Quiet Escape to Montpelier, Vermont

Before heading out to the cities of Boston and NYC, D and I spent a day and night in Vermont’s capital: Montpelier. Coming from Montreal, we rode the Greyhound bus and crossed from Canada to the USA in a little over four hours. En route to Vermont we passed by forests of green. Well, it is called the Green Mountain State after all. I wish I could have seen this during autumn, oh the astounding colors of orange, yellow and red it must be!

When we arrived to the city, the eye-catching Vermont City State House’s gold dome was the first thing we saw.

Walking to our AirBnB located at Marvin Street, I took to the time to do some deep breathing snf looking at the beauty around me- sunflowers and birds flying about, fruit bearing trees and maple t trees around me.

I liked our room at the AirBnB right away – rustic, clean, and the bed looked comfortable. I couldn’t wait to snuggle underneath the sheets at night, as we were told it gets chilly as soon as the sun sets at this time of the year.

Looking out the window I saw their free range hens out and about from their coop.

At the side of our room is an apple tree. I thought how lucky they must be to have loads of apples available whenever they like it, make (organic) apple pie and stock up on apple sauce. Us in the Philippines would have to buy them from the grocery and wash them at least three times to hopefully rid them of chemicals.

This little guy just dropped off from the tree

After settling in we waked back to the city center for a late lunch at Pho Capital which was at the Main Street. Then we went to the Vermont State Capital and admired the garden of flowers.

Montpelier has a lot of vintage shops, and it was quite interesting to do sime window shopping. I stumbled across The Getup Vintage that sells clothes from the 70’s to as early as the 30’s! I also found the Bear Pond Books (my favorite shop of all in Montpelier)which sells new and used books, and got myself a couple of books to read during my upcoming trips.

For coffee we tried two highly recommended cafes. The Capitol Grounds, is a busy but cozy cafe in the Main Street. We tried their bagels and flagship blend, Bob’s House Blend.

For brunch the next day we went to the Skinny Pancake. I had the Breakfast Monster (savory crepe with cage free egg, cabot cheddar, roasted squash, basil, caramelised onion and spinach), and D had the State Breakfast (sliders with bacon, egg and homemade pesto). The ambience was great and the resto had a cool vibe.

Though we stayed only for a night, we felt energized when we boarded the Greyhound bus the next day as we headed off to to Boston. Montpelier was more than what I imagined it to be. We went there because it was halfway through Montreal and Boston, and because I was intrigued by the picturesque photos I found on Google Maps. What exceeded my expectations was the warmth and friendliness of the people. From our hosts to the shopkeepers, to the people who we meet on the street to the ones who let us pass on the pedestrian crossing – they actually greeted us and/or smiled at us. We felt welcome and safe. I am glad we made this trip to Montpelier, and I will remember it with fondness for a very long time.

Free Museum Day At Boston’s MFA

No visit to Boston would be complete without going to its museums. Lucky us, we were there on Wednesday, and chanced were able to avail of the Free or Pay as You Wish days at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).

I always prefer going to the Fine Arts museums over Contemporary Arts because my favorite art is French Impressionism.

I was excited as we deposited our bags, I’ve seen a high score for this museum over at Google Maps. And I couldn’t wait to explore and be lost in the intricacies of the art. One thing I learned from past museum visits when I was short of time, is to stick to a plan, otherwise I might miss the highlight exhibitions. So, grabbing a map I prioritised the galleries I would go to. For that afternoon my goal was to see the European and American Art galleries.

We were immediately impressed by the layout of the pieces and the contrast of colors in some of the galleries, such as the red walls that were quite striking.

D’s favorites were the McElheny glass art from Gallery 247, the classically designed rooms and the this miniature art.

Here are some of the highlights from the galleries we visited. The French Impressionism pieces in itself require a blog of their own, so check out my story about that same time tomorrow.

Emperor Augustus

Sargent At Dusk

Pretty Places in Quebec

By the time I post this I’d already be in New York City. This blog sums up the beautiful places and sights D and I have seen in Quebec City during our weekend visit. I tried to give the places justice with my phone camera, but they are much more pretty in person. Glad we went there this month of September when it’s transitioning from summer to fall. How I’d love to see it more in the fall when the maple leaves are amber and red, making the place look more romantic and surreal.

Check out my previous blogs about the fairytale-like hotel, the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac; the tranquil and historical Plains of Abraham; the colorful flower-lined Jeanne-d’Arc Garden; and the old town feels at Quartier de Petit Champlain.

Neptune Inn Mural Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Place Royal Place Royal
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires chapel Notre-Dame-des-Victoires interior

Place Jean-Pelletier

Gare du Palais

Gare du Palais

Plains of Abraham

One quiet Saturday morning, D and I took a stroll at the Plains of Abraham, a big green space outside the walls of Quebec City. The sky was overcast, the air was crisp, and the place pretty much empty save for the occassional walkers like us.

We walked past Edwin-Belanger Bandstand, and then towards The Battlefield Park. I’m no expert on history so I had a quick read as to what the historical significance of this park was prior to going.

Today marks the 260th year since the Battle of Quebec, also known as Bataille des Plaines d’Abraham. After a 3-month siege by the British, on 13 September 1759, a culminating battle lasted about an hour between the British Army and Royal Navy against the French Army on this plateau, then owned by a farmer named Abraham Martin. Britain won and soon after, with the fall of Montreal in 1760, French empire in North America ended.

The Jeanne-d’Arc garden and monument located in the Plains of Abraham is a tribute to the fallen soldiers of this war.

I contemplated I tread on soil that has seen bloodshed, anguish, fright, courage and tears. As I walked in silence I thought about 260 years ago, what it must have been like being in the forefront of the battle, fighting for the country’s honor. I say a prayer for the brave souls and would like to think they would have been proud to see the state of Quebec as it is now.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Quebec

I have had Quebec City in my bucket list since last year. I almost went when I visited Montreal in the spring of 2018, but since I was pressed for time I saved a proper trip for later.

This year, D and I were able to include a couple of nights in Quebec City (thank you Delta airmiles!). Personally, it was during the first time I saw it while watching Goblin, a Korean fantasy drama, that I made a note to myself that I will go to Quebec. That was also the start of my journey on Francophonie.

We started by walking through Porte Saint-Louis, a grand concrete entrance to the old town. Reminded me of out very own Intramuros in Manila. The fortified walled city of Quebec, I read, is the only one of its kind in North America. As soon as we entered, horse-drawn carriages walked next to us.

We turned right on Rue D’Auteuil and then to Avenue Saint Denis, heading to Pierre-Dugua-D-Mons Terrace and La Terrase Saint Denis, a park with a monument, which offered a great vantage point of the picturesque Fairmont de Chateau Fronterac, and the beautiful port. As a Goblin fan, this was a must visit for me too (because there was a scene taken here). I would have loved to go back there at night to view the lights, but it was too cold and I settled to playing with Dandy the cat back at the AirBnB.

We then headed down to Terrasse Dufferin, which was the up close view of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frotenac the waterfront. The hotel was very charming, both from afar and upclose. It is, afterall, one of the most iconic structures in Quebec City.

I realized that there were canons lined up fronting the bay. D and I were amazed at how Quebec City was able to preserve these historical pieces.

In front of the Chateau is the Monument Samuel De-Champlain, there was an artist playing to his guitar and singing to Ed Sheeran’s song, Perfect. It pretty much sums up how I felt that Saturday afternoon.

Goblin Red Door at Quartier du Petit Champlain

In 2017 I’ve binge watched a popular Korean telenovela titled Goblin, a fantasy-themed love story/comedy. The cinematography and the funny lines captured my interest, and though I liked the storyline of a supporting character, the Grim Reaper more, one thing that I wrote down in my bucket list is while watching the show was to go to Quebec City in Canada.

See, in the show, Goblin had the power to travel instantaneously, and one place he kept going back to was Quebec – through the Red Door. Google maps had this location pinned along Quartier du Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial district in the area. This street is beautifully line with quaint looking boutiques, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. I browsed the shops to check out watercolor paintings, jewelry, and quirky items. Walking through this area was made more surreal as an artist played along his keyboard to beautiful classical tunes.

First order of business was a mandatory photo shoot at the Red Door. Luckily we got to the Goblin Red Door before the flock of tourists arrived. Mostly Asians lined up for a photo at the Red Door.

Afterwards, we managed to get seats within earshot of the artist playing his keyboard, in the Lapin Saute restaurant. We had coffee and tea to keep us warm on that cold Sunday afternoon, but didn’t bother to get anything to eat because rabbits are my friends.

We walked around some more and passed by the Red Door once again. I heard a group of friends saying that they drove 13 hours to get to that Red Door. I could relate – flew 18 hours and rode the bus for another 3 hours for Quebec City. That’s how special it was to me.

Jardin Jeanne-d’Arc

Located on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, the statue of Jeanne-d’Arc, the French martyr, can be seen in this quaint garden. This bronze statue erected on a limestone is a tribute to the fallen soldiers during the French and English war in 1759-1760. Jardin Jeanne-d’Arc was created in 1938 by Architect Louise Perron and officially opened on 1 September 1938.

“Patriotism and courage! In other words, through bronze and granite this monument stands through the glory of heroism incarnated in one of the greatest heroes in all human history.” — Sir Thomas Chapais

The garden is lovely, surrounded by flowers and perennials. I admired the beautiful houses fronting this place, and I thought how lucky the residents are with the Plains of Abraham and this garden at their doorstep.

I had to locate this garden as D and I were coming from the Battlefields Park. This is me panting my way up a steep slope, holding on to the short grass to preserve my dignity from a possible tumbling downhill. That short cardio workout was worth it!

Incheon and Robot

Our layover at Incheon International Airport is most likely the closest I can get in terms of setting foot on Korean soil this year. Last we’ve been to South Korea was six years ago, and I’ve been meaning to renew my Korean visa but couldnt find time to squeeze it into my schedule in between travels. Alas, maybe first thing next year.

So, Incheon – long time no see! Within a couple of hours we gaped at the mix of modern and nature-themed interiors. I had to touch a plant to check if was rea – nope it wasn’t. But it sure looked like it. Made me think – are the plants in Singapore’s Changi Airport real? Must be hard to maintain.

Anyway, I eventually found myself face to face with AIRSTAR robot as she navigated her way through the crowd trying to show the directioons to a passenger. There’s something about robots that enthrall me. Are they taking over the world? Maybe it’s too much sci-fi binge watching on TV.

AIRSTAR looked harmless, cute even. She headed her way back and announced that she needed to rest and that she’s tired, if people can please get out of her way. D was one of those people on her way. Tsk.

Later I found her taking a snooze as she recharged at a corner. How cool was that?!

Bonjour, Montreal!

Our first day in Montreal, at last. After flying 18 hours from Manila to Incheon to Minneapolis and finally arriving at Le Canada. Still don’t like flying, but I can’t complain because it was a breeze of sorts this time having D as my pillow, and because this flight was free after all, thanks to Delta Skymiles.

Immigration officer in Minneapolis asked what my purpose was, and I said Leisure and hopefully to practice using my French.

So this is Take Two, and as a good start I say my Bonjours with l’accent.

Got our $10 STM all-day pass at the airport vending machine and tthe 747 bus from Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport. Got off at Berri-UQAM and walked along Rue Saint-Denis, where a portion of the street was closed to traffic because there was an event earlier that night. It was just past midnight and some bars were still open. Walked past young folks who had a tad bit of a drink, and I remembered my college days. When the world revolved around school and Thursday night parties. Oh those were the days!

Checked in at a simple but cozy hotel – Auberge Le Jardin D’Antoine, located between Sherbrooke and Ontario Streets, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. This area has a wide variety of French and ethnic restaurants, cafes, art galleries and antique shops. At 3AM, after a good warm shower, we finally hit the sack.

0800: J’accuielle le weekend a bras ouverts! Mon petit dejeuner simple: croissant, yogurt, cafe au lait, orange juice, butter and jam.

Today we head off to Quebec City. I heard their use of French is more intense there (gulp). If all else fails there’s always Google Translate.

Have a happy weekend!

NAIA’s Club Manila Lounge

Our journey to Montreal begins at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. I hardly go to this airport as most of my flights commence from Terminals 2 and 3. This one’s the oldest of the 3 big NAIA airports, and As far as I remember it hardly stands out of the options I’ve got in Manila.

The silver lining was D telling me that we could use the Club Manila Lounge with his credit card. I didn’t bring that card with me but it was ok because cardholders can bring a plus one (yay for the freebie!). It is open for use by platinum and gold cardholders of selected banks in the Philippines. For non cardholders, the lounge is also open for a fee of 750 pesos (around $13 US).

It’s located at the fourth floor. I set my expectations low as on our way from the lift the hall was dim and there were a lot of blockages, it almost felt as if we were walking at a back alley. I wonder if we took the service lift?

At last, the lounge. It was bigger than the one we always go to at Terminal 3, and the lighting here is more relaxing. The food options are more varied: there are halal food, fruits, salad, sandwiches, hot meals, pastries, nachos and chips. For drinks there’s beer, fresh fruit juice, coffee and tea, and liquor. The seats are comfortable and the place is spacious. Wifi speed was also fast. Lastly their restrooms were clean. Unlike NAIA 3’s lounge, the boarding announcements can be heard in Club Manila Lounge. I guess the one advantage that the lounge at Terminal 3 has is the view of the runway – though it comes with too bright lighting in the whole lounge as well.

It’s quite a steal for cardholders, but something I’d reconsider if I didn’t have my card and will be paying out. I guess if I was so tired and needed a few hours’ sleep while waiting for my flight out of NAIA I’d pay for a stay at the lounge. Otherwise, I’m happy walking around next to the terminal gate, giving my feet a stretch in preparation for a long flight. Which reminds me, I have less than an hour to do that now.

Travelling Light

It’s almost 9 o’clock in the morning, and I’m humming to the tune of Leaving on a Jet Plane. I’m so excited for this long-awaited trip to Montreal (my second take at French). I would like to think I’m more equipped now, having retaken my modules in DuoLingo and having completed basic French class. I know, I have a long way to go in mastering the language, but it’s a start.  Reality check: If I don’t blog about my second attempt at speaking French in Canada, that means I’ll do a Take Three. For now, I would like to think determination and confidence will help me get my way around Montreal and Quebec.

Back to my song for this morning: “All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go.” And speaking of bags….C’est sont ma bagages.

To be exact I have one small luggage and a backpack. Been travelling for business in August and one thing I’ve started doing is packing light as I cannot be bothered to do some weight lifting with my baggage. My last trip to Singapore I didn’t even check in any luggage, and it worked just fine.

So for this trip, I only have five sets of clothes, a scarf, toothbrush, comb, socks and undergarments, my sneakers, a hoodie, and a small pouch containing my toiletries in travel-size amounts: sunblock, lotion, toothpaste, and moisturizer. For makeup I just brought BB cream, powder foundation, a lipstick and a small blush on powder. When we were booking our AirBnB, I made sure that we got the rooms with a washer and dryer so we can do our laundry in between trips.

In my backpack are my cellphone and charger, passport, hand sanitizer, pen, and my “North America wallet” because I’d like to keep my local currency bills separate to avoid confusion. I’ve got enough space and I’m contemplating now if I should bring this book that I’ve been hoping to finish reading. Maybe I will, because after hours of watching shows and movies in a plane, it’s nice to read from an actual book and rest my eyes from gadgets.

My goal next time is to do what the backpackers do. I’ll see how it goes with this trip and if it works just fine I’ll go give my big backpack (that’s gathering dust in my storage room) a try.

 

Satay by the Bay

Last week, I capped off my short visit to Singapore with a Singapore sling atop Marina Bay Sands, overlooking the Singapore skyline during sunset. And of course, a sumptuous dinner at the nearby hawker center of Satay by the Bay. It’s about a ten minute walk from Marina Bay Sands, but hungry as we were we just took a cab (I know, I know).

My eyes feasted on a wide array of dishes. One of the things that worked best when my friend Erwin brought me to Tiong Bahru market is to have a look around first, then decide after. Otherwise I might miss out.

So it took a lot of will power to stick to the plan – we got a piece of different kinds of satay each, noodles, dimsum soup, grilled fish, and salted egg chicken. It’s such value for money because we spent around 150 Singapore dollars for a feast – more than enough for 3 people. I’d say the food were all quite tasty – my favorite ones being the satay, of course. It’s called Satay by the Bay, after all.

Overlooking Gardens By The Way
Overlooking Gardens By The Way

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Satay By The Way
Satay By The Way
Dumplings
Dumplings
Satay stores at Satay By The Bay
Satay stores at Satay By The Bay

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Philippine National Hero in Hibiya Park

“The youth is the hope of our future.”Jose Rizal

While walking along Hibiya Park at Tokyo last week, my heart leaped at the sight of the bronze bust of the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal (1861-1896). It was quietly tucked behind the pond near the park’s entrance.

Written below the bust:

” Stayed in 1888 at Tokyo Hotel located at this site. Unveiled June 19, 1961.”

Seeing it prompted me to read back on my country’s history and the role that Dr. Jose Rizal played for the Philippines’ independence from the Spanish colony. In honor of the Philippines’ National Heroes Day which is being celebratws today, I am writing this post.

I wonder what Rizal and the Filipino heroes will think if they see the generation of today, and what has become of the country that they fought and died for.

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Take Four: Food and Tokyo

Lobster sandwich, fries and ginger ale

I was able to have a taste of different kinds of food from my trip to Tokyo last week. Unlike my previous trips to Japan where I defaulted to eating the same type of food over and over again per visit, I mustered all my will power to “stick to the plan”, which was to try out a variety this time.

I guess the only time I deviated from the plan was during breakfast, because the hotel I stayed at only had 2 options: Japanese or Continental. I tried the Japanese set the first day, and the next 3 days was Continental. The Japanese breakfast set comprised of fish, pickled fruit and veggies, salad, fresh fruits, miso soup and seaweed flakes. The Continental set comprised of yogurt, a variety of bread, jam and butter, eggs, bacon and sausage (I skipped the last 2).

Japanese breakfast set
Japanese breakfast set

For dinner, I discovered a great alternative which I think I’ll resort to again next time: the basement of big department stores near the train stations usually have food courts, so I opted to buy my food (in portions) from different food courts for two nights in a row, hence my “dinner with a view” from my hotel room.

Dinner with a view part 1
Dinner with a view part 1
Dinner with a view part 2
Dinner with a view part 2

For lunch I’ve had curry and naan, cold soba and unagidon, and shrimp tonkatsu. I’ve also had my sweet tooth satisfied with the variety of cakes and pastries available almost in every corner of Tokyo (because they’re also found in the convenience stores).

On my last night, I was able to try food from an Izakaya with my colleagues. We had sushi, tempura, edamame, and skewers.

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Different kinds of tempura
Different kinds of tempura

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Because it was hot and humid, the cold drinks available in the convenience stores did not disappoint. I was lucky to have discovered Mr Bean while panting and looking for something to drink around Shibuya station. It reminded me of the taho, a soybean drink that I used to have when I was a kid.

But I’m saving the best for last. I’ve had my first ever lobster sandwich a week ago when I was in Philadelphia, and just couldn’t get enough of it. I searched for a lobster sandwich place in Tokyo and luckily, there was one at Ginza called Luke’s Lobster. I had to navigate to this one, which was a couple of buildings away from Muji Ginza. I know it’s not Japanese food, but this one satisfied my lobster craving – the size of the sandwich was just right – it came with a pickle, fries and ginger ale.

Luke’s Lobster Ginza Tokyo
Luke’s Lobster Ginza Tokyo
Lobster sandwich, fries and ginger ale
Lobster sandwich, fries and ginger ale

 

A Maze of Books in Akihabara

Rows and rows of books

I discovered BookOff in Nagoya, when my friend brought me there earlier this year for thrift shopping. The store in Nagoya had a selection of various used items like books (since, well, it’s called BookOff after all), clothes, bags, and accessories. I had to return the next day to ‘complete’ my shopping as 2 hours of looking around was not enough.

During my trip to Tokyo this week, I had the afternoon off during my first day and initially planned to go to Shinjuku. As the train passed through Akihabara, though, I made a spur of the moment decision to check it out. Lo and behold I stumbled upon BookOff at Akihabara which was close to the train station. I thought it also had a selection of other vintage items, but soon found that this branch had mostly multimedia.

BookOff in Akihabara has 6 floors: the first and second floors were for games and electronics and have a wide selection of CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray. The books can be found from the third to the sixth floor: the third floor housed novels; the fourth floor held photographs, anime and illustration books both in hardcover and paperback; and the fifth and sixth floor have pocket sized comics, videos, and magazines.

I was amazed with the shelves of books. In the Philippines, whenever I have the time I’d browse around stores selling used books where I usually end up buying some good finds. In BookOff, customers laze around also reading through the books – I wish I could read Japanese because I probably would have spent hours here. I looked in vain for manga and anime books written in English, but as my Japanese colleagues say: “Why write them in English when they’re sold in Japan?” Oh well, I guess I’ll just look for the English versions online – or wait for them to be translated to English and shown on TV or film: like my favorites Samurai X (Rurouni Kenshin) and Waiting for Spring (Harumatsu Bokura).

 

Rows and rows of books
Rows and rows of books
J-Pop Collection of CDs
J-Pop Collection of CDs
Look, there's also K-Pop!
Look, there’s also K-Pop!

 

 

My Sweet Tooth

Royce Chocolates, a popular souvenir request from home

One thing I like about Japan is the multiple choices of eye-catching, mouth-watering confectionery. I guess even for those whose encounter with Japan is only through layovers at Narita or Haneda, a thing that stands out are the colorful, pretty boxes of chocolate or cakes at the duty free stores – usually flocked with tourists on a hoard-spree of these goodies.

In my last 4 visits to Tokyo this year I was lucky to get a chance to try out the different sweets cafes and food outlets (most of them at the basement of department stores, or at the basement of Tokyo Station) have to offer. Even convenience stores have them – truly a sweet tooth’s delight as they’ll never run out of options.

Two of my go to’s – when in Japan: Royce dark chocolate. I started with the refrigirated ones, and have discovered lately the regular bar ones. I brought it home to D and to my colleagues and it has become a popular request whenever I ask what they want me to bring home from Tokyo. There was a time D ate it all and left me frustrated as I opened the cupboard to find out it was all gone. So lesson learned – keep a stash for both of us for the rainy days.

Royce Black Chocolate

And lastly there’s the crepe cake at Cafe Veloce. Simple, not so eye-catching, but when I gave it a try I was hooked on its taste and texture: not too sweet and portion is just right. Goes well with coffee, it sure is a treat after a long day of walking about or just while seeking refuge from the wind or rain during thunderstorms.

When Old Friends Meet

RJ and I first became friends when we shared a workstation years ago, as we both worked in a call center, at the time when the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) was still a budding industry in the Philippines. He was a new employee and I was a newly promoted team leader. Back then we were the wide-eyed, hopeful, young leaders learning the ropes of people management, with both our shares of small wins and learnings. I’d say the work of a team leader had been the toughest one for me to date, and it was the support groups like the one I had with RJ and several other colleagues that helped a lot. We would find time despite the different schedules to hang out and catch up over dinner or very early breakfast (when our shifts would be overlapping). And then eventually our support group drifted apart when most of them, RJ included, migrated abroad. Thankfully there was social media that allowed us all to keep in touch. And then the rare get together when any one would visit the other’s country.

Last week I had the honor of getting to visit North Carolina for a couple of days for work. I contacted RJ to see if he was in any way close to the Raleigh Durham airport. He said he was, and he and his little boy picked me up at the airport that sunny Wednesday. He has not changed since I saw him last, about seven years ago. I met his family – they were all so lovely, down to earth and welcoming. They prepared a dinner feast! There was crabs, prawn, pasta and home made pesto, and boiled corn and potatoes. When the kids finished eating, us grown ups had more to talk about – from catching up as to what we’ve been up to for the last decade, to reminiscing our “yuppie” years. It’s heartwarming to know that despite the gap in time, we were still the same old friends. I told him and his wife that the reason I clicked with RJ back then and until now is because he reminds me of my brother with the way he talks, and he cracks me up everytime with his witty humor.

Soon after RJ and his family drove me back to the hotel. Though we only had a few hours together, that day was the highlight of my week in the USA. When in a different country, be it for work or leisure, nothing beats spending quality time with old friends. They’re the family we get to choose.

Gardens and Houses of Old

What I liked most about walking around in the historical part of Philadelphia were the vintage houses and backyards or gardens, which gave a glimpse of life back in the 1700s when Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the United States.

The workman- like a coachman, shoemaker, tavernkeeper, or coppersmith- resided in a brick house that is typically composed of two rooms, one on top of the other, and an attic. These houses serve as both the workman’s home and workplace. I read that at the time, eight out of ten of the workmen rent these houses in a ten-year period. Their belongings were basic and simple. At their backyards they plant herbs for medicinal use, and vegetables for food. They also have their horses and livestock within the yard. They collect rain in wooden barrels and used them for watering plants.

For the wealthy, their backyards are more of spacious garden retreats, with rows of flowers and trees. I was able to walk under the shade of the overhead trellis of the 18th Century Garden, a serene well-kept space. It was surreal walking along the paths, and I was imagining I was in the olden days.

My most favorite part of that historical sites walk was the Elfreth’s Alley, an old residential street with houses built between 1720 to 1830. The vintage houses were quaint and charming. I saw a house that was open for tourists, but I was not able to get in because I was running late to catch the Reading Terminal Market to take out my early dinner.

As I walked back to the hotel and recalled the places I went to that Sunday afternoon, I resonated with the lifestyle of the olden days, as today I also have a backyard where we grow our own food organically, compost our vegetable scraps, let our hens roam free, and collect rainwater for reuse in watering the plants. Gardening for food will always be a way of life, and I think it’s healthy for the body, mind and heart to have a green space of our own, no matter what size it is.

Lost Somewhere in Bulacan

Have you ever found yourself in an offbeaten path, phone batteries low and with no signal, and to top it all Google Maps was also acting up?

I have. This weekend en route to a farmstay in the province of Bulacan. We got off course when the bridge leading to our destination was closed off for repair. In desperate haste we took a detour, and found ourselves traveling through half-paved roads in the beginning, to dirt road and then eventually nowhere. Google Maps said the road was unnamed. There were no other cars, lamp posts, no one. For a minute I remembered horror movies I watched back in the 90s like Jeepers Creepers.

Luckily there was a bit of great scenery.

And then a few minutes later farmers coming from the opposite direction rode by – our chance to ask for directions. Turned out we missed the right turn a few miles back.

We lived through it. It was a bit of an adventure, really. Looking back now we could always turn around (and probably argue along the way back). It was quite a relief to finally get to Numana Farm where we would be staying for the weekend. All turned out just fine.

No road trip would be complete without a few navigational hiccups, after all. That’s always part of the fun!

Safe Travels!

Efficient Subway System

I got this souvenir from the AirBnB we stayed at in Hirayu Onsen in Japan. I like these sweet mementos we get from various places like hotels, museums, Tourist Information Centers – it adds a personal touch enhancing the cultural experience.

Honestly I don’t know what this simple gift is, or what it says. Google Translate says words like “travel safely…circle of life…shrine”. I reckon it’s a charm to keep one safe, as Hirayu  Onsen was, after all, our jumping point to Japan’s Alps, Kamikochi.

Speaking of traveling safely, I’ve put together this list of things I keep in mind whenever D and I are out for our adventures.

Research and Be Alert.

It’s worth checking out forums for Do’s and Don’ts; routes and paths to take; helpful phone numbers that may come in handy in case of an emergency; nearest convenience stores, ATM machines, bus stops or train stations.

I remember before smart phones, D and I almost got in trouble getting into the wrong side of town one night while we went out looking for a 711 so I could withdraw from an ATM. It’s a good thing a concerned local told us not to wander farther and head back to the hotel.

Pack up wisely.

One of my many lessons I learned is choosing comfort over fashion. I’ve had one too many instances of chucking my “stylish” shoes and buying comfortable sneakers because my feet were killing me.

If the trip will entail long walks, it’s best to pack comfortable shoes. If I’ll be out mostly under the sun, I would pack on the sunblock, a hat, sunglasses. Or a foldable umbrella, and refillable water bottle. A first aid kit in my  suitcase is something I won’t hopefully have to use, but good to have as it might come handy.

Stretch and Hydrate

Before and after long walks, I give these muscles a good stretch – they love it! When seated for a long time in the plane, I walk around to stretch my legs. Drinking up on water is also quite refreshing, that’s why I keep my water bottle in my bag all the time. I also look for sources of drinkable water for a potential refill. I know I’d thank myself later for this supply of water when I start hitting five thousand steps and up.

Don’t be Reckless

We always let someone else, usually family, know our whereabouts and our itinerary. We also register when we are trekking, and hire services of a local certified guide. When there is a spot that looks too tempting to have that ‘daredevil’ shot of, I’d most probably skip it. Aside from my fear of heights, I know that a small wrong step can bring me a long term pain, so call it boring but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I hope you find my little list useful. If you have something planned to go to soon – I hope you have an awesome time. Safe travels!

Efficient Subway System
Efficient Subway System