Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photo of the Day: Tarragona Spain

Tarragona is a charming seafront town located an hour from Barcelona (and only 20 minutes from Poblet). The town has many Roman ruins, including an amphitheatre near the water front and aqueduct. There was an outdoor market that was closing up for the day. A small portion of the aqueduct was in the middle of the piazza. How wonderful to live among the ruins!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Poblet Monastery

November 2009: Poblet is one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the world and dates from the 12th century. Located about an hour from Barcelona Spain, Tony and I went with some friends of mine and went on a Spanish-speaking guided tour (English brochures were handed out). The monastery was a peaceful place and included a beautiful courtyard with a fountain. The library was filled with old books and we saw where the monks dined. We were there in the fall, so we had the opportunity to enjoy the colorful scenery of the area.

Marseille, France

Marseille Vieux Port

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rome 2009 and a Few Photos

I really need to do more with my travel blog page, so I have decided to try to post on a daily basis a photo or two from my travels, and more when I include excerpts from my journals.

2-5 November 2009:
Rome, Italy

I flew to Rome via Dulles International with friends Carolyn and Mark, Barb, Carol, Glenn and Sharon, and Glenn and Carol, as well as a few other fellow cruisers. We spent three nights in Rome before boarding the Celebrity Equinox for a 14-night transatlantic cruise to Florida.

We stayed at Hotel Giardino, located in the heart of Rome (my second stay there – basic 2-star hotel in an excellent location). I booked a car service with Stefano of Rome Cabs. Seven of us squeezed into a large van – our luggage barely fit.

I spent the first afternoon alone exploring the Jewish ghetto, Trastevere (lunch at Al Fontanone, Piazza Trilussa, 46), and Campo dei Fiori. In the late afternoon Mark and I walked to see the section of a 145 A.D. temple to the emperor Hadrian, which is incorporated into the side of a bank. We saw the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, designed by Borromini, an outstanding and unique example of Baroque architecture.

The group and I had a great dinner at Hostaria Romana. It was a fun place and we all had a great time. The restaurant walls were filled with graffiti and some of us added our names to the walls, although space was limited. I even peeked behind one of the framed photos on the wall only to find every inch of space written upon.

Glenn, Carol and I spent the next day together. We visited the indoor market of Testaccio and picked up a picnic lunch at Volpetti (47 Via Marmorata), a wonderful gourmet meat, cheese, and wine shop. A short metro ride, we visited Ostia Antica, an underrated sight with just a few tourists. The amphitheatre was quite impressive, as were the mosaic tiles in the Baths of Neptune. It rained in the morning but cleared up in time for our picnic lunch of panini's with olive bread, prosciutto, and buffalo mozzarella, and slices of pizza.

Tony arrived on the 4th and we spent the afternoon at the Roman museum and Baths of Diocletian. I was amazed at the size of the baths. I later shopped for bottles of wine to drink on the ship.

For our last evening, 30 fellow cruisers joined me at the Grotta Pinta lounge for drinks and tasty antipasti – so much food; we didn't go out to dinner. My friend Giancarlo introduced me to Sveva, manager of the lounge. Everyone had a great time.

The gang

Typical Roman Street

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica

Delicious Pizza!
Outdoor cafe in Trastevere
Typical wall with planters hanging out windows
Vespa and graffiti
Colosseum at dusk

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sushi Lunch at Ziki's, a Japanese Steak House

I recently had lunch with my dad at Ziki Japanese Steak House, located on the second floor of the Annapolis Town Center, Annapolis, MD. There's a second location in Gaithersburg, MD (a lot closer to where I live).

The place was empty with the exception of 5 other diners. With its contemporary look, dark woods, hibachi tables, tables of various sizes, and sushi bar, I found the place welcoming - along with a cheerful Ira-shai!

I always enjoy sitting at the sushi bar so I can chat with the sushi chef and watch his magic. It takes years of schooling to master the art of sushi making.

Sushi is food that many people are afraid to try. "
What, eat raw fish? No way!" Fortunately for me, having lived in many countries, including the Orient, I enjoy a wide variety of foods and I can dive into sushi anytime. Not all sushi is raw fish. A beginner can start with cooked shrimp, crab meat, vegetable rolls, even a sweet egg sushi.

I recently discovered white tuna, a wonderful mild-flavored fish, and I'll always ask if it's on the menu. It's my absolute favorite! It's almost buttery in taste and practically melts in your mouth. It's incredible. When dipping in the soy sauce, I only use a hint, as I do not want to miss out on the flavor of the fish.

For our lunch, we ordered the deluxe sushi and sashimi combo, which consisted of 16 pieces of sashimi and 8 pieces of sushi. Beautifully presented, thick slices of white tuna sat inside a martini glass with seaweed floating down the sides. Surrounding the glass was tuna, salmon, red snapper, and yellow tail.

The menu also has a very nice assortment of special rolls. We ordered the Queen Roll: Avocado and cucumber inside topped with spicy tuna (minced), and flying fish roe.

With every bite dad and I were in heaven. The chef kept a close eye on us as we sampled each piece making sure we were satisfied.

Behind the sushi bar is a display of Japanese dolls and bamboo boats for sushi.

I didn't look at their full menu but reviewing their web site, they do have a nice assortment of foods to choose from.

What I loved about this combination plate was the types of fish used. I've been to other Japanese restaurants where they seem to use a lesser quality fish or a cheaper type (such as imitation crab or cooked shrimp). The portions at Ziki's were ample and we walked out very satisfied.

Ziki Japanese Steak House
1908 Town Center, Blvd.

Mon – Fri: 11am-10:30 pm

Second location:
10009 Fields Rd.
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

PS: How could I have forgotten the delicious fried cheesecake that we ate for dessert! Our waitress recommended it to us. Coated with a light batter and deep-fried, the very center was still cold but the cheesecake towards the outside was warm and soft. A rich ending to a wonderful lunch.