Category: Phlog

You can’t leave Donostia-San Sebastián without promising to be back. No, you’d actually be swearing and checking your calendar to mark off dates for your repeat txikiteo! How I love this Basque city and its txikiteo or Pintxo bar crawl. So lively, so crowded, so full of energy and if you don’t watch it, so full of calories. 

San Sebastián’s skyline, its coast, its Basque architecture, the mountains looking like bookends to the equally lovely playas, the many Pintxo bars and restaurante. How can you not be so enthralled by its magnificent beauty? You come here to swim, surf or just bake in the sun, toes digging into the sand. At night, you get ready to do the txikiteo and enjoy the gildas and pintxos and cheesecake and txakoli! Life is good in Donostia-San Sebastián. 

Whenever I’m asked which Pintxo bars to check out here, the following come top of mind: La Cuchara de San Telmo, La Viña (cheesecake, baby!), La Cepa (Jamon Jabugo), Bar Zeruko, Casa Urola, Atari Gastroteka, Borda Berri, all in Parte Vieja. All just a few steps apart. Plus Bar Azkena in Mercado La Bretxa.  There are more. But heading back, I had this list like it’s a mission. 😉

Last time, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment.  Plus a night in Pension Larrea right in Parte Vieja — so perfect for txikiteo nights when you take pub crawls real seriously! This time, I tried a very modern and hip hostel (they have private ensuite too) which I thought is very cool. My latest discovery here is A Room In The City. It actually costs more than a room right in Parte Vieja but it is more quiet here. Plus it is very near Buen Pastor Cathedral (which runs straight into Yglesia de Santa Maria in Old Town) and has a pretty neat sun deck and spacious dining hall and lounge. Next visit, I’d likely book here again. Perhaps spend more time in the deck or lounge. 

Check this out:

Well …… it’s a 7 hour layover and we’re enjoying the food, drinks and huge shower room (my favorite corner here) of Al Dhabi Lounge in Abu Dhabi while waiting for our connecting flight to Manila. Still, it’s a seriously long wait and what better thing to do? BLOG ! Yes, before those memories fade. 

Palacio Cristal in Parque de Retiro

Travels have a way of emptying one’s mind of day-to-day concerns. Perhaps to make room for our fond memories. There is that giddy anticipation over new places, flavors and experiences. I delight in the novelty, discovery as well as in the rediscovery of past delights. Cameras make great memory-keepers but our minds play out varied reactions  with each discovery and replay of happy thoughts. Priceless. When I was growing up “alone” (busy parents, older sisters in college), I learned to read a lot and write down my thoughts. I completed many diaries and even named them. Dear Betty. Dear Jane. Dear Henry. Dear Kevin. Whenever I feel seriously sad, I write. Whenever I feel happy, I write more. Life is a celebration. And it’s worth writing about. If only to remind me of the many things to be grateful for.  No handwritten diaries this time. Thank God for blogsites where I can store my journals in cyberspace while drinking my cortado!

Mi favorito, Cafe Cortado!

Mi hermana. Mi sobrina. Mi nieto. Mi amigos y amigas. All together in dear Madrid, which is home for 6 years to my dear sobrina. I have visited yearly for at least a month to nearly 3 months. Left alone in our Madrid crib in times past, I’ve learned to appreciate Madrid’s many quaint alleys, tiny squares, specialty museums, roadside taperias, and many off-the-beaten paths. No tocar (don’t touch) rule in mercados doesn’t apply in my favorite fruit and vegetable stall. There, this “suki” can enjoy touching the zucchini, potatoes, carrots, spinach, asparagus, naranja, mushrooms, etc. The vendor simply hands me a bowl or basket to fill with my chosen greens and fruits. And the cheese store where I get to taste slices of different quezos — “para probar” (to try). Or ask the fish vendor to clean the fish I buy. Mercado visits are no obligations here, they’re actually delightful adventures. And walking without maps, missing turns and getting lost? There’s always a cafe bar or Iglesia to relax in, meditate, or simply sit out and while away the time. If you chance upon a wedding in the church, it’s your good luck. Cheap thrills! 

Parroquia de San Jeronimo. Behind Museo Del Prado.

And so our Spanish Holiday with sidetrips to Lourdes and Saint John Pied de Port in France is over. Temps rise as our plane lands in Manila. Our hair still a tad limp and wet from the shower we took in the lounge. Our bellies still full from the buffet spread. Our hearts warm with the precious bonding moments. Our minds filled with happy memories. Our leg muscles reminding us we’re no longer spring chickens. And our pockets dry and burned out. Tee Hee. 😉 It would likely take a week to recover our energy to prep for another flight Down Under. From the last dregs of winter to early spring to the intense summer heat of Manila before we catch the onset of Autumn in Sydney. Phew! 

Nap Time En Parque Retiro 😴

Adios, España. Hasta luego.

Some of you may think I’m living way beyond a “retiree’s budget” because of all the traveling I do. Well, I can’t say I haven’t been spending but I do keep to a budget whenever I can if only so I can stretch my travel fund to cover as many trips as possible without backpacking. Not that I think backpacking is wrong. Just that I can’t hack it. I do need some wardrobe, a good bed to sleep in, and my own toilet & bath. Plus I do indulge in good food. No shopping for me. I have long turned off my “acquisition mode”. Instead, I invest in EXPERIENCES, and dining is part of that. 

And so, just how do I travel without blowing my budget?  Here are a few tips.


Much has been written about how to snag promo flights and redeeming miles. Let me just say one only needs to look for them. 

  • Travel off-season
  • Save those miles
  • Subscribe to airline newsletters
  • Watch out for promo deals


I’m surprised not too many know this. Or perhaps many think they’re not good. Let me prove you wrong. Many of my best guided walking tours are free. Madrid, Florence, Rome, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin. Many of them field their best, I repeat, their BEST tour guide to entice you to book their other “paid” tours. They make you like the free tour so much that you’d be willing to book some tours with them, and pay for them. Others are simply there to promote tourism in their city. Check out these links:

Just google for FREE walking tours and your destination. Like “free walking tour in Berlin”, and be surprised how many pop out.  And if you’re happy with the guided tour, be generous and give a tip. Typical is $10-12. 


First off when visiting a city for the first time, cluster all the attractions you wish to visit and figure out how to go from one cluster to the next. See what’s the minimum number of rides you need. Walk if you can. Then decide whether to buy that rail or metro or day pass. Do your arithmetic. 

LODGING and DINING allows me to book and cancel. I book to be safe that I’m sure there’s a bed waiting for me somewhere. I cancel after I’ve searched for better or cheaper lodgings. Most often, I choose based on location — near or in city center, walking distance to metro or subway stations, and SAFE. 

There are many choices these days. I choose AirBnb in areas where hotels and breakfasts are pricey. AirBnb or serviced apartments allow me to prepare simple breakfasts, and pre-dinner cocktails or night caps. Plus do my laundry — so I can pack light.  You bet major consideration in AirBnb selection is a coffee machine and a washing machine.  Another is wifi and cocktail glasses. Lunch is almost always a calendared event. Eat local. Have a good midday meal for energy, to sustain you through the day. No desserts. I take that  as mid afternoon break with my coffee or tea in some joint we chance upon. Dinners are hit and miss affairs — depends on the place, and how tiring the day was. 


This works with many museums. Why pay €15 to visit Prado Museum when it’s free from 6-8pm daily? You can instead choose 3-4 halls or artists each visit and go 3 free days. A little research will guide you on the free museum days or hours. 


Of course, it depends on your budget. But list down all the local foods and see where they’re famously served. Lampredotto in Florence is best served in this hole-in-the-wall in Mercato Centrale called Nerbone. I bought my percebes in the market in Santiago de Compostela and asked a restaurant across the mercado to cook it for us for €6. We skipped the pricey food tours in San Sebastián and simply hopped our way around, watching where there are lines or where locals go. By itself, it’s an adventure!

Sure, you can reserve tables in fancy restaurants and enjoy good food. But again, do your research on what’s best in the area. Check out Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. for dining tips. Plus there are apps like El Tenedor (The Fork) or booky where some restaurants give as much as 30% off on your food bill when you dine certain hours of the day. Like lunch at 3pm — why not, in a fancy restaurant. 

Also, do visit the local market. Buy your breakfast supplies here (and the bread from a good bakery). Jamon in España, Prosciutto or Parma ham in Italia, croissant in France, etc. 


Whether you’re walking or driving, it makes lotsa sense to have/rent a portable wifi to use the GPS in your phone. Google maps. Waze. TripAdvisor. A friend of mine traveled with her big family and one constant problem for them is where to eat. Wifi-enabled, we were always guided on NEARBY recommended/ranked dining places wherever we were. The same app will likewise guide you on nearby landmarks. Such can save you lots of time and money. 

And when in despair, go look for a big department store and check out their food court 😀 A big group can “separate” here and choose to eat what they like, then sit close to each other. 


Piode! That means “I’m happy!” So are the birds and wild ducks in Lake Inle’s Bird Sanctuary. They fly and chase some passing boats and they happily stand still on fences along the banks. Water’s clean, there are flower and vegetable gardens floating atop dried weeds and fishermen with those unique nets must be their only competition for a good meal. 




Look at those happy birds!




Happy Birds? Or wild ducks taking a nap?




Water is so still and calm. Reflection of an Inle Fisherman.



The placid waters make for a very nerve-soothing ride. No wonder these birds are kept happy. Not even the noise from the boat engines could take anything away from them. Hopefully, this bird sanctuary remains a haven for these birds.




The agile fishermen of Inle — such a balancing act!




See them birds guarding our hotel in Lake Inle.




I stayed by the porch but none of them happy birds were eager for a “meet & greet”. There’s Tita Rose doing a “happy dance” 😄



Such simple lifestyles. But for how long? We passed many huts on stilts with signboards advertising their trade. From floating bars to restos to coffee shops to beauty parlors to laundry shops to handicraft stores. Single and three-storey structures welcome tourists out for a few nights stay. Thank God I didn’t hear any blaring sounds from any of the bars.



A fishing village  in Inle Lake.

A fishing village in Inle Lake.




Fishermen getting ready with their unique nets.




This traditional way of fishing is still practiced to this day.



The villagers here have “created” their own community. No islands, but they’ve created their own floating village in waters deep enough for fish to thrive, but shallow enough to build floating gardens. I wonder how they draw the property lines here, especially for the commercial structures.





A typical day in the village.




A happy duck foraging for food in the floating gardens of Lake Inle.




The floating restos have no problems keeping off those happy birds — which confirms those birds are well-fed and errrr….. happy!



The influx of tourists may result in more structures being set up, leading to overcrowding. More luxury hotels may soon sprout along the water highways. More passing boats could mean noise pollution to this now tranquil lake. I dare not imagine.






Myanmar. Not the country. But the beer.




This scene is forever etched in my memory!




All wrapped up for the ride!




See you again in Inle!

Those extra 2 1/2 hours mattered. We arrived in New Delhi just as I turned 60+1, Manila time. The morning after, I had a birthday candle to blow just before we rolled out towards the pink city of Jaipur. And that was just breakfast time. Sweetness!


My First Breakfast in India is my Birthday Breakfast!


And this is my Birthday Lunch in Samode Haveli, a former 16th century royal palace now functioning as luxury boutique hotel with a fine restaurant serving authentic Indican cuisine.

No amount of polluted air, dust and incessant horn-blowing could deprive us of a lovely day. It’s a long drive broken only by a sumptuous lunch in a former palace hemmed in by pomegranate trees. The group counted 16 of us where the average age is pulled down by 3 pretty young ladies who have amazingly acquired a high degree of tolerance towards giggling “young once”. Giggling, and in awe, of this former royal residence not too far  (40 kilometers) from the pink city of Jaipur.  The interiors will floor you, with its display of Mughal and Rajasthani art and architecture. 


Pretty Sabrina under the lovely arches counting several hundred years of history. I hear the HBO TV serial adaptation of The Far Pavilions was filmed here.


I wonder how old these pomegranate trees are? That’s me enjoying the courtyard gardens — just a tiny square within the entire complex that seems ideal for late afternoon coffee or tea, and a good book to read.

We had to put the rest of Jaipur “on hold” today. Diwali Festival happens tomorrow and dinner was arranged in Diggi Palace. A saree is simply too tempting to buy. Surely, we can forgive ourselves for just dining, wining and shopping today. We had a good preview of the Pink City and we can wait till tomorrow. (Let us off on this one, ok? It’s my birthday!)


This patio looking out to the courtyard hemmed in by pomegranate and jasmine trees let that exotic aroma waft in while you comfortably sit yourselves like royalty here.


The Master Photographer and his Muse. I’m lucky to have Ernie and Yola Albano in our travel group. Ernie allowed me full access and unlimited authority to use his photos. Surely, I won’t waste that chance.

Sarees, gems, carpet were the order of the day. The bazaar displayed many colors of the beautiful Indian sarees. If only I could learn how to wrap them around me.  (I did learn. Wrapped it in 5 minutes flat. Not exactly perfect, but I just realized I have the aptitude for this. )  Oh, don’t forget the doll gifts from the puppet show I got for my birthday…… and another birthday candle (and some glasses of wine) to blow just as my birthday ended. This time, India time 😄


This lovely stairway leads you to the courtyard. I can imagine myself walking , ever so slowly, in my saree of vibrant blue ( I got a pink saree too!) to enjoy some solitude in the gardens.


And this is just the BAZAAR! Look at that chandelier, ceiling and balconies. Too exotic for your taste?

Thank you, Chikie and Ernie for some of the photos on this spread. And thanks everyone for celebrating with me.


Pretty Joyce beats everyone else in her saree. So resplendent in its shining blue hue.


And here are the dolls from the puppet show. The puppeteer kept referring to them as Romeo and Julia.


All of 26 1/2 hours to celebrate birthday breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thank you my friends!

Here’s a quick one. We meant to be dropped off in Glorietta when we were pleasantly surprised with the tents being set up and food trucks parked around that tiny park fronting Glorietta and Makati Shangrila Hotel.



There were burgers, fish & chips, arroz caldo, bbq’s, ice cream, tacos, roast chicken, mac and cheese, kakanin like rice cakes, and so much more!


How exciting to find these food trucks here. As soon as my apos and I got off the car, we lost no time checking out the many stalls. So many choices. And lots of new food dishes to try. We’re waiting for Truck Bun to get ready — planning on trying the Japa-dog, whatever that is. Also Jasper’s Chicken where we can actually sit inside the van! (The Chicken Karaage with Sour cream and their “wet sauce” was good!) Then finish off with Merry Moo’s ice cream. Or you can cross the street towards Family Mart to buy their P25 green tea soft-serve ice cream in the comforts of an air-conditioned space with tidy restroom. Hmmmm. Nice Thursday afternoon.




It’s been a while since December 2011. I have longed to write about this but a few trips and blogposts got in the way.






Mini-monks. That’s what I call them. Without those robes though, they’re just kids goofing around!







And there were the young school boys. Don’t they look adorable wearing the “gho”?







We walked through some villages and met many young boys. More boys than girls, actually. This one’s a charmer. Took many shots of him as he willingly posed for the cam.







Met a few girls. Just a few….. Cuties. Now, why do little girls love wearing pink?






Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard