Monday, 25 June 2012

Osaka Castle Park

Everyone has been asking me about Osaka. Well, if I have to be very honest, it was a bit of a let down. But, to be really fair to the city, I didn't have the luxury of time to do much exploring. The hotel I stayed is in the business district and the nearest attraction is Osaka Castle Park (about 15 minutes walk away). I was hoping to see some temples but there are none nearby. Instead, there are lots of restaurants and convenience stores along the same street. Having a train station just steps away from the hotel is a huge plus for I could get to the shopping district within minutes.
The impressive NHK Building and Museum of History located just across the Osaka castle Park.
Map of the Osaka Castle Park.
Entrance to the Castle Park.

The Main Tower, renovated in the Heisei period, serves as a History Museum for Osaka Castle and it houses valuable historical materials.

Ginkgo tree.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hello Florence!

I'm rushing through my posts on Italy because I'm leaving for Osaka today. May Ling says I'm like a reporter working on deadlines. The deadlines are self imposed of course. It's better to blog when the memories are still fresh.

Mum says she has no recollection of Osaka even though she had been there before. That is precisely why I blog.

After spending two nights in sunny Ragusa, we decided to move northwards. We picked Florence because the town is easy to explore on foot. We had only 2 nights there.

The flight from Catania to Pisa took about an hour. Thereafter, it was another hour's journey to Florence by train.

We arrived at our hotel , which is close to the Duomo, after a short walk from the train station.

Even though we walked past the Duomo several times a day, the massive building never failed to keep us in awe. The cathedral dome dominates the skyline of Florence, with its eight white ribs against a background of terracotta tiles. Close up, it is so huge as to be quite overwhelming. Pity we did not venture inside.

Florence is always filled with tourists. Coming from the idyllic South, we found the crowd unsettling. Everyday, we walked by lines of people waiting to get into the museums or pushed through groups of tourists led by their leader. These days, the tourists wear earphones so the guide need not have to shout.

Many street vendors around the Duomo.
There were even horses in the town square!
That night, we had a simple dinner at a small cafe nearby. We must have eaten quite healthily during the trip because for once, I did not get all bloated up from salty food.
Mushroom and pork loin.
For breakfast the next day, we picked an old cafe just away from the main square.
It has that old fashioned vibe. I mean even the owners looked like they're in their late seventies or early eighties.

Pizza, pastry and coffee for breakfast.
Florence attracts millions of visitors yearly and it is easy to see why. The Uffizi Gallery is one of the world's top art museums housing some of the most important works of the Renaissance, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Botticelli and Michelangelo.Then there is The Accademia which houses Michelangelo's David, easily the most famous sculpture in the world. In fact, art is all over the street for everyone to admire.

We were happy to walk right into a flower market!
Fresh basil and herbs.
Flowers everywhere.
This busker had the sweetest dog.
Such a good natured dog. How we adore her!
Her name is Gulia.
For the wealthy, there are lots of places to splurge.

For the gourmand, there is a restaurant or gelateria everywhere you turn.
For the nature lover, there is the Boboli Gardens.
Boboli Gardens.
Shop window display.
Roast chicken, beer and olives for lunch.
Ceramic shop.
A hotel's garden.
We stumbled upon an old fashioned restaurant one night and decided to stay for dinner.
Parma ham is a specialty here, so we had to try before leaving. It did not disappoint.
The lagsana here, without any tomato sauce, is different from what we normally eat.
May Ling missed drinking soup, so we had stewed white beans and cabbage. It was really good.

For breakfast the next morning, we had the typical ham and cheese sandwich - very popular with the Italians.
Our last meal in Florence was the ubiquitous spaghetti bolognese. Sitting next to our table was a German couple with their jack russell pups. Seeing them made me miss my Rusty and I was glad we would be home in less than 24 hours.
The not-so-nice spaghetti.
Thank you for reading my stories. We had a great time in Italy and hope to inspire you to visit some day.