26
Aug
18

Italy: Roaming ‘Round Rome


Coming from Italy’s stunning north where we stopped for a few days in the usually frequented cities by travelers like Venice, Pisa and Florence, we disembarked from our late afternoon train ride from Florence in Rome’s central train station. Just as we stepped outside the train station, the area was reeking of urine smell worthy of a vomit.  I then realized we were entering the real, current Rome beneath the old glory of the powerful center of the great Roman Empire. Aside from that smelly experience, I enjoyed Rome with all those classic sights and great food. Here are the places we visited.

 

THE COLOSSEUM

DSC_2284Located in the center of the city of Roma and east of the Roman Forum is the Colosseum which is the largest amphitheatre ever built. We stayed the whole afternoon until after sunset to get snapshots taken during different times of the day.

 

 

COLOSSEUMHalfway circling the compound counterclockwise past the entrance to the Roman Forum we chanced upon a hill overlooking the colosseum.  And this jump shot was made.

 

 

CSC_2350We rested, hydrated ourselves, people-watched and circled the colosseum compound trying to find the best vantage point for the sunset shot.

 

CSC_2383We finally settled on a hilly area outside of the colosseum compound but just right across the street.

 

 

DSC_2403Sunset came and I waited for that moment after sunset that the blue hue of the sky would be very prominent in photos. Amid the blue sky the lighted colosseum appeared majestic.

 

 

CSC_2455 2Just the street below separated me and the colosseum.

 

 

DSC_2413One last round and one last shot of the colosseum and we called it a day.

 

 

THE PANTHEON

CSC_0889Part of Rome’s historic center is the Pantheon with its dome still considered as the world’s  largest unreinforced concrete dome.

 

 

DSC_0874As you can see on the left side of the photo there is the circular part of which above it is the dome which is not seen from ground level.

 

 

DSC_0875This is the dome taken from inside. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet or 43 m.

 

 

CSC_0881The Pantheon was originally built as a Roman temple.

 

 

DSC_0882 It is now a church.

 

 

DSC_2446For me, the Pantheon is more beautiful at night (I love night photography).

 

 

DSC_2449 2There are still a lot of people in front of the Pantheon taking photos in the evening and you just have to get the right timing to get solo photos when there is no one around you.

 

 

DSC_2441The small piazza in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

 

 

DSC_2451The piazza is surrounded by restaurants and bars that are very much alive until late.

 

 

THE ROMAN FORUM & PALATINE HILL

DSC_2286Just next to the Colosseum, is the Roman Forum which was the political, administrative and religious center of  ancient Rome.

 

 

DSC_2421Foro (Forum)  was the name that the Romans gave to the central square of the urban settlement. There were a lot of temples inside the forum but not all were dedicated for the gods but to people too.  The Romans believed that by building a temple and dedicating it to themselves they became deity.

 

 

DSC_2422Shown here is what remains of the Tempio dei Castori.

 

 

THE TREVI FOUNTAIN

CSC_0840Good for us that our lodging was just a few steps away that every morning and every night we would pass by the famous Trevi Fountain. It is always crowded so it is rather difficult too to get a good snapshot of yourself with everyone wanting that photo memoir.

 

 

DSC_2470The Trevi Fountain is one of the oldest water sources in Rome dating back to ancient Roman times, since the construction of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct in 19 B.C. that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome. As you can see, in the centre of the fountain is a statue of Oceanus, standing under a triumphal arch. His chariot is being pulled by two sea horses, one wild and one docile, representing the opposing moods of the sea.

 

 

 

THE SPANISH STEPS

CSC_0848 2From our hotel we just walked for less than thirty minutes to another famous place in Rome, the Spanish Steps, which are a series of 135 steps from its base at the Piazza di Spagna to the top where a church is located. Again it was almost a perfect shot with only one person on the side of the stairs I was sitting on.

 

 

II VITTORIANO

DSC_0926Il Vittoriano is located in Piazza Venezia and was only built between 1885 – 1925 to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

 

 

DSC_2432Dubbed “The Wedding Cake” for its gleaning white marble and tiered levels, this large altar was built. Replete with stairs, columns, fountains and sculptures, it was controversial because it destroyed the area of the Capitoline Hill and dominates the skyline.

 

DSC_2431Nevertheless, it lies at the heart of Rome and is a focal point of the city.

 

 

ST. PETER’S SQUARE AND BASILICA

DSC_0960We arrived in St. Peter’s Square in the morning of our last day in Rome.  The line going inside St. Peter’s Basilica, one of Catholic’s holiest site, was expectedly long but it moved fast.

 

 

DSC_0942 2Before lining up we checked the square grounds and took photos like this.

 

 

CSC_0996That is St. Peter’s Basilica from afar near the entrance to the square. The dome designed by Michelangelo was inspired by the Pantheon and the Duomo of Florence.

 

 

DSC_0994Looking up close to the columns lining up around the square.

 

 

DSC_0972Entering the basilica, we were stunned by the magnificence of the structure and intricate details of the interior.

 

 

DSC_0979People, probably not all of them Catholics, were all over the inside of the basilica most of them looking up.

 

 

DSC_0976 2Moving closer to the altar we found something very weird and eerie.  That dark brown thingie jutting upwards. The basilica was actually built on top of the burial site of Peter the Apostle of which the dark brown thingie marks.

 

 

DSC_0981Moving past the dark brown thingie we moved closer to the altar.

 

 

DSC_0967After a while, we decided to leave the basilica.

 

 

PIAZZA NAVONA

CSC_0905Piazza Navona is part of Rome’s historic center together with the Pantheon, a few blocks away.

 

 

CSC_0908Piazza Navona is the place that has the three Bernini fountains.

 

 

DSC_0896A closer look at one of the fountains.

 

 

DSC_0918At the plaza center is a stretch of art works and souvenirs for sale.

 

 

DSC_2457Day and night, the restaurants and bars are filled with mostly tourists. I have been warned that it is not practical to dine in this area as food and drinks are overly priced. One night as we were leaving Piazza Navona, we walked back three blocks toward Pantheon and we found a good restaurant where we tasted, what else but Italian food.

 

 

PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

DSC_0864Piazza del Popolo is a large urban square in the center of Rome. The name in modern Italian literally means “People’s Square”, but historically it derives from the  poplars after which the church of  Santa Maria del Popolo in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name.

 

 

CSC_0863The entrance of the Tridente from Piazza del Popolo, defined by the “twin” churches of Santa Maria in Montesano (left, built 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (right, built 1675-79). The Via del Corso exits between the two churches which we came from coming in to the piazza.

 

 

 

DSC_0859An Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis stands in the center of the piazza.

 

 

 

A DINING EXPERIENCE 

DSC_0919We skipped Piazza Navona area for dining as we were advised and walked a few blocks going to the Pantheon. We passed by this tiny restaurant offering, what else but Italian food.  We decided to try it.

 

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An Italian rose wine was paired with…..

 

 

DSC_0925…lasagna and…

 

 

DSC_0924….spaghetti in tomato sauce.  We enjoyed the great, inexpensive food.

 

 

MORE AROUND ROME

DSC_0844As we roamed around the city we passed by colorful alleys…

 

DSC_0858…tricycles….

 

 

DSC_0853 2…more alleys….

 

 

DSC_2263….restaurants with alfresco dining…..

 

 

DSC_0891….guards of government buildings….

 

 

DSC_2462…..more alleys at night…..

 

 

DSC_0856….Manila-named places…..

 

 

DSC_0843…and more authentic local ristorante.

 

 

WHERE WE STAYED

We stayed in Cenci Bed & Breakfast just a few steps from the Trevi. Fountain A very reasonably-priced bed and breakfast with very accommodating owner and pleasant staff.  The website is http://www.cencibedandbreakfast.it/#home.

 

 

camere-cencibb-28camere-cencibb-10Included in the room rates is a light breakfast in a tiny dining area.  Juices, coffee, breads, boiled eggs, pastries and fresh fruits are offered. My stay in this place has been one of my most cost effective travel experiences ever. We were out all day and a part of the night when we were not sleeping so we did not need a luxurious and expensive hotel in Rome.  Yes I am a frugal traveler.

 

DSC_0942 2Bye for now Rome!

 

25
Jul
18

Latvia: Riga, Baltics’ Liveliest Place


Riga, the capital of Latvia is the largest of the three Baltic capital cities and it is considered the party place in the Baltics. Its airport is the largest and busiest in the Baltics offering more direct flights to the rest of Europe than Tallinn, Estonia or Vilnius, Lithuania, the two other Baltic capital cities. Riga was our second Baltic and fourth European city destination during our summer escapade. We have already explored earlier the beautiful cities of Bergen, Helsinki and Tallinn.

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Entering Riga

FullSizeRenderOn a clear sunny day, we took a one hour Air Baltic flight from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Lavia.  I was seated next to a South African guy who would be taking a transit flight in Riga from Tallinn to Budapest where he is based. Indeed, Riga has more direct flights to more European cities compared to Tallinn, just a two-hour ferry ride from Helsinki, Finland and to Vilnius, Lithuania which is a lesser active city.

 

 

FullSizeRendereWe touched down in Riga International Airport, one of the three international airports in Latvia.

 

 

FullSizeRendercThe airport’s rather tiny and the hallways are narrow but it looked new, organized and easy to navigate probably due to recent renovation works.

 

 

IMG_1655Welcome to Riga!

 

 

IMG_1662The city center, specifically the Old Town of Riga, is less than 20 minutes away by taxi from the airport. The airport taxi service is centralized and you have to buy a coupon near the final exit door before you can board a taxi.  It is an efficient service they offer. Drivers were nice and helpful too.  You can opt to take the train to the city center but I believe the taxi is the more convenient option that is why we took it.

 

IMG_1663From the airport we chanced upon classic train coaches plying the suburban areas near the capital city. They looked very Soviet-styled.

 

 

 

Where We Stayed

It is the usual balance of our desired location (Old Town in this case) and reasonable cost when choosing our lodging in Riga. We also took into consideration that we had two babies so every place that we must visit should be within walking distance from the hotel. The Rixwell Centra Hotel inside the Old Town was our perfect choice.  It truly did not disappoint.

IMG_1668This is part of the hotel lobby and just right outside are the restaurants, bars and shops.

 

 

IMG_1681As I usually do when traveling, I did try to send a request for a room upgrade to the hotel manager. We were given a top floor, corner suite. How generous of them!

 

 

IMG_1682It was indeed a spacious suite where my toddler could run around forever.

 

 

IMG_1684Just as we went inside the room,  the views out of the windows took our breath away.

 

 

riga2The red roofs of most of the surrounding buildings truly impressed in us the Old City aura.

 

 

riga1Churches and all.

 

IMG_1764The views are even more beautiful at sunset.

 

 

IMG_1765As shown in this photo taken at sunset, just below us across the street are tons of restaurants and bars starting to come alive at twilight.  Some are even open until 7 a.m. so one of the disadvantages of a room in a lower floor in this area is the noise coming from the bars that open until the next morning even with double glazed windows.  We were located in the highest floor so the noise was almost a non-concern.

 

 

Roaming Around Riga

The Old Town & Historic Center

FullSizeRendervThe beautiful Riga Town Hall Square was a just a few minutes walk from our hotel.

 

 

FullSizeRenderIt was almost 10 p.m. and it was still a good time to take photos.  Indeed it’s summertime!

 

 

DSC_0157

 

 

 

DSC_0175Riga’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0163Beautiful buildings and lots of restaurants, shops and bars are everywhere.

 

 

DSC_0167Medieval churches are greatly preserved too.

 

 

 

FullSizeRenderWhether at sunset….

 

 

FullSizeRenders….or on a clear, sunny mid-day Riga’s Old Town is beautiful.

 

 

FullSizeRenderbThis was taken just a block from our hotel of which the church tower accentuates the aerial Old Town view as seen high above from our top floor hotel room.

 

 

IMG_1927It was not hard to fall in love with Riga after all.

 

 

If you are a party–goer, you would love it more there.  Watch this video of a mobile bar.

 

 

The Parks

FullSizeRenderkWhile on our way from the Old Town to the Art Nouveau area of Riga outside the Old Town, we cut across beautiful parks and one of them was in Bastion Hill.

 

 

IMG_1789It’s a place of beautiful, blooming flowers and….

 

 

 

DSC_0210….people suntanning or having picnics.

 

 

IMG_1787Bridge love locks abound too…..

 

 

IMG_1888…..and a lock can be solitary too.

 

 

IMG_1791The area covered parts of Bastejkalna and Kārļa Ulmaņa piemineklis parks.  The greens are amazing and in good weather there are a lot of activities that can be done inside the park like kayaking.

 

 

IMG_1889There is actually a boat tour that starts from this park using a large ferry that goes around the Old Town but we skipped it.  I thought it was wonderful to see the Old City from afar.

 

 

FullSizeRenderqWe also encountered a bunch of students rehearsing for a show.

 

 

IMG_1800A walk in the park can be an opportunity to taste a Latvian ice cream…..

 

 

IMG_1794….well the best gourmet ice cream from Latvia.

 

 

 

IMG_1877As we crossed the street from the parks we came into an area where there were a lot of flowers on display.

 

 

IMG_1879Yes beautifully arranged, real flowers.

 

 

IMG_1876A pyramid.

 

 

IMG_1912And the #SingInRiga group singing competition. Ironically, when we went inside the competition hall, the Israeli group was singing!

 

 

FullSizeRenderoWe then came to another park called Kronwalda Park.  It has the monkey statue in a spacesuit.

 

 

IMG_2360The statue is dedicated to animals that participated in exploration of outer space and it was made by artist Denis Prasolov.  It was worth a group-fie.

 

 

The Art Nouveau Area

DSC_0199From the park we finally entered the Art Nouveau area of Riga. This Baltic capital city has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world!

 

 

DSC_0197Our first grand stop was at the Museum of Art Nouveau.

 

 

IMG_1845This is the famous staircase inside the Museum of Art Nouveau leading up to its tower.

 

The following are the snapshots taken in the area of the decorative new arts applied to buildings that was popular in the late 1800s until early 1900s.

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Immeuble_art_nouveau_(Riga)_(7568195240)

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DSC_0192

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DSC_0191DSC_0194

 

 

Food in Riga

27072320_10215402361640817_1509631548771949073_nOur breakfast moments in Riga were well-taken cared of by our hotel.  This is the first and only hotel where I have stayed that offers complimentary, unlimited champagne during breakfast. We had our other meals in low-key restaurants and fast-food chains.  However, in every trip we take, we make sure to taste the local gourmet offerings.

 

 

20245581_10213782249699031_4327947262718295568_nThe closest we had to experiencing local cuisine was our dinner spent in an awesome place called Garden Restaurant just a few blocks away from our hotel.

 

 

20246017_10213782253579128_4103698983856419920_nThis is where I initially drank the famous local drink, black balsam, that the restaurant was giving complimentary.

 

 

20245476_10213782252939112_9059758374257878717_nMy wife just took a sip of  her black balsam so I finished the two glasses.  It was flavorful, strong and a bit sweet.  I liked it!

 

 

20155727_10213782250579053_7463809804359393260_nWe ordered calamari as our starter.

 

19989682_10213782251459075_9197408986896938830_nThe traditional Latvian bread was served too.

 

 

20228964_10213782250899061_1280012536784584324_nWe ordered the pork knuckle thinking it would be similar to the crispy skin variant of the Philippines only to find out it is somewhat similar to the German version.  It was juicy though and it tasted unexpectedly good.

 

 

20246520_10213782252539102_6395466902400332454_nI am a fish lover so wherever I am I would try to order fish.  The restaurant was only offering a fried Dorado so we ordered it.

 

 

20229281_10213782249859035_1599356938223628368_nThe black balsam was sort of an appetizer drink for me and so my favorite red was the main drink. We enjoyed our dining time in this place and we were glad at least we have tasted a bit of the local cuisine.

 

In another occasion when we were in the Art Nouveau area of Riga we dined in a place called Alberta just across the Museum of Art Nouveau.

IMG_1852

We had beef stroganoff…..

IMG_1857…and Asian-stlye dumplings.

 

 

LEAVING RIGA

The hotel gave us two breakfast bags as we informed the front desk the evening before that we are leaving for the airport on our last day early in the morning. The driver that they arranged to pick us up was prompt, helpful and pleasant too.

IMG_1657From Riga, we took our flight back to Bergen, Norway on the way to the U.S. I was seated next to a couple of guys who smelled alcohol looking like they just got out of a bar and had a long night taking Stolichnaya shots.  Riga party fever indeed!  If I was twenty years younger I could probably have done the same thing.

 

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Ardievas, Riga!

19
Jul
18

Denmark: Ultra Cool Copenhagen


Our stop in the vibrant city of Copenhagen, considered the coolest kid in the Nordic block and is usually voted the happiest place on earth, was unexpected and unplanned.

Our Norwegian Air flight from Bergen, Norway to Providence, Rhode Island in the U.S. was cancelled so we were rerouted to Copenhagen then on to New York’s JFK airport. It was indeed a very disappointing redirection considering that my wife and I had our 6-month and 17-month old babies in tow but instead we chose to focus on the positive side that we would be able to visit Copenhagen for two days all-expense paid by the airline.

Welcome to Copenhagen!

 

Where We Stayed

The airline booked us at the contemporary AC Hotel Bella Sky Copenhagen which is a 10-min drive away from the airport. A complimentary airport shuttle runs between the airport and the hotels near it.

ZCOP4From the proudly Danish-branded Bang and Olufssen TV to the minimalist yet artistic room design and furnitures, the 4-star hotel was indeed a fresh lodging experience for us.

 

ZCOP23This is the hotel room almost in its entirety taken using a panorama shot.

 

ZCOP2The room was spacious enough for my wife and my two little babies.

 

 

ZCOP1I just loved the tiny living area.

 

 

Around Copenhagen

Our hotel was located just roughly thirty minutes away from the city center so it was easy for us to roam around the city.

FullSizeRenderThe hotel where we were staying was located in Bella Center and there was a nearby metro station just less than five minutes walk.

 

 

FullSizeRender4Surprisingly, only debit cards were accepted to buy metro tickets at the automated kiosks in the station.

 

 

FullSizeRender3Our only metro stop for the day was Nyhavn.

 

 

FullSizeRender5This was the view when we went up from under the metro station on our way to Nyhavn.

 

Here are some snapshots as we walked our way to Nyhavn.

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Finally……

DSC_0223….we reached the busy, touristy area of Nyhavn.

 

 

DSC_0235The colorful facades of 17th and 18th century buildings that house restaurants, bars and cafes lined up the river.

 

 

 

DSC_0220My wife and my daughter in the Nyhavn area.

 

 

DSC_0238The famous Nyhavn building.

 

 

DSC_0236There’s also a love lock bridge in the area.

 

 

DSC_0228DSC_0231I sure do loved the tourist boats and historical ships docked in the river.

 

 

DSC_0221We also witnessed the breathtaking and heartbreaking act of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei as he barricaded the windows of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg museum with more than 3,500 salvaged life jackets worn by migrants and collected on the Greek island of Lesbos temporarily to celebrate World Refugee Day.

 

 

DSC_0237The artwork was named “Soleil Levant” – French for “Sunrise” – and was inaugurated on World Refugee Day.  Ai Weiwei wants to put attention to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, or as he calls it, the human crisis.  The beautiful thing about this piece is that every one of those life jackets, 3,500 life jackets, represents a human story.

 

 

FullSizeRenderzNext are some photos of the yellow buses plying around the city…….

 

 

DSC_0233…..the hop-on, hop-off tourist buses…..

 

 

 

CSC_0242…..and finally the amazing bicycles and their protected cycle tracks.  There are more than half a million bicycles in Copenhagen, more bikes than people.

 

CSC_0244A staggering 36% of its residents prefer bike as the mode of transportation in going to work and school.

 

 

FullSizeRendercCopenhagen is probably the most bicycle-friendly city in the world.

 

 

The Dining Experience

The dining experience in Denmark has been redefined largely by NoMa chain of restaurants that started in Copenhagen. We did not have the time to dine on a NoMa outlet (yeah as if we could beat the waiting list) but I could say the food scene in Copenhagen is truly one of the best in the world. If a Japanese city embodies a meticulously-prepared Asian food, I could say that Copenhagen does the Western food to perfection.

FullSizeRenderbAt our hotel, a simple dish of tatar of hay smoked salmon, tarragan mayo, pickled onions and crispy herbs was presented perfectly not mentioning its awesome taste.

 

FullSizeRendernThe pasta was prepared un-Italian, tasting like a five-star new dish. This was just fettucine with creamy mushroom sauce, roasted mushrooms, asparagus, North Sea cheese and watercress but it tasted heavenly.

 

 

FullSizeRenderuEven a simple chicken salad took our breath away!  Grilled chicken (really out of this world taste!), heart lettuce, anchovy mayo and North Sea cheese sour dough crumbs.

 

FullSizeRenderFinally, this was my favorite although the picture does not justify the taste. ‘Nordic Beef’ Burger, brioche bun, bacon, smoked cheddar, spicy aioli, pickled red onion relish at the AC Hotel Bella Sky.  Even my wife agreed that this burger tastes very good!

 

FullSizeRendermSome drinks in Danish version.

 

For desserts we had them in the city center in Restraurant Vita near Nyhavn.

FullSizeRenderFirst we had the Gateau Marcel. Just a simple chocolate mousse cake that’s perfectly done. The dark chocolate probably did the trick! 

 

IMG_2140My daughter obviously loved it!

 

 

IMG_2139Next we had the Cre’me Brule’e, The brittle topping of the contrasting layer of hard caramel over the rich custard base was just too tooth-inviting. Either paired with my wife’s coffee or my red wine, this was simply perfect!

 

Back to the hotel food….

IMG_2062Our breakfasts were complimentary at the hotel and the choices were one of the widest I have seen in a 4-star hotel.  Well, enough for the food but yes food has been one of the most striking things that we experienced in Copenhagen in addition to the Nordic hospitality. No wonder why this has been voted the happiest city in the world!  Great food makes everyone happy! Chomp, chomp, chomp!

 

See you again Copenhagen!

28
Feb
18

Estonia: Medieval Old Town of Tallinn


Beautiful Estonia became one of our 2017 summer European travel destinations because of the successive terror attacks in some of Europe’s biggest cities that prompted me to revise our itinerary as my wife and I were bringing with us our two daughters, both less than two years old. Parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic states were the easy choices. We found a tempting inaugural flight offer from Norwegian Air flying directly from Providence, Rhode Island to Bergen, Norway, a much more convenient route than the New York City to Oslo we took previously since we live in southeastern Connecticut. From Bergen we flew to Helsinki, Finland (via Stockholm) and then crossed the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia which was our entry point to the Baltic states.

OLD TOWN OF TALLINN

DSC_0091Most of our time in Tallinn was spent inside the Old Town. The imposing Viru Gate with its pair of picturesque, ivy-covered towers at the entrance to Viru Street was the first glimpse we got of the Old Town. The gate fascinated me so much that we took time to take photos at different times of the day.

 

DSC_0101Yes it was July and mid-summer yet chilly just like most of Scandinavia and the Baltics so we had to take off our jackets for the “summer” photo.

 

 

CSC_0095At the left side of Viru Gate is a small park atop a hill that overlooks the gate. We discovered it as we were walking along the main road.

 

 

CSC_0084There was less of the normal crowd above the hill so we spent some quiet time enjoying the views.

 

 

CSC_0081The two towers are actually only the foregates of what was a much more complex gate system built in the 14th century. It included a large, square tower that stood farther back along the street, close to where the city wall can be seen.

 

 

CSC_0088Most of the gate was pulled down in the 1880s to make room for traffic, but these two towers remained and have since become a symbol of the town.

 

 

FullSizeRender85This was taken as we entered the Viru Gate into Viru Street. Anyone passing between those two towers couldn’t be blamed for thinking they’ve left the 21st century behind and landed smack in the middle of the 18th.

 

 

FullSizeRender81After entering Viru Gate one will pass through the usually packed Viru Street.

 

 

FullSizeRender82A lot of shops, restaurants and cafes dot Viru Street.

 

 

FullSizeRender83Side streets are awesome too!

 

 

IMG_1360We entered a souvenir shop and we were surprised to see Trump and Putin souvenirs being sold together.

 

FullSizeRenderwFrom Viru Street we walked toward the Old Town square.

 

 

FullSizeRender4The main area of the Old Town is its square and this is the southern part.

 

 

FullSizeRender93On our first visit to the square, there was an event going on.

 

 

IMG_1429We took our own photos at the square.

 

 

IMG_1433The restaurants around the square were already bustling with local and foreign visitors alike.

 

 

FullSizeRender3Then we circled another block or two that brought us to the back of the Old Town Hall.

 

 

FullSizeRenderyThe route brought us back to the place of the square tram with authentic Estonian atmosphere.

 

 

FullSizeRendertI could never resist the temptation of having my photo taken with an Estonian girl……

 

 

FullSizeRender…or taking a photo of an Estonian girl. Yes I did ask her permission.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThis is my daughter at one of the doors of the Old Town Hall.

 

 

 

FullSizeRender2As we took another block tour we came upon this tri-cycle and to its back is where we would have a dinner like no other.

 

 

 

A UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE 

IMG_1426It was our first night in Tallinn so we decided to experience the irresistible call of a medieval dinner. There  was no obvious choice but Old Hanse, a restaurant we discovered as we were strolling near the Old Town Square.

 

 

IMG_1370Tucked near the center of the Old Town it has both outdoor and indoor seating.  We chose outdoor even if it was chilly because of the babies.

 

 

FullSizeRender92We were given the menu and the staff spoke with medieval flair.

 

 

DSC_0055Blankets were provided for those sitting outside as it was a bit cold summer night.

 

 

DSC_0051The weapons for dining.

 

DSC_0056I had two pieces of wild boar and a piece of elk.

 

DSC_0058My wife had a piece of salmon.

 

 

IMG_1428I tasted both our orders and they tasted so different. Well, medieval.

 

 

FullSizeRender91Yes 1400 A.D. :-). It was indeed a very unique gourmet experience something we never had before, challenging our palette and reasoning even after we have left.

 

 

NIGHT MODE OF TALLINN OLD TOWN SQUARE

FullSizeRenderDOn our second night in Tallinn, we spent some colorful times at the Old Town square.

 

 

exif_temp_imageAs we waited for darkness to set in I took this photo of my beloved with the Old Town Hall and the beautiful buildings as background.

 

 

IMG_1491I also tried the iPhone portrait camera setting as I took another photo of my wife with my firstborn who was 18 months old then.

 

 

IMG_1512We finally decided to have dinner at an Italian restaurant just inside the square to experience the moments of the day turning into night with all those lights starting to turn the square into a magical place.

 

 

IMG_1525A closeup shot of the Old Town Hall at dusk.

 

 

FullSizeRenderBA view of the buildings west of the square accented by the square stones that turned reddish due to the lights from a nearby establishment.

 

 

FullSizeRenderCA part of the north side of the square.  The left end is where the Italian restaurant was located where we had our dinner.

 

 

FullSizeRenderGSome dining options abound too in the east side of the square.

 

 

FullSizeRender(23)A panoramic shot of the square that covered the north, west and south sides.

 

 

FullSizeRenderEFinally, a monochromatic shot of one of the most exciting squares in Europe.

 

MORE OF TALLINN OLD TOWN

FullSizeRenderccOn our last day, we explored the area of the Old Town nearest to our hotel.  First stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, an Orthodox Christian building similar to those found in Russia. Well, Estonia used to be part of U.S.S.R.

 

 

FullSizeRenderxxAfter some time circling the cathedral grounds, we finally found a spot to take a snapshot of the side of the cathedral with more of us and less of the irritating crowd.

 

 

FullSizeRenderbbThe facade of the cathedral that was not free of Filipinos taking photos.

 

 

FullSizeRendervvThe Orthodox Christian church was truly an architectural marvel.

 

 

FullSizeRenderNext was the Maiden Tower, a less than 10-minute walk from our hotel.

 

 

FullSizeRender111It is one of the more famous of Tallinn’s medieval defence towers.

 

 

FullSizeRender2It was recently renovated and reopened a museum, complete with an exhibition hall in its vaulted cellar.

 

 

FullSizeRender444What puzzled me inside the Maiden Tower complex was these creepy monks.  There are actually three creepy monks, Ambrosius, Bartholomeus, and Claudius.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThese monks in the Danish King Garden. Their creation was funded by a shady Estonian businessman Toomas Annus.

 

 

FullSizeRender555Veering away from the creepy monks, one can have the beautiful view of this part of the Old Town from the Maiden Tower complex.

 

 

FullSizeRenderLastly as we left the Maiden Tower complex, we passed by Kiek in de Kök, an artillery tower built in 1475. It gained the name Kiek in de Kök from the ability of tower occupants to see into kitchens of nearby houses. The tower is 38 m high and has walls 4 m thick.  A defense passage actually connects it to the Maiden Tower.

 

 

OUTSIDE OF OLD TOWN

DSC_0110Even if our hotel was geographically outside of the Old Town, we never ventured its neighborhood until our last day as our main focus was what was inside the Old Town  It was awe-inspiring to see outside the Old Town medieval architecture blending with modern design.

 

 

IMG_1469This is one of Tallin’s museums.

 

 

IMG_1478My wife and one of my daughters.

 

 

DSC_0097Just outside of Viru Gate, there is a nice place to go for street shopping especially for authentic Estonian handicrafts.

 

 

DSC_0098It has an extensive choices of locally-designed clothing and souvenir items.

 

 

DSC_0109Also, outside the Old Town were Hop -On, Hop-Off tour buses…..

 

 

FullSizeRendeqr….the modern transportation system of the Estonian capital…..

 

 

DSC_0099…the trike business for tourists…

 

 

FullSizeRender…..interesting buildings…

 

 

IMG_1443…and sex shops 🙂

 

Also, we had to visit a supermarket as we needed some things for our little baby.  We were directed by the hotel staff to a shopping mall less than 10minutes walk from our hotel located outside the Old Town.  It has a huge supermarket at its basement.

IMG_1463What made our day complete though was a restaurant that satisfied our craving for Asian food.  It was the CHI Restaurant located at mall’s basement, a food place of Thai-Asian fusion.

 

 

IMG_1448The place was not that crowded anymore when we had our mid-afternoon dining.

 

 

IMG_1462We ordered pad thai…..

 

 

IMG_1460….fried rice….

 

 

IMG_1451…green curry chicken….

 

 

IMG_1457…and sweet and sour fish.  It was indeed a food fest for us who have been deprived of Asian cuisine for almost a week.

 

 

GETTING INTO ESTONIA

Compared to Riga, Latvia, Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn has less direct flights from major European cities probably because of its proximity to Helsinki, Finland’s capital which is just 2 hours ferry ride away via the Gulf of Finland. We chose to cross the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki to Tallinn and it was truly a breeze.

FullSizeRenderfThe Viking Line ferry terminal was just a 10-min taxi ride from the center of Helsinki.  Although there were a lot of passengers, our check-in took us less than 10 minutes.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThere was also an automated checkin area but very few people were using it.

 

 

IMG_1271This was the massive ferry that took us from Helsinki to Tallinn.

 

 

IMG_1261With two babies in tow, we decided to book a private cabin so that we can all easily take a short nap during the sea crossing.  This is the hallway to our cabin.

 

 

IMG_1252Adding a bit more to the regular fare without cabin, one can have this cabin with three sleeping beds tucked into the wall and a fixed sofa bed!

 

 

IMG_1255This was the lower part of the sleeping area.

 

 

IMG_1260With all the beds set up the cabin looked like this.  We were able to take a short nap during the travel………

 

 

IMG_1265……especially that I took my wine inside the cabin which was not allowed.

 

 

IMG_1274We arrived in Tallinn at the Ferry Passenger Terminal where we took a taxi to our hotel.

 

 

WHERE WE STAYED IN TALLINN

IMG_1289After so much consideration with the price and location of the hotels, I booked a room at the Hotell Palace Tallinn in the Estonian capital.  It was way cheaper than the hotels of the same category inside the Old Town and it was just a short walk (less than 10 minutes) to any entrance to the Old Town.

 

 

DSC_0074Shown here is the small lobby of the hotel.

 

 

DSC_0073To the right of the lobby is the area leading to the elevators that would take you to the rooms.

 

 

IMG_1281Our room had two double beds that we later joined together.

 

 

IMG_1279We were provided promptly with the crib. The room had a desk with a Samsung tablet that guests can use freely and is connected to the ultra fast and reliable hotel Wi-fi.  Did you know that Estonia is the most wired country in Europe and probably the world?

 

 

IMG_1282The bathroom was spacious but there was no tub, only a shower area.

 

 

IMG_1283At the other end of the bathroom was a single sink with a large round mirror.

 

 

IMG_1435I think the most captivating thing for me in the hotel was the buffet breakfast included in the hotel room rate.  Fishes and eggs and everything healthy I wanted to eat in the morning.

 

 

IMG_1530And some meaty stuff too: bacon, sausages and pork ribs!

 

 

IMG_1643Tallinn summarizes and showcases what Estonia has gone through the several years of its tumultuous history.   Shown here is the Cross of

02
Jul
17

U.S.: Breathtaking Bryce Canyon


The Bryce Canyon National Park, a spectacular reserve of deep red, spire-shaped rock formations in southern Utah, was part of a number of stops my family took as we traveled by road from Phoenix to beautiful Sedona to the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and onward to Las Vegas to cap our family day.

We arrived at our Bryce Canyon hotel way past midnight after spending a late afternoon stop at the Grand Canyon to tour members of my family who have not seen the canyon yet.  Most of us agreed to wake up early the next day to catch a glimpse of the stunning Bryce Canyon ampitheatre at sunrise. Three of us made it. Only the men.

 

sedona6One of the perks of experiencing the prime viewing sunrise time of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater is you won’t pay the park entrance. You can enter the park and the counter is not yet open for the day.

 

 

10369_13360_Inspiration_Point_Bryce_Canyon_Park_lg.jpgWith a lot of possible viewing points, I chose Inspiration Point (yes, over Sunrise Point, Sunset Point and Bryce Point) to experience sunrise at the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. From the hotel staff to internet reviews, everyone would always recommend Inspiration Point. Indeed, the amazing point did not disappoint.

 

 

DSC_0287From the parking lot it was just a few steps to the base of the amphitheater enclave.  We ascended to the first level where we could already catch a glimpse of the crimson spires.  I have never read from any article on the web that this was as easy as I could imagine to get a spectacular view of the amphitheater.  I thought we needed to hike miles to be in the best vantage point.  Later I learned that hiking would be for those who would want to come closer and face to face with the hoodoos following established trails.

 

bryce8My father, who is almost 80 years old, stayed at the first level taking videos and photos.

 

 

DSC_0286My brother and I climbed up to the highest viewing platform of Inspiration Point.  The experience from there was simply awesome.

 

 

Here is the video that I took as the sun rose in the east.  I was lost for words.

 

 

DSC_0276Facing east, these are the hoodoos on the left side zoomed in.

 

 

DSC_0275This is the less crimson, nonetheless still splendid right side when facing east.

 

 

DSC_0277Down toward the center you can see trails where people are allowed to walk and climb the buttes.

 

 

DSC_0279Another angle of the spectacular area.

 

 

DSC_0283Another shot of the more stunning  right side.

 

 

IMG_6658What an awesome experience it was!

 

 

bryce2This has been one of my top five travel experiences so far! Simply awesome!

 

Bryce9From left that is my brother, my father and me as we prepared to leave the Bryce National Park.

 

 

BryceLater in the day just as we were leaving for Zion National Park, the ladies finally decided to visit the viewing points.  From left is my wife, who is carrying our 6-month old Ava in the womb, my awesome mother and then my two beautiful sisters. If blessed with a clear sunny day, an almost midday photo shoot would be simply breathtaking.

 

 

Bryce6Their decision gave me and my wife and our 9-month old daughter to have this photo near the park entrance.

 

 

where to stay

Staying overnight is recommended if one wants to experience the prime viewing times of either sunrise or sunset at the amphitheater. There are so many options for lodging and most hotels would be in one area which is  just near the the park entrance.  Only one hotel is inside the park but I do not think it really matters a lot because the park entrance and the viewing points are just less than 10 minutes drive away from the hotels outside the park.

Bryce-View-Lodge-Sunset-feI have chosen Bryce View Lodge as our sleeping quarters for the overnight stay as we only needed…..

 

 

bryce-canyon-hotel2……the basic rooms.

 

 

hotelWe got the rooms in the lower level shown above.  Parking space is directly in front of the rooms.

 

 

bryce-hotelBy staying at Bryce View Lodge guests gain access to all facilities across the street at the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn.

• Free wireless high-speed internet in lobby and conference center.
• Guest laundry. 6:30 am – 10:00 pm
• Business center
• Free airport shuttle
• Complimentary on-site parking
• Indoor pool and whirlpool

The lodge was inexpensive, basic and the staff was great.

bonus: red canyon national park

redcanyon5On our way to the Zion National Park and onward to Las Vegas, the Red Canyon National Park would be on our way and we took a quick stop to gaze at the red rocks and all.

 

 

redcanyon4We had to stop at the gorgeous red rocks.

 

 

redcanyon3My sisters enjoyed the stop too!

 

 

redcanyon1What a journey it had been.  Yes an incredible thumb up for an extraordinary display of nature!

12
Jun
17

U.S.: Sedona’s Enchantment Resort


Our late summer family getaway began in scorching hot Arizona as we flew in to Phoenix from Boston via L.A. and met up with my West Coast-based parents and siblings.  We hurriedly drove northwards to beautiful Sedona where it was comfortingly cooler by 10 degrees and the stunning Enchantment Resort was chosen as our base for our quick stay in the town famous for its marvelous red rocks.

 

 

first impression

IMG_6436We arrived at the resort in pitch black darkness so we did not have any idea of how close and how stunning the red rocks would be from our room.  Early morning the next day I woke up before sunset and I was amazed by the view of the red rocks surrounding us just as the rising sun was turning the sky into fiery red orange.

 

 

IMG_6464I enjoyed gazing at the amazing red rocks and  it was indeed an incredible experience.  I immediately woke up everyone……

 

 

DSC_0197…..including my wife and 9-month old daughter.

 

 

DSC_0202Coffee time.

 

 

DSC_0211I checked the balcony next door.

 

 

 

IMG_6518With my parents at the balcony of their room that has a better vantage point to view the red rocks.

 

 

resort layout & rooms

SWFIMG_141024_15191416_NRW19Set on 70 acres of breathtaking natural terrain, the resort has its casitas and rooms spread all over the area surrounded by red rocks.

 

 

DSC_0217Our casitas were on one of the highest locations in the resort offering breathtaking vistas.  We were less than five minutes walk to the main building housing the receiving area, the pool and the restaurants.  We never utilized the complimentary resort carts except during check-in and check-out as everyone enjoyed walking and enjoying the views.  The resort also offers free parking located  just beside the main building.

 

 

DSC_0214To compliment its stunning red rock backdrop, the casitas have been painted in red too.

 

 

sedona1This became my favorite photo of the resort.

 

 

HI323562311There was nothing incredible with the Southwestern-style rooms but they were spotlessly clean, very spacious and well-appointed.

 

 

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.The bathrooms were huge…..

 

 

IMG_6519..and had great views too!

 

 

food and dining

IMG_6423We had a room service just once and it was on the night we arrived at the resort.  We ordered salmon, chicken and pasta.  A standard tip was automatically added to the bill.  The food was a bit on the expensive side but everything tasted so good so I did not care about the price.  Also, we did not have any other option except the town center a few miles away.

 

 

sedona-restaurantsDuring lunch only the Che Ah Chi restaurant was open so we had to contend with just one option.  The amazing views of the red rocks made up for it.  The food was good but the service really needs improvement.

 

 

IMG_6544Oh, it was rather difficult to take a group-fie using a smartphone and a stick even with the white balance on. Anyway, at the other end of the table is my brother who was celebrating his nth birthday.  Muchas gracias for the lunch, bro!

 

 

IMG_6536This is part of the restaurant’s romantic patio offering the perfect backdrop for a family portrait.  Obviously no one would like to sweat and melt while dining so the area was completely empty.  This area would be crowded during late afternoon till early evening for tapas and wine. The hotel has two other restaurants, View 180 and Tii Gavo, that can satisfy one’s hunger.

 

 

the pool area

DSC_0220The resort pool with its spectacular views  is where we had so much fun taking our photos and swimming, of course. Ever since I saw the pool area as I was browsing about the resort, I was already decided to book it for our Sedona getaway.  The pool area just blew me away!

 

 

DSC_0225That’s me with my parents and two of my six sisters.

 

 

DSC_0221Then it was my turn to take the photo of my parents and my siblings.  We tried to get a family photo through a kind English guy but he focused more on our feet than the red rocks above so we took turns in taking the photos.

 

 

IMG_6533A family portrait.

 

 

IMG_6549A family group-fie.

 

 

IMG_6646My parents enjoyed the resort too!

 

 

IMG_6523Another view of the pool area from a different angle.

 

 

DSC_0230I really wished we could have stayed longer.

 

 

IMG_6538We spent some time in the pool.

 

 

DSC_0243My dear wife and my bubbly 8-month old daughter enjoyed the pool.

 

 

other resort facilities

000287-16-Mii amo pool-1Mii Amo Spa is perfect for those who want to invigorate and relax with its indoor and outdoor pools, heated whirlpool, steam rooms and a full menu of Native American-inspired treatments.

 

 

8360DE30-BA6C-07F1-8BB7588B8D172CF4One level lower and next to the pool area are the tennis courts for the outdoorsy and physically fit if the gym gets too boring and containing.

 

ending

DSC_0213Overall, this has been one of the most enchanting resorts we have been to. Secluded, amazing views, incredible showcase of nature at every turn and exceptional service (except at the restaurants). We were offered with a needed late checkout of 4 p.m. on our last day for all rooms because we booked the resort on AMEX Travel.

Too sad we did not have the time to check more of the town center but we have concluded that Sedona is one of the most picturesque places in the world. We promised to be back!

04
Jun
17

Mexico: 23 Hours in Mexico City


Mexico City is the largest metropolitan center in the western hemisphere. With its third world modernism, colonial spirit and Aztec vibe rolled into one, it is one of the most interesting urban centers in the world so I did not think twice about stopping there briefly. My recent Cuba trip gave me the chance to explore Mexico City as I chose to take Aeromexico.  As I was comparing the prices and timing of the flights in Aeromexico’s website and third party travel websites, I chanced upon a flight in cheapoair.com with good connections giving me exactly 23 hours to spend in Mexico City on my way back from Havana to New York.  This is how I spent it.

Day 1 08:25 Airport Arrival

MEX AIRPORTArrival at the Aeroporto Internacional de Benito Juárez from Havana was fast and efficient. I was out in 15 minutes. I bought coffee and a breakfast sandwich from one of the fastfood outlets in the airport terminal and then called the hotel where I would be staying requesting for the free shuttle.  In 10 minutes I was on my way to the hotel.

Day 1 09:00 Baggage Drop At The Hotel

IMG_8328

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Mexico City Airport, which is less than 15 minutes drive from the airport and to the city center. I arrived several hours before the allowed check-in time so I left my things at the hotel, rested for a few minutes in the lobby and took a hotel taxi to Zócalo, the city’s main square.  I would later learn that the hotel taxi was almost double the price of an Uber ride.  Lesson learned: Do not take any hotel offers on taxis.  Book via Uber or Lyft.

Day 1 09:20 Entrance to Zócalo

DSC_0953It was an early Sunday morning so offices around Mexico City’s main square were closed but it was teeming with visitors like me and locals spending their time in and around the square. This was my first glimpse of Zócalo, the city’s main square  The giant CDMX in the southern part of the square stands for its Spanish name, Ciudad de México.

DSC_0948I spent around 15 minutes at this signage as visitors took turns to have their photos taken.

DSC_0951A visitor from Turkey obliged to take several shots for me.

DSC_0955I then walked across the square into and past the giant Mexican flag which is ceremoniously raised and lowered each day and carried to the National Palace. It would have been better if it was windy and the giant flag was stretched out, flying high.

Day 1 09:40 Checking Out The Cathedral

DSC_0956The Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the plaza’s most significant structures and it is the largest cathedral in the Americas.

DSC_1027It was built in sections from 1573 to 1813.

DSC_1025To the cathedral’s right is the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

DSC_0964As I veered into the right of the tabernacle, its side became evident. At this vantage point is where I did the next activity.

Day 1 10:00 Watch A Street Show

DSC_1023As I stepped away from the cathedral area to the right I chanced upon a group of five people donning Aztec customes doing a drum-beating show.

DSC_0973Their customer were colorful indeed!

DSC_0974And donations were accepted.

DSC_0976

DSC_0971I spent around 15 minutes watching the show and taking photos and then I moved on.

Day 1 10:15 Exploring A Stretch East of Zocalo

CSC_0961I walked eastwards where the Templo Mayor Museum and the Nacional Palace are located. I did not enter these places as the queues were very long.

DSC_1022I continued to traverse the long stretch of Calle Moneda.

DSC_0980Taking snapshots of the scenery on both sides of the street.

DSC_1020There were a lot of shops selling really good and cheap items.

DSC_0996The murals did not escape my camera.

CSC_1004Even underpasses were filled with murals.

DSC_0998Restaurants also abound.

DSC_0993There were also some smaller kiosks selling food that were bought by locals munching on them with their bare hands sitting along the street.

DSC_1010

DSC_1006This was how I far I have walked from the dome of the cathedral in the square center.

DSC_1011I made a turn to discover a compound that was attracting a tour group. Honestly, I chose not to take a travel book with me or use my phone to check where should I go. I just wanted to stroll leisurely and took photos.

DSC_1012

DSC_1013The white statues surrounding the east portion of the compound were eye-catching.

DSC_1017

DSC_1016Colorful buildings…….

DSC_0992….and schools too.

Day 1 12:00 Back to the main square.

DSC_1036As I was back in the square center, my attention was focused on the transportation above ground.  Of course there were the basic taxis but the modern ciclotaxis reminded me of the coco taxis in Havana, the tuktuk in Bangkok and the tricycle in the Philippines.

DSC_1035To the left of the cathedral is the station for tourist trolleys….

DSC_1033

DSC_1032….and double-decker buses.

DSC_1028I walked a few steps to the west of the square and suddenly I was approached by a restaurant staff promoting a place overlooking the square at the top of the building shown above.  I just followed the guy and I was glad I did.

Day 1 12:30 Brunch With A View

DSC_1040First, the food truly had Mexican flair.

DSC_1038Secondly, the view of the square from above was breathtaking.

DSC_1037The view of the cathedral also took my breath away.  Mostly, the Catholic locals would come here after spending time in the church.

Day 1 13:30 Back At The Hotel

IMG_8462

I was back at the hotel before 2 p.m. and the front desk finally checked me in. The Holiday Inn Express Mexico City Airport Hotel has huge rooms and reasonable prices so I chose this during my overnight stopovers going to and coming from Cuba.  Since I was already awake at 3 a.m. early that day as I left Cuba I felt I needed to take a couple of hours of siesta.  Well, if I have been well-rested that night I could have used the two hours for other activities such as taking one of the exciting city tours or shopping.  I woke up before 4 p.m. and I booked an Uber ride back to Zocalo.

Day 1 16:00 To The Palacio de Bellas Artes

DSC_1041From the cathedral, you can take Calle 5 de Mayo or Francisco Madero westwards as the imposing Torre Latinoamericana would come into view and serve as compass. The two streets represent the modern Mexico City and they both lead to….

Museo_Palacio_Bellas_Artes_1_2….Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).

9373486666_32219e09d1_oCalled the Cathedral of Art in Mexico, the Palace of Fine Arts has hosted some of the most notable events in music, theatre, dance, opera and literature and has held important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography.

Day 1 16:30 At The Best Western Hotel Penthouse

DSC_1042My day-ending plan would be to spend at a place overlooking the main square during sunset.  From the internet, I learned that the Best Western Hotel located next to the square has a top floor restaurant with sweeping views of the square.

DSC_1044So I went inside and asked the front desk about it and I was told to go to the 7th floor.

https://www.facebook.com/aniban.erwin/videos/vb.1490298170/10212124802743893/?type=2&theater

As soon as I got my table, I noticed everyone’s attention was on the square.  I peeked and I saw the daily ceremony of lowering the giant flag in the center of the square. Click the video link above.

DSC_1045The place offers a buffet of Mexican food and I feasted on anything my palate could take.

DSC_1049It started to get dim, the square was lit up and the night mode was on!

DSC_1053The cathedral right after sunset looked haunting.

DSC_1059Palacio Nacional, the seat of the federal executive in Mexico, looked shimmering as its lights were turned on.

DSC_1060This is the south side of the square.

DSC_1068I spent half an hour more at the restaurant after sundown. As I walked to the elevator I saw this Mexican flag with the lady sculpture.  Mexico, I did have a wonderful day indeed!  Gracias!

Day 1 20:30 Back At The Hotel

holiday-inn-express-mexico-4653979396-4x3I  went back to the hotel past eight in the evening as I had an early morning flight back to New York the next day.  I truly enjoyed the night zzzzzzz.

Day 2 05:00 Departure

IMG_8330.JPGAfter a quick breakfast at the hotel, I took the hourly complimentary hotel shuttle to the airport to board my flight back to New York.

plane-at-benito-juarez-mexico-airportIt was a unique experience for me having to maximize a limited amount of time to check out one of the world’s biggest cities in both population and land area.  Adiós Ciudad de México!  I will be back to explore you more!

[I actually wanted to skip Mexico City and instead go to San Miguel de Allende but the trip would cost me more time and resources so I stayed in Mexico City. I am more than convinced that I made the right decision.]




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