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London 2018

Went back to London end of summer last year to see Hamilton. It’s my way of supporting local artists from where I come from. One of the main cast members of the musical is a Filipina, Rachelle Ann Go. Saw her in Miss Saigon in Broadway, and I totally loved her performance. So I thought, why not enjoy the pleasure of seeing her again in Hamilton since London is not so far away from France, and even more convenient for me this time around, having no need to apply for a UK visa since I have recently acquired my French passport.

But before that, we also saw and did a lot of other things…

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London underground is just so iconic… they’re filthy and stinky, and really old… but kinda charming in a vintage-y, sentimental kind of way.

Our first day was drizzly, as expected. So we felt like having Ramen and we managed to find one, luckily. I think it was a fast food chain called, Bone Daddies. It was not bad at all.

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First order of the day was Japanese food… not sure why… oh yeah, coz Japanese food in France is always so-so when it’s not the expensive kind.

We stayed in a centrally-located hotel called, CitizenM. If you’ve read my previous post on Keukenhof, you’ll know that I liked my experience in this hotel in London so I stayed in the same hotel chain in Amsterdam. The service is really good, and fast. The rooms are small-ish but clean and stylish.

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Nice touch at the CitizenM Hotel, and nice view too!

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Our hotel is just right across the Tower of London and right next to the underground station.

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Sitting like a queen and having drinks at the hotel’s hipster bar

We had dinner at a place called St John. We saw this restaurant in Anthony Bourdain‘s show, and we decided to check it out. It seemed like the kind of restaurant that hubby and I would like. And we were not disappointed. It was quite full when we dined. The service was excellent. And we really liked the ambience. The food quality and the service are really good for the price.

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Dinner menu at St John

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Crispy Pig’s Skin

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Got seated right next to chummy Brits

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Sucking the marrow out of life, literally.

The next day, we headed out to Portobello Road and Notting Hill for some breakfast, shopping, and checking out the sites from the movie, Notting Hill, which I am quite a fan of. I have recently watched the movie again on a sick day, and I’ve come to realize that it is actually kind of a mixture of two of my favorite movies — The Purple Rose of Cairo and Roman Holiday, which I only weirdly realized after the nth time of seeing it.

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Pancakes and Matcha Latte at Granger and Co… definitely worth the long queuing time.

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Of course, I bought one.

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That famous blue door of an apartment in a famous 90s Rom-Com movie

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Not the actual book shop in the movie, just the inspiration. The bookshop where it was shot was not really a bookshop.

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Somewhere around Baker Street

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Sherlock Holmes profile mosaic at an underground station

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browsing inside the Abbey Road Studio souvenir shop

We discovered that there was a Carnaval in Notting Hill the day before we were leaving London, so we decided to go back to the place and check it out. It was a bit bleak and drizzly. And not really much happening. We didn’t stay long, and just decided to go to the museums.

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It’s always Carnaval Season whenever we visit a place!

Charles Dickens actually lived in this house that has been turned into a museum. It was very interesting to have a peek into his personal life. As a teenager, I have enjoyed reading some of his books. Most of them seemed to have been written for my age and my sentiments at the time.

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So happy to have discovered this one!

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Pictures were not allowed inside the museum, so I just took photos of souvenir items. That Shakespeare book was from the Notting Hill book shop.

Hamilton was kinda disappointing. Although, Rachelle Ann Go has a really powerful voice, it just didn’t go well with rapping. Also, the lyrics and the rhythm were kinda repetitive. It was so boring to listen to, after an hour or so. We didn’t really feel like going back after the intermission. But we didn’t have anywhere else to go and didn’t feel like wasting our tickets. I think the appeal of the musical is mostly political, and I’m afraid that’s all there is to it.

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Finally, what we came to London for.

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Difficult to get a good seat even though I booked months in advance!

On our last day, we walked around Tower Bridge and The Thames River. Also, visited Tate Modern to torture myself again after Hamilton. But this one at least is free!

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Didn’t go inside. Didn’t want to waste more money after getting disappointed with Hamilton.

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Back when I didn’t appreciate this kind of art.

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I’ve always been more into this kind of stuff.

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I don’t mind being naked to get into the museum!

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Pensive

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Funny

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Yayoi Kusama… of course we got scolded by the guards after this.

Last stop was SoHo for more shopping and lunch at an Asian Restaurant. It was a really good day.

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Lunching in SoHo at a nice Asian restaurant

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Spicy seafood curry

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This Pina Colada Cheesecake is The BOMB!.. tastes way better than it looks!

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There is a castle on a cloud…

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I had a picture taken here from ten years ago… didn’t mind doing it again! And again, maybe, after another decade.

I had a really good time in London. Hope you also had a good time looking back with me on this trip.

 

 

 

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Keukenhof

Every time I see a bunch of orange Tulips, I always get reminded of my wedding day. They were my flowers of choice to hold in my hands as I walked down the aisle. And since I love Tulips, I’ve always had this dream of seeing the Tulip fields in The Netherlands, or at least visit Keukenhof. Luckily, I have a friend who is also crazy about Tulips who could tag along at a moment’s notice. Without much ado, I found ourselves a nice hotel close to Schipol Airport, which is much closer to Keukenhof instead of coming from Amsterdam’s city center.

I have already stayed in CitizenM Hotel last summer in London (which I should also write about in this blog, if I manage to find some time), so I thought, why not stay there again in The Netherlands?.. and I’m glad to say, we didn’t have any regrets.

I’ve already booked the tickets to Keukenhof online. But you could also buy at the bus station at the airport. I don’t think it makes any difference. Although, you have to be there really early. The queue gets very long, very fast. For reference, we went on a Saturday and we had around 10 minutes of queuing, arriving at the bus station a bit after 9:00AM. There were a lot of buses coming in. One in every five minutes, I think. And it was thirty minutes of bus ride to Keukenhof from there.

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Keukenhof is like a garden straight out of a fairytale!

We arrived at Keukenhof at around 10AM. There was no queue when we entered the garden, at least for those who have already purchased tickets online. While inside, we thought it was a bit crowded, but that it would get better in the late afternoon. But we thought wrong. It just got worse as the day progressed. Meanwhile, we were getting all giddy and high and googly-eyed upon seeing rows and rows of Tulips in all colors, shapes and sizes. It was all such a treat to the eyes. My friend and I were like a couple of kids in Disneyland for the first time. Needless to say, we took pictures in every corner!

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These pink tulips that greeted us close to the entrance were all looking so cheerful and pretty

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I should’ve taken my DSLR too

 

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Purple

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Pretty pattern

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Glowing in the sunlight

We had lunch inside the garden, in one of the restaurants. It was very crowded. Food was not so great for the price, as can be expected. But at least, they serve it fast.

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Reflections

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Tulip Heaven

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These would make such a pretty bouquet

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Snowdrops?

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Definitely, Snowdrops

After lunch, we tried to find a quiet corner to try to do some painting plein air. We sat close to the wind mill area, in the shade, right next to the rows of tulips interspersed with snowdrops and other bunch of wildflowers I unfortunately do not know the names of. I tried to do some painting but the passersby were staring and pointing and looking at us like we were some kind of attraction at the zoo. I never really liked that kind of attention so I gave up and just took pictures. I wished I brought my DSLR. The iPhone pictures didn’t turn out so bad, though, as you can see right now.

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Gigantic blooms

Once, there was this point in my life when I thought I was in a bottomless pit, or some kind of black hole I would never be able to get out of. But then, I had this dream one night of stumbling upon this place with beautiful, exotic, huge flowers I had never ever seen before in my entire life. I thought it was magical. And while in that dream, I had this reassuring feeling that everything in my life will someday fall gracefully into place. Those flowers in my dreams, they were these gigantic tulips waving gracefully in the wind, which I had the most fortunate privilege of seeing (and touching) for myself in this lifetime.

Life is beautiful. Keep dreaming and keep smiling. 🙂

Cape Verde

Cabo Verde, Cap Vert, Cape Verde… lovely name in any language. It was my first ever trip to Africa. The island, or group of islands (ten in all) is located at the westernmost point of Africa. Most of the islands are quite arid. There are only a couple of them that are green.

We stayed at The Hilton in the island of Sal in Santa Maria, right along the strip of long, white sand beach. It was a very quiet, cozy corner. And we had the best view of the ocean, as we were upgraded to the best room in the resort, the Presidential Suite! We were lucky.

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The best thing about the Presidential Suite is the jacuzzi in the bathroom, which overlooks the ocean! 🙂

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We had this long stretch of balcony, with unobstructed view of the ocean. Got inspired to practice some watercolor painting.

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These flowering Aloe Vera plants were all over the hotel grounds

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View of the hotel grounds and the swimming pool

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This was being handed out to women at breakfast time during International Women’s Day. Nice touch. 🙂

Our itinerary was Sal – Sao Vicente – Sal. From the island of Sal, we took a small plane for about an hour, to go to Sao Vicente.

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The airport in Sao Vicente, named after the famous Cape Verdinian singer, Cesaria Evora

We stayed in a charming hotel in Sao Vicente, in a town called, Sao Pedro. It was right along a secluded beach, where you can see giant turtles swimming close to the shore every morning. Too bad the waves were too big and scary for me to do some snorkeling. We were quite happy to watch the turtles from the shore, though.

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Welcome drink at our hotel in Sao Vicente — a shot of Pontch, a local aperitif

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View at the breakfast area in our hotel in Sao Vicente

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Traditional Cape Verdinian breakfast — Fogo Cheese, Hibiscus tea, papaya confiture and some bread that look and taste almost exactly like pan de sal of the Philippines! 🙂

The owner of Aquiles Eco Hotel was a very nice, friendly and helpful Italian Lolo. He was always giving some tips and advice, and even gave us a welcome drink of Ponsch, some local aperitif.

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It was a coincidence the day we were in Sao Vicente was also the day of the Carnaval in Mindelo.

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View of the town of Mindelo from the Maritime Museum (Museo do Mar)

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My daughter having fun taking out peas from the pods at the vegetable market

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Drinking local tea at the top of the highest peak in Sao Vicente

We booked a trip via Tripadvisor for a whole day trip around the whole island of Sao Vicente. Paulo, the tour guide, was very knowledgeable about the island, the whole country, in fact — its geography, history and culture, being a local himself. He took us around the city center of Mindelo, the markets, to lunch at a restaurant to sample local dishes and drinks, and to the highest point in the island to have some organic tea with a 360-degree view of the whole island from the top of the mountain.

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Salty crater lake at Pedra Lume back in Sal

Back in Sal, we headed back to The Hilton, to relax a couple more days before going back home. I had plenty of time for massage, soaking up the sun, seeing the Pedra Lume salty crater lake to float on, etc.

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Bought some papaya confiture and coffee

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Cabo Verde No Stress

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Some charming souvenir shop close to the fish market

Last day, of course, was spent souvenir shopping. Cabo Verde did not really have a lot of local specialty, as they import most of their stuff from Portugal, I noticed. Most of the islands are dry and arid, therefore lacking vegetation and produce. I find it weird because they are surrounded by water. I guess because they don’t have enough mountains to trap the rainclouds? I bought a nice pot of papaya jam and another one with some coconut in it. I would always have it for breakfast with their bread that looks and tastes like our very own Filipino Pan de Sal during the time I was there. I was ecstatic! 🙂

Anyway, it was my first time in Africa, the locals were very nice and friendly. And so many of them speak French, I was surprised. It was not very touristy at all, which I really liked. We had nice summery weather the whole time we were there. Although, it was quite gusty and the water is still a tad too cold for me to swim. Still, it was a lovely break from the wintry weather we were having back in early March here in Toulouse at the time we went there.

Ask me for tips in the comments, if you want to know about the restos, the food, the hotels and the trips we made. I don’t really have much time lately to write because of work… and “life”… 😀 but I always read the comments.

Thanks for dropping by. Cheerios!

 

 

 

 

Corsica

It’s been a year since my last entry. A lot has happened. But I just want to talk about our last summer’s trip. Especially now that I need warm memories to keep a sunny disposition in the bleaker months of autumn.

So here are some pics from Corsica. Sorry, if there are too many pictures of myself here. It’s mostly just to give scale to the landscape features, and to keep the gorgeous backdrop more interesting. I’m trying my best to be less vain in my forties. But I don’t always succeed.

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Behind me is the view right in front of our room in our resort at Rondinara Bay

We were in Corsica to attend a wedding. I have always dreamed of a romantic wedding by the sea, or attending one, at least. This was one off the proverbial, hackneyed, bucket-list.

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My Seat

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Colorful Appetizers

The wedding was nice and fun. The beach-side was not so nice. I was surprised to hear it’s supposed to be one of the nicest in Corsica. Ho-hum… next…

Since we were spending a week in Corsica, we had some time to do some hiking and explore other more interesting bodies of water, far from the overcrowded sea-side areas.

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Far from the madding crowd — a secluded area at Les Trois Piscines

We also went for a hike following a river trail, crossing it and walking along rocky cliff sides to see a waterfall, which turned out to be a disappointment. Found out in the end that, although you can get very close to it, you couldn’t really see much of it at the end of the trail since it was obstructed by thick foliage. The trail was nevertheless, breath-taking, and at times, reminded me so much of New Zealand.

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Cascade de la Piscia di Gjaddu

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Love them huge rocks

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Steep!

There was also one day where we enjoyed the archaeological site of Cucuruzzu all to ourselves. It was a bit damp and drizzly trail, but worth it.

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Le Casteddu de Cucuruzzu

Our last stop on our last day was the fortified city of Bonifacio. We took the challenge of descending the steep steps that lead to a gorgeous view below.

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Climbing back up knee-breaking, 188 steep steps of l’escalier du Roi d’Aragon

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View at the bottom of the steps

So many of my friends were asking me whether Corsica is in Italy or in France. Although, you can’t help but feel as if you are in Italy when you are there, it is still very much in France and very, very French, especially when it comes food…

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Seafood by the sea

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Saint Jacques, my fave!

Corsica is known as Corse by the french, by the way!

Cheers, and thanks for dropping by! 🙂

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

When in Bataan, my beloved home province, you cannot possibly miss Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. This is the only resort in the Philippines which is a member of the Historic Hotels Worldwide. The province of Bataan itself is already a historic place. It is famous for the Death March during World War II, when the Japanese invaders transported the Filipino and American soldiers on a train (and some left to march to their death) from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac. This is actually commemorated every year on the 9th of April as a public holiday in the Philippines… but I digress…

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Lovely reflections of the Hotel de Oriente (we completely forgot to visit this area) at sunset

Las Casas is owned and created by an architect who is a local of Bataan, Jerry Acuzar. According to the tour guide who conducts the tour of the houses, Mang Jerry started collecting old houses from all over Luzon (the biggest of the three main island groups in the Philippines, where Bataan is also located) and relocating them piece by piece to be rebuilt on his property in Bagac, Bataan as a hobby. Eventually he decided to be practical, and opened the place to the public as a resort when he realized how expensive the maintenance of old houses are.

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One calm morning on the bridge leading to the resort’s very own church

Some people are questioning the negative impact of uprooting old houses in their original settlement. But I like to think that in the Philippines, we have been doing this in the olden days as “bayanihan”, where houses are moved from one area to another area with the help of the neighbors and friends carrying the house on their shoulders… so this is something that is neither unnatural nor alien to Filipino culture. Also, some of the houses have been moved around already, or have ended up in the junk shops before being resurrected and finding their way into Las Casas. The important thing is that Mang Jerry researches about the houses’ origin and history and spreads it to the people doing the tours, something that could help cure modern-day Filipinos suffering from historical amnesia.

Anyways, on to the review…

We arrived early for check-in. Thankfully, our rooms were already prepared. The check-in process was quite fast and efficient. We were given a map of the place, offered refreshments (refreshing gulaman, we really loved it!) and ushered into a raft to be taken to the other side of the river, closer to our rented house. It was a pleasant, short ride. Thankfully it was short because it was a very hot mid-afternoon when we arrived. The raft had no shade. They offered instead some huge umbrellas and hats, which are a bit cumbersome, and did not prevent us from burning our bums on the hot seats.

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The wide-angle lens made me look a lot taller than usual, standing here in front of our rented two-storey, three-bedroom house, Casa Binondo II

We stayed in a two-storey, three-bedroom house called, “Casa Binondo II”. It was a very quiet and convenient location, just a few meters’ walk to the church, the swimming pool, the souvenir shops, and the two restaurants — CafĂ© del Rio, which only opens on weekend evenings and Casa Unisan, where they serve the buffet breakfast. We were also right next to the house where Mang Jerry and his family stay whenever they visit the resort. He is usually there on Sundays to attend the mass in the resort’s church.

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Enjoying the balcony on our last day

Casa Binondo II has three beautiful bedrooms — one on the ground floor and two on the second floor. This house has a maximum capacity of 6 people plus 2 kids max. Hubby and I decided to take the one with the balcony facing the rice fields. My daughter and my older niece stayed with a friend in the opposite bedroom, where an extra bed is possible (at an additional cost, of course). It was the biggest bedroom in the house, with a huge bathroom! My brother, his wife and his little toddler stayed in the room on the ground floor so that the little one did not have to keep climbing up and down the stairs. Also, all the rooms have huge bathrooms with shower, bath tub and bidet.

Here is my amateur video of a house tour of Casa Binondo II, if you’re interested to see it.

 

I totally fell in-love with this house! It reminded me so much of my Lola’s parents’ house by the river when I was a kid — the characteristic stone bricks on the ground floor and the wooden walls of the second storey; the huge, airy rooms; the large capiz windows with the view of the river and the surrounding trees of caimito, avocado, cacao, balimbing, atis, macopa, guava, mangoes, coconuts, etc; the creaky narra (or acacia?) floor boards, and the antique furniture (especially the tomba-tomba), which all looked haunted and scary to me as a kid… and they still do, a bit, up to now.

The only thing that could use improvement is the heating in the shower, which is not the easiest thing to control. Also, the balcony in our room could use a table and some chairs, etc., instead of leaving it threadbare and filled with dust and bird poop.

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Filipino breakfast al fresco at Casa Unisan

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Some “Cuchinta” for my sweet tooth

Our booking came with breakfast at Casa Unisan where there was delicious pan de sal and other kakanin (Filipino sweets made from sticky rice), coffee, and surprisingly, some fake juice and canned fruits… really? How hard is it to get some fresh fruits in the province?! I was a bit disappointed by this, but everything else was delicious!

Aside from the buffet, we were also offered a choice of rice meal with Daing na Bangus (dried milk fish) and a choice of Adobo or some meat dish whose name I forgot. On our first morning there, we enjoyed having breakfast al fresco behind the restaurant so we could enjoy the lovely weather and the view of the river. On our last day, though, they only had buffet inside the dark, cold second level of the restaurant. But they had Tinapa (smoked fish) and a lot more kakanin that morning. I was wondering if they hadn’t set up the tables outside the restaurant and on the ground floor because it was too early when we got there.

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This Bibingka was exactly like the ones I had in childhood… brings back so many wonderful memories

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Halu-Halo at the super-crowded and busy Café Marivent

We actually tried all the restaurants and cafĂ©s in the resort. We even tried the Street Food stalls for Bibingka and Puto Bumbong with Salabat which were all very good, and the bar to have some drinks before dinner on our first night, which was average but had good service, maybe because we were the only ones there at the time. I do not think there is anything else around the area anyway, so we didn’t really have a choice. I would say that the breakfast at Casa Unisan was better than average. Lunch there on our first day was also good. We also tried CafĂ© Marivent for lunch, and CafĂ© del Rio, which was the most expensive of them all, for dinner on our last day. CafĂ© Marivent got overcrowded on a Saturday and it was definitely understaffed. We had to wait for so long for everything. When my Halu-Halo arrived, the ice was almost completely melted. Hubby complained about it for me (how sweet!) and they had it replaced… hopefully with no additional impromptu ingredients that would not usually belong in a Halu-Halo.

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My daughter and my niece enjoying the beach

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Enjoying the big waves, feeling like a kid again

One of the things I loved about the resort is that they have their own private beach area — a long stretch of volcanic black sand I was accustomed to when I was a kid. I thought I could never again appreciate black sand after seeing Boracay and Camiguin’s beautiful white sand for the first time. But I thought wrong. Black sand will always be a reminder of the happy summer days of my childhood.

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Hubby gives Palo Sebo a try

They had some special activities lined up at the beach on the Saturday we were there. There was Palosebo, which hubby gamely tried, and the Carabao Race, which I didn’t really enjoy very much because I do not like seeing animals harmed or bothered for any reason for human entertainment.

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Photo-ops by the pool

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Honest-to-goodness, unfiltered, unedited, authentic Bataan sunset

I also liked the batis-like swimming pool, which showcases the beautiful sunset. But they have got to level up the services provided to guests. They keep running out of towels. And for some bizarre reason, you’re not allowed to take a towel from the beach area to the pool area, etc.

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Aside from the jeepneys that give guests a free ride around the resort, they have also recently installed this train

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Lovely wall mosaic in one of the major houses close to the souvenir shops

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Doing the tour of the houses

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Casa Meycauayan

They offer a free guided tour of the houses. I did this tour when I went there in 2011 with my hubby. They have more houses now, and they’ve also added an amateurish play from university students, I think. The tour guide was really engaging, and tries to be funny with a few hits and misses. The violent and scary history of some of the houses gave me the spooks. And I was so glad he didn’t say anything about the house we were staying in. Phew!

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Last dinner at Café del Rio

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The place looks nicer than in the photos

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Thin crust, wood-fire oven baked pizza

And now for the things that could really use some improvement…

I could not emphasize this hard enough: For the money that we paid, I would have expected more from the service. It was definitely lacking, especially in the restaurants… or it could also be that they are overworked, understaffed and underpaid? And I don’t know if those people who man the souvenir shops are employees of the resort but their butts seemed to be glued on their seats. They can’t even open the door for customers trying to figure out how to open a weird shop door. No smile, no thank you, no welcome greeting, no nothing… I was starting to feel like I was in France, if not for the tell-tale heat and humidity. 😀

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Rows of souvenir shops

It’s not that the people are rude or impolite. It’s just lacking in cheerfulness and warmth and hospitality and a willingness to be of service and to go the extra mile, like the ones you see in other parts of the Philippines like in the good resorts in Boracay or in Cebu, or in other Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia and even Japan. They cannot claim to be a member of a famous group of hotels, and get so much money from the customers without levelling up the quality of the service.

They could also use more play areas for kids. At the moment, they only have the playground by the entrance. On the other side of the resort, where our house is located, there is none. There is a Game Center close to our place, but this is mostly for older kids.

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The prices of the food in the restaurants, especially in CafĂ© del Rio is a bit of an overkill.  There aren’t really any other restaurants outside the resort, so I guess they can charge as much as they want however unreasonable and unjustifiable it is.

Lastly, they could use more plants and trees. The place, though surrounded by so much greenery — the rice fields, the mountains, and the blue of the sea — looks barren and is definitely lacking a few points on aesthetics when it comes to landscaping. But I can see that they are still building a lot of new houses and sites, so this is quite forgivable.

All in all, it was still a very good experience. I really loved the surroundings! It was so beautiful, clean and calm. It made me feel like I was not in the Philippines. And made me proud to be a Bataaeño. Hubby and I wish the whole Philippines would look beautiful like this someday. I would definitely love to go back a third time and see how much the place improves.

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead! 🙂

 

 

New York 2017

One of the highlights of our Summer Holiday Trip this year, was revisiting New York. Last time I visited the place was in 2013, just before moving back to Singapore. It’s been four years since then, and my feelings toward the place hadn’t changed a bit! I still super loved it! I fell in-love with New York in the fake spring of March 2013, and I loved it even more in the unbelievably hot and humid summer of July 2017!

Coming from a one-hour plane trip from MontrĂ©al, we headed straight to have a late lunch at Katz’s Deli. For those who are 80’s fanatic freaks like myself, you would know about this place as the setting for the famous movie, “When Harry Met Sally”, where Meg Ryan had that famous fake orgasm scene. I got seated at the exact same spot (or it looked like it) where she was seated, I think. But it was not on purpose. I only realized it after the trip, upon watching again the scene on Youtube.

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The iconic Katz’s Deli… New York always makes me feel like I’m in one of my favorite movies

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A delightful mess of oversized pastrami sandwich, some fries and cold beer for a late lunch at Katz’s Deli

On our very first day, we headed out for some shopping around SoHo. Luckily for us, a lot of our favorite brands were on sale. At one point while crossing the street, there was this double-decker, open-top tourist bus with people dancing and screaming and waving at everybody. New York feels a lot more festive and lively in the summer. I have also never seen so many pretty women in very pretty clothes. And so many, many interesting places, and shops and restaurants to visit.

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Our hotel, called Sixty LES, is situated close to all the trendy hipster bars and restaurants. The hotel itself has two restaurants, which seemed quite nice, but we never really visited. We only went to the bar once, which has a lovely terasse with a nice view of the city. Speaking of the view of the city, we took a room with a very nice panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline — we could see the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and One World Observatory, which was still being built, I think, during the first time we were in New York.

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Hubby resting on one of the comfiest seats ever. I wanted to bring it home. Sitting here on our hotel balcony where you can see the One World Observatory in the background.

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This is the view of the street, the bar and the restaurant of our hotel, from our room’s balcony

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Hubby had been dying to dine at Ivan Ramen eversince he saw it on Chef’s Table on Netflix

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Eating a Non-Ramen (Tsukemen)

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At a cozy brunch place called, Devocion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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Instagram-worthy breakky

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The view of the city from Williamsburg Park

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Chanced upon an Italian-American Fiesta

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Queensboro Bridge at Sutton Place Park — that bridge from Woody Allen‘s movie, Manhattan

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Lying in the shade, resting my tired feet while waiting for lunch

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The face of hunger… Shake Shack for lunch!

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Taking the train at Grand Central

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One World Observatory

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I will never get tired of this view!

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Never!!!

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Ever!!!

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Seafood dinner with a friend… I forgot the name of the restaurant but it was really good

A visit to New York is not complete without a visit to one of its famous museums. Last time we were there, we visited The Guggenheim and the Museum of Natural History. This time around, hubby and I went to the MOMA. I’m not really so much into modern and contemporary art. But I am quite fond of the earlier ones like Picasso, Seurat, Dali, et al. I do not really care so much about Rothko (which hubby loves) and Pollock (which I absolutely detest). And I most especially abhor those weird (verging on the absurd) installations whose artistic values are always very subjective.

I was so happy and so lucky to have come to the MOMA on one of its less busy days and least busy times, the exact details of which, I will not share here to preserve this quiet time that I could hopefully be able to return to someday. For this, I seek your forgiveness and kind understanding to bestow upon a lover-of-the-quiet-and-peaceful introvert like myself.

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Broadway Boogie Woogie and Lady in Red

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Matisse

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One of my favorite Picasso paintings, the first time I have ever known too, back in the  Encyclopaedia days of my romantic, Google-free childhood!

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That rare moment at the MOMA when I had this famous painting all to myself for a few heart beats! For those who live in another planet, this painting is called, “Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

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Seurat!

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Funny!

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I’m not much of a Warhol fan but this one kinda speaks to me… the cans just look so cheerful!.. or not…

One of the things that I was so happy about to be back in New York was the fact that Miss Saigon is back again on Broadway. I missed seeing it a decade or so ago back when they were showing it in Manila with Lea Salonga in the cast! But this time, I didn’t let this opportunity pass. You can read the full experience here, if you wish to know more about it.

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Very much a Miss Saigon fan!.. New York City, always the setting of any “movie in my mind”

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So happy to be back at Times Square and not be wrapped in thick, heavy coat this time around!

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One last look at this view!

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Bagels and eggs at a vegetarian place called, The Butcher’s Daughter on our last day in New York

The last time I was in New York, it was bleak and cold and snowy. This time around, it was all bright and sunny and smiley and even more photogenic! One of the very few regrets I have in life is not having lived in this vivacious city while I was still single. Sadly, it’s not really a very practical place for married people with kids. But still, it’s one of the places I’d always look forward to seeing again and again in my life.

I ♄ NYC. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend!

Montréal, Canada

Hubby wanted to visit his long-time friends in MontrĂ©al during the summer. We scheduled our trip right in the middle of our yearly summer trip in France, so we’d be closer. It was still quite a tiring 8-hour trip, though. Especially just when I was starting to get over the jet-lag from Singapore to France. Luckily, there was a direct flight from Toulouse to MontrĂ©al via Air Transat. The plane was really old, but had seats with bigger legroom than usual, and the free snacks were quite good.

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Just landed at Trudeau International Airport

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Cloudspotting… few minutes before landing

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We headed straight into a nice rooftop bar upon arrival… not this one, though!

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Champagne and strawberries on our first night at festive bar somewhere in Vieux Montréal

We stayed at our friends’ beautiful house in the suburbs. It was not really that far away from the city but crossing the bridge to the city center gets you in the middle of a jam during peak hours due to some road works. Apparently, this is the norm in MontrĂ©al. Well, I’m kinda used to road works and construction everywhere by now, having lived in Singapore for almost a decade.

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Canal Lachine at Marché Atwater

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Huge variety of summer blossoms at Marché Atwater

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Fruits — those are groseilles (gooseberries) at the bottom

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Sucette au sirop d’Ă©rable (Maple syrup lolly)

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The view of the city from Mount Royal

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The not-so-grandiose looking facade of Basilica de Notre Dame de Montréal

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Inside the basilica, totally different story!

It was pleasantly sunny during our four-day stay. We strolled along Canal Lachine close to Marché Atwater on a perfectly sunny morning. Apparently, this area has historical significance in Montréal. It was a famous industrial area back in the day, but now it was turned into a museum and a park. We mainly stayed around Vieux Montréal (Old Montréal) and did the rounds on all the tourist sites.

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One of the colorful shops along Plateau Montroyal

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Coffee break at a cafĂ© (Crew Collective) that once used to be a grand post office… amazing details on the ceiling

I loved the beautiful apartments around Plateau Montroyal, the beautiful shops (Lululemon!), and the trendy hipster cafés, bars, and restaurants. The Basilica de Notre Dame de Montréal looked like a boring version of the one in Paris. But inside, it was surprisingly gorgeous!

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This is where we got our Poutine fix

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Just by looking at it, you can already tell it’s not going to be a very pleasant dining experience

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We skipped going to this famous meat shop (Schwartz) coz of the long queue, and we were headed to Katz’s Deli in New York in a few days anyway.

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The famous bagels for breakfast at a place called Fabergé

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Fresh seafood and cool midweek vibe at Lucille’s Oyster Dive

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Poké bowls, patate douce (sweet potato fries), etc for brunch at Venice Restaurant

Food in MontrĂ©al is not bad at all. Although, I could not really say the same for the Poutine. It’s just not my kind of dish. There was a very nice and friendly Lola at the marchĂ©, selling all kinds of maple syrup — the light ones to medium to dark. She made me try all of them. I took a very good liking on the darkest one. It has a very dark caramel and coffee taste. I’ve been using it a lot on the pancakes and it’s almost finished now. Wish I bought more. Oh, and I also loved the seafood, especially the giant crabs and lobsters! Miam!

What’s nice about MontrĂ©al is that you can find a lot of different dishes from all over the world. Once at MarchĂ© Atwater, we even saw a Singaporean food stall! I was pleasantly surprised. But what we had at the marchĂ© was some Vietnamese noodles and banh mi, which we really loved. If you’re ever in MontrĂ©al, don’t miss out on our friend’s Vietnamese food stall at MarchĂ© Atwater. It’s called, Le Petit Sao.

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Special mention to our friend’s food stall at MarchĂ© AtwaterLe Petit Sao

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Best banh mi I’ve ever tried!

I find the people in MontrĂ©al quite friendly and nice. Although, I find the general atmosphere, a little too quiet… and maybe also, a bit boring? But I liked so much that I got to practice my french. For some reason, it makes me feel less stressed talking in french to non-French people. I also get a hoot every time somebody says “bienvenue” to me when I say “merci“… 😀

Voila! C’est tout pour aujourd’hui! I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as I am. Thanks for reading and have good weekend! 🙂