Deers of Richmond Park

The one thing that I love in this city – I mean Greater London – that I now call home is that it’s huge! You can be in the middle of a bustling city then be in the middle of a huge sprawling park the next. With that in mind, I’ve seen pictures and blog posts that recommended a trip to Richmond Park to see its deers up close so off we go to do exactly just that!

Richmond is this picturesque town in London’s southwest. It’s beside the River Thames which definitely adds to its charm. Also, it’s blessed with green and wide open spaces one of which is Richmond Park. Richmond Park is considered as London’s largest royal park. 3x the size of New York City’s Central Park, it is all at once a national nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a Special Area of Conservation. It has hundreds of red and fallow deer and they were what I wanted to see in this visit!

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The River Thames meanders along the town

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Fallow stags

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They weren’t wary of people

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They do not even mind posing for the camera. :D

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They seem to enjoy fruits from visitors

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How to get here:
Nearest tube stop: Richmond (Overground/ District line)
Then catch buses 371 or 65 to the pedestrian gate at Petersham
*we decided to walk there taking the path that was beside the River Thames

Paragliding in Annecy

I have 3 adventures on my bucket list that would take some courage to actually get done. Sky diving. Bungee jumping. And lastly, paragliding. This July, one of them finally got crossed off!!! :D

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Paragliding – check!!!

I paraglided in Annecy. The place is on many list of the 10 most beautiful places to paraglide. I wanted to do it a year or two ago – in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate so we had to cancel at the last minute. This time around, I couldn’t ask for a better weather!

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Lac d’Annecy

I left it to my friend to make reservations for us. I’m normally OC about these things so wasn’t sure why I did that. Long story short, he actually didn’t book any despite me giving him links and reminders. He got around to doing so when I arrived in his hometown of Annecy. Turns out most of the companies are fully booked – summer is peak season. It just so happened that there was a cancellation the next day so they were able to squeeze all 3 of us in! Woohoo! Phew!

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That morning, I was excited! I was, really! But there was also that fear and panic starting to build up. I thought I was doing a great job of keeping it at bay. That is unless the guys would ask me if I’m scared. Who wouldn’t be – but I’m wayyy more excited! One of the guys drove us to the meeting point. We got registered. Waited a bit while watching the others land – they looked happy! Always a good sign. hehe Then we all got into the van that we would take us to the jump off location.  I was seated at the front. All was going really well. Until we were pretty high up the mountain and still no sign of stopping. The road was getting steeper and steeper. I tried to calm my tummy. Suddenly, it felt queasy. It was like a few butterflies were trying to find their way out. At least this time around, the boys were busy talking to our guides and weren’t asking me whether I’m scared so all was under control. Sorta. -_-

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We made our way to the jump off point. It was a beautiful (albeit for me, scary too) sight to behold! A huge area was cleared for them thrill-seekers. Several were getting ready to take off – just awaiting for the go signal from a man who seems to be in charge so it’s not chaotic. One of our guides took a shot of the whole group. Suddenly, the boys are all strapped and walking to the edge – excited and keen to get going.

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My guide, who thankfully speaks fluent English, was trying to crack jokes with me. He kept reassuring me too. He said there’s no need to panic, that there’s nothing to fear (nevermind the fact, that I’m floating high up in the air with nothing but a harness securing us to a fabric. hehe).  I will not panic. He then proceeded to put all the safety harnesses on on me along with the helmet. The instruction really was just that he’d catch the wind and when that happens, we’d have to walk fast towards the edge and keep doing so. He then got me settled on the seat and the next instruction was to enjoy the ride! What a view it was! The kind that I can only see from a plane but much closer this time around. There was really nothing else for me to do but to be amazed and try to take it all in – I was actually doing it!!! Yay!!!

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As we were starting our descent, I was asked if I wanted to pilot for a while. I answered, “I would love to but I just can’t let go!” I had a deathly tight grip on the lines. hehe And after a few minutes, I was asked another question. “Do I want some acrobatic moves?” he said. To which I honestly replied, that “as much as it looks amazing, my stomach wouldn’t be handle anything further” I then added to him to make it “as smooth as possible please.” :D I was ecstatic to have both feet touch the ground! I had to sit there for a while to calm my racing heart. My friend ran back to me – he looked flushed with excitement. And yes, they did pilot their gliders. And yes, they even had some acrobatics. We’re all happy!

Maybe I’ll paraglide again – maybe not. But I would definitely recommend you to go if you’ve ever had the desire to do so! Hmm.. bungee jumping next? :D

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*we booked with flyeo.com
tandem paragliding – €95 (€125 if with pictures)

Nice Eats: La Roustide

On my last night in Nice, my host arranged a fancy dinner for us all. A break from home cooked dining she reasoned. Having said that, we’ve eaten really good food while there. She made reservations for La Roustide – she had nothing but praise for the place so we were excited to try it for ourselves!

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This was one trip I had where nothing EVER went on time. Our reservation was for 7:30pm. We ended up seated almost 9pm since we had to wait for one more person. Once we were complete, my cousin and I started edging to the door – we were famished since we hiked that day! We were amazed at how the others were still taking their time chatting – we could do that with food in front of us! :D

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I love how the place seems cozy and beautiful in its simplicity. Seating capacity of the restaurant is at a minimum -maybe at 30 when full? It was just our party and one more small group. Service was amazing coz we didn’t need to contend with others. After some minutes of browsing through the menu, we ordered what we wanted. And food – thankfully – started arriving!

Firstly, we were given 2 kind of amuse bouche. One was creamed asparagus served with la roustide (the bread) with truffles while the other was foie gras. I gotta say, the creamed asparagus was gone so quick – it was such a treat! It had a certain kind of taste to it… some fish, crayfish according to my dining companion, was added that’s why.

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Starter was up next. I got carpaccio of veal, tomato sauce, candied tomatoes with oregano and arugula salad. I shared it with my cousin and another since it was too much – we have 3 more course coming up!

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Entre-deux is vegetable puree of the day with truffle. It was sweet potato for the day we ate there.

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 It seemed our party ordered either of these two as their main course: beef fillet marinated with honey and paprika, panisse fries cooked with marjoram, snow peas, and pink garlic pan fried; or a fish of the day cooked in a thyme stock, caramelized palm heart, mushroom duxelle cooked in wine, sorrel white butter dressing. I opted for the fish since seafood in Southern France is the way to go but still, I enjoyed the beef more! Yum!

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Last but not least are our pretty desserts. The others didn’t get any as they were already full. But whether full or not, we thought it a crime to not finish our beautiful meal with them! I got nectarines poached in port and provence herbs, strawberry and mint grout. Our companion ordered tiramisu with manzana and caramelized green apples. Both were oh-so-good!

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Food was washed down with a glass (or two) of white wine for me, red for the others. I thought that was that but our charming attendant brought out a bottle of limoncello – compliments of the place. A nice touch since they’ve already been very accommodating – we had our dog, Prince, join us in the city. We made him wait outside and he was given a large bowl of water by our attendant. When we were the only diners left, they let him in and was even given a treat!

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It was indeed a lovely evening! I’d happily eat here again the next time I’m in Nice!

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With the 2 ladies who made this trip amazing!

London Eats: Yauatcha Soho

I’ve always loved dim sum. Several years back, I visited a dim sum place in Hong Kong that’s popular because it’s Michelin-starred YET it’s not heavy on the wallet. After finding out a similar sort of restaurant in London, I of course had to go there and eat!

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Yauatcha in London’s Soho area is a Michelin-starred contemporary dim sum teahouse that opened in 2004. They specialize in modern authentic dim sum!

Enjoying my food!

Enjoying my food!

I always order their “Taste of Yauatcha” menu when I bring friends there. You’ll get 8 kinds of dim sum and your choice of Chinese tea.  Highly recommended since it’s very filling, delicious, and is (relatively) affordable! Their other menus could easily cost 50GBP per person!

As soon as you’re seated, they’ll serve pickled cucumber with 3 kinds of dip. Then they’ll start filling up your table with different kinds of delicious goodness! Har gau, crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin, baked venison puff,  prawn shui mai with chicken, mushroom spring roll with black truffle, king crab Shanghai siew long bun with pork,  prawn and beancurd cheung fun, sticky rice in lotus leaf with chicken and dried shrimp. Whew!

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Starters to whet your appetite

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Prawn and beancurd cheung fun, my favourite!

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Mmmmmm!!!

Service is always very good. The ambiance of the place is relaxing. I tend to request for a table on the ground floor which has more natural light. I’d suggest reserving a table on their lower floor if going there with a date. ;)

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Taste of Yauatcha
£28.88 for two people
– minumum of two people
Monday to Thursday
– 2pm until 5:45pm

Yauatcha Soho
15-17 Broadwick Street
Soho, London W1F 0DL
+44 (0)20 794 8888
Nearest tube stop: Piccadilly Circus

London Eats: Romulo Café

Last week, a friend suggested we try the newest Filipino restaurant on the block – Romulo Cafe. So we did!

On my google map, it showed that I was at the area but when I looked up, I first thought it mus not be right as it looked like a bar complete with neon lights. But upon reading the sign outside, it indeed say Romulo Cafe – and if you’ll peek inside, you’ll notice that it’s much bigger than you’d initially think of.  In I went and was immediately greeted by the friendly barman. I said I was quite early for our reservation but they led me to our table anyways. Also, my phone chose that time to go completely empty of battery and they kindly offered to recharge it for me by the bar.

Not really fond of alcoholic drinks , I ordered mango juice -a drink that never fails to remind me of home -Philippines!  After browsing through the 3 page menu – all full of delicious tasting  favourite dishes, we ordered a starter, 2 mains, a vegetable dish, 2 kind of rice, and a dessert! Whew!

Starter for us was pork sisig. It’s chopped sizzling pork belly with pickled apples and caramelized shallots. Being so familiar with the sizzling plate version, we were slightly confused when it came to our table. Anyway, this dish tasted so good! We were so tempted to ask for one more. We had to stop ourselves though coz we’ll have 2 mains coming up – can’t be too greedy.

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Pork Sisig

Mains came after quite some minutes of waiting. The owner, Chris, was chatting with us while we were waiting. He was very nice and was excitedly telling us about the place. He even gave us a quick tour after. Our food arrived. I enjoyed the chicken relleno  which is roasted chicken stuffed with ground pork, raisins, chorizo, and peas (kinda like embutido)  a lot. My friend thought the kare-kare – a stew in a peanut based sauce served with steamed vegetables and flavoured shrimp paste with beef and oxtail- was really nice. To ease my guilt from eating a lot of meat, we ordered laing as well. It’s sauteed taro leaves in coconut milk topped with adobo flakes.

There was a Caucasian guy at the table beside us and it was pretty noticeable that he kept asking his companion about the chicken relleno on our table.  Also, another couple on our left side were eating in a Filipino restaurant for the first time and was asking us about the food we had on our table. Chris noticed them having a hard time choosing and eventually made recommendation to them on what to order.

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Lola Virginia’s Chicken Relleno

Tito Greg's Kare-kare

Tito Greg’s Kare-kare

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Taro Leaves Laing

We barely managed to eat half of our mains as well as rice – too much! I was so full! But… but… we just couldn’t let any dessert pass us by. Not when they have a favourite of mine, sans rival, in their menu! We decided to share one between the two of us. Sans rival is a Filipino dessert made with dulce de leche buttercream, cashews, chewy and sweet meringue with vanilla ice cream. Easily our favourite! :D

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Since we had lots of leftovers, we asked them to pack it so we can enjoy the rest at home. :)

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This is by far the nicest Filipino restaurant I’ve eaten at here in London! I’ve been to quite a few already (but I’m not saying I’ve been to all Pinoy restos). We’d both love to come back here so we can try the other dishes! :D

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Opening hours:
Monday-Sunday
12pm-12am (til 11:30pm on Sundays)

Address:
343 Kensington High St
London W8 6NW

Phone:
(+44)
020 3141 6390

China 1 Week Itinerary

Great wall. Terra cotta warriors. Dumplings. Maglev. Beijing. These (are just some of the many) things come to mind when I think of China.

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I’ve been to China before but visited Yangshuo and Guilin for its scenic beauty. It was alright because I was already planning a trip back. Due to various reasons, it didn’t happen despite the fact that I’ve already booked my plane ticket, I had my visa, and itinerary and accommodations were sorted. Fast forward to 2015. It finally happened! I was able to travel to China! And this time around, Beijing (and other cities) it is! :D

Michael and I flew to China last May 2015 and went around the country for a week before continuing the journey to Japan.

Arrival in Beijing
Since I prefer not to be holed up in a chain-hotel, we’ve decided to stay in a traditional courtyard in a hutong. Hutongs are “alleys formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences joined together.” The fact that they are  a destination in themselves was a big plus. It’d be quiet and serene within the courtyard but as soon as you step outside, you have numerous choices of shops, eateries and sights to choose from.  We arrived late at night. No problem. My luggage was one of the last to appear in the carousel baggage that the public transport I had read and planned for was already closed. Plan B: take a cab- after figuring out where to get a cab and having them call our courtyard for directions.

Day 1: Beijing
It was a warm and sunny day. We had a “tourist map” of the city. We were ready to explore. And because of that, we decided to walk. First stop was the Bell and Drum Tower. They were pretty close to the courtyard we were staying at and saw it from the night before. The climb up the Drum Tower was pretty steep that when we saw  it was the same for the Bell Tower, we passed the latter -he had a bad sprain from playing football just days before our trip! Outside was this eatery where we were happy to find that all the food and drink we ordered costs less than 2GBP. More walking led to Jingshan Park with a beautiful view of the Forbidden City – our next stop. We walked the perimeter of the Forbidden City and ended up in Tian’amen Square. We took a cab back home. We had a business card with our courtyard’s name written in Mandarin on it (this really helps!).

Sunset in Tian'amen Square

Sunset in Tian’amen Square

Day 2: Beijing
Since we’ve realised that eventhough sights look close together on our map they’re still (really) far apart, we got on a cab to take us to the Temple of Heaven. It seems that the place is a popular choice for pre-nuptial photo session. There were at least 5 couple when we got there. I was checking out the gowns of the ladies. The bf thought the whole thing was too over-the-top. Looks like we won’t have any of that then T_T.  After more walking, and lunch break of course, onward to the Summer Palace it is! He didn’t want to backtrack when it was time for us to head home so we just kept on walking. He admitted that we might have gotten a bit lost after we found ourselves on a dead end under a bridge, beside a river or was it a stream, can never really tell with cars whizzing past overhead!

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The Temple of Heaven in the background

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Day 3: Great Wall of China
We opted to do a DIY trip and away from the crowd of Badaling. We started early, relatively speaking, so we can head to Mutianyu and comeback before sunset.

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The Bird’s Nest in the backgound

The fact that there were so few other tourists there definitely added to its charm! After a fun-filled daytrip to the Great Wall, next stop was the Olympic Stadium, more popularly known as the Bird’s Nest, that was the venue of 2008’s summer games. Then off to Wangfujing Street Market to sample more Chinese food (or in this case, snacks)!

Day 4: Enroute to Xi’an from Beijing

We haven’t been inside the Forbidden Palace so this was our must-do for today before we leave for Xi’an. I was hoping to take a sleeper train from Beijing to Xi’an to save on hotel and train costs but Mike didn’t want to sleep on a train for 2 consecutive nights so we got on a high speed train so we can sleep on a proper bed. We were averaging 300km/hour on our effectively cutting the usual 12hour journey to almost 5hours! It was a comfortable journey with me sleeping half of it away -we ate on the other half. :D

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Day 5: Terra Cotta Army
Terra Cotta Warriors: check!
I’ve read about them in history books from when I was a little girl. Seeing our generation’s greatest architectural find was something I wouldn’t pass up! Even if that meant getting on a 4-hour bullet train ride from Beijing to Xi’an just to see them (and trying the sleeper train from Xi’an to Shanghai)!

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Day 6: Water village of Zhujiajiao

We only really had a full day in China’s biggest city. I should have visited its many beautiful sights but after seeing a picture of the country’s best preserved ancient water town (Zhujiajiao aka Pearl Stream) and I knew that it’s the place I would love to see most! Following online instructions, we still got a bit lost but everything worked out in the end after a young Chinese couple helped us find our way eventhough we couldn’t understand each other. :D My only regret was we couldn’t stay the night here – it’d have been amazing!

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Day 7: Enroute to Kyoto

Our last day in China was drizzly. We did get to see the Bund as it was just a few mins walk from where we stayed at. We wanted to ride the world’s fastest train enroute to the airport. There were lots of people with the same idea coz when we got to the platform, there were tour groups having their pictures taken.  It was a great end to an unforgettable trip ! :D

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I’d love to go back to see other parts of the country! <3

Apo Island – Swimming with Sea Turtles!

November 5, 2015

My main bucketlist the last time I travelled back to the Philippines was to be able to swim with sea turtles (locally referred to as pawikan). I invited a few friends to join me for this trip and dragged my brother along too.

Sea turtle!!! <3

Sea turtle!!! <3

Booking a return flight from Manila to Dumaguete, we set off for a daytrip to Apo Island on our second day there. We headed to the bus terminal where we got on a Bayawan-bound airconditioned bus. We got off at Malatapay where the fare cost us 50php per person. It was a comfortable 40min bus ride with non-stop Air Supply songs blaring from its speakers – felt like a Sunday for me since that’s when radio stations will play oldies classics! We then crossed the road and walked towards the end of the street where we headed to the registration area. They then allotted a boat to us after we’ve decided to invite 2 foreign girls along to save on boat fee. Definitely on our list was making sure that we buy enough food for us before getting on to the boat. ;)

Making sure we have enough food to eat, we bought lots of food!

Making sure we have enough food to eat, we bought lots of food!

It was a pretty rough 40minute boat ride. I was seated on the middle of the boat and got an impromptu shower from all the waves that splashed onto our boat. Seeing Apo Island beckoned closer felt amazing as it meant seeing them sea turtles!

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Just as we were about to reach Apo Island!

After another set of paperworks wherein we had to get registered, we rented our gears (snorkelling mask and swimming shoes – it was a rocky coast), got ourselves a guide (we were informed that to be able to swim in the turtle sanctuary, you’ll need to take a guide with you), then swam right in.

Playing around with the fins while we were deciding which ones to rent

Playing around with the fins while we were deciding which ones to rent

And there they were, several sea turtles, lazily grazing from one patch of sea grass on to the other without it seems a care in the world. :D

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More pictures from the trip:

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Pretty corals were there to be seen too!

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Apo Island – above and below

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Group picture before getting on a tricycle to take us back to the city

 

Expenses:
50php – bus ride to Bayawan
3000php – boat for 10pax
100php – registration fee for foreigners/ non-Bisaya
100php – rental fee for equipments (snorkel gear, shoes, fin)
300php – guide fee, max of 4pax
300php – tables rented for our stay
400php – tricycle back to Daumaguete City for 5 of us