Barcelona

Highlights

Well, everyone says it but... Gaudi Gaudi Gaudi. All the Gaudi. So worthwhile. And beyond that... the AMAZING FOOD. And lastly... the gem that is the Parc del Laberint. Honestly, the best parts of Barcelona are by far the less touristy. But when is that not the case?

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Casa Mila, aka La Padrera

Casa Mila, aka La Padrera

Gaudi

Antonin Gaudi may be one of my new favorite architects. His work is stunning, and there's just a sense that he's attuned to the importance of nature in architecture. From La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila/La Pedrera, Casa Battlo, and Park Guell were amazing. My favorite was probably Park Guell because parks are always wonderful, especially in the middle of a distinctly urban city. Obviously, with such a popular architect, it behooves one to get tickets ahead of time, so be prepared. 

 

Food

My favorite spots were scattered around, which I think just means that all of Barcelona has wonderful gems of food.  

El Poble Sec: Palo Cortao had the best olives I've ever had in my life, and an amazing eggplant dish that I wish I knew how to make. 

Barceloneta: Somorrostro was one of the best meals I've had in a while, possibly better than some of the single Michelin star restaurants. I've decided that 2 stars is far more worth my money than 1, given the likelihood of truly amazing food. 

 El Born/La Ribera : Pastisseria Hoffman is one of the best pastry shops I've been to. Decadent and delicious, and not overly sweet. A great balance of sugar and butter. Mm mm good. El Diset was also not bad. 

Olives and amazing eggplant thing  

Olives and amazing eggplant thing  

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Parc del Laberint de la Horta

Finally. My favorite spot in Barcelona. A mere 40 minute metro ride from the city center. A world of beauty. So peaceful, so calm, relatively well manicured, with a stunning overlook. Really, you can't go wrong. 

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Wontons!

Continuing on my Chinese cooking streak, it's time for wontons!

- 1 lb pork
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp cooking wine (Shaoxing)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil of your choice (I used grapeseed, sunflower would work as well)
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp scallions
- 1 head bok choy (大白菜)
- Salt, to taste
- 1 mushroom of your choice (optional)
- 1 package of wonton wrappers


Assembling

  1. Add soy sauce, cooking wine, minced ginger and scallions to the pork and let sit for a few minutes to a half hour. Waft the smell to you to determine whether you need more soy sauce or more cooking wine.
  2. Cut the bok choy into thin slices across the leaves. Sprinkle salt over it and use your hands to squeeze excess water out with the salt. Let sit for a minute.
  3. Stir the meat in a circular direction, keeping track of the direction. You want to stir in the same direction the whole time. Add water up to about a tablespoon and stir until it is more malleable. Add vegetable oil and continue stirring for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add mushrooms, bok choy, and salt. Stir until just incorporated, and the fill is done!
Prep!

Prep!

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Wrapping

  1. To wrap, place an overflowing tablespoon amount onto the wonton wrapper. Place water on 2 adjacent sides of the wrapper.
  2. Take the corner between the two wet sides and fold to the opposite corner, so that it makes a triangle. Press the edges together.
  3. Take the two corners of the long edge and fold so that they overlap.
  4. TA DA! You have a wonton.
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Cooking

  1. To cook the wontons, heat water until boiling. Place the wontons in the boiling water. Make sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. When the wontons rise, they are ready to eat.
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Freezing

  1. To keep the wontons fresh, first freeze on a plate where none of the wontons are touching. After they have frozen, roughly a few hours to overnight, they can be placed in a bag together.
Freeze on plastic wrap for easy removal.

Freeze on plastic wrap for easy removal.

Traditional Steamed Egg

I got my wisdom teeth out when I was 18 years old, and it was one of those affairs with quadruple compacted teeth. My mom made me this amazing steamed egg and I've been meaning to make it again since.

Here goes!

 

Steamed Egg

- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- Pinch of salt


Directions

1. Scramble the eggs
2. Add water
3. Add salt
4. Add rice wine vinegar
5. Scramble again
6. Steam over water for 7 minutes

Makes a fluffy, pillowy, delicious egg.

Steam ready! 

Steam ready! 

Amsterdam

Highlights

Whoever said that Venice is the city of canals clearly underestimated Amsterdam. The gorgeous canals in this city are fantastically woven, and all of the architecture is neat and bright. The biking culture is so strong, and for good reason - exploring right outside of the city is so easy to do. For the most part, the coolest stuff is outside of the central island.  

clocks done by members of the amsterdam school

The Amsterdam School

With my background in structural engineering stemming from a love of architecture, I certainly have a soft spot for exhibits highlighting schools of architectural design. The Amsterdam School has a uniquely elaborate design, full of quirky colors and less severe geometry than the bauhaus. A visit to the Stedilijk museum will be well worth your time if you're interested in any kind of design, but particularly the architecture.  

 

Day Trips to the Outskirts

Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is one of the cutest towns ever. Plus, the bike ride is just superb and relaxing, a great way to spend a morning. If you want just a touch of life outside of the city, biking is the way to go. Plus, on the way there and back, there are 3 fantastic parks - Amstelpark, Beatrixpark, and Vondelpark. Can't go wrong!

best way to travel

Canals

I cannot stress enough how wonderful the canals are. The maze of bridge after bridge and the boats all along the edges of these gorgeous houses is truly something wonderful to behold. I think the canals were one of my favorite consistent scenes throughout the visit to Amsterdam.

Copenhagen

Highlights

I'm sure you won't be able to tell, but this was one of my favorite spots. The reason was the cool undertone, the understated vibe of awesome, chic, small neighborhoods. 

 

Amazing shop with thin, folding ceramics that are incredibly unique! Also expensive though...

Amazing shop with thin, folding ceramics that are incredibly unique! Also expensive though...

Street and Parkscapes

Jægersborggade is one of my favorite streets in the world, and that's really saying something. From crafty stores to a Michelin star restaurant, it has it all. It even leads to the famous Hans Christian Andersen's grave. And what a cemetery! The Assistens cemetery is breathtaking, and full of gorgeous tombstones. Worth a visit.

 

Nyhavn, the Classic

From here, you can travel to the other "islands" and other neighborhoods of Copenhagen by boat, and I highly recommend it. But you cannot visit Copenhagen without at least appreciating Nyhavn. Definitely make your way to this fantastic little port full of color and life (even if it is touristy life).

nyhavn, of course
 
islands brygge

Chilling on a Summer's Day

Islands Brygge (which word totally makes you think of hygge, doesn't it?) is one of the most relaxed places I've seen in Copenhagen, featuring all kinds of people out for a stroll or a bike ride. There's even water polo by kayaking! You can't beat that.

 

FOOD 

Right across from København we have Christianshavn, a place housing some of the finer residences and this excellent street food fair. I adore the idea of street food right next to a large, open harbor. Something about it just feels right in this city by the ocean.

Berlin

Highlights

The city of monument after monument. There are few cities that can compare in terms of modern historical significance. Walking down Unter den Linden toward Tiergarten from Mitte lets you hit site after site until you walk directly to the Brandenburg gate.

The true draw for me was the museums. From design to technology to cultural history, this city really knows how to celebrate history. You haven't done Berlin if you haven't done the museums.

 

reminiscent of the carpenter house

Design History and Heaven

The bauhaus archiv is one of the singular most fantastic museums I have ever been into. Unfortunately, they did not allow any pictures inside. However, the bauhaus movement speaks to my design sensibility so strongly that this was heaven. It is not a very large museum, very unassuming. The building itself is reminiscent of the Carpenter center at Harvard in Cambridge, by Le Corbusier. Just gives you a taste of the style.

 

topography of terror

Learning from Mistakes

Some of the most moving exhibits describe a viewpoint of history that is gruesome and worthy of the deepest skeletons in Germany's closet. The straightforward and honest portrayal should be commended. I almost skipped the Topography of Terror because I thought the name was a bit too dramatic, but it was one of the best spots in Berlin. History buffs, you've found your city.

 

wedding photos for the happy couple in front of the brandenburg

Moving into the Future

I only managed to catch one wedding while abroad, and I am so glad it was this pair. To stand in front of a gate that once stood for oppression and express their love is really wonderful. What a beautiful couple.

Prague

Something to note... in Prague, there is a tendency to bring you more food and then charge you for it. So be careful with what you order and what you let people put on your table! Anything on your table will be on your bill. 

Highlights

The Jewish Quarter, Petrin Hill, The Charles Bridge, various mechanical fixtures.

from the 1400s, and still in working order. phenomenal workmansh

Prague Astronomical Clock

The absolute best part of Prague. This 15th century clock is so masterful in its execution. The fact that it still stands, centuries later, and is still accurately keep time is astounding. Must visit. 

 
I wanna be lazy too

Prague Zoo

You probably think I'm too old to be going to zoos. You're probably right. However, the zoo was one of the highlights of Prague. Maybe it's been too long since I've been there, but I sincerely enjoyed the open air approach that this zoo has over the typical zoos I find in the US. 

Budapest

Highlights

All of the bridges! So many unique and cool bridges! I won't go into them here, but if you look up Budapest, you basically only know about bridges.

The food scene is also spectacular here, a great step up from Vienna! As a city, Budapest is what I would consider to be hipster, in the most raw form of the word. No pretensions, a little on the dirtier and older side, but still excellent.

super cool interior architecture

Parliament, Buda Castle, Matthias Church

Really unique structures and places, worth noting and spending time in! The patterned design in the Matthias Church makes it stand out from the various others. Architecturally, these structures are an obvious mix of the East and the West, but less loud than Istanbul. 

st. matthias church

st. matthias church

szimpla kert... best ruin bar.

Ruin Pubs

These are probably the coolest bars I have ever been in. The vibe is spectacular, the music is awesome, and even though it is touristy, it's still really cool!

Design Scene

Most of these European cities can claim a unique design sensibility, but Budapest really has a great collection and concentration of local designers featured in shops.

 

Design Guides!

Head to mono art and design for a design map, a local walking map of design stores.

 

Food

The ice cream is simply amazing here. And generally, Hungarian food is just local and absolutely delicious. They've taken the best food of various cultures and combined them into a great local cuisine.

Vienna

Highlights

I didn't get a chance to go to the State Opera House, but I think that would be the best advice I could give to anyone planning to travel - plan to go! And plan ahead! Otherwise, watching it from outside on the plaza is quite an excellent experience.

Karlskirche is one of the most beautiful churches I've been in. It reminds me of the Sant'Agnese in Agone by the Piazza Navona in Rome. The finishes are just beautiful, and you can head to the top!

 

the gardens of belvedere

the gardens of belvedere

Belvedere

This fantastic palace has awesome paintings with two collections: upper and lower. The upper Belvedere has quite the collection of Klimt pieces, and on the way to upper Belvedere is a gorgeous garden.

 

Between the Rings

Rathaus, Parlament, the museums flanking Maria-Theresien-Platz, and the Opera House all exist in between the inner and outer ring circling the center of the city. This walk takes you through Rathausplatz and Volksgarten, which are both beautiful parks. 

from the top of semmering

from the top of semmering

Itching to Get Out

Semmering is a great half day trip outside of the city, which gives you a flavor of the Austrian "hills". There is mountain biking in the summer too! But the real beauty is the vast landscape that you get to experience from the top of the lookout tower at Semmering. Quite worth the trip. The Liechtenstein house was also a delight! The apple pie that we had there was on point.

 

Design Guides!

LE SHOP had the Design Guide Vienna, which gives a flavor of each of the districts and where to eat and shop. Highly recommended as a guide, although I'd say that a lot of the districts are pricey, especially the 6th and 7th districts. Still, worth it!

 

Food

Wiener Schnitzel and Tafelspitz are the two most excellent traditional Austrian dishes, and Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper is the place to go!

Rome

Highlights

Rome is one city that I consider highly underrated, with its attractions seemingly overblown but really quite fantastic. Vatican City and its treasures alone are worth the visit, and the Piazzas all around the city are unique and splendid. A day trip out to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast are definitely worth it, although it is quite a quick trip!

Vatican City

I can absolutely see why Rome is the capital of Italy - it has the most diverse, interesting and beautiful cultural destinations. Vatican City, with the wondrous Vatican museum and St. Peter's Basilica, is worth every second. The treasures in the museum, culminating in the Sistine Chapel's elaborate ceiling, are truly unique. Along this same vein, St. Peter's is one of the most lavish buildings I have ever seen.

Rome Proper

Outside of Vatican city, there are plenty of wonderful places to visit. One of my favorite areas was the Piazza Navona, with the gorgeous Dhiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone. The sculptures and reliefs in this small church are so skillfully done that they evoke a sense of action and motion that is spectacular. The Fountain of the Four Gods anchors the various merchants in the plaza.  

Generally, the typical tourist destinations were not of too much interest. Of course, visiting the Colosseum was necessary, and the Roman Forum was a nice walk. But, I personally prefered the underrated Baths of Caracalla, with huge ceilings and arches that we would be hard pressed to find in most places here in the United States. 

As for food, Duecentegrandi, right outside of Vatican City, is one of the most fresh spots.

Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast was also mostly a disappointment. Positano was my favorite city of the bunch, but it was hard to have enough time to really visit while coming from Rome in a day. The ferry visit over from Positano to Amalfi was very nice. I'd highly recommend seeing the coast from a boat.

Pompeii was one of the most fun places to go. It's incredible how much has been saved over the years despite the weathering effects of sun, wind, and general weather.     Vesuvius is due for another eruption "soon", so there is always the chance for lava to once again keep the conditions of Pompeii intact.


Florence

Highlights

Cinque Terre seems to be the tourist destination of North American visitors, but I wouldn't say it's the gem of Florence. To me, Il Duomo takes the cake as one of the most spectacular vistas and architectural sites.

Florence

It doesn't get better than a view from the dome of one of the most magnificent cities in Italy. Down in the alleyways, there is a bit more of an overflow of tourists and tourist traps, but it still remains a gorgeous space. The Uffizi palace is a mine of great art, and the Loggia has some wonderful replicas. Florence is also home to some deliciouis gelato, Carapina, and a wonderful little restaurant called the Trattoria l'Oriuolo. If you are a market centric person, Mercato Centrale is a good little hideout.

The other excellent view comes from the Piazzale Michelangelo, where you can view the Ponte Vecchio along with every architectural marvel in the city of Florence. Along the way, there is a fantastic little panino shop, Il Panino del Chianti, which served as an excellent quick bite.

Cinque Terre

This declaration will be controversial, but I don't care. Cinque Terre, while very nice and very pretty, is not the dreamland that the photographs make it seem. A lot of the houses are rundown, and the colors are definitely not very vibrant. But, the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia is wonderful. I would recommend spending the time to walk all of the villages (or at least the paths that are open) if you can manage it.

Taking an early train from Florence to the regional train makes it very difficult to spend a lot of time in Cinque Terre. We had about an average of an hour in each city. Skip Riomaggiore and Monterosso al Mare... to me, they are the most touristy. I would say Corniglia seemed the most interesting, but the walk up from the train station takes at least 30 minutes. Definitely take the path from Vernazza if you want to enjoy a peaceful cliffside walk.

Venice

Highlights

Let me start off by saying that Venice really is a one of a kind city. Sinking into the ocean in all of its majesty, it really is on the list as a must visit.  

However, the excess of gimmicky tourist traps definitely makes the city harder to want to visit after one trip. The true beauty of the area lies in the Dolomites.  

 

mwang27@gmail.com

Venice Proper

Typical. Saint Mark's Square, Doge's Palace, and the Rialto Bridge. But there's something really gorgeous about the mismatched statues of Doge's Palace, and although the Rialto Bridge is under construction, the river ways around the bridge are still spectacular. I'd say my favorite neighborhood is Cannaregio. The least touristy part. And with excellent gelato, courtesy of Grom!

 

The Dolomites

Best part of Venice is the trip up to the Dolomites, the eastern Italian Alps! From Belluno to Agordo to Alleghe to Lagazuoi and the Falzarego pass, this drive was well worth it! The pass served as the pinnacle of our loop, with a pretty wild funicular ride up to the top (unfortunately closed when we went). Very cold but breathtakingly gorgeous. I would absolutely recommend that anyone take the time to explore this fantastic part of Italy.

Milan

Highlights

Navigli and Lake Como are probably my favorite places from Milan. Forget the Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Duomo di Milano, these are the real gems of Milan.

Navigli and Mercato Metropolitano

It's very common to hear about Milan as a metropolitan city. Many liken it to New York City or other, vibrant centers of culture and business. The Milan that I saw and loved was partly this Milan, but also the quiet, less outspoken Milan.

The place to be is Navigli. Super cool, hopping joint in Milan. Definitely the most hipster neighborhood in the area. The market in the area, Mercato Metropolitano, is a gem. Reminiscent of the Brooklyn Berg'n Hall (but way bigger and much better), the space is utterly crowded on a Saturday night. Bonus: shipping crates repurposed into legit bathrooms. I've heard of this but man, it is awesome.

And, to top it off, Navigli also houses a fantastic little gelato place, Gelateria Orso Bianco. Yum.  

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Lake Como and Bellagio

I will make the controversial statement here that Lake Como has one of the most beautiful waterfront scapes in Italy. And I'm including Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. Really. 

There's really something about the train up to Varenna Esino, and the boat ride to Bellagio. Coming up to the town is really just spectacular. The town seems really unimpressive from the dock, but walking up and down the winding, hilly town is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Tic Tac Toe!

Everyone loves a good game of tic tac toe right? And what better, simple, easy, and light way to play than with command line?

As a fun side project, I created a quick two player command line tic tac toe game. Check it out here!

tictactoe

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The structure is up. The main content is in, and the layout is pretty much in place. I'm so glad I can put the parts of my story scattered everywhere into one location.

If you ever want to know about any of my work, feel free to get in touch!

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