Ahhh, The Places Maria Will Go! – Part 2 – Philippine Canadian Inquirer


Editor’s Note: This column is divided into three parts. [READ: Ahhh, The Places Maria Will Go! – Part 1]

Australia /Oceania

Photo courtesy of Australia.com.

Sydney. Sydney is the capital city of the state of New South Wales, Australia. Located on Australia’s southeastern coast, Sydney is the country’s largest city and, with its magnificent harbour and strategic position, is one of the most important ports in the South Pacific. 

The first impression of Sydney is always beyond spectacular! It is built on lowly hills and surrounded by a huge harbour with bays and inlets; the city is dominated by one of the longest steel-arch bridges in the world, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House, with its sparkling white shell-shaped roofs that echoes the sails of the many yachts in the adjacent harbour.

It is a top centre for international tourists with a genuinely global atmosphere. Its warm, sunny, but temperate climate encourages its citizens and tourists alike to indulge in more outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, cycling, surfing, and sailing. There are a few handsome buildings surviving from the 19th century and a few contemporary buildings of distinction, including the brilliantly designed Opera House. The overall effect of Sydney is that it is a pleasant and attractive city to visit. As of this writing, the current exchange rate is 1 AUD = 0.77684 USD.

Things to Do: 

Photo courtesy of Australia.com.

The Sydney Opera House. A tour of the Sydney Opera House fits easily into any sightseeing schedule; it’s a quick walk from Circular Quay. Go behind the scenes for an inside look at the World Heritage site’s controversial construction and enjoy photo ops from usually off-limits vantage points.

Photo courtesy of Australia.com.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Spanning the city center to the North Shore, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a wide steel arch bridge known for its beauty as well as function, providing a crossing for cars, trains, bikes and pedestrians. While the more daring can do the Bridge Climb to the top of the structure, opened to traffic in 1932, anyone can enjoy a walk for free.

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. It is a major botanical Garden located in the heart of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Opened in 1816, the garden is the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historic botanical institutions in the world.

Street Art of Newtown. Walking across this street will reveal how vibrant the Newtown community is. There you can find people from all walks of life from all ages, all orientations, queers, straights, and many more. You can see plenty of old buildings, graphics on walls, lots of shops and restaurants play a role in enriching the experience. 

Best restaurants:

Photo courtesy of the Monte Restaurant.Photo courtesy of the Monte Restaurant.

Monte Restaurant. (256 Norton St. Leichhardt NSW 2040) Offers the best French, European, Australian cuisine in a fine dining setting. They serve the ultimate menu with the best contemporary dining experience in Leichhardt. Start with the mouth-watering ceviche followed by 12-Hours Confit Crispy Skin Pork Belly, with roasted pumpkin puree, green apple and fennel remoulade puffed black rice, maple walnut, apple gel, pan jus. $$$$

Photo courtesy of the Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon.Photo courtesy of the Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon.

Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon. French born Marc Kuzma AKA Claire de Lune has created a traditional French Brasserie menu with a few modern twists. Claire has decorated the venue with fabulous, imported wall papers, antiques and chic furniture. It is a little touch of France at the Paris end of Oxford Street! The Braised beef cheeks and poached fillet snapper are a must-try!  $$$$

Photo courtesy of the Cucina Porto.Photo courtesy of the Cucina Porto.

Cucina Porto. (Level G, Harbourside, The Star Sydney, 80 Pyrmont St,) Serving up simple, honest Sicilian and Southern  Italian food using the best ingredients along with a touch of old-world hospitality and charm. The best pasta and pizza place in town! $$$

Best Places to Stay In:

Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. (199 George St., CBD, Sydney) Overlooking Sydney’s historic Rocks area, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney offers free Wi-Fi, a bar, restaurant, fitness centre and swimming pool. Situated in Sydney CBD (Central Business District), it features luxurious rooms with panoramic views over the iconic Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay. 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photo courtesy of the Skye Suites Sydney.Photo courtesy of the Skye Suites Sydney.

SKYE Suites Sydney. (300 Kent St. CBD, Sydney) Located in the heart of Sydney CBD (Central Business District), on Kent Street, SKYE Suites Sydney offers 73, designer boutique suites. Guests have access to an indoor pool, a hot tub and a fitness centre. Unlimited free Wi-Fi is available. 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photo courtesy of the Mrs. Banks Hotel.Photo courtesy of Mrs. Banks Hotel.

Mrs. Banks Hotel. (259 Oxford Street, Paddington, Sydney) Situated in Sydney, Mrs. Banks Hotel features free Wi-Fi. Conveniently situated in the Paddington district, this hotel is set 500 m from Allianz Stadium. The property is 2.1 km from Capitol Theatre and 2.9 km from Darling Harbour Sydney. 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Photo courtesy of the writer.

Barcelona. It is Spain’s major Mediterranean port and commercial centre and is famed for its individuality, cultural interest, and physical beauty. On his visit to the city in 1862, Hans Christian Andersen remarked that Barcelona was the “Paris of Spain.” The city is dotted with archives, libraries, museums, and buildings of interest, featuring superb examples of Modernist and Art Nouveau decor and architecture. It is famous for the architectural works of architect Antoni Gaudí, whose huge and elaborate Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family (Sagrada Família) has become a symbol of the city itself.

The average annual temperature is 61 °F (16 °C); January is the coldest month, averaging 49 °F (9 °C), and August is the hottest, at 76 °F (24 °C). Its protective semicircle of mountains shields it from the harsh, cold winds that blow out of the north and west. This Catalan city holds a special place in Maria’s heart — she lived there for six months during the late 80’s. Just like Israel and the Philippines, Barcelona is one city that Maria would keep revisiting time and again.

Photo courtesy of the writer.

Barcelona’s main attraction still tends to be in the city centre, particularly around the Las Ramblas. This lively promenade is separated from L’Eixample by the monumental Catalunya Square, and it leads down to the port and the Portal de la Pau Square, where the Christopher Columbus monument stands. Its broad, tree-lined centre strips frame a series of kiosks, boutiques, and shops. As of writing, the current exchange rate is 1 EUR = 1.21 USD. 

Things to Do:

Photo courtesy of the writer.

Shop at La Boqueria. Marvel at the artful displays of the region’s finest cheeses, charcuterie, seafood, and produce. Wander through the aisles of Mercat de Santa Caterina, a true-blue neighborhood institution. Taste everything from cheeses, to fruits, nuts and other sweet and savoury delights!

Photo courtesy of the writer.

Take a stroll along Manzana de la Discòrdia. “Discòrdia” in English means discord and this refers to the Catalan renowned Modernistas architects: Gaudi, Montaner, Cadafelch, and Sagnier. By taking a stroll along Passeig de la Gràcia in the Eixample district to Manzana de la Discòrdia, a city block featuring buildings designed by these four architects, you get an instant crash course on modern architecture. Gaudi beat his competition with Casa Batlló, its mosaics and facade make it the city’s most emblematic site.

Indulge in Catalan Cava at La Vinya del Senyor. Taste some of the region’s finest bubblies at the La Vinay del Senyor, an unassuming restaurant with several by-the-glass boutique cavas to choose from. Live like Barcelonans do! 

Check out the Museu Picasso. Pablo Picasso chose Barcelona, the city where he apprenticed as a young artist, as the location for his namesake museum. It houses 4,251 of Picasso’s early works in sculpture, paint, and engraving. It is a complete representation of Picasso’s portfolio all the way up to the Blue Period.

Photo courtesy of the writer.

Hang out at Las Ramblas. Do some people-watching at a terrace or take in some funky street performance in Las Ramblas while drinking dainty glasses of vermouth. Go to the 18th-story mirador at Columbus Monument for panoramic views of the city and sea. A visit to Barcelona is incomplete if you don’t hang out at Las Ramblas! 

Best restaurants:

Photo courtesy of Disfrutar.Photo courtesy of Disfrutar.

Disfrutar. (Calle Villaroel 163, 08036 Barcelona, Spain) Crisp and exciting and a thoroughly sensory assault. Meal was perfect with great presentation and flair. Deserving of its Two MICHELIN Stars! Offering Mediterranean, European, Spanish, Contemporary. $$$$

Photo courtesy of the La Alcoba Azul.Photo courtesy of the La Alcoba Azul.

La Alcoba Azul – Tapas. (Carrer de Salomo Ben Adret 14, 08002, Barcelona, Spain) Featuring authentic Mediterranean, European, Spanish, and Catalan cuisine. This hidden gem in the heart of the Gothic district offers the best torradas, toasted bread served with hummus. Stuffed peppers, patatas bravas and batatas are to die for! Delicious tapas all around! $$$

Photo courtesy of the Bodega Biarritz 1881.Photo courtesy of the Bodega Biarritz 1881.

Bodega Biarritz 1881. (Calle Vidre 8, 08002, Barcelona, Spain) Be prepared for the long queue outside, you may wait for a while, but it is totally worth the wait! You will find the best tapas here and they offer Mediterranean, European, Spanish, and Catalan dishes. $$

Best Places to Stay In:

Photo courtesy of the H10 Casa Mimosa.Photo courtesy of the H10 Casa Mimosa.

H10 Casa Mimosa. (Carrer de Pau Claris, 179, 08037 Barcelona Spain) H10 Casa Mimosa is a superior 4 star hotel situated in the Eixample district in Barcelona, 100 metres from La Pedrera. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar and a breakfast restaurant. Casa Batllo is 600 metres from H10 Casa Mimosa, while Plaça Catalunya is 1.2 km from the property. 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photo courtesy of the Hotel 1898.Photo courtesy of the Hotel 1898.

Hotel 1898. (La Ramblas, 109, 08001 Barcelona Spain) Hotel in Las Ramblas, in the center of Barcelona. Hotel 1898 is the only hotel that offers a spa and 2 swimming pools that are open all year. A hotel where luxury and small pleasures will take you to the 19th century and the Spanish colonies in Cuba and the Philippines. Discover their Colonial Suites with private terrace and swimming pool. An authentic oasis in the heart of Barcelona. 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Jazz.Photo courtesy of the Hotel Jazz.

Hotel Jazz. (Pelai 3, 08001 Barcelona Spain) An unbeatable location in the heart of Barcelona, between Plaza Catalunya, Paseo de Gracia, and the famous Ramblas, has made Hotel Jazz into one of the city’s most cosmopolitan hotels and grant guests easy access to the city’s historical attractions and Gaudí’s modernist architecture throughout the neighborhood of the Eixample. A magnificent outdoor pool and a spacious terrace with a wide variety of tapas, wines and cocktails make the hotel a unique and spectacular spot for relaxing in the city center. 3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

North America

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Montreal. Montreal is the second most-populous city in Canada and the principal metropolis of the province of Quebec. It occupies about three-fourths of Montreal Island (Île de Montréal), the largest of the 234 islands of the Hochelaga Archipelago, one of three archipelagos near the confluence of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers. It is a city with considerable French colonial history dating back to the 16th century.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Walking the streets of Montreal is such a delightful experience. This is definitely top of Maria’s list of cities to visit in North America. The historic centre known as Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) provides a window into the city’s rich history with its cobblestone streets and architectural styles ranging from the 16th century to the present. Montreal has a continental climate, but its proximity to the Great Lakes, in combination with prevailing westerly winds, modifies temperatures for both winter and summer.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Montreal’s neighbourhoods have a distinct character and appeal. Downtown Montreal is definitely North American in style. The Plateau Mont-Royal, which is east of Mont Royal and north of the city’s central core have developed into trendy areas. Lafontaine Park offers a bucolic setting with large trees, two ponds, an open-air theatre, and bike paths. Southeast of the Plateau is another of Montreal’s distinctive neighbourhoods, the Latin Quarter, where students have congregated since the 18th century. Adjacent to the Latin Quarter is the Village, or Gay Village, the focus of Montreal’s gay community.

Things to Do:

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Don’t forget to explore the surrounding areas and the summit of Mount Royal. Indulge in Montreal classics like bagels, poutine, and smoked meat can all be found within Plateau-Mont-Royal. Have an enjoyable night watching premier drag performances at the Cabaret Mado. Going out and about in any one of the city’s multiple street fairs reveals all kinds of activities, music, food and beverage, and shopping opportunities. Discover the Underground City, a functional web of passageways to get from restaurants to malls to downtown attractions, where you can shop and eat till you drop! Visit the Montreal Biodome, it features thousands of animals from over 200 different species and 500 different plant species to explore.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Best restaurants:

Photo courtesy of Bistro L’entrepont.Photo courtesy of Bistro L’entrepont.

Bistro L’entrepont. (4622 Ave. De l’Hôtel De Ville, H2T 2B1) Serving French, European, and Canadian cuisine. Try their roast duck, venison, and gnocchi for entrees. Home made soups with taste depth. Unbelievably good food with farm-to-table themes. $$$

Photo courtesy of Damas Restaurant.Photo courtesy of Damas Restaurant.

Damas Restaurant. Offering Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Arabic culinary delights. Try their mouthwatering lentil soup, Damas Shish Taouk and Pita bread with Labneh. Oh and the fattoush salad is to die for! $$$

Photo courtesy of Le Filet.Photo courtesy of Le Filet.

Le Filet. (219 Mont-Royal Ave W Montreal, QC H2T 2T2) Serving the best French, and Seafood cuisine. The scallops, octopus, squid ink linguine, and the duck are simply amazing! They serve the most tender filet mignon in Montreal. $$$$

Best Places to Stay In:

Photo courtesy of Hôtel Bonaventure Montreal.Photo courtesy of Hôtel Bonaventure Montreal.

Hôtel Bonaventure Montréal. (900 De La Gauchetiere W, Montréal, Québec H5A 1E4 Canada) If you’re looking for a quiet hotel in Montreal, look no further than Hôtel Bonaventure Montréal. Given the close proximity of popular landmarks, such as Bell Centre (0.3 mi) and Rue St-Paul (0.5 mi), guests of Hôtel Bonaventure Montréal can easily experience some of Montreal’s most well-known attractions. 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photo courtesy of Hôtel Place d’ Armes.Photo courtesy of Hôtel Place d’ Armes.

Hôtel Place d’Armes. (55 Saint-Jacques W, Montréal, Québec H2Y 3X2 Canada) Hotel Place d’Armes features 116 rooms and 53 suites, including six studios with private terrace and five large penthouses where the decor blends contemporary design with ancient architecture. The 4 historic buildings housing Hotel Place d’Armes all date back to the late 19th century. 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Photo courtesy of Hôtel William Gray.Photo courtesy of Hôtel William Gray.

Hotel William Gray. (421 Rue St-Vincent, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 3A6 Canada) William Gray is a new luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of Old Montreal. Overlooking the Place Jacques-Cartier, the hotel introduces a dynamic and singular experience with its world class hospitality, spectacular views and timeless style. 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

Editor’s Note: This column is divided into three parts. [READ: Ahhh, The Places Maria Will Go! – Part 3]