Monday, October 21, 2013

Hong Kong and Macau Revisited Part 3

walking towards the Peak Tram from our hotel, we passed by this church which looked so out of place amongst the towering buildings.

last time i took the Peak Tram, it took more than an hour to queue. and here i thought i would never submit myself to this torture again. but i was mistaken.

because the experience is worth it. and i would never get tired of this view.

last time i went for this view, it was in the evening. it's less dramatic during the day, i guess. but also, less crowded.

view of the ancient tram heading towards The Peak.

we headed to Causeway Bay for lunch and shopping afterwards.


i was a bit disappointed though. the items in the area are not really so much to my liking.

 we decided to take a bit of walk heading towards the direction of our hotel and passed by this market. i find it quite weird to have a market like this  open at noon.

since it was our last evening, we tried to make the most of our HK trip by club-hopping and eating out at Lan Kwai Fong.

the famous Fringe Club with a rooftop bar was under renovation. so we settled for a beer in this bar called Hong Kong Brew House which offered free peanuts and had San Miguel Beer under the Boring Beer category in its menu.

for dinner, we found this French-American restaurant somewhere along Hollywood Road. i had some seafood pasta and it was quite good. but a bit expensive.

back to Lan Kwai Fong for some mojito.

mood and mojito

we would've visited more bars or clubs but the peanuts from the first bar was taking its toll halfway through my first and last mojito, so we had to reluctantly go back to the hotel for an early night. i knew from the start beer + peanuts do not really mix well.

oh well... that concludes our HK trip. more travels next time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hong Kong and Macau Revisited Part Two (Macau Day Tour)

i remember when i have just arrived in Singapore back in 2007, the first country i visited outside of Singapore was Macau. but i had to wait until February of 2008 to do this. i considered it my sneak preview to Europe since i haven't been anywhere in Europe at the time.

i went to Macau with my friend, Jen because she wanted to jump off the Macau Tower. she was convincing me to do it with her then but i told her i was saving my money for shopping in Hong Kong. that was just an excuse because i was a bit scared to do it then. and still scared to do it up to now. jumping off buildings is not really my thing.

i wouldn't want to hang off the side of tall towers either... jumping off city towers is just not my style

my friend Jen, dangling like a key chain

now, i just got back in Singapore again (having lived in Toulouse, France for a couple of years), and this opportunity to revisit Macau just popped up during me and hubby's HK trip.

upon arriving in Macau, we headed off to the Venetian by taking the free service bus from the ferry port. we wouldn't have gone there had we known how far away it is from everything else. we just made a few bets at the roulette and off we went to the touristy area for lunch.

some old dilapidated buildings at the street where the Portuguese restaurant Alfonso III is located

 we had quite a bit of trouble with the cab driver going to Alfonso III restaurant. it was quite weird that he didn't understand the map and the address even when it was written in Chinese and located right next to the tourist spots. it was a bit frustrating. we just got off at an area close to the restaurant instead. so we had to take a bit of a walk getting there.

 outside, Alfonso III didn't look so appealing. and when we got inside it was quite dusty and small. but the owner is Portuguese and there were ONLY Portuguese people eating there, except for the two of us. the Filipina waitress, who i guess, is the owner's wife was grumpy and a bit nasty. LOL. she reminded me so much of the grumpy Italian waitresses when hubby and i were in Rome.

my lunch -- grilled cod with garlic, olives and olive oil overload, his lunch --- pork livers, potatoes and egg

i had some fish and hubby had the pork livers. he likes these types of food. we had some leche flan (although, they call it pudding, not leche flan) for dessert and then hubby had espresso. it made us feel like we were in Europe again.

then we were off to the usual touristy sites:

 last time i was in Macau, i wanted to see the Guia Lighthouse. but it was quite far away from everything else. and we ran out of time to see it. this time around, the taxi cabs were crazy, and scant. the ones that pass us by didn't want to take passengers (or maybe, just us, being foreigners).

cooling off in the shadows after a long climb to this fort

Macau makes him sleepy

Macau cab drivers are the nastiest things about Macau. they don't speak so much English and they are impatient to try to communicate with foreigners. they don't have a subway system and their buses get stuck in heavy traffic jams. so you are stuck trying to get a cab, which is impossible.

model-modelan! hahaha

view of the ruins from the fort


 after almost an hour of trying to get a cab to Guia Fort, we finally gave up and just headed off to the Grand Lisboa, the biggest and grandest casino in Macau for some refreshments and to try our luck with the roulette again. we took some photos outside and then headed back to the ferry going back to Hong Kong.

this was my merienda and dinner at the Grand Lisboa... i super like the refreshing lemon water with honey.

last sighting of the Grand Lisboa

i really enjoyed Macau the first time i was there because i mostly took the bus during that time. this time around, the taxi cabs annoyed me too much. and the invasion of the Chinese tourists made the small country much too much annoyingly crowded. i didn't like it so much this second time. still, i had a nice time with all the photo-ops with hubby.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hong Kong and Macau Revisited Part One (Jose Rizal sites and Dinner with friends)

Since hubby was on a short business trip to Hong Kong, we took the opportunity to take a mini-break together and visit some interesting sites both in HK and in Macau.

Our room at Lan Kwai Fong hotel, it was quite old and maybe a bit dusty but it was very central
and the staff were nice and spoke good English.
this is our view from the hotel
It was hubby's first time to visit both countries, while this is already the second time for me. Our hotel was very central, located in-between Sheung Wan and Central MTR stations, and within walking distance to the Ferry Port.

On our first day, hubby was off to work doing a presentation to the HK branch of his company while I did the Jose Rizal tour of Hong Kong. From our hotel, which is close to Hollywood Road and Lan Kwai Fong, I had to take the escalator at Shelley Road to arrive at Rednaxela Terrace.

The escalator leading to Rednaxela Terrace, where Jose Rizal lived with his family while in Hong Kong.

this is the longest series of escalators in the world

 It was a good thing our hotel was situated within walking distance to all the Jose Rizal sites.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chinese-Malaysian Wedding in Johor Bahru

i have rarely attended big weddings... come to think of it, i rarely attend weddings at all. this Sunday, hubby and i had the occasion to go to one in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

armed with a brand new GPS, we drove in the rain towards Johor Bahru, Malaysia to attend hubby's colleague's wedding

first off, we had to buy a proper GPS as the one from Google doesn't really work well giving cross-country directions. it was quite a challenge trying to find a good one here in Singapore. i guess most people don't really have the need for it with Singapore being such a small country.

it was quite a rainy drive on the way to Johor Bahru from Singapore. and there was heavy traffic jam crossing the border. we didn't realize so many people go to JB on a Sunday. but driving was so much easier going past the customs than when you are commuting. i remember having such a nightmare doing this when i went to Malacca by bus.

our cozy and well-lit bedroom for the night at Renaissance Hotel, Johor Bahru

we arrived at the Renaissance Hotel finally, after almost two hours, i think. it was quite a nice, new hotel. i especially loved the lighting. the swimming pool could be better though. our condo's swimming pool back in SG looks way better, in my opinion.

can't stop with the selfies

after taking a much needed siesta, we headed off towards the café at the ground floor level. the lighting here is impeccable too. it inspired me to take a lot of selfies and foodies. :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Delicious Graham Cake

for our Farewell Party last weekend, i decided to make a Graham Cake. in the Philippines, we usually refer to this as Crema de Fruta. i prefer to call it Graham Cake.

i have checked several web sites and videos on the internet and took a little bit of something on some of them to make my very own recipe.

what is challenging here in France, when trying to cook something, is finding out first the french name of the ingredients that you need.

full cream

i wouldn't have known before that lait concentré sucré is what we know in the English-speaking world as condensed milk. now i do...

condensed milk in a tiny pack

and that you wouldn't find them in the milk and dairy section of the grocery. they go with the confiserie section, together with all the other baking ingredients that you need. they sometimes come in a tube or a small pack like this one in the above pic, not just in the usual can.

draining the fruit cocktail of its syrup

for the fruit cocktail and gelatine, it's quite easy. the Graham crackers, i got from a friend who was recently in London. they apparently have a wider selection of Filipino foodstuff there. although, you can use other types of cracker. here in France, you have Speculoos (the Greek biscuits). you can use it if you want. but i don't like it so much because it has cinnamon.

gelatine strips

for the first time in my very-recent cooking life, i'll be using this electric hand mixer that was given to me by my mother-in-law. it's really nice. you can even use it with batteries.

electric hand mixer given to me by my mother-in-law

i was a bit afraid at first that i bought the wrong cream. it should be the full cream type. the one that gets thick with whipping.

mixing the full cream

but i was right. it thickened in just a few minutes.

all whipped up
et voila! :)

as for the procedures: you just need to mix the condensed milk with the whipped cream according to the sweetness that you prefer. and then, layer all the ingredients in the following order: graham crackers, cream+condensed milk, fruit cocktail. do this twice. and then set aside in the fridge while you prepare the gelatine.

Graham Cake first layer

don't forget to drain the fruits of the syrup. as a personal touch, i kept the syrup and used it for the gelatine mixture. but first, you have to immerse the gelatine strips (i used three of them) in ice-cold water for 10 minutes. and then you heat up the cocktail syrup and put the softened gelatine strips in them. let cool, and then pour onto your graham cake.

my very own Graham Cake! :)

i let my graham cake in the fridge overnight before serving it. i find that it is more solid and nicer this way.

enjoy! :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Madrid and Toledo

i wanted to visit Madrid first of all, to see a friend from Singapore who was having a grand European tour. it was so nice to see her again after a long time. we had such fun catching up, soaking in the sights and sampling the gastronomic Castillian delights.

my teeny tiny but clean and lovely hotel room, a few meters off Gran Via
first night we saw each other, we met at the oldest Tapas Bar in Madrid called, Stop Madrid. it was recommended by my french guidebook. the place was just a few steps away from Gran Via metro station, along Calle Hortaleza. i didn't expect to find a lot of people there as it was a weeknight, but it was quite packed. and it seemed like they were mostly locals, which is a good sign.

selection of tapas and some bread and manchego cheese

we were not eating for two, in case you were wondering about the quantity of food on the table. you should be able to tell since there is a third wine glass sitting on the table, as seen in one of the pics above. ;)

the next day, i joined my friend and her buddies on a day tour of Toledo. it's an ancient fortified city 20 minutes by train from Madrid Atocha RENFE station.

arriving at the Toledo train station, i could not help but marvel at the interesting architecture. the train station was lovely outside and inside.

the Toledo train station

inside the Toledo train station

from the train station, you could either take the bus that will get you to the town proper in less than 10 minutes, or you can take in more of the scenery on the way there by walking, which was what we preferred.

on the way to Ayuntamiento de Toledo (Toledo city proper)

lovely row of apartments

the walls of Toledo

The bucolic surroundings reminded me so much of the French countryside.
the entrance

this Romanesque architecture of one of the churches in Toledo reminded me so much of the Basilica de St Sernin in Toulouse

what is quite unique about Toledo is that you can find traces of Arabic influence in the architecture as it was once occupied by these people.

arabic influence in the arches of doorways

we stopped for a snack before heading to the famous cathedral.

it's not really a breakfast or a lunch menu, there's probably no English word for it

i noticed that there were so many young students on a field trip. and they were mostly from France. it was quite a lovely sunny day in Toledo, the walk around the city and hiking up towards the cathedral was really nice.

that guy behind me is not sleeping on the floor, he's trying to mimic the position of my photographer while taking this pic :)

lovely details of the altar

some guy in a turban painted on one of the ceiling arches

all silver and gold and three times my height... this cathedral is so rich

ancient bible gifted by France to Toledo... how generous!

we spent quite a lot of time inside this cathedral. i guess it was the highlight of the trip. as i have spent a lot of time here in France already, touring around really old churches, i didn't find this cathedral so special anymore. although, i would say it is quite unique for its arabic influence in the architecture. and it also shows how rich the Catholic church is with all the gold and silver artifacts found in one of the vestibules.

for lunch, we went to this place called El Brocal Taberna. this one was recommended by Trip Advisor, researched by moi.

lunching at El Brocal (recommended by Trip Advisor)

i super loved this simple salad with cheese and nuts and balsamic vinegar that has almost no acidity and quite sweet

we were seated next to this lovely window

the Spanish people seem to like being late in everything, including meal times. we had lunch at 4PM. and dinner at 10PM.

back in Madrid, we chose this place to dine in, which claims that it is the OLDEST restaurant in the world as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. quite a huge claim. especially when you consider that the word restaurant is french and not spanish.

something that is hanging off the corner and looking very weird, i wonder what it is called

my favorite ham and melons, wintermelon daw to sabi ng mga kasama ko

apparently, they specialize on lechon de leche, which they call cochinillo

i was not able to take a lot of pictures around Madrid, especially since my last day in Madrid was spent inside the museums.

i took this pic because it was on the cover of my french guidebook :) this is what you see when you get off Banco de Espana metro station
i first went to Prado Museum and lost track of time admiring the works of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Goya, et al. i especially adored Las Meninas and Goya's Black Paintings (Pinturas Negras). although, having seen Picasso's version of Las Meninas at the Picasso museum in Barcelona, i would say that i prefer Picasso's version to the original. it was still quite magnificent, though. and i regret to say that i was too lazy to take pictures at this time, so i just borrowed some pics from other web sites.

Prado Museum (image from
 from Prado museum, i hurried towards Reina Sofia museum by foot. i didn't realize how far away it was. when i got there, i only had time to admire Picasso's Guernica and a few of Miro's works. i regret to say that i wasn't able to see the temporary exhibit on Dali's works.

Reina Sofia Museum (image from

but then when i got to the airport, i found out my flight would be delayed for an hour. i took Iberia Airlines, btw. they have this teeny tiny Canadian planes flying from Toulouse to Madrid and vice-versa. it was a bit too small for comfort. my bag didn't fit in the cabin. i had to squeeze it below the seat in front of me. it barely fit in there too.

since i didn't have time to buy pasalubong around Madrid, i stopped by some shop to get some charcuterie and sweets. they were quite expensive.

apparently, pata negra is made from pig that is fed with acorn

the sweets were not so good, but the pata negra was worth every cent.

a view of the icy peaks of the Pyrenees from atop, welcoming me back to Toulouse

i really enjoyed every bit of my trip in Madrid. It has somehow shown me a glimpse of my roots from learning more about Jose Rizal, to finding more and more Filipino words rooted in Spanish, to some old habits that die hard like being late for everything and having a siesta, etc.

even the flight back to Toulouse, despite being an hour delayed was worth it, with the magnificent view of the Pyrenees from atop, welcoming me back to France.