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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Traveling’

The ex-most beautiful cafe in the world: Caffe Florian in Venice

May 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Coffee, Food, Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

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Venice is atrociously overpriced, crowded and touristy and we still love it. It has extracted our pound of flesh (which we have gained back plus plus). The second we board the vaporetto from Tronchetto (the car park) we feel weirdly happy, knowing full well that we will be gouged, swarmed and our senses assaulted with kitsch. Incidentally, the answer to the question that gets asked a lot is: No, we don’t smell anything.

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Caffe Florian on the Piazza San Marco is the city’s most famous cafe, and it turns 300 in 2020, making it the oldest cafe in the world. Every would-be ruler of the planet has stopped by, from Napoleon to Hitler. The cafe probably overcharged them, too.

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Nine euros (Php 414) for a cup of coffee! 13 for a croissant with ham in it. And if the orchestra is playing outside, 6 euros for the music.

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The waiters are more elegant than the diners and you feel like you have to mind your manners or be judged.

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But what an exterior (and the interiors aren’t plain, either). After coffee, you are compelled to conquer something.

Is the New York Cafe in Budapest the most beautiful cafe in the world?

May 08, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling 6 Comments →

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While wandering around the city, we heard that the New York Cafe in Budapest is the most beautiful cafe in the world. We don’t know who gives out these titles, but after hearing it many times we were intrigued enough to go. It’s one of the stops on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour we took (Most efficient option for people with no sense of direction who would otherwise waste hours looking for their destination, or end up taking taxis).

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More beautiful than Caffe Florian in Venice? we thought. What nerve. (Just because our name was invented for The Merchant of Venice, we think we’re linked to Venice haha.)

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Then we shut up because holy crap, this is what greeted us.

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It’s two centuries younger than Florian, but it’s vast, light and airy and holy crap, those walls and ceilings. Built in the 1900s, it was recently renovated. At one point it was the world’s most beautiful warehouse.

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In the early 20th C its regulars included the writers Gyula Krudy and Deszo Kosztolanyi (Thank you, NYRB Classics, or we would never have read them), and the filmmakers Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz (Casablanca).

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For our very late lunch we had a latte macchiato and a spaghetti with a very rich beef sauce that made dinner redundant. We like Hungarian home cooking. How you feel about it depends on how you like goulash (like a soupy mechado) and paprika, and we love the stuff. It’s so filling, you have to walk across Budapest to digest it.

So you dine under a fresco, and the cost of spaghetti and coffee: 6,370 Hungarian forints, or PHP977, which is cheap for that splendor.

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Outside, bustling streets. The lamps are held up by devils.

Sleeping cat in Venetian store window

May 08, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Language, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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This is one of exactly two cats we’ve seen on the whole trip. One was inside a carrier at the Market Hall in Budapest. This one was in a store window in Venice, around Castello. The sleeping cat looks like Saffy. (Saffy: That was me. I bilocated.)

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Next to the cat, a sign telling people not to tap the glass. Some linguistic confusion here. “E io mi irrito!!!!”— The cat gets irritated by the tapping, the storekeeper gets irritated, or is the cat in the window because she annoyed the storekeeper?

You and I remember Budapest very differently.

May 03, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →

Glum Sunday. You know all that eyeball-rolling stuff about “may puso” and “pusong Pinoy”? It’s true in Manny Pacquiao’s case. He really went after his opponent and tried to make it a fight (at least according to commentators. I woke up at 7am here and it was over). His opponent stood there calculating his profits, and occasionally throwing a punch when his calculations showed it would produce returns. Not for nothing is it “The Money Team”.

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Budapest Keleti station

Glummer Saturday: My laptop, a 5-year-old Mac Air whose replacement is already on the way, was stolen on the train from Vienna to Budapest. I was in a mostly empty first class carriage, suitcase in front of me, backpack beside me, then I looked away for a second and pffft. Found it between the 1st class and dining cars, everything still in it including Guga the stuffed toy leopard (in which case it would be a kidnapping), ATM cards and earrings. The thief took my Mac and my emergency cash stash, which I don’t really need because I haven’t splurged or anything. (Just that morning I’d decided to put my travel documents, money, camera in my shoulder bag.)

So I summoned the train conductor and since we had no common language he thought I was looking for the electrical outlet. Fortunately I have travel insurance so I texted my old travel agent who sold it to me, who replied, “Report it to their hotline, thanks and God bless.” That’s helpful–you’re fired. Then I texted my new travel agent at Asia Intl, who’d stepped in when the old one couldn’t manage my train bookings. She told me what to do, beginning with filing a police report.

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There is a lounge for first class train passengers, with coffee and food. Unlike airline travel, on trains the difference between first and second class is not so huge. You get more comfortable seats, a nicer carriage, cleaner WC, and lounges. On Austrian trains the waiter greets you with a block of Ritter chocolate.

On the bright side, I’ve actually set foot in a Hungarian police station, which is kind of thrilling. Interrogations have happened there. The officer looked like a skinny Simon Pegg. After the obligatory charades, he made me fill out a report.

It occurred to me that yesterday was almost the exact 10th anniversary of the time my empty wallet was stolen in Barcelona. Me and big cities beginning with B: Beware. I think of these losses as protection money to the universe to ensure that nothing worse happens. Still, my old Mac deserved better than to be stolen and resold by criminals (who did not steal the adaptor, idiots). It provided me with a living for 5 years. All the data is backed up, so enjoy the thousands of cat pictures and know that the Curse of the Mighty Goddess Bast has already befallen you.

I’m typing this in the hotel lobby computer. Will post whenever I can, but no photos till I get home this weekend.

P.S. I hated Barcelona, but I love Budapest. I could live here.

What we think about when we look at conceptual art

May 01, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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A bunch of boxes by Robert Rauschenberg at MUMOK, the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna.

Everybody recite Art Criticism by Noel Orosa with us:

Kaya ko rin yan
Ba’t di mo ginawa?
Kaya ko rin yan
Ba’t di mo ginawa?

I can do that, too
Then why didn’t you?
I can do that, too
Then why didn’t you?

We courted Stendhal Syndrome and survived! Today we went to the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Art History, the Sigmund Freud Museum, the Albertina, Museumquartier, MUMOK, and ended the day at a concert in Schonbrunn Palace (the Mozart half, we’re not into Strauss—the waltz guy, not the 2001 theme guy), and not only did we stay conscious despite culture overload, we didn’t get lost once.

Pictures later. Venice is gorgeous, Prague is gorgeous, and Paris, but Vienna is the mother lode. At one point it owned all of the above.

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Kunsthistorisches Museum

Before sunrise but after midnight

April 29, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →

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We want to be a writer-in-residence on a train line, writing stories on the railway. We could live on Snowpiercer. The way climate change is proceeding, we probably will live on Snowpiercer.

hedgehog

The train to Vienna was an hour late; a long delay at one station added 1 hour of tedium (fidgeting, looking at watch) to our pleasant 6-hour trip (reading, writing, taking naps). We emerged into a cold, deserted station and followed the signs to the taxi rank. Someone was yelling “Hey! Hey!” on the street. Ordinarily, hearing shouting at 1230am in a strange city would be scary, but we’d just endured an hour of boredom and could not be messed with. Then a gray animal the size of a terrier ran down the stairs into the station. Something out of the Brothers Grimm—a hedgehog? A dog fleeing its costume-obsessed humans?

There were no taxis on the empty street and we were about to call a taxi company (Globe, for Chrissakes stop sending us daily data roaming offers, we’re not interested! We told you specifically: Text roaming only, no data roaming. You had better not be billing us for data roaming or there will be tears and blood–yours) when a taxi appeared. Inside the radio was playing “Weather With You” by Crowded House, which told us we’d be fine, not that it ever occurred to us that we would not be fine. The driver took a wrong turn to the hotel and had to go round the block so he stopped the meter. Nice.