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Autumn in New York has been all about those crisp mornings as I walked to school, with the sight of beautiful, sun-dappled building exteriors to keep me amazed before burying myself in the library. Central Park has evolved into that perfectly filtered picture on Instagram – only this is the real deal. I have put a substantial share of my budget towards PSLs (=pumpkin spice latte – and yes, I know the joke is on me), and I have been cuddling under the duvet, looking out across the street as the rain drums on my windowpane on those lazy Sunday mornings. Rain droplets aside, the weather has been absolutely beautiful, and my summer jacket has served me well, even on the other side of the 1st of November – something I had not dare to hope for.

Essentially the highlights of my autumn in New York boils down to three main events

1. Road trip to Bear Mountain State Park
Somehow, you only truly appreciate what you got, once it is taken away from you. Or, how you always want curly hair after you spend hours straightening it (I guess this is mostly a reference the ladies can relate to). A similar state of mind reached me, after a few hours drive in a rented car with some fellow exchange students, all eager to get back into nature. Not only did we witness beautiful fall foliage as we drove through the country, but we also embarked on a minor hiking adventure whilst inhaling cleaner air, and our feet got to enjoy something else than pavement underneath those soles. It felt good to be out of the city! But just as we reached the top (sadly by car, I guess we really have become sad city folks), you could just make out the Manhattan skyline in the far, foggy distance. And what a sight! It made me miss the city all over again, and appreciate all its magic, just a few, rolling hills away. The road trip was concluded at the infamous Woodbury Outlet, and though only little was purchased, it was nice to spend some quality time with some great people.

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2. A Day at the Botanical Garden + Halloween Dog Parade
More nature was consumed with a day in the Bronx, to experience the famous Botanical Garden, one of the top visited sights of NYC. It truly was very beautiful, but I do acknowledge that my eyes might have tricked me, and that everything just seemed a little greener after having lived for a while now in the ‘concrete jungle’. We got into the right Halloween spirit by walking through the pumpkin themed garden, and took the tram all around the premises. A little tip – the orchid “garden” was a let down, with only one plant on display

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And let’s face it – no NYC experience is complete without attending a Halloween Dog Parade in Tompkin Square Park in the East Village. As we hurried away from the tranquility of the garden grounds to the madness that necessarily follows a DOG costume parade, the day was concluded by scouting for the best dog-halloween-costume. And while this may seem maddening, it made a lot of sense at the time. My favourite was without a doubt the Martini dog – sometimes less really is more. It is undoubtedly events like this that makes this city so great.

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3. All Hallows Evening
I was as excited as a little child for October 31st. Having never been in the US during Halloween, the entire month became all about pumpkins, spooky themed decorations and trying to think of details for the costume. I could lie and say I didn’t know what to dress up as, but all along there really only was one rational choice for me: Pikachu. That’s right. A graduate student and all I wanted to be was Pikachu. Also, “sowing” up a costume from Danish kitchen cloths (aka the famous and much beloved ‘karklud’) was almost as fun as spending a night as a pokemon in NYC.

A friend had come up from DC and as a team of three (Pikachu, creepy scientist aka roomie, and Snoop Dog/Jessie J/British Chav/insert whatever you like) decided to spook the hell out of the NYC streets. The NYC Halloween Parade was absolutely amazing once we actually pushed through the crowds, and were able to witness the shenanigans. Luckily we pushed hard enough just in time to watch a bunch of zombies dance to ‘Thriller’. The evening ended in a dance-off between Pikachu and creepy scientist. A scary night to remember.

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/Krissy

 

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The sound of the NYPD pulsating down the avenues. The Chrysler Building gleaming in the sunlight. Smoke seeping up from the mysterious steam system underground. The flashing yellow cabs, all too busy to be hailed. The line to Shake Shack twisting and turning out of Madison Square Park. The blasting music from a ghetto blaster being the center of attention of a roller skating dance-off in Central Park. Spending a day leisurely at the beach, with the excitement and adrenalin of Coney Island behind me. The hipster-feel in Williamsburg, making me almost forget that I left Copenhagen.

….And so begins the adventures of Krissy in New York City!

You might ask why it has taken me this long to break the silence and begin documenting my exchange experience in this big city!? To be honest, it took me a while to adjust to the American way. Having left my heart in Asia, there was a big part of me questioning the infatuation that the world has taken to this city. As I wandered the streets, I kept thinking, is this really it? Is this what they call the greatest city on earth?

But now, two months into the whole experience, I don’t want to leave. It is hard to put my finger on why I’ve completely switched side, but the streets are literally pulling me in and locking me in a firm grip. I don’t know if it is the endless amount of events occurring in all corners of the city every day, or the great diversity traversing the streets, giving rise to great opportunities for people watching. I have eaten everything from shady looking doughnuts to beautiful and experimental Malaysian cuisine. I have soaked up Hong Kong memories in China town and pretended I belong in SoHo and Greenwich Village. If you get bored with one area of the city, you just transport yourself a few blocks north, south, east or west and you will dive head first into new escapades and aesthetic experiences.

Living in Upper West side has been an adventure in and of itself, having Central Park as my backyard, which has served as the spot for Sunday leisure times and morning runs (But ‘Great Hill’, I dislike you when my calves are tired). Entering this greenery space of bridges, lawns, alleys, lakes and other secrecies, serves as a much-needed escape when the grey concrete surrounding you, gets too firm of a grip. Also, I have had several encounters with longtime UWS-residents, all giving me tips and stories about the neighborhood. For instance, did you know that one of the most uncomfortable benches can be found near the entrance to Central Park at 103 street, near the pool ‘lake’, and if you look hard enough, you can see a bird carved out in the left hand side of the bench? Why am I disclosing this? Well, it turns out that it is the small things, which really make up the magic in this city. It is not the Empire building, it is not the shoe sale at Macy’s nor the Statue of Liberty – no, it is things like cute little coffee shops, the lady at my grocery store calling me ‘my sweet honey’ every time, the reflection of city lights in that huge puddle you are afraid to plunge into in rush hour – and the hidden, wood-carved birds on benches.

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At Uni I am trying to figure out the conundrum that is American politics. Coming to the country with a baggage full of average knowledge, I am time and again confounded, surprised, enraged, enthralled, hopeful and excited about the topics of my classes. Also, I’ve quickly discovered that NYC isn’t America. The values, the attitudes and the visions differ from the rest of the country, and I am soaking in all of the diverse opinions. But folks, Uni is no joke! I thought I would be able to divide up my time more evenly between being adventurous and still hand in all the assignments on time. Doing my very best though, to shut it down when need be, and leave the library for the concrete streets.

To give a glimpse into a few of my highlights over the summer, I give a short account here:

  • Enjoying a mild summer night at MoMa PS1, turning wild when Skrillex played a tune or two
  • Brunch-ing at Tom’s in Brooklyn – I mean, blueberry pancakes, what’s not to love?
  • Watching a basket ball game at Barclay’s Center, always a highlight when the dinner conversations at home always have been centered around this sport (thanks, bro)
  • Fashion week giving me the opportunity to stalk all of my bloggers
  • Helping out at a charity event and meet some “real New Yorkers”
  • Walking over Brooklyn Bridge (several times) and taking the elevator to the Top of the Rock, literally made by heart jump from excitement – I become a little school girls who thought she saw Justin Bieber
  • The Highline – only the best urban, public space idea since the dawn of humanity. I do not think I can get enough of it, and as the season is now changing, so is every stretch of this old railroad track.
  • Jazz nights and modern ballet at Lincoln Center
  • Having already had 3 visitors – yes, this is what happens when you live in a popular destination. Everyone wants to come visit!
  • Having a gin and tonic at the Wythe hotel, overlooking Manhattan skyline
  • Meeting amazing people <3

I have basically saved most of the museum shenanigans for rainy and snowy days, and have instead tried to utilize the warm weather and blue skies as much as possible. Guggenheim, American Natural History Museum and Brooklyn Museum are, however, crossed off the list and I cannot wait to soak in the art and the culture that the city offers this autumn/winter.

I will go back into silence for now, but promise to be better at providing shorter, but more regular posts to try to give a glimpse into what this city has to offer.

Keep an eye out for my Halloween post, and who knows – maybe Gideon already visited me, and have the 101 info on this years Comic Con!

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/Krissy

 

 

If you read Gideon’s post on ‘Castles, Kilts and Haunted Vaults’, you also know that he made a peculiar remark on an upcoming announcement of mine.

And today is the day where the silence will be broken and a new adventure will be revealed. Whether you are a new visitor passing by along the interconnected blogosphere – or an ancestral wild-wontoner, I hope you will share my excitement… drumroll please?

Wildwonton was originally created for the purpose of documenting my travels and exchange in China and Hong Kong. Since then, other travel musings and creative rants have made up most of our posts, and has been a fun and creative way to share personal stories with the world as a couple. We hope you will keep following us on a new adventure, as I will be embarking on yet another exchange semester to complete my Master’s degree. To give a few hints of my new city I am to call home:

Hip hop and Sesame Street was invented here. World-class skyline. Most theatres in the world. The ultimate pop-culture reference. A young, freed lady welcomes you. It never sleeps. It is nicknamed after a fruit. You guessed it: NYC!

To send me off in proper American style, my parents threw me a full-on patriotic goodbye-party with paper cups, balloons, Budweiser’s and as many burgers, hotdogs and cakes as my tummy could contain.

France or America?

France or America?

Family and friends came from all of Denmark’s corners, and I had an amazing weekend with lots of laughter, games and nature walks. With an intimate concert by my friend (like her fan page on Facebook, pretty please: Cecilie Glenthøj) and all the happy smiles, I leave Denmark next week with a cheerful soul, yet a body filled to the brim with excitement and nerves.

Thank you to all who came, and I hope followers out there are ready for some New York blogging!

 

For my birthday last June, my best friend Martin and his wife Kaija surprised me with a weekend trip to see them in Edinburgh. I had never been before, but in my head, the image of Edinburgh was that of magic and wizardry. Much to my surprise, I was not too far off. It is an amazing city, and to top it off, the weather was perfect that weekend. I hope that the pictures speak for themselves on how beautiful this city is. I decided to journal my trip through the captions. Enjoy!

The highlight of the weekend was really that I could spend time with Martin, Kaija and Lucy (their cute dog!).

Would do again. 10/10.

// Gideon

Ps. Krissy has an exciting announcement coming up soon! Stay tuned.

surprise-dinner

am utterly overjoyed to let you know that I have recently graduated my M.Sc. in Engineering in Physics and Nanotechnology (more on that later!), and I could not be happier! I am truly excited for my future and what I can contribute to science and technology. However, this post is actually about something unrelated to science; namely, cooking. I have previously mentioned how much I like to cook. More and more, I found out that I actually love to cook for Krissy.

There is something so satisfying to see her enjoy the food I make, whether it is something that takes a while to prepare, like butter chicken, or something simpler like a heartwarming bowl of salmon don buri. She inspires me to cook different things, and of course I just want to give her the best. It is all worth it when I see her get wide-eyed and ravished by whatever I have concocted in our hobbit-like kitchen. And when she is away, I actually find my inspiration and motivation to cook something delicious dwindling. When she visited her parents for a week, I remember that the blocks in my food pyramid were quickly transformed to comprising only canned foods.

So when I can cook for her, I try to do my best. I am not a “follow a recipe to a T” kind of guy. Usually, I look for several recipes of the same dish and just mix them up, taking the strengths of each one. If the gut feeling says one recipe has it all, then I stick with that. When I cook for others, and especially for Krissy, I always remember key ingredients: a dash of instinct, a teaspoon of creativity, a stick of fun julienned, 1/2 cup of souland a whole lot of love. These are always key to a successful dish happy tummy!

Krissy was at work Sunday, and I thought it would be awesome to surprise her with some delicious dinner. She has often come home from work with a headache, and feeling exhausted. The plan was to make her feel more relaxed after work. I had decided on vegetarian vietnamese spring rolls for Sunday night and pad thai for Monday night – I just know she will love these! Alright then, let’s get cross-cultural up in here!

For the spring rolls, I used this recipe for Marinated Tofu Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce. I will go ahead and say that I am quite the sushi roller. However, when it came to rolling these wraps, the first 3 were a disaster. As I got into the groove, the rolls got more firm and the contents didn’t spill out as I cut them in half. 

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

It was quite the success! We were stuffed by the time we finished everything on the board. Also, it was a nice exchange of not having any meat, since the night before, we had our fair share of meat at a BBQ party!

As for Monday evening, it was pad thai on the menu. I had never made it before,  so I was curious to find out whether I would succeed. I used several recipes, but the main idea comes from Pad Thai Recipe: The “Authentic” Version. The author thoroughly describes what it takes to make the dish. There is actually a ‘prequel’ and ‘sequel’ to this recipe: a detailed outline of what the dish isn’t and a number of variations to the dish, respectively. So I was not able to get exactly the ingredients mentioned in the recipe, eg. preserved turnip, dried small shrimps, garlic chives. I had to adapt with what was available. I added chicken as extra protein. It was comforting that I had at least managed to get a hold of the exact ingredients required for the sauce – I believe it’s so important for the dish. Also, we cook on a stove top, and so it is near-impossible to do proper high-heat stir frying, but there are tricks to get around those issues. The end result was pretty amazing! And Krissy was very happy with it, so that makes me :))))

I will definitely be cooking this again. Practice makes perfect.

Pad Thai

[Sorry for the super terrible phone pictures.]

// Gideon

Ps. I really enjoyed making the cover photo for this post, and so I hope you all like it, too. ( ノ^ω^)ノ゚

A taste of Ilocos

Finally getting some free time, I was able to finish up this post. In the spirit of the previous post, I’ll continue the story starting from December 31st. Enjoy!

While Krissy was getting ready to celebrate the oncoming new year, I was actually onboard a plane from Denmark to Philippines. The plane landed in the afternoon, and baggage claim was its usual time-consuming ordeal. However, it felt good to be back. It is that sense of nostalgia that rushes through your veins. It was a concoction of sensory awakening; feeling that heat on your skin as you set foot off the plane, getting a whiff of that familiar airport smell, seeing the hustle and bustle of balikbayans - it all comes together, giving me a deeply-rooted sense of belonging.

Balikbayan refers to a person of Filipino origin who lives outside of the Philippines.

It was a special night, not only because 2014 was right around the corner, but mainly because I could celebrate New Year’s Eve with my sisters—something we (sadly) haven’t done in many, many years. Needless to say, it was a memorable night; one that I will always cherish.

During my stay in the Philippines, I was also very fortunate to visit the beautiful province of Ilocos, located on the Northwest coast of the country. Although I was born in the Philippines, I have unfortunately not seen much of the country (there is just so much to see!) So I felt very excited that I would get to experience a new place, and of course try their cuisine. This post is dedicated to all that I saw and all that I ate.

Ilocos, Philippines

Ilocos collectively refers to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Ilocos actually consists of four provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. I saw most of what both provinces has to offer in the form of tourist sites. In hindsight, it probably would not have been as effortless (nor as informative) without the help of our kind tour guide. After arriving in the city of Laoag  at night and having rested, the first stop early in the morning was the sand dunes of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. There, it is possible to explore the sand dunes on a 4×4 or even have a go at sand boarding. Being a man of extremely adventurous spirit </sarcasm> … I did not try either activities. So I cannot offer silly pictures of me with sand all over my face. Instead, I give you another photo (other than the cover photo) taken near the sand dunes.

Barbed wire, Paoay Sand Dunes

Following the sand dunes was a stopover at Malacañang of the North, the official residence of late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and his wife, former First Lady Imelda Marcos (yes the Imelda Marcos, the Rose of Tacloban, the Steel Butterfly, the Lady of 3000 pairs of shoes). Casting aside whatever opinions people may have of these two individuals, their home was an undeniable display of grandeur: from the arching staircase carved in Narra hardwood, to the hanging pieces of art, the scenic view over Paoay Lake, and to all the other intricately carved furniture, their home is certainly fit for people with power. The Spanish colonial architecture definitely brought a sense of time travel. As I walked through the corridors of their home, paying close attention to all their interesting memorabilia, I listened to the tour guide talk about the former President with so much vigor and Ilocanian pride.

Next stop was the Church of Saint Augustine, or Paoay Church. I clearly remember its distinct architure, borrowing from Gothic and Baroque designs. According to UNESCO, its architecural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. There is a certain beauty with the way light falls on its facade, accentuating its lines and curves. The spirals featured on the buttresses breaks all the linearity and adds a more organic, and nature-centric touch to the design.

Paoay Church Paoay Church

After seeing a number of museums dedicated to Marcos, the tour headed south, toward Ilocos Sur; specifically, the destination was the city of Vigan. Having spent many hours touring, we arrived in Vigan quite hungry. I was quite excited to finally try Ilocanian cuisine. Oh yes, the joy of food! The guide took us to a place where we could get Vigan-style empanada. Basically it is a crispy shell filled with vegetable and meat. The shell is made of rice flour with added atchuete (achiote) to obtain that bright orange colouring.

The filling is normally grated green papaya, mung been sprouts, egg and longganisa (a type of sausage). So how do I explain its taste? I can’t. You will simply have to try it for yourself. The finishing touch is the vinegar sauce that comes along with the empanada, which really brings the whole thing together. It does dirty (oily!) wrestling with the empanada in your hands, so make sure you have extra napkins. As such, it will receive (as this blog’s first) the wildwonton seal of approval (SoA)!

wildwonton Seal of Approval

The wildwonton seal of approval (SoA) is given to specific food or eateries that we feel perfectly captures the spirit of ww, in form of taste and presentation. Look out for the seal in future posts! Fun fact: The SoA was designed to look like Chinese art stamps! If you look carefully, you can spot all the letters that form ‘wildwonton’. 

For 35 pesos a piece, those little orange bundles of joy are quite filling. I…had three.  #satisfiedtummy #sealofapproval

Seal-of-approval

The next stop on the itinerary was pottery making. The people of Vigan are known for their pottery skills. They value and commit to preserving the tradition of making burnay (unglazed earthen jars), a skill passed down from immigrated Chinese artisans during pre-colonial times.

The tour continued to the Vigan Heritage Village, a residential complex of Spanish colonial houses. In the heart of the Heritage Village lies Calle Crisologo. As I look back at the memory, I close my eyes and I hear the the clippity-clop-clattering of hooves on the cobblestone street, as people experience the town through horse-drawn kalesas.

Calle Crisologo

Following Vigan was a trip back up north, across Ilocos Norte, driving along the northwestern coast that is bounded by the South China Sea, all the way up to the town Pagudpud. On the way there, we also passed by Burgos and Bangui. In Burgos, there is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse , another cultural heritage from Spanish colonial times. It was first lit in 1892 and it marks the northwestern-most point in Luzon.

There are stories told of ghosts watching over the tower. The distressed look of its exterior definitely adds to the image of a lighthouse that is often shrouded with mystery. To me, the structure stands magnificent and resolute; like a lonely sentinel of the sea, withstanding the tests of time to keep watch over the expansive waters.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

The word is derived from puraw, which means pure or white.

Only a few minutes further away,  the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations are located in the rocky coast of Burgos. The beauty found here is in stark contrast to man’s architectural prowess exhibited in the cities; these limestone rock formations shows the beauty of nature’s canvas. A thousand years in the making, these creamy white and streamlined formations were sculpted by the forces of nature.

The wind turbines are from a Danish manufacturer called Vestas Wind Systems. Go Denmark!

Still en route to Pagudpud, we took a quick stop at the Bangui Windmills. Facing the South China Sea, these towering windmills arc along the shore and provide 40% of the energy for Ilocos Norte. It was quite exhilarating standing right underneath one of these 70-metre wind giants. It was, shall I say, FANtastic…………………………………. (   ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Bangui Windmill

It was a long drive from Laoag to Pagudpud, and so upon arrival, we made a pit stop at Evangeline’s beach resort for some refueling. The menu was surprisingly varied, but my eyes were set on thing and one thing only: pancit (noodles)!

Pancit bihon

Pancit bihon & kalamansi!

After enjoying three days of resort-life at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud, the trip came to and end in Laoag with dinner at the Saramsam Ylocano restaurant. The place was very cosy and the dishes were not only delicious, but also creative, accentuating traditional Ilocanian cuisine with modern-day twists. Absolutely worthy of the wildwonton SoA!

From man-made structures to nature-sculpted landscapes; from Chinese ceramic artistry to Spanish architectural mastery, and from century-old kalesas to modern-day wind turbines, Ilocos definitely has much to offer. I only hope that I was able to give you a taste of its splendor.

-Gideon

Defibrillating WW

We have already moved well into 2014, so looking back at the year that went by seems rather foolish.

Yet, that was exactly my intention. Our last blog post was almost a year ago, and to many followers wildwonton has been dead. But that is why we humans construct New Years resolutions, right? To start over. Clean slate. New beginnings. For some time my bf and I wanted to revive this space and share with you our travels, musings and other rants – the original idea behind WW. And with a new year beginning, this is our excuse to do better.

As with many things in life, to start afresh often requires coming clean, which is why I have decided to fill in the gaps. Those fillers will hopefully illustrate where we have been since April 2013 and give an idea about where this platform is heading in the future.

Traveling is at the heart of this blog, not only because traveling musters up fond memories, but also because it allows for some critical reflection about oneself and ones everyday life. So what better way to fill in the gaps by starting with the 2013 travels that were not documented here on WW?

In June we heard the chimes of wedding bells in Estonia, as some of Gideon’s best friends got married. It was not only a magical experience to witness such an important moment in two people’s lives, but the ceremony was straight out of a fairy-tale, with the actual “I do’s” taking place in a little chapel, on a hill, near a forest by the sea. Checking all of those dream-wedding-locations at once. Having visited Tallinn on an earlier occasion myself, getting to revisit it during our stay was a perfect addition to the wedding experience. No trip to Tallinn is complete without vising the Old Town, stumbling along the cobblestones and getting into that medieval spirit.

For my part, summer also included travels with the girlfriends. A spontaneous trip to London became quite the highlight, as I have a deep and affectionate love relationship with that city. Of course shopping was on the agenda, but it soon enough evolved into eatery frenzy by visiting both the famous Jamie Oliver Italian kitchen (spaghetti bolognese gets a whole new meaning) and the Dishoom, an above and beyond Indian cuisine experience. There was also time for some Columbia Road Flower Market perusing, something I wanted to check out after having seen a few bloggers documenting their experience. And it was great! With a coffee in one hand and the flowery scents hitting you from left and right, it was worth the travel/walk to go browse and soak in the market atmosphere. Southbank Book Market also became a highlight, tucked away under Waterloo Bridge. If I one day get to live in this vibrant city, I would consider myself one lucky lady.

I also went with my long-time childhood friend, Maria, to Lisbon – Portugal. Completely new to Portugal, I savoured every moment. It is a completely different Southern European feel, with picturesque monuments everywhere. Walking around along winding, narrow streets is definitely a favourite of mine, and it is easy to lose track of time. Mosterio dos Jerónimos was probably my favourite – unbelievable beautiful, and a sight which I wouldn’t mind visiting again. Another genius stroke of ours was taking the train to Sintra to go look at Walt Disney-worthy castles. Despite warnings from tourists, we decided to make the climb up the mountain to Pena Palace, and it turned out to be half the fun! I just have one advice for you if you are near Lisbon: go to Sintra. And also eat Pasta del nata – Portuguese egg tart pastry. And go see Castelo de São Jorge. And Belem. And… you get the drift – See it all while there; they are not tourist traps for nothing.

Summer went by quickly, but travelling was not over. In the wet, dark and rainy months of December/January, I went back to Thailand with the family. You can read an earlier post on Thailand here if you are interested in the Hua Hin area. Gideon was fortunate enough to visit family in the Philippines, so stay tuned for some pinoy blogging soon to happen, right here on wildwonton.

And with those words, I hope I seem convincing about defibrillating the heart of wildwonton.

Let us know what you think,

-Krissy

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