Aye, The Stork Has Landed!


Today, I take a break from travel writing (Okay, let’s get real here. I am far from a celebrated travel writer/blogger. I just happen to travel quite a bit and occasionally write about my trips.) to talk about something personal, yet incredibly magical. The proverbial stork has paid our home a visit and I am now 17 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy. I have been meaning to blog about it since the day we found out five weeks into my pregnancy, but Hubby and I decided we would wait until we’ve done the First Trimester Pregnancy Test (FTPT) and are assured of our baby’s health and normal development. Weeks have gone by and somehow, I can’t seem to find the right words to describe just how unrestrainedly excited I am – WE ARE – for the coming of our baby.

What I’m about to say is totalement cliché but I will say it anyway: What I am experiencing now is simply too beautiful for words. That pregnancy in itself is a life-altering event in a woman’s life – especially this woman – is a universally-accepted truth, but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming joy and occasional bouts of trepidation (Am I really ready to become a mother? Am I going to be a great Mom? What’s going to happen to my career after this? Will I be able to get rid of my pregnancy weight and how soon?) of actually going though it myself. The physical changes that my body goes through week after week is just one thing. The mental and emotional tumult (in a good way), is another.

It’s not because Hubby and I are worried for any particular reason. Deep in our hearts we know that we are both ready for the big picture responsibility of parenthood. Although we have been a couple for more than seven years (married for nearly three years out of those seven), we mutually-agreed at the beginning that we will not be rushing into parenthood for a handful of reasons. Some of those, I admit, were decidedly selfish but necessary in the way that they helped us become more prepared for what’s to come. Not to say that we already know exactly what to do – no one can possibly be that deluded – but we are trying and learning day by day. Do we regret having a baby quite late as opposed to getting right down to it at the early stage of our relationship? Not really, no. There are merits to spending a good amount of time as husband and wife, first, considering we spent much of our boyfriend-girlfriend years trying to make our long distance relationship work. We took time in nurturing our relationship and now that we have built a pretty solid foundation, we both felt it was time to bring in a new member to love and care for as much as we have done for each other all these years. Or perhaps even more. For isn’t it that children can bring out the selflessness you never even knew existed in you?

It was late last year when we started having serious baby talks and I won’t lie to you: I was starting to worry about my ovaries ageing faster than I could even perfect a pincha mayurasana (which I still haven’t learned to do unassisted, by the way) pose. I am 35 and I am not one to age-shame, but that sounds pretty advanced to me. Unfortunately for us women, our ovaries simply don’t decide to stop ageing at 21. Besides that, there’s also the late pregnancy risks to consider, i.e., the increased risk of Down’s Syndrome for the baby and also the potential risk on the mother’s wellbeing – if the mother is not very healthy to begin with. Thankfully, I have been living a somewhat healthy lifestyle for many years now. Yes, I do binge occasionally like any other human being with natural urges, but I try to compensate for it with a lot of weird exercises and then some.

To make things a little bit more compliqué, I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which means, my hormones are completely out of whack and I’ve been told that getting pregnant may not be as easy as boiling eggs on a kettle with a timer. And because of my hormonal imbalance, I had to take hormonal pills for several years. So when we decided to have a baby, I prayed that I won’t have wait too long because, again, ageing ovaries, and well, we thought it would be really lovely to deliver our baby in Singapore, just as the nation celebrates its 50th year. After all, we did get married in Singapore on 12-12-12. Why not take the number play a notch higher and go for a Jubilee baby as well? LOL.

We may have been over enthusiastic about the whole let’s-start-a-family thing when we were in Europe last February (oh yes!) that I had the highest hopes of seeing those two blue lines when we got back from our winter holiday. But instead of two, I saw only one blue line, and I could feel myself slowly sinking into the abyss of sadness, that gnawing feeling of inadequacy, and aching worry. Weeks passed and my period still hasn’t come but at the same time, I was feeling these weird symptoms that were terrifying me because they were raising my hopes so far up – and I was afraid of crashing down in a pile of rubble. Hubby saw how distraught I was with the result of the first HPT and it was affecting him, too. The week before my second appointment with my OB, I took one of those HPTs and again, no two lines. By this time, I was oscillating from sadness to frustration and some other wild emotions in between, that it was pretty hard to play catch-up with my mood swings. Poor Hubby.

Finally, I went to see my doctor, primarily to complain about my period taking an extended break and the two happy lines not showing meanwhile. It turns out, I got false negatives on my HPTs! I was alone at that time as Hubby had a meeting he couldn’t get out of and anyway, we didn’t really expect anything different other than the singular line during that particular visit, so I didn’t really push him to go with me. So when I called him immediately after I stepped out of the clinic to break the news of my pregnancy, we were both so overcome with joy that’s unlike anything we’ve ever felt before. So freakin’ intense! I mean, if I thought having raclette and an undisclosed amount of wine up in the snowy French Alps in winter with was pure bliss, knowing that I have this beautiful seed blossoming into life inside of me is about a million times blissful! God has heard our prayers and we are going to become parents!

So for the last few weeks, Hubby and I have been quite busy making all the preparations for the little one’s arrival. And since I will most likely be blogging about pregnancy, motherhood, and the whole shebang far more frequently in the coming weeks, I should probably end my post right about here. On my next post, I will have tips and funny stories to share, so I hope you’ll stick around for that as well.:)

Oh, did I tell you that we are having a baby boy? Mais oui, c’est un garçon!

xoxox

My 17-week old bumpie.

My 17-week old bumpie.

La Belle Bordeaux Part III: Bordeaux City


On our last day in Bordeaux, our hosts aka my très gentils beau parents, took us on une petite promenade around the city, a few hours before we were to take the TGV bound for Paris. We certainly did not have enough time to explore and experience the incredible things the city has to offer, especially first-time visitors like me. But I must say that I really, REALLY liked the city. In my travels, limited as they were, I have come across cities that are good for visits and those that might actually be great for settling in. I think Bordeaux falls perfectly under the second category, along with Sydney and Singapore. Below are some of the attractions and landmarks I have seen during our brief walk.

Rue Saint-Catherine. The Rue Sainte Catherine is one of the largest shopping streets in France, stretching to about 1.2kms. It runs through most of the city centre from the Grand Theatre all the way to the Port d’Aquitaine. This shopping street is the Champs-Élysées of Bordeaux.

CNY feel at the Rue Sainte Catherine

CNY feel at the Rue Sainte Catherine

La Cathedrale Saint-André. This cathedral holds a lot of historical weight, for in 1137, the future King Louis VII – the royal figure said to be responsible for Bordeaux’s worldwide reputation for wine – married Eleanor of Aquitaine here. The exterior wall of the nave dates right back to 1096, while most the structure was built between the 13th-14th centuries. Incredible details such as flying buttresses, the rose window, gargoyles and other sculptures can be seen in both the exterior and interior of the cathedral. The cathedral as well as the 50m (164ft) belfry called Tour Pey-Berland are both open daily for visits.

La Cathedrale Sainte-André is not very easy to take a full scale photo of, especially with just my phone camera, given the sheer size of it.

La Cathedrale Sainte-André is not very easy to take a full scale photo of, especially with just my phone camera, given the enormous size of it.

Hotel de Ville. The Hotel de Ville is another one of the unforgettable fine buildings in Bordeaux that was built in the 18th century as a palace for the Archbishop (Prince Rohan), which is why it is located just next to the Cathedral.

Hotel de Ville.

Hotel de Ville.

Monument aux Girondins. At the foot of the Monument aux Girondins are two beautiful fountains. Next to the column there are a couple of statues that honour two of the greatest names of Bordeaux: Philosopher and former Mayor of Bordeaux Michel de Montaigne and Charles Louis de Montesquieu, one of the architects of the “century of the lights” and a winegrower.

Monument aux Girondins

Monument aux Girondins

Place de la Bourse. Place de la Bourse, originally known as the Place Royale, was built in the 17th century, as dedication to the glory of then King Louis XV (1729-1755). The city of Bordeaux at that time, was at the height of commercial boom. Located right on the banks of Garonne River, Place de la Bourse offers visitors the best of both views – that of the architectural genius that is the chain of buildings itself and of the beautiful river flowing just next to it. We came here in February and unfortunately, the weather at that time was rather gloomy, with occasional drizzle. However, that did not take away from the spectacular view laid out before us. There is definitely no bad angle here. Looking around you, it’s quite easy to imagine how pompous it must have been during its heydey. I wish we had time to really explore the place but it’s good to keep something pinned for a return trip, hopefully in summertime.

La Place de la Bourse

La Place de la Bourse

L’Eglise Notre Dame. This church built in the late 11th century adapts the Romanesque-Byzantine style and is richly decorated, both inside and out. Stone carvings on the doorway depict biblical scenes.

L'Eglise Notre Dame

L’Eglise Notre Dame

La Belle Epoque. La Belle Epoque is indeed très belle and the food très bon! From the design on the ceiling and the walls all the way down to the floor, La Belle Epoque sets out to seduce its customers – and succeeds. And then came the staff who greeted us with the warmest ‘Bonjour!’ and ushered us to our table. Our orders were taken promptly and food were delivered to our table, warm and perfect as they should be. I ordered this squid dish with Basmati rice and I loved how the meat just breaks apart in soft, delicious molecules in my mouth! The salmon starter with a tasteful sauce whose name escapes me at the moment, was also equally amazing. The restaurant is located in one of the most popular spots in Bordeaux, just opposite the Garonne River. Definitely one of the best restaurants I have ever visited anywhere in the world in terms of food, ambience and service.

La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque

Others. Just a few more captures of la belle Bordeaux. Thanks to my amazing iPhone6 camera and Snapseed, these photos seem to have taken a life of their own.;)

La belle Bordeaux

La belle Bordeaux

Bordeaux Opera

Bordeaux Opera

Sanna, comme Paula by Jaume Plensa, is a series of seven feminine figures envisaged since the encounter between the artist and the city was planned.

Sanna, comme Paula by Jaume Plensa, is a series of seven feminine figures envisaged since the encounter between the artist and the city was planned.

TRAVEL: Top Things To Do in ARCACHON and La TESTE-de-BUCH


Located some 55kms from Bordeaux is another arrondissement called Arcachon which sits on the banks of the Atlantic coast. Compared with most towns in France, our friends at Wikipedia say Arcachon is fairly young at around 150 years old. Prior to it being officially acknowledged by Emperor Napoleon III as a town, Arcachon is said to be just a sprawling forest of pine, oaks, and strawberry trees with almost zero road links. Today, however, Arcachon is fast becoming famous for its fine beaches, the remarkable Arcachon houses so unique in architecture, great seafood, while neighbouring La Teste-de-Buch is home to the famous Grande Dune du Pilat. After spending the previous day gallivanting around Sauternes, my In-Laws took us on a road trip to these two arrondissements and what we have seen there certainly confirmed raves by tourists.

1. Arcachon Beaches. In Arcachon, you will find a long stretch of fine sandy beaches that has become so popular with beachcombers and surfers, too, especially during summer. As it was winter when we came here, we saw only a handful of people braving the icy cold temperature. There are restaurants and bars along Boulevard de l’Ocean, as well as private properties lucky (or wealthy) enough to hog a slice of this natural beauty.

I love the beach, even in winter.

I love the beach, even in winter.

From here, you can also take the boat for a tour around the Birds Island.

Up for some bird watching? You wouldn't want to skip this one!

Up for some bird watching? You wouldn’t want to skip this one!

Or simply roam around the city centre and take photos.

Fresh fruits at the local marché

Fresh fruits at the local marché

Picturesque Arcachon.

Picturesque Arcachon.

Walk the world one city at a time.

Walk the world one city at a time.

2. Grande Dune du Pilat. When my in-laws told us that we will pass by the Grande Dune du Pilat after our trip to Arcachon beach, it didn’t really occur to me that it would be as astonishing as the one that greeted us when we arrived at the site. First of all (and pardon me for my ignorance), I didn’t really think that there could be a sand dune in Europe and one as tall as this one in Pilat. My husband and I have been to the Red Dune in Dubai, and though Le Grande Dune du Pilat is nowhere near it in terms of size and the fine quality of the sand, it more than made up for its lack with the fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean and Arcachon Bay from the top and the verdant forest in surrounding areas. They say that the dune is about 118m above sea level and stretches up to nearly 3kms, making it the highest sand dune in Europe.

The largest sand dune in Europe.

The largest sand dune in Europe.

Dune du Pilat offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon Bay and the surrounding verdant forest.

Dune du Pilat offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon Bay and the surrounding verdant forest.

The climb up can be a little challenging but like I said, totally worth the spectacular view from the top. It was very cold the afternoon that we visited with the wind occasionally blowing in freezing gusts, making the climb all the more fun. I can only imagine how even more beautiful it can be up there during summer! There is no fee charged for visitors and there’s one or two snack shops at the base of the dune if you ever feel the need to snack or hydrate before and after the climb. There are toilets and souvenir shops as well. This is definitely a great place to visit when in the region.

The Atlantic Ocean down below.

The Atlantic Ocean below.

3.  (Sea)Food trip. Arcachon takes pride in being recognised as one of the top four places for best oysters in France, alongside Normandy, Brittany and Marennes-Oléron. I must confess that we didn’t exactly have our seafood trip in Arcachon but rather, at this port-side restaurant in La Teste-de-Buch called Restaurant du Port.  Which, if my non-existent geographical knowledge is to be trusted, is really just next to Arcachon. It was still low tide when we got to the restaurant but the water quickly rose to cradle the little colourful sailboats up in its arms, lending the whole scene a slight touch of romance (because we all know France really goes hand-in-hand with romance).

View from Restaurant du Port.

View from Restaurant du Port.

We ordered from the menu escale and got a plate of oysters each for starters and they were truly fresh and delicious! We tried Loubine à la plancha, Pavé de Boeuf and Parillada plus crême brulée and tarte aux noix for desserts – all top-notch in terms of taste and portion.

Les huitres!

Les huitres!

Loubine à la plancha

Loubine à la plancha

Tarte aux Noix

Tarte aux Noix

If I’m not mistaken, the set meal costs around 20 euros, which is quite reasonable given the quality and taste of the food. Overall, this is a great restaurant to visit and you must not leave without sampling their seafood dishes (oysters, especially), which is what they are mainly known for. C’est très delicieux!

TRAVEL: Ski Holiday in AVORIAZ


Have you ever had one of those snow globes, perhaps given by relatives or friends as ‘pasalubong’ or souvenir from their trips abroad? Well, I never had one but I have always thought them pretty, and I often wondered what it must be like to be inside one. Two weeks ago, my snow globe fantasy just got real with our trip to Avoriaz in the French Alps.

Avoriaz is a ski resort in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, just inside the French side of the Franco-Swiss border. Built on a sunny plateau of land, the resort was the brainchild of the Olympic skier Jean Vuarnet, who wanted to link the pistes of Morzine to those over the border in Switzerland, covering a network of slopes that spans 13 resorts. Avoriaz is France’s first car-free resort which makes it a safe place for children to walk around the centre.

Avoriaz 1800, for those who want to ski hard and play hard.

Avoriaz 1800, for those who want to ski hard and play hard.

When Hubby and I were plotting our travel calendar for 2015 a few months back, I intimated that I would like to travel some place exciting during winter and preferably with snow. Being a stickler for details, my husband carefully worked out a 2-week itinerary for us which involved a rendezvous with his best friend (and his best friend’s family) in Switzerland before driving up  as a group to Avoriaz for a week-long ski holiday; a trip down to Bordeaux to visit the family; and finally, a rendezvous with more family members in Paris before flying back to Singapore. How can I possibly not adore my husband’s OC tendencies?!

Picturesque Avoriaz.

Picturesque Avoriaz.

You see, I have never seen snow in my 30-odd years of existence. I have experienced winter in Australia but never in Europe or any other four-season region, so you can imagine how excited I was. Way. too. much. The days leading up to the actual trip saw me mainly obsessing about how many layers I should put on, how much cheese and wine I can consume without combusting into a fiery ball of dairy and alcohol,  how many kilometres and landmarks we can cover in two weeks, and if I will learn how to ski in mere five hours. Schengen visa secured, vacation leave filed and approved, bags packed, Pinky the traveling pig bathed and prepped for the big trip, soon we were on our way to Changi airport to catch our flight to Zurich. 

After a quick stopover at Fribourg for aperitif and lunch with the Vimards, we were finally on the road to Avoriaz where we would spend the next six days basking in air so pure and snow so white. We were very lucky to have had the most perfect sunny weather in Avoriaz, without which, our stay would not have been as magical.

So. One week in Avoriaz and about a million snippets of only the fondest experiences gathered. But in the interest of brevity (although my intro is already far from being short and sweet), I will narrow it all to just six highlights, which are…

With our ski instructor, Sylvain.

With our ski instructor, Sylvain.

Never  too old to learn how to ski.

Never too old to learn how to ski.

Skiing

Nothing beats skiing in the Alps, they say, and I’m overjoyed that my first ski experience happened right in Avoriaz. We stayed in a fully-furnished family apartment at Pierre et Vacances which is just a few meters away from the resort centre. The men of the house, Christophe and Guillaume, enrolled the wives (FayFay and I) to a three-day exclusive ski class with Evolution 2 ski and snowboarding school, lasting 1.5 hours each day.  Frankly, I didn’t expect that I would be able to ski in mere five hours but thanks to our très gentil ski instructor Sylvain, I found myself going down a relatively steep slope and even managing some left and right turns on our final class!

Team VimTaie on a raquette adventure

Team VimTaie on a raquette adventure.

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Walking in winter wonderland.

Raquette à neige or snowshoeing

Simply means walking on thick layers of soft snow in snowshoes/rackets. We did this on our last day in Avoriaz and had a great time descending about 400 meters from Avoriaz to Les Lindarets, alternatingly walking or sliding on our bottoms. From there, we took the télésiège back to the resort. We were only a small group of six on that day, including our raquette guide Camille, who told us plenty of stories about the area. We even saw a few chamois scurrying away from us as we traversed through their territory.

Sledding with le petit Victor

Sledding with le petit Victor.

Luge

Although you see mostly kids sledding in the designated luge area, it didn’t stop us from borrowing little Victor’s sled and having a bit of fun with it.

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Lunch at Les Fontaines Blanches.

Charcuterie.

Charcuterie and cheese fondue.

Gastronomy

Although Avoriaz does not have the same gastronomic reputation as Morzine, it does have a few dual-purpose (lunch and dinner) restaurants that serve great food and some lively bars for drinks and light bites open until late at night. If you have a big appetite, you definitely must try the lunch buffet at Les Fontaines Blanches. They have a wide selection of all-you-can-eat aperitifs, mains and desserts for a reasonable price of about 25 euros per person. If you happen to ski around the Lindarets, you can check out the restaurants there with their delectable plat du jour. They seem to be very popular with locals and visitors.

Le vin chaud meets la Pinky.

Le vin chaud meets la Pinky.

Vin Chaud

Vin chaud, or hot wine, is a beverage typically enjoyed on special occasions in cold places. It is mildly spicy and warming, with just a little splash of Cognac. I first heard about it from a friend who recommended that we try it when in Avoriaz. First sip and I knew it won’t be missed but it does give you that warm-fuzzy sensation. It’s good to have tried it though.

Sunset in Avoriaz.

Sunset in Avoriaz.

Sunset

There are only a few things more evocative than watching the dazzling colours of the sunset descend over the snowy plateau and the snow-capped chalets in Avoriaz. I had tears just looking at the sunset view.

Grocery shopping at Carrefour

This may sound ridiculous to your ears but I do love being inside the supermarket. To me, walking up and down aisles lined on both sides with all sorts of goodies arranged in specific manner begging for you to come pick them up and bring them home is almost akin to a fulfilling sexual experience. Okay, maybe not to that extreme, but yes, a trip to the supermarket is always a happy endeavour for me. We purchased our week-long food supply from Carrefour and had most of our meals in the apartment. Thanks to FayFay’s dexterity in the kitchen, we enjoyed great-tasting dishes right in the warm comfort of our cabin.

Meet the VimTaies.

Meet the VimTaies.

Our Avoriaz trip is definitely one for the books and none of it would have been possible without the exceptional planning of Christophe and Guillaume, all done over a series of Skype calls between Switzerland and Singapore. Having said that, you really ought to be planning the next VimTaie holiday, guys!

I Do.


I Do.

Christophe, I promise to love and care for you and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love, trust, and respect. I will always be honest with you, kind, patient, supportive, understanding and forgiving. Yes, even when sometimes being all of that is in itself a challenge. But most of all, I promise to be a true and loyal friend to you. I will love you through good and the bad, through joy and the sorrow, the ugly and the beautiful. Maybe not so much the ugly…kidding! I want to face all of life’s experiences and share beautiful dreams and goals with you. I promise to be your equal partner in a loving, honest, and nurturing marriage, for as long as we both shall live. Je t’aime enormement, mon mari.

P.S.: I will even learn to speak your native language to save you the trouble of translating each time we are in the company of French people.:)

***

Venue: Alila Villas Uluwatu

Photo by: Noel Abelardo
Gown by: Nikolai Jude Hernandez
Suit by: Cho Vittorio Iago Orlanes
HMU: Bali Makeup and Hair
Videography: Point One Designs

The One With Random Updates On Married Life


I had just finished typing my last email with 33% battery life still left on my laptop, so thought of posting a quick one on my blog, which, upon checking the last update, might as well be a quarterly journal of heaping nonsense. My kind of nonsense.

If I could encompass these past few months that I have been sort of away, I could only think of a word: Wife. Married for four months now, I would have to say the new role suits me just fine – in a way that a person can never go wrong with a tailored suit or dress. It’s like playing house with a carefully-chosen housemate, only better, because you actually get to share a lot of intimate stuff and find delight in each and every moment. Of course there would be the occasional fights, mostly when I would lose my marbles for no reason (and let me tell you, I am pretty adept at that), but what’s marriage without excitement, right? I cannot be in a state of perpetual bliss 24/7. I need to lose it every now and then to feel alive. Thankfully, my husband loves me enough to understand and embrace my weirdness. But perhaps I shouldn’t push the envelope too far, ya?

So in between work and constant travel, I try to spend as much time learning how to fit into this wifey role – which I must admit, was perplexing at the beginning because I had been so used to just looking after myself and my own needs and now, I have a husband to cherish and look after. Suddenly, it is no longer just me or about me. I am now 50% of a life partnership and the more emotionally, mentally, and spiritually prepared I am, the better the journey will be.

A husband and this…

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… horticulture type of things, which I might be getting a little too obsessed with these days. You know how old folks would say you gotta try your hand at caring for a plant or a pet first before you even make an attempt to bring forth a child in this big, bad world? I guess it’s safe to say that I’m presently at that stage. Oh, have you met Perpetua my perpetually sleeping petit chat, yet?

Perpetua

So there you go, big fat checks on both plants and a pet. I am sooo ready to become a Mom, yey! LOL.

And then there’s also this…

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I have been spending some time in the kitchen on weekends (when I’m not downward dog-ging on the yoga mat or cycling and running around SG, that is) and I would sometimes surprise myself – and C – with the delightful dishes I would come up with in quick minutes. I’m no Nigella that’s for sure, but I don’t think I am entirely useless around the kitchen either. Ask C and I bet you he’d say without a hint or sliver of bias that my sinigangadobo, and four cheese pasta are the best he’s ever tasted! Haha.

All things considered, I would actually recommend marriage. But make sure to pick the right partner or life could be a lot more complicated than you would have cared to prepare for. But don’t tell anyone I said that — I (still) have a reputation to protect. LOL.

Goodnight Loves!

TRAVEL: Postcards from FRANCE


I’m finally back from my first ever trip to Europe (I’ve been told that the Euro side of Turkey does not really count as Europe, too bad) and I could not have been more glad that the destination was France. To say that the country is beautiful and the cultural sights even more so, would be stating the very obvious. And we’re not even talking about the food yet. Those gastronomic delights in all their orgasmic glory. And because it was spring when we were there, the gardens that we’ve been to in Paris were all abloom with vibrant-colored flowers – bringing to mind my dear friend Cris C. who would probably take only half a second to put a name on each and every flower, him being a landscape artist slash wedding organizer and all. But this spring was not at all what I expected spring would feel like. And by feel, know that I am talking about the temperature which, at 5 degrees and sometimes less at night, is already too much for a tropical creature like myself. Although Eric reminded me that I survived Beijing at -2 degrees when we were there in 2010, still, it didn’t feel like it was any warmer. But perhaps if I brought along with me a more appropriate set of clothing – more thermal wear and thick jackets maybe – then I would not have suffered so. I keep teasing C that it was his fault making me believe spring was all pretty and such, weather-wise, and so I packed mostly short dresses and open-toed sandals – none of which I was able to wear at all during our stay. Thank God, I had half a mind to buy the white faux leather jacket at Cache Cache for my aborted trip to Jordan last year – at least they found their way to France and was greatly abused, might I add. Later you will see just how much I had maximised the use of that jacket – one of the only two keep-warm essentials I packed. Obviously not C’s fault because I have the reputation of being on perpetual summer mode – my closet will most certainly attest to that.

Traveling alone to Paris was in itself already an experience for me. Though I have traveled quite a few times alone, they were mostly in Asia and places I am more or less quite familiar with. I took Qatar Airways which has its stopover in Doha, where incidentally, we were delayed for two hours due to some technical problems with the aircraft. Good thing the airport had free wifi access for passengers so I was able to inform C of the delay via FB. I was literally on tenterhooks during the final leg of my travel that I brushed my teeth and washed my face in the aircraft lavatory four friggin’ times! You see, I was going there to meet C’s family for the first time and the idea kind of made me nervous and I am known to do strange things when I’m nervous. If I could only take a shower there, I probably would have done so as well.

So anyway, I finally landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport and C was there to meet me, looking all cute and sweet as always. We haven’t seen each other in nearly two months so it was obviously a very happy reunion, with a capital V. We took the TGV to go to his sister’s place up North and the journey was c’est magnifique on so many levels. Ask Atche, he knows. *insert suspense soundtrack here*

I didn’t have time to fix myself up as the whole family was already at the train station to meet us. I’m pretty sure I looked like a hobo with my hair all messy (not that my hair looks great in other weather conditions) and face all dry, thanks to the freezing temperature and mad gusts of wind. Up until that time, I had only seen C’s nephew and niece on photos and I fell madly in love with them on sight! Both of them are so beautiful, well-mannered, sweet, and smart it was quite painful for me to leave after only four days. C had to find ways to entertain me on our train ride to Paris because I was so overcome with sadness after I hugged the kids for the last time just as the train started to pull away from the station.

I had the most beautiful time up north despite the crazy rainy weather which lasted pretty much the whole weekend and extended all the way until our departure for Paris. The sun only came out for a day and we spent it walking around Ardres, which was truly beautiful, by the way, with its little shops, church, boulangerie, restaurants, and beautiful houses and chalets. The rest of time, we were just indoors playing with the kids and chatting with the grown-ups. Yes, I do speak French very fluently you wouldn’t think I’m foreign at all! NOT. Because I spent so much time with the kids, my French vocabulary has expanded to now include the numbers 1 to 10, some animal names, and a few expressions. Yey!

My impression of the North? It was just as the saying C shared which goes a little something like this: The people in the north have the sun in their hearts which they don’t have in the sky. They’re such sweet people and it’s a shame that the weather can be so horrible sometimes, if not most of the time.

Now Paris on the other hand is sublime. Elegant, captivating, intoxicating (I may have had one glass too many of all sorts of wine, teehee)  are only some of the words I can think of right now and even then I fear that they’re not enough to really capture the enigma that is Paris.

Ever the sweet and loving fiancé, C made sure I absorb as much of the city as possible given the limited time we had. He took me to a lot of touristy places and fed me loads of French food so that I may never have to go and hanker for fastfood and junk anymore. Oh you must see how C cringes whenever I would lather my French croissant with an unhealthy layer of Nutella and butter! I’ve been told it’s almost tantamount to desecrating the famous French bread. Yikes. Unfortunately on our last full day in the city, he came down with high fever and we had to make some adjustments on our plans for the day. But even when debilitated, he still took me to Musée du Louvre so I can go and see the Mona Lisa (how very original of me, right?) and other glorious works of art and be swept away to another period in time. He really is an absolute darling and he knows me too well already, I couldn’t help but love him dearly. Yiheeee.

Anyway, these are all my memories of France and the City of Lights (oh, incidentally, I never got to see Tour Eiffel at night so I guess I will have to tick that off my bucket list next time – along with a more exhaustive tour of Musée du Louvre since we only got to cover a small portion of one section because C was in such a bad shape due to his fever) and I know there’s still so much to see and experience. I hope you will love the photos as much as I loved every bit of my time there.

Windmills in the north. Here with my one true north. Naks naman.

Beautiful lake in Ardres.

Ardres in the Nord-pas-de-Calais region

With the beautiful Claire

Spring fashion. Kuno.

From the North, we now go to Paris – where to love and being loved in return is really the most glorious thing that can happen to any person. How very Moulin Rouge. With that, let me first give you…

Sing it with me: Voulez vous couchez avec moi ce soir (oh dear, I hope I got the words right, haha)

Musee du Louvre

La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre

Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees

Notre Dame and Jardin du Luxembourg

Musee du Louvre with C. Finally, a different jacket!

Le Square des Batignolles

Tour Eiffel

And of course, some of the food I have tried and salivated for over and over and over again. But one thing I noticed though – and was extremely happy about, mind you – was the fact that I didn’t go home as fat as I had anticipated, despite the unreasonable amount of food and sweets I devoured day in and out. I must’ve gained only 2lbs or so and they all seemed to have gone on my arms I could’ve sworn they looked like Johnny Bravo’s or Popeye’s after he’s had spinach in some photos. LOL. It must have been all the walking and uhrmmm, yes, definitely the walking, which we did a lot of while there.

One thing I regret and I learned just the expression for that – c’est dommage – is that I missed the Paris Marathon!!! I didn’t know that it was on the 15th of April – the same day C and I were to fly back to Singapore. We saw the banners when we were at Tour Eiffel and it was such a heartbreaking moment because I packed my running gear: Reebok and C-WX were just sitting prettily atop my luggage, lonesome and unused. Had I known, I would most likely sign up and join because my fellow runner who’s based in Paris said they actually opened the registration slots last minute and I could have joined a few Pinoy runners there! C’est dommage indeed!

Foodgasm part 1

Foodgasm part 2

Foodgasm part 3

We also spent time with some of C’s couple friends and both couples were just lovely! The conversations were just as good as the food, if not more. Here we have the sweet couple Rene and Carmen whom I first met in Phuket in 2010 when C and I were on Christmas holiday and they were on their honeymoon. Unfortunately, we didn’t take photos with Vanessa and her husband who invited us over to their lovely home for dinner the previous night. I especially enjoyed listening to them talk about their University days and how C had always been so freakishly neat and clean and organized. One of the many things I love about him, by the way.

Lovely couple Rene and Carmen

But of all the things I have come to love and cherish about my trip, these are the ones I miss the most. The kids, especially, were my source of ardent joy in all those days in Calais. Sometimes I could hear their cheery voices in my head saying ‘Vicky! Vicky! Vicky!’ and egging me to play hide-and-seek or just cuddle with them.

Love!

Thank you for everything! You guys are absolutely wonderful and loving I felt right at home.

Je t’aime enormement mon amour!

PS: ALL original photos, by the way.:)

Picstitch: Because I’m too lazy to do a proper blogpost…for now.


The weather is cruel at 5 degrees with rain showers and strong gusts of wind so we had to abandon our plans for staying outdoors and doing outdoorsy things. But, we made up for it by spending more time on the dining table and playing hide-and-seek with the adorably cute, incredibly smart, undeniably sweet kids named Raphael and Claire. I mean, seriously, with kids as beautiful as these two, who would need dolls?

All things bright and beautiful...

All creatures great and small...

All things wise and wonderful...

Obviously I’m too lazy to do a proper blogpost so i’m letting these photos do the talking…for now. I’ll be back once i’m properly acclimatized. In the meantime, we have one and a half more days to spend with Chris’ family before we set out on our own Paris adventure. I have said it once before and I’m saying it again: All things considered, I know I got a good man right here. Yes, Salt n’ Pepa, a mighty, mighty good man.:)

 

Paris Rendezvous.


In just a few hours, I will be with C in his home city/country. It’ll be my first time to meet his family and can I just say that I am a ball of shaky nerves right about now? In large part due to the fact that C and I haven’t seen each other for over a month and I’m traveling alone to a foreign country, a continent I’ve never set foot before. And of course, there’s the usual – and perfectly normal, might I add – mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety of meeting my fiance’s family. But they’re nice and sweet I’m pretty sure I’m gonna love them on sight – especially the kids! Speaking of anxiety, I am actually more worried about the weather. C told me it’s still pretty cold in Paris even though it’s spring and sunny during the day. This morning, he said, temperature was 8 degrees. If you know me, then you would know how absurdly low my tolerance is for cold temperatures. And being a tropical baby through and through, I am in perpetual summer mode – hence, my somewhat interesting fashion picks. If I could wear a bikini to work, I don’t think it’ll take much prodding for me to turn up one day in an animal print beach ensemble. I’ll make sure to wear bumblebee shades so no one would recognize me. hahaha.

Anyway, I’m about to board my next flight in a few minutes and really, there’s no better airport one could get stuck in than Changi. I just love, love, love this airport! Everything around here is shiny, pretty, clean, and there’s free wifi everywhere! Just now I wanted to test it by Instagramming while brushing my teeth in the loo but it being inappropriate, never mind that it can still be somewhat funny, I decided against pressing the ‘done’ button. I still am a lady, after all. *wink*

Soon, it’s Paris with my one great love. Can life be any more magical than this? Thank you Lord for the gift of love and commitment.

Travelbug fashion.

Livin' la vida loca.:)

 

I’M A SURVIVOR: My BDM 102 Story


Unlike many other decisions I have made impulsively over the years (some I regret having made but let’s not get into that), joining the Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 was a deliberate one. Except for the timeline, which was rather hard to ascertain because of the nature of my job. Will it be in 2012? 2013? I really couldn’t tell for sure at that time. Late last year, however, I had made my intentions to run BDM 102 known to my runners friends, and of course, Mr. Baldrunner himself, and the feedback were all positive. So when KB Runner signed me up on the last day of BDM 102 application and I eventually got accepted (Note: There are certain criteria to be met for one to get accepted as a BDM race participant), I was 50 percent sure I’d do it – the other half is obviously dependent on my work schedule.

Registered!

2011 ended and while nearly all of the 2012 BDM 102 runners were busy planning for the race and training properly by logging  precious mileage and incorporating heat training into it as well, I was busy working. And working some more. In fact, since 2012 started, I think I was only able to log a total of 40k running mileage and by ultramarathon standards, that is far from ideal. And then I was supposed to be somewhere for a company event on BDM 102 race dates so it didn’t occur to me to make time for some strength training at least. I was prepared to just cut losses and perhaps go at it next year. Next thing I know, our event was moved at a later date which leaves my March 3-4 weekend wide open for some ultrarunning action. By then, I only had three weeks to put together a game plan; look for kindhearted friends willing to be my support crew (whom I have found, praise God!); and psyche myself into BDM mode. Just to make sure my legs are still in good running condition, I joined two 10k races and carbo-loaded. I must say that was the best part of my preparation – EATING. I ate more than my usual amount of food intake, constantly reminding myself each time I would feel guilty that ‘Yeah, i’m going to burn all of it anyway come BDM 102!’ And so I ate like the buffet cart was going to run out soon.

The only time that the enormity of my decision to run BDM this year dawned on me fully was when I attended the Briefing Ceremony and Carbo Loading party two nights before the actual race. Seeing nearly all of the BDM 102 runners there and making a mental note of how strong and capable they all looked, I began to doubt myself. Seriously, what was I thinking?! It’s one thing to do 50k or even 65k and perhaps finish sterlingly (I did so with my two 50k races but DNF’d with my 65k race in Nuvali) BUT 102k is clearly something else! Reylynne and I would find ourselves staring blankly at the projector screen while BR was doing the briefing and clearly not able to put a finger to what it was that we were both feeling at that time. Nervous, unsure, excited, confident are only some of the decipherable emotions at play that night.

2012 BDM 102 Briefing and CLP at Camp Aguinaldo

BDM warriors with Sir Jovie aka Baldrunner, the brains and might behind Bataan Death March

Finally, it was the night before race day. I had been long done shopping maniacally for supplies (thanks, too, in large part to my brother who shared my BDM grocery expenses with me!) and I already have my Reebok gear, Lightwater and VitaminBoost, Smith Optics Pivlock shades, reflectorized vest with lamp from ARC Ph all locked-and-loaded. JJ of my running group Team UNGAS, also gave me some supplies for the race – all of which came in handy, especially the first aid kit. My amazing support crew which I’m sharing with Cris Dela Cruz, consisting of Eric Caramay, Running Atom, and Jennybave were likewise ready to rock and roll. I went to the salon for foot spa hoping it will relax my mind so that I would at least be able to clock-in some decent zzz time. Weirdly enough, I found myself tossing and turning until about 2:30am, playing scrabble on my iPad. It seemed my mind decided to race ahead of me because I would see snippets of various BDM scenarios being played out in my head! I woke up at 6:30am and even though gun start is not until 10:15pm, I couldn’t convince myself to sleep some more. Instead, I spent my time making cheese pimiento sandwiches, boiling eggs, and packing my running gear and accoutrements.

At 4pm, we were on the road to Mariveles, Bataan.

We made a short pitstop at NLEX to have lunch. In my nervousness, I forgot to eat something during the day. Funny story: Just as we were leaving HenLin, we were sandwiched by this small crowd of people having their photos taken with this guy who turned out to be friggin’ Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and I didn’t get a chance to have my photo taken with him because he was quickly whisked away by his posse before I could even reach for my camera or BB! Nakakainis lang!

With my support crew and runner friends.

We reached KM0 in Mariveles, Bataan at around 8:30pm and as much as we wanted to cram sleep, we opted to prepare for the race. Jennybave took pains in taping my feet, especially my toes which are all blister-prone. I had wanted to use my Reebok Zigtech but after the layers of Leukoplast on both feet, the shoes were already a bit tight for me ( I must remember to get a bigger size next time!) and so I wore Claudia instead which was a good size bigger and has had an ultramarathon experience at last year’s 2nd PAU T2N 50k. It’s important that I give my feet some room to breathe given that it’s inevitable that feet will expand due to constant battering during the race. With my running gear all in place, I looked just about ready to head out to war.

‘Ultra Vicky’ says my ARC Ph shirt.:)

At the KM0 marker, ultrarunners gathered and chatted away. Photos were being taken, as well. In just a few minutes, Baldrunner would call everyone to order and he appointed some runners to sing the US, Japan, and Philippine national anthems. And then we were told to move to the starting line for the prayer and gun start.

Dear God, we pray for safety, strength, perseverance, and courage as we conquer Mariveles, Bataan all the way to San Fernando, Pampanga…

At 10:15pm, we were off like a marauding colony of worker ants. Destination: KM 102 marker at San Fernando, Pampanga. Cris, my BDM partner, and I started off strong. Even while taking it very easy in the first 6kms which was a steep uphill climb, we managed to clock-in sub-6 for the first 42km. And just as I was feeling somewhat invincible, I was brought down to earth when I heard my left knee give off a loud click followed by a very sharp pain I had to cry out. It reminded me so much of my trail run in Nuvali where my knees locked and I couldn’t move and I had to be carried back to the start/finish line on a stretcher, bereft of pride. Hello, deja vu. We immediately called on our suport crew to assist me. Bave put cold compress on injured knee and gave my legs a good rubdown. I put my knee support back on and continued running. Just a few kilometers after, my right knee gave a similar jolt. That’s when I got scared and slowly see my BDM 102 dreams fall apart piece by piece. Knee injury at any race is never a good thing. I decided to take Arcoxia to manage the pain. Cris, too, at around the same time, twisted his right ankle. And so it came to be that we were both limping even before we reached KM50.

Oh my knees! (Subtitled: Parang mag-gi-gym ka lang ah!)

At KM48, I was starting to feel very sleepy I felt like a somnambulist. I told Cris that I would need a 10-minute nap once we reach the pitstop if I am to perform well in the second half of the race. And so we both cat-napped and our support crew woke us up in time for us to see the sunlight slowly peeking out of the night skies. To feel better and refreshed, I brushed my teeth, washed my face with Physio Radiance (yes, plugging!), and brushed my hair. JJ also forced me to eat puto and drink coffee to send me on my way. My knees were feeling better but there was no telling when both will go bust again. We knew it was going to be a very sunny morning/afternoon going into Dinalupihan and all the way to San Fernando so I made sure to protect my eyes with Smith Optics Pivlock V90 Max.

Good morning sunshine! With my Reebok cap, play-dri top and shorts, you can always tell I mean some serious running business!

Just when I thought my painful knees were all that I had to manage, my left shoulder also caved-in due to the pressure of swinging my arms for a long period of time. It got so painful I had to beg RA to administer makeshift arm sling just so I can keep it stable and not moving to and fro much which only aggravates the pain. So with my knees and left arm now all in pain, I couldn’t possibly suffer more, right? I mean, Murphy could not possibly be that cruel, surely? WRONG. Because when the sun finally came out, the heat emanating from that cosmically-gargantuan ball of fire nearly burned everything on terra firma, including my skin. I thought all those years of sunbathing in the beaches of Boracay, Phuket, Davao and Bali will give me some advantage but NOTHING could have prepared me for the kind of heat that confronted us from Dinalupihan all the way to KM83 where I nearly passed out – hungry, dehydrated, and burning up!

Check out my cool arm sling!

It was then that I seriously considered throwing in the towel and calling myself a loser. I was too weak and in so much pain to even consider going further. I wanted to quit and probably never show my face at races anymore. I prayed hard for God to give me one last boost and as a testament to just how faithful HE is to his promise of keeping us safe under his care, my boost came in the form of my support crew and running group friends JJ, Leya, and Ambo. They refused to hear my protestations and declaration of surrender and instead, pushed me to give it one more go. In between force-feeding me with fruits, making me drink Oresol, and wrapping my burning skin with very cold towels, they would encourage me to get up and run the remaining distance and lay claim on my BDM 102 trophy. My support crew realized that I have not exactly been eating all this while. I would have a slice of apple, orange, watermelon, and a piece of banana and nothing more. My hydration, also, left a lot to be desired. I would only take a few sips of Lightwater, VitaminBoost, and Pocari and feel as though I’m drowning in my own skin. So weird! At KM83, my apparel were soaked and the heavy fabric of my top and shorts were weighing down on me so I changed into fresh top and running bottoms. I also discarded my knee support and patella band because at that point, the contraptions were impeding blood circulation.

With barely 2 hours left ’til the 18-hour cut-off and still 12kms away, I regained some of my strength and my stride went from power walking to what my support crew surmised to be almost 6:30 pace all the way to the finish line. I took back the lead some of the guys snatched away from me when we were forced to just walk from KM70 because of our injuries and soon after, managed to squeak-in a strong finish with more than half and hour to spare.

Nearly there…

KM 102, come to Mama!

Seeing the FINISH LINE tarpaulin and the runners who crossed way ahead of me, including all the support groups, standing just behind the arch waiting to welcome the finishers was INCREDIBLE! That 500-meter stretch to KM102 was for me the best 500 meters I would ever cross – except maybe when I get married and have to do the same ceremonial crossing, only this time, down the flower-decked aisle and preferably with the feel of powder-soft sand beneath my sandaled feet. *ahem. ahem.*

I FRIGGIN’ MADE IT TO THE FINISH LINE!!!

And here she comes barreling through the odds stacked up against her…Vicky, FTW!!!

It was such an emotional moment for me that I couldn’t contain my tears. I cried and Bave cried with me. I have wanted that BDM 102 trophy and medal since the first time I tried ultrarunning at Mr. Pinatubo and now it’s mine! And I have a laundry list of friends and sponsors to thank for making my BDM 102 dream a reality. Thank you so, so, sooo much! You guys know who you are.:)

Oh, and one more thing. If you ask me what else would I write down as great BDM moment for me, I would have to say — and you gotta keep your mind open about this and your sense of humor ready just in case — those times where I would no longer care where and how I pee. Honest truth! Bear in mind that I was competing against a lot of runners and this is where being a lady is sometimes a disadvantage – but I learned to adjust, adopt, and accommodate. Grassy patch, behind the car, in between car doors, in a dried-out canal, inside a held-out malong — name it, I’ve done it all! But only during night time when it was dark and there were hardly any people around. During the day, I would knock at people’s homes and gasoline stations and beg them to allow me the use of their bathrooms. Those times, I was never without my wet wipes which I would now declare to be among the essentials a female ultrarunner must have when running an all-nighter.

BDM 102 now officially crossed-out of my bucket list! BDM 160 na ba?;)

Pains and killer heat aside, I would say my BDM 102 experience is something I will never EVER forget. On the 3rd of March 2012, I went berserk and made true my dreams of doing the ultimate ultra – not for cash or freebies BUT for pride, honor, glory, and that little kilometer marker trophy I have always wanted to have. I am no longer just a road warrior dreaming dreams of pushing myself the limits, I am a survivor – A BDM SURVIVOR! 

My BDM 102 story.

Thank you REEBOK, ARC Ph, Lightwater and VitaminBoost by Suncoast, Smith Optics, Toby’s, CW-X, Chris Sports, FTW magazine, Team Reebok, Team UNGAS, my fellow BDM-initiate and partner Cris and my amazing support crew! To those who prayed for me and wished me well on my BDM journey, my deepest gratitude as well. We’re all made of WIN!