Thursday, May 31, 2007

Best Eats - Santa Barbara


24 hours in Santa Barbara and we found two terrific restaurants to talk about. Yesterday we ate dinner at Arigato Sushi on 1225 State Street and were treated to new and memorable dishes including Mrs. Ebilyn, a shrimp gyoza, Locals Only, a mix of scallops and minced crabmeat served in a shell, wikiwiki roll, sushi with crab and avocado, and yellowtail kama (collarbone). The staff, of young people were very nice. And I learned to say "cheers" in Japanese. Kampai!

Today we had lunch at the Harbor Restaurant at Stearn's Wharf. What a view of the beach and Pacific waters! For starters we had the Santa Barbara Roll, a wrap with chicken, avocado, tomatoes and lettuce served with chips, salsa and guacamole. For my main entrée, I ordered crabcakes with steamed vegetables and my sister and niece shared the mixed seafood dish with mahimahi, calamari, breaded shrimp, maui onion rings and vegetables. The portions were generous and we had food leftover "to take out".

We enjoyed our short stay in Santa Barbara. State Street with its violet blooming trees and Spanish architecture deserves multiple digital clicks

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Images by Rosario Charie Albar

Monday, May 28, 2007

Houseboat Living

Living in a houseboat may take some getting used to. But one thing you can count on. You will be rocked gently to sleep. Today's houseboat has all the modern conveniences. The bed is no longer in a claustrophobic box. The bathroom is roomy and the plumbing up-to-date. The living area is spacious. Some houseboats even have a nice terrace.


Parking a houseboat on one of Amsterdam's canals entails paying a monthly "parking" fee based on the size of the houseboat. Add to that the maintenance expense. And buying a houseboat is as expensive as buying a condo or a house on terra firma. At the Houseboat Museum I noted the asking price for houseboats currently on the market. The lowest price was 199,000 euros for an older houseboat. There were several listed at 300,000 euros and up. Of course it's possible to have a new houseboat built to your specifications but before you proceed, check first if there's an available mooring space and secure it.

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Photos by Rosario Charie Albar

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Best Eats/Cafés in Amsterdam


Restaurants:
Café de Jaren - behind the Hotel de L'Europe
Dinner starts at the salad bar where you can get generous helpings of cucumber salad, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, potatoes and other vegies. My order of Victorian perch was served on a bed of buckwheat noodles with mint salsa and watercress. Good food + ambience=my favorite restaurant in Amsterdam.

Thai Company - on Rosengracht 9
I had their steamed sea bass in light soy sauce. It was divine. It takes a little bit longer to prepare than other items on the menus but worth the wait.

Japan Inn - off of Leidsestraat; reservations necessary as this restaurant is small and often booked.

Oriental City - near Damrak Square

Restaurant La Ruche - 2nd floor of De Beijinkorf Dept. Store; choose from grilled meats/fish, soup, pasta, sandwiches, desserts

Cafés:
L'Opera on Rembrandtplein - check out the art deco decor
Heineken Hoek on Leidseplein
Belgica, next door to Heineken, less crowded
Cafe Luxembourg on the Spui

Candy Shop:
Jamin with several branches throughout the city (one on Leidsestraat, near Leidseplein). They have sugar free chocolate nut clusters which are hard to resist.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Top Ten Amsterdam


1. Explore 17th century canal homes
2. Take photos of the colorful flower market on the Singel
3. Bicycle around town like a native
4. Sit at an outdoor cafe and don't rush
5. See Rembrandt's masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum
6. And don't miss the Van Gogh Museum
7. People watch at Damrak Square
8. Check out NEMO, the new science museum and get a tan from its rooftop terrace
9. Walk along the romantic bridges on the Amstel
10. Join the crowd of shoppers on the pedestrian only Kalverstraat

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Praful



Good things come in threes, I think. Shortly after seeing Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands up close and shaking hands with the Prime Minister, I met one of my favorite jazz artists, Praful, at the Akhnaton Club in Amsterdam where he launched his new CD, Remixed 2. Not only did I get to chat with him, I also enjoyed immensely listening to him play the sax and flute and sing in a foreign tongue with his band. What a talented man and quite personable too!

Some of the selections in his new album include his big hit, Sigh. I love Inspiraçao with its samba rhythms and Yalda Night, a new piece. It was a revelation to hear the influence of Indian, Brazilian and Iranian music in his work. I told him I wish we could hear more of these exotic sounds in the U.S.

At the end of the concert, he asked me if I wanted him to sign my own copy of his latest CD. I was delighted when I read what he wrote,

To Rose
With Love from Amsterdam
Praful

I could only Sigh!

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For more on Praful, check his website at www.praful.nl

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Only in Amsterdam


Today is Liberation Day in Holland. The whole country was celebrating with hip music on three stages at Museumplein. My friend André who is the best host one can only dream of, took me to the park and we walked and watched the performances in bright sunshine. Afterward we went to the Amstel River to enjoy another concert with Amsterdam's own Metropole Orchestra. The temperatures plunged but we kept warm in the company of thousands who came to listen to the music and wave their flags when the Queen Beatrix arrived and sat on a floating platform across from the stage. When the concert was nearly over, Andre called me, "Rose, please hurry if you want to see the Queen". And I followed him though I didn't believe we could really get close enough to see her.

At the Opera House, we found her car with the AA license plates and sure enough she came by boat with the Prime Minister and Mayor of Amsterdam. She waved at the few gathered there and entered her car and was whisked away with the minimum of security . The Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, was about to leave when he decided to come our way and I immediately shook his hand. He asked the party next to me (in Dutch), "Was it worth your wait?" and they heartily said "ya".

Andre who is never short for words addressed him, "Mr. Prime Minister, I would like you to meet Rose Albar who is here all the way from California". You can imagine how stunned I was and I couldn't think what to say so I shook Mr. Balkenende's hand again.

What an exciting evening! After that we went to L'Opera at Rembrandtplein for drinks and talked all about our unexpected meeting with the Prime Minister. How incredible that I left my camera at home and my cellphone camera could only take a photo of silhouettes in the dark of night. Helaas, too bad!