Sunday, July 29, 2012

Louvre Is A Many Splendored Thing

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You don’t go to Paris and miss the Louvre. You just don’t. While going through all 60,600 square meters of this former royal residence may sound like a daunting task, it is nonetheless a rite of passage that each Parisian visitor must experience.

Known today as probably the world’s largest art museum, the Musee du Louvre has actually taken on several incarnations over time. However, it was only during the French Revolution that it officially opened its doors as a public museum, showcasing an inventory of artwork and artifacts that steadily grew over time through acquisitions, donations, and spoils from Napoleon's conquests.

To date there are over 400,000 artworks and artifacts in the museum's possession. To prevent visitors from getting overwhelmed, maps that show the location of the more visited pieces are available at the information booth. My suggestion though is to come up with your own list of must-sees and just have the ushers plan out the fastest route for you through the different wings.

What's on my list: (1) The Winged Victory of Samothrace, (2) Venus de Milo, (3) Psyche Revived By Cupid's Kiss, (4) The Code of Hammurabi, (5) The Grand Odalisque and other works by Ingres, (6) the luxurious appointments of Napoleon's Apartments, (7) Ver Meer's The Lacemaker (which I missed!), (8) The Mona Lisa, but of course!

Enjoy the pics everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SBTRKT } Hold On

Pronounced "subtract", SBTRKT is a DJ and producer based out of the UK. This was one of the more unique sounds I've heard in a long while and I thoroughly enjoyed his refreshing take on tribal music. I hope you guys like it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mama Knows Best

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I stayed at this really cheap and chic (emphasis on the chic, not on the cheap) hotel during my recent trip to Paris called Mama Shelter.

Designed by Philippe Starck and managed by the same group that runs Club Med, I figured I was in safe hands both in terms of style and service. You could say I was close.

Located in the 20th arrondissement, which is as far as you can go before you actually get kicked out of Paris, Mama Shelter is by no means in the center of all the action. To get there you have to take the Metro all the way to the end and get off at the more laid-back and sleepier part of town, after which there is a good 8-10 minute walk before reaching the hotel. A bevy of neighborhood bars and boulangeries do exist, but pales in comparison to their counterparts in more sophisticated neighborhoods.

Once in a while more adventurous tourists do head to the area to pay their respects to Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Rene Lalique, Marcel Marceau, Jimmy Hendrix and other notable personalities in history. The Père-Lechaise cemetery, one of the most popular in the world because of its illustrious inhabitants, is located just a few blocks away.

Inside the hotel are touches of kitsch and whimsy that are so typical of Starck's design. From the mask-covered evening lights to the graffitied carpets and walls, to the carefully edited furniture scattered throughout, the property does little to hide its pedigree. At night, the pizzeria and restaurant downstairs becomes the coolest gig in town filled with young and beautiful Parisians working the scene.

The Good
A great price for a moderately-sized room. A toasty welcome each time you enter. An incredibly comfortable bed with sheets that are nothing short of lovely. In-room iMac with good entertainment options (including free porn, if you are into that). Excellent water pressure. Kiehl's bathroom amenities. Free wifi.

The Bad
A budget hotel dressed in designer clothing is still a budget hotel, which means no room service, no complimentary bottled water, no mini-bar, and save for the soap and shampoo (plus towels and tissue paper) the bathrooms are sparse and rather uninspired. In keeping with the loungy vibe, lighting is kept subdued even in the guest rooms. Bringing a flashlight is recommended. Front desk tends to be busy all the time.

Hungry? Head to any of the marches in the area and stock up on microwaveable meals (there is an oven in each room) to satiate that late night growling. My favorite, MONOP, carries a variety of dining selections for any appetite. Buy a few big bottles of water while you are at it. Your tummy, and your wallet, will thank you.

109 Rue de Bagnolet
75020 Paris, France
T +33.01.4348.4848
F +33.01.4348.4949

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Laduree } For The Love of Macarons

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Is there a confectionery more synonymous with the French than the macaron? I doubt it. And when talking about this sweet meringue-based dessert, no other place has gained more notoriety than Laduree in Paris.

I discovered this when I met my friend Lars who just happened to be in the city at the time.  Based in Sydney, she was touring Europe and her enviable itinerary included all the beautiful cities of Spain, Portugal, and Belgium. We met at Place de la Concorde, and she insisted that our first stop be the Laduree bakery at Champs Elysees. Nope, not the Eiffel, or the Arc de Triomphe, or the Louvre which was just a stone's throw away from where we stood.

"You have got to try these macarons!" she said.

So try them I did. At roughly one euro a pop (we each bought a box of 26) these things don't come cheap! They are, admittedly, also not mind-blowingly special although quite well-made. Each cookie is compact, crunchy, and transforms into that wonderful chewy consistency as it melts in your mouth.

A must-try? Probably not. I personally found the ones sold at Jean-Paul Hevin much better (and mildly cheaper). But if you want to offer an ode to things traditionally Parisian, then visiting this institution made famous by a tiny dessert is a definite must.

Laduree Champs Elysees
75 Avenue des Champs Elysees
75008 Paris, France
T: +33.01.4075.0875

Laduree Royale (The Original)
16 Rue Royale
75008 Paris, France
T: +33.01.4260.2179

Friday, July 13, 2012

Procrastinating Paris

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Tell me who goes to one of the most beautiful cities in the world and fails to write about it?!?

Me, that's who.

I know. It's deplorable. I tried though, I really did. However between post-processing, trying out different formats, changing jobs, and even more travel the past few months it eventually became easier to just let Paris hibernate in my SD card.

But excuses are for sissies, that's why I am now dusting these babies off and posting them online for everyone to enjoy. Why, I'll even squeeze in a story or two if I have the time. I literally have thousands of photos to go through coupled with a work calendar that is constantly breathing down my neck, so putting all of them up is not going to be easy. But you know what they say about eating an elephant: ONE HAS TO DO IT A-SMALL-PIECE-AT-A-TIME (not that I condone the slaughter of pachyderms).

And so after that short ado, I proudly present to you:  P A R I S.

Nomama } No Comment

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Fusion cooking is always tricky because you never know what to expect. Depending on what it is mixed with and who does the bastardizing, the result can swing from magnificent to disastrous. Unfortunately, the culinary stars have not aligned in my favor as far as this type of cuisine is concerned which is why I try to avoid fusion whenever I can.

However, Nomama Artisinal Ramen has received such good reviews lately I decided to ignore my aversion and try it out. There were a few things about it that won brownie points with me instantly. For one, the name "nomama" (which I later learned meant 'that's it!' in Niponggo) sounded like a hip, albeit thug-like, introduction to the food that is served there. Second, they are very active online. They thank you for each good review and respond to queries immediately on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, I admire their spunk for opening in Quezon City rather than the Fort or Makati. I have always held the belief that the true food gems are often tucked away in the trenches and not in places like Glorietta (no offense to those who eat there as it sure is convenient).

The interiors captured the restaurant's personality perfectly. It was raw, cool, straight-forward, open, and sociable. Nomama attempts to hide very little. The open kitchen allows you to watch (or inspect) how your food is prepared. There are no secret recipes as the real stars of the show are the ingredients and the magic they create when they come together. We ARE talking about fusion cooking, aren't we?

The food arrives one-by-one and I try to take away my bias towards traditional Japanese preparation. I munch on the tofu fries and the apple salad waiting for angels to start singing. Nothing. The stuffed squash blossoms almost did the trick but the meager servings barely brought me to the chorus.

Then came our mains. The wagyu ramen (which I thought photographed beautifully) was not, in my mind, anywhere close to "artisinal". Served separate from the broth, the noodles were soggy, salty, and complemented only by expensive beef that was overcooked. The buttermilk-marinated tonkatsu on the other hand tasted, well, weird. At some point I actually doubted we were eating pork. Really.

If there was one saving grace, I would say dessert was it. The flourless chocolate cake with salted miso caramel thankfully delivered on its thick and gooey promise.

Overall, I left disappointed and slightly heart-broken. Disappointed because I came with much expectation, having read those positive articles and all. Heart-broken because the ill-prepared meats at dinner meant those animals just died in vain (and that is as PETA as I go).

Still, I would not discourage people from trying Nomama out. I admire the effort to be different and I think there is a vision there somewhere. And that vision deserves a shot. So to anyone whose interest I may have piqued, go try them out and judge for yourself.

But skip the pork chop, trust me.

G/F FSS Bldg 2, Scout Tuason cor. Scout Castor St
Quezon City, Philippines
T: +632.921.4913
M: +63917.522.8272

Thursday, July 12, 2012

M83 } Midnight City

I thought it was but fitting to mark my return with a music post. This blog started out several years back as a way to keep track of my changing tastes in music.

And it continues to evolve.

When I first heard this song I wasn't certain if M83 was the title or the artist (answer: the artist) but I sure was hooked. It turns out he is a (mostly) one-man electronica band from France. His current album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, is the biggest by far in his six-CD career.

I LOVE this song, and the video is not so bad either.

Take a listen.