to feast her eyes upon these exceptional creations this weekend at the CCACA (California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art) in Davis (she loves ceramics). Hopping from gallery to gallery, walking among works of art, professional and amateurs alike, her eyes opened to great wonders of imagination, creativity and interpretation. Some clearly stole her heart and total admiration. It was also a revelation that since her preference is in paintings, the sculptures that caught her eyes were ceramics that have paintings, rather than form. And she had forgotten what a vibrant city the student town of Davis is. The Victorian fratern houses with greek letter organization, the small cafes, galleries and numerous ethnic restaurants. We painted town doing all the exhibits, including a small one displayed inside the ACE store, from high school students. At the Artery, the Hippo quite nearly fainted when she saw Thomas Post handbuilt stoneware tableware (she's a sucker for tableware). Purchased a bowl, the green and orange in the archipelago palette simply stole my heart. The day culminated in a nice breezy break atop the John Natsoulas gallery terrace. Not bad a day away from the mundane.

My favorites:


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

doves are really crying

Posted by Hippobean at 8:44 PM 0 comments
prince rogers nelson

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Montara State Beach

Posted by Hippobean at 8:33 PM 0 comments

Huffing, puffing, one foot in front of the other, 99 bottles of beer, always up and up, the Hippo was struggling. I looked up and the gang was wayyyyyyyyy ahead. Two more tremendous steps later, the gang disappeared around the bend. I had to stopped. Besides the view of the Montara beach below was magnificent. Ahead the Pacifica coast was gloriously bathed in the brilliant sun. Out of breath but continued on, up and up. The wind howled at the top of the Montara mountain. Refreshing after a major effort up the hill. However, after 2 minutes it literally got cold. Sex, prostitution, relationships, engaging talk. It was an excellent hike in the Montara State Beach park.

Pacifica beach area:


A little close-up:


Montara beach:


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hippo Last Bath

Posted by Hippobean at 11:49 PM 0 comments
Last Bath ...

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sunday, March 06, 2016


Posted by Hippobean at 5:16 PM 0 comments


Friday, March 04, 2016

Friday, March 04, 2016


Posted by Hippobean at 11:29 PM 0 comments
We've been looking for an authentic Portuguese restaurant that would satisfy our hunger and yearning for the palette of good old days. Bacalhau, caldo verde, feijoada, arroz doce, carapaus asados, sardinhas, you know, the regular Portuguese cuisine. So we drove an hour and half to Alum Rock for Adega. I sang Vinho Verde all the way down to San Jose. We got there early so we hopped in to the Bacalhau grill and trade rite market. I've stumbled on it when I was looking for the Adega menu online. It turned out S knew the owner of the Bacalhau grill and market who is from Azores, and she also knows the owner of Adega. We went quite wild at the market and bought bacalhau, tins of sardines, Madrugada tea (lemongrass, wow), portuguese olive oil, chourizo and a bottle of vinho tinto alentejo for Pa. what a feast for us. Adega turned out to be quite a place. It is located exactly where the old Sousa restaurant which was closed for a while now, used to be. The 2 rooms dinning hall is separated by a large barn door, 1 room with an enormous rack display of their vast portuguese wine collection and the other room a mural of very portuguese white and blue tiles, depicting various greek gods. We've started with olives, salted butter and Adega's own hummus and home made bread. The olives and hummus were fantastic. the bread so so and it was cold. For appetizers, we had pasteis the bacalhau (a must for us), coelho mouro (rabbit terrine) and barriga de porco e favas (pork belly, pea puree). The coellho, i didnt care for much which disapointed me as I love rabbit, but the pasteis de bacalhau was very good indeed and the barriga de porco, heavenly. I've learnt from online reviews that the caldo verde was not the type we're used to, so initially I didnt order it for fear of being disappointed. A and S ordered 1 to share and as it turned out it was so very good that I've ordered it too after the entrees which was shared among us, the bife à portuguesa and the polvo à lagareiro (roasted octopus). The beef which came with fried cubes of potatos on a heavenly tasty sauce and the meat on a rectangle simmering hot block, was cooked just right, medium, tender and tasty. however, not really portuguese. The octopus was just OK. We've ordered another round of pasteis. The caldo verde was kale with crispy bits of chourizo and a creamy potato juice that looked yellow and was poured in. Not exactly our home made caldo verde which is really green but nevertheless the soup was very good. We downed all this with vinho verde quinta de soalheiro alvarinho 2014. Wow, it was smooth, not like the yucky bland ones I had before. Not much of a white wine person and much less vinho verde, but this one, mmm, was what young grape supposed to taste. Guess it made me vinho verde alvarinho drinker from now on. For dessert we had the arroz doce (of course) but again it came in fried balls but again heavenly delicious. We also had the torta de laranja but it was nothing but sweet. Couldnt even taste the orange. Then the chefs came out to greet the guests. Nice gesture. Young couple, full of smiles, not much talk. During our meal, the co-owner's father also came out to chat with S. She knows quite a few locals in the San jose community. Adega, expensive, ambience nice, food not bad but again, not authentic. I understand this as the chef Mr Costa has to put in his own touch. But nothing beats the Ma and Pa style home cooking. The Bacallhau grill and market also has a small restaurant inside it. By the looks of the dishes displayed, which included a carapaus with small potatoes, perhaps this one would be more to our liking. We'll try eating there next (and buy more bacalhau!).

The polvo:

The mural:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

playing lara croft

Posted by Hippobean at 9:38 PM 0 comments
3 more temples today: the hindu temple of Pre Rup, the Pink temple Banteay Srei and finally playing Lara Croft at Ta Prohm. Pre Rup I really liked. An imposing staircase, lion temple guards and the view of the jungle from the top of the temple was magnificent. Today I remember to bring Small Tigger who's been furiously angry at me for forgetting him at angkor wat. Although I did bring him to the Banyon and took many photos of him with the giant faces, he would always nag me about missing his picture at angkor wat. sigh. didnt care much for the pink temple which was small and with too many monkey statues. Ta Prohm was interesting. Giant tree roots everywhere and it's the least restored with many broken stones everywhere and much reclaimed by the jungle. people lined up to take photos at the temple doors where tombraider was filmed. i wonder if people would come see it if it hasnt been for tombraider. Lindsey said it was her fav temple. for me I'm not sure. it sure had an authentic and intimate feel to it, but its fame was probably mainly due to the film, not to the temple's actual charm.

Dinner was at the Corner restaurant with Kareoke. Borey sang 'hello' and a cambodian song for us. Clara did Mama Mia. and we all sang like silly little girls. It was very fun! havent had this crazy silly girl fun in a longgggg time. Not a bad way to end the trip.

The next day, woke up late, had a leisure and slow breakfast, and after much internal debating, ventured out to shop one last time. There were many many shops in the Pub Street. They just went on and on, all shops selling more or less identical goods. Finally got the table cloth and another tshirt with a giant face for Saffy. Loaded with purchases, the luggage was bursting.

Silk Air flight to Da Nang wasnt too full. the 40 mins stop didnt require going through security again. Flight to changi was packed. Spent time at changi and bought an aniseed medium longchamp which turned out to be yellow instead of lime green. sigh. checked in late to the transit hotel and was given the last room without a window. room was noisy and kettle didnt work. wasted 1 hr to get it mended, then a shower (forgot my shampoo) and finally closed my eyes to sleep at 1AM. Not a very pleasant stay this time. The next morning, a long flight to Seoul, packed. then to SFO the middle seat was again free, so at least a bit of breathing room.

the whole point of this trip was of course angkor wat. But the Banyon was what got me. and I didnt expect phnom penh to be so lively. expected laos to be more breaktaking and although I've enjoyed luang prabang, the rest I found boring and not amazing. Thailand, well, not really on the list but just because we had to fly in to Bangkok. the mekong was boring, unexciting and most of all, COLD. many unexpectations on this trip.

Temple photos:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

We'll always have angkor

Posted by Hippobean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
said Vincent.

Waking up at 4:30 to be at the temple by 5 to watch the sunrise aint my idea of my first introduction to Angkor Wat. I much rather view the full glory of the angkorian temple in broad day light. But instead, we walked through the west entrance in pitch dark, stumbling up and down the stairs of the main gate and almost fell into the moat. We sat on a spot that offered unobstructed view of the 5 towers and waited and waited for the sun to rise. The place was crowded with tourists already. Slowly but surely the sun appeared, a brilliant giant red circle, slightly to the right behind the towers. I thought the view should be from the east where we could see the sun rays hitting and reflecting from the towers, and not from the west where the towers would be silhouetted by the rising fireball. So as a consequence, the towers appeared dark against the shinny sun. Sunrise aint my thing so I've regretted having to lose sleep and missing the opportunity to walk into the temple compound from the sandstone causeway on the western gate and taking a picture from this viewpoint with the temple at dead center, like in the postcards. But others said they've loved the sunrise. Next a mad dash to the pools to see the sun and temple reflections on the water. Mad dash to be there ahead of the horde of the korean tourists. Again the reflections were beautiful but not spectacular and the amount of tourists that crowded the area made the view almost not worth while. But the temple itself blew me away. The first level of the pyramid temple with the quincunx of towers was an enclosure of bas-relief walls telling mythological and King Suryavarman II stories. Immediately upon the main entrance to the temple main temple, 4 identical square courtyards, used for offerings and prayers. The central structure of the pyramid surrounded the inner sanctuary where the 5 quincunx of towers stood since the 12th century. We've waited for over half an hour in line to go up one of the towers and the wait for worth every nanosecond. The view from the tower was spectacular. I've never seen anything so astonishingly magnificent, and while standing inside it, I've imagined how it would look like before it had succumbed to ruins, reclaimed by the jungle. Amazing what kind of structure a human could construct! Whoops, forgot to bring Small Tigger. He'd extremely mad at me! Doh!

Before all the awe subsided, the breathtaking south gate of angkor thom stole my view. the bridge to the gate was lined by 54 guardian gods (deva) on one side pulling the head of the serpent 'shesha', and 54 demon gods (asura) on the other side, pulling the tail of the serpent, sorta like in a tug of war. the rows of guardians and demons ended at a multi-headed cobra 'naga'. The gate to the city had the image of Avalokiteśvara on the towers on each of the 4 sides. After seeing the quincunx of towers at Angkor Wat, this was the second most magnificent sight.

As if the gate to the city wasnt impressive enough, the giant stone faces of Bodhisattva at the Bayon surely got the Hippo speechless. Every tower had a face on all 4 sides. everywhere you look, you see a face. some stern, some smiling. and the popular thing to do was to photograph your nose touching the nose of a face. What was interesting about this temple was the bas-reliefs depicting scenes of ordinary people in their every day life among battle scenes, market, chess games and child birth. Hm. Small Tigger took many photos with the giant faces. A little happier now, but still angry at me.

I would say, aside from Angkor Wat, the Bayon was my fav temple, just because she likes the giant faces! :-)

Last came the Terrace of the Elephants in the city royal square, a 300 meter long wall adorned with carved elephants and garudas. It's used for viewing stand for public ceremonies and king audience hall. It ended at the terrace of the Leper king. The sides of the terrace had carving of elephant trunks dipped in or holding lotus leafs. Not liking elephants, nevertheless I've enjoyed the terrace as it offered nice views of the jungle.

We returned to Angkor Wat to admire it during sunset. While sipping coconut juice straight from the fruit, with the sun hitting the temple stone structures, the entire complex was reflected on the moat in front. Nice relaxing way to round up the day and say farewell to angkor wat. The Hippo would not forget this site.

My desire to see the Angkor city has been fulfilled and it wasnt any bit disappointed. This was of course the highlight and the only reason for making the trip to SouthEast Asia and it was worth the hassle of deets, Malaron, heat and long sleeve shirts and pants.

But tomorrow promised more wonders as we'd cover more temples in the area. After dinner, ventured out one more time to the Night Market for more purchases of cheap goods. Slept quite content that night in my presidential suite at the Cheathata hotel.

Angkor Temples photos:


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