Europe 2014: Milan Update

Ciao! I always thought “ciao” meant goodbye but apparently, it also means “hello”. The last city that we visited during our Europe 2014 trip was Milan. From Paris to Barcelona to Aix-en-Provence and then on to Italy. How I wish we had time (and resources) to explore other cities in Italy – I would love to visit Rome, Venice and Florence. We chose Milan for practical reasons, the tickets were cheaper if we fly from there back to Southeast Asia. We only had a brief stay – two nights and one full day – in Milan. I’m a big fan of Italian food so of course, I loved the dishes that we got to try! We also visited Duomo di Milano, the city’s famous Gothic cathedral and also the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is right beside it. The latter is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.

Books I’ve read set in Italy:
Rome: Antonio & Carrie (Love Stories) by Rachel Hawthorne
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Books set in Italy that are in my TBR pile:
Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

The scenery was beautiful on the train ride from Aix-en-Provence to Milan. I’m hoping that I could go back to France so I could visit Nice, Cannes, Eze and Grasse. Here are some shots of Cannes that I took from the train:

Cannes Cannes2

Milano Centrale is the grandest train station that I’ve seen so far:
Milano Centrale2 Milano Centrale

Here’s Duomo di Milano:
Duomo di Milano Duomo di Milano2

And here’s the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a lovely and historic mall where I wasn’t able to buy anything because all the shops are so fancy:
Vittorio Emanuele Vittorio Emanuele2

Milan also has such a nice post office. Unfortunately, it was closed when we passed by. It would have been great if we were able to get some philatelic stamps.
Milan Poste Milan Poste2

Last but not the least, some pictures of Italian food. I loved the prosciutto with melon, ravioli, ossobuco and tiramisu. And the coffee!
Italian food Italian food Italian food Italian food

I hope you’ve all enjoyed browsing through the pictures I’ve posted. Going through pictures is making me want to go back. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’ll console myself by reading books set in Europe. Please let me know if you have any recommendations that you think I’ll enjoy.

Europe 2014: Aix-en-Provence Update

Bonjour again! We started our trip in Paris then traveled by train to Barcelona and then back again to France for a few days in Aix-en-Provence, a city in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. I loved Aix-en-Provence and it’s probably my favorite city out of the four that we visited mainly because I felt like I could live there. I like the small city charm of the place and how everything is within walking distance, although some places take a bit of a walk. It’s also only 30 minutes away from a big city, Marseille (which sadly, we didn’t get to explore). I liked that we were able to stumble upon quaint shops just by walking all over Aix. Plus, there were some pretty good restaurants which served good food at more affordable prices compared to Paris. It was expected that Musee Granet would have paintings of Cezanne since he lived in Aix but we were surprised that they also had paintings by Ingres, Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso.

I don’t think there are that many books specifically set in Aix-en-Provence so I’m broadening the scope to the whole region of Provence. Would love to read more books set in the south of France.

Books I’ve read set in Provence:
La Vie en Roses series by Laura Florand – Turning Up the Heat, The Chocolate Rose, A Rose in Winter

Books set in Provence that are in my TBR pile:
Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Aix has been referred to as the city of a thousand fountains and yes, we came across a lot of them:
Aix-en-Provence - La Rotonde Aix-en-Provence - mossy fountain Aix-en-Provence - four dolphins fountain Aix-en-Provence - modern fountain Aix-en-Provence - fountain at night Aix-en-Provence - more fountains

Cours Mirabeau is the main road of Aix, framed by plane-trees on both sides. There are cafes, pastry shops, souvenir stores and old houses along this road.

Aix-en-Provence - Cours Mirabeau Aix-en-Provence - Cours Mirabeau2

I found a picture posted on Tumblr of the facade of Bibliothèque Méjanes so we decided to look it up while we were there because we were curious about the giant books in front of the library.

Aix-en-Provence - Bibliothèque Méjanes Aix-en-Provence - Bibliothèque Méjanes2

Some of the shops we loved:
Aix-en-Provence - Expressions Aix-en-Provence - Place aux Huiles Aix-en-Provence - real chocolate Aix-en-Provence - more chocolates

We discovered Le Bistro Latin on our first night, just by wandering and checking out menus of the restaurants. We loved the food so much that we decided to return on our last night, and get bigger courses.

Aix-en-Provence - Le Bistro Latin Aix-en-Provence - Le Bistro Latin2 Aix-en-Provence - first dinner Aix-en-Provence - last dinner

Lavender and roses:
Aix-en-Provence - lavender Aix-en-Provence - roses

We were planning to travel to Grasse, the perfume capital of France (and the world?) but it’s too far away from Aix for a day trip. Good thing artisan soaps and perfumes made from Grasse are available in Aix.

Aix - perfumes from Grasse

I feel like Aix is a hidden gem of a city because it’s not as well-known as other cities in the south of France. I’m so glad we included Aix in our itinerary. Have you been to Aix? Know of any novels set in Aix or the Provence region that you think I might enjoy?

Europe 2014: Barcelona Update

Hola! After Paris, the next leg of our trip was Barcelona. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really excited to visit Barcelona because I hadn’t heard a lot about the city. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised at how vibrant the city was. It’s a place where we found delicious food (all those Spanish dishes like tapas, jamon and paella), architectural masterpieces, lovely artwork and warm, friendly people.

A book I’ve read set in Barcelona:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A book set in Spain that is in my wishlist:
Small Damages by Beth Kephart

I would gladly go back to Barcelona just for the food:
Barcelona - tapasBarcelona - pintxos Barcelona - paella Barcelona - jamon

There were so many creative and original art pieces all over the city and I was tempted to get some as souvenirs but decided not to since I don’t really have a place of my own to display them in.

Barcelona - graffiti Barcelona - portrait Barcelona - original ar

Plaça de Catalunya is a lovely park for tourists and locals:

Barcelona - Plaça de Catalunya Barcelona - Plaça de Catalunya (2)

A post about Barcelona would not be complete without talking about the architect Gaudi. I wasn’t familiar with Gaudi’s work prior to our trip in Barcelona but I’m impressed by his style. I like how he was inspired by nature and how there’s an almost whimsical aspect to his designs, making them seem like objects out of fantasy novels. Some shots from Casa Museu Gaudi:

Barcelona - Casa Museu Gaudi Barcelona - Casa Museu Gaudi2

Casa Batllo, probably my favorite Gaudi-designed house:
Barcelona - Casa Batllo Barcelona - Casa Batllo (2)

And of course, the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction after more than a hundred years:
Barcelona - Sagrada Familia1 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia2 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

Have you been to Barcelona? What were your favorite aspects of the city? Have you read books set in Barcelona or Spain that you think I will enjoy reading?

Europe 2014: Paris Update

Bonjour! There are so many things that I want to share about my first time in Europe, I don’t even know where to start. I thought I would do an update of each city that we visited. These will be picture-heavy posts, mostly from my Instagram account. It’s funny because at the end of each day, I would spend time uploading pictures (staying up late to do so) because I wanted to write captions while everything was still fresh in my mind. To make these travel posts a little more book-themed, I thought it would be a good idea to include a list of books I’ve read/plan to read set in the cities we visited.

Books I’ve read set in Paris:
Amour et Chocolat series by Laura Florand – All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate, The Chocolate Thief, The Chocolate Kiss, The Chocolate Rose, The Chocolate Touch, The Chocolate Heart, The Chocolate Temptation
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Books set in Paris that are in my TBR pile:
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

Ahh, Paris. I feel like Paris will always have a special place in my heart since it was the first European city that I visited. It’s such a beautiful city, oozing with its own charm – even a normal street or building looked wonderful in my eyes. I was surprised at how well-kept the old structures are – the bridges, the palaces, the museums, etc. We don’t really have things like that in the Philippines. But then again, we probably get more natural calamities like typhoons and earthquakes back home. Moving on to the pictures…

Here’s the iconic Eiffel Tower – before and after dinner shots, with the latter captioned by my friend as “Does the moonlight shine on Paris?”

Paris - Eiffel1 Paris - Eiffel2

Sacré-Coeur and around the Montmartre area:

Paris - Sacre Coeur Paris - view from Sacre Coeur Paris - Montmartre Paris - carousel

Arc de triomphe and Champs Elysee:

Paris - Arc de triomphe Paris - Champs Elysee2

The opulence of the Palace of Versailles:

Paris - Versailles1 Paris - Versailles2 Paris - Versailles3 Paris - Versailles4

Museums Orsay and Louvre – the former was previously a train station while the latter was a palace:

Paris - Orsay Paris - Louvre

Notre Dame and Point Zero, as mentioned in Anna and the French Kiss:

Paris - Notre Dame Paris - Point Zero

The bookstore Shakespeare and Company – several friends who knew I was in Paris kept saying that I should visit this place. What’s great is that all five of us ended up buying something from this bookstore:

Paris - Shakespeare and Company Paris - Shakespeare and Company2 Paris - Shakespeare and Company3 Paris - Shakespeare and Company4

Hope you had fun going through these pictures. They were all taken using my phone camera and some filters were applied in Instagram. If you know of any books set in Paris that you think I’ll enjoy reading, please feel free to recommend them!