Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lucerne, The Schnitzel and Other Swiss Concerns

Lucerne offered us a badly-needed break from urban Madrid. Trees, flowers, bushes, swans and lakes, it could not get any more zen-like than this quaint city (population: 59,000) of Switzerland. So ungodly is 8 o' clock in the evening, that most shops pretty much closed by then, which sucks (big time). Quirks aside, Lucerne is as good as it gets.

When I think Switzerland, I think of the majestic Swiss Alps. The view from Lake Lucerne was terrific, though we came at a wrong time because the train going up the alps were not in season.




Lake Lucerne is in itself a tourist attraction, perhaps Lucerne's main draw. Along the lake stands the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden truss bridge dating back to the 14th century.



The lake is also home to the elegant white swan.



... and cute ducks!



If you're in the area, be sure to check out the famous chocolatier Bachmann. Literally every few minutes a drove of Chinese tourists are bussed into their main store to try their huge selection of chocolates. Since I am about 50% Chinese I guess half of me came from that bus. The tiramisu cake was excellent. The gelatos, which I tried on my second day, were delicious.


Inside the store


And more chocolates!


Gelato Display

Scoops of Tiramisu and Chocolate Gelato

If you're into the religious stuff, the Church of St. Leodegar (St. Leodegar im Hof) is not to be missed. From afar it isn't difficult to spot the church's two imposing spires.

The horns gave it away

Me and my mom

Beautiful interiors of the church

The next day, I walked a few miles to see the Lion Monument or Löwendenkmal. It's a striking rock sculpture dedicated to the fallen Swiss mercenaries who served under France's notorious King Louis XVI. Narnia fans might find it familiar as it evokes the dying Aslan on the stone table.


I was so moved that I came back to the monument three times to take more pictures!


A Vietnamese girl took this pic :)

I read somewhere in my guidebook that I should try Lucerne's famous Schnitzel, a dish originating from Austria. Locally, it is better known as the "Breaded Porkchop". I also read that it was stupendously expensive. So I dropped by my bank to make a significant withdrawal.

This is where I hide all my money

My mom and I braved the freezing weather and walked to the Old Swiss House. The place has been maintained by the same family for generations, and assures that the recipe of their house specialty hasn't changed. I sorta wished their prices haven't changed either lol.


The Schnitzel costs 54 Swiss Francs or in our currency 2,500 Philippine pesos. Quite a sum for an oversized porkchop. The great thing though is the butler serving our table really took his time and care creating our dish. He took a big slab of boneless pork and dipped it in what looked like a mixture of cream and butter.


Next, he coated it with bread crumbs.


Then fries it to perfection!




The Schnitzel could feed a family of five, but there were only two of us. My mom said that our breaded porkchop at our bakery in Davao tasted better. I thought it was good and would order it again if I had the chance.

We came back to Etap Hotel where we are booked. I was supposed to share a room with my mom but the shower room had a see-through door!

See-through door is see-through :|

So I booked my own room. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mercado de San Miguel

My first weekend in Madrid was certainly something to look forward to. My cousin Tinky promised to take us to the Mercado, a place she fondly describes as a Valhalla for foodies. She knew I loved good food. I think I love spending money on good food is more like it.

We kicked off the day commuting to the Sentro district of Madrid, where the shopping and the hustle and bustle converge into one place.

It was interesting to see Spanish people of all shapes and sizes, including a mother with her youngest humped on the back of her bike, and an older son driving on his own. Seeing the child in such a precarious position made me nervous, but the commute system in Spain is very bike- and pedestrian- friendly. Every thoroughfare has a dedicated bike lane, though bikes are also allowed on sidewalks.

The first thing I see as I entered the Puerta del Sol is a statue of a bear seemingly groveling at a tree. It is in fact the heraldic symbol of Madrid. Storytellers have it that when Madrid was discovered by its first settlers, they found a bear sniffing a madrone tree (El Oso y El Madroño).

The next thing I see is a man and woman sniffing each other in the square. Ahh, Europeans!

From the market's exterior, the colorful display of fresh fruits and vegetables are enticing passers-by to come inside.

And I'm one of them!

Fresas (Strawberries)

Uvas (Grapes)

Manzanas (Apples)

I couldn't help but notice that the fruit names in Spanish are basically the same in the Filipino language. Presas = Fresas. Ubas = Uvas. Mansanas = Manzanas. Amazing! LOL

A barrage of hungry locals and tourists met us in the entrance.

Hands down, my favorites were the tapas. The ones shown above were made of Bacalao (salted codfish) (left) and Octopus (right). They cost one euro a piece from La Casa del Bacalao.

This one was made of Bacalao paste with fish roe.

Wagyu beef steak. Expensive is my only comment.

When I bought the cheese fondue everyone in my table got excited!

I ended the food binge with a wonderful cup of yogur (yes, that's how they call it) with mixed berries.

Me and my cousin Tinky :D

One aspect of traveling that excites me is the prospect of tasting the local cuisine. If you eat at the same old McDonalds or Starbucks then you are depriving yourself of experiencing culture. I can't say that I didn't miss the food back home, but while I'm away I make sure I keep my mind open to something new or perhaps something challenging. My trip in Madrid gave me that opportunity, and yes, this was just the start of it. :)

Mercado de San Miguel can be found in Plaza de San Miguel near Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. Visit their website: for more info.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Tour of Davao City

A month ago I introduced the first edition of what we coined as the "Blog Caravan" to my fellow Davao Bloggers. It's a pretty cool idea. I dictate a theme, and whoever wants to write about it, writes about it, and gets to be featured on the host's blog. That's me, Andrew and my blog, Yeah, Drew.

I thought that for our first theme it should be about promoting Davao City, its popular tourist spots and its not-so-well-known wonders. So I set the theme as "If you were to tour a first timer around Davao City, where would you take him/her?"

Koii Canarias suggests the Vanishing Island (or Shanipan Shoal), a sand bar located between Davao City and Samal Island. During the high tide, the island vanishes beneath the clear blue sea, but reveals its true beauty during the low tide. He shares more of what to see in Davao through his more comprehensive post, The Undiscovered Davao.

Duane Bacon would take you to the Pastil BBQ sa Ponce, a hole-in-the-wall hotbed for college students craving for a delicious quick fix. It is famous for its Pastil, an original Muslim dish made of rice topped with Chicken that is usually paired with barbecue.

Another pastil addict, Jesse Pizarro, joins Duane in the pastil craze with his post "Pastil please!". He explains that Pastil BBQ sa Ponce has been serving the same pastil and barbecue for 10 years. He also asserts that you can't have graduated from Ateneo de Davao if you haven’t eaten in Pastilan sa Ponce.

And boy does he like to eat! Jesse goes to Goyong's Eatery & Snack Haus on Ponciano Street to get a hold of their excellent chicken mami. He even goes out of his way to call its owners the Brad and Angelina of the mami world! Now that's what I call appreciation!

If he's not eating pastil or mami, you can catch Jesse getting his butt kicked at Game Pakk, a gaming cafe that specializes in hard-to-find Playstation 3 games such as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Soul Calibur IV. If you're a gamer, make sure to ask Jesse to show you a great time.

Renz Bulseco wrote just about every single aspect of Davao City to be enjoyed by its visitors. From the party scene, historical tidbits, sun-kissed beaches to the mountain resrots, transport system and parks, he's got it all covered! I suggest you read his post if you plan on visiting the city. Renz's post, From Islands to Highlands, is a great reminder of how beautiful our city is.

My cousin, Ria Jose, wishes you to partake in her tour of 5 places in Davao should you only have 24 hours to spare. These places are the Paradise Island Resort in Samal, Lachi's, whose Sans Rival is to die for, the Philippine Eagle Center, Tiny Kitchen and the Riverfront Corporate Center, where you can indulge in various adventures such as ziplining, zorving and nature activities at the Crocodile Park and Butterfly Farm.

And I would have to agree with my badminton buddy, Shiky Amper, that any tourist should try Davao's pride -- the Durian. She admits that it could be daunting at first, but good thing that Durian is cooked in many ways, including cheesecake! She recommends Lachi's Durian Cheesecake and Blugre's tamed-down version that includes mangoes and nuts. If you prefer coffee over cheesecake, Blugre also serves its renowned Durian Larcepuccino.

For photography aficionados, Rudolph Alama has created a goldmine of a blog post, The Basic Davao Shooting Guide, that summarizes the most ideal places to do photography shoots in Davao City. Yes, and that includes the infamous David statue found at Queensland Hotel.

Rudolph also tells us the fascinating story behind his favorite kebab place, Majid's. Its owner, Majid Jadali, was actually once a action movie star during the heyday of Philippine cinema in the 80's. The walls of his restaurant tell his colorful past. And get this -- he once shot a movie with the Susan Sarandon! Lucky guy. And yes, great food. Love Majid's.

In her blog entry, Karla Singson gives us a list of 10 things unique to Davao City, most notably the drinkable tap water, cheap fresh fruits, the wonderful People's Park, the magnificent Philippine Eagle and posh cafes in every corner.

Not to be outdone, Kaiser Mangampo also creates his own top ten tourist spots of Davao. He lists the Philippine Eagle Center as his first choice, followed by the Crocodile Park, DECA Wakeboard Park, Samal Island, which is just a stone's throw away from here, and Jack's Ridge.

Floraine Balgos wants to give her friends a more personal tour, so she created an itinerary of places to go Around Davao City in One Day. It involves a hearty breakfast at Taps, a visit to historic San Pedro Church and Museo de Davao, lunch at Luz Kinilaw, a stroll at People's Park, capped with dinner and coffee at Jack's Ridge.

Richard Diongson's favorite tourist attraction is the Monfort Bat Caves in Samal, home to the world's largest colony of Geoffrey’s Rousette Fruit Bats, as attested by the Guinness Book of World Records. For a mere 55 US cents, one can learn more about these often misunderstood creatures and how their role in the environment actually benefits everyone.

Mark Glenn Cabrera recounts his experience at Outland Adventure's Xcelerator Zipline in 2010. His initial fear was replaced by awe as he zipped almost a kilometer across some breathtaking scenery. He describes the ride as fresh and intense. He mentions a waiver that is given to you before the plunge, and advises you not to read it. I think he's right.

Eugene Maning shares with us the Best Route to Tour Davao City. In the morning, jog around Victoria Plaza then get breakfast at Chicco de Caffe. He also suggests checking out Chicken Tsunami's crunchy fried chicken and see the Davao landscape in the evening at Jack's Ridge.

Last but not the least, Alberto Egot Jr. invites us to visit a Thai-inspired real estate project called Amiya Resort Residences in Puan. Although still unfinished, he often gets requests from his photographer and filmmaker friends to do their shoots there. The 24-hectare property will soon have its own lagoon surrounded by cafes, spas and casitas. I'm sure everyone is looking forward to that.

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And .... that's a wrap! Thanks to all my fellow Davao Bloggers for taking the time to write for the Blog Caravan! Please note that all photos contained in this post belong to their respective owners and have slightly been edited and resized.