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May 28, 2006

Day 2

While it rained the whole day after we arrived, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise the 2nd day, and it was just a really beautiful day! Here was the view from our room:

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We had an early train to catch, so we went downstairs and crabbed a quick breakfast, stopped at a deli to buy some prosciutto and cheeses for our lunch on the train, and we were on our way to Pisa. We were really lucky to have such nice weather while the weather report predicted to rain for the whole week.

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After our tour, we walked into the town, looking for a restaurant. We checked out menu from about 4 places. Picked one, sat down, waited and waited before the server acknowledged us and brought us menu. Then waited and waited, and waited... Even the "looked like" owner guy saw us, but no one would come and take our order!? Servers sure saw that we were ready, but they were just standing in the back and talking to each other. I had it. We walked out and went into the restaurant next door. Menu was brought to us, but when we were ready to order, the server said the kitchen was closed.

I was really ticked at this point. Honestly, I didn't believe the kitchen was closed while other people were still getting food. And with the kind of service we were receiving, I hate to think: "does Asian has a bad reputation in Italy?" We left again. Walked further into town/residential area. Found another restaurant, sat down. The menu didn't really have what I was looking for, but it had my beef carpaccio, and there's the pizza for only 3.5 Euro, why not? That's what we had, and of course I could use some wine right away!

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After our snack, we're off to our gelato hunt again. We picked the one that had most "local" customers and long line. However our vote was still to Nuova!

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We were then ready for our next adventure. We rented a car from Pisa and drove to Siena. First taste of driving in Italy, people were nuts driving there! They had no manner and were really rude. It really didn't matter what the speed limit was, because people would drive at almost double the speed limit. If the speed limit was 90Kmh on the freeway/tollway, expect cars to tailgate you even if you were already driving at 130Kmh! It also didn't matter how fast were you driving already, if people(usually big trucks) needed to change lanes to pass cars; they'd just cut right in front of you and if you had a bad brake on your car, you're in big trouble! There were times that I had to slow down from 130Kmh to 60Kmh in less than 3 seconds! Better be alert and not sleepy when you're driving there!

We made it to Siena, found my old country home to stay at. It's a 300 years old farm house, but super well maintained. Marble floor all over. Very clean and solid. Even came with a very authentic Italian old gentleman who didn't speak a word of English. Therefore we had to write, and all hand gestures to communicate. It was past 9:30PM when we checked in. The amazing part was after we tried to tell him we were heading out for dinner and would be back around 12-1AM, he just gave us the key to the house!

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We made it to the Il Campo, and found a restaurant for dinner. We felt like we were eating in a cave where this restaurant was under a bridge between two buildings. We had really good appetitizers: Grilled mix seafood salad and a stuffed eggplant. Unfortunately the entrée: Grilled steak and pork chop were a bit of a disappointment.

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After dinner we had our drinks at one of the cafe/bar at the campo. As you can see in the picture. The first round, I got a big cup and the 2rd round I got a small cup. Not only that! The 1st round, I had a Bailey's coffee-really well made! And Viv had a glass of wine. I paid 3 Euro. 2nd round, I had ordered another Bailey's coffee while Viv was still working on her 1st glass, my coffee cost me 4 Euro by itself! So why were they different in price and size? Couldn't tell. We ordered directly from the bar at the cafe 1st and ordered from a waitress for the 2nd. A waitress who had an attitude and didn't speak much of English. I must say so far I didn't have much luck with services. I was very disappointed and bothered by it! Well we still tried to make the best out of it enjoying the view from where we were sitting at. It was a beautiful night after all.

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Then we found a smokeless bar, NICE! And off to our gelato hunt, but again not like Nuova! When we were ready to head back to the hotel, we couldn't help but kept up with our "new tradition", which we got to get lost somewhere. This night was worse. We were lost from 11-2AM. We definitely had been making circles, passing the street where we parked our car that we really should walk down but didn't. We tried to ask all people for directions, from cops to hotel concierge, to local residents... We were so lost! Eventually we found our street, drove back and lucked out that as soon as we arrived back at the hotel, it started pouring. By the time we got to bed, it was closed to 3AM and we were beat!

*More pictures on Flickr.

May 26, 2006

Now I'm back, and here's my report...

I admit I haven't been blogging. First it was because I have no internet access when I first arrived in Venice. Then I got too occupied and too tired every evening when I got back to the hotel. So I got calls from people asking about what happened? "Have you written anything yet?" "What? Still nothing?" ...etc.

So here I am...

Day 1

We first landed in Venice, spent one night there, and then off to Pisa and Siena the next day. Before I went, so many people told me about how charming and romantic Venice could be, hmmm...didn't quite find it the first day I was there. The food didn't impress me neither. Therefore I decided I would give it a second chance and planned to be back for couple nights before I flew back out to the States.

Viv and I were starved when we arrived, therefore we weren't too picky and just walked into a restaurant with a decent menu-Ristorante Gondola. What surprise me was the server didn't speak much English, and the wine list was just wine without the name of the wineries or vintages. Food wasn't what I expected neither. We decided just to order some appetitizers to start, tried the food first before ordering more. Good idea! After the three appetitizers, we were ready to take the bill.

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The cured meat was alright, nothing "wow" me as I usually like to say. The cheese was generous, but again nothing special and the server couldn't even tell us what were we having. Then the mussels, I thought they cooked with the sea water! It was so salty! Though the mussel itself tasted fresh, the sauce they cooked with just really bad! So we were ready for our gelato hunt!

After all these days, I must say the best gelato I tasted was in Venice, called Nuova ca' d'oro! Definitely the best! The pastachio that I had there was real pastachio! This is definitely the place!!

We also stopped at a place at Piazza San Marco for coffee and dessert. Unfortunately I forgot the name of the place, it's right across from Ristorante Quadri at the piazza though. Nice and comfy to have a break after all the walks around Venice!

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All tour books and everybody said the best way to see Venice is to get lost in there. Sure enough, not on purpose, we were sooooooo lost! We were pretty much circling ourselves for more than 2 hours before we finally found our way back to the hotel. We were just glad the bar/cafe right around the corner of our hotel were still open since we really needed that drink! And this was our adventure for the 1st day!

*More pictures on Flickr.

May 8, 2006

Off I go...

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So Vivian have been singing in the car this whole morning... "I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again..." So now that tune has just stuck in my head and I can't do anything about it!

I was going to have this adventure on my own, but things happened! Last Fri was Vivian's last day, and she'll be starting her new job in a week. She was supposed to station at the restaurant for me while I was gone. However the next morning after she quitted her job, she got an offer for her house and it was sold Sat morning. She immediately asked me to check and see if I can find a last minute ticket at a reasonable price for her. Sure I did, and here she is, going with me to Italy!! Though she'll be coming back on Sat while I'll stay until the following Thursday.

It's going to be a wonderful trip, and WE will be on our gelato hunt every evening I'm sure!

In less than 4 hours, I'll be in the air. I hope you all will still support the restaurant while I'm not there, and support my staff while they'll be working extra hard during the time that I'm gone. And if there's any complain, write to me and they won't get their chocolate from Italy.

Please check back often as I'll be posting all the food and pictures!


May 6, 2006


Last night I was having a discussion with one of my regular customers, Robin; about business hours. There were times after I closed, I tried to rush to the city to catch a bite at some restaurants before they closed. However many times when I walked in, I didn't get much service and then eventually someone came over and told me, "The kitchen was closed already, sorry."

My rule for my restaurant is if I said I close at 10PM, I will serve any customers who walk in at 10PM. And there was one time I forgot to turn off the "open" sign. Couple customers pulled their car right in front at around 10:15PM, I served them.

I just don't understand how could a business said they closed at 10PM, but wouldn't take customers before that? Then shouldn't you advertise closing at 9:30PM if you really want to walk out the restaurant by 10PM?

Sure enough, I went to this Korean restaurant at the corner of MacArther and Telegraph after having the discussion with Robin. As soon as we were seated at about 10:15PM, the server told us they're closing at 11PM. I acknowledged it. 10 minutes later, when we were ready to order, she told us again that they'll be closed at 11PM. I was a little bothered by it. I started wondering, what did you mean by that? Wanting me to get out of your restaurant by 11PM? However she didn't bring the food to us until 10:50PM, so do you really expect me to finish everything in 10 minutes, paid and get out of the door?

I noticed that server was new, and I may give this restaurant a second chance before I can find another place that made my ginseng chicken soup better! However I really believe for people who are in the restaurant business should really honor the hours that they put on their sign!


May 1, 2006

Sorry, we're closed!


In support for the rallies of the "National day without immigrants", I decided to close the restaurant for the day. Sorry that we won't be able to provide service for you today, but please come back soon!