Amsterdam’s best museum

In Amsterdam they have plenty of museum (like really, a ridiculous amount), but by far my favourites is the Rijks – si, si also over the Van Gogh one! 

This one talks of the history of the Netherlands and, of course, about boats. 

Aaaand my favourite piece in my favourite museum is……a reproduction of the VOC vessel!!! :3 Do you know how long I dreamed of this when I was in school?

I also love that the Rijksmuseum has multiple themes and proposes several types of tours. They also have one about the colonial past of the Netherlands. It is super interesting and is quite fair, describing also the not so nice things done during that time.
Overall, seeing all of it at once is a bit of a challenge, especially given all the themes and types of art. A little encouragement is the museum’s restaurant which is….-and listen well now- a Michelin star restaurant!! -and you don’t even have to pay the entrance of the museum to get there! It is also great that it closes 1h after the museum itself.

They have SUCH an amazing strawberry cake! In these last months Dutch cooking skills have reeeeally been amazing me… :p

Sunsets in Amsterdam

Today we went around in Amsterdam and we got to enjoy some stunning sunsets – after having enjoyed some amazing day time, as being a northern city the Sun goes down really late.

We first got to the area next to the Movenpik Hotel (technically at the Muziekgebow). It is beautiful, especially if you got tired of the big groups of tourists in the city centre.

Right behind me from where I took this photo there is a nice beer bar. Just down the street on the right there is a stunning area with litle hipster bars: on the river, covered in colourful lights, serving organic dishes of fresh local greens. There is also a greenhouse and field with a rooftop café where the food cosumed is grown.

The area of the Muziekgebow is really modern, quite contrasting with the canals on the opposite side of the station. It is close to an other nice area, called Java Eiland.

After this we moved back to the canals. We were looking for food, but had to walk quite a lot to find it. Many tourists means many restaurants that focus on price rather than quality. So we went quite deeper and out of the shopping street and the centre. We got to enjoy some beautiful view. I love seeing the boats, they relax me, and the sunset here is so romantic.

Truth be told, we had to walk around so much because a lot of restaurants were already closing. Most kitchens will close at 10! But we wanted a real meal, it took a bit of effort.

My mum really wanted to have some good meat. We finally found a restaurant, called Black and Blue, that was super cozy, with nice service and great food. All the menu is based on Black Angus cows, and the meat – as well as the wine – is just so delicious. Such a great ending after a super nice and tiring day! 

3 vital tips when you visit India (and other developing countries)

After my few months of life in India there are a few things I learnt you really need to remember to thrive, and I’m sure they are also useful in other travels.

No. 1 Keep track of your documents

I am still not sure why, but if a scam is to be made, people are all about your documents. It is a real obsession.

It is normal that they ask to take a copy of your passport when you check in a hotel, but if your host (CouchSurfing or whoever else) wants to get hold of your documents say a straight no, and consider stopping trusting them.

Your life is way harder without a document, so stay tight to it. It is also a good idea bringing with you a photocopy of your document and leave the original in the safety box of your hotel (if it has one).

No. 2 Get informed of “safety measures” from locals (especially for girls traveling solo)

Now, I understand that it is at odds with our free spirits, but get informed of what hour is recommendable to stay around in streets and go home after that.

In India parents rarely let the girls out after 8pm. Yes, 8pm.

Part of it is conservative attitudes, part of it is because India has a huge issue with sexual abuse. Either way, stay out after the recommended hour only if accompanied or if you are in an area you know (I would go home at max. 9:30pm when I was roaming around my area).

A great place to get informations is CouchSurfing or other travel communities. Of course, better asking to the girls.

No. 3 Accept the local culture

You know the say: “you can not stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf“?large

You know the other say: “When you travel remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable“.

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Well. That’s it. Most developing countries have a life attitude that is really, REALLY different from the western one.

Personal space isn’t the same, working rhythms aren’t the same, hygiene standards aren’t the same. That applies to being squeezed in a bus or metro, to understand India is no place to go camping and understanding you may need to cover your legs if you wish not to attract attention*. It’s not nice, it’s annoying, but that’s the way it is.

No worries: for how much you stress, you won’t change them.

You can either spend the rest of your holiday complaining about it or learn how to thrive.

Any real traveler will tell you that the latter is the best.

After all, the beauty of traveling is in adapting to new places.

Sofia

* of course it doesn’t apply to inappropriate behavior, harassment and similar

 

Italian earthquakes

Today it isn’t a post about travel. It is a little mooring for the earthquakes that are crushing the centre of Italy.

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The Virgin of Visso, Visso

Italy is generally a seismic region, it has always been. We Italians lie on top of a fault that crosses the whole country in the same shape of the Appennino (the vertical mountains you see on the map), which is caused by that himself. And there it trembles, a whole fucking lot.

This year we had a huge quake in August, in Amatrice. The shakes have kept coming, in the past days the centre of Visso has suffered huge damages and in the morning there has been a shook in Norcia (registered between 6.6 and 7.1) that destroyed several buildings in the centre.

I feel very touched by these events. We had been visiting these last two cities in the summer. The photos that are online today are unrecognizable to my memory.

Norcia is a smiling village famous for his salumi – cold cuts – and its truffles and is populated by shops that make you the most delicious sandwiches.

Visso is a small village with a huge collection of the handwritten documents of one of the main Italian poets (Giacomo Leopardi).

Knowing they are destroyed feels really weird.

Day of the dead / Dia de muertos in Mexico City

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El dia de muertos is one of the traditions for which Mexico is the most famous around the world. And with reason.

It is a very unusual way to relate to death as it is some sort of celebration to reconnect with the dead of the year, but in a positive way. It is very scenographic and has the whole tradition that goes with it. It is celebrated the 2nd of November.

It has become increasingly popular, both for fashion trends and for Spectre, the James Bond movie – despite that, in real life it is quite different from the movie.

THE CELEBRATION

Since weeks before the date you can find in local markets sweets, chocolates and sugar shapes decorated in the shape of calaveras – skulls -.

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In homes and public places are made altars for prayers and offerings with favourite food of the departed which is free to people that pass by to take to remember the dead.

In the capital some museums and cultural institutions organize some events that last the time of the celebrations. These include both offrendas – the offering of food – and more mundane events as parades of costumes.

This said, if you wish to have a real Mexican experience and not the commercial version of it, the way to go is indeed some small villages and pueblos magicos outside the capital, Patzucaro is one of the most recommended. There families prepare the traditional offerings for their loved ones.

THE TRADITION

The tradition comes from the Aztec celebrations for the goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl, with the celebration of All Saints in the Catholic world.

The same union is found in the “Santa Muerte”, a saint venerated for the justice of death among the people alive (which, however, isn’t accepted by the official Church).img_20151024_202625

The belief is that the dead are coming back and we have to welcome them with celebrations. The offer of food is a way of showing the death our love and appreciation for them, and they will taste from the essence of it.

The families would make altars for prayers with recalls to the four elements. There are food, flowers and bread (pan de muertos, see below), representing earth, cloths and decorated the paper fliers (the wind), candles for fire and drinks for water.

As it is a pagan tradition, it wasn’t well seen by Catholic Church, but from the ‘60s is a national holiday in Mexico to honor its pre-Columbian roots. It is traditionally of the Aztec area: the centre of Mexico, around Mexico City.

A very nice representation of the day of death is in the animation movie “The book of Life”, which I absolutely loved and gives a peak through the tradition and Mexico also for adults.

THE PROTAGONISTS: Catrina and Catrin

Ladies and gentleman, these are ones you were waiting for: the lady in the dress, la Calavera Catrina, sometimes represented with Catrin, her husband.

They are the ones you see in the procession in Spectre. She wasn’t actually part of the tradition, was added in after the drawing of a Mexican artist as a satirical representation of the Mexican society of its time.

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Its charm, however, has called attention upon the Mexican tradition, becoming one of the symbols of the country in mainstream culture.

THE FOOD

There are the sugar skulls in the markets, but there is something else more delicious and worth trying.

Typical of this period is the dreaded and loved pan de muertos: a sweet bun with bones decoration on top which is extremely traditional of the period and only found around this festivity. Mexicans (and foreigners) absolutely love it! But hate it to, because it marks the beginning of the delicious and fat foods of the season leading till Christmas…not diet friendly (but worth it).

Scared now?

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(I hope not 🙂 )

Related info:

British Museum video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FHrhH9k-PY

What’s up in Patzucaro? http://www.lakepatzcuaro.org/DayOfDead.html

Celebrate in Mexico City: http://event-carnival.com/mexico/day-of-the-dead

Ciao.images-2.jpg

The pizza speciality you had been missing out!

There is something that so many Italian restaurants around the world should learn about: the “angioletti”.

Please pizza restaurants, take note.

I first discovered them last year,under strong suggestion from my friends, in the famous Starita restaurant in Napoli, the one of the movie with Sofia Loren, “L’oro di Napoli”. It is some sorts of traditional appetizer and maaaan, I’m soo glad they got me to try it…

These are the softest, most delicious appetizer and can be a dessert too!

They are made of small balls of fried pizza-doug. They feel a bit crusty, soft and warm inside, covered in tomato sauce and parmesan, as in this case, or with chopped cherry tomatoes and basil, the classic. Or….covered in Nutallaaa!

The craziest thing is…

…that they are so hard to find!

I personally have never seen them abroad and even in Italy! Even weirder as they use the normal ingredient any pizza restaurant would have (the dough) plus a frying machine. Needless to say, I was delighted to find them in Tuscany – even though these are quite bigger – in a restaurant owned by Neapolitans, of course.

I know what you’re thinking about.

NO, those Domino’s cinnamon desserts have nothing to do with these. Nothing. Not even the fattening pleasure.

It indeed can be kind of challenging finishing both these and a whole pizza – yeah, in Italy each one has his own pizza – but hey, we only live once. 🙂

Have you ever found them out of Napoli?

Let me know! I NEEEED to know!!! Wouldn’t it be awesome if more restaurants were to do them??

Love,

Sofia

 

 

About me – in case you cared

This must be a really bad SEO title…hopefully is a useful reference for when I mention places and events and you’ll find my life at least a bit entertaining too. 🙂

Hi, I’m Sofia and after passing a life believing I was calm and introvert, turns out I’m not.

From the basics. I spent five years of high school translating from Latin and ancient Greek and reading the classics, moved out of home to boarding school at 14 – pretty sure this happened under Harry Potter influence –, traveled around Italy and Switzerland in an historical dances company and, unless you count babysitting, started working at 17. Because I love being independent.

With the money from my first job I got a pair of enormous sunglasses and a ticket to Sweden to go aupairing and to the US the year after.

When it was time to start university I really wanted to work abroad a whole year. Ended up living three years in Milan in a very blazoned university studying economics (and one year of management for art and communication). Plus a little period in a tiny lost village in the freezing north of Ireland. Favourite year: the last one, madly in love, splitting life between Milan and London while giving two years of studies in one. Yeah, I like being busy.

By September the London experience was over, so I moved to Belgium aupairing while finding a real job. Got one in India (!!!) where I moved in January 2013. Saw my graduation ceremony via Skype and lived the most charming culture I’ve met this far.

At the beginning of summer I was back and decided to take a master. Moved in Switzerland to become fluent in French, while applying around. Guess what? Belgium got me in and started a looong time of back and forth, great relationships, amazing people and unexpected coincidences that goes on still nowadays.

The university year was amazing, did one master, started a second and moved to Mexico. This time they weren’t live streaming my graduation, sadly.

Now, two years later, Mexico has become the home of my heart, its food my cravings – oooh yeah, well with sushi – and got so much from the people it’s hard to be away.

Currently I’m back to yellowing leaves while keeping up with two masters and preparing for whichever the next step may be.

And of course! Writing here!

Follow me for more details about the past, travel tips and upcoming adventures!