My love for traveling long predates my humble blog. So I have a lot of memories of exciting places that I didn’t document with the diligence that I try to document my more recent travels. Since the pandemic has prompted restrictions on travel for most of the world, I’ve been missing the thrill of going to new places more than usual.
I originally thought of making this post a Twitter thread, but I don’t think that format would do these pictures and stories justice. Here are some things I miss from the places I’ve visited in the past seven years or so.
Gelato from Venice, Italy
What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream? Ice cream and gelato both contain milk and cream, but ice cream contains more cream than milk. Gelato, on the other hand, contains more milk than cream. While ice cream is made with egg yolks, gelato typically isn’t. There’s also a difference in how fast they’re churned: Ice cream is churned at a faster speed, and therefore can contain as much as 50% air (versus gelato which contains 25-20% air), which is why if you re-freeze melted ice cream, it looks like there’s a lot less of it.
I spent about a week in Italy with my family and had a different flavor of gelato every day we were there. As you might be able to tell from the picture, the texture of gelato is silky – not as firm as ice cream. My favorite out of all the ones I tried was lemon gelato. I haven’t been able to find it in the Philippines, but calamansi sorbet gives you a similar sour kick that you don’t often get from frozen treats.
Ceviche (and the beach) at Boracay, Philippines
Speaking of a “sour kick”, this ceviche completed my island experience in Boracay. Sadly, the restaurant where we got it has since shut down permanently, but you can of course still get ceviche at other Peruvian restaurants. Ceviche is a seafood dish usually made with fish or shrimp, cured in lime juice. The Filipino counterpart is kinilaw, literally translated as “eaten raw”.
Having been stuck in the Metro since the quarantine started, I’ve also been sorely missing the beach. Not Boracay specifically, just being able to go to the beach in general. I’m so looking forward to just sitting on the sand with a cold drink, and maybe sticking my feet in the water, but since that would be non-essential travel, it will have to wait for now.
This Porcupine and These Dalmatian Pelicans in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo sits on the side of a snowy mountain overlooking the city of Colorado Springs. My brother and aunt and I spent a day there a few winters ago and met a prickly friend.
Out of all the species of porcupine, only the Philippine porcupine and the bristle-spined porcupine are considered vulnerable (not endangered, but close). The zoo has a conservation program to protect vulnerable and endangered species like orangutans, African elephants, and Panamanian frogs.
We also saw these enormous dalmatian pelicans. They appear dirty and exhausted here, but don’t worry, they’re not sick. That’s just how they look. Despite their name, they do not have spots, nor do they help firefighters raise awareness about fire safety. They’re not the same size as the dogs they share a name with, either – they’re bigger. One of the biggest birds known to man, dalmatian pelicans can grow over five feet tall, with a wingspan of nine feet. They can weigh up to about 33 pounds. Don’t mess with them if you see one.
These Stained Glass Windows, Also in Venice, Italy
Even if you aren’t particularly religious, the churches in Italy are a must-see. With centuries of history and incredible architecture, you need to check them out even just for the aesthetics. My favorite part of the structures are the colorful, intricate stained glass windows. I love them so much that I used one of them (left) as the background image for my navigation bar buttons.
This Weird Fountain in Spreewald, Germany
This is Der Sagenhafte Brunnen (literally “The Fabulous Fountain”) in the charming little tourist town of Spreewald, located south-east of Berlin. The figures portrayed come from the fairy tales and legends of Spreewald. The same year that he started working on the fountain, sculptor Volker-Michael Roth was granted the City of Rathenow’s cultural award for “Personen oder Institutionen, die in den letzten Jahren Ungewöhnliches geschaffen oder neue Wege beschritten haben” (“Person or institution who has created something unusual or tread new ground in recent years”). It was one of the last projects he completed before he passed away in 2008. Check out more of his art in this gallery.
Another thing about Spreewald: it’s a lovely place to walk around. There are flowers in almost every window.
Tiny Isaw Sticks from Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines
If you’re Filipino or went to school in the Philippines, chances are, you have at least three academic units dedicated to the life and works of Jose Rizal under your belt. Many Pinoys who grew up outside of Bulacan know of Malolos mainly because of Rizal’s famous letter to the women of Malolos (“Sa mga kababayang dalaga sa Malolos” – read the full text here) in which he praised them for petitioning to have a night school opened for them to learn Spanish. This was a big deal because, under Spanish colonization, women weren’t entitled to the privilege of higher education like men were, largely due to the belief that women are supposed to be mothers and homemakers. More than a peaceful protest for education, their actions were seen as opposition to the political powers of the friars – Spanish was, after all, the language of politics and society at the time.
What does all of this have to do with isaw?
Honestly, not much. When a close friend (a woman of Malolos herself) took me to visit the headquarters of the women of Malolos, formerly known as the Uitangcoy-Santos House, we stopped for street food afterward. I told her I wanted isaw (Barbecued chicken intestines, for the uninitiated. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.), she showed me these bite-sized isaw sticks. They’re about half the size of your typical stick of isaw, and consequently a few pesos cheaper.
The Left-Handed Store in San Francisco, California, USA
Situated on the famed Pier 39, this store sells kitchen tools, office supplies, musical instruments, and more objects made to be ergonomic for left-handed people. I’m right-handed, so I don’t have the fullest appreciation for how awkward it is to interact with certain everyday objects when you’re left-handed. I did witness a lot of it growing up, however, because my parents are both left-handed (though my mom learned as a kid how to write with her right hand, too). It was only last year that scientists discovered the first genetic markers contributing to handedness, though we’ve known for a long while that genetics play some part in whether your left or right hand is dominant.
Pier 39 is also known for the hordes of sea lions that hang out on the floating platforms there, often lounging around and barking loudly.
Freaky Modern Art in Prague, Czech Republic
Cesar A. Cruz famously said that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. But sometimes, art leans much more toward “disturbing”, regardless of whether you were disturbed in the first place or comfortable.
See what I mean?
On the left is Red Horseman. It’s a fibreglass sculpture by Michal Gabriel. This is not his only portrayal of a human with hyper-extended limbs. In fact, it’s not even his only portrayal of a human on a horse with hyper-extended arms. See more of his work in the gallery on his official website.
The late, great artist David Černý is responsible for the strangeness in the picture on the right. This series of statues is called “Babies”. Obviously, it’s because the figures are babies, looking like real babies in every sense except that they are bronze-colored and instead of faces, they have bar code stamps. Intrigued? Read more about David Černý and view more pictures of his sculptures (including more bronze barcode-faced babies) here.
I saw both of these at the Museum Kampa, which features many other weird and wonderful modern and abstract art pieces.
Everything About Paris, France
It’s been one year and two months since the tragic fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Since the incident, a team of 100 engineers, scientists, architects, and archeologists have been working hard to restore it to its former glory. According to the director of operations on the project, Stéphane Tissier, they’re aiming to reopen the cathedral by 2024, though even then, the work may not be completely done, as it’s been further delayed by the lockdown.
I was lucky to have been able to see the iconic cathedral before the pandemic and before the fire. Despite the terrible event, Paris still stands out as one of the most beautiful tourist destinations you can visit, and I hope to go back once it’s safe to do so.
My favorite part of my brief visit to Paris was climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower. At the top of the tower, you can get a peek at Gustave Eiffel’s office. There you’ll find wax figures of Gustave, his daughter Claire, and American inventor Thomas Edison. Edison and his family were special guests of Gustave Eiffel on their trip to Paris and enjoyed a tour of the tower. They also saw The Louvre, the biggest art museum in the world, which elicited an underwhelmed “Meh” from the inventor.
Read more about my travels as well as events in Metro Manila in the Out & About tag.