Saturday, June 25, 2016

Staying at Affittacamere Le Farfalle in La Spezia

When we went to CinqueTerre, we made a conscious decision to stay at La Spezia over one of the five lands, mainly to ensure that we would not need to lug around our luggage through steep steps which most reviews had for the nice places we considered in CinqueTerre. You can read about our CinqueTerre adventure here.

La Spezia is the main station where you can grab the train to CinqueTerre from the other places in Italy so it was a very practical to stay there instead.

We found Affittacamere La Farfalle through Affittacamere means landlady in English, but I think it's used to mean Bed and Breakfast. They had nice photos, good reviews, and most importantly, was a 5 minute walk from the station. But take note, we didn't realize that it's a walk through cobblestones, so you're better off taking a cab which we did on our way back.

The landlady Patrizia was very nice, and waited for us to arrive as she normally does not stay in the property. She only comes in the morning to serve breakfast, and comes to greet the guests based on their arrival time. We arrived a bit later than planned because we did a detour to Pisa which you can read about here, but she was very patient.

La Farfalle has three rooms, which are all butterfly themed. 
The rooms were all on the ground floor but security was tight, the rooms were big and had a clean, cozy modern feel.

The breakfast included as part of the room is what you can expect from a standard bed and breakfast in Italy, but they leave you to choose what you want from the pastry basket and you can help yourself to as much as you want. Coffee, Juice and Yogurt are available as well so while it's not impressive, it's also not too bad compared to the limited selection you get at other places.

Check-out time is at 10:00am as Patrizia leaves the place after she checks out the guests. There is also no place to leave your luggage but if you are travelling by train, it actually makes more sense to leave your luggage at the train station instead for a nominal fee.

We had some time to spare to have a quick look around La Spezia after our trip back from CinqueTerre adventure which you can read about here.
OOh... they have a Tiger Store.
You can read about why I love Tiger here.
What we've seen of La Spezia. We didn't go far because we didn't want to
miss our train to Florence. Unfortunately we didn't find a place that sold pesto.
We ended up trying the Walnut Sauce instead
from the store at the train station, but it wasn't
good enough for us to hoard.

Perhaps next time it would be good if we had more time to explore La Spezia, see the sea from this part of the coast, and visit some food markets as well. But it was definitely the best decision to stay here and use it as our home based for our CinqueTerre adventure. just saying.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Best Focaccia and Pesto from Monterosso Al Mare in Cinqueterre

When we visited Cinque Terre last March, which you can read about here, I just wanted to see the place and take nice photos. But when we were researching what food they're famous for, Focaccia and Pesto would always top the list so we went in search of the best ones.

We found "Il Frantoio" a place highly recommended by the locals in Monterosso al Mare, which was our first stop. It's on a side street to the right, off the main road, called Via Gioberti.

You'll see this landmark: Hotel Margherita
Just enter that small street...
Then you'll see this doorway on your left, which looks
like a cafeteria with locals... That's the place.
I'm not even sure if it has a sign with their name.
They have slabs of focaccia with toppings on the counter, you just
point to which one you want, then tell them how big a slice you want,
because they will charge you depending on the weight.
We ordered the four cheese and tomato pesto to share. I know it doesn't look
like much, but it really delivers an explosion of flavors on the mouth!
Too bad this was the first place we visited and we just assumed all the
focaccia places tasted this good.
Sofia stamp of approval.
Say formaggio!!!
It's pretty easy to look out for Via Gioberti.
Just look for Hotel Margherita with this sign.

If we were to go back to Cinque Terre, this focaccia place would be one of the reasons why. just saying.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hipster Brunch at Tiong Bahru Bakery

When I lived in Singapore, things were very different. 

Uber was not yet born, so one of hardest things about life in Singapore, when compared to life in Manila was trying to find a cab when you really need one, like when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and it rains.

E-Commerce was in it's infancy stage. We had to go to the store when we needed something, while now there is Redmart for your groceries (especially the heavy ones), and a lot of other mobile services that don't even require you to step out of the comfort of your home.

Hipster wasn't a buzzword. Or maybe I just wasn't hip enough...
and Tiong Bahru was just a neighborhood where the bus passed on my way from our River Valley Flat to Ikea Alexandra or to my office.

Now, Tiong Bahru is known as a hipster neighborhood with a lot of cozy cafes and restaurants amidst what looks like very residential buildings. I was keen to see it for myself so I am glad that I found some time to go for brunch.

I visited Tiong Bahru bakery, as it has been written up as the source of the best croissants in Singapore. 

The place is packed even if you come for brunch on a weekday, with a good crowd of locals and foreigners. They don't really encourage you to work here though, as they don't even have free WiFi, but I did so anyway tethered on the mobile data through my phone.

I couldn't really decide what I wanted to have because I literally wanted something for brunch, meaning it had to be enough to sustain me till dinner. I noticed that if you want a more hearty meal, they only offer you their savoury croissants or bestselling sandwiches. 

I ended up settling for this spread:
The Quiche Lorraine was ok, but still nothing to match the best quiche ever
that I had from Montmartre in Paris.
The level 3 Lemon Tart was spot on! 
The flat white was good.
Though the croissants... I must say, they were a bit of
a disappointment. It was too heavy and not buttery enough
for my taste. Because I like my croissants light, flaky
and buttery... to make it worth all the calories.
Jam and Condiments station.

Over-all, it was a good brunch experience, with good coffee, great ambiance, acceptable food, and a great people watching experience. They don't encourage you to stay and loiter though, they don't even have Wi-Fi, so if you plan to work from here which I did, just bring your mobile connection and tethering device and you'll be fine.

I've been told the neighborhood is known for hipster hang-outs, but you may need to refer to a map as the place is still highly residential, with some spots of potentially cool places.
It felt like a blast from the past when I headed to the main road to realize
that this community was just behind the road from where the bus used to pass.

I can't wait to try more hidden gems on my next trips to Singapore. I am just hoping that next time I find more places that have food that's a good as the ambiance. just saying.

Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon Street, #01-70, 
Singapore 160056

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Disneyland Paris Revisited - Tips and Tricks to make the most of your visit

Sofia didn't really do much this summer vacation, except go to Paris and Italy with me. I can't say I blame her, it was honestly too hot to do anything this summer, so we settled on 30 minutes of reading per day, then it was free for all.

Before summer ends, we just wanted to post some Tips and Tricks we learned from our second trip to Disneyland Paris.  This trip was so much better than the last one, but it may be due to the tourists staying away from Paris due to the terrorist attacks around the continent.

The cheapest way to get tickets is to buy them online. You can get the 2-park ticket for just a little bit more than a 1-park ticket if you go on a weekday, when it's not peak season. Since we have visited the park before, we weren't really in a rush, and we had no To Do List, but we visited Walt Disney Studios first because it was Sofia's first time.

If you're a fan of selfie sticks, which we're not, leave them in your hotel, because they are not allowed in Disneyland.
Ninong Tim, this photo is for you... 

Since we didn't have anything specific we wanted to do, we only entered shows that were about to start so we didn't spend much time in line.
Stitch LIVE! was quite funny.
And they have an English show too.
One of the few rides we did was the Slinky Dog from Toy Story

Sofia's favorite Disney Studios attraction was Ratatouille. The fast pass ticket machines were not working, and the wait was more than an hour, unless you go on the Single Rider Line, which cuts the wait time to 15-20 mins. The only catch is you don't sit beside each other on the ride.
My brave little girl sat with strangers so we could save time in the queue.

We were also to hungry to line up to meet Mickey Mouse and Woody...
So we got them as photo bombers instead.

My best lunch tip, is to get out of the park and eat somewhere else. It's less crowded, and I think you have more options too. Surprisingly, we had a good lunch at King Ludwig's Castle.
You don't have to fight the crowds. Hahaha. 
And the food was surprisingly good. I had Onion Soup, while Ady
had her Pretzel Burger with Sausage and Sof had her kiddie meal.

After lunch we headed to the main Disneyland Paris Park.
We needed to take a new photo...
Visiting at Easter means you get to see the character eggs.
For a moment we weren't sure if these were Tsums.
A photo for Ninong Jacob infront of his favorite
Paris Disney ride.
5 minutes queue time for Space Mountain?! Unbelievable!
Unfortunately, Sofia didn't make the height requirement.
We entered the Nautilus attractions beside it instead. BORING.

While the lines were quite manageable, there were a lot of attractions that were closed, like the Disneyland Railroad that ate up our full visit last time, the Phantom Manor and the Big Thunder Mountain.

We only did character meet and greets when the line was not long.
Too bad Jaffar was unprofessional. We were next in line
to meet him, but he left with no notice and made us wait
for Abu to come and replace him.
Warning, if you pull Abu's tail, he will pull your hair. Hahaha. Seriously.
Talk about mature. (yeah, I mean both of us).

There was a 15 minute wait time to meet Mickey Mouse in his dressing room, but this experience is truly worth it because we makes you feel like a star too... and he is very generous with his hugs for kids. They don't rush you when it's your turn so it makes the wait understandable.

We were a bit late for the parade so we weren't able to find a good position. But you can just stand anywhere and squeeze your way through the crowd till you find an opening which will allow you to see the passing floats.

I enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean but Sofia found this ride to be on the spooky side.

We wrapped up our visit with the Fantasy land classics of Dumbo and Alice's Teacups, then we called it a day.

Last stop, snack bar to grab a Hot Chocolate in a Disneyland Paris Tumbler to go. The best souvenirs are the ones that come with your food and drink.
Cheers! Glad this Paris Disney visit was so much better
than the last one.
And look who needed to recharge on our way
back on the train...

I'm glad I decided to bring Sofia back to Singapore again because this was the main highlight of her summer vacation trip. She gave it a 12 thumbs up in her travel diary. just saying.