Showing posts with label Travels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travels. Show all posts

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Zealand Trip, Part 1: Auckland

During the holiday season, we decided to take a trip down south. We visited the North Island of New Zealand and roamed in and around Auckland and Rotorua. We arrived on the 26th of December and we were blessed with warm sunny weather. Thankfully, it is summer in December in the Southern Hemisphere because I am not so much of a sweater weather person and I don't buy into that White Christmas crap because I have already experienced how much of a bitch the cold and bitter white winter can get.

The view of Auckland from our boat on the way to Waiheke Island
Our hotel was just right at the top of Queen Street. It's a famous street with all the shops and restaurants. Right at the bottom of Queen Street, you'll find the pier, where you can book all sorts of island trips.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Driving Around Iceland, Part 5: Reykjavik to Jokulsarlón

(please refrain from using my photos without permission)

As I have mentioned in my first three posts, I am writing about my trip to Iceland in reverse chronological order. And so in this last part of my series of blogs about Iceland, I shall be talking about the first part of the trip.

We were actually coming from Toulouse on the way to Iceland. And from Toulouse, we had to change planes in Amsterdam. We took Iceland Air from there. The flight was quite nice. We had some free snacks onboard and there was an entertainment console on each seat, but you'd have to buy the ear phones, which I found weird.

Some slow shutter, moody shot of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lake, taken with an ND filter
We arrived around midnight and so were greeted by the midnight sunset above the Icelandic skies a few minutes before touchdown to Keflavik Airport. Everything was bathed in blood-red outside. It was otherworldly. I’ve never really seen the sunset from the plane before, much less, a midnight one! It was splendid... like a portent of things to come.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Driving Around Iceland, Part 4: Akureyri and the North

(please refrain from using my pictures without permission)

continuing from my last installment, we were in Borgarnes (the west). from there, we headed up North towards Akureyri, which was about four and half hours' drive. as usual, we drove along the coastal areas. the paths were long and winding. the clouds hovering low over the cliffs, still. there were times when the roads were really zigzagging and steep. it would get all foggy and cold one moment, and then all sunny and clear and warmer the next.

the small city of Akureyri in the North -- apparently, the second biggest in Iceland, next to Reykjavik

Friday, September 11, 2015

Driving Around Iceland, Part 3: Borgarnes and a Bit of the West

(please refrain from using my photos without permission)

First of all, I would like to say that I fell in-love with our hotel in Borgarnes called, Ensku husín. The name of the hotel translates to "English House". Just look at how charming it is from inside and out:


This is the view from the restaurant

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Driving Around Iceland, Part 2: A Day in Reykjavik

(please do not use my photos without permission)

I’m actually starting this series of blogs in reverse chronological order because I want to save the best for last.

Our last day in Iceland was spent walking around Reykjavik (the capital city) with my Icelandic friend giving us a free tour and bringing us to a very nice and famous restaurant. It's a welcome respite to just take a relaxing walk around the city on our last day of touring around Iceland as we had been driving all over the country for the past days, all the while hurrying to see places few and far between.


First on our list was Hallgrimskirkja.  Like most Icelandic words, the pronunciation is entirely different from how it is spelled. I didn't understand which place my friend was referring to at first when she mentioned it, until she explained how certain letter combinations are pronounced a certain way, totally unlike the spelling.

Those linear columns are reminiscent of the spectacular basalt rock formations at the Reynisfjara (more about this later on)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Driving Around Iceland, Part 1: Teaser Post

To the uninitiated, Iceland frightfully sounds a lot like some piece of land filled with a lot of ice. Well, it's not true at all. There are actually more ice in Greenland (its neighbor country, a bit higher in latitude) than in Iceland. Although, it is true that I specifically went there to see the ice, I went during the summer so I only had the chance to see them on mountaintops and cliffs, and melting on glacial lagoons, thankfully. Yes, glacial lagoon, you read that right! More about that later! :)

I shall be posting about the Ice in Iceland lastly in this series of posts because it is the part of my trip that is the most amazing of all. And I really like saving the best for last. For now, I just want to present the itinerary of our crazy driving trip back and forth Reykjavik (the capital city) -- going down South towards the Southeast (Jokulsarlon) and back again towards the West (Borgarnes) and then the North (Akureyri) and finally back again in Reykjavik. I have to admit, we didn't plan this trip well enough. We did not do a lot of research and just followed the suggested itinerary of our Travel Agency blindly.

You can see our crazy itinerary on the left side, and our driving path in blue on the map. We have actually spent almost 18 hours on the road, according to Google maps. It didn't feel like that at all because we had plenty of stopovers at gorgeous sights along the way! :)

But it was not such a bad trip at all. Contrarily, I would say it was my best trip of all, to date. Iceland is just Amazing with a capital A. It has landscapes that boggle the mind and make you feel like you are in another planet. I mentioned this to my Icelandic friend, whom I visited while I was there, and she said in fact that the landscapes are more amazing in the highlands. Regretfully, we only visited the coastal areas, which have paved roads. We didn't get a proper vehicle for rough roads and the highlands, unfortunately. She said the landscapes there are quite like the ones on the moon that there are actually astronauts training up there to get a feel of what it would be like on the moon. Is that Amazing or not?!

So I leave you hanging for the meantime, awaiting my series of posts featuring one of the most magical sights you will ever see in this world... Ciao for now! :)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nepal of 2011

It was very shocking to hear the news about the recent earthquake in Nepal. Especially since it is one of my well-cherished travelled places.

What makes it so memorable is the fact that it was the last country I visited before I got married back in 2011. My soon-to-be-husband then and I went there as a last-minute resort, originally planning to go to Japan for Hanami (cherry blossom season). Unfortunately, tsunami struck right about the time when we were about to go there. It’s a good thing that it happened before, and not after, or possibly even while we would have been there.


This blog post is a tribute to the Old Nepal, with all the ancient architecture of its countless temples in all its awe-inspiring glory. Let’s take the time to reminisce with some of my old photographs...

The Boudnath stupa in Swayambunath temple of Kathmandu

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend in Maldives

My family and I decided to go on a trip to The Maldives for the long weekend holiday. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

The gorgeous view of the islands from up above:

The Maldives look like a beautiful abstract painting from above -- couldn't wait to land on one of those lovely blue dots at the first sight of them! :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

La Ferme aux Grives

December for me is all about reminiscing about the best experiences of the year that is almost about to come to an end. and so this December, i'm starting a blogpost about the best experiences i've had this year. and what better way to begin this than by talking about food.

the best restaurant experience i had was of course back in France during our family visit in the summer. my in-laws took us to this nice restaurant called La Ferme aux Grives in a small ville called Eugenie-les-Bains, in the South of France, not far from where my in-laws live.

the restaurant was set in the middle of a lovely garden, at the edge of a huge farm, and is owned by a two-Michelin starred chef, Michel Guerard.


the ancient stone house that makes up the restaurant of La Ferme Aux Grives


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saint Vincent de Paul

one of the fondest memories of my university life was taking the mass every Sunday at Saint Vincent de Paul's chapel.

i was already not a religious person at the time, but i have always enjoyed good singing. the SVP chapel had a really good choir. and i really liked Saint Vincent de Paul's birthday because it means school holiday. :)

last time i was in France, i took the chance to finally visit his ville-natale.

A small church at the center o the small ville

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Best of Tuscany Part 4: Chianti, Arezzo and Cortona

From Siena, we spent almost two hours driving through the scenic SR222 route. it's basically a road that traverses the whole of Chianti from Siena to Firenze. If you look it up on Google, or click the link I have here, you will see that it is quite famous for the scenery.

Driving along the famous SR222 -- the scenic route that cuts across the Chianti Region between Siena and Firenze

From Chianti, we actually headed back to Siena for one last night. And the next day, we drove to Cortona. one of the best parts of our Tuscan trip was staying at this lovely hotel in Cortona called Relais Borgo San Pietro.


A beautiful place to have an apéro -- my favorite prosecco and hubby's Spritz

We also took an afternoon to visited Arezzo because i've always wanted to visit this chapel which is the setting for the movie, The English Patient. remember that romantic scene with Juliette Binoche? i was quite surprised to find the Basilica di San Francesco quite small. It was charming, nevertheless.

The last part of my Tuscany Trip takes us to The Chianti RegionArezzo and Cortona. These posts can now be found by clicking on the links that take you to my travel site, escapecapades.com.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Best of Tuscany Part 3: San Giminiano and Siena

Of all the places I've visited in TuscanySiena is my favorite. There is just no boring corner in Siena. Everything around is a feast to the eyes. It's probably why it is the site of some famous movies, including James Bond, Quantum of Solace's horse race scene. It definitely is one of the loveliest places on earth. Read the full Siena and San Giminagno experience on escapecapades.com

The pines, the vines and the olives... I really am in Tuscany!

I wouldn't mind visiting Siena again. :)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Best of Tuscany Part 2: Pisa and Lucca

From Firenze, we headed off to Pisa, to of course, see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Since everybody's been telling us that there's not much to see and do there except see the tower, we decided to spent half the day there and then head off to Lucca. Read the full story on escapecapades.com

The very famous leaning tower

Ciao!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Best of Tuscany Part I: Florence

The first stop of our Dream Tuscan Road trip was, of course, Florence. Read all about it on escapecapades.com.

View from the tower of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

I really love Italy for the food, the sights and the beautiful weather... and also I like how people call me Signorina (Miss)... it makes me feel so young and pretty. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tuscany Road Trip

You might think that I have already abandoned this blog since I haven't been updating for the longest time ever. The truth is June and July have just been very busy for me -- entertaining visitors, planning our three-week European holiday, and arranging things for my return to work after a three-year sabbatical!

But I won't be overwhelming you with too much information on this blog entry. For now I just want to write about my recent trip to Tuscany, one of the best regions of Italy.

Le road trip de rêve -- we followed the advice of our Lonely Planet guidebook, except we've replaced Volterra with Arezzo and Cortona
We have planned on going for a road trip all over Tuscany. our trip consisted of eight days and eight nights coming from Bordeaux, France to Florence to Pisa to Lucca to San Giminiano to Siena and Chianti Arezzo to Cortona and finally back to Florence again.

it was quite a tiring trip but definitely worth it! the place is as magical as how you imagine it and a lot lot better than pictures!

i have seen places that were the setting of some of my well-loved movies: The English Patient and La Vita e Bella, to name a few. you would think that visiting a single place in Tuscany would be sufficient because if you've seen one, you've seen them all... NOT true at all. each time we progress to the next destination in our trip, we get completely awed by how beautifully different one place is compared to the last one we've visited.

right now, i am still a bit jet-lagged to post pictures and provide more details of the trips. more next time! ciao! :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bali Gastronomy

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to once again visit Bali together with my family and some visiting friends from France.  Before I talk about the food, I just want to show you a bit of the place where we stayed. It was quite old and lacking in amenities but the caretaker was really nice. And the place was always kept clean and I totally loved the way it was designed.

The entrance to our two-bedroom private villa

The tiniest of swimming pools

I just love this open air bathroom!

Always looking forward to showering under the frangipanied skies

During my younger days, most of my trips were hurried and my goal was just to see all the important places and take as many pictures as possible. Eating was just a necessary nuisance. But now that I am slower and kinder to my body, eating seems to have taken as much importance as the sights to see.


Dinner at Petitenget Restaurant

The seafood platter for entrance

A garden on a plate -- my vegan friend's main dish

This is what i had

Panna cotta!

We went to Petitenget once for dinner on the very first evening, and then again for lunch on our last day! It was our absolute favorite because the staff are friendly and nice, the food delicious, it has a wonderful ambience, and reasonable price!


Duck watching

Crispy fried duck, the restaurant's specialty... did not disappoint!

I love how you can see the ducks roaming around the huge fields in the restaurant

We had a good hearty lunch of crispy fried duck at Bebek Tepi Sawah restaurant in Ubud, Bali right before hiking up and down the famous rice terraces! the place is also a hotel and a spa.

The rows of restaurants atop the rice terraces in Ubud, Bali

What a beautiful relaxing view

My friends enjoying the view

I thought I should also mention that we had a refreshing snack and drink at one of the restaurants facing the rice terraces. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the name of the one we went to. It was the most relaxing, refreshing and wonderful time resting after a tiring hike in the hot sun.


The labyrinth-like path to the W Hotel

I was tempted to order LOL, but I'm not really a fan of lychee

I just love, love, love this dessert!

At the hotel lobby

We found ourselves marching into the labyrinth-like path towards W Hotel on the way to the Fire Restaurant. Hubby saw some good reviews on the internet and thought we'd give it a try. It was, unfortunately, a little bit too posh for everybody's taste. As for me, I didn't mind at all. The foie gras sampler and watercress salad that I had were satisfying. The only thing that bothered me was the techno music coming from the bar on the beach, which gave me a bit of migraine.


Parking-side entrance to Menega Café, Jimbaran

Look how cheap it is! :)

Delicious lobsters!

I can never get tired of this view

It has the view of the surfers and the airport on the right side, which is not included in the frame
Lunch in Uluwatu was at Menega Café, in Jimbaran, which offers the best grilled seafood for so cheap price! I especially loved the lobsters! You should try to come and order early if you are hungry, as it takes almost an hour for them to serve the food.

Tapas, etc.

The semi-crucified lechon

Nice vines and ceiling art

Tapas!

Last dinner in Bali was at Barbacoa. They serve American-Mediterranean inspired dishes, with Indonesian influence, of course. Except for the beautiful terasse that opens into a wide vegetable farm and open skies (which are star-filled at night), I didn't really enjoy my dinner so much. Most of the dishes were too salty. Although, the lechon which was shared by my friend and hubby was really good. I'm not too crazy about lechon, though. Also, if you want to have a good table, be sure to ask the caucasian manager who is very friendly and nice, unlike the rest of the restaurant staff that were pretty much useless.

bon appetit! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

French/Schengen Visit Visa for Spouse of French Citizen

My family and I are planning to have a three-week holiday in France and visit some Schengen Countries at the same time a few months from now. Since my Titre de séjour has already expired late last year, I now have to get a visit visa from the French Embassy here in Singapore. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how fast and easy it is now for me to get one, being a spouse of a French citizen.

Here are the procedures:

First, you prepare the requirements listed in the downloadable document that contains the list of the required documents you need to furnish the embassy: passport (orig and photocopy), IC (orig and photocopy), re-entry permit, passport-size photo, your spouse's passport or ID card, your spouse's birth certificate and livret de famille.

Fortunately, we already have all the required documents since they were also needed when I applied for the Titre de sejour while I was in France.

Then you need to fill-in the application form which can also be downloaded from the web site.

Next, you schedule for an appointment, which can also be done online. You have to remember that the appointment slots are quick to be taken. When I logged on to the web site in April, the next available slot was already for the month of May.

You go to the embassy on the date of your appointment and at the time that you have chosen.

They will then take your fingerprints and take a photo of you for the visa, after which, they will give you a receipt and a claim stub where the date and time when you can claim your passport with the visa is written. Mine was after four working days! I couldn't believe how fast it is! This is quite extraordinary for the French Embassy!

And the best part of it all is that it's valid for FOUR years and it's FREE! :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Moalboal Part 2: Montaneza Waterfalls and Mainit Hot Spring

As mentioned in Part 1 of this travel post, I initially intended to go canyoning, but I had the misfortune of getting sick on the day of my travel and so figured I should postpone it til next time when I come back with my family, since hubby is also interested to do it.

I settled for a short guided hike to Montaneza waterfalls, organized by Blue Orchid Resort manager, Melissa Watkins, together with Wolfgang from Cyan Adventures.

I told them, I feel really funny being toured around Cebu by a couple of foreigners, as if I'm not local. Although, come to think of it, I have been living outside The Philippines for almost ten years now, so I'm not really that much of a local anymore.


Climbing inside the canyons makes me feel like a troglodyte

It was a very short walk from Mainit hot spring, going to Montaneza waterfalls. I was a bit disappointed because I really felt like walking some more despite my predisposition.

Steep climb

Although, climbing in and out of the canyon was quite tiring, you only really get to feel the real tiredness a day or so after.

Isn't this just beautiful?

It was even more challenging going against the cascades to climb up and go behind the waterfall... I should do wall climbing again. I'm so out of shape.

Going against the powerful cascades

The pool of water right below is quite shallow. Although, there are areas deep enough to allow you to jump into it from a certain height without breaking your legs when you fall into the waters.


Refreshing swim

That big rock in front of the cascades fell there during a recent earthquake

On the way down, I was unceremoniously told that we were going to do a couple of jumps from the cascades. Say what, now?! I wasn't really expecting to do some jumping. For one, I'm not a very good swimmer; two, we were not wearing life vests; and three, I didn't have a helmet and I could just as easily and clumsily bump my head on a piece of protruding rock. But I held my panic in check.


Melissa was very much prepared for the jump

I jumped anyway because I didn't want to look so lame and be such a total killjoy. Especially since there were small kids queuing behind me on the first jump. The second jump though, was too high for kids.

but as a result of the three worrying items I have mentioned above, echoing inside my head, my jump shots looked really weird, like most pictures of people looking shocked and bewildered for being caught unprepared. I didn't post the pics here so as not to embarrass us all. :D


Soaking in the heat at Mainit Hot Spring

Dipping into the hot spring after all the climbing and jumping was such a welcomed treat! This pool of hot spring water is tolerably hot. There is another pool, a few meters away, where it's 40+ degrees Celsius. It reminded me so much of the Onsen in Japan. You'd get cooked in a few minutes in there.

It was really a fun trip. It made me feel like a kid all over again. Given the chance to do it all over again, I would try to remember more about the kid I was, who liked to jump into the waters and had fun climbing rocks and trees. And also, will do my best not to look so fearful and crazy scared during the jump shots for the sake of better-looking pictures to post here.

The best part about this trip is not the pictures, though. It was the experience and having a day of fun that calls to mind long-gone carefree days back in my old province -- frolicking amongst endless rice fields, climbing trees and enjoying the view of the mountainous silhouette against beautiful sunsets... and what's more, I didn't even have to pay for this hiking trip because I was treated by a very generous soul. ;)

That's all for now!.. til the next adventure! Have a great weekend and thanks for reading. :)