Tuesday, March 18, 2014

These are some of my favorite things. (Part 2)

These are some of my favorite airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc that make traveling even more enjoyable.

Favorite Museums:
As with fine dining in France, there is an abundance of excellent museums in Germany, and to select a few favorites is as difficult as trying to narrow my list of favorite meals.  However, Brücke Museum and Jüdisches (Jewish) Museum in Berlin, Germany stand out as being the most memorable.   

Located in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg, Jewish Museum is an architectural masterpiece.  Its complexity in design and the poignancy of the content makes this museum a must sees in Berlin.

The Brücke Museum, whose collection is entirely devoted to the works of Expressionists, exhibits around 400 paintings and sculptures as well as several thousand drawings, watercolors and prints from all creative periods of the Brücke artists.  Founded by renowned artists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel, the Brücke art movement demonstrates the birth of modernism in a unique way and is an important part of German history.  This movement, apart from its artistic achievements also came to express a new awareness of life and freedom from rules and oppression by bourgeois society, and it had an enormous effect worldwide. 

Housed in the former Korean Supreme Court building, Seoul Museum of Modern Art 
(서울시립미술관) is a beautiful space perched up on top of a hill behind Deoksugung Palace.  The interior space is great for contemporary exhibitions, and temporary installations include works by artists from South Korea, Asia, and beyond.  It is not only one of the most innovative museums I have been to, but also it happens to have a wonderful little cafe on the 3rd floor that has a beautiful view of the citynot to mention, a great cup of coffee as well.
Favorite Architectural Wonders:
Jewish Museum, Berlin, Germany
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
Favorite Outdoor Markets:
Without a doubt, Annecy is one of my favorite towns in France.  Situated about a 1½ hours outside of Geneva, Annecy and the lake that surrounds it, Lac d'Annecy, is as picturesque as they come with a breathtaking view of the lake and the French Alps. 

However, my favorite thing about Annecy is its open air market.  The Annecy (Sunday) market is located on the cobbled streets around the ancient part of the city, known as vielle ville and is spread out throughout the loveliest part of the medieval city.  Although I have been to a lot of wonderful open air markets in France, after wandering through the colorful stalls in the winding streets of this idyllic mountain town, I have to say, the market in Annecy is one of the best.

Situated in our favorite neighborhood, Prenzlauerberg in Berlin, the outdoor market on Kollwitzplatz offers some of the best delicacies and local produce from the region.  As you stroll around the leafy, cobblestoned streets, admiring the refurbished Altbauten, you can sample and purchase a great selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, organic meats and fish, hand-made pastas and a variety of home-made oils, jams and other local specialties.

Also, Kollwitzplatz is one of the most attractive squares in Berlin, and it happens to be city’s mecca for young families.  Around the market, there are playgrounds, multitude of family-friendly cafes and restaurants, and plenty of ready-made food and drinks that will surely satisfy all foodies.

Favorite Parks:
What more can I say about Central Park that hasn’t been said.  It’s FABULOUS! Immersed in lush and wild nature with a massive skyline as a backdrop, it’s truly an urban oasis that defies all logic.

For most New Yorkers, the park is a sanctuary.  Especially for me, it was a place where I’d retreated to whenever my life in the city got too much, and I needed to regroup and recuperate. Also, some of the best and most memorable experiences I’ve had were in the park
like serendipitously meeting my husband.

It’s a place where we always go back to reminisce about our wonderful past lives in the city as well as creating beautiful new ones with our son who absolutely adores every corner of the park.

After all the places I’ve seen in NYC, I can honestly say that the Highline (from Gansevoort St to West 34th St, btw 10/11th Ave) is my favorite.  It epitomizes the city that is constantly evolving and recreating itself.  Not only the design and the atmosphere of the park unique and innovative, it has transformed a neighborhood which was formally known as the “Death Avenue” into a trendy, upscale, and more importantly, family friendly area.

As the park expands from lower Manhattan to 31th Street in Midtown, it provides some of the best views of the key monuments, the Empire State building, Chrysler Building, and on a clear day, the Statue of Liberty.

There's an eclectic mix of art installations as well as tasty food carts, art vendors and musicians, and the great thing about the Highline is that it enables you to have and enjoy an urban experience in the midst of (man-made) nature.
Jardin de Luxembourg is absolutely mesmerizing, and even after all these years, it remains to be my favorite place in Paris, and each time I’m there, I'm enchanted by it as the first time I was there.
La Place des Vosges is one of the loveliest outdoor spaces in Paris filled with quaint cafes, shops and galleries, and especially on Sundays, it’s one of the few places in Paris where the stores are open.

Favorite Places for Children:

San Francisco is a great city for people of all ages, but it is especially a wonderful place for children.  Mainly because throughout the years, San Francisco has managed to hold on to its small town atmosphere, and unlike other larger cities, there are relatively few tall buildings and vast number of recreation areas and parks.

Also, there are tons of activities and things to do with children, so much so that if you spent a month in San Francisco, there are enough activities to fill up each day with different things.  It's a place where you can linger for hours in a quaint neighborhood cafe surrounded by breathtaking views, kick back on one of the many picturesque parks, or hangout in a children’s museum which happens to have the best view of the city, and unlike many metropolises where children are treated like nuisance, in San Francisco, almost every activity, restaurants and even cafes are catered to the needs of families, making children feel as comfortable as the adults.

In all the years my husband and I’ve been traveling with our son, we have never been to a place like Seoul, South Korea where children are embraced and cherished by almost everyone we met.

There’s really no better way to experience the generosity and kindness of the locals first hand.  No matter how crowded the street gets, people will literally get out of your way if they see a stroller; strangers will vacate their seats for you on the subway or elders will tell the people sitting next to them to get up to make room for a child; people will offer to help you carry your shopping bags or help you carry the stroller up and down the stairs when you go through the subway station or the underground walkway. It’s a country where the people take to heart the proverbial saying that “It takes a village to raise a child.” and throughout our stay, we experienced so much kindness from everyone we'd encountered.

Also, the city is full of fun museums and activities for children, and best of all, the admission to most of these places are FREE of charge. In fact, there were so many wonderful places to see and things to do with children in Seoul that we couldn’t cover all the places that were recommended to us by friends. We’ll definitely have to return to Seoul soon to see them all.

Favorite Wine Regions:
Bask in the beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley, Foxen Canyon Road is not as well-known as Napa and Sonoma, but the scenery around it is absolutely breathtaking.  Also, nearby towns offers a great selection of restaurants and wineries, and my favorite thing to do is to stroll through the charming little town of Los Olivos, sampling wines and checking out the galleries and shops along the way.  

Every wine connoisseur is familiar with the name Saint Emilion as being a producer of some of the finest wines in the world, but I'll always remember it as being one of the loveliest towns in France where I had the pleasure of spending the day just strolling and having some of the best meals of my life.  Also, as the town itself is not well-known, my husband and I were one of the few tourists in the city, and there’s something wonderfully enchanting about being in a medieval city that is nearly deserted. 

Although there isn't a shortage of great wine wineries in France,
Alsace wine route located in the far Northeastern corner of the country is one of my favorite.  This region not only produces some of the finest (white) wines in the world such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat, but also is home to some the most picturesque villages and scenic countryside.  You can also find charming B&Bs, often run by the vineyards themselves, excellent cuisine that is distinctive, and multitude of wine cellars offering tastings.  Alsace is, as the French say, the terre de fête, the wine-tourism hot spot, geared to serious eating, amazing drinking and good times.

I’ve been told that every village or town in Veneto, Italy has 7 churches and 7 vineyards, referring to their passion for religion and wine, and although I appreciated the beauty of the churches and their commitment to religion, I must admit, I enjoyed the wine more.

These are some of my favorite things. (Part 1)


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