Magens Bay --San Thomas

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our journey to the Land of Romance

"This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism." --Thomas Mann

Let me take you back in time to our little adventure ... I believe it was on 2009, when we boarded the TrenItalia, heading from Milan, the land of fashion, to Venice, the land of romance. It took us about 3 hours or so, the urban city lights dwindling into the distance and being replaced by the wide blue sky and scenery.. Upon arriving, we boarded on a ferry to reach our hotel, near the St. Mark square. It was quite a beautiful ride form the station to the St. Mark square, as if we were taking a scenic ride around the tangle of narrow alleys and Venice water canals filled with golden gondolas. The ferry itself was full of tourists who have just arrived and wanted to go to the square. The whole trip was around 40 minutes long. 

We hopped off the ferry once we had arrived at the St. Mark area, Only then did I realize how unique Venice is. No cars. The entire city is surrounded by tranquil, blue-green water lapping softly at the brick buildings and, contrary to most cities, was quite alive at night. The many streets were lighted up and full of pedestrians. 

After looking a little harder, we finally found our Westin hotel, tucked inside a narrow alley. Boy, speaking of category seven. It was not so impressive from outside. Inside? Fabulous! After checking in, the receptionist walked us to the elevator and guided us to the room. 

I have to digress here, for the keys, yes, the keys, are one of those traditional ones, solid metal with a tinkling bell. Indeed, a very nice looking one, too. No wonder we had to pay a small fortune to stay there! Nevertheless, the rooms were nice. -- Only if we could stay in one room. European rooms are pretty small for a family of four, so we had to book two.

Soon after we took steaming-hot showers, we walked back down to the St. Mark area and found ourselves enjoying Italian food at a recommended restaurant by our hotel concierge. It was the best pasta we have ever tasted so far. The service was very nice! But, a bottle of water to quench our thirst cost us 5 Euro (7.5 USD at that time)! We are talking about water here. Okay .. maybe sparkling water!--Still.  

The very next day, we woke up a little early. We went to the St. Mark Square to visit the cathedral, Dodges Palace, and Clock tower. Couldn't believe it! The whole square was crowded with humans-- and pigeons, literally! The plump gray birds were everywhere, pecking at seeds and bombarding tourists in a flurry of feathers and wings.

First, we went to the Dodges Palace and joined a secret itinerary tour. It was the most boring tour we have ever taken. Every 5 minutes, the tour guide would reiterate this: “This is the secret place of the Dodges Palace.” Okay, we got it already! After walking with them for at least 30 minutes or so, we began to sweat because the inside rooms were incredibly hot and humid! We hadn’t seen or heard anything that was worth taking home with. One sentence to summarize it all: This room used to contain some sort of secret document, which are no longer here. She, the tour guide, rattled on about the officer who took a bribe in a monotone. Seriously, that was it! We had to walk away from the tour with an excuse: That the room temperature was too warm for us. The truth is that it was a waste of money and the most boring tour we had ever attended in our entire journey. Ever! 

We wandered around, roaming the various chambers and rooms, to find ourselves enjoying the art collections in the vast palace, the prison, as well as the square within the palace.

Lunch was quite an experience! We blindly walked into one of the Venetian restaurants we found around the St. Mark area. It turned out to be a blast! Exquisite!  

After lunch, we treated ourselves with gelato ice cream. Yum ... it was simply delicious!

We walked back to the St. Mark Square and visited the St. Mark Basilica. It was immaculate! Simply gorgeous! The girls lighted the candles and whispered their prayers for someone special in their life --their grandma was sick at that moment. Afterward, we went to visit the Clock tower. It was an interesting visit. as the girls enjoyed it very much. The guide explained to us how the clock worked. We saw the inside of the tower, too. Then we went all the way up to the top to view the whole of St. Mark square as well as the rooftops of Venetian houses.The scenery that unfolded was stunning, the sun glinting on the dazzling waters and the glitter of silver drops as a boat sliced through the canal and the sun-bleached roofs of both old and new buildings opened up in front of us. 

The most memorable moment we had was taking the Gondola ride. It reminded us of our (my hubby and I) first trip to Venice about fifteen years ago. Couldn't believe we were back with kids this time! We sailed through the canals for about 45 minutes. The driver pointed out a crumbling house with a plaque saying that that was where Mozart, the composer from the Classical Period, used to stay when he visited Venice many years ago. The scenery was picturesque. Guess what, we paid for 100 Euro for the ride (about $150 USD.) That was the most expensive ride we ever had! -- After all, fun can't be measured with money, right? Yup!

Time flies when you have fun! So, soon it was time for us to take a train to Florence, our next destination.  We were reluctant to leave Venice, the land of romance, and just as we boarded the train car, we glanced back one last time. The sun, a circular disk of gold, rose above the city, casting warm light over the serene canals and narrow streets. The shadows and darkness that had reigned during night faded away, ribbons of light streaming in to replace them. Rosy clouds of dawn skidded across the multi-colored sky. Vivid streaks of yellow-orange blossomed as the deep purple of midnight seeped away, lighting up the city of romance. As we watched, Venice was bathed in the sun's embrace, the rays of sunlight bright and dazzling. A whole new day was unfolding, and a whole new portion of our itinerary. Leaning Tower of Pisa, here we come! --

Until next stop,
Journey of Life

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leftover food …

I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal that discussed about leftover food. It had received a spot light in the UK where the government simply advised the grocery stores to display the “until” instead of “sell by” dates. Hoping to guide the consumers on what to do with the food that was still sitting in their fridges. Hoping to reduce wasting unnecessary food.
Another interesting fact worth mentioning is: According to the Wall Street Journal, “the average U.S. family of four spends from $500 to $2,000 a year on food they never eat, according to researchers' estimates.”  -- Imagine what we could do with that money. A little vacation perhaps? 
(cited from

--courtesy of

It is interesting topic to think about. I know one mom that only buys groceries when her fridge is almost empty. She plans well and is very creative in mixing what's left to provide edible and appealing foods on the table. I remember those days when I actually cooked. Yes. I did! Back in college and during my early years before my kids. I actually cooked, though I did not even enjoy it once. Cooking for survival. I never wasted any food in the fridge. Considering that point of view, I was pretty creative. I would mix and match whatever was left and make something up. Not sure how it tasted, but hey! There was food on the table and it came from me, the reluctant chef. It was pretty decent. –At least that what I thought :-)

On the serious side, there are ways to avoid wasting food in IMHO. Simply take an inventory list on what is left and write a menu on what to cook for the week. Only purchase missing items from the recipes.  I know real chefs don’t do this. But, this is what we try to do in our household. We try to minimize wasting food. Though sometimes we still do, especially that yogurt jar that I bought each month hoping to use as my face mask before I retire each nite. Well, sadly, most of the time they ended up in the waste bin.

There are a couple tips that I could take away from the article:
-          - After the date passes, if the food is kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below for the recommended storage, it is probably still edible. (Please double check though)
-          - "Give it a smell, look at it, [and] maybe even taste it" before tossing food, suggests Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, a book about food waste. "We have fairly well-developed instincts as a species for knowing if something is good or not."
      Hope you have enjoyed this part of my journey, the visit I payed to the left-over foods, as much as I am writing it. I actually can't believe that we waste so much food each year. I am hoping to raise awareness so that we only buy what we need. It would help lessen food waste and put our money in good use. Hint: Perhaps for a vacation to Venice?
      Until next stop,
Journey of Life