It’s been a little over a week since I left Vancouver’s sunny green spaces for Manila’s overcast concrete jungle, and though my heart ached a little as I entered the plane for the flight back home, honestly, it hasn’t been that bad 🙂 Because at the end of the day, though we all whine and complain (uber/no uber), the Philippines will always be my first love.
A lot of people though have been asking me why I decided to give birth in the Philippines instead of Canada, and believe you me, so many well-meaning people also tried to talk me out of it. Definitely, it was a very difficult decision to make. First of all, in the beginning I didn’t even want to think about it because I only wanted to focus on BEING PREGNANT. Towards the end however, I really had to make a decision as I was getting close to 31 weeks and any later the airline wouldn’t have allowed me to fly.
Why the Philippines? Because I wanted to be under the care of a doctor I could really trust. Not to say that my Canadian O.B wasn’t any good. Actually, she was pretty great. But at the back of mind, I could never shake off that little bit of anxiety from thinking I didn’t really know her background, I didn’t know any of her other patients…I barely even knew the person who recommended her to me!
Maybe I could have learned to trust her more if we hadn’t already been through such a roller coaster of a baby journey, but well, you all know my story 🙂
So here I am now under the care of a doctor I trust 150%, Dr. Anthony Ancheta, one of our country’s top IVF specialists. He also happens to be familiar with my IVF doctor in San Francisco, Dr. Christo Zouves, and in fact, has taken over the care of quite a few of Dr. Zouves’ patients from the Philippines who, like me, also decided to go home to Manila to give birth (Dr. Zouves takes care of his patients up to the 12th week of pregnancy, after which an O.B of your choice takes over).
Will I regret this decision? No. Because trust me, nobody else has weighed the pros and the cons longer than we have. Also, because we based our decision on two things:
1. The health and safety of our baby ABOVE ALL
2. Gut feeling
Or dare I say, mother’s instinct?:)
Well, there’s also no turning back now because I’ll be 33 weeks this coming Sunday, haha! So please, I hope I can still ask you all to pray for us and our little baby miracle. We still have a couple weeks to go and I’m just hoping everything goes smoothly.
I realize that my last two posts on this blog have been about my ‘baby journey’ (My Gift of Infertility and My Greatest Adventure) and while I appreciate the great reception they have received (thank you SO MUCH for all the sweet comments and messages of encouragement), I figured it might be nice to write about something lighter this time around.
And since I haven’t done a travel post in a while, this would probably be a good time. I mean, I’ve been away for a year – you’d think I’d have some experiences worth sharing, right? 😀
Well, I’m happy to say that I do! And today it’s all about my favorite places to eat in Vancouver. Truth be told, my ‘favorites’ list is much longer than 12. There’s at least 30. But I can’t write about them all in one post so I whittled it down to 12 (I tried 10 but that didn’t work :P).
One thing is certain: You’ll never run out of great choices. In fact, there are still so many places I have yet to try and I’ve been here for a while! But you know how it is when you think you have time – all of a sudden, time runs out! Well, It just gives me something to look forward to for next time.
Fine dining, award winning and tasteful interiors. It has wonderful ambience for dinner, but it’s absolutely perfect for brunch. If the weather is good, ask to be seated outdoors for the full effect.
My top pick: You probably should order the waffles, but if you like to keep it fairly healthy like me, then have the Bon Matin. It’s light, can be shared and it’s just kind of nice to pick on a smorgasbord while enjoying a lazy morning chatting with friends or on a date with your significant other.
A wonderful farm-to-table spot, perfectly located along the hippie and trendy Kits area. The menu changes depending on the season and availability of ingredients, and I remember I really enjoyed their zucchini bolognese which I had around spring time. Now that it’s summer, it’s no longer on the menu, but I did see that they have a duck meatball tagliatelle with mushrooms instead, and that sounds amazing.
My top pick: The Best “Canned Tuna”. And you can find out for yourself why they call it that 😉
Probably top of mind for most Vancouverites for Italian cuisine. Unassuming from the outside, but oozing so much charm inside that you forget the annoyance you felt while waiting in line (warning: no reservations and usually a very long wait list). Famous for their fresh, hand made pasta and hefty portions. Bring only your favorite people because they will only seat up to a maximum of six pax per table 😉
My top pick: The ricotta & herb ravioli with butter and sage. I don’t have a photo because we were starving and we ate too fast. BUT, the best thing to do is order a bunch of things and share!
I love this place! It’s Italian cuisine as well, but more traditionally presented. Also, a little more on the fine dining end of the spectrum. They have a beautiful garden (hence the name) which is the best spot to enjoy a delicious meal in the summer.
My top pick: I have two. The Bison Carpaccio (Bison meat is so much tastier) and the Carbonara – because there’s no place for diets here 😀
I just love the rustic ambience in Tavola. Still Italian, but I couldn’t NOT include it. Such a feel good place with delicious food and a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if the chef comes out for a chat and a laugh. It’s also located along trendy Robson street so try to eat early and walk off your meal afterwards while checking out the neighborhood.
My top pick: Impossible to narrow it down to one. The Burratta with La Quercia Prosciutto, the Bucattini all’Amatriciana and the juiciest ‘Brick Chicken” with roasted garlic jus. So, so, good.
My friends and I ate a couple of really good things in this place. Scotch Eggs, Roasted Bone Marrow, Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Terrine, The Pourhouse Burger, Steak and Frites…the kind of place to put a smile on your man’s face.
My top pick: Everything I just mentioned but match it with a good bottle of wine or a crisp beer.
It’s pretty hard to choose between Gotham and Hy’s, because they both serve excellent beef and seafoood, have impeccable service and great ambiance. Gotham however, is housed in one of Vancouver’s few remaining art deco buildings (built in 1933 and designed by Max Downing), so it’s both a visual and gastronomic delight. A bit pricier too.
My top pick: Just like Hy’s, the Steak and Lobster, of course. And the mash!!! Although I had the lamb once and I thoroughly enjoyed that as well.
A five-time winner of Best Upscale Restaurant in Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Awards, they are known not only for excellent food but also for their warm and attentive service. In fact, I experienced this first hand when my friends and I did a private tasting menu. Not only did the server remember that I was avoiding gluten and was allergic to squid (they prepared some of my dishes in a different way to accommodate this), she thoughtfully replaced certain dishes she deemed “too risky” (and explained why) for someone pregnant like me, and made sure that I enjoyed every dish I ate despite the changes.
My top pick: Go hungry and have the tasting menu. $118 per guest / $186 with pairing
While normally the best Chinese food can be found in the city of Richmond, the best dim-sum in my opinion is in Kirin, particularly their location in downtown Vancouver along Albany St. It’s been said that Vancouver’s Chinese food is even better than Hong Kong’s because the ingredients found here are fresher. Personally, I think it’s true. Then again, maybe I’m biased 🙂
My top pick:
Dim-sum is the ultimate comfort food and it’s easy to just keep ordering the same old things. I always order the steamed pork spareribs in XO spicy sauce and the shrimp har gau for example. But one thing I’ve also learned to do is to order at least one dish that’s not my usual, that way I can discover something new that just might turn out to be another favorite.
While a lot of people say that Miku is the best Japanese restaurant in the city, personally I think Raisu rocks. A little hidden (the entrance is right by a grocery store), it’s easy to miss this urban, tapas style izakaya if you’re not careful. But just like any hidden treasure, it is a gem of a find. Seriously, Vancouver’s Japanese food is only second to…well, Japan’s 😀 – they do get a lot of their fish from Canada after all 😉
Thanks for reading this extra long post 😀 And I hope you find it helpful the next time you find yourself hungry in Vancouver.
For those that have been following my posts on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been traveling outside of the Philippines since mid July, and with that said, I just want to apologize for the last few weeks of absence – it’s just that I felt this great need to unplug for a while and really soak in the lazy first couple days of my vacation. I’m sure you understand.
But now I’m back to serious blogging mode, and I’d like to show you what I’ve been up to these past weeks in North America.
First on our nature trip list was the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, a community and a district municipality in the Canadian province of British Columbia, also easily one of its most scenic sights. It is every nature lover’s dream — a doorway to all year round outdoor adventure that includes hiking, interpretive walks, panoramic views, viewing platforms…and a huge Summit Lodge that offers a self-serve dining experience featuring fresh, local ingredients.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the concrete jungle that is Manila, I daydream a lot about being surrounded by nature. I think about forests full of trees, mountains, lakes and flowers…and even though it’s just my imagination, it brings me to a place where I feel like I can really breathe.
So when I am faced with the real thing, I feel so much joy in my heart that I feel like it could seriously explode.
And even just the simple pleasure of being able to walk amidst such beautiful surroundings…
is something I have learned to never take for granted after spending countless of hours stuck in heavy rush hour traffic.
Not that the Philippines isn’t beautiful. In fact, for all its flaws, I still think it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
But I do wish I didn’t have to travel more than two hours just to see some semblance of greenery. Wouldn’t it be so nice if Metro Manila could learn to nurture nature?
Well, maybe one day. But in the meantime, I hope you feel refreshed and just a little more relaxed after seeing these photos…
…and hopefully they carry you through the stress of another crazy Monday 🙂
P.S The Sea to Sky Gondola is open daily from 10AM – 6PM, last ride down from the summit at 7PM
P.P.S All photos were taken by my friend, Jenny Liu 🙂 You can follow her on Instagram: @jennyliublog and @jennyliuphotography, and please do check out her fashion blog, www.stuff-i-love.com
Now and again, we all need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a break, and since we live in the Philippines, the winning formula for quick rejuvenation would usually be some sun, sea, and sand.
Luckily for us, we’ve got quite a few beautiful options, though not all are that easily accessible. Sometimes, you need up to three modes of transportation to get to one destination, and honestly, I can’t always be bothered to make those necessary arrangements, especially if I’m only looking at a two-night stay. It’s just too much trouble.
So I’m really happy that I discovered Sundowners Vacation Villas in Bolinao this year, a little slice of paradise only five hours away by car. It’s far enough away to feel completely unplugged from Manila, and yet conveniently accessible that you can pick up and go at your own leisure.
Their villas are set on top of a cliff overlooking the South China Sea, so you can imagine the view is nothing short of spectacular – a view we best appreciated while taking a dip in our villa’s private plunge pool whilst sipping on our fresh mango shakes.
Probably what I like the most about Sundowners Vacation Villas is that it feels less like a resort and more of a ‘home away from home’.
Each villa is equipped with everything you might need for an easy-breezy getaway: air-conditioned bedrooms, hot and cold showers, large balconies, dining and grilling areas, a fully functioning kitchen and access to their breathtaking infinity pools.
A definite plus, especially for those who love to cook, would be that their kitchen has most of what you might need to feed your family or your baranggay of friends (or both). Aside from a good sized refrigerator, there are plates, pans, bowls, mugs, glasses, pitchers, cutlery…name it, they have it. Except a coffee press. So if you’re particular about your morning brew, I do recommend you bring your own.
In fact, bring anything you want because there is no corkage fee – not even for booze *slow clap*
If you don’t cook, don’t worry. You can always order from their menu or politely ask one of their staff to buy food from the local market nearby and then cook it for you – for a fee.
So, thanks so much to the cheery Sundowners crew for the warm welcome and enjoyable weekend stay. I already know I’ll make my way back in the near future.
But till then, I suppose I’ll just have to dream of sea-ing you soon 😉
The Loft Villa costs Php 10, 000 per night to rent, 6 pax max (additional Php 1000 per head if you’re more than 6). For other villa options, please see their website: www.sundownersvacationvillas.com
Complete address of Sundowners Vacation Villas and contact details:
I’m not quite sure what I expected when I first set foot on the sandy shores of Bolinao, but I can tell you how I felt as soon as I took a whiff of the fresh sea air from that little coastal town of western Pangasinan: just magical.
Admittedly, getting there is quite a trek. From Manila, it takes about five to six hours by car, but it’s a beautiful drive; the roads are smooth and the view quite picturesque.
The funny thing is, prior to this trip, Bolinao was nowhere on my radar of places to must see. I had maybe heard about it once or twice in passing, but no words exchanged with acquaintances ever really compelled me to give it a second thought.
Now, I’m convinced that this was deliberate, for Bolinao has the air of an untouched paradise – you can’t help but want to keep her a secret. There is a rawness and a purity to her beauty that evokes a sense of protectiveness.
You just want to keep her all to yourself.
In fact, it took me quite some time to come up with this post. I made my way to Bolinao during the first few days of March to attend the baptism of my Goddaughter, and now summer is already over, and I have had very many excursions to other seaside destinations in between
and yet, the magic of Bolinao still permeates my daydreams of a memorable, blissful and bright summer of 2016.
You know, I had such an incredible weekend in Balesin and I just want to share it with all of you.
In truth, every trip I take to the island is always such a magical experience that it’s hard to believe that this place exists only 20 minutes away by plane from Manila.
But this time was even more special than ever because I got to share its breathtaking beauty with the people I love the most in the world: my family.
Funnily enough, when I was growing up, I was the child who was always out of the house, going places with my friends. But now that I’m older, I find that the time I get to spend with my family is what I value the most and what makes me the happiest.
I guess it’s because these days it’s a bit harder to get everyone together – people are married, we have day jobs, some have school and not to mention the biggest obstacle of all: we live in different countries.
So when the stars align and we can get everyone together for a trip, it really is something short of a miracle.
I guess by now it’s obvious that this blog post isn’t a typical travel post that talks about what I did, what I saw or what I ate. Instead, this is about the people I spent time with, and more than anything I hope it inspires you to hug your loved ones a little tighter, talk to them a little longer and just be grateful that you have them in your life.
And maybe on another post about Balesin Island I can write about the things to do, see and eat…but for now, I think I’d like to borrow a few words from Walt Whitman, one of my most favourite poets of all time.
has a certain charm that I just can’t resist. Rich with fascinating history and buzzing with a colourful artistic community, the peninsula was once a busy industrial area.
Luckily for me, these days it seems she has decided to let her hair down, imbibe a few drinks, put on her most comfortable pair of jeans and embrace her inner millenial.
Some cool amenities now include an extensive marina, a university for art and design (Emily Carr University of Art and Design), a community centre, various performing arts theatres, galleries, microbreweries, kitschy boutiques and waterfront restaurants.
The main attraction (for me) however would be the Public Market which holds a treasure trove of items to tempt you, things that you probably don’t need – but might want.
And personally, I like to meander around the food hall, sniffing and then tasting everything that vendors boast to be ‘home cooked’, ‘artisanal’, ‘organic’, ‘third wave’ or ‘locally made’– words that speak to most hearts these days.
I just love that every visit is slightly different and that there’s always room for the unexpected.
And you never really know what you will see or who you might meet…
…and the best surprise of all…
…what you will eat 🙂
p.s Granville Island is located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge
I can’t believe we are already approaching the end of January. Time moves so fast these days that sometimes I feel like I can hardly keep up with life’s pace.
Especially as a PR Professional. I really believe that people in our industry feel the days whizz by faster than the average person because of the nature of the job. We are always thinking way ahead, planning campaigns and events months in advance and it can be very stressful.
So I’m happy to share that over the holidays, I had the most amazing two weeks in Canada and I swear, for the first time in years, time stood still.
Do you remember that feeling as a kid? When Christmas really felt like…well, Christmas? That is exactly how I felt while I was there. I don’t know, maybe it was the combination of being with my family, the cold winter snow, the lights and the merry tunes I kept hearing everywhere.
Whatever it was, I definitely felt the Christmas spirit – I felt Santa’s magic like I was four years old all over again and it was the best, BEST Christmas I’ve had in years. To think I never thought I would ever feel that sense of childlike joy again.
And yet it enveloped me in warm mugs of hot chocolate and gently kissed my face with the whitest and purest of snowflakes.
Actually, I’ve been meaning to post my pictures from this trip for a while now but kept putting it off because I suppose, there’s still that part of me in major denial that the holiday season is over (LONG OVER).
But now that January is about to end, I know I can’t carry on like this forever and it really is time to move on – seriously.
Anyway, I have much to write about the ‘second best country in the world to live in’ but since I can’t fit it all into one post, I’ll just have to do it in parts.
For now, I’d like to share some photos of me taken along the beautiful snow capped mountains of Whistler by Vancouver based fashion blogger and photographer, Jenny Liu (Please do follow her on IG at @jennyliublog and www.stuff-i-love.com).
My magical moments in the snow that I’ll certainly be dreaming about till my next visit.
As a PR professional with a very hectic work schedule, I make it a point to find time to kick back, relax and slow down the pace a little.
Some days, a little stay-cation at home will suffice, while others entail a long trip somewhere far and exotic.
But most of the time, what I really need is just a quick getaway – like a short road trip to anywhere as long as it’s far from the madding crowd, has wide open spaces and fresh air.
After a deliciously wicked holiday season (lechon, crispy pata, endless desserts, bottles of wine…) and having to breathe in the smog from the new year festivities, I decided that my body, mind and spirit needed a little bit of a mild detox.
Initially, all I really had in mind was to drive over and purchase some organic vegetables from the Lolo Doc Farm in Nasugbu, Batangas – so you can imagine my delight when I got there and discovered the Victoria Pavilion, an events space and cafe that they recently opened to the public.
I think it’s perfect that you can hang out at the cafe and have some coffee or eat some light meals while you wait for them to gather your greens.
Here are some of the food from their short menu that my family and I got to try…
But for those who aren’t hungry, lo and behold, there’s shopping 🙂
I just love that there are places like this that aren’t so difficult to get to. Nasugbu is only about two and a half to three hours away by car, offering an easily accessible respite for those who seek it.
The best part of this little trip however, is that I got to meet Jaime, a local farmer working at the Lolo Doc Farm, who generously gave me his number one tip on how to successfully grow plants (while gathering my kale and arugula leaves).
In his words:
“Kailangan mo alagaan ang mga halaman ng parang sariling mo’ng mga anak. Kailangan mo’ng maging parehong magiliw at malakas, at kailangan bigyan mo siya ng sapat na atensyon, pasensya, at pagmamamahal para siya tumubo ng maganda.(You have to care for plants the way you would care for your own children. You have to be both gentle and firm, and you must give them enough attention, patience and love for them to grow beautifully )”
Good food, fresh picks and words from the wise.
A Saturday well spent, indeed 🙂
P.S Lolo Doc Farm and The Victoria Pavilion are located in Balaytigue, Nasugbu, Batangas.
+63936-9988178 (Information and Reservations)
Today I had a lot of fun doing a little project that Vancouver based fashion blogger and photographer, Jenny Liu (follow her on IG @_stuffilove) helped me with.
Initially, my plan was to do a shoot along the historic, gritty streets of Gastown because in all the years I’ve been visiting Vancouver, I’ve always felt drawn to its dark, contemporary beauty.
Jenny however had a much better idea…Whistler.
So yes, after travelling 14 hours from the Philippine tropics to get to Vancouver, I travelled another two to get to the world famous, snow capped mountains of British Columbia – all to do a crazy shoot (and to sip some hot chocolate by the fire)
And it was beyond magical!
I’m really looking forward to showing you all that we came up with because this was truly such a memorable and fun experience for me.
But in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed my little teaser 🙂 I just couldn’t resist giving you a sneak peek on what I’ve been up to over here.