Category Archives: Trips and Experiences

Summer still alive and kicking in Japan…

Thinking about cooling down from the blistering heat and escaping Tokyo’s concrete jungle?  Think no more and head over to Moriya Beach.

This little chunk of Japan’s Pacific Coast is located in Katsuura, Chiba Prefecture, approximately 110 km from Tokyo and accessible either by car or by train (final destination is JR Katusaokitsu Station).  It is a great spot for sunbathing, hanging out with friends, and cooling down  with a swim around the reefs.

If snorkelling is your thing, Moriya’s waters do not disappoint and you can catch a wide array of marine life, including some speedy squid and beautiful jelly fish (careful with those stingers).

So wait no more and don’t let the hot weather get to you.   Moriya awaits!

 

Feeling at peace on the coast of Chiba, Japan.

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If you are in Japan and haven’t made it to the beach yet…no worries! With temperature hovering around the 36 degrees (celcius) the summer is still on and the conditions are perfect for a visit to the Pacific coast of Chiba. Here’s a little taste of Moriya Beach at sunset!

A cup of coffee Ghibli style in Koenji

As a coffee lover, I spend a significant time of my life either drinking it or searching for the best places to enjoy a good cup of it.  Recently, I was very fortunate to stumble upon Koral Café, this tiny and curious café in the neighbourhood of Koenji in Tokyo.

Located in what seems like a rundown wooden shack just a couple of metres off from the Shotengai in Koenji, stepping into Koral Café feels like stepping into the fantasy world of Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.

As you walk through the narrow entrance, Kumiko-san, the owner and charismatic barista will greet you with the biggest smile I have ever received at a café. Kumiko-san is not very fluent in English nor other languages but she’ll make a serious effort to talk a few words or will quickly hand over the multilingual menu.  And she won’t be alone…at Koral Café you will run into very random and very interesting locals and regulars, all of whom seem to be taken straight out of one of Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animate movies.  The woman hiding her smile while pretending to read the newspaper but discretely gazing over the “Amerikanjin”;  Kumiko-san’s best buddy who can speak several languages and serves as the unofficial translator for foreigners; or the student who just sits and smiles at every comment from older regulars…

And let’s not forget about the coffee of course…If your are picky about the cremma in your americano or are looking for the latest in latte art, this might not be the place for you.   At Koral’s you will only find good old drip coffee, maybe from Colombia, or Costa Rica, or Brazil, the regions vary…but what doesn’t vary is the highly old-fashion but very technical procedure (see photos) Kumiko-san employs to brew your very own cup of coffee.  You might think she just forgot your order while chatting up with her friends…just be patient, the process takes a bit longer than usual, but is worth the wait.  In the meantime enjoy all the vintage items and the entertaining environment typical of the old Japanese establishments.

And if you feel like satisfying your sweet tooth, ask for the home-made pancake with vanilla ice cream.  This option (ice cream) is not on the menu but with a big smile  Kumiko-san will give in and prep you one.

Come to Koenji and visit Koral Café…a coffee experience you will never forget!

 

Delicious coffee and tasty treats at Honohono Cafe…Koenji style.

So, it has been three weeks living in the amazing metropolis of Tokyo, and of all the beautiful areas this city offers, I feel very fortunate to be living in Koenji, a charming and welcoming neighbourhood in the Suginami Ward, full of independent cafes, restaurants, and vintage stores tucked away in its endless maze of narrow streets.

Although I need to do a proper introduction to this little secret called Koenji, I could not help it getting ahead of myself and had to share with you what has now become my regular coffee spot in the neighbourhood.  Being a coffee lover,  I love roaming the streets looking for places where I can enjoy a good cup of coffee, a comfortable atmosphere, and great service.  Well…at Honohono Cafe I found that and much more.

Honohono is nestled in Koenji’s main pedestrian strip, about a 15-minute walk south of the JR station.  It looks very unassuming from the outside, but on the inside, the owners have done a great job to make you feel as if you are walking into your own living room…that is a living room full of beautiful vintage furniture, all of which I want to take home every time I visit.

The coffee is of course delicious and the main reason I come to Honohono.  It is served in a different hand-crafted cup each visit, making the smooth cremma look even tastier then it already is.   And if you are not a coffee lover per se…no need to worry.  Following on the guidelines of cafe culture in Tokyo, Honohono offers a food menu full of tasty treats…salads, curry dishes, miso soup (of course) and sweets that will make your mouth water.

The experience at Honohono Cafe wouldn’t be complete without the welcoming service that the owners provide.  Always friendly and with a big smile on their face, the two girls running this place are doing it right…and I am definitely sold on it.

Please do yourself a favour and visit Koenji and Honohono Café.  You will not be disappointed.

For more information please visit:  http://honohonocafe.com

Getsemaní embraces graffiti to showcase its spirit and heritage

On a recent visit to Cartagena, Colombia, the city that makes my mind wonder like no other, I got to experience first-hand the creativity and imagination that is brewing in Getsemaní, Cartagena’s not-so-well-kept secret.

Thanks to the first edition of the “Ciudad Mural” Urban Art International Festival,  the streets of this magical up-and-coming neighbourhood were covered with bright graffiti, history and lots of culture.  38 urban artists where responsible for this feast of colour, including 11 local artist who got the chance to showcase their city to the world.  I love the fact that one of the main goals of this festival was to create a new cultural experience for the local community which often time is forgotten in the midst of all the foreign tourism.

It is projects like this that make me proud of being Colombian.  It is also gratifying to see the attention the local communities get for something other than drugs and coffee.

Next time you are in Cartagena, be sure to get out of the now-common walled city to explore Getsemaní.  It holds many surprises and stories at every turn.  Let it dazzle you with its art and talent.

For more information on the festival visit:

http://www.vertigograffiti.com

Escape into a colonial oasis in the Colombian Andes.

Visiting Barichara in Santander, Colombia, is like traveling back in time…a time when happiness meant enjoying the simpler things and really taking it one day at a time.   It is a town that embraces the future without letting go of the past.

Nestled in the middle of the Colombian Andes, Barichara is a place to disconnect from the fast pace that we have become so accustomed to.   A leisurely walk around its cobblestone streets will let you discover most of what this Andean gem has to offer. You can wonder around in search of the perfectly hand-crafted art piece, peak through the half-opened wooden doors of the town’s endless colonial houses, chat with the ever so charming locals (including the mobile baker), or take the time to enjoy the delicious treats this oasis of creativity and peacefulness has to offer.

If you do decide to make this a stop during your Colombian journey, I highly recommend you drop by the School of Arts and Trades.  The school has wide assortment of crafts made by locals during free workshops offered in-house.  Or if typical and mouthwatering food is what you are after, try the goat glazed with ant sauce at the Las Cruces Restaurant, also within the School of Arts and Trades.

And if you are in Colombia or are planning to visit…please go to Baricharaa…taste of paradise awaits!

http://tallerdeoficiosbarichara.com

http://lanubeposada.com/home/

 

Hacienda El Roble, home to an award-winning Geisha.

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As a coffee lover and drinker, I feel very fortunate to haven been able to learn about the coffee growing process and to have come in contact with the best coffee bean in the world.

This pleasure came courtesy of the El Roble Coffee Farm in La Mesa de Los Santos, Santander, Colombia.  El Roble can boast about having its very own Geisha, that is, the best coffee variety in the world as voted by the Grounds for Health 2013 auction in the US.  Sold under the brand Café Mesa de Los Santos,  El Roble’s coffee is not only 100% organic but it is a delicacy.

A tour around the farm will set you back US$15 and includes a guided walk through the Coffee Garden/Museum, a look at the different varieties of coffee plants, a detailed explanation of the coffee growing process and of course a tasting session of the Geisha and other exquisite varieties.

I highly recommend you add this to your travelling plans on your next visit to Santander.  Being only a 40-minute drive from the city of Bucaramanga, El Roble is the perfect chance to learn about the drink that Juan Valdez has made famous all around the world.

The land of the Guane awaits!

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Siendo un amante y fiel consumidor de café, me siento muy afortunado de haber podido conocer el proceso de cultivo de café y de haber estado en contacto con el mejor grano de café en el mundo .

Este placer fue cortesía de la Hacienda El Roble, ubicada en La Mesa de Los Santos , Santander, Colombia .  La Hacienda El Roble puede presumir de tener su propia Geisha, siendo esta la mejor variedad de café en el mundo según la votación en la subasta Grounds for Health 2013 en los Estados Unidos.  Vendido en el mercado local bajo la marca Café Mesa de Los Santos , el café de El Roble es no sólo 100 % orgánico,  sino también un verdadero manjar.

Un recorrido por la hacienda le costará US$15 o $35.000 pesos e incluye un paseo guiado por el Coffee Garden/Museo , una mirada a las diferentes variedades de plantas de café , una explicación detallada del proceso de cultivo del café y por supuesto una degustación de la Geisha y otras variedades exquisitas .

Le recomiendo agregar este tour a sus planes de viaje en su próxima visita a Santander.  Al estar a sólo 40 minutos en carro de la ciudad de Bucaramanga, El Roble es la oportunidad perfecta para aprender sobre la bebida que Juan Valdez ha hecho famosa en todo el mundo .

La tierra Guane te espera!

For more information follow the following links:

 http://www.cafemesa.com

Tokyo’s architecture, a seamless fusion of beauty, simplicity and attention for detail

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Strolling along the streets of Tokyo, it becomes clear that this city is all about the details.  The details in its food, the details of an organized transportation system, the details of its history, and the details in its architecture.  It was Tokyo’s architecture and its seamless fusion of beauty and simplicity what capture my admiration and provided the biggest joy while exploring this unforgettable city.  I enjoyed the harmony of irregular shapes, the uniformity obtained from the combination of unique designs, as well as the modernity of the construction while maintaining a calming balance with the buildings’ surroundings.  Here’s is a small sample of one of Tokyo’s greatest virtues.

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Paseando por las calles de Tokio, se hace evidente que esta ciudad tiene mucho que ver con los detalles. Los detalles en su comida, los detalles de un sistema organizado de transporte, los detalles de su historia, y los detalles en su arquitectura. Fue precisamente la arquitectura y su perfecta fusión de la belleza y la simplicidad lo que capturó mi admiración y me brindó la mayor alegría, mientras exploraba esta ciudad inolvidable. Disfruté de la armonía de las formas irregulares, la uniformidad obtenida de la combinación de diseños únicos, así como la modernidad de la construcción de sus edificios sin olvidar un equilibrio con el entorno urbano. Aquí les comparto una pequeña muestra de una de las mayores virtudes de la hermosa capital Nipona.

A bit of Paris in Tokyo at Quatre Café.

If you happen to be in the beautiful and mind blowing Tokyo, are feeling overwhelmed with the crowds, dazed from the culture shock, and in need of a delicious cup of coffee, then take a breather and head over to the welcoming  and intimate Quatre Café.  This jewel is tucked into the 4th (hence the name) floor of a not so attractive business building.  The atmosphere alone will make you want to spend the whole afternoon chatting up with someone special as you try the many delicacies on offer.  From Shibuya station, head up the Miyamasuzaka about three blocks.  On the left hand you will find Quatre…and you’ll be glad you did.

Address: 〒150-0002 東京都渋谷区渋谷1丁目8−5

For more information on Quatre Café you can visit their website:

http://ctn139.com/shopmap.html

Other links:

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13024336/

Si de casualidad te encuentras en la hermosa y alucinante ciudad de Tokio, te sientes abrumado con las multitudes, aturdido por el choque cultural, y con el deseo de beber una buena taza de café, toma un descanso y  prueba el acogedor e íntimo Quatre Café.  Esta joya está escondida en el cuarto piso (de ahí el nombre) de un no muy atractivo edificio de negocios. El ambiente solo hará que desees  pasar toda la tarde conversando con  alguien especial en compañía de las muchas delicias que aquí se ofrecen. Desde la estación de Shibuya, sube unas tres cuadras por  el Miyamasuzaka. A mano izquierda se encuentra Quatre … y sin duda alguna haberlo encontrado te hará muy feliz.

Dirección: 〒150-0002 東京都渋谷区渋谷1丁目8−5

Para mas información puedes visitar la página web de Quatre Café:

http://ctn139.com/shopmap.html

Otros enlaces:

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13024336/