Traditional Hammam in Marrakech

These past few months, my approach to travelling had been kinda lax. I’d think of a place where I want to go to, when I want to go to, if I want to go with others, and some general idea of things I wanna do and that’s that! So for this trip to Morocco, I’d let my travel buddy, Jessica, do the planning. I’ve looked into everything before as I was planning to do this trip with another but it fell through. So I wasn’t really keen to plan for it (again).

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Inside the Marrakech souk

My must do for this leg of our trip was to try a local hammam. Hammam is a steam room where people routinely go to cleanse themselves. We asked a lady working in one of the spice shops about any she’d recommend for us – basically, a place she’d even go to herself. She pointed us to one a few streets down from theirs. When we got there, we asked for the price etc (120 dirhams for a wash with massage each). We walked some more and found another one. There’s a discreet sign on the outside –  only a marker. We went in and asked too (70 dirhams for a wash with massage). We resolved to come back the next night then we headed back to the big plaza.

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Jemaa El Fna at night

The next night, armed with our gloves and mint soap/ gel, towel, and a fresh set of undies (knickers, pants, however you want to call them) and 150 dirhams for the two of us, we then set off for our night’s adventure. First, we had to drop off another friend of ours at Jemaa El Fna so she can spend time with her friends while we do our thing – she’s not really a fan of super local stuff (*think: maybe unhygienic, probably not the safest nor the most relaxing thing to do).

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At the plaza, I told Jess that I think we should be turning right. She was absolutely certain that it was on the left though so to the left we went. A minute in to the walk, I told her I’m hungry/ dizzy. She knows me well so she agreed that we have to get something that we can share. We then stopped by a patisserie and got a slice of a moist sponge cake (5 dirhams) to share between us. We had to be conscious of the price as we’re on a tight budget – the rest of our money were with Raquel.

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I was happily munching away, letting Jess lead the way while I followed closely behind her. Keeping an eye out for the hammam signage, we ended up walking at least 15mins and no luck. We found ourselves in the “heart” of the medina. Purely locals, dead end tiny square and it looked like it may be surrounded by houses – but it was already dark – and the place looked relatively rough.  We looked at each other. Turned around without saying a word and started walking back – all the while projecting a look of, of-course-I-know-where-we-are-and-where-we’re-headed-to-and-nope,-we-are-totally-not-lost-and-f*cked-up,-and-besides,-how-can-one-be-lost-when-they-don’t-know-where-to-go-in-the-first-place? look! 😂

Speed walking our way back to the square since we told Raquel we’d take around maybe an hour only, we then agreed to take that right turn that I originally suggested. I was pretty certain now, Jess was doubtful. Either way, we were prepared to be lost again, I was getting more sure that I even jokingly told her that if I’m right, she has to pay for my hammam! It was probably only a mere 20 metre walk from our turn when lo and behold – le bains pour femme! Tadah!!!

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We entered the place, headed for this really tiny window to ask but the man behind it was still busy with his prayers – we can see him bowing, plus the call to prayer was being sounded when we started to turn back from our previous turn. After a few minutes of waiting, he finished and was ready to listen to us. He basically confirmed that it’s 10 dirhams to go in, 70 if we’re going to get scrubbed and massaged too. We were a bit hesitant on what to do next (note: we were hesitating all throughout this experience 😅). Then a kind looking lady came out of an inside door and signalled for us to follow her. Also, the man behind the window, urged us to follow her.

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As soon as the door opened, Jess took a step back “oooh, lots of naked women” she uttered. I tried not to burst out laughing from her reaction. It was a rectangular room with lockers and seats lining its walls. I saw a few tourists putting their clothes back on. We went in, then the lady told signalled us to leave our stuff on the seats. They were asking for money to keep an eye out for them, by this point we only had 5 dirhams left as we’ve given them the 140 already. We think that it may be 5 dirhams per person but when Jess showed them our totally empty coin purse, they let it be. She also signed for us to get undressed. We took off our clothes til we were down only to knickers and wrapped with our towel (that we took from the riad 😅). Another lady, she’s quite robust, came out and told us to follow her – we had our kit with us (gloves and the mint gel). We were led to another set of chambers. This was a dark room, marble and tiles all around, with several faucets strategically placed and lots of pails/ buckets, with a few dippers. The water faucets were always paired – one boiling hot, the other cold water. The entire room was covered in steam from it. This time around, a few semi naked women were seating on tiny plastic stools and/or mats. Some were shampooing their hair, others were covered in soap lather, scrubbing themselves. Others just seemed so chill, chatting away but in hushed tones.

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*This hammam place is not a local one. It caters to travellers so expect to pay (relatively) more for this. Also, taking pics isn’t allowed inside the hammam.

The 2 of us kinda just stood in a corner. Another lady, she’s a bit tiny and looked elderly, told us to come closer to her. She got out a mat, had us sit there and she proceeded to pour (hot) water over the 2 of us then walked off. We weren’t so sure what to do next but I’ve been to a hammam before (one that caters to tourists and another one in Istanbul) so I told Jess that we should apply the mint over ourselves. Several minutes later she came back. She told Jessica to refill the bucket then signalled for me to lie on my front and scrubbed away my skin with the gloves we brought along. A few minutes later, told me to face her and scrubbed away my skin again. Then instructed me to sit down while facing her then scrubbed my face and arms all the while pouring water every now and then on me. When she was satisfied, she told me to go to the other lady (the robust one) who signalled told me to sit on the mat she prepared in front of her. She then proceeded to shampoo my (really long) hair then massaged my head. Rinsing off soap suds all over me, she patted my shoulder to signal that I’m done. I came back to see that Jess was being scrubbed by the old lady so in return for her filling the buckets earlier, I filled up 2 empty ones. Not wanting to just stand idly by, I then washed my hair again as it didn’t feel like it was washed enough. We dried ourselves off then went back to the first room to get changed.

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*This hammam place is not a local one. It caters to travellers so expect to pay (relatively) more for this

Before even getting there though, Jess whispered to me that they told her that she has to give a tip later. The thing is, we have absolutely no more money with us (in case our stuff gets stolen while in the midst of the wash). She was jokingly – though in a serious voice – told me that we have to bolt as soon as we’re dressed. I was being careful when dressing coz I didn’t want any of my clothes to get wet and with quite a handful of hair to dry, and coz of that, I was too slow for her liking. By this time, the elderly lady came out – dressed in a bath robe – asking Jess for tips (hmm.. did it look like I had no money so they kept going straight for her??? Hehe). We apologised and tried to explain in broken French that we didn’t bring extra money with us. She looked quite upset. She sat on a corner seat and was grumpily talking away to the kind looking lady who would signal us to not mind the elderly one. However, when I was beside Jess sorting out our stuff, the elderly lady came up to me – I was holding a plastic bag of toiletries – and she rifled through it “looking” for something. I wasn’t minding it really – well, I don’t understand neither French nor Arabic so I was kinda alright with it. But they all got my friend on edge that when I asked for my comb, she looked like she was ready to kill me for dilly dallying instead of just heading straight for the exit. Eventually eventhough my  head was still wrapped in a towel, she pulled me out with with urgency that I just had to follow suit since the third lady was starting to get all worked up. Again, we apologised before bolting!😂

Moral of the story: always bring a little extra! :D

Back in our beautiful (and stress free) riad! :D

Back in our beautiful (and stress free) riad! :D

 

Radwimps – Sparkle (Your Name OST)

If you’re reading this particular blog entry, chances are you’ve seen that much beloved Japanese animation film “Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)” and liked the soundtrack so much that you’re searching for lyrics. Or just because you’re following my blog (thank you!). ^_^

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That heartwarming song is called Sparkle by the Japanese band Radwimps. It is written by Yojiro Noda. As of this writing, they are still to release the dates of their live gigs for 2017!

Lyrics:
Romaji

Mada kono sekai wa boku wo kainarashitetai mitai da
Nozomidoori darou? utsukushiku mogaku yo
Tagai no sunadokei nagamenagara kisu wo shiyou yo
Sayonara kara ichiban tooi basho de machiawaseyou

Jisho ni aru kotoba de dekiagatta sekai wo nikunda
Mangekyou no naka de hachigatsu no aru asa
Kimi wa boku no mae de hanikande wa sumashitemiseta
Kono sekai no kyoukasho no you na egao de

Tsui ni toki wa kita kinou made wa joshou no joshou de
Tobashiyomi de ii kara kokkara ga boku dayo
Keiken to chishiki to kabi no haekakatta yuuki wo motte
Imada katsute nai supiido de kimi no moto e daibu o

Madoromi no naka de namanurui kowagari
Koko de nai dokka wo yumemita yo
Kyoushitsu no mado no soto ni
Densha ni yurare hakobareru asa ni

Aishikata saemo kimi no nioi ga shita
Arukikata saemo sono waraigoe ga shita
Itsuka kiete nakunaru kimi no subete o
Kono me ni yakitsuketeoku koto wa
Mou kenri nanka janai
Gimu da to omounda

Unmei da toka mirai toka tte kotoba ga doredake te wo nobasou to
Todokanai basho de bokura koi wo suru
Tokei no hari mo futari wo yokome ni minagara susumu
Sonna sekai wo futari de isshou
Iya, nanshou demo
Ikinuiteyukou

****
English

It seems this world still wants
to keep me on a close leash;
But that’s just how I want it
I struggle so beautifully.Staring at our respective hourglasses;
let us share a kiss.
Let’s arrange to meet at the place
farthest from our eventual, “Goodbye”.I grew to hate this world
made up of words in a dictionary;
On one August morning,
trapped within this kaleidoscope…
Whenever we were face to face,
you always gave a shy smile before before playing coy;
Your smile was like a textbook,
description of this world.

The time finally came,
yesterday seemed nothing more than a prologue to the prologue;
But you can skim through if you wish;
from here on out is my story;

Wielding experience, and wisdom;
and a slightly molded courage,
At a speed unbeknownst until now,
I dove to where you were.

While dozing off, I dreamed I saw a place different from here;
With my lukewarm cola…
Outside the windows of my classroom, on mornings spent swaying to and from on the train…

Even the way I loved
smelled of you…
Even the way I walked
carried the sound of your laughter…
Faced with the fact
you’ll eventually disappear,
I have no choice but to burn your existence into my memory, with these two eyes;
I no longer perceive it as a right…
I feel that it’s my duty!

From where words like “Fate” and “The Future”
are completely out of reach
no matter how far we reach out,
we love one another in a place
Even the clock hands give us sidelong glances;
Making our way through that kind of world,
let us spend our entire life, no, as many chapters as we can-
Living on and on, together!

****

I also love how the movie made me feel like I was back in Japan.  The attention to detail was amazing! It was a beautifully made movie. I wanna go back to Japan!!!

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