TRAVEL: One Week in BANGKOK


Perhaps one of the easiest and most convenient cities to visit if you’re coming from Singapore, is Bangkok. And probably the most versatile as well, because you simply won’t run out of things to do and places to discover in and around this densely-populated city. Temples, check. Shopping, check. Food, ohmygoodness check! Clubs and restaurants, check. River cruise, check. Great massage, check. And why not sex and booze while we’re at it. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or you’ve visited many a time, Bangkok will always have something special in store for you.

We were in Bangkok for one week last month and though it wasn’t totally for vacation as Hubby had to run some business type of errands (and I was his perpetually-hungry-because-heavily-pregnant assistant!), we still managed to get some touristy things done and scored heaps of pampering points in the food and massage departments.

So, you know that there are a few things Bangkok can never go wrong with. And these are some of those things, as far as we are concerned.

1. FOOD. Thailand is considered a certified heavyweight when it comes to food. In Bangkok, every visitor is spoilt for choice, both in local and international cuisines. Among those that we’ve tried and thoroughly enjoyed were:

Chapter 31. Chapter 31 is one of those happy places we go to each time we’re in Bangkok and in need of a good foodie treat at a great value. Located along Soi 31 in Sukhumvit, Chapter 31 stands out against all the other restaurants in the area (some of which are also fantastic in their own specialties) in its simplicity, yet packs a wallop in taste especially in their homemade cakes and pastries. They serve mostly local food with a twist and some western-style dishes as well. On our first visit during this trip, we ordered rib stew with red sauce and this northern Thai chicken dish which came with small bowl of cut up tropical fruits and a delicious traditional sauce and they were both insanely tasty! And because this restaurant is even more famous for its cakes, we tried out their Café Latte cake and as usual, we walked back to our place incredibly satisfied! Whatever dish you order, you can always complement it with any of their refreshing drinks – my favourites are tamarind juice and lemongrass juice. I noticed that they now serve wine as well, but we didn’t try them. When it comes to price, Chapter 31 is very, very reasonable. Not stump change, but definitely well worth the food and more. They also have some of the nicest staff who will take your order and serve them to you with a gleeful smile.

Pork spareribs in red sauce.
Pork spareribs in red sauce.

Jones the Grocer. Located at the swanky new EMQuartier along Sukhumvit, Jones the Grocer aims to wow foodies not only with its delectable range of cakes and pastries, but also with a lot of delicious dishes – from pasta, to burgers, to pizza and then some. We ordered the Superfood salad (lentils, pumpkin purée, quinoa, etc) and seafood risotto for our healthy late lunch and we thought that the serving looked small at first glance, but really just enough for a normal adult appetite. The risotto was perfectly creamy and cheesy and really delicious! There was enough prawns and squid in there as well to satisfy your seafood craving, but the highlight of our lunch was the dessert. However, once in front of the counter display with all those colourful and desserts and pastries staring back at you, making a choice – or two – gets a little bit tougher. I was so tempted to order so many because they all looked mouth-watering, but I managed to restrain myself and just settle with their lemon tart and rainbow cake. The lemon tart was so good and has just the right amount of lemon tartiness and sweet to it. The rainbow cake, I have to say, was a little dry (could use some good ol’ moist in its texture) and a bit too sweet for my taste – but would’ve blended nicely with a cup of tea. It was my first time to dine at Jones the Grocer and overall, I think the experience was good (service is commendable, too) and price was okay/mid-range.

Rainbow Cake.
Rainbow Cake.

Mezzaluna. Mezzaluna seems to have taken the concept of fine dining to a whole new level of fabulosity – from its top-notch location at the 65th Tower Club of the legendary Lebua State Tower in Silom Road, to the opulent décor of the restaurant and all the way down to the exquisitely decadent cuisine prepared by world-renowned Chef Ryuki Kawasaki. To celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I had an amazing dinner at Mezzaluna, which turned out to be a beautiful symphony of flavours, aromas and textures. We even got a bonus serenade by their lovely violinist and served a special anniversary cake. Of course, the overall experience would not have been as magical without the outstanding service of the restaurant staff who pampered us with their hospitality and warm smiles as they took us through a wonderful gastronomic journey with each course served. As if the wondrous food isn’t glorious enough, try looking out of the glass window for an unobstructed view of Bangkok City laid out below in a blanket of lights and cacophony of sounds you know no other place in the world can give you as intensely – and you’ll know what I mean. Mezzaluna is an expensive restaurant but after the top-rated dining experience we were served with, I’d say it’s worth every single Baht.

Amadei Toscano chocolate light mousse with caramelized hazelnuts and Madagascar vanilla ice cream.
Amadei Toscano chocolate light mousse with caramelized hazelnuts and Madagascar vanilla ice cream.

The Capital by Water Library. On our last night hanging out in Bangkok with friends, we made plans to try out The Capital as recommended by one of our friends who only had the greatest things to say about the food and service in this restaurant. It was a Saturday night and the building where the restaurant’s located was almost deserted. Except for a few, we had the place almost to ourselves – which was more than a welcome change as we’ve already spent much time moving through an ocean of people out in the streets, the malls, etc in the last 7 days that we were in the city. The Capital has a classy interior, provides amazing service (restaurant staff were very attentive and no faux pas at all with our orders), delectable food and a good selection of wine/cocktails at a quite reasonable price.

Friends at The Capital.
Friends at The Capital.

2. MASSAGE. Because we are too stingy to pay 60 SGD for a decent foot massage in Singapore, we racked up on massage points by getting a foot massage every night before heading back, for only 150 Bht for 30 minutes. That’s almost a tenth of what it would’ve cost us in SG!

3. CULTURAL DISCOVERY. With the exception of Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (which I’ve been to once before), I visited Bang Pa-In and Ayutthaya for the first time.

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). It’s my second time to visit this phenomenal Buddhist attraction and yet again, I found myself in awe of it. Located adjacent to the Grand Palace, the Reclining Buddha has been drawing thousands, if not millions, of visitors for many years and when you stand before the massive 46-meter long reclining buddha sculpture, it’s not so difficult to understand why. Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and considered one of the largest temple complexes in the city. It is a definite must-visit for both first-time visitors and Bangkok travel veterans. There is a fee of 100Bht to enter the complex and you get a small bottle of water for free. Don’t worry if you are wearing sleeveless tops or shorts for they will provide you with a robe to cover yourself up before entering the temple. This place is so popular that there’s always a ton of tourists roaming around at almost any given time of the day. So if you don’t particularly relish the thought of snaking your way through crowds in the debilitating Bangkok afternoon heat, try to come in the morning, just as the temple opens. When there, don’t content yourself with just taking photos of the reclining buddha. Instead, spend some time exploring the temple complex as there are plenty of beautiful things to see and admire around there. Word of caution, if you are fond of taking taxis, flagging one in this area will cost you a few more extra Baht for taxis here normally don’t go for meter charges, but will instead charge you a fixed rate to your destination.

Obligatory shot at the Wat Pho.
Obligatory shot at the Wat Pho.

Bang Pa-In (Royal Summer Palace). The Bang Pai-In or the Summer Palace as it stands today is largely the work of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who is credited with the expansion of the area into a Versaillesque garden filled with trademark European-style buildings. Last restored in the early 2000s, the palace and its grounds are still being used on special occasions by the present King and his royal family for holding grand receptions and banquets. We came here as part of the full-day tour package of the Ayutthaya and Bang Pa-In was our first stop. The palace grounds are kept immaculately clean and beautiful that you are almost tempted to just pick out a spot on the manicured lawn, or perhaps near the lake/pond, to just sit for hours to ruminate or have a picnic (neither is allowed, by the way). The grounds are not too large to be covered on foot, but they have golf carts to rent if you are too lazy to walk. There is a small convenience store adjacent to the royal mansion where you can buy cold drinks and ice cream to cool off from the intense heat. There is a much bigger shop at the entrance/exit where you have more snacks and drinks selection, as well as, souvenir items for friends and family back home. There is an entrance fee of 100 Bht for visitors but it’s already included in our tour fees. As at all royal sites, proper dressing is required/observed, but you can you can borrow a wraparound skirt or button-down polo at the entrance with a deposit of 200 Baht, which will be given back to you when you return the clothing item after your tour. One thing you will also enjoy, apart from the leisurely walk around the palace grounds, is feeding the fishes and turtles in the pond which serves as the marker separating the outer and inner courts of the palace. In the middle of this pond is where you will see the elegant Thai-style pavilion which they call “The divine seat of personal freedom” built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) which now houses a statue of him built by his son. Another interesting building in the inner complex is the Chinese-style temple residence given by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to then King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). This place is open to the public but you must remove your shoes to enter and enjoy the ebony and red lacquer interior. You can look at the living room/bedroom chambers from outside but taking photographs is strictly prohibited.

At the Summer Palace.
At the Summer Palace.

Ayutthaya Historical Park. Founded in the 13th century, the historic city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. Once considered among the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce, Ayutthaya enjoyed its golden period from the 14th century before the city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burned the city to the ground and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. Today, Ayutthaya is an archaeological ruin, conferred with a UNESCO World Heritage status, characterised by the remains of tall towers and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, clearly giving visitors an idea of how massive and prosperous the city was before. We came here a few weeks ago on a whole-day tour which we booked through our hotel. We first stopped at Bang Pa-In, another important attraction in the province. If you have visited the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, you will most likely find Ayutthaya much smaller and a little less elaborate/opulent but it doesn’t take away from Ayutthaya the distinction of being among the most cosmopolitan area during its time. One of first things that you will notice as you walk around the area are the headless buddha statues, which again, was the result of the attack of the Burmese army. A few of the buddhas have had their arms and heads reconstructed recently. One very famous landmark here is what they call the buddha tree. It’s some several hundred years old tree with the face of buddha embedded on its trunk. And if there’s one selfie photo you’d like to have in Ayutthaya, it would have to be this one.:) We went to Ayutthaya around noon and let me tell you, the heat can easily drive you mental! My advice is that you wear super comfortable clothes – shorts, tank tops, etc are allowed as the old city is mere ruins now so you don’t have to be donning a sarong or anything to cover arms and legs. A pair of comfortable shoes or flip-flops would be ideal as well for all the walking that you will be doing. The area is not as massive as the Angkor Wat so you need not spend so much hours around here. There is an entrance fee, of course, but ours was prepaid through the tour that we booked. Make sure to bring a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Apply sunscreen and use an umbrella over your head if you cannot stand the heat. There are a few food and souvenir stalls just by the entrance where you can grab some water and munchies if you ever feel hungry. There are toilets for your use as well. Make sure to visit this amazing historical park next time you’re in Bangkok.

At the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
At the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

4. LUMPINI PARK. I love parks and living so close to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, I’d say it’s a little tough to find something so dramatically beautiful, even if man-made, elsewhere in Asia. Having said that, I must admit I wasn’t completely taken with Lumpini Park. Although I think it does a good job of providing a lovely patch of greenery to residents and visitors in Bangkok, for when pollution and crowd fatigue syndrome gets a little too overwhelming. The park itself is quite big and nice enough for a stroll, jog, or leisure cycling. We particularly like the lake in the middle of the park and you can rent a small boat/duck boat for 40 Bht for a 30-minute spin around the lake. It’s very relaxing to just be floating away in the water, especially on a hot day/afternoon. Look out for the big lizards lazing on the banks or swimming across the water. I was a bit scared because some of them look like baby crocodiles! There are drinks/snack stalls just outside the park so make sure you buy a bottle of water – or two – if you intend to stay in the park for more than an hour. The park can get pretty crowded in the late afternoon towards early evening so picking out a spot to just sit and ruminate might be challenging. In this case, you’re better off taking a stroll or a slow jog – both good exercises for the heart.

Ducks in a row.
Ducks in a row.
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TRAVEL: PARIS Sera Toujours Paris!


Mon rêve. Votre rêve. Truth is, we all have had wild fantasies about this city. And I think, it isn’t such a crime to desire something so beautiful, rich and elegant. The first time I visited Paris, three years ago, I thought I just walked into a theatrical dream. It was in spring and we enjoyed pitch-perfect weather the whole time. Though it was quite a short stay, we were able to cover pretty decent ground in the sense that I was able to do some of the touristy things – visits to la Tour Eiffel, Musée du Louvre, Montmartre, Champs-Elysées, Notre Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg, etc. Obviously, there’s still so much of Paris that I haven’t seen, so we made sure to cover a bit more during our last visit in February. It was winter and the mood was a bit different, more sombre in fact, and I think our stay in Paris was even shorter this time, following a longer stay Avoriaz and Bordeaux just days before.

Le Panthéon. As many of you probably know, the Panthéon was first constructed as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris, but after many changes over the years, it now also serves as the final resting place of some of France’s most noble citizens. There is currently some renovations works being done but inside it’s business as usual, so fret not, you will still be able to pay this amazing attraction a visit. There is a fee of 7 euros, with some standard exceptions (students, etc.), but quite frankly, a small price to pay for some good cultural and historical immersion right in the heart of Paris. Inside the Panthéon, you will see a lot of paintings dedicated to St. Genevieve and also plenty of sculptures аt thе base оf pillars depicting French Revolution. When you go down to the crypts, you will see the resting chambers of France’s illustrious poets, philosophers, architects, scientists and writers such as Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, Marie and Pierre Curie, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Soufflot, Louis Braille, etc, and also, former Presidents and children of the revolution. In other words, these aren’t normal joes like you and I. There are guide booklets at the entrance (just after you cross the checkpoint area) and they come in different languages, so you can always refer to it if you need to know more about the Panthéon. One hour is definitely not enough to soak in the rich history of the Panthéon, as well as the people interred therein, so I suggest that you visit after a good meal.

Inside Le Panthéon.
Inside Le Panthéon.
Elaborate sculpture dedicated to La Convention Nationale.
Elaborate sculpture dedicated to La Convention Nationale.
It is not enough to conquer; one must learn to seduce. - Voltaire
It is not enough to conquer; one must learn to seduce. – Voltaire

Jardin de Tuileries. The day started on a very gloomy note because the weather wasn’t exactly ideal for walking around Paris, as it was raining in torrents. So, we thought we could spend the afternoon at Musée de Louvre. Alas, a whole bunch of us seemed to have had the same brilliant idea because the queue for tickets was so long it would’ve taken us two hours just to get ours. And so we abandoned the idea and took to walking around Jardin de Tuileries instead, heavy downpour and all. Despite the inclement weather, the garden, with its perfectly manicured lawn and trees, appear unfazed, just like the beautiful sculptures scattered around the area. I remember the first time we came here, it was on a sunny spring day and we spent some time soaking in the sun lying supine on the grass. I prefer that actually, my skin brushing against the soft grass. Though I must admit, the rain and dark skies do give the jardin a more sombre, dramatic backdrop. Between this and Jardin du Luxembourg, I will take the latter anytime but a garden is a garden and France, especially, seems to do them pretty well.

Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries

Pont Alexandre III. To say that Pont Alexandre III is stunning is no doubt an understatement. With its resplendent details – the cherubs, nymphs, pegasus, etc – unseen in any other bridges, Pont Alexandre III is undeniably the most beautiful of all bridges in Paris – and perhaps even in the world. Joining the Champs Elysées and the Grand Palais on the right bank with Napoleon’s resting place, Les Invalides, on the left, Pont Alexandre III commands your attention from different angles and keeps you suspended in that state of wonderment long after you have walked away. We saw the whole stretch of the bridge from the boat when we did the Seine River Cruise in the afternoon and came back two days later, this time walking along the riverside towards the start of the bridge. We couldn’t walk all the way across because it was raining heavily that afternoon with the wind blowing in icy gusts, rendering our umbrellas completely useless against the deluge. I mean I do understand why couples would feel extra romantic crossing Pont Alexandre III, fingers intertwined, perhaps even stopping briefly for a kiss a few times.

Pont Alexandre III
Pont Alexandre III

La Seine. While Paris can be associated with so many landmarks, all worth their weight in gold, the River Seine provides the mirror in which the whole city can coquettishly glance upon its beautiful reflection, especially on a warm summer/spring day, so that any person who may happen to take a furtive glance on the water as well, will for certain be enamoured. On our last trip to Paris in February, we took the afternoon river cruise with Vedettes de Pont Neuf. It was my first time to take the cruise so I braved the freezing gusts of Parisian winter wind on the second level of the boat just so I could marvel at the landmarks ahead and on either side of the river banks. La Tour Eiffel, Musée du Louvre, Pont Alexandre III, Pont des Arts, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Grand Palais, and many more enchanting landmarks can be seen from the boat as it gently glides along the water. The cruise itself lasts for an hour or so, with the guide speaking in a combination of English and French for the benefit of the non-residents on the boat. There is a food and beverage shop at the dock, so you can buy snacks before you take the cruise. But if you’re not too hungry, I suggest you skip the snacks and just go for a decadent meal and dessert at any of the brasseries cluttered around the riverbanks. The river cruise costs between 10 to 14 Euros. Though I think they have promo rates being offered depending on the season.

Vedettes de Pont Neuf
Vedettes de Pont Neuf
La Tour Eiffel as seen from the Seine River cruise boat.
La Tour Eiffel as seen from the Seine River cruise boat.

Pont des Arts. So we came here to see the lovelocks, and no, we did not add to the weight by having one of ours placed there as well. Either we are too old for this or we truly believe that our love is a lot stronger than any corrosive padlock. haha. Although this practice did not start with France (Belgium, Japan, etc, are in on the game as well), I suppose it does make a lot of sense for people to have it in the world’s most romantic city. They have long ceased people from clamping locks on Pont des Arts because the weight of these darn things has caused a part of the bridge to collapse. So the starry-eyed lovers have moved on to conquer Pont de l’Archevêché and Pont Neuf as well. It seems there is really no stopping young love.

Love locks at Pont des Arts.
Love locks at Pont des Arts.

Champs-Elysées. The world’s most famous avenue deserves a stroll anytime, any day and on every trip to Paris. Shopping is not mandatory, of course, but I gotta admit it’s strangely pleasant to give in to the lure of capitalism once in a while.

It was the eve of César Awards when we made a quick trip to Champs-Elysées. So they had this photowall just outside the famous Fouquet's. We thought it deserved a selfie.:)

On the subject of food, I mean really, what is not to LOVE about French cuisine?  We hit a lot of brasseries where I consumed large amounts of cheese, wine and dessert. What of meat then, you might ask. Well, considering how I shun meat except for chicken, pork (occasionally), fish and escargot (my favourites!) there’s really nothing of the exotic kind to share. Those that I remember fondly were Le Saint-André located at the Latin quarter and Le Libre Exchange (next to Brochant metro station) – both of whom I have reviewed on TripAdvisor as well.  Then, there was this fabulous crêperie near Henry IV which we visited after our tour of Le Panthéon. Really good stuff in there, too.

Le Libre Exchange is easily one of our favourite brasseries in Paris for very good reasons, namely: (1.) Great food (2.) Value for money (3.) Lovely service. I remember dining here for the first time back in 2012 as we were staying quite near the place, and back then I thought it was just okay. And on our recent trip to Paris, we dined here on three separate occasions and we noticed that there’s been amazing improvement especially with the way the staff relate with the customers. Really, really pleasant experience from the minute we were welcomed to the restaurant, to the time our orders were taken, when our food were delivered to our table, and when we had to settle our bill. When we were there again on our last night, there was this huge group of people who came in, literally filling up all the seats available in the restaurant and the staff were taking orders and bringing food and drinks over to different tables without breaking their rhythm or even showing a slight indication of fatigue, considering it was already a bit late at night. Amazing!  Food-wise, I’ve tried their escargot, la poule, cheese platter, omelette and they were pretty good. Hubby tried le lapin (rabbit) and he was truly happy with it, as well. They have quite a few things on their menu which I’m pretty sure are good to the taste as well.

Île flottante at Cafe Le Libre Change.
Île flottante at Cafe Le Libre Exchange.

Le Saint-André is every inch a typical Parisian brasserie, cozy with soft lighting and abuzz with lively conversations among diners. But what puts it in the same league as those places you’d most likely visit again a few times over is the warm hospitality of the staff. The guy who took our orders and brought our food was certainly very accommodating and friendly. Here, you don’t get that feeling of being hurried to place your order and wolf down your food. This is a good place for winding down with a good meal and a lovely glass of wine after a long day of walking around doing touristy stuff around Paris. I ordered a salmon dish with this delicious sauce (perhaps it was béarnaise?) and a side of fresh veggies. They also have free wifi so you may certainly have a great meal and Instagram it, too.

Café Le St. André
Café Le St. André

Looking back on our wonderful dining experiences in Paris, I was beginning to think the Parisians’ bad rep for customer service might possibly be an embellishment of sorts. Either that, or our timing must have been really splendid in those times!  

Voila, c’est tout. Rendez-vous l’année prochaine, Paris !

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!

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)
Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

Thirty Three.


There comes a time in your life when you stop thinking about your birthday and I think I ceased obsessing about mine a long time ago. In fact, my birthday is the last occasion I would look forward to with excitement – not even a speck of it. Last year, though, was different. It was romantic and special because at one point after our dinner, C got down on one knee and with tears glistening in his eyes, asked me to be his wife…and I said yes!

Before that, my birthdays have all just been a haze of billowing cigarette smoke, fun, sidestitch-inducing moments of hilarity, and fifty shades of drunkenness – but there was no singular moment that really stood out. I think, perhaps, age has a lot to do with it: this mellowing out. The wanting to just be with a few people you feel most comfortable with. People who allow you to just be.

And that’s how I celebrated my 33rd, cruising Palawan’s famous subterranean river national park (aka Palawan Underground River), named as one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of Nature early this year, with Atche Noel, Jay, and C. We had to wait for hours on end to get on the boat that would take us on a 1.2 kilometer river ride inside the cavernous cave, but it was well worth it! I told C that in a way, we’re truly blessed to have traveled to a few places together despite living miles apart and having individual careers to manage. C and I may be poles apart in a lot of ways (and I’m obviously not just talking about our complexion, accent, and passports), but if there’s one thing we both love to do, traveling would be it.

After our Underground River adventure, we wanted to see more of Puerto Princesa and so the four of us decided to go to Isla Pandan and just chill before boarding the 5:30pm flight back to Manila on Sunday. At this point, we were ever so glad that the sun actually came out after a gloomy Saturday on account of tropical depression Ferdie that submerged some parts of the country in floodwaters, so we happily sunbathed until it started drizzling again shortly after noon. I had wanted to try stand-up paddling but there were only two boards and they were unavailable at the time of my asking.

Once back in Manila, I immediately threw myself into work as there are about a million and one things to be done still before  we fly to Jakarta for our biggest annual event on September.

Palawan for my birthday wasn’t such a bad idea. I wish I were more relaxed, though, but it was quite tough because my mind was just running at top-speed, almost nonstop, thinking about work and projects still sitting on my plate. In any case, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I had great Palawan memories – Kalui’ being one of them. Food and ambience are top-notch in this famous Puerto Princesa restaurant, you’d be crazy not to pay a visit when you’re in town. Meanwhile, those looking for fun live band entertainment can opt to hie off to Tiki Bar, where incidentally I spent the eve of my birthday sipping red wine and trying to make sense of one of the showband girl’s bad singing.

So this is it. I’m 33, all-woman, and soon-to-be bride/wife to the most loving, patient, understanding, (and a few more things) man I have ever known. And oh, incidentally, with zits the size of Jupiter I would put any acne-sporting 13-year-old to shame. I’m surprised that C can still look at me adoringly and call me mon amour even with these unsightly marks on my face. This really must be love.

Happy birthday, psychogirl.:)

TEAM REEBOK Celebrates Friendship and the Active Lifestyle


Due to the success of the recent Reebok Zigtech Run held in Bonifacio Global City on June 5,2011, Team Reebok Ambassadors (Blas Ople Tiangco, Alex Em, Mark Rodica, Vicky Ras and Kassy Pajarillo) express their gratitude to friends and followers who continuously support the brand and the foundations they ran for since they were signed under the Reebok as brand ambassadors through a fun run and Zumba party. The event is in partnership with Party Wizards and KAS Events Management, in cooperation with Reebok Philippines and Without Limits.

Team REEBOK. Photo by Ena Terol.

“It’s going to be intimate and sweet. we’re celebrating togetherness, friendship and aim to help our beneficiaries: Lifeline Foundation, JeepneEd and Visayan Forum Foundation. We’re all about giving importance to relationships and of course, Reebok” says Team Reebok and Curves International Ambassadress Kassy Pajarillo.

Team REEBOK celebrates friendship with blogger friends and FB followers. Bloggers Night at The RAMEN BAR - Venice Piazza

The Team Reebok Zigtech and Zumba Party celebration will be held on August 6, 2011, 5am at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex and will have distances prepared for everyone, 3k,5k, and 10k respectively; non-runners and spectators are free to join the Zumba party to be lead by certified Zumba fitness instructress Via Bonoan and Rowena Aquino.

Vicky, Blas, Kassy, and Beep Beep

‘Team Reebok is all about living an active lifestyle. One that pays homage to our capacity as human beings to take on any kind of pursuit – may it be on athletics, running a company, or even a household. This is our way of encouraging people, young and old alike, to embrace health and fitness. Having said that, we are looking forward to seeing all of you on the 6th of August. It’s going to be more fun than you have ever bargained for,” says Vicky Ras, Team Reebok and Curves Circuit ambassadress.

KB Runner with the Ladies.

Team Reebok will be raffling off a generous gift from Misibis Bay, your luxurious playground located in Cagraray Island, Bicol.

Participants may choose to stroll through the 3k distance, hit the ground running along the greens and feel the fresh air 5k and 10k course, or both. The run steps off at 5:30am. Registration is open onsite and online (partywizards.biz), proceeds will go to all beneficiaries; donations such as clothes, books, medicines for children and vegetable oil are well appreciated.

And the winner is...

The celebration emphasize their goal to promote active lifestyle, strengthening friendship and goodwill. Sponsored by brands they personally advocate: Pocari Sweat, Curves International, Ramen Bar, Tres Marias, Yadu, DermPlus, Dentiste Toothpaste & Oral Rinse, Flow Yoga Manila, and Reebok Philippines.

Thank you dear friends for all the love and support!

For inquiries, email sales@partywizards.biz, visit http://www.partywizards.biz or you May call (02) 399-99-59, (0916) 5523122 or (0917) 5540014

More 'kokaks' FTW!
Birthday girl Kassy!
With KB Runner
Pretty faces at Team Reebok Bloggers' Night
Meet LUMI

Thank you KB Runner for the wonderful photos you took last night. Much love to Ena Terol for our Team Reebok photo. More blessings to RAMEN Bar (Food is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC, you’re a big fool if you haven’t tried anything on their menu yet!) for hosting Team Reebok Bloggers’ Night. You guys rock! Oh but you already know that. *insert smiley here*

SEE YOU GUYS ON AUGUST 6 AT THE CCP!