The Beauty of Heidelberg

Hiking up to Heidelberger Schloss
I snapped this photo on my hike up to Heidelberger Schloss. And what a view it was.

Here are some photos from my trip to Heidelberg a few weeks ago. The weather was crisp and refreshing, and I can never get over the natural beauty of this city. Being in Heidelberg is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

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Heidelberger Schloss
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Carl Theodor Bridge (AKA Old Bridge)
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Across the Neckar River…

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That view, one more time.

IMG_3505Auf Wiedersehen!

My Morning Ritual – The Latte

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Soy latte, extra hot, no foam. That is my morning drink of choice. Depending on what I did the night before and what I have planned for the rest of the day, I take it with either a double shot or triple shot of espresso.

A triple shot soy latte now sets me back more than $6 at most coffee houses. Wow. It just goes to show, coffee/espresso drinks have now become the preferred day-time drug of choice, and the demand is continuously driving up the prices.

Here are some other observations I made while traveling:

1. It’s true, the Italians and French really do love their espresso. However, they don’t bastardize their potent shots with hot milk foam like we, americans, do with our cocktail list of lattes, mochas, caramel macchiatos and frapps. When traveling, “do as the Romans do,” and please don’t ask for your skinny frapp mochachino and pout if they can’t accommodate you. Don’t embarrass yourself and all your countryfolk.

2. You can get yourself a freaking great glass of wine for $6 in a restaurant in France. You can buy a whole bottle of greatness for $6 at a local marché. I’m not talking Two Buck Chuck quality wine. I’m talking GREAT Côte du Rhône variety that would cost me four or five times that price tag here in the states. To be honest, I’ve drank enough wine in France to single-handedly keep a few vineyards alive, but I have never experienced a bad one. Nor has it ever hurt my wallet.

3. In France, you can buy a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers for $6 at the local market. I’ve seen bunches sold for less that 2 Euros. Buy three and you have a centerpiece. For approximately $6. Amazing!

4. Aside from Tokyo, it was extremely difficult to find coffee shops in Japan that actually sold coffee! The Japanese are still big on tea, so coffee still remains the dark horse. And why shouldn’t tea take center stage in Japan? Their tea is freaking delicious! Have you ever tasted fresh genmai matcha? I’m not talking about Celestial Seasoning. Or attended a traditional tea ceremony? Out of this world! And the Japanese live to be like 120 years old. They are one healthy group of human beings. Therefore, when I go to Japan, I do as the Japanese do and drink tea.

5. Koreans worship coffee. There are more coffee shops in Seoul than all the other aforementioned countries combined. I kid, but it certainly seemed like it. Everywhere I turned, there was a coffee shop or at least two on every block to cover each side of the street. Koreans pack coffee shops morning, day and night. Outside of France and the U.S., I’ve never witnessed a bigger group of addicts. And you think $6 is a lot to pay for a grande triple latte? Ha! For $6, you might get a single shot of espresso or maybe drip coffee in a thimble-sized cup. Prepare to shell out about $10 for a proper sized espresso drink. You want ambience? Prepare to pay about $15.

Here I Go Again…

I’m on the road again, and this time I’m flying over the winter white skies toward Hokkaido, Japan.

A familiar sighting at Incheon International Airport… Image

Waiting for our plane at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Korea…Image

Flying over Seoul…
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First stop in Japan: Beverage break at the Kirin Factory bar…
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Then we are primed to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Lake Toya…
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A walk above the active volcano and hot springs at Noboribetsu…
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The best part of the trip to Japan in the winter were the onsens (natural hot mineral springs). I cannot describe the beautifully relaxing and therapeutic benefits of these open air baths which are usually set against quiet and peaceful winter mountain backgrounds complete with falling snow. I didn’t take the following photos as cameras are not allowed in the bath/spa area, but these were taken from the hot springs of Hokkaido that I visited.
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I cannot wait to go back for more of these onsens!

Asian Winter Wonderland

As much as I hate wasting time going to airports, dealing with security check-in lines and waiting around to take off, I don’t mind the actual flying. A certain relaxation comes over me once I settle into my seat on the plane. And I also get excited about my destination, unless a client asks me to fly to some undesired place for work.

Here I am mid-flight to Asia. So excited for the mega-metropolis of Seoul and the quiet and relaxing hot springs of Hokkaido.

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Traditional village homes in Seoul:
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This neighborhood is more modern than traditional today:
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Food displays are beautifully arranged and showcased at grocery stores. Take a look at these gorgeous displays of produce and baked items at the local supermarket.
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…and subways and stations so clean that you could could eat off the ground.Image