Monday 28 October 2013

Je reviens à Paris! - My First year Anniversary Post

I can hardly believe it has been a year since I started blogging. And what a pretty good year it had been! After retiring from the corporate world I had more time to do what I really and truly love, to travel! And to write about it. Or TRY to write about it.....

And what's a more fitting post to celebrate my first year anniversary in the blogosphere than an entry where it all began, the inspiration of my blog's title, my favorite city, Paris.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Restaurant, A Road Trip

The big K and I were looking forward to taking Ruth out on her first long road trip. Who is Ruth? She's the big K's Royal Enfield motorcycle. Okay, just a little background on the company. Royal Enfield is a British company that used to supply motorcycles to the British War department during the First and Second World Wars. The company also manufactured guns that's why the RE's logo is a cannon with the motto "Made like a gun, goes like a bullet". Definitely fast! I was hanging on for dear life the whole time.

On this trip we were joining a group of other Royal Enfield bike owners on a foodie trip to San Pablo Laguna, a city south of Manila and one of the Philippines' oldest cities. 

And we're off!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Food Tripping at Abaca Restaurant

Having booked our stay at the Abaca Resort, the big K and I were looking forward to another foodie adventure because we heard that the resort had a restaurant that was famed for its gastronomic offering. Good luck my diet!

Abaca Restaurant has been serving California-Mediterranean inspired menus since 2006. It had gained popularity among Cebuanos and local tourists because of its good food at affordable prices. It was actually the restaurant that came first followed by the hotel two years after.  

The restaurant also doubles as their reception area for guests checking in at the resort.

Friday 28 June 2013

Abaca Boutique Resort and Restaurant in Cebu

The big K and I just came back from another wonderful adventure. It was a continuation of sorts of both our birthday celebrations. We started June with a birthday treat for the big K in Tagaytay where I wrote about it here and here

Now it was the birthday girl's turn. C'est moi! Yay! 

Well, technically we were still celebrating for the both of us since it was our birthday month. Plus a double celebration is much more fun, don't you think? Specially if you will be celebrating at this awesome place........

Abaca Boutique Resort + Restaurant

Abaca is L-O-V-E!

Sunday 23 June 2013

The Big K's birthday treat continues

The big K and I woke up the next day to a wet and foggy Tagaytay morning. We could barely see anything outside. The whole place was blanketed in thick, cold fog. No mistake here, it was not smog (as what we are used to in Manila on a bad day!) but definitely a fog. 

It was a perfect start to the day sitting at Verbena's balcony waiting for our breakfast, sipping a nice cup of strong "barako" coffee while watching the heavy mist slowly clear up and reveal the lake and its volcano.

Our stay at the Discovery Country Suites included a complimentary breakfast menu of our choice plus a buffet of different breads, jams, fruits and juices.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

The Big K's birthday treat in Tagaytay

June is the most celebrated month in our family. For some divine reason several family members have something to celebrate in June. 

Okay let's see now, there are the birthdays of my beautiful mother who unintentionally named me after an infamous French queen that probably influenced my love for anything French, two grandmothers who have long been celebrating their birthdays with the good Lord, the gorgeous H's adoring and long suffering husband, Dr. A. and his equally engaging dad, Dr. Z. who portrays the jolly good guy come Christmas time (the gorgeous H is the perfect foil as the sidekick elf), then there's the wedding anniversary of my big little brother and charming sister-in-law (got to be in the good side of the in laws!). 

And of course last but not the very least, the big K and I celebrate both our birthdays in June.

Surprise dessert treat for the big K from Verbena restaurant. Not as artistically done as Antonio's but good-tasting nonetheless. I just wished it came in a bigger slice! 

Monday 10 June 2013

Paris: Montmartre

Montmartre is a district at the right bank of Paris on the outer arrondissement, the 18th arrondissement to be precise. The area gets its name from the 130-meter hill, the "Montmartre" translated into English means "mountain of the martyr". That martyr was Saint Denis, the Bishop of Paris from the third century, who lost his head. Literally. 

Friday 7 June 2013

Paris: The Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Our very first visit to the City of Lights was an unplanned one, side trip actually. The big K was picking up a brand new airplane from the Airbus factory in Toulouse. So, here I was riding shotgun again! Oh la la! C'est la vie! 

We only had a short time to prepare and plan for the trip. Since we were only visiting for the weekend we wanted to stay right at the city center where most of the tourist attractions are. Luckily we found a place that was affordable (good luck getting an inexpensive hotel in the middle of Fashion Week in Paris!). The hotel's location in the Latin Quarter was perfect. It was also right by an RER B stop, pretty convenient if you are coming straight from the airport.

Below are some of the landmarks and attractions at the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Pres that the big K and I were able to see on that very short visit. 

The Latin Quarter 

Jardin du Luxembourg, the second largest park in Paris is perfect for picnics.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Paris: Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and the Arc de Triomphe

The Eiffel Tower

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower, the quintessential symbol of Paris, was supposed to be built in Barcelona? It was rejected by the Spanish government because of the huge cost it would take to build it. Luckily the French saved the day and had the tower built at the Champs de Mars area. But even then during the tower's construction for the World's Fair in 1889, it was met with protests and was even called a "monstrosity" and a colossal waste of money and space. The tower was not even meant to be a permanent structure. 

And the rest as they say is history....

Eh, voila!
Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower was also involved in the steel structures of the Statue of Liberty and Manila's San Sebastian Church, the only all-steel church in Asia.  

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Paris: Beauborg and the Louvre areas

From the Île de la Cité, it is an easy walk to the Beauborg and Louvre areas. Or if you prefer to save your energy for more sight-seeing to come, hop on the nearest metro or bus. 

Centre Pompidou 

If you're into modern art, then this is the place for you. Conceptualized in the late 60s by then French President Georges Pompidou, the Centre Pompidou was built to house the National Museum of Modern Art. It also houses one of Paris' major public libraries. 

Entrance fee without the pass is EUR 13,00 or EUR 11,00 depending on the period.

Locally known simply as Beauborg because of its location, the Pompidou was opened to the public in 1977. 

Friday 10 May 2013

Paris: Île de la Cité

The big K and I are the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) kind of travelers. We prefer to travel and visit places on our own pace. We plan, organize and arrange our own travels. Well okay, I plan and arrange, the big K tags along and most importantly pays for the trip. Always works for us!

As in any one of our travel planning, the biggest challenge for us is how best to see a place in a very limited time but still get to enjoy it as if we have the luxury of time. Got you confused, haven't I? Let's just say we would be the last team to step on the mat in the Amazing Race.

Monday 6 May 2013

Paris: Cheap Eats

Knowing my love for Paris and France in general (I guess I can thank my Mother for naming me after one infamous French queen who was actually Austrian that probably influenced my love for anything French), I have often been asked for tips on the best way to see the city, where to eat, what transportation to take, etc. 

So, I thought I might as well make a series of blog posts on some of the tips I dispense to my loyal subjects, I mean, my family and friends. I already have an earlier post on how to get around Paris that you may want to check out. 

Thursday 11 April 2013

Mont Saint-Michel, France

Have you ever wondered how it is to spend a night at The Rock? No, not San Francisco's Alcatraz but a much older rock on the other side of the pond.  

Le Mont Saint Michel, named after the archangel Saint Michael is a rocky islet off the coast of Normandy in Northwestern France. It started out as a stronghold in the 6th century that later became an abbey in the 8th century. It was one of history's most popular centers of pilgrimage in earlier times. Well, it still is actually but nowadays the Mont gets hordes of tourists instead. 

Count the big K and I among those awe-struck tourists to make the pilgrimage to the Mont. Most visitors would do the Mont as a day trip from Paris (quite tiring, if you ask me) but we wanted to take our time to visit and feel the place. So, we decided to spend not only one but two memorable nights right inside the wall! 

During the French Revolution, Mont Saint-Michel was turned into a prison. Thanks to a campaign launched by influential figures that included Victor Hugo in the early 1800s, the Mont was declared a historic monument in 1874. In 1979 Mont Saint-Michel was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. 

Thursday 21 March 2013

The City That Never Sleeps: New York City!

For the next few days the gorgeous H and I will be exploring some of New York City's famous landmarks and attractions. Not to mention completely forgetting our diets as we eat our way through some of the Big Apple's much raved about eats.  

First things first though, we needed our caffeine fix. One of the things my sister and I have in common is that we have to have coffee first thing in the morning.  Wait! Let me rephrase that. My sister and I are walking zombies before our first cup. Good thing we didn't have far to go to get that cup o'java as the hotel provided free coffee (and breakfast). Surprisingly, the coffee wasn't the watered down variety but was really quite good. Just enough caffeine to wake us up in the mornings.

And off we go!

Saturday 9 March 2013

New York! New York!

It was a little over thirty years ago at the height of winter when I first arrived in New York City. My family and I arrived from a red eye flight from London where we lived for a year. It was a brief stopover on our way to the West Coast.

I don't recall much of New York City since it was a very short visit plus I was just a little kid back then. That trip was also my first time in the US of A. Since then I have been traveling to the states every so often but never had the chance to go back to New York until recently. 

I had just retired from the corporate world and decided to take a trip visiting with friends and family particularly my siblings who are now living in the US. Too bad the big K couldn't come with me since he had to do extra work to support me now *wink*. Kidding aside, we were going on a trip to Europe later in the year so his vacation days were all tied up for that trip.

View of Central Park from the view deck of the Rockefeller Center also known as the Top of the Rock. 

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Eating our way through Alsace

As Napoleon Bonaparte famously quotes, "an army marches on its stomach",  so goes true for the big K and I as we eat our way through Alsace. 

Our week-long tour of the Alsace Wine Route in France was a wonderful experience of sampling the region's local cuisine and at the same time a great challenge trying to fit into our pants after each delicious meal. 

Saturday 16 February 2013

Germany: Prost to Oktoberfest!!!

Now where do you find a place overflowing with beer, giant pretzels, beer, hearty food and more beer? Where else but at the Oktoberfest in Munich. Or as the locals call it "The Wiesn" after the name of the fairgrounds where it is held every year. 

For a little over two weeks of each year from late September until the first Sunday of October, an open field in Munich called the Theresienwiese is transformed into a place of colossal beer worship. Or as the big K jokingly calls it, Disneyland for drunks.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

My Childhood Playground, Bohol!

Bohol, my Mom's hometown. I have been coming to this beautiful island ever since I was a little girl. Childhood summers with my siblings and cousins were spent on the beach until we were all toasty brown, days running around the corn and kinampay fields, digging up those fragrant purple yams. Or, just simply lazing around in my Mom's ancestral home.  

If you're wondering where Bohol is, it is one of the 7,000+ islands in the Philippines located in the middle part of the archipelago. More famously known as the home of the Chocolate Hills (a group of limestone hills that turn brown during the summer months) and the smallest primate with the biggest eyes this side of paradise, the Tarsier. Oh, and of course there are the white sand beaches scattered all over the islands. The once sleepy province of Bohol is fast becoming a popular tourist destination.

The province of Bohol actually consists of 70+ islands and islets (depending on the tide). The main island, Bohol, is where Tagbilaran (capital city), Chocolate Hills and the airport are located. While the second largest island, Panglao, is where the famous white sand beaches can be found. Panglao is connected to the mainland by two causeways, one as seen above (squint a little and you'll see it or better yet come closer to the screen).

Saturday 26 January 2013

48 hours in Beijing, Part Deux

It was in the balmy spring month of May when I had the second chance to ride shotgun with the big K. Unlike my first Beijing visit, this time it was going to be a leisurely exploration of the city. But, of course, it still involved a lot of walking. 

Monday 21 January 2013

48 hours in Beijing, China

One of the advantages of being married to an airline pilot is I get to tag along on some of the big K's layover flights. Beijing is one such flight where he gets a 48-hour layover. Shades of Anthony Bourdain's show The Layover but lucky me I get to go more than once. 

It was in early November when I first went with the big K. Our flight, a red-eye, arrived at the capital of China a little past midnight. Nothing much to do but catch up on some sleep since the next day was going to be a marathon sightseeing tour of the city. 

The next morning's weather was clear but cold, still it was the perfect day to go see one of China's greatest architectural achievements, The Great Wall. There are different sections of the wall one can visit, from the easily accessible and well-maintained thereby popular with tourists Badaling Great Wall to the unrestored and dangerous-only-for-rock-climbers Jiankou section.

The Mutianyu Great Wall.
The big K and I opted for the Mutianyu Great Wall. Just like the Badaling section Mutianyu has been restored. It is a bit farther to reach from the city so it does not get a lot of tour groups unlike Badaling. 

To get here the big K and I hired a local taxi with the help of the hotel's concierge. With a little bit of haggling we settled for RMB500 (approximately USD80) for the small expedition. The trip took a little more than hour to reach the wall. We explored the wall for about two hours while our taxi waited for us. Good deal!

We took the cable car up to the wall and the toboggan going back down. Pretty scary both ways but all worth it!
We were lucky on this visit as there were only a handful of visitors that time. We practically had the wall all to ourselves. Sweet!
It is one thing to read about it and know about it but it is entirely different to be standing on the Great Wall and imagining how it was those thousands of years ago. Hundreds of men, sometimes children too, working night and day, struggling to complete the wall that would save China from the hordes of "uncivilized barbarians". Gave me goose bumps.   

It was almost three in the afternoon when we got back to our hotel. Freshening up a bit, we were on our second wind. Taking the subway this time, the big K and I were off to Wangfujing, one of the capital's shopping areas.

Wangfujing is a pedestrianised shopping area popular with both tourists and locals. Most of the luxury branded goods have shops here.
Dinner was at the Donghuamen Night Market. The market is well-known for its out of the ordinary food offerings. I played it safe by having some of these dumplings.Though the xiaolongbao was a bit of a disappointment.
See what I mean about out of the ordinary? 
More creepy crawlies for the adventurous taste buds.
They say scorpions are natural aphrodisiacs. I say there is nothing natural about seeing these critters squirming on the stick......... 
Roasted leg of lamb, the big K's favorite. He never leaves Beijing with out getting his fix here. 

To end our very long day the big K and I were off on a short subway ride to the Olympic Park where the 2008 Olympics were held.

The Beijing National Stadium more popularly known as the Bird's Nest. Purposely built for the 2008 Olympics, this was where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. Plus of course the athletics event and football finals during the games. It is now a popular venue for international football games. In 2015 the IAAF World Championships in Athletics will be held here. 
The Beijing National Aquatics Center or the Water Cube, just across the Bird's Nest, was where the swimming competition was held.

Day 2 of our 48 hour marathon tour

Our feet still aching with all the walking we did the day before, the big K and I were off to see the Forbidden City. Located in the middle of Beijing, it was the home of the emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the last two dynasties before the creation of the Republic of China. 

The Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 as the "Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties". 
It was called the Forbidden City because no one, from commoners to nobility, were allowed to enter the palace unless they were invited.

The place was so huge, the big K and I were not able to see even half of it! Plus of course we didn't have that much time in our hands as we had to go look for lunch (a very late one!) and head back to the hotel to prepare for our evening flight back home. 

Tiananmen Square right in front of the Forbidden City.
Our trip would not have been complete without sampling the obligatory Peking duck. 
The Peking duck came with hoisin sauce and thinly sliced cucumbers to be wrapped together in crepe-like pancakes. Yummy! We also tried the local version of the big K's favorite Chinese dish, sweet and sour pork which turned out to be very good. Oh, of course we had to have rice, yangchow fried rice. Lunch is served!

I had a wonderful, albeit very short, time seeing some of the famous attractions Beijing is known for. Places I've only read about or seen in books and on TV. I never expected the city to be so beautiful! 

As I've said earlier, lucky me because I get to see more of this beautiful city on my next trip with the big K. This time in May. Spring time!

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The Biggest Airshow on Earth: EAA Airventure Oshkosh

What is the world's busiest airport control tower come summer time? If you answered Chicago O'Hare, London Heathrow or Beijing International, guess again. The title is owned  by the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin or simply called Oshkosh.

See, it says so, right on the tower.

Monday 14 January 2013

Germany: Oberammergau Passion Play

It was way back in high school when I first heard the name Oberammergau. It was my Mom who told me the story of this little town in the southern part of Bavaria in Germany. The town is famous for its Passion Play, a depiction of Jesus Christ's trial, suffering and death. In all the Christian world the Passion Play is presented during Lent but in this small German town a major production is presented every 10 years with over 2,000 residents of the town performing in the play. 

Aside from the Passion Play (Passionsspiele), Oberammergau is also known for its painted houses or Luftlmalerei (fresco paintings) and wood carvings. 

Saturday 12 January 2013

Bang Namphueng Floating Market, Bangkok

We found the perfect place to stay. Now it's off to market! 

Getting ourselves bicycles from the hotel, we were happily pedaling our way to market. Well, almost.  

Now, I do not want to reveal my age, but suffice to say that it had been more than twenty years since I'd been on a real, live bicycle. Stationary exercise bicycles don't count. Now who said that you never forget to ride a bicycle? Apparently they didn't know what they were talking about. 

So, here you have a long-time, no-ride rider, combined with raised, narrow walkways, lizards, locals, dog droppings strategically placed in the middle of the path. You now what's going to happen next, right? Let's just say I had to quickly remember how it is to ride a bike!   
See what I mean? The pathways only had railings on one side while some didn't have any at all.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Bangkok Tree House in Bangkok, Thailand

The big K was on another company trip to Bangkok. And I, of course, was riding shotgun again. He had a few days off before his training started so we took advantage of his free time to discover more of what Bangkok had to offer. It had only been two weeks since our last visit and we were kind of templed-out. So this time we decided to visit their floating markets. But first was the question of where to stay?  

Enter the Bangkok Tree House.

The distinctive bamboo ceiling of Bangkok Tree House's reception and dining areas.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Sweet Sixteen at Antonio's, Tagaytay

The big k and I just came home from a wonderful lunch at Antonio's Restaurant in Tagaytay to celebrate our wedding anniversary. While last month's Hong Kong trip was our pre-anniversary celebration, today was the real thing. Sweet sixteen!

The last time we were at Antonio's was when they were newly opened. That was ages ago! Still, the big K and I remember the pleasurable experience we had. Good food, good service. So, we decided to go back.    
At the restaurant's foyer one is greeted by the bright red wall filled with old photographs and a Klimt-inspired painting.  

Sunday 6 January 2013

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio

One market the big K and I enjoy going to every time we go visit my lovely sister in the north east United States is the West Side Market in Cleveland.

The West Side Market is the oldest publicly owned market in Cleveland. It started out as an open air market in the 1800s. Today, it is a big market house with over 100 vendors selling all kinds of foodstuff. 

What's great about this place is not so much the food that are sold here but the people who sell them. You have vendors who baked the breads, made the sausages or grew the fruits and vegetables themselves. You can definitely feel the pride they have in the stuff they sell.  

The main arcade of the market was recently renovated to include heating. This picture was taken from the balcony where one can have a picnic while watching the hustle and bustle below. 

Thursday 3 January 2013

Paris: Marché Richard Lenoir

One of the things the big K and I love doing every time we travel is to check out the local markets of the places we visit. We enjoy looking, more so eating our way through one. On our recent trip to Paris the big K and I went to the Marché Richard Lenoir, sometimes also referred to as the Marché Bastille since it is located right across the Place de la Bastille. 

The open street market is open every Thursdays and Sundays from 7AM until 3PM.