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Category Archives: shops

In our bookstore tour of the world, we increasingly see the merger of bookselling with another retail concept – for example, the T-site in Daikanyama 代官山 in Tokyo and the Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – see our posts here and here. In Bologna, I (Chris) visited the Librerie Coop + Eataly Bologna – a combination that is more 50-50 than the earlier examples.

 

Librerie Coop is a chain in Italian bookstore with more than 30 stores.

 

Eataly is an international operator of food halls selling Italian food stuffs and restaurants – their stores are apparently wildly successful in NYC at first (that was after we left the city) and then in Chicago.

 

Admittedly, we have not yet been inside one in the US but we imagine them to be a kind of European imported food megastore with a high-end food court. The food halls of Harrods (London), Shinsegae (Seoul) and KaDeWe in Berlin (see post) come to mind.

 

The corporate parent is an Italian company founded near Alba and started first in Torino. Apparently, the two companies have collaborated at multiple locations in Italy.

 

The book-food store is located not far from Piazza Maggiore at Via degli Orefici, 19.

 

This location has a cafe, a wine bar…

 

a trattoria …

and an osteria.

I wonder if they will let customer take a book to the table to read while waiting for or consuming his/her order.

The bookstore floor space is tight, although it has several floors. Compare this with the oldest bookstore in Bologna, Libreria A. Nanni which I also visited – see post here.

The space feels intimate and cozy overall. Great idea, well executed.

I read in the news that Eataly will open a food theme park – Eataly World – in Bologna in 2017. It will convert 20 acres of old warehouses into 25 restaurants, 10 classrooms, a convention center, farms, and labs. Buono appetito. Looking forward to it …

Ciao

I was visiting Bologna last December. Bologna is famous not only for its pasta sauce and several other foods but also for its porticos. In total, there are over 45 km (28 miles) of arcades, some 38 in the city center. While strolling in the historic center, I came across this bookstore which uses part of the arcade in front of its store front to display books and magazines.

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Libreria Nanni is located at Via Dè Musei, 8 – under il Portico della Morte (Portico of Death) – its name arising from the nearby old Hospital of Santa Maria della Morte, which now houses the Archaeological Museum.

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The bookstore was founded by the Marchesi family in the early nineteenth century became a reference point for students, scholars and bibliophiles. It was acquired by Arnaldo Nanni in 1900’s. This is the oldest bookstore in the city of Bologna.

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It was just 7pm and the store keepers were closing down the store and moving some of the displayed books inside. I quickly wandered inside to look around.

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Apparently, this bookstore was frequented by the well-known writer and film director – Pier Paolo Pasolini – murdered in 1975 unfortunately.

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The bookstore also specializes in ancient books as well as old and rare magazines and comics – see the shelves behind the counter.

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They also sell text books but it is in the back behind the wall of ancient books.

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Judging by the age of the stalls, it is quite likely that books and magazines have been displayed this way for many years.

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Old Architectural Digest …

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comics …

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… and travel magazines

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If you are curious about bookstore, click here to see a renovated bookstore – Rizzoli – in a central shopping arcade in Milano.

Our next post will be about one of the newest bookstore in Bologna. Don’t miss it.

Spanish cured ham (Jamón Ibérico) is well known worldwide. They are sold and consumed in specialist shops – Jamonería – in Madrid.

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One such store situated just off the Puerta del Sol named itself Museo del Jamon.

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Its location suggests that it is a touristy place, but surprisingly, it was packed with locals or domestic tourists.

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One can have a sandwich with any ham in the shop.

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Platters with specific kinds of ham (jamon iberico, jamon serrano, lomo etc), sausages and cheeses.

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There were many kinds of ham and various price points.

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It reminded us a little bit of the sausage shop on the top floor of the KaDeWe in Berlin. Click here to see 100’s of sausages on display.

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The whole leg of ham is typically placed horizontally on a Jamonera and thin slices are hand cut and lifted individually.

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The little inverted umbrellas collect the fat dripping off the leg of ham.

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We saw several jamonerias in central Madrid but wondered if they are also set up in other parts of Spain.

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This is a big one and does not appear to be touristy.

Adios.

 

I was on a business trip in Seoul last August and had some free time to explore the city – in Gwangjin-gu (광진구 · 廣津區) a district that is mostly residential, but consist not of apartment buildings characteristic of the city, but of three or four-story row houses separated by small roads and alleyways.

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It was dusk when I arrived in the area. There were lots of restaurants and bars, just turning on their neons. Apparently, this place is known for its night life along with Hangdae 弘大 and Sinchon 新村 in other parts of Seoul, where there are universities.

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The streets were busy with cars – a major interchange is a couple of blocks away and there were lots of people, mostly locals. The metro line 2 runs on elevated tracks here and the elevated Konkuk University station 建大入口 is not far from Common Grounds.

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Common Ground (커먼그라운드) is a collection of pop-up stores housed in 200 large containers which is capable of transforming into different structures or moving into different places. Web site here.

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The containers were set up in a previously empty parking lot. When I looked it up online, Common Ground was not in the then current version of Goggle map Street View.

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It almost seemed strange that inside the perimeter of Common Grounds, the environment is calmer than the streets outside. Perhaps I was too early – the night was still young.

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In the middle is a weekend market that is held with different themes. There were also four food trucks each serving something interesting.

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Wonder truck selling BBQ and Kimchibus.

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Structurally, the containers are stacked two or three-storey high with footbridges linking the stacks.

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There is a 1-minute time-lapse video of the construction of Common Ground here on Youtube.

Cafe and restaurants are located at the top where natural light is welcoming.

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Internally, there was an atrium with stairs connecting the floors.

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In addition to lots of little stores, there were quite a few restaurants. It must be a great place to hang out in the evening, being outdoors and a little higher where one can see the people in the center below and the buildings in the background.

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Apparently, various events such as exhibitions and performances are held regularly. While I was there, there was an exhibition of art relating to The World of Warcraft in the Toy Republic shop/area and a performance space promoting the launch of a new version of the game.

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Despite the onslaught of mega-brands setting up shops ubiquitously across the globe in shopping malls, it was heartening to see the appearance of these smaller, independent retail enterprises. We saw such enterprises inside a bookstore in our last post about Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – click here.

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The place reminded me of another retail complex I visited several years ago also in Seoul – Ssamsagil  – it was more artsy – I did not go there this time. I will have a post about a similar set up in Hong Kong – PMQ.  Look out for it.

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This is no. 8 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we captured on film. From time to time during our travels, we come across English names that makes us laugh.

Check out Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6 and #7.

Gentle Monster – Authorized Lens Service Store in Seoul

 

Xray at Zurich airport sells specs – these eyewear shops have imaginative names !

 

Meat Stop – a fast food joint in Moscow – bonus : there is a “pre-party bar” next door – I couldn’t decipher the cyrillic name.

 

iCracked – a store that repairs phone and tablet screens and sell protectors in Tokyo

 

This bar in Madrid is brutal.

 

“WELLMADE” in Seoul – something “for our work & life balance with Indian” ?  I cannot remember what it sells. The Korean sign above is advertising for a place called Geneva which provides cosmetic and dermatologic treatment including hair growth.

 

Lefties in Madrid

 

In the end, there is “anal” in Bilbao or perhaps it is “anai” or “ana1”  …

There are more to come …

Continuing from part 1 … as some of you may know, we have been putting up photos of bookstores from around the world. In addition to those posts that are linked in part 1, here are a few more that you can jump to: House of Books in Moscow, Alexandra in Budapest and the MIT Press in Boston.

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La Rive Gauche is the left bank or southern bank of the Seine which includes the arrondissements 5 (Latin Quarter), 6 and parts of 7 – generally known for its bohemian and anti-establishment roots. My hotel was right next to the University of Paris, La Sorbonne main building and not far from the Panthéon.

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Many of the bookstores are actually publishers – Editions Ivrea evolved from Editions Champ Libre which was founded after the May 1968 student riots in this same area of Paris.

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Editions Champ Libre and its founder Gerard Lebovici were famous for their associations with the socialist/communist writers and political movements. Gerard Lebovici was assassinated in the 1980’s.

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Just around the corner from my hotel is the Cinema du Panthéon, and down the street is a bookstore dedicated to the arts of film making. By the time I finished my meetings, it was dark already. So do excuse the lack of interior photos and the rather reflective window shots.

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It is rare to find a specialist bookstore these days.

Voila – La Librairie du Cinema du Pantheon.

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I remember one in the midst of the NY Broadway theaters – 46th between Broadway and 8th Ave ?

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It sells movie posters, postcards … and some specialist DVDs are available – films about films.

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“Paris In Cinema”, “Ciné Quiz”  … brain food for movie buffs

paris-books-25Monroe and Kubrick books …

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A series of monographs published by the Cahier du Cinema, titled “Anatomy of an Actor” – Clooney, Brando, Pacino, Kidman, De Niro.

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There are even film books written for kids, and movie guides for age 3-8 and age 9-12 !  – “200 films for you to see before becoming tall”.

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There were other specialist bookstores in the area, e.g., philosophy by J Vrin

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… Science and fantasy fictions … Galactic stories

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… books on Asia

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and law books by Dalloz.

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Among all these bookstores is a shop that provide photocopying and digital scanning services.

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I am sure there are a lot more bookstores in the area but I had to leave … my French needs to get better first before I come back to browse.

 

Fin

As some of you may know, we have been putting up photos of bookstores from around the world. This is another bunch to add to the pile. If you are curious, do click on the side bar and browse the filtered selections. Or jump to Rizzoli in Milano, T-site in Daikanyama, Tokyo, Livraria Cultura in Iguatemi, Sao Paulo, and Waterstones in Central London to start.

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Last year, I (Chris) had a business meeting in Paris near the university, La Sorbonne. Understandably, the area when I was staying is full of bookstores and publishers. So it was quite convenient for me to snap all these pictures.

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Due to the lack of time, the time of day of my walkabout and the weekend (they all close on Sunday), I really did not have much chance to enter the bookstores and browse – hence, the lack of interior photos and the rather reflective window shots.

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All these bookstores are all within 10 minutes walk max from each other.

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Editions Cassini publishes science books for the general public and those who are just curious about science.

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In its window were work by Richard Feynman on planetary movements, and books about The Prisoner’s Dilemma (Game theory), the beauty of mathematical formulas, and John Maynard Smith’s evolutionary biology (also based on Game theory).

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Editions Jacques Gabay publishes hardcore, academic mathematics and physics books by famous scientists – e.g., Einstein – the man himself.

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See their publications on the Theory of General Relativity, Tensor Calculus, Theory of Electrons, etc. – all fundamentals of modern physics. Just having these books on your shelf will increase your IQ.

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It was not all maths and sciences – on another street, there is Classiques Garnier. Since 1896, they have been publishing literary works of from around the world, French and foreign, ancient and modern, in reference editions.

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Some French classics – e.g., poems in latin by Victor Hugo. If you are curious, download their 200-page general catalogue here. One can find classics from as early as the middle ages and Renaissance reprinted in paperback for a lot less than 100 euro.

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Librairie des petits Platons –  publishes children’s books.

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There is a shop that buys/sells old and perhaps rare books and second hand books … funny that there was a recycling bin in front of it.

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I have been learning some French but by no means effective and definitely, my current ability does not allow me to enjoy these books.

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Perhaps I was not in the right places in the US, never have I seen so many bookstores in one area and there are so many publishers who also run a brick-and-mortar store with a street front.

More to come in part 2 !

We were visiting Hong Kong during the Christmas period. One store that we went to multiple times on this trip is The Eslite Spectrum store in Star House星光行, Tsim Sha Tsui.

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Its location just happened to be near the places that we were visiting and it is just a nice place to have a coffee while waiting for friends.

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Not only it sells Chinese and English books and magazines, it is a full-fledged lifestyle store.

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Hong Kong is very much filled with designer boutiques, department stores, malls packed with brand names along side tiny mom-and-pop shops, and even pop up stores. Eslite spectrum is a big bookstore with smaller stores/stalls/counters inside.

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On its website, it says “visitors can browse their way through the store’s inspiring reading landscape to explore and create their own version of the good life.”

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Mixing books and magazines with other lifestyle products is a current global retail trend – a bazaar selling books side by side with eye glasses, stationary, bags as well as house plants, cameras and even organic groceries.

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Wooderful Life sells a range of small wooden figurines. There is a fun display of scenaries with moving figurines.

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One can choose pieces to build a scene, including battery-powered base and magnetic pieces which move around the base.

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The cafe in Eslite Spectrum is rather small. Local old fashion metal shutters are used as decoration. It looked like the decoration is put there to hide an unsightly column – after all, the building is at least 40-plus years old.

While in Tokyo, we went to the T-site “bookstore” in Daikanyama by Tsutaya which has a similar idea (see post here). It had the most gorgeous space for a coffee shop in a bookstore. Tsutaya has just opened their first bookstore in Taiwan (January 2017). Eslite will have some serious competition.

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Eslite Bookstore was established in 1989. The first shop was located in Dunhua South Road, Daan District, Taipei, with a focus and emphasis on art and humanities-related books.

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It was the first to set up a 24-hour bookstore in Taiwan at its Dunhua store and later in Hong Kong, attracting lots of night-time readers.

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Freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and even shitake mushrooms – we bought a huge jar of it.

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In Hong Kong, the first Eslite bookstore opened in Causeway Bay in 2012. This 3-storey store in Star House opened in 2015. It stocks 200,000 books and 80,000 lifestyle items.

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Eslite as a brand is branching into the hotel and home interior businesses – specializing in warm, modern and sophisticated spaces for living and reading. Love it.

VitraHaus is Vitra’s flagship store on the Campus. One can see, touch, compare, test, and buy all of Vitra’s home and office furniture offerings here. We visited the Campus last year and this is the second of four posts. See the Campus overview here. Most of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative.

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Designed to display the furniture brand’s Home Collection, the five-storey building consists of stacked volumes with pitched roofs covered in charcoal stucco.

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The company commissioned Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2006 to design the VitraHaus.

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Each gabled end is glazed and cantilevers outwards up to five metres, creating the impression of a pile of houses.

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A lift takes visitors to the fourth storey, where we started the circular tour. On that day, it was a space completed in different degrees of pink.

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Internally, spiral staircases connect the intersecting interiors.

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The furniture showrooms are seamless as one moves from one area to the next.

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The lower floor is dedicated to office furniture.

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In addition to the display area for the company’s products, there is an exhibition space for the chair collection of the Vitra Design Museum.

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These collectible miniatures are everywhere in this building.

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Technicolor Eames.

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One can order a custom-made Eames chair at the Lounge Chair Atelier. The choice of every component can be made by the customer.

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There is also the Vitra Design Museum Shop and a café with an outdoor terrace.

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There was so much to see and buy in this building.

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According to their website, the VitraHaus has a daytime view and a reversed night time view. During the day, one looks out onto the green landscape, but when darkness falls, the illuminated interior of the building glows from within, while its physical structure fades out. The glazed gable ends turn into display cases that shine across the Vitra Campus.

We did not stay late enough to see it.

While in Madrid, we hopped inside the Realmadrid official store on Calle del Carmen, just off Puerta del Sol.

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We are fans but not dedicated Real Madrid fans.

realmadrid-6Only Perfect Counts.

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This is the place to buy the official kit and gear.

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I liked the various designs of the official ball.

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Souvenirs galore.

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Champions League cup. We took pictures holding it in one of the final match. Click here to see it.

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Our open top bus tour took us past their home stadium – Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

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Yes, this is sports tourism.

This is no. 7 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we saw. Since we visited Japan recently, we would make this post a Tokyo special.

See Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4#5 and #6 at the respective link.

“WOMB”

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“Master Bunny Edition” – a line of Golf wear, really.

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“The Obsession Gallery”

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“Raw Life”

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“Hair Slug”

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“C’est Bien” – It’s well – SM gears.

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” Whoop’-de-doo’ ”   – costume no age

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“Vandalism” – an alternative cafe and bar

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Tokyo is rich.

Don’t forget to check the other posts.

This is no. 6 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we captured on film. Since we are now living in continental Europe, from time to time we come across English names that makes us laugh.

See Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4 and #5 at the respective link.

“Fatal” restaurant, Budapest, Hungary

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Deadly Shop, Catania, Sicily

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Less is Less – a bike shop. There was a “More & More” in an earlier post.

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Less is More – we suspect one can buy this neon sign from somewhere because we saw another neon sign of similar size and style of script in Vienna last year, and here it is again in Kuala Lumpur. See the other sign here.

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Made in World – that’s just about everywhere, right ?

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Dive cafe & bar

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Funny Boy Kebab

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There are more to come …

Chamonix is a ski resort and in the summer great for hiking. It held the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and has been a popular mountain resort. And it is also a great place to buy skiwear and outfit for any mountain sports.

After dinner one night, we strolled through the main street – the crowd was thinner and the mountains were dark (no ski operation in the summer).

We were curious how many brands of sportswear have their own store here. In case, you are not interested in the shops, we have photos of the mountains here.

Moncler

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Rossignol

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Unless it is in a major city like New York, most of these brands are not sold in their own stores. They are typically retailed in a specialty sports store that carries various different brands.

Columbia

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North Face

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All the brands were selling puffy jackets with practically the same design. Perhaps what they stuff the jackets with (polyesters and feathers ?) are different and thus perform more effectively or less ?

Lafuma- Eider

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Icebreaker

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While Chamonix is touristy and it is definitely not an inexpensive place to buy mountain sportwear (until they are on sale), it does offer the widest selection in a small area.

Mamut

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Peak Performance

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One can practically walk from one end of the main street to the other end within 20 minutes or less. It must have the highest density of mountain sportswear store in Europe.

Salomon

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Narapijri

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A few brands are known for beach wear and they also have shops here ?!

Rip Curl

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Billabong

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We are happy with our outfit so we did not buy anything.

Millet

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Bogner

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We counted at least 15 brands here. Window shopping can be fun too.

Continuing with Denmark (København, Danemark)…

We really liked Illum Bolighus- a specialist department store here – full of furniture, lights, design objects, papers, textiles, and even some clothes. It reminded us very much of Vinçon in Barcelona (see earlier post here) and The Conran shop in NYC (now closed) and the UK. This store is located on busy Amagertorv in the heart of Copenhagen’s Strøget district.

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The store shares the same side of Amagertorv and is situated next to the flagship stores of Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen. Can’t get any more convenient for the tourists to load up on Danish made souvenirs. Btw, just learnt that Georg Jensen has been taken over by David Chu ? (who founded Nautica in the US in the 90’s).

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Illums Bolighus was originally founded in 1925 in Copenhagen under the name of BO (not to be confused with BoConcepts which is also a Danish company).

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With a store strategy that had never been seen before, BO was a store with arranged and furnished interiors, where textiles, appointments, and furniture all interacted as art.

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In 1941, the store was purchased by the Illum, Berg, and Trock-Jansen families, who also owned the A.C. Illum A/S department store. It was then renamed Illums Bolighus.

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Illums Bolighus is now independent and has no connection with the Illum department stores – the biggest one located just a block away.

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The store operates an online store with a beautiful catalog – here.

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“By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark” – may be she shops online too.

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Not as avant garde as driade in Milano (see earlier post here), Illums Bolighus has the widest collection we’d seen of Scandinavian’s modern and mid-century designer furniture.

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According to Wikipedia:

“The term Scandinavian design emerged in the 1950s to describe design from the Scandinavian countries. It is a design movement characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality. …”

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“Influenced by the German Bauhaus school, many Danish designers used the new industrial technologies, combined with ideas of simplicity and functionalism to design buildings, furniture and household objects, many of which have become iconic and are still in use and production.”

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A little discreet corner for Vitra (see Vitra at the Milano Furniture Fair here).

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IT and MW bought a few pieces each of Arne J’s classic designs. Despite having to add shipping costs, they are still a bargain over the prices back home.

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They have a huge collection of lights on the top floor.

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We came back a second time to buy small gifts on the ground floor. Great shop.

While in Siracusa, IT and I(Chris) had lunch at a very popular salumeria – F.lli Burgio – next to the market on the island of Ortigia. They claim to be a specialist of artisanal products of Sicilian gastronomy.

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On their website, they listed a taste laboratory and a showroom (which was where we were). They also listed several stores in France which are likely their export partners.

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The counter was packed. They offered tastings too.

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Anchovies (Chris and Sue have divergent feelings about this item)

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Sun-dried tomatoes made from a special local variety – Pomodoro di Pachino (yes, the Godfather actor probably took his name from this commune in Siracusa) – especially Ciliegino (cherry size).

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Olives – it’s DOP.

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The drier and hotter climate likely cause sicilian agricultural products to taste slightly different from the mainland version. We cannot yet tell the difference because everything was new to our taste buds.

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Cheeses: fresh provole (provolone-like, pear shaped), goat cheeses – Cinniri (flavored with ash of almond trees) and Zubia.

buglio-14These provole must have been smoked.

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Sausages

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The store was mobbed as it was lunch time. So we sat outside in the Piazza where they have set up picnic tables. The menu is simple. Each person orders a platter of cured meat, smoked fish or mixed. All comes with unlimited bread.

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The way they present cold cuts, dried sliced fish, salads, olives, pies and cheese wedges on a wooden board is unique. It comes in about 10 or so small glass containers -from sharp appetizers, hard cheeses (not too stinky), salty meats, to sweet dessert. The dessert was a cannoli (inside out) in a small champagne flute.

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Outside on the piazza, some people had a whole table full of meat, cheeses, roasted veges, sun-dried tomatoes and bread.

A rock band was playing in the background during lunch time.

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We suspect that these whole table servings came from a sandwich shop immediately next door to F.lli Burgio. That shop was also very popular. Every  sandwich was made to order by this grandpa-like person. There was a long line of hungry customers and onlookers, all licking their lips.

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We really enjoyed the food, the crowd, and the ambiance !

This is no. 5 in a series of posts that is about funny business names that we captured on film. Since we are now living in continental Europe, from time to time we come across English names that makes us laugh.

See Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3 and #4 here.

Boner – a lamp store in Berlin

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LSD = Love Sex Dreams (possibly too small to see in photo), Berlin

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Tattoo Mums, Copenhagen

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Just Eat, Copenhagen

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Restaurant Live Food, Catania, Sicily – if you read the menu, you will notice the last item on the meat column is “Chicken Chest” !

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Burger King in Italy have on its menu “Angry Whopper” – we thought it might have something to do with Angry Birds but there was no other visible promotional text or items to confirm.

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Slut Spurt – no idea what it means in Danish (even after checking Google Translate), Copenhagen

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Well, Danish colleague confirmed that it means something like a last minute dash in a race – here, I guess it means a last chance sale.

After the UEFA Champions League Final game on a Saturday in June (click here to see the post), we stayed an extra day in Berlin. As expected on a Sunday, most of the shops were closed. So we were pleased to discover Volkswagon Group’s “flagship” store, not far from Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstrasse 84/Unter den Linden. See the Forum’s site here.

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Apparently, it was only a month old when we visited in June 2015. Following extensive remodelling with a completely new design, the former Automobil Forum reopened with all of VW group’s twelve brands under one roof.

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The Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, Volkswagen trucks, Scania and MAN brands are presented.

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The VW brand was represented by a rally race car.
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Apparently, all Porsche dashboard looks the same.

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In Europe, more than one in four cars are made by the group. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft is the largest company in Europe, apparently, and this is their communication platform on mobility.

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Not following auto news, we had no idea that Lambo and Bentley are both VW brands.

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The Lambo’s shark look is comical, as is the over-tanned rolly polly Bentley.

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According to their website (click here ):

“The Volkswagen Group Forum gives us the opportunity to further enliven its economic and social role. Here in the heart of the capital, we want to establish a continuing dialogue with people.”

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The Group operates 119 (May 26, 2015) production plants in 20 European countries and a further 11 countries in the Americas, Asia and Africa. Every weekday, 592,586 employees worldwide produce nearly 41,000 vehicles, and work in vehicle-related services or other fields of business. The Volkswagen Group sells its vehicles in 153 countries.

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Interacting with digital exhibits, the visitors can discover both the past and present of the Volkswagen Group.

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Of course, they are selling the brands here not the actual cars, but they sell books and other branded paraphrenalia. But the range of merchandise here pales in comparison with what was on offer at BMW Welt in Munich (click here to see the post).

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There were several walls full of miniature models on display. The model cars were not available for sale. They serve a documentary purpose.

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Volkswagen started producing Sambas in 1951. In the sixties this version became popular as a hippie bus. Instead of a sliding door at the side the Samba had two pivot doors. In addition the Samba had a fabric sunroof. At that time Volkswagen advertised with the idea of using the Samba to make tourist trips through the Alps. Sambas were standard painted in two colors. Usually, the upper part was colored white. The two colored sections were separated by a decorative strip. Further the bus had a so-called “hat”: at the front of the van the roof was just a little longer than the car itself to block the sun for the driver.

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We assume they would make a model only if the real car existed – but Porsche police car ?  Only in Germany !

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The forum offers conference spaces and two restaurants – the eateries sounded interesting but we did not have time to try them.

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A fun place to spend half an hour.

We are caught a bit off guard when the admin page of WordPress indicated that our next post will be the six hundredth (600th) that we published. As previously said several times, we are surprised that the interest in keeping up this blog has not fizzled out over the last 5 years. True it is, that we are still living in Europe and away from our friends and families, the primary reason for starting the blog. But we also find that this blog is a convenient medium to capture and frame memories of our time in Switzerland and our travels, and it became a habit and a hobby (at least for Chris).

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The blog was launched on November 4, 2009. The first trip ever reported here was our visit of Playa de Carmen, Mexico in November 2009 (click here to see). We had not yet left the US at that time but were starting to pack our belongings and worried about the move.

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Fast forward to now, posts on our quick tour of three cities – Taormina, Siracusa (Ortigia) and Catania – on the east coast of Sicily, taken during Easter, are under preparation now. Our most recent visit to Berlin and Copenhagen earlier this month has not yet been written up. Most of the photos are still in Raw format.

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Since March 2013, we have been posting a series of photos on Facebook, one a day except Sunday and Thursday when the blog is updated. There is no theme – just something random and per se visually interesting. They are essentially pictures that did not make the blog for some reasons. We gave each a serial number, a minimally-worded title and a mention of where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the location). But we wanted to share them with the readers here too – so we started showing 5 of them in a post – somewhat irregularly. This is the first of the series – #1 – “the history of cool” –  Munich.

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So far we have shown about 150 of them here, but on Facebook, we are at #444 – there is a backlog of almost 300 random photos! On days when we are not writing the blog, these photos could keep the blog going for a while. This is #443 – “dark 3” – Taormina.

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The readership of this blog has stabilized at around 50-70 views per day. Apart from posting a link in Facebook, Twitter and Google+ each time a post goes public, we made little attempts to drive up the statistics. We also signed up Pinterest but have not seen much changes (perhaps we are not leveraging the site properly). But other people have pinned our photos on pinterest.  So if you do not feel like writing a comment, pin a photo.

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Recently, we noticed that the page view of one of our posts in April on eating durian on the street of Petaling Jaya (click here to see) has gone through the roof (more than 120 views last week alone and maintaining the momentum). It must have caught the attention of certain netizens in Malaysia (as reflected in WordPress statistics), and got linked to an index or a popular site.

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The reigning champion of page views is still our first post on HSBC’s poster ads as seen around major airports in 2010 (click here). Its two siblings are receiving decent traffic too.

This blog has changed its theme (a WordPress term for the overall look and feel of the blog) only once which happened within the first month of its launch. So the appearance remains constant for the last few years and it is getting a bit aged. But we are hesitant to change to a more modern theme as it could affect somewhat unpredictably the old posts. More experimenting is needed (if we have more time).

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One day we might want to make a book (or several books) using these photos, like the ones we did for Yellowstone National Park and Iceland back in 2007.

We have been buying books showing photos of a city “then and now” or aerial views of an area.

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Before signing off, we want to thank our readers for their interest and support, and Susie who has been responding to our posts consistently and ranks No. 1 with the highest number of comments.

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Your feedback is important as it is the only way we know someone is reading the blog. So please comment, like, retweet, follow, clip, subscribe, pin, bookmark, repost or do some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. In the meantime, we will continue to share words and images of our adventures.

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Cheers.

While we were wandering around in Georgetown, this pink tank attracted our attention. It was sitting outside a gallery called “179 – The Place” which sells a range of artwork, from painting to textile, and antiques as well as modern artisan-made furniture.

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We talked to the gallery person for a while as IT was really interested in some funky chairs and an antique wooden box for carrying business paperwork.

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The gallery is one long, narrow space lined with furniture and artwork. None had price tags.

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He told us that the gallery belongs to a complex of shops, restaurants and bars, and is owned by an Australian lady.

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We looked her up – Narelle McMurtie, who started with the authentic Malay style Bon Ton Resort 20 years ago in Langkawi, and now owns also the Temple Tree Resort.

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The style of this painting on wood panel resembles those of the famous street art around Penang. See earlier posts about street art in Georgetown here.

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Apparently, some profits of the businesses are directed to support the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary Foundation –  LASSie, a passion of the owner.

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The gallery is part of the complex – ChinaHouse – which has its entrance two doors down the same street. The bar is called Canteen. The entrance is 25 feet wide, typical of the traditional shophouses of Penang.

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There was a live band practicing for the evening’s performance. It was 2014 New Year Eve and they were preparing for an event.

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The bar was empty as it was in the middle of the afternoon but we could imagine the place filling up with people.

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A door at the back leads to the next area of the ChinaHouse – an open courtyard and burger bar.

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Here is a plan of the ChinaHouse cut from their web site.

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A photo walkthrough of this complex to be continued in our next post.

On our way to Petaling Jaya (aka PJ, see earlier posts here, here and here), we discussed eating durian, the king of fruits, at length in the car. Neither one of us find the smell of the fruit as offensive or revolting as many people do.  I(Chris) had it before and recognized (but cannot say appreciate) its peculiar and strong aroma. Nor are we fans of this fruit since it is hard to find it in North America and even harder now in Europe. So as dessert, J suggested that we try some durian at one of the stands on a nearby street.

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This is how Wikipedia describes the aroma of durian:

The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.

One of our hotels prohibit durian on its premises.

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The durian stands are located on Jalan SS2/65 and at the corner with Jalan SS2/24, behind the police station, just down the street from the night market.  Apparently, they are really famous within Malaysia and possibly internationally, as we found numerous references to the stands online.

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One of the stands started the concept of all-you-can-eat durian buffet charging around RM15 per person. Our friend J who once lived on a farm and knows quite a bit about durian suggested that we forgo the buffet option as we should try the good stuff. The name durian comes from the Malay word duri (thorn).

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We had no idea (although it is not surprising) that durian comes in so many different varieties.  And this is the first time where we saw different varieties being sold separately and at vastly different prices.  The varieties have names like Musang King, XO, Thracka, Jan Tong, red prawn, and various D numbers. The fruits are sold by weight and the rate for each variety changes daily depending on supply and season. The vendors have really done a good job in properly differentiating their products and generating a demand that can command a higher price.

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We sat down at one of the tables of “King of the King”, Ah Chun was the manager. On the table were gloves and tissues, and the stand provides water since the flavor is so intense. We do not know of any fruit which requires water to wash it down.

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J chatted with the vendors and selected a variety – D24 – for the four of us. Supposedly, each variety has a characteristic taste and regular eaters have their preferred varieties. Our fruit was about 2 kg and the assistant opened it for us in less than 20 seconds.

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We wanted to try a sweet one but the first one was according to J not sweet enough. So she returned it and complained, and the assistant opened another one for us.

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The taste was indeed intense, onion-like, nutty, slightly sweet, becoming alcoholic towards the seed, moist, soft and velvety. We think the foul smell appears only if the fruit is opened and have been left lying around.

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The most popular and thus expensive variety is the Musang King (貓山皇) which had an asking price of RM60 per kg that night. This variety is recognizable by, among other special features, a characteristic star-shaped pattern at the bottom of the fruit. This practice encourages connoisseurship and is a great way to market this fruit and benefits the entire industry !

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A popular drink is fresh coconut juice – it supposedly counters the heat (traditional Chinese medicine concept) of the durian.

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What a great evening of adventurous eating !