Category Archives: Sight-seeing

Touchdown Tokyo!!!

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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.

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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 :).

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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?

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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!!!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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… :).

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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 :))

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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…

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

Finally, we arrived at Nan Lian!

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A at Nan Lian

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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! 🙂

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).

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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

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DAY 2

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

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DAY 3

Sensoji Temple, Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Omotesando

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DAY 4

Harajuku, Ginza

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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!

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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 :).

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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 :).

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!! 🙂

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 :).

A’s Vacay in HK

This is another delayed post :(.  So many things to blog about, so little time! Hahaha!

August was a month of holidays–first the 4-day weekend that I just wrote about in my previous post, then followed by a 3-day one.  While we opted for a staycation the first time around and did things around the metro, the last 3-day holiday we spent in Hong Kong with the little miss.  It was her first international trip!  The H and I figured it was about time to expose her to foreign shores.  That HK is just an hour and a half away made it a no-brainer choice for us!

Thankfully, A is a pretty good traveller–at least for the most part.  While she usually hates feeling restricted and has a tendency to get antsy, new things tend to intrigue and captivate her–enough to keep her distracted from tearing her seatbelt off!  Hahaha!  And when the novelty of her environment has worn off, the iPad helps to keep her busy.  I know, I know.  It sounds like really bad parenting, but honestly, it’s been a lifesaver on many occasions such as this one.

I love that this trip was a great opportunity to expose A to new things and new experiences :).  As someone who has travelled all her life, I can see how instrumental it was in shaping the way I think and act, how it has influenced my tastes, and how it has made me a more confident, self-assured person.  I truly wish the same for my A so the H and I agreed early on that we would take every opportunity we had to go on trips with her, and to teach her the “ways of the world.”

So since this was a pretty momentous trip for our family, we decided to make it even more memorable by including a visit to the “happiest place on Earth”–Disneyland!

While I honestly did not think it would be an age-appropriate experience for A just yet, because she loves watching Disney Junior and loves the story of Snow White, I relented.

True enough, she wasn’t very interested in the rides, and the lines were too long to wait for.  However, she really enjoyed watching the Flights of Fancy parade, browsing the merchandise at the Disney Store, and when she saw Minnie Mouse, her favorite character, her expression was priceless!  She was like an awestruck groupie!  Hahaha!  I think that’s what made the heat, and the trip to Disneyland more than worth it :).  To see the look of happiness on A’s face made everything worth while! 🙂

Looking through these pictures, I’m a bit wistful that our time in HK was too short.  All of a sudden, after Disneyland, our vacation just zoomed past us!  I didn’t even really have time to shop!  Hahaha!  Maybe it’s the H’s answered prayer? 🙂  Hahaha!  But like I said, the entire trip was definitely a memorable and fun experience.  Haaaaay, how I would love to do this more often!

Next up?  Probably Singapore and the Night Safari–the little miss looooves animals.  It will definitely be something to look forward to :).

To Alaska and Beyond!

My family loves to cruise.  Ever since our first one on the Mediterranean 7 years ago, we’ve been hooked!  Not only is it a great way to travel and to see different places all at once, but because you eliminate the need for making hotel reservations per destination, and are guaranteed food supply 24/7, then it is more bang for your buck as well :).

This year, my dad decided to treat the fam to another cruise.  While in the past we’ve always opted for some European itinerary, this year, we decided to do something more nature-y and different.  So off to Alaska we went, for a little bit of outdoor adventure :).

Our first stop was a town called Ketchikan.  I was amazed at how small and sleepy this place was!  My subdivision in Quezon City is not only bigger in size, but in the amount of residents as well!  Hahaha!

The main attraction of this town is Creek Street.  Formerly home to Ketchikan’s red light district (with over 30 brothels!), today it is basically a row of shops and galleries where tourists can sightsee and do some souvenir shopping.  In fact, Creek Street has earned the distinction of being the “Most Photographed Street” in Alaska.

Aside from this, Ketchikan also holds two other noteworthy titles.  It is the “Salmon Capital of the World”, as well as “home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world”.  Not surprisingly, there are more than 80 kinds of totem poles displayed throughout the city!  Not only do they serve as a reminder of the traditions and values of tribal culture, but are also an imposing and awe-inspiring example of Alaskan native art and craftsmanship.

According to our port guide, totem poles are either commemorative, memorial, or lineage poles that celebrate a tribe or family’s unique heritage.  I was surprised to discover that the most important figure in the totem pole is the figure at the bottom, and not the one at the top :).  I guess you really do learn something new everyday!  Hahaha!

Our next port of call was Juneau, Alaska.  It was a bit of a shock for me to find out that despite it being the state capital, there are NO access roads leading to Juneau.  To get here, one must go via boat or via floatplane!  Talk about hard to get to!

The downtown area is again very small, comprised mostly of souvenir shops and restaurants.  One of their must-do activities is riding on the Mount Roberts tram. It has the best view of the Gastineau Channel, as well as that of downtown Juneau.  At the very top of the mountain is a restaurant, where one is encouraged to have a meal, or to enjoy a steaming cup of coffee (Alaska is proud of their brews :)), while taking in the breathtaking sights.

The most popular natural attraction in Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier. Nicknamed “the drive-up glacier”, it is about a 20-minute drive from downtown. Once inside the Tongass National Forest, the glacier is easily accessible by foot, allowing one to actually walk up right to it versus viewing it from the air or by sea.

Having never seen a glacier before, I have to admit that for my first sighting, Mendenhall was pretty impressive :).  According to my research, it is about 12 miles long, half a mile wide, and about 300-1800 feet deep.  But unfortunately, because of global warming, the Mendenhall Glacier is not as massive as it used to be.  It has  been slowly retreating since the early 1700’s.  Size aside however, this glacier has been able to survive much longer than other glaciers in the North American region.  The geography and unique climate of Juneau contribute to this.

Though I dislike gloomy weather, glaciers are actually best viewed on overcast days.  We were “lucky” that this was the kind of day we had when we visited Mendenhall.  I thought that the bright blue glow that the glacier emitted was very pretty and magical-looking :).  Apparently, this is caused by the ice’s absorption and reflection of light :).

Our third port on this cruise was Skagway, Alaska.  It was actually my favorite among the Alaskan ports.  It was also the most modern-looking and the least deserted–the streets were bustling with tourists exploring the town, and scouring the shops for souvenirs.

Interestingly, Skagway is the least populated of the Alaskan cities we visited. Year round, it only has about 750 residents.  During cruise season, however, this number swells immensely.

Another interesting fact about Skagway is that it is considered the “Sunshine Capital” of Southeast Alaska.  Unfortunately, the morning we landed, the sun was nowhere to be found :(.  Hahaha!

As for attractions, Skagway’s must-do for visitors is the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway ride.  It is basically a 3-hour scenic ride up to the Canadian border. The railway was built during the era of the Klondike Gold Rush, and took 35,000 men 26 months to finish under extremely treacherous conditions.  This engineering landmark climbs up to 3,000 feet, and is held in the same esteem as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the Panama Canal.

Even though the train ride itself costs a pretty penny, I think the experience itself was worth it.  I thought it was interesting to hear stories about the railway’s history and to learn more about life during the Gold Rush.  It certainly made me appreciate all the modern conveniences I now enjoy.  It also made me appreciate the work that went into building the structure, considering the materials and equipment that were available during that time.  Factoring in the weather conditions that the men had to endure… *shudder*…definitely this railroad is an amazing feat!

And the views? Ofcourse, they were nothing short of spectacular–nature at its finest!  There were parts where we saw lush green forests, flowing streams, snow-capped mountains–a little bit of everything!  We even saw a baby brown bear and a mama black bear scrounging around for food!  Now that was pretty awesome, especially to see them in the wild :).

Skagway was indeed a wonderful way to end our short tour of Alaska.  Our next and last stop was Victoria, British Columbia.  While it was the prettiest port in our cruise, sadly, it was where we spent the least amount of time :(.  We only had 4 hours!!!  Waaah!  But I guess cruises are really meant to give tourists just a taste of a particular place–enough to make them want to come back for more. And from what we saw, I definitely want to visit Victoria again someday :).

Victoria holds the distinction of being the most “English” city in British Columbia.  Its charm is evident in the architectural landmarks that can be found along the Inner Harbour–both the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel and the stately Legislative Building are truly a sight to behold.

Considered a National Historic Site in Canada, the Empress is one of Victoria’s oldest and most famous hotels.  In fact, it has pretty much become an icon for the city itself.  I just love its ivy-covered brick walls and enchanting facade! Had we had more time, it would have been nice to enjoy some high tea at the historic lobby, where it is said that many members of royalty and other dignitaries have had their share of scones and clotted cream :).

Constructed in 1893 in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the Legislative Building is a must see whether during the day or at night.  We were lucky to catch views of this impressive structure during both times, although I must say that it is definitely more wonderful to see at night.  There are about 3300 bulbs that illuminate the entire building, making it look even more striking and captivating.  I had a field day capturing it all with my camera!  Hahaha!

Sadly, all trips must come to an end, but I’m glad we ended this one with such beautiful and extraordinary sights.  It made me wistful of what more I could have seen, had we had more time.  Oh well…I’m sure there will be a next time :).

As I sit and write this post, it again hits me how lucky I am to able to travel and see different parts of the world.  I am so fortunate to be able to have new experiences that enrich me as a person, and that make life interesting for me. Most of all, I am extremely thankful to have such wonderful parents that I can travel with, and who continue to give me these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I am truly blessed!  I only hope that one day I can provide my daughter the same experiences that I have been so generously given :).

Starbucks One

There are two beans battling for importance and popularity in Seattle–the coffee bean and the cocoa bean.  Which bean reigns supreme? While in my opinion it is a pretty close call, I’d have to rule in favor of my every morning staple, the coffee bean.  After all, don’t we have Seattle to thank for giving the world such coffee brands as Seattle’s Best, and my personal favorite, Starbucks? 🙂

Yup, if you didn’t know by now, Starbucks had its humble beginnings in a small shop by the Pike Place Market.  For all you Starbucks lovers visiting Seattle, it is a MUST to drop by the place where it all began.

Surprisingly, when we got there, there wasn’t a very long line inside the store. While you can still order your cup of java from the counter, there are no more tables and chairs for customers to sit down and while the time away.  The Original Starbucks store is mostly a place to purchase souvenirs, memorabilia, and ofcourse, coffee.

I love how “Starbucks One” stays true to its original look, using its very first mermaid logo on the store signage and merchandise.  It is actually one of only two stores left in Seattle that makes use of the initial logo and colors (it used to be brown!).  So vintage! 🙂

As a fan of the Starbucks brand and experience, it was pretty exciting for me to be able to visit their very first store–yet another place of interest in the charming city of Seattle :).