Category Archives: Travel

Touchdown Tokyo!!!

Slide01

My little family was blessed to be able to travel to Tokyo again this year.  You may remember that last year, we were treated by my in-laws to a 6-day vacation.  This year, it was just the three of us, exploring what is starting to become one of my favorite cities in the world :).

We arrived at Tokyo at around 2PM.  Not a bad schedule because it gave us the time to still do some afternoon sightseeing.  Because we landed at the Haneda Airport which is much nearer to the city (only 30 mins!) and accessible by train to and from our hotel, we were out and about by 330PM! :)

This year, we opted to stay in a different neighborhood from our previous visit.  We stayed at the Shiodome Royal Park Hotel–very near Ginza and Tsukiji.  Also, as I had mentioned, our hotel was right by a train hub, so getting to and from the various areas in Japan was very, very easy for us :).

On Day 1’s bright, sunny and COLD afternoon, we opted to take a leisurely stroll right outside the Imperial Palace, right by Hanzomon Gate.  According to the hotel reception, that area was lined with blooming cherry blossom trees.

Slide04

Slide03

Slide02

After taking the requisite photos and spending some time at the mini park for A, we dropped by Ginza for dinner and a little bit of Uniqlo shopping.

Our next day in Japan had a forecast for rain.  After hearing mass at St. Ignatius Church, we decided to spend the afternoon indoors at the Japanese Toy Museum.

What a charming and fun place!

Set in a quiet neighborhood in Yotsuya, in what looked to be like an old school building, the Toy Museum was basically two floors of various traditional and modern Japanese toys.

Not only was it a wonderful place for A to explore and enjoy, but admittedly, both the hubby and I had a great time too!  We spent hours playing, touching, feeling, and experimenting with the various toys on display.  I love that it was such an interactive place!  If you have small kids, this is definitely an awesome experience for them :).

Slide05

Slide06

Slide07

After the Toy Museum, we decided to stop by the Shinjuku Gyoen National Park for more cherry blossom sightings.  Unfortunately for us, while on our way there, we were told that the park closed at 430PM.  So, since we were already in the Shinjuku area anyway, we instead spent the rest of the evening at my craft haven–Tokyu Hands!  And boy did I rack up a bill!  Huhuhu :(!  Can’t resist all the kawaii stuff!

On our third day, we had a taste of something old and something new.  In the morning, we made a quick visit to Legoland Discovery Center at the Decks Mall in Odaiba.  Who doesn’t love Lego, right?

Slide09

Slide08

Similar to our experience at the Toy Museum, it was a fun place, and truly for every member of the entire family!  I especially loved the miniature version of Tokyo, made entirely out of Lego bricks.  It was amazing!!!

Slide10

Slide11

Slide12

The little one enjoyed the play area very much, and insisted on building one lego tower after another.  She especially enjoyed using the big rubber lego pieces, and building towers that were taller than her!

Slide13

At around lunch time, we made our way back to the Minato District to visit Zojoji Temple.  I make it a point that every time we visit a place, we balance out the cultural and sightseeing stuff with the shopping, the eating, and the kiddie activities.  Although the great thing about A is that she enjoys the cultural stuff as well!

Slide15

Zojoji Temple definitely did not disappoint.  I liked that it was not as crowded as Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, and the grounds were actually more picturesque and Instagram-worthy–hahaha!  With the Tokyo Tower in the background, it’s hard not to take a great picture of the temple, especially during sunset!

Slide19

Slide17

Slide18Slide16

Slide14

After Zojoji, we headed to Shibuya for some dinner.  It is unfortunate that in the two times I’ve been to Tokyo, I’ve not been able to spend more time to explore this area.  It can be a bit overwhelming because of the throngs of people that crowd the streets and sidewalks, but I’m sure the shopping must be wonderful!  Hahaha!  Oh well…maybe next year… :).

Slide21

Slide20

Slide22

By Tuesday, our last full day in Tokyo, I was already feeling the exhaustion from the activities of our trip.  Instead of packing our day in, we decided instead to take a leisurely stroll inside the Imperial Palace East Gardens, and while our morning away there.

Slide23

Slide24

Slide25

Slide26

It was a beautifully warm day, and seeing people lay down and relax underneath the cherry blossom trees made me wish I had packed a picnic blanket and some lunch.  Hahaha!  But I guess that just gives me something to look forward to on our next trip here :).

Oh Tokyo, oh Tokyo.  I truly love you so!  Hoping we meet again next year, same time, same place! :)

Slide27

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong Highlights Part 3

Ok, guys.  This is the last post in my Hong Kong series :).

We scheduled an 830pm flight out of Hong Kong so we practically had the whole day to explore and shop for last minute pasalubong.  I love that our hotel room came with an option for late check out, so that really enabled us to make the most of our remaining time there :).

First up on our agenda was a semi-late breakfast (Marco Polo has a wonderful buffet selection!), and then a trip to the Peak Tram.  In all the times I’ve visited Hong Kong, I’ve never quite made it to this top tourist destination.

Getting there was pretty easy.  We took the MTR and got off at Central Station, then walked uphill towards the Tram’s Lower Station.  We actually got there just in time as lines were already starting to form (actually, I advise an early start if you plan on riding the tram.  I think we were just lucky that day that the lines were not that long :))

Slide14

The trams arrive every 10-12 mins.  After about a 40 minute wait, we were able to get on board!

Slide15

Slide13

It was pretty cool riding this very traditional means of transportation.  I didn’t feel all woozy even though we were climbing up to such an incredible sight, and the views of the harbor were truly breathtaking!  A enjoyed it very much too!

Slide12

Slide11

When we finally got to the peak, we took a couple of minutes to look around and take pictures.  We decided against going up to the observation deck as we felt we would practically be seeing the same thing, just with an unobstructed view.

Slide08

Slide09

Slide07

If we had more time, I would have loved to go around the mall (apparently there was a Coach outlet there!).  This time, however, we opted to head back down to Kowloon side so we could go back for some last minute purchases, and we could have lunch somewhere closer to our hotel.  We got back just in time to do both. And that pretty much was how we ended our Hong Kong holiday– or so I thought!

Slide10

Unfortunately, because of the bad weather in Manila, our 830pm flight was moved to 3am.  When you are traveling with a child, 3am flights are practically impossible!  I almost started to hyperventilate just thinking of waking up early and dragging my sleeping child to the airport.  Such a hassle!

Instead, the hubby and I decided to spend the night in Hong Kong, and to re-book ourselves for a 9am flight going home.  Sounds more reasonable, right?  But expensive too!  Hahaha!  While we were lucky that there was an available room for us at the Marco Polo Gateway, we could no longer get a discounted rate because of the short notice.  At that point, however, I didn’t really care anymore. I just wanted to get settled in, have some dinner, and get some rest!

Having an extra evening in Hong Kong, proved to be a blessing.  First of all, we heard that some flights that departed were diverted to Clark, Pampanga because of the heavy rains in Manila.  If that happened to us, I would probably be freaking out!!!  We also heard that many passengers had difficulty getting cabs that evening because of the floods.  Thank goodness we didn’t have to deal with that!

Instead, we were able to stay another night in a very comfortable room, and had dinner in a nice restaurant–BLT Burger–to celebrate the eve of the little one’s birthday :).  In all the years I lived in New York, I unfortunately never had the chance to try this restaurant out.  Funny that I finally did– in Hong Kong! Hahaha!

Slide06

Slide05

Slide04

Slide02

Slide01

Slide03

Although the burger was nothing extremely special (we got The Stripper aka a burger without the bun), it was seasoned well, and you could tell the beef was of really good quality :).  And by that time, I was a bit tired of all the cantonese food we had eaten, so this was a welcome break and hit the spot–especially the french fries! :) Hahaha!

This trip to Hong Kong was a bit quick, and I have to admit, it was the first time that I actually felt bitin about our stay.  Hopefully next time, we’ll be able to plan something longer–there is still so much to see and do!

It was a much needed vacay, though, and I’m glad we had the chance to leave Manila even for just a couple of days.  While I honestly cannot say I feel rested and recharged, I think what’s more important is that I feel truly blessed :).

Hong Kong Highlights Part 2

While I was glad (and lucky!) that my family was out of the country during the time typhoon Maring battered Metro Manila, we were actually not spared from rainy weather in Hong Kong either.

On our one and only full day to go around the city, it showered for most of the morning, and into the early afternoon!  Boo :(.  But eventually, the sun started to peek through the clouds, and we were off to explore the Nan Lian Gardens and Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill.

I love that Hong Kong is such an easy place to teach children about travel :). Because it is convenient to commute and go around via MTR, I took the opportunity to make our journey a ‘teachable moment’ for A.

A at the MRT

She learned about maps, and enjoyed pressing the screen to choose our destination…

A inserting the MRT card

…and she also loved inserting the MRT card to enter and exit the station :).

Finally, we arrived at Nan Lian!

Slide18

A at Nan Lian

Slide28

A in front of the Pagoda

For those of you who have not been here, it is a must-see that I highly recommend :).  It’s kind of like a hidden patch of green, amidst the tall buildings and concrete jungle that is Hong Kong.  It’s a wonderful place to stroll through and enjoy at a leisurely, relaxed pace.

The highlight of the park is this golden pagoda, built in the Tang Dynasty style. The striking orange bridge that leads to it makes it even more of a sight to behold!  Very picture worthy!

I also read that each element in the 3.5 hectare garden (as in every rock, plant, hill, body of water, tree, etc.) was meticulously placed according to very specific rules and methods.  Talk about discipline!  But the results are a beautifully manicured space for the public to enjoy :).  And we certainly did!

Right next to Nan Lian is the Chi Lin Nunnery.

A at Chi Lin

Slide26

Slide25

The nunnery is basically a huge complex filled with temple halls, Buddhist relics and lotus ponds.  The vibe here is very serene.  Some people were there to pay tribute to Buddha, while others simply soaked up the beautiful, elegant wooden architecture.  It was lovely, and I can say my family truly appreciated every aspect of this place.  It was unfortunate, though, that because Chi Lin is a place of worship, photos were not allowed inside the temples :(.

As dusk started to settle, we left Chi Lin and headed back for Tsim Sha Tsui. After a quick, early dinner at Ippudo (this is a MUST for the H), we headed for the Victoria Harbor waterfront, to catch the Lights and Sounds show by the promenade.

Slide24

Slide23

Slide22

Slide21

Since we were also already in the area, we decided to cap off our day with a walk along the Avenue of Stars.  It’s basically similar to a Hollywood Walk of Fame with statues of various movie paraphernalia and sculptures of famous Chinese actors on display.  Along the path one can also find hand prints and autographs of stars set in cement.

A in front of the Movie Reel

A in front of the Movie Clicker

Slide20

Slide19

A on Bear

A with Bruce Lee

While we didn’t really know or recognize many of the stars that were honored along the Avenue, we did enjoy the stroll and the view of the Hong Kong side skyline :).  So many beautifully designed buildings!!! :)

So that’s basically what we did during our second day in Hong Kong.  I love that everything we did was new, and not part of our usual Hong Kong itinerary :).  In my next and last post, I’ll talk about what we did on our last day.

Wait for it! :)

Hong Kong Highlights Part 1

August is always a good month to escape Manila.  There are a lot of long weekends to choose from, and it also happens to be my daughter’s birth month :).

Last year, we took the little one to Hong Kong.  We took her to Disneyland, went food-tripping, and did some shopping.  This time around, we decided to make the trip a bit more educational, opting to sightsee, rather than to spend our time at a theme park.  Ofcourse shopping and eating are always part of the itinerary :).

A goes to Hong Kong

Slide32

We decided to take an 8am flight out of the Philippines, and arrived in Hong Kong at 930 in the morning.  Everything went smoothly from the moment we left our condo, to the minute we arrived at our hotel for the next 3 days, the Marco Polo Gateway.

It’s been years since I last stayed at this hotel, and I was glad to see that everything was nice, modern, and newly refurbished!

I also super love the location!  Because it is on Canton Street, not only is it just across Silvercord Mall (home to Din Tai Fung, Ippudo, and near H & M), but it is also conveniently connected to the Harbor City Mall!  All the shops are practically a stone’s throw away!

Slide29

Slide30

When we got to our room, I was happy to discover that it was a nice size, perfect for our little family.  I was thrilled that the bathroom looked so clean and brand new!  It totally passed my standards with flying colors!  Hahaha!

Slide01

Slide02

After we unpacked and had gotten settled in, lunch was in order.  We decided to give our friends at Din Tai Fung a visit, especially since I was craving for some soup dumplings.  They never fail to hit the hungry spot!  Hahaha!  I also needed to fuel up for the whole afternoon shopping session that was to come after our sumptuous lunch :).

A at Din Tai Fung

Slide04

Slide05

Slide06

A feeds herself

The Fam Bam

Since I’d rather not bore you with shopping details (I was on my best behavior! *Read : I didn’t really buy much :)), let me end this post by sharing about the restaurant where we decided to have dinner.

By this time we were exhausted and chose to eat close to home.  Prior to our trip, I had been researching the blogosphere for some recommendations, and this one came from Jin of Jin Loves to Eat.  We decided to eat at Canton Deli, located at the 3rd floor of the Harbor City Mall.

They serve very traditional cantonese dishes, and since we were in Hong Kong, we thought, “What the heck, might as well eat authentic Chinese food!”.  Hahaha!

While the ambience was nothing to rave about (although they did have these cute bird cages suspended from the ceiling), the food was quite good!  Since it was a bit late, the hubby and I decided to just share some soup and beef tenderloin cooked chinese style.

Slide09

Slide10

Slide11

I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty everything was :).  The soup had a good amount of crab chunks and corn.  The beef had slices that were thicker than I was used to, but it was very soft and flavorful that I did not mind at all!  Definitely, we enjoyed our meal very much :).  I would have wanted to try other stuff on the menu, but because it was already very late, we decided against it :).  Hahahaha!

If you ever find yourself in the Marco Polo/Harbor City Mall vicinity, do give Canton Deli a try :).  While it’s not the type of restaurant that’ll blow you away, the food tastes pretty good, and it is very conveniently located as well :).  We walked away that evening with pretty happy tummies! :)

Slide12

Anyway, since this is already pretty lengthy, in my next post, I’ll talk naman about the places we visited, and the sights we saw in Hong Kong.

Hope you guys will stay tuned! :)

Dreaming of My Happy Place

Seriously, I. WANT. TO. GO. TO. THE. BEACH!!!

Yes, I am having a major hang-over from my trip to Palawan last week :(.  And despite the scorching heat, I cannot help but long to be in and dream about my happy place :).

*Sigh*

I just love the soothing sound of waves crashing against the shore.

Or how mesmerizing it is to watch the water as it creeps up the sand.

Ofcourse I wouldn’t mind sipping a cocktail and losing myself in my thoughts as I watch the clouds and sky stretch endlessly for miles either…

puerto princesa pchc

Slide3

sheridan pchc

Slide4

*Sigh* I love the beach.

 

Just in case you’re wondering, these photos were taken by me at the Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa in Sabang, Palawan.  Home to the Underground River, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

Konnichiwa, Japan!

I’ve been to Japan numerous times, but unfortunately, I’ve never made it past the airport.  Hahaha!

Luckily, we were treated recently by my very generous in-laws, to a 6-day trip to Tokyo (technically, we were there for 4 days, the other 2 days were for travel to and from Manila).

Slide01

Here are highlights of the things we did, the places we went to, and the sights we saw.  The best part, ofcourse, was the viewing of the cherry blossoms, which was why we were even in Japan in the first place, during this wintry time of the year.

DAY 1

Sanrio Puroland and Ueno Park

Slide02

Slide05

Slide03

Slide04

Slide06

Slide07

Slide09

Slide10

Slide08

DAY 2

Mt. Fuji, Strawberry Picking, Hakone River Cruise, Shibuya

Slide11

Slide12

Slide13

Slide31

Slide32

Slide30

Slide27

Slide28

Slide29

Slide24

Slide26

DAY 3

Sensoji Temple, Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Omotesando

Slide14

Slide15

Slide37

Slide36

Slide35

Slide33

Slide34

Slide22

Slide21

Slide20

Slide19

Slide18

Slide17

Slide16

Slide23

DAY 4

Harajuku, Ginza

Slide40

Slide39

Slide38

This was truly a wonderful vacation, and a much needed respite from work and the horrendous summer heat wave!  There are too many things to see, do and eat in Tokyo that 4 days is definitely not enough!

Hopefully, we’ll have the chance to come back and explore other neighborhoods in the near future.  Tokyo, I’m far from being done with you :).

Singapore La la la la laaah…la la la laaaah!

My super sweet H knows how stressed I’ve been at work, especially these past couple of years (yes, years!).  Prior to all the challenges, I used to have more of a life–hahaha!–which included lots of travel and quality time with the family.

This year, though, I promised myself that things would be different, and that I’d make more of an effort to do all the things that I used to love doing.  At the top of that list is ofcourse spending more time with the little girl and the H, followed by making more time for arts and crafts projects, and going on trips!

If I had my way, I would love to escape somewhere out of town or out of the country every month!  Hahaha!  And so far, I think I’ve done pretty good!  While January had its share of day trips, February was a highlight because the H treated his ladies (that’s moi and the little girl) to Singapore!  Yup, a first for A, and a first for our family!

Here’s a photo diary of what went on during our 3-day vacation.  We also celebrated my birthday, so turning 38 (yes, I am proud of my age :)!) turned out to be extra special this year!

Slide02

Day 1 consisted of a trip to the aquarium in Sentosa.  Thank goodness we decided to buy our tickets online!  We totally skipped the long queues and got in right away!  But it seemed like we were there with the rest of the world–so many people were in the aquarium that day!!!  Nevertheless, we really enjoyed ourselves :).

Slide01

Slide03

Slide04

Day 2, the busiest of all the days, started with a trip to the Children Little Museum, and ended with a visit to Singapore’s newest attraction, Gardens by the Bay.  We had an awesome time!

The Children Little Museum is basically a two-storey shop filled with curios and vintage paraphernalia.  That it was filled with a collection of items that would give one an idea of life during the “olden” days, piqued my interest.  I thought that it would be a fascinating experience for the little one too :).

Slide05

Located very near the Bugis area by the Arab Quarter, the Children Little Museum is identified by the tall robot standing at the store front.

Slide06

Some of the merchandise on the first floor are for sale, but it is the display items on the second floor that people come to see, and where the real treasure lies.

Ascending the steps is like walking up memory lane–the items on display reminded me of a totally different era when things were much simpler, when children drew pictures and played games on the streets.  There were different types of toys mounted on the wall, different types of tricycles, rocking horses, strollers, a collection of school supplies, old musical instruments and equipment, and other interactive displays.

Slide07

Slide08

Slide09

This was a really cute display of a street barbershop, the H pretending to give the little miss a haircut! :)

As you can see, we really enjoyed our visit here :).  There are many things to explore so the little one was kept busy! :)

Slide10

After the museum, we headed over to Gardens by the Bay, right by the Marina Sands Hotel.

Slide11

Aside from the outdoor gardens, this place also has two huge conservatories. The one called The Flower Dome features many different flower species from various parts of the world, while The Cloud Forest mimics the conditions inside a rain forest.  Visitors get to walk through the “forest” via some ramps that go up, down and around a mountainous structure.

Slide12

Slide13

Slide14

Slide15

Slide16

Slide17

The Gardens by the Bay is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced so we really had a wonderful time!  It amazes me how the Singaporeans are able to come up with these unique tourist attractions.  Galing!

On our last day, we decided to take it easy and have brunch at one of our favorite restaurants, PS Cafe.  Since the Dempsey location was a bit too far, we decided to try the one on Orchard Road instead.

Slide18

Slide19

I really, really love the interiors of PS Cafe.  It’s very chic!

We decided to sit outside on the balcony though since it was a pretty cool day, and we wanted to take advantage of the sunlight and natural setting.

Slide20

Aren’t these tiles soooo pretty?  I tried to take the token feet shot with the fam, but the little one couldn’t keep still!  Hahaha!

We left PS Cafe and decided to walk all the way back to our hotel.  When we arrived, we had just enough time to freshen up and grab a cab to the airport.

It was a really quick weekend, but I think it was a weekend well spent!  We saw a lot of new attractions, and a side of Singapore that we have never seen before! :) It was also wonderful to be able to get away even for a short bit to re-charge and spend quality time with the fam bam :).

Next month, it’ll be a trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms!  Woohoo!  I am sooo excited!  In April, it will be a Palawan trip with my colleagues.  I can’t wait to hit the beach!  I wonder what other trips this year will have in store?  Stay tuned!!! :)

Madrid Eats

After Paris, the parentals and I flew to Madrid where we spent the most time during our trip–8 days!  Luckily, the last time I was there was almost 20 years ago, so definitely there was a lot to reacquaint myself with :).

We were billeted at a hotel called Hotel de Las Letras on the main road, Gran Via. It was a super nice hotel!  I loved that the interiors were very modern and streamlined, yet the hotel itself was housed in a restored, historical building.

The location was also very ideal as it was near a lot of shopping areas, restaurants, and many of the tourist attractions.  We were pretty much within walking distance of everything!  Definitely this is a major requirement for my family when we travel and book a place to stay :).

So what did we do during our 8 days in Madrid? Because we had quite some time to spend, we pretty much did a little bit of everything :)  We ate, we shopped, and we toured, ofcourse! :)  I have so many wonderful experiences to share with you all!  However, this post will focus more specifically on the food, though, otherwise it will be a terribly looooooong article.  Hahaha!  More on my adventures in another post nalang :).

Anyway, unfortunately for my waistline, we ate a LOT on this trip (good thing we walked a lot too!).  We gorged on tapas and other traditional Spanish fare.  We definitely could not pass up on having some authentic churros con chocolate as well.  Spanish food is soooooo good!  It still is no match for Pinoy food in my opinion, but good nevertheless :).

Of all the places we dined at in Madrid, here are the ones I enjoyed the most and would definitely recommend you try:

1. Mercado de la Reina

Situated just right outside and across the street from our hotel, this tapas bar was such a delightful place!  Nicely designed interiors, great tasting food, and fast, friendly service are their winning combination!  And being our first stop upon arrival, we were definitely grateful for that!

2. El Asador de Aranda

As opposed to the Mercado de La Reina, this was a more traditional type of Spanish restaurant.  From the looks of it (even just looking at their plates and flatware!), it has been operated by a single family for many, many years and throughout several generations!  Located on Calle Preciados right by the Teatro Callao, it serves time-honored Spanish dishes cooked via asador or oven–hence, the name.  We were able to try their lechal–suckling lamb–and it was sooooo yummy!  I can’t actually believe I enjoyed this dish, especially since I’m not particularly fond of lamb.  But this did not taste at all like lamb but more like crispy pata (crispy pork knuckles)!  It was fall-off-the-bone and melt-in-your-mouth soft, and so simply cooked yet bursting with flavor!  Eating this dish was definitely memorable for me.  I was truly impressed!

3. La Paella

Paella is a must when visiting Spain!  On our third day there, the craving struck, and it struck hard, so I definitely had to satisfy it! Hahaha! La Paella came highly recommended by our hotel concierge.  When we entered the restaurant, the fact that it was fully packed only served to reinforce that it was popular amongst both tourists and locals alike.

My mom and I shared the house specialty paella, some chorizo, and a pitcher of sangria.  All their servings were huuuuuuge!  The paella could have totally served a party of 4, but it was indicated for 2 only.  I felt a bit ashamed though when my mom and I totally wiped out every bit of the paella :(.  Yup, it was that good! Hahaha!

If you are definitely in the mood for some paella, consider giving this place a try. Do come with an empty stomach, or at least be ready to get your belly filled.  This is one restaurant where diets need to be left behind :).

4. Mercado de San Miguel

I just looooove food markets!  I love the hustle and bustle of people milling about, I love moving from stall to stall, sampling the different delicacies or specialties on display…  There’s something about a marketplace that makes it such a fun and unique experience!

And fun is exactly what we had when my folks and I went to the Mercado San Miguel near the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the oldest food market in Madrid, although you will not be able to tell since it recently underwent renovation.  Compared to La Boqueria of Barcelona, the Mercado San Miguel is not as big, but definitely much cleaner, and more modern inside.

As you enter, stalls upon stalls of different types of Spanish food will greet you. It’s up to you to choose which ones deserve a try, and which ones deserve some precious real estate in your tummy.  Hahaha!

Everything I saw definitely made my mouth water.  From various types of croquetas and cured meats, to cheeses, paellas and all the kinds of postres that you can imagine–this place is the bomb!!!

Mom, Dad and I had a blast trying out the different offerings.  It was like having an indoor picnic, with some vino too!  It was one of the best meals of our trip indeed!

5. Mercado de San Anton

Mercado de San Anton is another food market but with a slightly different twist. It is a multi-level building located on Calle de Augusto Figueroa housing a supermarket, a market, food stalls and a restaurant.  The first floor is where the raw meats, seafood, fresh vegetables and other produce are sold.  The second floor is where you can find the prepared foods.

While I prefer the selection of Mercado San Miguel, the food stalls in San Anton were also quite yummy.  Mom and I especially liked the pulpo or octopus cooked with spring onion and tomato sauce.  We also enjoyed the carrot cake we had for dessert.

I think that the feature of Mercado San Anton is the third level, which houses an outdoor, rooftop restaurant.  Unfortunately, during the time of our visit, it looked closed.  I heard that at night, though, it attracts quite a posh crowd.  I would have loved to experience the scene for myself but sadly, I never found the time to.

6. Chocolateria San Gines

For authentic churros con chocolate, the natives swear by Chocolateria San Gines.

Established in 1894, it is hidden in an alley near the Puerto del Sol that makes it quite easy to miss.  In fact, I didn’t know that I had actually walked past it already, on my way to the Plaza Mayor!  There is nothing fancy about San Ginesnothing that would make me stop and take notice–considering it is Madrid’s most well-known chocolateria.  However, once you step inside, you’ll find photos of alot of people, both famous and not, who have enjoyed their churros con chocolate throughout the years.

For a one-product establishment, San Gines is pretty much busy all hours of the day.  It is quite amusing to know that they are open from 9AM to 6AM! Apparently, Madrilenos enjoy having their churros early in the morning as a snack, after an all-night party session :).  I so can’t relate.  Hahaha!

When my parents and I arrived at San Gines, both indoor and outdoor seating were packed!  Luckily, after we ordered our serving of churros, a table cleared up just in time.

I couldn’t wait to dip the hot fried dough into the chocolatey melted goodness.  I was surprised though that it tasted quite different from the churros that I am familiar with, but this version happily did not disappoint :).  I noticed, however, that the chocolate was slightly runny, and it was quite sweet!  I was expecting it to be bitter and thicker, the way I know Spanish chocolate to be.  Oh well.  It was still an enjoyable treat, though, and a great way for us to end our evening :).

7. Valor

Valor is a very popular brand in Spain.  They’ve been in the chocolate making business since 1881, and most of their products can be purchased in supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Madrid.

Their chocolateria is located right by the Teatro Callao.  I was very excited to try their version of churros con chocolate, and see how it fared against San Gines.

The verdict?  Definitely, the chocolate trumps the San Gines version.  It was darker, thicker, chocolatier, bitter, but with a good measure of sweet.  It was sooooo yummy, I could have licked my cup clean!  Hahaha!

For the churros dough, while I liked its consistency, I found it extremely greasy!  I actually had to dab it several times with a tissue to remove all the excess oil.  It also did not have the usual “gear” shape but was long and smooth.  I guess Valor’s churros must have their own unique recipe :).

So that’s basically it :).

I am very sure that these establishments are but a small speck in Madrid’s thriving culinary scene.  Looking through this list, however, I think we were quite lucky to be able to experience an entire range of dishes from the most typical and traditionally prepared, to the more modern fusion but still very delicioso types.

It is a must for me that when I visit a place, that I get to sample the local cuisine, especially the ones they are known throughout the world for.  In some way, like culture, it is a type of education–this time for my tastebuds, though.  Hahaha!

And despite the fact that I am now a couple of pounds heavier because of my eating adventures, I console myself with the fact that these adventures made my vacation in Madrid all the more enjoyable and memorable :).

Rest In Peace

I hate goodbyes :(.

Especially when it’s to a loyal companion, that’s seen me through a lot of my life’s journeys.

Before you start getting the wrong idea, let me clarify :).

I’m actually talking about my JCrew tan sneakers.  They’ve seen their last trip, I’m afraid :(.

I’ve had these kicks for years–since I was living in New York.

They’re my most favorite travel shoes–they’re easy to pair with a lot of my clothes, and they’re really comfy! Plus, I think they look more chic than running shoes, and less typical than the usual Converse Chucks :).

But alas, all good things must come to an end–as the saying goes.  And while I’ve enjoyed our time together (and definitely got my money’s worth out of it!), unfortunately, none of my efforts to resuscitate these sneakers have been successful :(.  From these pictures, you’ll see that while it still looks pretty good on the surface, the soles are beyond repair.  I have lovingly worn them out, I’m afraid :(.

I guess I have to accept that it is time to move on.

And to be honest, these new sneakers have made moving on much easier for me.  Hahaha!

These are Bensimons.  I’m currently obsessing over them!

Don’t they look soooooooo cool? :)

I love that they’re French too!

*Sigh*  I can’t decide what color I want to get :(.

But definitely, I can’t wait to get myself a pair…or two :).  Hahahaha!

Unfortunately, they’re only available online for now and cost anywhere from about $48-$55 a pair.  That means I need to get them shipped to a US address.

Good thing I have several relatives on their way home, so it shouldn’t be a long wait :).  It’s practically Christmas already!  Hahaha!

Ooooh, something to look forward to!

I guess saying goodbye didn’t turn out to be so bad after all :).

J’Adore Paris!

It has been my dad’s dream to walk the camino to Santiago de Compostela (actually, the town is really just called Compostela :)).  I wrote a bit about it here.  His dream finally came true two weeks ago, and my mom and I were there to provide the moral support for his journey :).

Aside from cheering my dad on and a bit of R and R, there’s another reason for this recent trip to Europe, actually :).  I was there to keep my mom company while my dad was on his pilgrimage.  I had to keep her in line just in case she went a bit too wild with her credit card–hahahaha!  Kidding :).

Our trip started in Paris, the city of lights.

*Sigh!* To say I love Paris is an understatement.  Next to New York, it is one of my favorite cities in the world!

Everything about Paris is so terribly refined, elegant and romantic.  I love the wide boulevards, the chic cafe’s, the beautiful people, and the majestic architecture.  I also love, love, love the art!  We have the French to thank for producing artists such as Claude Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne.

Here is my attempt to share with you some of the things I love about this amazing city.  Although there are still many things to uncover and discover, Paris has definitely left its indelible impression on me, and it will forever be a place I will love coming back to.

1. Sidewalk Cafe’s 

When I think of Paris, images of very chic people sitting in sidewalk cafe’s immediately fill my mind.  It seems to be the quintessential place to pass time–sipping a cup of coffee, reading a good book, socializing, or just watching the world walk by.

Many of these sidewalk cafe’s can be found along Paris’ streets and boulevards. During our visit, we enjoyed whiling our time away at the Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-German in the 6th arrondissement, and Le Select on Rue Montparnasse.  Both cafe’s offer traditional french fare served any and all times during the day.  When we were there, I had my fair share of club sandwiches, croque madames, lattes and eclairs.  Simple, but very comforting food :).

And not only is the food good, but for some reason, I just love the feeling of being able to sit in a cafe, unbothered, just observing the people around me.  The vibe is also very relaxed and it made me feel as if I had all the time in the world.  Very different from the frenetic pace that I am usually used to :).

2. The Eiffel Tower

Paris has its share of historic monuments and breathtaking architecture. Ofcourse, one cannot leave the city without a visit to one of its most famous landmarks, the Eiffel Tower.  In fact, every trip I’ve made to Paris included a stop and the requisite photograph here.  I especially love it at night, when the lights are turned on :).  It makes the tower look all the more awesome and breathtaking.

3. The Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees

Another well-known structure in Paris is the Arc de Triomphe.  It stands right at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, and is usually a starting point to walk down the Champs Elysees.  Commissioned by Napoleon as a symbol of victory after the French Revolution, it is truly a beautiful and imposing structure.  For a tourist, this is definitely not one spot to be missed!

4. The Musee d’ Orsay

While Paris is known throughout the world to be the home of the Louvre, my favorite will always be the Musee d’ Orsay or The Orsay Museum :).  I can spend the whole day there getting lost amidst all the wonderful pieces of art!

Many of the works of my favorite artists are displayed there–the Impressionists, for example.  Monet and Degas are like rock stars to me :).  To be able to see their actual paintings with my own eyes is so nakaka-kilig talaga!  It makes me feel really happy–giddy, almost–and inspired!

I also love that the Orsay used to be an old train station.  I think it just makes the architecture of the building all the more interesting–from its facade to the interiors.

5. The Tuileries Gardens

The Tuileries is one of my favorite spots in Paris :).  I find the gardens so beautiful, so relaxing, and so inviting.  I love the colorful flowers, and the soothing sound of the fountains.  It’s the perfect place to slow down, read a book, have a picnic, and enjoy the weather.  It’s also conveniently located right next to the Louvre!  Haaaay!  I wish we had more parks like this in Manila.  You would definitely find me and my family there every weekend, soaking up the sun and the tranquil atmosphere :).

6. Rue Saint-Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore

I looooooove shopping in Paris!  Parisians are known all over the world for their impeccable sense of style.  The Rue Saint-Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore are probably two of the most fashionable streets in the world, being the address of most of the global high-end brands.

Walking down the street made me feel like I was almost fashionable myself! Bwahahaha–NOT!  Kidding aside, even though I know I could not hold a candle to the polished and sophisticated women shopping on Saint-Honore, being there made me a witness to the elegance and chic-ness of this city.  I swear, everyone I saw just looked so wonderfully put together. *Sigh!*

So even if you may not end up buying anything here, to walk down Rue Saint-Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore is quite a thrilling experience, especially if you are a shopper like me :).

7. Laduree

Paris is the birthplace of the french macaron.  This double-decker “biscuit” with a creamy ganache filling was invented and made popular by Laduree.

One of the items on my to-do list during this trip was to visit the Laduree shop, and sample its famous macarons.  There was a long line when we got there, but I was determined not to leave without giving the original pastry a try.

To be honest, it didn’t taste any different from some of the other macarons I’ve tried here in Manila, but to be at the place where it all started, and to see the familiar celadon green colors of the store exteriors was still a nice experience :). I was charmed too by the interiors and the lovely colors of the macarons.

Again, it has such a different ambience from our local cafe’s and dessert places.  I don’t know what it is about these French people, but they just know how to make things more delightful and enchanting!

So there you have it :).  It’s not a complete list, but based on my 4 extremely short days in Paris, these are some of the reasons why this city has truly captivated my heart.  I can’t wait to bring the H and the little miss here!  And I am glad that there is still much more of Paris left for us to discover together.

I have no doubt that they will love it as much as I do :).