Archive for the ‘ Europe ’ Category

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!

Lac d'Annecy

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: 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

Daytrip to Hitchin Lavender Farm

There’s a few things I’ve learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can. – Practical Magic

I love flowers. They are a surefire way to make me smile.

P1250525For the longest time, my laptop’s wallpaper is a field of lavender. I was so keen to visit one since I first set my eyes on it. Originally planning to go there with girl friends, Mike was more than happy to leave me with them for that specific trip. He thinks it’s too girly a trip. But between our work schedules and travels, it was difficult to sync. My bf being the dearest guy that he is – and since he knows it’d make me so happy – brought me to one himself instead! <3

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First sighting of the lavender field – heart’s beating fast! :D

We went to Hitchin. Located just outside of London, it’s the closest lavender farm to us. It’s a 40 minute drive away. After paying for the entrance fee to the farm (4.5oGBP pp), we were given a brown bag and a pair of scissors each. We can take as many lavender with us – but we weren’t really there to cut flowers . I did cut a few stalk to keep as souvenir. If the rows of lavender there were connected from one end to the other, according to their website it’d reach 25 miles! Also, the farm has a cafe where you can recharge after spending time in the lavender field!  They sell lavender based products of course. I was looking for any lavender-based food to try. Alas, they only have (lavender) tea! Still, it was a day wonderfully spent with my dear Michael. ^_^

PS: Bees find lavender very attractive so there were lots of them. LOTS. They don’t sting and won’t bother you though so all was good. :D

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Entrance fee is collected by that tiny hut

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The Lavender Shop

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Lavender-based products included lotions and hand wash amongst others

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The shop has such a warm and cozy atmosphere

Some pictures we took on the field :)

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Have you been to a lavender field?
Hmmm.. where to next? :D

seeking felicity

 

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Spain’s La Tomatina Festival!

Have you ever joined a food fight? Or at least, wanted to be in one? Well then, pack up your bags and go to Spain coz this is where the world’s biggest food fight is held annually during their La Tomatina Festival.

Goin' loco over tomato!

Goin’ loco over tomato!

First things first, what is that festival all about you may ask? Held annually every last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Valencia, people throw tomatoes at each other for an hour of crazy fun!

It started the last Wednesday of August in 1945 when some young people spent the time in the town square to attend the Giants and Big-Heads figures parade. The young boys decided to have a place among the retinue of a parade with musician, Giants and Big-Heads figures.

The energy of these young people made that one participant fell off. The participant flew into a fit of rage, started to hit everything in his path. There was a market stall of vegetable that fell victim of the furious crowd: people started to pelt each other with tomatoes until the local forces ended that vegetable battle…

…Since then, the number of participants increased year after year as well as the excitement about La Tomatina Festival. In 2002, La Tomatina of Buñol was declared Festivity of International Tourist Interest by the Secretary Deparment of Tourism due to its success. – La Tomatina

Early morning bus ride to Buñol

Early morning bus ride to Buñol

It was only in 2013 – the year we attended – that the Spanish government started selling tickets for the festival. Tickets are sold for 10euros each. From Valencia, we rode a bus to take us to Buñol early in the morning. It was a 40minute drive. Still quite sleepy really. Upon arrival, we had to queue for our luggage to be stored. We then exchanged our tickets for bracelets. And then headed over to the entrance of the festivities all the while basking in the high energy of the people around us. There were groups of people wearing colourful wigs. Some girls wore flamenco dresses. Quite a few wore tomato outfits too! Foreign visitors wore their flag on their shirts or dressed in national costumes (ie kimono for the Japanese). It was pretty exciting! We got ourselves some drinks. And we’re ready! :D

The tomato fight begins after someone is able to successfully climb a greased pole to get the ham tied to the top of it. When this happens, water is fired into the air which signals the entrance of the trucks carrying tons of tomatoes and the start of the tomato fight. It is interesting to note that the town is preparing for this festival by covering the front of their houses with tarpaulins to keep it safe from all of those tomato juices!

Buildings are protected by tarps and other covers!

There are a few rules that everyone must follow:
Throwing tomatoes begin after the first water signal.
Tomatoes have to be squished first so as to avoid injuries.
Only tomatoes should be thrown around. No other projectiles allowed.
No tomotoes should be thrown once the signal to stop is given.

Still able to smile and go on with the tomato fight after being hit in the eye!

Some tips:
Wear clothes you wouldn’t mind throwing after as the stain is difficult to remove.
If you’re keen to take pictures, use a waterproof camera.
Wear goggles!!! Jess and I can’t emphasize this one more than enough. We were surrounded by Spanish guys who were taking most of the hit when she got hit in the eye. I looked at her. Told her it looked alright then we got back down to business. hehe Less than 5mins after, I got hit in my right eye! I ended up crouching coz of the pain so she looked at it. There were some bits of tomato that got stuck she said. That’s why she led me to a fountain to wash it off. I was only able to open my right eye after! Phew! I had taken my goggles off a minute before getting hit as it was covered with tomato juice! While I was recovering from my tomato injury, my travel buddy is chatting away to a cute Frenchman (her description not mine) who saw her sorting me out by the fountain. hehe :))

Top of the agenda after the tomato fight finished was to get a wash to be some sort of decent. Fire trucks parked were hosing down people for an impromptu shower. We then joined the massive queue to get our things back. Got on a bus back to Valencia and to our hotel. I was wearing a pair of sunglasses on the ride back. When we got to the hotel, I asked for a cup of ice at the reception. Too lazy tired to explain, I pulled my glasses off. No further explanations needed. They got me my ice. We were supposed to go out after our warm shower but we ended up falling asleep. Tired from a week’s worth of travel. :D

 

Have you been to La Tomatina? Are you wanting to go? It’d be great to hear of your experience too! :D

Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes

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Plitvice Lakes National Park

Michael, my boyfriend, and I love to travel. According to him, the fact that I’ve been to many European countries makes it difficult for him to decide on where else to go in this part of the world. I informed him I haven’t really travelled on the eastern side. ;) Setting our sights on it then, we chose to go to Croatia. More specifically, its Plitvice Lakes. Yes, we know people normally go there for Dubrovnik – but we kinda had our fill of old towns/ forts/ cities at the moment and would appreciate nature more.

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To get to Plitvice Lakes:

Fly in to Zagreb – capital city. Get on a bus from the main bus terminal bound for Plitvice Lakes – just double check with the driver if they’ll make a stop here. Travel time is 2hrs 20mins.
OR
Fly in to Zadar – city by the coast. Get on a bus bound for Plitvice Lakes. Travel time is 2hrs.
Last bus bound for Zagreb where we stayed at is at 6:30pm. I’ll advice to getting back to the bus stop well ahead of that as some of the buses would either get there ahead of their schedule – or later, but why risk missing your trip back?

I love road trips! Even if it means just sitting on a bus. The promise of an adventure is just so exciting!

I love road trips! Even if it means just sitting on a bus. The promise of an adventure is just so exciting!

Entrance Fees:

110 KN – 1 adult/day
180 KN – 2day ticket
55 KN – child

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Entrance 2’s bus stop

Don’t forget:

Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking quite a lot. You don’t want your feet to hurt afterwards.
Water/ drinks to keep yourself hydrated.
Snacks if you’re like me who almost always seem to be eating! ;)
Camera to capture those moments – unless you’re not into it.
Shades/ hat for those bright, sunny days.

 

About to start our walking adventure. :)

About to start our walking adventure. :)

Lots of walking!

Lots of walking!

By the information counter near both entrance,  there would be boards which show you options on what route to take and how long it’d take. Pick the one that you’re comfortable with.

Paths are clearly marked with signs like this.

Paths are clearly marked with signs like this.

Our route:

We started our walk in ulaz (entrance) 2. That’s ST2 there. We took the train/bus to ST3. From hereon, we walked downwards to P2 then to P1. In P1, we got on the boat that sailed towards P3. We then walked towards the big waterfall then to ST1 where we again rode the bus towards ST2 to catch our bus back. All in all, it took us around 5 1/2 hours. That’s us stopping for snacks and lots of photo ops or to just plain stop to soak it all in! There’s no need to pay for the bus and the boat as it’s part of the entrance fee. This might be a bit confusing but once you have your ticket in front of you with the general outline of the park, you’ll understand perfectly what we did.

The park's train/ bus. It'd take you from ST1 to ST2 to ST3.

The park’s train/ bus. It’d take you from ST1 to ST2 to ST3

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One of the boats sailing across the still waters of Plitvice

One of the boats sailing across the still waters of Plitvice

Good to know:

The park is open all year round.
There are toilets/ WC in ST1, 2, and 3 as well as in P3.
You can buy some food and drinks in the places mentioned above as well as the 2 entrance to the park.

I loved walking on their wooden pathways. Felt like I was a kid! It was well maintained too.

I loved walking on their  well maintained, wooden pathways. Felt like I was a kid!

We think a day trip is enough to see the whole park. Unless your main objective to travelling there is to take pictures and might wanna be there during sunrise/ sunset – the golden hour of taking photographs. If that’s the case, you might need more then. ;)

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We encountered many kids on a school trip and people on tour groups. Don't let it dampen your trip. We're all there for the same reason :)

We encountered many kids on a school trip and people on tour groups. Don’t let it dampen your trip. We’re all there for the same reason :)

Making sure he doesn't get his shoes wet.

Making sure he doesn’t get his shoes wet. :)

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He says it’s one of the most beautiful place he’s been to in Europe. I have to agree!

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Have you been to Plitvice Lakes? Planning on going there? It would be great if you could share other tips and suggestions! Or ask here if you have questions. :)

Happy travels everyone!!!

Inside: Carnival in Venice

It’s already February and am yet to travel. *gasp*

Where to, to start another year of globetrotting? Back to Italy! Where specifically? To Venice for their carnival! :D

First time in Italy. First time to visit Venice. :)

First time in Italy. First time to visit Venice. :)

The first time I travelled to Italy was 2 years ago. I travelled solo for a week and visited Rome, Florence then Venice. The most popular route. Typical? I guess. But for a reason most definitely! I keep telling my other friends who seem to shun touristy things that touristy places/ things are the way they are for a reason and it’d be a shame to skip them just to avoid the crowd.  Anyways, since I had been couchsurfing my way around bella Italia – and met many wonderful people and got to see places I grew up studying and dreaming of- … I wanted a break from staying at other people’s place and and to just be on my own and to treat myself I guess, so I booked for a room by the Rialto bridge  in Venice. It was perfect!

Sunset in Venice

Sunset in Venice

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I like how Venice is really just any other city except for the fact that it has canals instead of roads. Vaporettos instead of buses. Water ambulance, fire boat, etc. Awesome! I wasn’t really aware of Venice’s masquerades back then but seeing all of the masks by the streets, I figured, buy one and come back to Venice to actually use it in the festival season.

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And that’s what I exactly did last week! :D

With travel buddies, Shalinee and Jessica

With travel buddies, Shalinee and Jessica

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Venetian Carnival is an annual fest held in – as the name suggests – Venice. It is celebrated until before the start of Lent, 40 days before Easter. Here are pictures taken during the last Venice Carnival.

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The cons of visiting a place during a feast is the seriously huge crowd of people!

The downside of visiting a place during a feast is the seriously huge crowd of people!

P1100441Venice. Expensive. Touristy. Crowded. Still, it was a truly fun experience! We’re even thinking of going back to another carnival wearing a full costume. Should be fun! ;)

Best done with friends. If you wanna go there for romantic purposes, better go off season to avoid the throng of visitors – or at least to not have as many of them there.

*If looking for accommodations and you realize that Venice’s hotels are out of your budget range, look for a place to stay at in Venice Mestre. It’s in the mainland and much cheaper. And besides, it’s just 15mins away by bus. :)