10 Honest Tips When Going To Parts of Europe

Our trip to Europe last summer is totally memorable; the sights are breathtaking and the experience is surreal. With the aim not to stress the vacation that much and avoid following a day-to-day loaded schedule, we planned our own itinerary (travelled without a guide or group) with our kid as the top-of-mind concern. We arrived in Austria (Vienna, Hallstat, Salzburg) then Czech (Prague), Switzerland (Zurich), to Germany (Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt). Pan your eyes from left to right and the view is a guaranteed beauty.

View from the Castle

#AustriasInAustria

But getting too engrossed with what we are seeing might not be ideal as we still have to be on guard. Excited with your European tour? Here are a few reminders before you fly.

1. Get ready to walk for kilometres. Forget the fancy shoes and just pack your most comfortable pair. Appreciating the place is way better on foot and get up close with the intricate details of the surroundings. If you are visiting on a summer (end of May to August), do not wear flats with thin sole. Remember, you will walk on cobble stones/brick floors and you will feel the roughness of their pathways if your feet are not properly equipped.

#PraguingLakadSaPrague

2. Water bottles are so expensive (depends on where you buy but ranges from Php100 to Php250 per 500ml) so make sure you pick the right one—purchase the “no gas”water; they are mostly selling “with gas” (imagine flavored water and sparkling).

3. There are pickpockets so stay alert. We’ve met a few tourists who lost their wallet or an item especially in Prague. Avoid leaving stuffs unattended, put your money/passports closest to you and your credit/debit cards secure with RFID blocking wallet.

4. Bring usable, foldable tote bag as they don’t give paper or plastic on to-go purchases (even at grocery stores).

5. There are taxi cabs and uber rides but trains and buses are good to explore.

Train ride at MarienPlatz Station, Munich, Germany

6. If you get a chance, drive at Autobahn and enjoy the speed. You will not need to apply for a driver’s permit if you have a valid Philippine license. More treat for car fans as there are the Mercedez-Benz, Porsche, and BMW Museums to linger on.

Hubby enjoying his 220 drive at Autobahn

7. They speak English but not all are very fluent so be patient when you converse. A lot are really nice (especially warm with kids) but there are rude people too so keep the calmness and don’t let these few ruin the trip.

8. Most hotels do not include a pair of toothbrush and toothpaste to their personal hygiene compliments pack so make sure to bring your own.

9. Try their local food and don’t be intimidated by goulash and schnitzel. Spoiler alert: they are our Pinoy versions of kaldereta and breaded porkchop/chicken.

10. It is okay to get lost. You will surely find spectacular and wonderful corners along the way.

What to Wear while Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?

Our family had been praying to travel this summer of 2017 and we are thankful that it was granted for the most part of May including a stay to United Arab Emirates as part of the itinerary. We spent our five nights in Dubai and allotted one whole day at Abu Dhabi exploring Ferrari World and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the morning.

We were lucky to go to Ferrari World on a Sunday afternoon which is part of their weekdays (Sundays to Thursdays) and had no problem with the queuing of rides as the theme park was not very crowded. So yes like in most amusement venues, prefer to go there on weekdays and not on weekends/holidays. Just a heads-up, some riders do not follow the line and would just pop themselves to get ahead. Be more alert of who’s in front of you and who is sneaking so you can secure your spot.

As you visit the grand mosque, it is a MUST to follow a dress code while within the vicinity as there are guards who consistently approach their guests if they are not abiding to the rules. If not in proper attire, female visitors will be provided an abaya (loose over-garment, robe-like dress) but you can still explore with no abaya and still wearing your own cloth.

what we wore at the mosque

At the Mosque

There are many resources telling what not to wear but not exactly what you can. Someone even told me to buy an abaya. But the mindset should just be conservative and simple, eye on what is readily available from our closet. Here’s a suggestion for ladies:

  • Wear long sleeves shirts
  • Cover your head with a black shawl
  • Wear long, not-tight pants or slacks (must be ankle length)
  • Open-toe shoes is okay but I recommend to wear flats or rubber shoes with socks as you will walk bare foot inside

For men visitors:

  • Half or long-sleeve decent shirt
  • Long pants
  • Rubber shoes

Sheikh Zayed Dress Code

Decorum must also be maintained, begin with these 5 reminders:

  1. It is a no-no for couples to show any sign of intimacy like holding hands or kissing
  2. Selfie is okay but stay within the areas of the mosque that are permitted and to not roam around
  3. Smoking and food are not allowed in the mosque area
  4. Out of respect to the worshippers, remain silent
  5. Not to touch the Holy Quran (Holy Book) and other architectural elements inside the main prayer hall

Opening hours are from 9am-10pm daily but close for tourism activities on Friday mornings. Sheikh Zayed Mosque is surely worth a visit!

Image Source for the “Dress Code”: http://www.szgmc.ae/en/plan-your-visit

Summer Somewhere in Batangas

And so the summer of 2017 is finally here! It did not come as early as usual (mid-March) but we are now feeling its fire. Are you ready for the heat? Planning to sneak an escape from the humid temperature? Dreaming of playing with a snowman?  For some yes, with their tickets ready and set to  travel out of the country or to a top island destination (oh, Palawan). What about diving into the cold swimming pool and strolling in the beach without flying? That too, is possible without leaving the Philippines. No need to even travel long hours if your are coming from Metro Manila; just go down south and drive for about 2.5 to 3 hours all the way to Nasugbu, Batangas. It is going to be an amazing trip.

Punta Fuego

Punta Fuego Pool 1

Random thoughts at the Double Infinity Pool

Punta Fuego swimming pool 2

Pool at the Lower Beach Club

Coming here is like morphing to a different place and transporting yourself somewhere with the spectacular sunset view right outside your casita at the beach front or get caught-up at any of their lovely pool. Other than swimming,  make sure to include a time to bike or drive around and see the architecture of the houses build in the island—Spanish-Mediterranean style residential resort that masterfully combines natural beauty and modern luxury.

Pico de Loro

Swimming at pico de loro

His Me-Time at the pool

Boat ride at Pico de Loro

Boat Ride at the Cove

You will equally get a fair-share of beautiful sights while at Pico. The place is like engulfed by the lush mountains  as it seems to cover the area;  the swimming pool gives a feel of the serene nature.  We love the walk around the man-made lagoon surrounded by the privately owned-condominiums. But just be careful when you submerge into the beach as there are occasional jellyfish that can really sting. You may still enjoy other activities like the cove tour, pony ride, and eco trail.

These two are clubs and exclusive for members but the hotels/casitas are open to public. You can book your stay directly to their websites (check availability at Punta Fuego or Pico Sands) or via Agoda and other online booking sites.

Finding the New Coffee Spot in and around BF Homes (Part 3)

Excited to share the third batch of a good coffee spot around BF Homes. Coming from my first two lists, some café shops are still around, some moved to a new location while some are now close. It just shows how tough it is to maintain the operation in the midst of so many coffee stores (from foreign to local to niche artisan competition).

To my disappointment, some of my previous lists fail

to brew consistency. During the time of writing them, they were good but we have a couple of visits since then with a frustrating cup. One day, coffee is great; the next, bland. But this new line-up seems to remain consistent so far with the three stores opening last 2016 and the other back in 2014 . Taste is espresso-strong with a fair hint of milky-richness. Venue is also ideal for an intimate meet-up with friends, polish a work deck, or just study and get a corner for reading.

Here’s the new pick with flat white (an espresso based coffee beverage prepared by pouring microfoam, a steamed milk consisting of small fine bubbles with a glossy or velvety consistency, over a shot of espresso. It is somewhat similar to the traditional 140 ml cappuccino or latte although smaller in volume, therefore having a higher proportion of coffee to milk—allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour*) as the common order for the first three and hot latte for the last two.

Address: #29 Presidents Ave, BF Homes, Sucat, Parañaque

Bowen 24 Cafe at Presisent Avenue - BF Homes

Address: #196 J. Elizalde Ave. BF Homes, Sucat, Paranaque (beside Scooter Depot)

Lusine Cafe at Elizalde St BF Homes

Address: Molito Commercial Complex, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

Exchange Alley Coffee House Molito Alabang

Address: 273 Aguirre Ave, Parañaque, 1720 Metro Manila

It took a while before I get to drink my latte, coffee art is just way too adorable.

I should have included this on my earlier list but we haven’t really decided to try and go up to their second-floor store until just recently when we’ve learned that they supply the same dessert at Toby’s Estate. Apparently the brownie which is “not a brownie” has their own coffee shop and it’s good!

Address: Mezzanine Level, JJACC Building, 169 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque

Not a brownie dessert at Toby's Estate

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_white

Photo Source: Images via the FB page of each Coffee Store except Farmer's Orchard.

A Walk in the South Park

If work load is just too much and people around are just becoming dementors, what calms you? Shopping? A Sneak at the movie house? Dining out with a good friend? Doing a teleserye marathon? Finding a corner to meditate? Drafting stories to write? Taking a visit at the nearby chapel? Or a walk in the park?

Park stroll at Molito AlabangIt is a Yes to most of these  possible escapes for me but drinking coffee while walking in the park is my favorite kind of de-stresser. It clears the mind, taking out unnecessary worries and rush; helps to see the bright side of dark scenarios.

Take a quick look at the four parks worth the walk around Alabang. They are near each other so you can drive from one place to the next and if you get hungry, various food choices are available too.

 

1. Molito – Quoting from my old blog post: “What draws us to come here regularly is the casual, calming ambiance. There is enough space for children to run around as they play with the colorful floor fountains and vacant seats for people to just lounge amidst the night breeze.”

..or just take that afternoon solo moment to relieve stress.

Molito Alabang

Location: Madrigal corner Commerce Avenues, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

2. West Gate – The now park was formerly a road/car parking at the center of  West Gate. It was a good idea to restructure the place so more people enjoys it with an open-air retail concept that challenges the confines of the mall setting, creating a main-street ambiance conducive to relaxation and recreation.

West Gate Alabang

Location: Entrance via Commerce Avenue, Filinvest Avenue, or Alabang-Zapote Road, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

3. Spectrum Center

This spot takes just a few stride from Filinvest Tent and Acacia Hotel with floor fountains and scattered round benches. It can be windy here in some afternoons, making the walk more relaxing.

Spectrum Center

Location: Commerce Ave corner Spectrum Midway, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

4. River Park, Festival Mall

Festival Mall continues to expand and this part of the development is very refreshing with the sound of gushing water, charming bridge, nice theater, and green scenery in a neat al fresco setting.

River Park, Festival Mall

Location:  Civic Drive, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

Images c/o the Parks’ Facebook pages.

Happy 2017!

Here comes the new year and most of us are feasting with food, fireworks, and fascinating resolutions. What do you aim to achieve this 2017? What do you wish to change or improve? How are you going to make it work? How will it be tagged at the end of another year, success or failure?

So many things we wanted to do yet so many uncertainties too. The first day of new year seems to invite that moment of contemplation about life. That “what to do next” thought balloon as I stared the view of BGC from our 18th floor hotel room (staying here so my son can  avoid inhaling the smog of the evening’s traditional firecrackers’ funfare around the Metro).

New Year Contemplation while at Ascot BGC

Have I done the right thing or should it be another way? If the latter, then what’s the other way? To pursue what has been started and just enhance the process or completely begin anew? How do I see my life to happen? I really don’t know exactly but one thing I really hope to push is to maintain such optimism despite the looming negativity around. I aspire to learn more and be inspired by good people. If I am at the right track may perhaps be an eternal question but maybe that exactly makes life interesting.

2016 was not a year-round perfection but it was full of blessings that our family is always thankful about. Battles and challenges are surely part of the route and so are triumphs and wins with many in-between mundane days. We can always try to add spark even in our simplest way than troll nonsense negativity. Find our path while living the moment of the new year. Let’s make it the best!

May we all have a happy and productive 2017!

Dining at Katsuya, Hollywood

Our family was able to relive the blog about seven tips for parents traveling with younger kids as we visited the US about a month ago. It was a spectacular time for us. A lot of theme park adventures (Legoland, Disney Land, Universal Studios) and long drive escapades (from Orange County to Laughlin to Grand Canyon reaching Las Vegas back to Los Angeles) but the highlight of every stopover is food!

Serving size there is so overwhelmingly huge drooling on Popeye’s fried chicken, Panda Express’ lemon chicken, Shake Shack’s hamburger, Joe Shack’s crabs, Ihops’ pancakes, Kona’s grilled steak and a lot more I can only fancy now.

On top of all the meals we’ve had, one completely stood out. If you are a Japanese cuisine lover and is going to the United States any time soon, you must include Katsuya by Starck on your itinerary.

Katsuya Hollywood

Katsuya Hollywood

They have many branches around the City (Hollywood ▪ Brentwood ▪ Glendale ▪ L.A. Live ▪ Las Vegas ▪ South Beach) plus Middle East (Kuwait and Dubai). And perhaps we’ve been into the hottest spot, Hollywood!

Sushi Tray at Katsuya Hollywood

Devouring the sushi (at once! So good that we failed to capture in photo the beautiful whole, untouch shot!)

Our tray of sushi was masterfully crafted by the only lady Sushi Chef at the Resto, KitKat Austria. I so love watching her prepare in precise rhythm and with so much passion.

Sushi Chef Kitktat Austria of Katsuya Hollywood

Sushi Chef KitKat Austria in Action!

Everything is outstandingly delicious but my #1 pick is the Baked Crab Hand Rolls! Imagine a baked snow crab lightly kissed with Chef’s signature sauce, wrapped with rice in soy paper. I can eat it all day and crave for more. As part of your starters, don’t forget to add the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with balsamic soy and toasted almonds!

Katsuya Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Katsuya’s Japanese kanji symbol “Katsu” means “victory” or “to win” and it’s fitting considering the loyal following of Hollywood A-listers and Zagat critics the restaurant has won over with its inventive combination of Japanese and Californian cuisine. Exuberant servers welcome you “irashaimase” as you walk in and bid you “arigato gozaimas” as you leave and in between, original creations like the Crispy Rice, Spicy Tuna, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, Miso-Marinated Black Cod and award-winning cocktails like the Burning Mandarin delight your palate.

Featuring the dynamic pairing of Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi and design impresario Philippe Starck, Katsuya by Starck is truly a feast for the senses. With superb talent and exacting precision, it is truly changing the face of Japanese cuisine.

Freelance, Are You? Join the Freelancer Fair 2016!

Working as a professional freelancer is very fulfilling. Managing your own time and having freedom with how your day will go is truly an advantage especially for people who do not like routine (Count me in!). Alongside such liberty is the challenge in terms of cash flow stability. So we don’t stop looking for customers to buy our products or clients to avail our services despite weekends, holidays, and vacations(!).

Part of the work scope is building connections and taking care of our brand. But to some, the job description of a “freelancer” remains a question. What are we, really?  Google search defines it as:

What is a Freelance?

On top of the many activities given our respective industries, it helps if we continue to harness our skills; stay focus on our job; excel on what we do and remain open to new learning.

There is a gathering this weekend for us, it is said to be the first in the country and the largest freelancing event so far. Take time to visit as this is a good venue to train and network.

Join the experts from different industries gather and share their knowledge to the Filipino Freelancers to help them become experts in their own right.

Freelancer Fair 2016

WHO should attend The Freelancer Fair by Manila Workshops?

  • Aspiring Freelancers and Experienced Freelancers
  • Brands who offer services to Freelance Professionals
  • Companies that are looking to hire freelancers for certain job functions

WHEN: November 19, 2016 (Saturday) at 9AM (Registration will start at 8AM)

WHERE: The Tent, Acacia Estates, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

You get to roam around the Expo area for an entrance fee of Php500. You will also be free to attend these talks, as follows:

PROGRAM (EXPO AREA) – The Tent

08:00 AM:   REGISTRATION

09:00 AM:   Building Alliances: Freelancing in the Philippines with Evan Tan, Freelancing Advocate

09:30 AM:    Keynote Speaker: Government’s Role in Building Alliances with Freelancers with Monchito Ibrahim of DICT

10:00 AM:    7 Steps to a Successful Freelance Business with Marvin De Leon of Freelance Blend

11:00 AM:     How to Stand Out: Branding 101 with Fitz Villafuerte of 199jobs.com

12:00 NN:    LUNCH

01:00 PM:    Art of Pricing with Francis Guintu

01:30 PM:     How to Get International Clients with CJ Maturino of Online Filipino Freelancers

02:00 PM:   Business Registration with Dandy Victa of Manila Service Review

03:00 PM:   BREAK / SPONSORS TALK

04:30 PM:    7 Tools that Multiply your Freelance Earnings with Genesis Reonico of OnlineJobsUniversity.com

05:30 PM:    Business Correspondences and Maintaining Key Relationships with panelists: Charlie Aquino of Sophie Creatives and Pau Lagura of RIS Philippines

06:00 PM:   SOCIALS/NETWORKING WITH GAMES & SURPRISES!

To register and to join other related Freelancer training, visit the Freelancer Fair website today.

Grab every possible opportunity to learn more about your craft and reach your target market! Hope to catch up with you there.

Bandwagon of Reasons

I was about to draft an article about Southie café stores but could not finish it up as I would prefer. There are other ideas on my mind and I have been contemplating about this for a while.

Bandwagon of Reasons - WriteNowNa

Not that I am going to be preachy but I’m sure you’ll agree that this is what’s usually happening now, there are specific practices that we have to cut somehow. (Auliq Ice has an interesting profile as a Writer, Singer, Songwriter, Arranger, Author, Internet Entrepreneur and Investor.)

Simply put, perhaps consider this: let’s try not to join the recurring bandwagon of reasons?

  • When there is no time to keep in touch with friends or we simply don’t want to be in touch with anyone, “I am busy”.
  • When a deadline is not met or a promised agreement is not done, “I overlooked from the pile of messages”.
  • When coming to a meeting becomes a perpetual tardiness, “trap in a heavy traffic”.
  • When discord arises, emotions can’t be controlled, and extreme foul words get in the way, “…but the highest person in position can defy decent language, why can’t I?”.
  • When we have a problem with someone, instead of talking to them directly, we rant on our Facebook post with the thought balloon, “hope he reads this *#$&#*$@!”.

What’s trending or what appears to be the most accepted social behavior nowadays may not reflect our own values—it may affirm or sway our beliefs depending on how strong we hold it. Are we going to just simply follow because it is done by most people? Or has it become the most convenient reason that is automatically accepted without blink, so use it? Maybe we can try to say no and get the habit of not using unnecessary excuses at all. Get real and take a tight grip of that goodness in us.

Parañaque City to Implement Number Coding Scheme

Traffic in Paranaque, like most areas in Metro Manila, has become a plague even when inside the villages. There are just so many problems along the way—rooting from poor government policies to bulk of cars to drivers’ bad behavior.

July 2015 I wrote about “BF Homes heavy traffic” and sadly, nothing has improved a year after that. It is still a frustration to go around even inside the subdivision (like any where in  the Metro); let’s hope that right solution can still be implemented and followed to ease the intense congestion.

bf-homes-newsville-traffic-paranaque

With the hope to improve the chaotic road traffic, Unified Vehicle Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or Number Coding shall be implemented in Paranaque starting October 1, 2016 which means all private and public vehicles will be banned from the streets depending on the ending number of their plate licenses and depending on the day of the week except Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays.

  • Monday – 1 and 2
  • Tuesday – 3 and 4
  • Wednesday – 5 and 6
  • Thursday – 7 and 8
  • Friday – 9 and 0

Reasons (following the document screencap of Mayor Edwin Olivarez via his Facebook page):

  • There is an increase in the volume of traffic and it has become unacceptable.
  • Maynilad is heavily repairing certain pavements along Dr. A. Santos Avenue (Sucat Avenue).
  • Utility companies are also expected to perform repair and maintenance of roads in the entire city of Paranaque.

To be honest, the real details about this news has been very confusing and I hope the local government can properly disseminate a solid information. But this is what we have for now*:

  • The City Council, however, to create an ordinance exempting Senior Citizens from the ruling but not valid anymore. Our seniors are not exempted.
  • Some said BF Homes is not included but the ruling governs all roads.
  • No window hours at first for private vehicles (7am to 7pm) but there is now—open to pass from 9am to 4pm. Trucks with the same open  window.
  • Effectivity starts on October 1 but this is a dry-run with apprehension and full implementation on October 10.

(*I will update the post as soon as soon as I get the “final” word.)

Don’t want to assume that this is the way to sort the issue neither do I refuse that this will work. It may or may not but we can always try. Do you think this will help solve the problem? Perhaps the answer is deeply rooted to each of us, our courteous and proper behavior on the road is a leap to traffic improvement.

Other online source: Alabang Bulletin