Yat Lok Restaurant 一樂燒鵝

So… This is on its way to becoming a food blog. Hopefully I’ll have time this Thursday to write about other things, it being a public holiday and all. And why not spend the first day of the new year reminiscing about good times? Maybe I’ll get inspired, catch the travel bug again, and start planning the next holiday.

In the meantime, we’ve got to eat, and I’m going to share with you what is quickly becoming one of my favourite dining spots in Hong Kong. It started just this October, when a friend from Singapore came up to Hong Kong and wanted to try local roast goose. I asked my boss if she knew of any good places, and she asked her friend, who recommended this. After trying it for the first time, I was sold. It was that good!

So now, every time someone comes to Hong Kong and wants to have a meal together, I will suggest this place. :p Although I’ll have to exercise some self-control. Roast goose isn’t the healthiest thing in the world!

Anyway, my friend Sylvia is in town at the moment, and we met up for dinner last night. At 7.15pm, there was quite a long queue! Thankfully, most of the people were in larger groups, and being a party of two, we managed to get seated after waiting for ten minutes. If you don’t already know by now, Yat Lok is very popular with locals and tourists alike!

20141227 Yat Lok Roast Goose

We ordered the bottom quarter of a roast goose, which included the ever-so-popular drumstick. Just look at that crispy skin! *hungry again*

20141227 Yat Lok Iced Tea and Veg

We also had iced lemon tea, kailan with oyster sauce, and rice (not pictured).

Our meal cost HKD208 (~S$35), which is honestly a little overpriced for local food. But the good food, quick service, and convenient location make it okay as an occasional indulgence. And to make things clear, I don’t dine like this all the time! Most nights, it’s healthy home-cooked food, with groceries from the neighbourhood supermarket.

So after dinner, Sylvia and I walked around and ended up having chocolate fondue at Haagen-Dazs, which is never a bad choice. Still, if anyone knows of any good local dessert places in Central, please let me know!

20141227 Chocolate Fondue

They called this a “mini” chocolate fondue, with 16 small scoops of ice-cream. Towards the end, there were three scoops left, and I thought for sure that I already had 8 scoops, but Sylvia said that she had 8 scoops herself, so those three had to be mine. Is it worrying that I literally lost count of the number of scoops of ice-cream I had?

Oh well, I think I’m done with ice-cream for the rest of the year. Then again, “the rest of the year” isn’t very long at all. 😉

Yat Lok Restaurant 一樂燒鵝
G/F, 34-38 Stanley Street, Central
中環士丹利街34-38號地舖
Tel: 2524 3882

Haagen-Dazs
G/F, 24 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
中環蘭桂坊德己立街24號地下
Tel: 2869 9158

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GOCHISO @ K11 The Art Mall

Hello! Thought I might get an early start on my resolution, which is to blog more often. If we’re lucky, you’ll see something new here once a week, maybe twice. There are more adventures in Paris and London that I want to share with you, but for tonight, it’ll just be a quick and easy dining post.

We headed to Tsim Sha Tsui this afternoon hoping to catch some Boxing Day sales, but there wasn’t anything of interest, so we watched a movie instead. “Night at the Museum 3” was somewhat entertaining, even if the slapstick humour was OTT. I was hoping to see Sacagawea (Mizuo Peck) kick some wax, as seen in the trailer, but it wasn’t shown in the movie. So disappointed that there weren’t any strong female characters in this movie. Rebel Wilson’s role was purely comical. At least “Night at the Museum 2” had Amelia Earhart, played beautifully by Amy Adams.

Anyway, after the movie, we walked around a bit and decided to have dinner at GOCHISO, or “御馳走” in Japanese, which means serving up a feast to valued guests with sincere hospitality. (I got this off the K11 website.) It’s a Japanese-Mediterranean fusion restaurant, and with several outlets in Japan.

20141226 Calamari

We shared a starter of fried calamari. I liked how spicy it was (and I’m not usually into spicy food!) but it was a tad overcooked.

20141226 Vongole Bianco Rosso

Edwin’s personal quest to try every dish of vongole pasta out there. This one was cooked in a white wine and tomato sauce, but there wasn’t enough of that to go around, and the pasta was a little on the dry side.

20141226 Grilled Lamb Rack

The grilled lamb, served with a meagre portion of vegetables, was nicely seasoned, but unfortunately a little undercooked.

So yes, we had an underwhelming meal this evening, which cost us HKD280 (~S$46) by the way. But I felt inspired to do a little blogging tonight. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting a friend and we’ll be having tradition HK roast meat at one of my favourite places, so I’m really excited about that! Hopefully I’ll remember to take pictures, and then I’ll share that with you too!

Well, I’ve got a long day of work tomorrow, so it’s “goodnight” from me, and perhaps “good morning” too.

GOCHISO
Shop 219-220, 2/F, K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
尖沙咀河內道18號K11購物藝術館2樓219-220舖 Tel: 2366 6701

Versailles Palace and Gardens Walking Tour with Viator

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One of my favourite movies is “Marie Antoinette”. Beautiful people in beautiful costumes, what’s not to love?

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The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, so Hollywood agrees.

And there’s going to be a new Marie Antoinette movie starring Diane Kruger! The new film will probably shed yet another light on the life of the queen, and I’m eager to see how it differs from the 2006 version. The one constant (aside from gorgeous dresses) is the setting – the equally stunning Château de Versailles.

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I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to witness firsthand the opulence of the palace, and with a little clickety-click, it’s yet another tour with Viator! Our guide was the lovely Sarah, who hails from Texas but loves all things French. She’s warm, funny, and animated, and this was the most fun we ever had on a tour.

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As usual, one of the best parts of a Viator tour is not having to queue.

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We started with a tour of the gardens, which were massive! There’s no way to cover all that ground in a single day. We wanted to rent a buggy later in the day, but they were all out. 😦 Le Petit Trianon will have to wait for another time!

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Within the gardens were “rooms”, and each had a distinct design and theme. Sarah (in the red jacket) would give us a brief history of these spots, and their significance in the lives of the French kings, namely Louis XIV, the one who made it all happen.

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花朵,怎能叫花园? (If there aren’t any flowers, how can we call it a garden?)

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No shortage of fountains. It’s quite impressive how all this was achieved in the seventeenth century!

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After the tour of the gardens, Sarah bid us adieu and left us to explore the interiors of the palace with our audio guides. Needless to say, it was far more crowded inside.

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The infamous queen herself. I wonder if she ever knew of the stories she would inspire?

Well, until then, let me eat cake.

Lunch at Angelina Paris

Merry Christmas! Wherever you are in the world, I wish you peace, hope, love, and joy. And a warm cup of cocoa, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Angelina is a Parisian tea salon famous for their chocolat chaud. Popular among locals and tourists alike, it’s perpetually crowded, and one must be prepared to wait in line. Long queues aren’t my thing while on vacation (too many things to see and do!), so we had an early taste of Paris while in the Dubai Mall when we saw that there was a branch there. (Read about it here.)

Recently, I found out that there’s an Angelina right in the heart of Hong Kong. What with this, Fortnum & Mason, and Venchi gelataria, it seems like a little bit of Europe has come back with us!

Yesterday afternoon, I thought I’d treat myself to lunch at Angelina, since it’s Christmas Eve and all. They have a two-course set lunch available at HKD280, about S$46.

Crab Cakes

I had the starter of crab cakes with mango and green apple, served atop wasabi mayonnaise. These were delectable. I only wished they were bigger. But then again, to paraphrase Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, three bites is all it takes to enjoy a dish. Three bites looks about right. I had to remember dining etiquette and savour these as daintily as I could.

Seabream

For my main course, I had the grilled seabream with parsnip mousseline and Jerusalem artichokes, served with hollandaise sauce. Again, I loved it. If I had to nitpick, the fish was a teensy bit dry on its own, but paired with the sauce, it was amazing. This time, I didn’t bother with table manners and just scraped out every last bit of sauce using my knife. The way I see it, it would have been far more impolite not to finish everything on my plate (and in the jug).

To digress a little, I once watched something on TLC where the host dubbed hollandaise sauce “liquid sunshine”. I couldn’t agree more. Previously, I’ve only ever had it with eggs benedict, and now that I’ve been made aware of the possibilities… Excuse me while I hunt down my whisk. And mixing bowl. And…

Ahem. So yes, that was the two-course set lunch. But you didn’t think I was going to walk away without having dessert, did you?

Chocolate eclair

I didn’t get the hot chocolate this time, and settled on a dark chocolate éclair instead. The pastry was a little tough, but I haven’t had many éclairs in this lifetime (believe it or not), so maybe it was supposed to be that way? Nonetheless, it was rich and chocolate-y and just lovely, really.

So there you go, another delightful dining experience in Hong Kong. Once again, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to one and all!

Angelina
Shop 3031-3070/ 3025-3026, IFC, 1 Harbour View Street, Central
中環港景街1號國際金融中心商場連卡佛3樓3025-3026 / 3031-3070號舖
Tel: 3188 0842

All’s Fair in Love and Food: Dining Adventures in Rome, Italy

Here’s a ranking of our dining experiences in Rome. Enjoy!

(There’s an issue with the spacing between paragraphs. Still trying to sort it out!)

12. Dar Poeta

Vicolo del Bologna, 45/46
00153 Roma
Italy
Located in the yuppie neighbourhood of Trastavere, this place was the most difficult to find. Twice we walked past what we thought to be a back alley leading to a dead-end, until we finally decided to just walk through it and voila, (night)life on the other side!
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We didn’t make a reservation and waited around 15 minutes for a table. Anyway, dinner consisted of overpriced bruschetta and decent but ultimately forgettable pizza. It was like a bland chick flick. Thank goodness gelatarias stay open till late.

11. Mamma Angela’s Trattoria

Via Palestro, 53
00185 Roma
Italy
My cousin and his girlfriend were also touring Europe, and our paths crossed in Rome.
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Carbonara, a Roman specialty. When in Rome, right?
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Hello Vongole. Would you like some pasta to go with your clams?
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Unfortunately, our meal ended on a flat note with dessert. The pasta dishes were decent enough, but this tiramisu was just too dry to be satisfying.
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Ah well. It’s the company that matters! And they have Wi-Fi, which is a touristy bonus, I guess.

10. La Taverna dei Quaranta

Via Claudia, 24
00184 Roma
Italy
With only three days in Rome, it was really important that we didn’t have to wander too far away from the major attractions to hunt for our meals. It was equally important that we didn’t wander into any (tourist) traps. La Taverna, about 200 metres away from the Colosseum, struck a good balance. We made a reservation for lunch, since it was possible to do so online, but it wasn’t necessary as there was hardly anyone else around when we arrived.
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The house wine was fairly inexpensive at 3 Euros for a small carafe. Edwin stuck to his belief that cold fizzy drinks are the only thirst quenching liquids on the planet.
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Bucatini all’ amatriciana, another Roman specialty.
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Fritto di baccalà mele e zucchine (fried cod, apples, and zucchini)
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Petto di vitella alla fornara (veal)
The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but was lovely nonetheless. We didn’t dine at the really touristy establishments, but it’s probably safe to say that this will be better than any restaurant with a statue of Julius Caesar and overly enthusiastic waiters.

9. Gelateria Valentino

Via del Lavatore, 96
00187 Roma
Italy
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Right now I’m reading “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert for the nth time, and I regret not going to San Crispino which is just round the corner from this one. To be fair, it was raining heavily, and I was still recovering from the disappointment of the Trevi fountain being covered up and closed for renovations.
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Drowning my sorrows in gelato. And a dose of Audrey Hepburn.

8. FaFaMi

Via degli Ombrellari, 7
00193 Roma
Italy

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Our first proper meal in Rome was in a paninoteca not far from the Vatican. I loved the seafood panino and didn’t care much for the mortadella, while it was the other way round for Edwin. So it worked out.

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We also ordered a side of fried vegetables (fritti), which was basically tempura without the sauce. Good for two to share, three even.

Desserts were also available, but we didn’t bother as a gelataria was just round the corner. And it would be sacrilege not to indulge in gelato on a hot day in Italy.

7. Hedera – Sweetness & Co.

Borgo Pio, 179
00193 Roma
Italy
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About 20 metres away from FaFaMi was Hedera. We had the limone, which we ate while admiring Castel Sant’Angelo from the outside.
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Maybe everything in Europe is expensive because the view is included in the price.

6. Venchi

Via degli Orfani, 84
00186 Roma
Italy
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We stumbled upon the Pantheon on our way to dinner. I know, how do you stumble upon something as colossal as the Pantheon? But when you’re two lost people in a city for the first time, anything can happen. All roads may lead to Rome, but it isn’t particularly helpful when you’re actually in Rome. Two things were clear: (a) we were only slightly off the intended path, and (b) I needed a pre-dinner snack.
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I didn’t know it at the time, but Venchi is actually a large corporation with stores all over the world. What I also wasn’t aware of is that it’s available in Hong Kong and Singapore. But would that knowledge dilute the experience somehow? Oh well. It’s good-tasting gelato, and that’s all we need to know, really.

5. Punto Gelato

Via dei Pettinari, 43
Roma
Italy
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Melone-flavoured gelato is always a good idea, especially on long walks on warm nights.

4. Gelateria La Romana

Via XX Settembre, 60
00184 Roma
Italy
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We went there before visiting Galleria Borghese, and then again after. To be honest, service wasn’t great, but what brought us back was the generous serving of gelato.
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Plus it tasted great, of course.

3. Tazza D’Oro

Via degli Orfani, 84
00186 Roma
Italy
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Another gem that’s steps away from the Pantheon, Tazza D’Oro serves delightful coffee and pastries. Its location makes it perfect for breakfast or a quick snack before visiting surrounding attractions.
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A cornetto is the Italian relative of the croissant, and is a breakfast staple. Fresh pastries in the morning? Don’t mind if I do.

2. Ristorante Santa Cristina al Quirinale

Via della Cordonata, 21-22
Roma
Italy
Now this place would be the antithesis of touristy, despite being in the midst of fancy pants hotels. It seemed like we were the only non-Italian speakers in the room. Maybe that was why the service was… almost non-existent.
The food, however, was a different story.
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We didn’t have much pasta while in Italy, but this had to rank right on top. I lovingly savoured every mouthful of the zucchini pasta with crispy little zucchini flower bits. I think part of the appeal was how unique it was. And why not? It’s about trying dishes that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
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We’re big on seafood, so a seafood platter is always a winner.
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Tiramisu? , certo! This was the better tiramisu we had in Italy, as it easily beat out the one at Mamma Angela’s. However, the best tiramisu we had during the trip was in Paris (surprise surprise).
By the way, the accompanying dessert wine was really strong. It was a good thing our apartment was just minutes away!

1. Pinsere

Via Flavia, 98
Roma
Italy
If you could only eat one thing during your stay in Rome, this is the one. Navigating the curved cobblestone streets of Rome on an empty stomach is an absolute torture, but Pinsere is the pizza equivalent of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or the light at the end of the tunnel. The bountiful harvest after a year of toiling in the fields. You get the idea.
Last I checked, they’re only open from 10am to 4pm, and it was chaos when we were there during lunch hour. Loud, haphazard queue, no seating area. Dine standing up, or buy to go. (I recommend dine-in for optimum freshness and awesome-ness.) It’s strictly no-frills, but you’ll survive.
There’s a menu, but it’s mostly decorative. Just go to the counter and point to whichever pizza that catches your eye. Till this day I have no idea what we ate. But it was divine, and that I’ll always remember.
The pizzas cost an average of 4 Euros, and the staff was incredibly friendly, fluent in English and French and who knows what else. Which only adds to how amazing this place is.
But the best part?
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THIS.
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AND THIS.
Feast your eyes. It’ll have to do until the real thing.

 

What to Wear to Vatican City

If you’ve done your research, you’ll know there’s a dress code to adhere to when visiting the Vatican. They’re strict about it, and you’ll be barred entry if you don’t comply. That, or you could purchase a shawl or two from entrepreneurial young men who hang around outside the walls. If you’ve always wanted a shawl with the Colosseum painted on it, then you’ve got yourself the perfect souvenir at a bargain price of 5 Euros. If not, read on.

We went in September, when the days were still long and hot. Hence I did this particular Polyvore set with warm weather in mind. Now that it’s cold and all, it really shouldn’t be a problem covering your shoulders and knees. (This applies to both men and women.)

While we were there, countless women dressed in sleeveless tops and shorts had to cover themselves with two shawls in order to be granted entry. In the long scheme of things, 10 Euros isn’t a lot. But it could be better spent on the world’s best pizza (which I’ll talk about soon, I promise). And to be honest, the scarves looked just awful and tacky, not something one would wear again.

Also, there was a teenaged girl who initially, was dressed appropriately in a short-sleeved shirt and jeans, but then took off her shirt once safely inside, then proceeded to take a thousand selfies while in her sports bra. Seriously, have some respect, kid! Want your abs to feature in your holiday photos? Go on a beach vacation.

I get that it’s unbearably warm, especially when trapped indoors and inhaling Eau de Tourist at every corner, but surely there are better ways to go about that than skip around a religious place in your underwear. Let me present a few alternatives:

What to Wear to Vatican

Speaking of holiday photos, since they are forever (and someday Sports Bra Girl may regret hers), you’ll want to look modest and chic, which is more than possible. Personally, I’m all about dresses and skirts, which I find more comfortable than trousers or jeans. Short-sleeved, mid-length/midi dresses in light, breathable fabrics are perfect.

Another option is to wear a thin cardigan over a sleeveless dress. Just make sure your dress/top has a modest neckline too. There was a woman who was stopped outside St. Peter’s Basilica and told to cover up her cleavage. Yep.

As for footwear, ballet flats with some arch support will tide you through hours of walking while looking great. Round up the look with cute accessories, and you’re good to go!

That’s it from me tonight. I hope you found this useful, and enjoy your travels!

Vatican Tour with Viator

We kicked things off in Rome with a visit to Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world. What did Italy have in store for us? Were all those stories on the Internet true? It was time to explore the world!

So we hailed a cab.

The cab driver was polite. He didn’t scam us. We arrived on time, unscathed, and only 10 Euros poorer. It was a good morning so far.

Prior to this, our only other experience with Viator was a half-day tour in Dubai, which was a disappointment. (Read about it here.) Thankfully, this time we could walk away from the Vatican City with mostly pleasant memories.

Our guide was an Italian lady with an impressive knowledge of Vatican history. She shared stories and techniques behind the major works of art, and we learned more about various Popes and the artists they commissioned.

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One of the best parts of the Viator tour was that we got to skip the line. Why queue two hours when you can just waltz right in?

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Within the museum, the number of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, and other artifacts was overwhelming. Eventually they became a blur. If you’re a museum junkie who HAS to read everything five times, then the tour wouldn’t allow you enough time to see everything at your own pace. We got the general feel of the place, but we haven’t got many nice photos as it was impossible to capture just a painting without having extra “characters” in it.

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Chiaroscuro – the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.

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By the way, the blue thing is a headset to hear the guide better. It’s included in the price, and was handy when we were indoors with the other sardines.

After the museum, we went into the Sistine Chapel, where we weren’t allowed to take any photos, and the security people were extremely strict about it. Still, others tried, and whatever awe we were hoping to feel in the presence of a masterpiece was being constantly interrupted by disagreements all around.

“Sir, put the camera away.”

“I’m just holding it. I’m not taking pictures.” (Right. We believe you.)

“Put the camera in your bag.”

“No, no. I don’t need to.”

“You don’t understand the rules. Keep. Your. Camera.”

And it went on. Meanwhile, the figures on the ceiling were literally looking down on a world of crazed tourists.

Finally, there was St. Peter’s Basilica, with its many works by the great masters, among them Bernini and Michelangelo. The guide gave us a quick tour, then bid us ciao and left us to explore on our own.

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La Pietà by Michelangelo.

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” – Michelangelo

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NOTE: It would be amazing to lose yourself in all that beauty, but please don’t lose your valuables. While Edwin was taking this picture, a woman was standing way too close to him. She quickly walked away after she saw that I was glaring at her, and we didn’t get anything stolen. Not that we were keeping our wallets in easily accessible places.

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We spent around five hours in the Vatican. It was crowded but bearable, and I can’t imagine what it’s like during peak tourist season! I would say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mostly because I wouldn’t dive into that craziness a second time, especially if travelling with children. It’s not a child-friendly place, what with the jostling crowds and pickpockets lurking everywhere.

Still, from the art to the architecture, the Vatican has a lot to offer.

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“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung