The Beauty of Japan – Seeing is Believing

Visited Kyoto and Tokyo for 2 weeks during the last Thanksgiving. The Fall of Kyoto is breathtakingly beautiful.
Japan 2014

As a food lover, I was in food heaven for two weeks. The overall food quality in Japen is phenomenal. I also love Japanese’s department store’s food courts. You could even order a mouth-watering and award-winning Kaiseki meal set from those department stores in Kyoto.

Fun fact: Did not realize until I was in Japan that it is now the country has most three-starred Michelin restaurants, impressive!

The Spanish-Dream is forming!

Although reluctant, my 2 weeks long visit to the 3 great cities in northern Spain – Madrid, San Sebastian and Barcelona – has finally drawn its conclusion. The verdict is? It was awesome!

The only negative outcome came out of this trip, oh, other than the burning a big hole in my wallet one,  is that this new experience has started to put my American-Dream in question, and to make me wonder why shouldn’t I start a Spanish-Dream? Second thought, I knew why: no habla espanol; and Spain’s near 25% unemployment rate.

Seriously though, there is absolutely no excuse  to eat bad in Spain even if one were on a tight budget. I have never had so many awesomely delicious food and great quality wine with the price tag ranges only between £1.5 to £5 per order. On top of that, if you were in Madrid, you don’t even have to order food to feed yourself in many of those tapas bars, at least those we visited on Calle Cava Baja and Calle Jesus. Usually, each drink you ordered comes with a complimentary small appetizer (various from Potato chips, fries, bread, cured sausages, small open-face sandwich,  to cheese).  The caveat  is that if you order a tapas along with your drink, then the free appetizer may longer come to you. Therefore, if you are a hungry man, always ordering your drink first (Thanks to the tip provided by Rick Steve’s guidebook). Maybe because the culture differences among Spanish, Catalan and Basques,  it was much harder to find a bar that is practicing this old Andalusian tradition in Barcelona and San Sebastian.

The most tapas fun we had on this trip was in San Sebastian. However, we did face quite a  bitter-sweet challenge while pinxtos bars hoping there. Because those mouth-watering Basques pinxtos plates were all laid on the counter right in front of the customers, it was very difficult to not over-ordering food.  Believe me, 3 of those small pinxtos could fill you up fast. Fortunately, we got some helps. According to those travel experts’ suggestion on tapas bar crawling the local way (making the best out of each bar ‘s offering), one must practice discipline of self-control – sticking to 1 order with 1 drink per bar, and then moving on to the next one.  It was a lot of fun!

This trip was my very first visit to Europe. Some may wonder why Spain, what about France and Italia? As a Foodie and a Wino with proven track records to demonstrate my eating and wine-sipping addictions,  I have to say Spain was the no-brainier choice because it is the best foodie destination, and a culinary powerhouse of Europe.  According to, not  me, but the Restaurant magazine, 3 out of the top ten restaurants of the 2013 in the world are from Spain (sorry France and Italy)1. And guess what? San Sebastian, a city’s population is less than 2 size bigger than the City of Denton, owns 2  of those top restaurants: Mugaritz (No.4) and Arzak (No.8).  Yeah, Yeah, those are all subjective opinions, and I admit I am one of those nuts that always believe in Anthony Bourndin’s unreserved opinion. Nevertheless, San Sebastian is an awesome place for foodies like me, period.

Top three memories of this trip:

3. The experience of eating the fresh, massive and heavenly Carabinero Prawns)

2. The mind-provoking visit to the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid for its Salvador Dali’s special exhibition, Dali: All of the poetic suggestions and all of the plastic possibilities.

1. Tapas bar hoping in Spain

Thanks to Portland, More Roses!!!

Beautiful Portland Rose Garden at Washington Park
Portland trip was fruitful! For real, the entire city is a botanical garden. Although during my visit (about a week long) it rained everyday, on the last day of my stay and just when I was about to give up on the idea to visit the Rose Garden, the Sun came out (briefly). So I hopped on the excellent Portland Max Light Train, and 2o mins later, I was in front of the Washington Park. High five to myself :)

Thank you the Portland Rose Garden for helping me enrich my rose garden photo collection!