Saturday, April 28, 2018

Chocolate review: Twenty Squares dark chocolate mint crisp flake 55% cocoa

Here's something like a flashback. I was in Australia last year in July and bought a few bars of chocolates from the store near my hotel. One of those bars turned out to be with mint. I probably overlooked the mint as it was a dark chocolate and also had crisp flakes. I generally don't like mint with my chocolates. I find the taste overpowering that of chocolate. That's been true for both the inexpensive and relatively pricey ones I've had.

This chocolate claims to be all natural and gluten free
Details at the back of the package
Here's a close-up describing the making of the chocolate including the source of the cacao.
Ingredients and nutrition information
This chocolate was a bit surprising in that there is only a hint of mint in the taste. For me, that is good because the mint does not overwhelm the chocolate. There also was no lasting aftertaste from this chocolate so again, for me, that was also okay. Will I get this chocolate again? Maybe not as I am still not a fan of chocolates with mint. However, I do recommend this for people who like mint in their chocolates. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

First dinner in Amsterdam

I did a lot of walking on my first day in Amsterdam. I had wanted to see how long it took to go back to the hotel beside Amsterdam Central Station from the Museum Quarter. It rained suddenly when I was midway to the hotel and so I had to do some evasive maneuvers as I only had my coat and wasn't able to bring my umbrella. I had thought about having an early dinner in a restaurant or cafe along the way but every place seemed to be too crowded for me. 

And so I rushed back to the hotel and decided to just eat there as the weather deteriorated and what was a strong drizzle developed into something short of a downpour. While there were certainly options for me at the station, I just decided to stay put and eat at the hotel's restaurant. They had a limited menu but that was enough for me as I really didn't feel like being adventurous or something for my meal. That being said, I ended up ordering a pizza and 7-Up. I took my time in eating while watching trains go by (yes, like the song).

Pizza and soft drink for dinner
Yes, that's one of the platforms of the Amsterdam Central Station in the background. The restaurant's windows give you a nice view of the platform and trains. I thought this was a nice hangout after all. There were few diners at the time including a couple of Filipinos who were on vacation (lucky them!) based on what I've overheard in their conversation. [They were a bit loud so I can't help but hear what they were saying.] I went back to my room satisfied with my meal and ready to get some rest from all the travel, including much walking, I did that day.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Breakfasts at Enschede

The Intercity Hotel where I stayed at in Enschede last March served a really good buffet breakfast. The selection was good considering it was a business hotel and one could have a complete meal to start the day. I always like to have cereal and particularly love to have muesli in the mornings. They had that and fresh milk likely from the farms around Twente or perhaps from across the nearby border with Germany.

My first breakfast in Enschede consisted of muesli, bread, sausages, bacon, cold cuts and cheese. I had some tea and orange juice on the side. Not shown are the fruits I had after my hearty meal.
I adhere to the saying that one has to start the day with a good meal. It sets the tone for your energy levels during the day. And for me while I'm traveling, I like to do a lot of walking and commuting via public transport so I need the nourishment for me to keep moving without getting hungry immediately.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Timex manual wind watch

I acquired this watch last year for two reasons: 1) It was a Timex assembled in the Philippines, and 2) it was priced really cheap. I had wanted to have a Timex for quite some time as I knew they assembled the watches in Cebu. I've seen the many models on display at Mactan Airport but could not quite decide about what to get. I was hesitant partly because most of the models were quartz watches. I have nothing against quartz watches as I own not a few of these including Swatches and Seikos. Only, I wanted to have something that's both collectible (for me) and reliable.

This watch is a manual wind and quite uncommon for a Timex today. And so I bought seeing nobody seemed interested in it. In fact, it got only a few likes compared to the other old watches being sold in the same site.

Simple watch face with arabic numerals, a date feature and water resistance indicated
The watch is in good condition and "assembled in the Philippines" was the real decider for me to get this watch.
Side view showing the crown
Another side view of the watch

This is a relatively small watch at 32mm wide except for the crown but it had 19mm lugs so you don't feel and look like its a small watch. I recently timed it on a full wind and it lasted about 42 hours. It also kept good time through this period; keeping up with the reference clocks I used for comparison.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Cortébert manual wind vintage watch

Cortébert was considered a luxury brand during its heydays. Unfortunately, the brand suffered much during the onslaught of quartz watches (mainly from Japan) in the 1970s. It was not among the brands that survived but surprisingly was not resurrected later like other Swiss brands that are now actually masquerading as such.

The watch face is elegant with the sub-second adding appeal to this piece.
Side view showing the crown
Another side view
The case back
Closer inspection shows the engraved letters are in Cyrillic or Russian
I am usually wary about something etched or engraved on vintage watches I am interested in. For example, old Seiko watches from Japan might have inscribed on their backs the name of the person who originally owned it including perhaps an indication it was given as a gift (birthday? wedding? retirement?) or recognition for service. I generally avoid those watches. I was not able to see the writing on the case back on this one but based on what I've seen, these are translations of what is originally inscribed at the back and so are not names or other undesirable (for me) information.

I've timed this watch and the first time it lasted about 39 hours on a full wind. The second time it ran for 48.75 hours. It kept good time compared to my computer's clock and my other more dependable watches with no significant losses or gains in time over the period I was comparing it with other clocks/watches.

Friday, April 13, 2018

On inflight meals again

During my recent travel to the Netherlands, I decided to take Emirates in order to have more manageable (for me) times in flight. The flight between Manila and Dubai was about 7 hours while the flight between Dubai and Amsterdam was about 8 hours. My layover in Dubai was 4 hours. That meant a lot of time to walk around and get my bearings between long flights. I have also been informed that the inflight meals on Emirates were better than most airlines even on economy. I must agree with that observation and I’m now posting some of the “stolen” shots I took of the inflight meals.

Breakfast served on the Manila-Dubai leg of my trip
Breakfast on the Dubai-Amsterdam leg of my trip
Menu on the Dubai-Amsterdam leg of my trip
Details on the meals served on the flight between Dubai and Amsterdam

The lunch selection was okay and I always thought that one doesn't have to consume everything served to you inflight. Eat and drink just enough so you won't feel hungry or thirsty on a long flight. Check out the food if the taste suits you. If you don't feel like eating or it doesn't taste right to you then perhaps you should pass or opt for some light snacks. I do recommend drinking more as you tend to become dehydrated especially on long flights.

I refrained from taking photos of my meals back to Manila but they were again alright compared to most inflight meals I've had. I guess the better ones I've had would be those on my long-haul flights to and from the US via Japan Airlines (JAL). Of course, I am sure that other people would have other opinions about inflight meals including those who categorically state these are unhealthy. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. :)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Chess in Amsterdam

I came upon this scene where a crowd had gathered around an outdoor or garden size chess board. There were two people who were the actual players but they were surrounded by pundits and hecklers (the friendly kind I think). It turned out that the area was a square dedicated to Max Euwe who was a chess world champion before the Second World War. He was also the president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) in the 1970s.

The end game seemed interesting and I just wondered how they ended up with the positions.
Chess aficionados all around
Max Euwe was world chess champion for 2 years (1935-1937).
Max Euwe was World Chess Champion at a time when chess was not yet dominated by the Soviet Union but with the latter's players beginning to dominate the game. He played with the like of Capablanca, Flohr, Bogolyubov, Botvinnik, and Alekhine, whom he beat in 1935 to become World Champion. He lost in their rematch in 1937. This was a time when the world championships were basically held upon the acceptance of a match challenge from the champion unlike in the later years and the present when candidates matches or competitive tournaments are held to determine challengers.

It was interesting to see a game played between two players with a lot of "mirons". I thought it was lively and there was a bit of humor with the comments coming from some people who probably were better chess players than those who were playing. Such public matches on these huge chess sets can be a hit in Manila but I guess some people won't be as game or accepting of hecklers. Baka magka-asaran at away lang ang kahinatnan (Perhaps some people will just get upset and this could lead to fights.).

Friday, April 6, 2018

Chocolate review: Twenty Squares Simply Dark 65% Cocoa

I had forgotten about a few chocolate bars that I purchased during my trip in Australia last year. I found these as I was arranging our stock with the addition of a few bars I got from my recent trip to the Netherlands.

65% dark chocolate from Twenty Squares
Details on the chocolate at the back of the box
Information on the sourcing of cocoa is at the back. There's also a warning on the box about the bar containing milk, soy and tree nuts.
Nutrition information including the bar being gluten free is shown.
This is a smooth chocolate you can probably purchase at any supermarket, grocery or convenience store in Australia. Definitely a good buy and, as I recall, good value for money for a 100g bar.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Late lunch at the Enschede outdoor market

I returned from Arnhem and decided not to return to my hotel but instead take a walk around Enschede and maybe check out where the open market will be on Saturday. I was surprised to see an even bigger outdoor market than Arnhem's at the Van Weeksplein. The market at Enschede featured a lot of stores spread out across the wide area. The market's usually organized on weekends and holidays.

As I didn't have lunch in Arnhem (choosing instead to walk around the city center and had a small snack), I decided to have a very late lunch at past 3 PM. That lunch turned out to be a sandwich I purchased from one of the many stands offering grilled burgers and sausages.

Popular sausage and burger stand at the open market - there were a lot more patrons for this stand so I decided to check out what many people queued for here.
Bratwurst special with a generous serving of dressing and pickles
I like these outdoor markets for the variety of food they offer. I did write about one in Sydney last year. The one in Enschede was certainly one of those nice experiences that you wish there were more like this in the Philippines. There are at least three outdoor markets that I am aware of where you can get excellent food in Metro Manila in the weekends - two are in Makati (Salcedo and Legaspi) and another in Quezon City (Centris).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

St. Jakob's Church, Enschede

My trip to The Netherlands took me to Enschede but I went around three other cities: Arnhem, Amsterdam and The Hague. The only church I was able to enter was in Enschede. This was a Catholic Church (I checked) that was still functioning as a place of worship. Due to the wave of liberalism in Europe and particularly in countries like Germany, The Netherlands and France, many old churches of all denominations have been converted for other purposes. The Grote Kerk (literally Big Church), which was formerly dedicated to the apostle James the Great (Jakobus de Merdeere) at the center of Enschede (Oude Markt) is now a venue for musical performances and other events including weddings. Others became museums, offices and even homes.

St. Jakobus is located at the center of Enschede's old town and across from the bigger
The back of the church where lepers were supposedly given Holy Communion through holes in the walls.
The lighting inside the church was a bit gloomy for me. Perhaps the purple is consistent with Lent? I chanced upon the church being open during the afternoon of Maundy Thursday and the few people who appeared to be ushers of some sort seemed surprise to see me come in. I tried to be inconspicuous the short time I was there.
The interior was cavernous and I must admit I was in a hurry to take a few snapshots after my short prayer. Light filters through the windows to give natural lighting for the interior.
Here's another photo showing one of the side altars. I wanted to take more photos inside the church but I was afraid I would be offending the people there. Nevertheless, to their surprise again, I genuflected in the middle aisle towards the direction of the main altar.
I truly felt some sadness as I entered the church and sat there with practically only four people inside the building. I wondered and still wonder how many people go to church as St. Jakobus and whether the church will eventually go the way of the Grote Church. Searching for information on the internet, I read that there are few services now at St. Jakobus. The regular celebration of the Eucharist has been transferred to another church nearby Sint Jozef (or St. Joseph of Nazareth), which unfortunately I was unable to visit.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Hearty pesto and chicken sandwich from Spar

I have had minimal rice since I arrived in Holland. It's actually a welcome development for me as I need to reduce my rice intake and switch to higher fiber options. Bread counts as long as it is not the regular type. And I've managed to eat healthier thanks to the hotel where I'm staying at and the choices I have when I eat out.

One discovery I've made is Spar, a convenience chain that makes excellent sandwiches, bread, pastries and the like. There were a lot of healthy choices including salads and vegetarian meat sandwiches. I spotted their pesto and chicken sandwich and had it heated for a warm meal I took back to my hotel room.

I surely did enjoy this warm sandwich
Spar is a big chain and I found their stores in most cities I visited in the Netherlands.
Pesto and chicken sandwich
A close-up of this pesto and chicken
I have not seen or tasted a sandwich like this the Philippines though the combination of chicken and pesto is not new. Usually, you see it in pasta but not on a sandwich. Maybe there's a restaurant somewhere back home that serves this?


First meal in Europe - Happy Italy

My first meal in Europe was...Italian! That should not come as a surprise considering this is usually a default choice for me if I am not knowledgeable of the restaurants in the place I am visiting. In this case, I really didn't bother researching about the restaurants in Enschede and based my decision more on what I felt like a restaurant that has a simple menu and many people patronizing it. The other restaurants looked too fancy for me though cost-wise they were okay. I thought, too, that the other restaurants were good if I had company. I had none.

This looks like a good motto for life.
I ordered this pollo a funghi pasta. It turned out to be a big serving and I had to take half home to finish it the following day.
The restaurant's main attraction was their pizzas. They had some good ovens there and all the ingredients were fresh. I also noticed a lot of people ordering meals for take away (take home).
I took home a copy of their menu as a souvenir. This side shows the pizza selection.
This side shows all the other items except their gelato, which was on another card.
Happy Italy is a chain and so at least I have established that they serve good food with very generous serving for pastas. I thought this would be a good reference for future trips to the Netherlands.