Tag Archives: Trips

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!

 

Al que madruga Dios le ayuda en la Central de Abastos de Bucaramanga – Rise and shine at the Central Food Market in Bucaramanga

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Aunque a veces cuesta madrugar, siempre he sentido que comenzar el día temprano me brinda cierta satisfacción.  Ver como la gente va llenando las calles, como los negocios van abriendo sus puertas y como la vida cotidiana va comenzando, son uno de mis placeres favoritos.   La reciente visita a la Central de Abastos de Bucaramanga (Colombia), Centroabastos, fue una experiencia inolvidable.  Fue muy gratificante ver como los agricultores, comerciantes, coteros, y un sinfín de emprendedores se reúnen fielmente en esta plaza para que los santandereanos podamos disfrutar de los alimentos exquisitos y frescos que caracterizan a  la región.

La rutina diaria en Centro Abastos comienza temprano.   Las puertas abren a las 3am y las frutas y las verduras no se hacen esperar.  Tampoco se hace esperar el frenesí de la gente…descargan bultos por un lado, regatean por el otro, hacen cuentas, cierran negocios, gozan entre ellos, y sudan hasta la última gota haciendo lo que les apasiona.  Y no solo se trabaja en esta plaza…hay tiempo para un tinto, una arepa, el caldo de costilla y hasta para una que otra copa de aguardiente que calme el frío mañanero.  En un abrir y cerrar de ojos van desapareciendo kilos y  kilos de alimentos y van desfilando cualquier cantidad de camiones rebosados de carga.  No faltan tampoco los famosísimos Renault antiguos que bien saben aprovechar los colombianos.  Como pude descubrir…es un sitio mágico.

Tal y como está organizado Centro Abastos, no lo recomendaría como un sitio turístico necesariamente.  No tiene la infraestructura necesaria para albergar turistas cómodamente y siendo justos, ese no es el objetivo actual de este lugar.   De todas formas, es un lugar abierto al público en general y aunque no sea un punto de interés turístico, recomiendo está experiencia a todos los que de alguna u otra forma están interesados en el campo, en la agricultura, en consumir productos locales y en apoyar el campo Colombiano.  Y por que no?…podemos pensar a futuro y que lugares como este y como las plaza de mercado que abundan en Colombia, se conviertan en sitios que los turistas quieran dejar de visitar.

Les comparto algunas fotos de esta experiencia y de la gente de la cual tenemos que estar muy orgullosos en Colombia.

Para mas información acerca de Centroabastos, favor visitar:

http://www.centroabastos.com/web/

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Although sometimes is hard to wake up before the sun rises, I’ve always felt that starting the day early is very satisfying.  Watching as people fill the streets, businesses open up and daily life unfolds, are some of my favorite pleasures. The recent visit to the Distribution Centre of Bucaramanga (Colombia), Centroabastos, was an unforgettable experience. It was very gratifying to see how farmers, traders, “coteros”, and countless entrepreneurs faithfully gather in this food market so that ‘santandereanos’ can enjoy the delicious and fresh produce  typical of the region.

The daily routine starts early at Centroabastos. Doors open at 3am as the fruits and vegetables do not wait.  Neither does the frenzy of people …unloading crates on one side, haggling on the other, adding the numbers, closing deals, having fun with each other, and sweating till the last drop doing what they love.   And is not all work and no fun in this place… there’s time for a tinto (sweeten black coffee), an arepa, rib stew and even an occasional glass of “aguardiente” to calm the morning chill. In a blink of an eye, pound after pound of produce  disappear and the parade of overloaded trucks begins.  You can I also catch some of the antique Renault cars famously used by many farmers in Colombia.  As I found out…this is a magical place.

As Centroabastos is organized, I don’t necessarily recommend it as a tourist attraction. It does not have the appropriate infrastructure to comfortably accommodate tourists and to be fair, that is not the purpose of this place.  Nevertheless, it is open to the general public and although it is not a common point of interest, I recommend the experience to all those who in some way or another are interested in farming, in agriculture, in consuming  locally and supporting the Colombian countryside.  And why not? … We can think forward and imagine markets like this becoming places that tourists won’t want to miss.

Here are some photos of this experience and of the people of which we should be proud of in Colombia.

For more information on Centroabastos please visit:

http://www.centroabastos.com/web/

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

The Andes through Colombia – Los Andes a travéz de Colombia

The Eastern Range of Los Andes as it crosses Colombian territory on its way to the Caribbean.
The Eastern Range of Los Andes as it crosses Colombian territory on its way to the Caribbean.

The majestic Eastern Range of the Colombian Andes is a land full of history and tradition.   These mountains were once home to the Guanes, one of the many indigenous tribes  that gave Colombia its richness in culture.  Nestled in these massive mountains one can find quaint colonial towns, mouth-watering food, award-winning coffee, beautiful hand-made crafts, and the ever-so happy and welcoming santandereanos.  This is a place that must be explored and rediscovered.   Stay tuned for more on the region, including a walk around Barichara and a tour around the farm responsible for one of the best coffees in the world.

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La majestuosa Cordillera Oriental de los Andes de Colombia es una tierra llena de historia y tradición. Estas tierras albergaron en el pasado a  los Guanes, una de las muchas tribus indígenas que dieron a Colombia su riqueza cultural. Ubicados en estas gran montañas se pueden encontrar pintorescos pueblos coloniales, la deliciosa comida regional, uno de los mejores cafés del mundo, bellas artesanías hechas a mano, y a los santandereanos siempre alegres y acogedores. Este es un lugar para volver a descubrir y explorar.  Esperen pronto  más información sobre la región, incluyendo un paseo alrededor de Barichara y un recorrido por la hacienda cafetera responsable por uno de los mejores cafés del mundo.

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.

Citi Biking the Big Apple

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When one thinks of visiting New York City, one of the first things that come to mind is how to get around this populous urban centre, and how to do it in the most practical way so as to enjoy all the excitement the Big Apple is famous for.  One option is to ride the subway.  It is fast, affordable, convenient, and can get you pretty much anywhere worth seeing.  However, being underground prevents you from experiencing the hassle and bustle of the city.  Another option is to walk around the eclectic and exhilarating neighbourhoods often showcased in many hollywood films.  Walking around town you can people-watch, window-shop until you drop, and take as long as you feel it is necessary to discover its charm.  Although this is one of the most popular ways to venture around NYC, it is a bit time consuming and not very practical if you are in town for just a few days.

A third option which until recently seemed to be reserved for locals (…or daredevils), is biking.  At first, it might feel like a very risky proposition for a city like New York, but if you can get your head around biking along side hectic traffic, having the bike lane blocked by every imaginable obstacle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ), or sweating it up on your vacation, this is one of the most thrilling experiences that NYC has to offer and a very fun way to get around while basking in on the endless beauty. Biking around the wide streets of New York you will enjoy gazing at the historic buildings, being surrounded by the collage of skyscrapers, coming up close to the diversity of the people and the neighbourhoods.   While on a bike, you will be able to hop on and off easily, get lost in Central Park, and visit the Union Square farmers’ market along the way. Riding down the iconic 5th avenue or over the cobblestone streets, you will feel part of the city and its magic.

If you are sold on the idea, you should consider renting a “Citi Bike”…

Citi Bike is a bike sharing system that provides an easy and affordable option to get around the city.  Renting a Citi Bike for 24hrs will set you back $9.95 plus tax.  This fee includes an unlimited amount of 30-minute trips on a rugged and easy-to-use blue bike.  If you keep your rides within the time limit you will not pay a penny more, but if you take longer, overtime charges will apply.  You can pick-up and drop-off the Citi Bike at any of the 330 locations around the city;  definitely a very convenient service.

So next time you are in the Big Apple, why not let your wild side take over?  Hop on a bike and experience NYC like the locals do.  Many thrills await so enjoy…and share your experience, let me know what you think about biking in NYC.

For more information on the Citi Bike system you can visit  http://citibikenyc.com/how-it-works

Croissant Perfection in Montréal

I have always been a firm believer that every turn you make in life has a consequence in your future.  Opening one door instead of another, biking to work instead of taking public transit, or taking a new route different from your usual one to get home; These simple decisions can sometimes provide us with experiences that might have never occur if we had continued our routine.

Well, this is exactly what happened while in Montréal a couple of months ago.  While visiting the Plateau neighbourhood with my girlfriend (Kako) and her  sister (Moeko), we stumbled upon the very authentic and unpretentious “Au Kouign-Amann Boulangerie-Pâtisserie.  Our plan was to try out Le Couteau, not to far from Kouign-Amann, but (fortunately) it was close and we had to wonder in search of another option.  Wether destiny or not, we made a couple of turns around the neighbourhood and voila!

Kouign-Amann has the best croissants I have ever tried!  Baked to perfection, the croissants are always crispy and fresh.  Of course fresh, every hour the baker needs to bring out a new batch as most of the customers walkout with at least a half dozen of this golden delicacy.  Other treats on offer, such as the sandwiches and clafoutis, are equally delicious.  And on top of the delicious food…the service is friendly and welcoming!

I will definately be heading back to Kouign-Amann next time I visit Montréal.  What are you waiting for?