Category: Travel, travels



We’re a band of baby boomers, Generation X and millennials who just can’t stay put. But we all share the same penchant for food and serendipitous adventures. Having just recently returned from Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava, our beer-drinking group of 6 grew to a band of 15 pax. Quite an assortment, if you ask me. We’ve had a few trips tucked under our belt and I must say, we had so much fun. And this happy bunch is going again! I ditched earlier plans to go to Slovenia and Croatia to join the Happy Bunch for a holiday in Bologna and Vienna. Switching from the city of dragons (Ljubljana) and towns along the Adriatic, it’d be a week instead of food porn in this part of Italy where trufa, prosciutto, tortellini, mortadella, balsamico, tagliatelle, parmeggiano, Lambrusco reign supreme!

And this was only last July!

Touchdown, Bologna!

While some of us are visiting first-timers, Bologna as homebase offers many possibilities. Florence, Lucca and Pisa are just a half hour away by train and so is Modena, and a bit farther down, Parma. Then there’s Venice, Verona and Padua or Padova. The boys would likely not miss the chance to check out the museums — NOT of artworks, but those lovely machines going by the names of Lamborghini,Ducati and Ferrari. Different folks, different strokes. That’s what I love about this group. We’d split up to chase our own dreams, and reunite in a heartbeat. Like when we all agreed to visit one day the little republic of San Marino together and hopefully do a side trip to Ravenna. But most importantly, we agree on the food and vino. That’s important — and that’s how we ended up in Ristorante Victoria for our first meal and in Mercato delle Erbe for cocktails cum dinner after our walking tour.

Prosciutto, Mortadella, Burrata

Tagliatelle al Ragu

We had mussels cooked in wine and also with tomato sauce. Both really good!

Almost devoured before we remembered to snap a photo of Tortellini al Panna

It’s only Day 1. And we plan to do a more leisurely tour of Bologna after a good rest. For sure, we’d be back in Piazza Maggiore and visit the basilica and cathedral. There’s enough time as we’d be holed up in the same hotel for the next 5 nights. Bologna is not as cold as Vienna but single digit temps outdoors walking around the piazzas need some serious consideration. After all, it’s truly beginning to look like Christmas everywhere. The Christmas trees are up, so with the Christmas lights that make the place look so festive and magical. Much time to enjoy the illuminations since sunsets are early. Like 5pm!

On our way back home, we’d catch our homeward flight out of Vienna. Staying a few nights in this capital makes me giddy with anticipation. Why? There’s the many Christmas Markets of Vienna! Too many to count. It’s the Christmas Market of my dreams! A genuine Christmas Winter with temps hovering at low single digits or negatives. Gluhwein or mulled wine, raclette, bratwurst, apple strudels, Sacher torte and all those flaky baked delights. All savoured in negative temps. I’m excited, if you haven’t caught the drift. White Christmas feels? Let’s do this!

The Christmas Market of my dreams!

Up In Mount Victoria, NSW


Only 120 kilometres west of Sydney is the small township of Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Population about a thousand. Here is a more quiet, if not more elegant section of the Blue Mountains. Beautiful manors, historic buildings reused as elegant hotels and summer retreat houses dot the landscape. There are many heritage sites in the area but they compete with the wondrous panorama at an elevation of over 1,000 meters. The mountain was named after Queen Victoria but the settlement area was originally called One Tree Hill until the arrival of the railway station and establishment of the first Post Office in the 19th century.

These days, many locals go to Mount Victoria for serious bushwalking, rock climbing, bird watching or simply to visit this charming village without the tourist crowd. There was some festivity the day we visited as we passed what looked like flea markets and food fairs. But we drove past them and began our short hike. Cox’s Road and Cox’s Descent don’t seem to sound right but that’s what the markers say. 🙄

The photos speak for themselves. I may have ventured farther than I should have — “for my age” — but the views of the valley below can be mesmerizing. I dare not even dwell on the possibilities. A strong gust of wind, an accidental slip. Oh well.


We’re done feeding the wild rainbow lorikeets , and decided we’d have more animal adventures. Bendalong Bay is not far from our homebase in Lake Conjola, and we spent the morning there watching people let loose their dogs on the beach, viewing stingrays swim near the shore, young paddlers on boards, swatting fruit flies trying to land on our cereal bars. Sun’s up and the weather’s ideal for a lazy morn.

Only one thing went wrong. Stingray feeding happens late afternoon. But no worries, we found many swim up to shore while seagulls fly above the paddlers, ducks and the pelicans. Bendalong is only a half hour north of Ulladulla and actually borders Lake Conjola National Park. The beach is good for paddle boating, surfing, swimming, fishing, and errr…. stingray feeding. I am just not sure how I’d feel swimming with these stingrays. 😜 Have a look at this video on stingray feeding in Bendalong Beach.

http://youtu.be/53O3OuAh9d0

This is Australia. The wildlife is awesome, birdwatching, bush walking and water activities the norm. Where else do you meet kangaroos in parks while you’re out intending to go kayaking or fishing? Where else can you paddle on boards while weaving through pelicans and stingrays swimming near the shore? How else can you enjoy a weekend without going outdoors? Life here is more meaningful for the outdoorsy types. Camping is always an option and bush walking is a regular activity. That is, after one does the laundry 🙄 My nephews are serious bikers and rock climbing is always a favourite sport. The girls love to shop but won’t mind weekend trips to the lake and parks. Fishing will have to wait though.

We made trips to Bendalong Bay for the stingrays and another day to Newcastle for the pelicans. Of course you’d find the seagulls almost everywhere like when we visited Kiama and Wollongong. I am amazed that all these animal and bird encounters are so freely enjoyed here in Australia. What a blessing for these Aussies!

The Pelican Feeding in Newcastle was quite a show. The feeders/carers are professionals and loved an audience and they got a pretty good sized crowd the time we visited. Weekends are never a bore. Or for that matter, neither are weekdays. The feeding show is timed daily at 4pm at the most popular tourist attraction in the Central Coast — The Entrance Waterfront. This feeding event sponsored by the Central Coast Council is quite a spectacle. I noted though that one of the volunteers clearly has a favourite among the pelicans. She calls her “One Wing” for obvious reasons. She narrated how this particular pelican lost her wing in a boat accident some years back. The upside though is this pelican will never have to go hungry as the volunteer looks for her and feeds her first. After that, the rest of the pelicans compete for the fish and other seafood scraps.


It happens daily at 3-4pm here in the park fronting Burrill Lake In Ulladulla. Open to the general public, you can come help feed these wild colourful birds who gather from all over the natural bushland for a tasty afternoon snack. The man in charge hands you a plate and the birds swoop down on your arms, hands, head and shoulders. At one point, I think I had 3 on my head and another 3 or 4 on my arm.

Call us Bird Ladies, but this was quite an experience. I had scratches all over my arms though and truth be told, I was so tense worrying the wild birds would poo on my head. I suggest you come wearing a jacket and a hat when you visit. You’d never know. But really, these wild birds look so pretty and my, were they sooooo noisy. In a nearby cage, you can have a chat with the cheeky cockatoos who never grew tired saying HELLO. There were also ducks and parrots.

Never done this before, and I was surprised they have this daily activity open to the public. It would be a truly great animal adventure for the little ones and it won’t even cost you a cent! Now this is Australia for you. Love it!


We’re on a road trip towards the South Coast. First off is Kangaroo Valley which I’ve visited some years back. (Go check the link) The Hampden Bridge is one of its attractions here, being one of only a few suspension bridges around Australia. I remember a lunch in this landmark pub and hotel called the Friendly Inn with 2 grandchildren who have since grown up. What 5 years can do!

We drove towards Lake Conjola which is really one of my favourite destinations whenever I’m in Sydney. Our family would always spend family time here but we only managed 3 of us on this trip as everyone else was busy. The resident kangaroos were too lazy to welcome us, unlike the last time I was here when we found around 30 of them Roos!

The lakeside house bears many happy memories and our stay here adds another. Revisiting the house, the lake, the nearby beach, the boardwalk, or simply walking aimlessly are favourite pastimes here. If one is into fishing, paddle boating, kayaking or swimming, there’s much to do. As for me, I’m quite happy dropping in in this heritage bakery in Milton and taking out some pies to eat in the cottage while having coffee and reading a book.

From Lake Conjola, we had the chance to drop in on nearby beaches and lakes to feed some birds and sea creatures. Upon leaving, we made our way back to Sydney with stops in Berry for a relaxing Oriental lunch at LEAF. Wish the rest of the family was with us but there would be other times, for sure.

Feel free to click on the highlighted links for more photos and details on Lake Conjola and The Heritage Bakery in Milton. Watch this site for blogs on feeding adventures with stingrays, pelicans, Lorikeets and seagulls.


We made good time. Who wouldn’t if you’re up by 6am? Took the 333 bus to Bondi where a dip in the waters was planned no matter how cold it gets. Taking the bus directly to North Bondi beats the crowd waiting for the connecting bus at the train station in Bondi Junction. It helps too that we were way too early at 6:30am. Going early was a good decision as we nearly had the entire beach to ourselves but for a few joggers, swimmers and a couple of surfers. The sun was up but the wind factor gave the chills but some of us cannot be held back from taking a brave dip in Bondi Beach.

Our trip to Bondi was timed with the annual art event “Sculptures by the Sea” where 100 artworks were on display along the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. Amazing artworks but for the strong winds that compelled us to sit it out at the spot overlooking the Pacific. “Fatso” sat right where the wind went wild pushing us down to our knees. I honestly wanted to crawl away from Fatso while holding down my hat.

From Bondi, we took the 380 bus to Watson’s Bay. Feasted on Doyle’s seafood combo, fish and chips. I was so looking forward to this lunch as Doyle’s never disappoints. Except that we’ve had a similar lunch in Manly Fish Cafe the day before and had a truly remarkable lunch. Stiff competition I’d say. But I’m not complaining having both on 2 consecutive days 😊 What likely tilted the scorecard in favor of Manly Fish and Chips was the mussels cooked in fresh cream a la Moules Frites and the sweet potato fries. Next time I visit Manly, I’d likely go back to this place. On the other hand, Doyle’s Resto offers a perfect view of Watson’s Bay. Lunch here by the wharf guarantees watching several ferries loading and unloading passengers along with views of yachts bobbing up and down. For good measure, the many seagulls and pelicans lend more charm to this area.

We were happy to board the ferry from Watson’s Bay bound for Pyrmont Bay to reach Darling Harbour. It’s nearly an hour’s ride passing Rose Bay, Luna Park, Circular Quay, Barangaroo and finally Pyrmont Bay. On this ferry ride, it is easier to take shots of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and the approach to Darling Harbour. Not as many tourists as one finds on ferry rides to Manly Beach. Doing these 3 sites — Bondi, Watson’s Bay and Darling Harbour– via bus and ferry is a breeze, never mind that one has to make an early start.

I have always liked Darling Harbour. I do like it better at night though. Cocklebay Wharf Area is my favourite spot where many bistros and bars sit side by side gelaterias like Lindt’s. We made our mandatory stop here for some frozen delights. Six different ice cream flavours in ceramic cups passed clockwise amongst us. We couldn’t agree which flavour is best though. From Cocklebay Wharf, we took the escalators to get on street level and found ourselves walking towards Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Day almost over, we were a bit tired but felt we’ve spent the day very well and covered much from 6:30am to 5pm.


I came to Sydney for 2 major reasons. To attend my sister’s and brother-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary on October 27 and to celebrate my birthday with my “OZ family”. My visits are rather regular, but this comes more special for those 2 reasons. Not every couple is blessed to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary. And another year tucked under one’s belt is always a good reason to celebrate. My birthdays were always spent in Manila except for 3 celebrated in India, Madrid and Peru in recent years. While travel adventures provided novelty and excitement, nothing beats being with family on such a special day.

I still have a long wish list and trust there is no limit to God’s mercy and generosity. Like a child, I unashamedly ask that God grants my heart’s desires. I’ve asked for much — for myself, as well as for others. Mostly “little things”. And just as much if not more, thank Him for answered prayers. I honour Him with much joy in my heart, and celebrate His gift of life.

To my family and friends, I have you all in my prayers. Praying for good health, safety wherever and with whomever we are, harmony and precious joy in our hearts. Most of all, we humbly thank You Lord for the time to celebrate with our loved ones as well as for the lessons learned from our poor decisions and ill-thought choices.


Last Tuesday October 16 was World Food Day. It’s also the anniversary of the founding day of the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Sydney’s Noodles Market is held around this time when Hyde Park transforms itself into an Oriental food event — not necessarily limited to noodles but any Asian dish oozing with aromatic spices from the East. It’s been raining in Sydney for a week but we picked Tuesday to go to the city on a cloudy but rain-free day.

The little boy with us had so much energy in him, and that was even before his teriyaki noodle dish and creamy allo-allo mixed fruit dessert. Some parts of the park were muddy from the previous day’s rain. Luckily, Citi has a fenced-in area complete with more comfortable chairs, tables and even faux grass-carpeting. Swell! I flashed my card and claimed a table for us. We got drinks from within the reserved space but bought our food from the stalls outside.

Good thing we were early. The crowd started to build up after 5:30pm. The office crowd spilling out of the surrounding buildings and creating queues at the more popular food stalls. It’s like a hawker market but with pricier tags, and overhyped food choices. We couldn’t resist trying out the Pinoy offerings like the lechon (roasted pork @$18 and it was not even crunchy), the desserts like the allo-allo aka halo-halo which is really nothing like the popular local dessert. One dessert is even named “Thrilla in Manila” and I swear we don’t even have that kind of stuff back home.

Even the pork barbeque doesn’t remind me of home. The marinade is more Western than Asian, for sure. Oh well. The event organisers do this annually and from the looks of it, it draws a regular crowd. Next time, maybe I’d try the ramen.

Nonetheless we had a good time especially when a Lion Dance (not Dragon?) cheered up the place. The little boy perked up like crazy and we all felt the excitement! The kid jumped up and down and followed the “lion” across the park. The senior grandma struggled to follow …..

Floriade 2018 (Canberra)


I have visited Sydney many times since my sister and her family migrated here but not once have I visited the Floriade in Canberra, the nation’s capital. The visits were always off-timed and I only contented myself with photos of beautiful spring blooms from the Commonwealth Park where it’s annually held. This 2018, it was staged from September 15 to October 14, a full month, and we managed to visit on the 2nd to the last day!

Just 2.5 hours south of Sydney, the Commonwealth Park in Canberra was truly a celebration of spring blooms. Carpeted in many colours of tulips and other blooms, the lake and the Ferris wheel simply added to the park’s charm. We hardly paid attention to the market stalls and playing bands, and just took in all the splendour of Nature’s floral cheer. There was a good crowd beating the deadline (like us) but we were early. Beating the traffic and the crowds, we enjoyed the Park before it drizzled early afternoon.

The place reminded me of Keukenhof Gardens in Dutchland. There must have been a million bulbs for this year’s Floriade. I felt it’d be a waste to end the flower show while the flowers are still in full bloom! But I’ve read in today’s papers that many folks have volunteered to cut the flowers and dig up the bulbs to distribute among the community. About a hundred bucketloads have found their way to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the old and sick. Such a happy ending to this flower exhibit, don’t you think?

Back In Sydney (2018)


Back here to be with my OZ family. Annual visits, yes, without pressing the “tourist mode”. It’s the kind of holiday where I pack only 3 sets of clothes and the rest of the baggage space is claimed by food snacks long missed by these folks — born, raised in the Philippines — who now call Sydney their home. The time of year when “bonding with family” translates to babysitting chores, movie dates with the sister, and endless exchange of stories from recent pasts and current interests. They always manage to surprise me with their new projects. Like the newly-refurbished basement that now looks like a hip den where one can spend a whole day Netflix-ing or just listening to good music or reading a good book while the coffee brews. The den is designed for adults. The kids are stuck with their playrooms. 😊

Then there’s the tiny vegetable garden in the backyard. Salad greens freshly-picked here. Found broccoli and basil flowers here and the mango flowers look promising too! Lush and healthy. These greens grow out of pots and tubs but they all look so “full of life” if you’d allow me to use that phrase. The tomatoes are not ready yet, but the lettuce, beetroot, kale, onions, arugula, broccoli and basil are. Oh, this tiny garden gives us so much joy.

I’m not into gardening back home. Condo living does that to you. But I’m now considering a cottage in a vacant lot down south where I can have a backyard veggie patch to grow these salad ingredients. Last night, I threw in watermelon balls into a bowl of freshly-harvested arugula sprinkled with an Italian dressing, some julienned carrots and half a boiled egg. Tonight, I’m harvesting some lettuce for my salad. And some spinach too!

I have this nearly 3 y.o. little boy telling me which plant is which, and even picked some mulberries for me. What joy. Until he said something that sounded like “crocodile”. I paid no attention to it until he drew my attention to something moving by the base of the stairs leading to the garden. Right across the mulberry tree. There’s an outside patio at the back of the house that leads to the vegetable garden. We were going by this same stairs back to the patio when I heard the boy say crocodile. I looked back and had to rein in a muffled scream while still moving away but not before fishing out my iPhone to snap these photos.

This blue-tongued lizard surely gave this panicky grandma a big scare. It isn’t a crocodile, but this reptile nearly sent me screaming. And it’s only my 2nd day of babysitting. Maybe I should spend more time netflix-ing in the den. 🙄