My California Dream Vacation

All the leaves are brown
and the sky is grey
I’ve been for a walk
on a winter’s day

I’d be safe and warm
if I was in L.A
California Dreamin’
on such a winter’s day

Lines from a classic psychedelic / folk rock song by the Mamas and the Papas, ‘California Dreaming‘ (1965).  I also love the Beach Boys’ cover.  I used to listen to this song a lot before I went to San Diego.  Last weekend, Wilson Phillips performed a cover that made me browse Youtube just to be able to listen to this classic all over again.  Here’s reminiscing of those good times in California. 


Day after Christmas, year not so long ago, I was aboard a PR flight bound for Los Angeles.  It was my first long-haul flight, all by myself, and with that I prefered to book a flight with Philippine Airlines for an ‘at home’ vibe.  I instantly jibed with my Fil-Am seatmates, and they talked about their lives in CA and those they left behind in our home country.  The conversations were truly an eye opener.  Instantly, the first-hand accounts become part of my life education.  Hours in the plane were well-spent!

I was literally pinching my arm once in a while during that 12-hr flight. It was real, I was finally on with my dream vacation.  Inside, I was singing with excitement – California Dreamin’ on a winter’s day!

Flight landed at LAX, approximately 7PM.  The California winter chill was truly shocking to the ribs for someone like me who thrived in tropical climate.  My family fetched me from LAX and we headed for San Diego – my home away from home!!!  =)

Timezone gap was foreign to me.  I slept through the night. Next day, after a hearty lunch at home, my cousin Sarali and I went shopping.  I was loving the town centers that I instantly bought 3 pairs of shoes, a bag, and a pink pair of Everlast boxing gloves for my training back in Manila (I was to lose 40.00lbs through a fitness routine which included boxing).  Very promising stay (Yikes! I was extra careful not to break the bank).  The next three weeks were spent visiting family friends, driving around National City, shopping at outlet stores, chillin’ in Las Vegas…and munching on steak, fries, and everything nice (meaning, more steak!).  I forgot about what I was doing at work in Manila for three weeks.  The inner child in me got a free rein for the rest of my stay in CA.

Here’s a mix of fun stuff and ideas, stamped – Meowth’s California Dream Vacation:

1.  Driving – For me, long leisure drives or road trips are therapeutic.  My uncle and I took turns at the steering wheel on our way to Vegas and back to San Diego via freeway.

Freeway: California – Nevada

Sunset – Otay Ranch

2.  I was so excited to see Shamu and Friends up close and personal.  I got to bring home a plush dog, which I named Lester.  I got him from a target game at SeaWorld San Diego.

San Diego SeaWorld presents Shamu

A charming sea-lion – he wants fish! =)

3.  Legoland is a wonderland!

New York! New York! – an amazing cityscape by Lego

The Capitol by Lego

Lego’s Fun Town Academy

4.  Nevermind the 2hr ++ drive to Anaheim; heading out for the happiest place on earth called DISNEYLAND!  The magic got into me; queued at Mickey’s place for a meet-and-greet with Mickey and Minnie!  I talked my cousins into doing a jump shot (photo), and we were laughing out loud while (we were) at it.  People were staring, but after our shot, we saw a couple of kids who were giddy over their version of the ultimate jump shot.

I was part of a happier crowd @ Disney Anaheim!

Chillaxin’ @ Mickey’s House

5.  Shopping.  I filled three cartons with shopping finds – two of which I shipped in advance to the Philippines.  We, Filipinos call these cartons, ‘Balikbayan box’.

Federal offense? NOT Guilty. Shopping??? Charge!!! Uh-oh

6.  Lovin’ the Pinoy food at Tita’s Kitchenette in National City – love, love, love their banana fritters or turon (in Tagalog), complete with jackfruit bits or langka (in Tagalog).  I ate those turon in the parking lot, sort of when I started to miss home – I ate turon as I watched cars plied by the plaza.  Dreyer’s and Haagen Dazs’ were relatively cheaper, so I ended up being the only person in the grocery who bought ice cream on a winter.  =)

My favorite Pinoy fastfood – Tita’s Kitchenette, East Plaza Blvd., National City

7.  New Year celebration in the Philippines is about family, and it is very much the same with the majority of Fil-Am in San Diego.

8.  Las Vegas seems lifeless under the morning sun, but it transforms into the grandest place under the night sky.  View from the Stratosphere – Top of the World was amazing – under a canopy of stars and over a blanket of the brightest city lights.  Bellagio’s Dancing Waters is a classic outdoor production not to be missed.

Absolutely Vegas! =)

Stratosphere view deck

Bellagio Dancing Waters

9.  I was basking in the snow at  Mount Charleston (the mountain resort is about an hour’s drive from Vegas, that part going to Reno).  We never have snow in this part of Asia where I live.

Enjoyin’ a day out in the snow with my cousin Sarali. =)

10.  A little downtime at Shady Glade had a rejuvenating effect, as well.

Home away from home =)

After a three-week vacation in California, I was ready to go back to Manila…to go back to one of life’s reality called work…to start a new chapter – aligned with my goals for the New Year.  Energy level:  high-five!  =)


The World is My Oyster

Based on my Facebook post, Wanderlust, 29 March 2012.

It was in 2006 when I experienced total clinical burnout which started from chronic fatigue syndrome. Talk about life before wellness. I dedicated a huge chunk of my energy and time living in the fast lane – it wasn’t as fulfilling as it is today.

Since that disturbing clinical diagnosis, I’ve been living a happy life within the most responsible terms I could muster. I entered a fitness program, then I tried sports – I found out how much I enjoy running, badminton, and practically anything that could stimulate the adrenaline big time. I started to travel, not for work, but for wanderlust. Traveling is, indeed, liberating.

I travel to unwind, get fresh perspective, and educate myself: the food, sight, culture, people and their dialect. I made all sort of travels, either solo or with my favorite people.

1. Road trips with Charlaine, Lowell, and BFD

2. Solo trips, here and abroad

3. Vacation with family and friends

4. Out-of-town / out-of-the-country — all for the love of running and carbo-loading (runner eh!)

5. Traveling, and still not coming to terms with true love (yahoo!!!)

6. Nature trips, theme park escapades, cultural immersion (plus, good food and wine)

7. Shopping trips (retail therapy!)

8. For the arts (D’Orsay, Louvre, Versailles, Van Gogh…and Louis Vuitton?, etc.)

9. Adventure trips, including water sports – parasailing, helmet diving, hiking, snorkelling, rappelling, white river rafting, zip line, canopy bridge walk, and wakeboarding.

10. Quiet weekend / a li’l soul-searching (to accept or not to accept…nininu ninu)

More trips to enjoy and learn from, more adventures to conquer…the world is my oyster! =D

How high can you fly?
Parasailing with Charlaine

How deep can you dive?
Helmet diving with friends =)

When you feel like pushing your adrenaline level…
White river rafting with friends, Cagayan de Oro

How far can you run?
Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore

When no weather is too cold to go out and play…
Snow ball fight at Mt. Charleston

How far can you drive?
Bangui Windmill Farm – about 560km from Manila

When you feel that you’re never too old to enjoy Disneyland…
Fun time with my family =)

When you open yourself up to the city, and it begins to educate you…

What else do you want to learn?
Wine class at O Chateau Paris

Traveling…there’s just no stopping. =)

Mini-vacation by Island SPA @ Island Cove

The universe has already made it available to everyone the concept of taking a mini-vacation.  It could mean a 15-minute power nap during lunch break, or an afternoon siesta at home with mobile phone turned off, or driving to a spa resort for a weekend. It could get as quirky as re-arranging the contents of your fridge in alphabetical order on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  It’s your choice!

Island Spa is a few minutes away from our home, and I don a relaxing outfit whenever I go there . This is to set the mood that I’m off to a rejuvenating mini-vacation.

Just like everyone else, I only have 24 hours in a day as much as I would want to make it 48.  I’m practically addicted to life.  After some weeks’ worth of stress, one of the simple joys I give myself is taking a mini-vacation at Island Spa.  I’m now writing about the best 1.5 – 3 hours spent for a holistic pampering – mind and body; with level up happiness and productivity guaranteed.

In some days, a mini-vacation for me entails a trip to Island Spa.
Island Spa @ Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park, Binakayan, Kawit, Cavite
Philippines!!! =)

We celebrated the 114th Philippine Independence Day last week, June 12.  It was a legal holiday and I was not supposed to report to work for that day, meaning, I had the whole afternoon planned out for a mini-vacation at the spa.

I arrived at the spa just in time for my 2PM appointment.  Genuine, friendly smiles greeted me at the reception area where I was to meet my therapist Ate (a-te)* Carmen.  Being my therapist for almost four years, Ate Carmen could tell that I did some running on the treadmill earlier that day.  She prepared everything ahead of time – my robe, the shower with all the green tea shampoo + conditioner and shower gel, my favorite treatment room, my preferred rice bran oil, hot pouch for my nodules (lamig in Tagalog), and some treats for my tired, achy feet.

For a full body massage, my top pick is rice bran oil. It is lightly scented and non-sticky. It leaves a healthy glow on my olive complexion.

I opted not to use the sauna, but I gave my calves its much-needed thermal shock by varying the shower temperature, vacillating between hot and cold at regular interval.  I enjoyed some refreshing lather using Island Spa’s hypoallergenic green tea shower gel. After getting that clean and refreshing feeling from the shower, Ate Carmen led me to the hands-and-feet treatment area so she could get started with my hard-working feet.  Brown sugar was used as foot scrub, creating an instant moisturizing effect especially on the soles.  It was followed by a 5-minute foot soak, using a combination of warm water and rock salt for a non-drying detox.

Happy Feet = Brown Sugar (Scrub) + Rock Salt (Soak)

Next was the full body massage that started with a 10-minute application of hot pouches on my back, and I requested the pouches to rest on my calves for a few more minutes. Island Spa uses two hot pouches per treatment, which instantly create the feeling of back muscles being ironed (or flattened) to drain off the nodules.  The effect was calming and I almost fell asleep at that point.  The pouches were followed by Island Spa’s signature treatment – Hilot** Isla (Hee-lot Is-la).  Ate Carmen targeted the nodules on my shoulder blades, and she eased through my calves which were stiff due to my running routine.

This lovely candle table piece lights up each of Island Spa’s treatment rooms.

I was also preparing for my first half marathon (21KM) for 2012 (the event took place only last Sunday, June 17).  I needed to do some extra prep for my legs by adding 30 minutes of foot massage to the 1-hr Hilot Isla treatment.  I’m referring to the traditional foot massage called Dagdagay***, which uses small wooden sticks in stimulating blood circulation in the calves and soles.  Ate Carmen applied an icy cool gel on my legs and feet for a more soothing effect.  My legs got the proper conditioning, ready for the challenge of a half-marathon. 

Dagdagay (dag-da-gay)*** originated from the Mountain Province in Northern Philippines. This treatment makes use of ‘runo’ sticks to massage the feet.

 To cap off  my mini-vacation at Island Spa, I indulged in aromatherapy.  I was given a scent of eucalyptus while getting a quick refresher facial. I seldom go for facial treatments because of my sensitive skin, but I need not worry about it at Island Spa.  They have a wide range of hypoallergenic facial and skin care products from Switzerland. 

Ate Carmen served me a cup of my favorite herbal tea akin to the Filipino ginger brew.  I also had to warm up my vocal chords as I would be meeting old-time friends with delightful stories to share from late afternoon through evening: pastry treats + Vietnamese coffee at iCafe and dinner at the Fishing Village, both located at Island Cove. 

What’s your idea of a mini-vacation? Share it! =)


* Ate (a-te) = Tagalog, noun; older sister, also used to refer to an older girl or lady as form of respect in Filipino culture.

**Hilot (hee-lot) is a traditional Filipino art of healing.  It is still being practiced today to relax stressed muscles by way of deep tissue massage. 

***Dagdagay (dag-da-gay) is a traditional Filipino foot massage that originated from the indigenous tribes of the Mountain Province, northern Philippines.  It uses sticks to massage the soles and legs. It instantly provides relief from muscle aches and tension, as it promotes better blood circulation.


Want to visit Island Spa?  Book an appointment today. 

Island Spa is open daily from 10AM to 10PM; cutoff for receiving is at 9PM.  For inquiries and booking, you may dial these numbers:  +63 46 434 09 88, +63 46 434 77 78, +63 917 505 62 80.  You may also visit their website –

Getting there

From Manila (private vehicle) :  Take Manila – Cavite Expressway.  End of expressway, make a u-turn to Covelandia Road.  About 15min-drive from Mall of Asia, light traffic. 

From Manila (public transport) :  From Baclaran, board a bus going to Cavite City or Naic/Maragondon taking the Island Cove route. 

From Alabang (public transport) :  From Zapote, board a mini-bus or jeepney going to Cavite City or Tanza/Naic/Salinas taking the Island Cove route.

Related post

Just Drive : My Version of ‘Gran Turismo’

Warning:  Driving, speeding, and motor racing are potentially hazardous activities.  Those who wish to engage in these activities must observe safety measures at all times.  This post does not intend to glamorize over/speeding.  This has been posted as an attempt to describe my thoughts about driving and speeding.

Miguel and I – daily adrenaline fix
Miguel : Honda City 1.5 VTEC M/T


“How fast can you drive, Ann?” 

If only cars could talk, my car would be asking me this kind of question. 

Speed.  I need it. I’m loving it for the adrenaline it gives.  I get some level of sedation from it.  I get high, naturally.  Speed calms me.  It clears my head, while I get the opportunity to exercise my ability to focus – a discipline which commands a premium in my line of work.  I drive fast whenever I could, and when the road would allow. 

Please let me insert another disclaimer here:  driving fast and violating traffic rules are two different things.  =)

I drive to work 5 days a week via expressway, that one which does not have a speed limit.  I get my adrenaline fix almost every morning, just before I engage my mind with anything work-related.  Adrenaline is like a very potent drug, derived from this concoction:  fast car + fast lane + really good music (preferably rock or alternative) + (recently) fuel with nitro.  Give it over a 100 kph, and the adrenaline level is as good as ‘high’. 

Occasionally, I would drive a long course up north to Baguio City.  This year, I made it as far as Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte.  This is what we call – road trip!!!  The scenic drive to the country side and pristine coastline make up for a lovelier experience, double up the fun with the company of well-meaning friends. Long drive is therapeutic for me and for my favorite road trip buddies, as well.  We’ve been going on road trips at least once a year since 2006. I also received invitations to road trips in the South (Leyte and Davao); and in CA/NE in the US, where holders of Philippine-issued driver’s license are permitted to drive over a certain period.

When there’s too much craving for adrenaline – this is when things are better taken care of inside a legitimate race circuit for a safer run – car or kart.  =)

Sofia and I – Bangui Windmills – March 2012
Sofia: Toyota Altis 1.6 M/T

Early morning drive along SCTEX

Sofia and I – hillside and coastline drive – Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Patapat Viaduct
Manila – Ilocos Norte – Manila
Sofia – Toyota Altis 1.6 M/T : about two full tanks of gasoline

on my way home…

Karting after office – Feb 2012
Boomtown, Roxas Blvd.

CRV – Davao
Driving : also fun in Davao

Photo-stopover with Lowell in La Union

Thrill seekers : More fog…in Baguio City!

Roadtrip with Mama Charles
Manila – Manaoag – Camp John Hay – Manila in ONE DAY!

Leyte – Samar via San Juanico Bridge

San Diego – Los Angeles – Las Vegas
Dec 2007 – Off to Vegas to defend my ‘bantam weight title’

Freeway : Nevada back to California, Dec 2007

Tagaytay Highlands – Main Road

George : my first car, the only modified car I had
I sold him in 2006. It was heart-breaking; I never wanted any car modification project, thereafter.

Island Spa @ Island Cove : A Take on Wellness

Have you been to the SPA lately?  Yes? No?

Now, you may continue reading.  We’re not gonna talk about crashing the bank here.  It won’t lead to overall wellness.  Instead, this is about slowing down a bit and planning out a well-deserved, rejuvenating mini-vacation:  a trip to a Mediterranean-inspired haven with a charming Filipino twist, that is ISLAND SPA!  No Euro trip required.  Remember, it’s more fun in the Philippines!  You only need to head out to the historic town of Kawit, Cavite, and enter the gates of Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park.

Treatments offered

To get the most, as in the ‘most-est’, out of your visit at Island Cove – include Island Spa in your agenda.  Dagdagay (foot therapy) and Hilot Isla are two of their signature, must-try services, which promote the overall healing effects of authentic Filipino therapies. 

If you are in need of a Ventosa (Cupping) Therapy minus the red marks on your skin, then Hilot Isla with hot pouch is perfect for you.  The hot pouch contains aromatic seeds, which take out the ‘lamig’ (in Tagalog), or unblock the ‘qi’.  This action ensures that energy will flow properly throughout the body. 

Island Spa also offers:  Swedish/Shiatsu massage, body scrub, warm bath, facial, foot spa, hand spa, waxing, and paraffin treatment.

Mini-vacation : Island Spa

Inside Island Spa
These lovely photos are also published at

For promos, new treatments, and exciting updates, be sure to ‘LIKE’ Island Spa @ Island Cove in Facebook: Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park.  I will also be posting select promos and packages in this blog…and we’re starting off with a favorite among regular clients – Hilot Isla. 

My testimonial :  I’m a client of Island Spa for four years already.  I live an active lifestyle.  For fatigue and muscle pain, I don’t go for pain relievers.  I just go to Island Spa for a therapeutic massage. My personal favorites are:  combination of Swedish-and-Shiatsu massage  – I availed of this every other week when I was training for a marathon last year; post-marathon, I’m still loving this treatment with my choice of rice bran oil;  hilot Isla – after a tough badminton game or boxing at the gym; and footspa, mani/pedicure every other week. 

Walk-in or book an appointment today

Island Spa is open daily from 10AM to 10PM; cutoff for receiving is at 9PM.  For inquiries and booking, you may dial these numbers:  +63 46 434 09 88, +63 46 434 77 78, +63 917 505 62 80.  You may also visit their website –

Getting there

From Manila (private vehicle) :  Take Manila – Cavite Expressway.  End of expressway, turn left to Covelandia Road.  About 15min-drive from Mall of Asia, light traffic. 

From Manila (public transport) :  From Baclaran, board a bus going to Cavite City or Naic/Maragondon taking the Island Cove route. 

From Alabang (public transport) :  From Zapote, board a mini-bus or jeepney going to Cavite City or Tanza/Naic/Salinas taking the Island Cove route.

Map courtesy of Google

Part II: Kuting in Paris – ‘Traveling Tourists’

Traveling – my life won’t be complete without it.  The intrigue of foreign travel lures me.  It is a chronic case of wanderlust.  What I love about traveling is soaking up the culture; fun and learning taking place at the same time, and in a place that used to be unfamiliar to the senses. 

As for our EU trip, Cashmer and I only got few weeks to prepare for it.  She would have to attend business meetings , so we had to be ‘more efficient’ in order for us to experience the best of the Parisian culture. 

There was no excuse for jet lag. On our very first day in Paris, we were fueled by a high-level of excitement.  Here are the ‘evidences’.  =)

Day 1 – Sunday, 7:30AM:  Cashmer and I met at Charles De Gaulle (CDG) International Airport in Paris.  She came from Singapore, where she is currently based.  I flew from Manila, then to HK – Paris in a CX flight.  (Manila to HK = 1.6hrs, HK to Paris = 13.2hrs).  From CDG, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the hotel via metered cab, 25KM, fare = 50Euros.  Radisson Blu would be our home for a few days.  It is strategically located along Boulevard Haussmann, a prime business center in Paris.

Bonjour Paris!
Expressway from CDG to downtown Paris

Radisson Blu, Blvd Haussmann
Home Away from Home

10AM – Off to Champs Elysees via METRO (Richelieu Drouot Station to Franklin D. Roosevelt).  A day-ticket, which is good for unlimited rides within 24hours, costs 9.75Euros.

Station: Richelieu Drouot
Giddy – first time to explore the METRO

Pomme de Pain – our first cafe along Champs Elysees.  The serving size is good for brunch.  A set meal costs about 7Euros.  I was never a fan of bread, but after enjoying a baguette at Pomme de Pain, that changed the way I look at bread.  I survived 10 days without rice for carbs, only bread.  Now, I love to eat croissants, pain au lait, and the deliciously chewy baguette with lotsa’ cheese (plus Sauvignon Blanc, if I get to eat baguette – late dinner at home).

Delicious and Nutritious: Baguette + Cheese and Deli + Strawberries + Coffee

Retail Therapy for BAGAHOLICS:  Cashmer and I visited Louis Vuitton, Champs Elysees.  We paid homage to the Maison, and paid for some precious arm candies, as well.  It was not about ‘weak constitution’ for me, but I did survive months of bag ban and that it was lifted a week before my birthday (LV bags were virtually singing ‘Happy Birthday, Ann’ in unison).  We also bought bring-home gifts for family and friends from L’Occitane.  The sales associates gave us a lot of freebies (a lot!), and they did ask about our very own Boracay.  Genuinely friendly AND English-speaking people in Paris are comparable to hard-to-find gems. 

In other areas of the city, retail shops are closed on Sundays.  The best district for shopping on a Sunday is Champs Elysees. 

Toilettes (twa-let) may not be viewed as necessity at the Champs district.  Only few shopping establishments have public toilettes.  One has to pay 20cents to 80cents just to be able to use the toilet. In restaurants / braserries, it is not unusual to see signage that reads – “toilettes are for customers only.”

Cash at Champs Elysees
We ‘paid homage’ to the Maison. =)

Bag ban is lifted…today! =)

Retail therapy was completed at around 3PM.  We headed back to the hotel to deposit our shopping finds.  It was a 15min-drive via cab, for 9Euros.  The cab driver was commenting about politics:  Hollande vs. Sarkozy.  That Sunday was the first round of the presidential election – an interesting time to be in France!  Our first political discussion, very engaging one, was with a cab driver. 

It was in the next few days that it became pronounced that majority of cab drivers in Paris speak good English; and they are generally friendly. 

From Boulevard Haussmann, it was an easy METRO ride going to Trocadero <– station of choice when visiting the Eiffel Tower.  From Trocadero, one has to walk about 10 minutes to reach the Eiffel Tower.  It was quite an effortless walk because we got to see the extent of the tower’s imposing and majestic view. 

Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

Our plan was to go on a Seine River cruise after sunset via Bateaux Parisien…but sunset in springtime is at 9:30PM!  From Eiffel, we went to Musee D’Louvre via METRO.  The time was enough for us to get a quick view of the museum.  We would go back to Louvre for a half-day tour in the weekend.  We had our first dinner in a braserrie outside the Louvre. (In all Parisian restaurants I tried, veggies are fresh and naturally sweet.  Average cost of a complete meal in braserries, 18Euros.)

Cashmer at Musee D’Louvre

Pyramid at Musee D’Louvre

Duck : lovin’ springtime at the Louvre

Dinner, 8PM – sun was still up as if it was only 3PM
Sunset in springtime: past 9PM

fast food deal : braserrie style

We were back at the Eiffel Tower a bit before sunset.  The boat stations for the Seine River cruise have ticket booths there.  A BATOBUS hop on hop off ticket costs 15Euros per person.  It is a 24-hour pass to 8 river stations:  Tour Eiffel, Musee D’Orsay, Saint Germain des Pres, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes, Hotel de Ville, Louvre, and Champs Elysees.  A night cruise is a way on how one can acquire a better understanding why Paris is called La Ville Lumiere or The City of Lights.  The highlight of that night cruise was the Illuminations of the Eiffel Tower – majestic, monumental, romantic! =)

9:30PM, Spring – Eiffel Tower

Seine River Night Cruise
BATOBUS hop on hop off

Notre Dame

The Latin Quarter – Paris’ University Belt

Pont Neuf (lit. New Bridge) – Paris’ oldest bridge; inaugurated in 1607 by Henry IV.

Bastions of Pont Neuf

Seine River Night Cruise – Eiffel Tower Illuminations

beyond words…

We were able to cover these places within a day.  We capped off Day 1 with a picture-taking session along Trocadero.  Temperature was about 3*C, which was literally shocking to the ribs.  We were back at the hotel a bit past midnight <- disclaimer: we are not related to Cinderella.  I had a little energy left to take photos of our room before I entered dreamland.

No jet lag, just a good night sleep. =)



Part I: Kuting in Paris – Lost in Translation

It was my first time to attend a multi cultural class outside my home continent (Asia).  It was not part of my itinerary, but since it was raining during my second day in Paris, I just wanted to stay indoors, but not in a museum.  So I decided to sign up for a wine class. 

Cashmer left early for her first of many business meetings, I mean, many. I had to muster all the courage to walk the ‘cold and unfamiliar’ streets of Paris by myself; just relying on – my memory of the map, limited French language, and a trained internal compass (the one that screams in the head – I’m lost!). 

Paris is not as crime-free as Singapore.  There are pick-pockets and muggers in Paris.  Majority of those elements have medium-to-heavy built; it would be difficult to use against them the skills I got from the Karate Kid, Kung Fu Panda, and Elorde – even if I combined the techniques from those three legends.  If I had to carry a map around the city and made it obvious, it was comparable to carrying an imaginary signboard, screaming: PREY.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Before things got too excited, I had to remember to wear four layers of clothing – thermal undershirt, thermal stockings, thick denim dress, wool cardigans, trench coat, scarf around my neck, and semi high-cut boots.  Imagine – Kuting (Kitten) in Paris.  I am a self-proclaimed Sun Kuting  (comparable to the Sun King of France), therefore, I don’t really thrive in cold climate.  I needed more calories to keep my temperature warm.  No human blanket available, so I just  enjoyed a hearty brunch at the Radisson Blu.  The French won’t surely like it when I’m hungry. (Thanks, Hulk.) 

best tasting croissants and pain au lait 

It was a gloomy day in Paris when I stepped out of the hotel at 12NN.  The weather forecast was pretty accurate, with temperature at 8*C, drizzle, occasional winds that sent shiver to the bones.  I walked to the nearest Metro station, my hands in akimbo, and I was trying to act normal, I mean, unfriendly…pretending to be a ‘local’.  Here is the route I followed:

The Metro station is called Richelieu Drouot (Chartreuse colored line – light/soft lime green), my ‘home station’ for several days.  (Good thing, I bought a 3-day Metro ticket the other day at Champs Elysee.  Minor train stations do not always have days-worth of tickets to sell.)  4 stations from Richelieu Drouot is the Franklin D. Roosevelt station.  From Roosevelt, I transferred to the yellow line going to Louvre de Rivoli.  When I reached Rivoli, a brasserie caught my attention – so I had to walk in to try some authentic French cuisine, plus a bottle of Badoit (I got addicted to this sparkling water – it’s like Sprite minus the sugar). 

From Louvre, I had to take walk to O Chateau, which is located along Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau.  It was quite a walk, because the French people are so not inclined in giving directions, or they don’t speak English at all. 

Scenario 1:

Me:  Excuse me, Madame.  Bonjour! (Bon – shouwr :  Good day)  Do you know which way to…

Lady:  (cutting my sentence) Non Anglais…(meaning: no English)

Scenario 2:

Me:  Bonjour!  Do you know which way to O Chateau, Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau?

Guy:  C’est dix minutes a pyay…

Me:  Pardon (Par-don). Je ne comprends pas (Zher ner kom pron pa).  Parlez vous Anglais?  (Par-lay voo ong-glay).  (Translation:  Sorry. I don’t understand. Do you speak English?)

Guy:  Pardon.

Scenario 3:

Me:  Bonjour! Excusez-moi (eks-kyu-zay-mwa = excuse me).  Do you know which way to O Chateau, Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau?

Guy:  It’s near.  You just walk to the left (signaling to the right)…

Me:  Oh, so you, mean, left (using my hand to signal to the left)…

Guy:  Sorry…Yeah, it’s to the left..then…ah first, no, second street, turn left…you won’t miss it.

Me:  Merci!  (Thanks)

Guess what?  I followed his instructions and I got lost…I was trying to find my way to O Chateau in the next 15minutes.  The street signage were not so helpful, but I knew O Chateau is somewhere within that area…I sent a distress signal to Heaven:  Lord, please send me angels…sigh, sigh…The street was empty, and I was getting nervous, but I continued walking that led me to the next scenario…

Scenario 4:

Guy:  Miss, Filipina ka? 

Me:  Oo, Filipina nga ako. Nawawala ata ako.  (Yes, I’m Filipina. I think I’m lost.)

Lady 1:  San ka ba pupunta? (Where are you going?)

I showed them the address.

Lady 2:  Sa kabila lang ito.  (Next street from here).

Guy:  Tawid tayo. Tapos, unang kanto kaliwa, kita na O Chateau.  (Let’s cross the street.  Then, first street turn left, you’ll see O Chateau). 

Me:  Thank you.  It was an answered prayer.  I was starting to get scared already, then you people saw me.  Hay… 

Prayer granted.

I was at O Chateau 15 minutes before the class started. I was the only Filipina enrolled in the class for that day.  Most of my classmates came in late because they also got lost.  It was an informative and enjoyable class that warrants another blog entry.  =)

Narrative by a not-so-drunken woman

Beautiful Friday night and my eyes were smiling as I skimmed the liquor list of Astoria.  I was giddy as a teenager, so excited to order her first shot.  Oh, how I wish I was in Vicar St., Dublin, Ireland(think, the Script).  Instead, I was in a place somewhere between the heavens and the deep blue sea…in a paradise known to many as Boracay.

A friend once told me about Boracay as the best place to get drunk.  I could not wait to get into the plane, off to the island to get myself a good alcohol fix.  No need to drive home for the one of the hippest bars at Station 1 is located at Astoria’s beach front (yes!!!). I was not into booze for ages, and may be I need a few shots and some cover songs to finally seal another chapter in my breakup diary.  I was a-okay, but living healthy and somewhat sane also requires ample justification before splurging on Tequila and Vodka.

Mental notes:

  1.  Just like a lovely, drunken heroine in a romantic comedy movie (ehem, blog ko ‘to okay), I tried to dig for some deep-seated emotions that made me purposely break my heart a little, or may be cracked it a little bit.  It was weird to go through a heart-breaking experience without having to cry…not yabang though, it is just weird for I used to be a cry baby.  Back in Manila, I tried making myself cry while driving (for months!), it did not work…I tried to cry myself to sleep, but the floods of dopamine won’t let me…until the  healing process was completed.  I tried to cry in solitude, concealed by the sacred walls of my sanctuary.  It did not work, too.  Weird ba ko or tough?
  2. I was trying to internalize the drama in the music video “Nothing” by the Script – the drinking version.  There’s no way I can match the drama in that video…I so love the song + video pa naman.  Screw all the tears!  It won’t come out whatever I do.  Again…weird ba ko or matigas na ko ngayon or maturity na tawag dito?
  3. I was on Tequila glass #5, and I can still think clearly.  I was waiting for my hands to get a little numb, but it was not happening…so I drank some more.  Love it!  =)  Ian scored some funky, groovy music, and people started to rock the dance floor…and I was one with the beautiful crowd.  There was no reckless abandon that happened.  For one, I had my good friend Charlaine to watch over me…and besides, I tried to drink as many, but the alcohol can’t get the better of me.  Ganito na ba ko naging ‘addict sa life’ pati alcohol hindi na tumama?  Hindi na nga ako iyakin, hindi pa din ako malasing…growing up ba ang tawag dito, or weird lang talaga ako, o baka sobrang dense?
  4. I met some interesting people, too.  The golden ‘girls’ of Norway sure know how to party. Sabi nga naming ni Charlaine, we could see our future selves right in front of us.  I stopped asking myself why I was not crying or moved to tears…nag-enjoy na lang ako…hehehe…life is short.  =)  It was good to feel some effects of the alcohol and at the same time, I was still in control of myself – all clean fun…perfect concoction – people, music, ambiance, and the ever hot-hot Tequila.

astoria at night. i fell in love with the place.

Morning after, hotel phone was ringing and it was a call from a guy I met at the bar.  Sadly, he is not Irish…sobrang malayo kay Danny O’Donoghue of  The Script. I even recited the caller’s   and his friends’ names and their ‘pamatay’ na lines in sequence, just to prove that I was not drunk the night before.  O kita mo na, pare, sabi sa’yo at 2AM, hindi pa din ako lasing. Suko ata sila, at 2AM bumabangka pa kami ni Charlaine sa kwento.

I intended to drink again that Saturday night…but while the Saturday morning sun was up, Charlaine and I joined the bee-line to what would be an adventure in paradise – Parasailing!  =)

Now, here’s the video of the song, which I can’t seem to get enough of.