santacon the bane of the christmas season

By now I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out one thing I love more than food—travelling! And because I’ve been itching for another adventure, I decided that this time around, I’ll travel overseas! I’ll talk about the Christmas trip last year.

Truth be told, there is so much more to travelling than just deciding to leave. I had to consider where I’m going, why I’m going there, what can I do there, what clothes do I need to pack and even when would be the best time for me to go.  I’ve been having that dilemma for eight (8) excruciating days until I finally made up my mind to go to the land down under: Australia.


Now, why Australia?


Although it’s quite far from America, I’ve read so many good things about Australia. It’s basically a haven for anyone who seeks for white-sand beaches, unique wildlife, and beautiful scenery. In different parts of this continent, you can also enjoy skiing, surfing, camping and doing other recreational activities. So yeah, I thought to myself, why not.


Among the different places I can’t wait to visit someday, I decided to go to Brisbane, Australia, a “modern, vibrant city with a sunny, sub-tropical climate and unsurpassed natural beauty.” In spite of the 17-hour flight from San Francisco to Brisbane with one stop (and my undeniably disoriented state), I was definitely looking forward to what Brisbane has in store for me.


The moment I stepped out the plane, my senses instantly knew that I wasn’t in America anymore. The air was distinct and the sun was shining differently in this side of the world. Somehow, Brisbane was a refreshing mix of rural and urban areas.


Moreover, I was incredibly pleased to be staying at one of the hotels along Brisbane River. My room was really modern and clean with a big window overlooking the hotel’s pool. It was also luckily close to the riverside! I was really grateful to have a good spot to jog in every morning.


During my four-day stay, I was really surprised to have tried so many things I never thought I’d get the chance to try in Brisbane! I was able to climb Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge, dine at the famous Esquire restaurant, kayak on Brisbane River, walk around South Bank, and enjoy a day at North Stradbroke Island among many others! Although I came home broke, the trip was totally worth every penny.

view from the brisbane beach

Another thing I looked forward to everyday was spending an hour or two by the pool. The hotel had a very cozy pool area which was great for sunbathing or just chilling out. I used to spend my free time there until some equipment broke down and the hotel had to declare the pool area as off limits. Quite the bummer, really.


When I asked the staff what was wrong, he said something about clogging and the pool filter breaking down. I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant though. But what I did understand was that they have already contacted Aussie Pool Expert, a company that does pool renovations in Brisbane, to fix the problem.


And because I had nowhere else to spend my morning, I decided to take a stroll on Brisbane’s Riverwalk and eat out at Cafe 63 Restaurant. Amazingly, other than the very warm and cozy ambiance of the cafe, they also serve great coffee and a fantastic brunch! The restaurant was such a great find that I didn’t mind killing some time sipping my americano and looking out on the busy streets of Australia. Moreover, all their staff was very friendly and enthusiastic.


I honestly thought I had to wait until the next day before I can lounge by the pool again. Fortunately, people at Aussie Pool Expert work fast. They were able to install a new pool filter and clean up the pool in just a few hours. When night came, the problem was fixed and I was able to enjoy a glass of wine by the pool.


My day may have started with the sad news of the unavailability of the pool area, but I can’t deny that I still had quite a great day.


On my last day at Brisbane, after exploring the man-made beach in the heart of the city, I opted to take a dip by the pool and enjoy the Brisbane night sky. Being the water-lover that I am, dipping in the pool at night has always been my ultimate idea of relaxation. To top it off, it was a very calm evening—perfect for reminiscing how my days have been on my first travel to Australia.


By the time I was ready to retire, it was almost midnight. I regretfully packed my belongings and the souvenirs I bought during my short stay in this enchanting city. I lied in bed looking out the window, thinking how Australia is more laid-back than my own hometown. And that’s totally a compliment.


As I boarded my plane the following morning, I remember how I enjoyed my unique experience in Brisbane. Having the chance to try so many outdoor activities as well as simply strolling down the streets of Brisbane and around South Bank, made my whole trip surprisingly pleasant. As I bid goodbye to the land down under, I also made a silent promise to come back to Australia next year and probably visit Melbourne next! I heard they have historical places there! It’s definitely something I look forward to in 2017!

Vegas trip

In my recent escapade, I had the wildest idea of going to Las Vegas by myself! I know it’s not exactly the ideal way to enjoy Las Vegas considering that it’s the Sin City, but after doing some recon, it’s not actually that bad. As long as you are cautious of your surroundings and act responsibly for your own sake, it’s all good. Take it from me.


After days of enjoying nature and the great outdoors, I thought a change of scenery would be a good idea to balance my current state. And that’s how I found myself in Las Vegas.


Fast forward to my actual experience, the moment I set foot in Las Vegas, I immediately understood why people flock there to be entertained. The city is literally pulsing with energy! Clubs, casinos and hotels are undeniably abundant—most especially along the Strip. You can see people looking sharp ready to gamble everything they got and others who look shabby after pulling an all-nighter.


For three days, I stayed at Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino. It’s basically a Roman-themed casino hotel found on the west side of the Strip.


When I got to the hotel, I was shocked to see so many people lining up to check in! Good thing I made reservations days ago (not to mention at a great deal too!) so I didn’t have to worry about not getting a room. When it was my turn to check in, I was delighted to find out that my room was in Octavius Tower!


The room I got was pretty massive and impressive. I loved how it’s situated high up which gave me the most beautiful view of the swimming pool as well as Las Vegas itself. The room was also well-kept and had a homey feel to it.


Caesars Palace also had terrific service. Their employees were very warm and accommodating. I didn’t have any trouble asking assistance or directions. You can also find restaurants around the area that serve great food. Moreover, Caesars Palace probably has the best forum shops in town!


But beyond the great accommodation, the shops, and of course, the food, what I was really looking forward to during my stay in Las Vegas was the nightlife.


When nightfall came, I was all dolled up for the party scene at Venus Pool, a “secluded pool with drinks and music.” Luckily, I was able to schedule my visit just before they close the area for the season.


Venus Pool at night was not much different from what it was during the day. It’s a massive pool area that has a very nice vibe for relaxing and chilling out. I would also like to note how its ambiance was relatively calmer compared to other “pool parties” in Las Vegas.


While I was just lounging by the poolside and nodding to the beat of the music, I was fortunate enough to meet Vanessa, a fellow San Franciscan who was in town with her family for a vacation! I mean, what were the chances!


As a gypsy soul who loves to travel alone, I always look forward to meeting other people on my trips. So when I actually met Vanessa by the pool that night, I can’t help but find it fascinating. I was very glad to meet someone from my hometown in spite of the sea of people in Venus that night!


Vanessa and I decided to retire to bed after a few drinks and gazillion stories. She invited me to join her family the next day which I was totally grateful for.


By the time my three days were up, Vanessa and her family basically adopted me. I couldn’t thank them enough for letting me tag along as they went to the different tourist spots in Las Vegas and tried the different food the city could offer. Vanessa even gladly accompanied me again as I lounge by the pool area—one of my favorite places in Caesars Palace—on my last night in Vegas.


To sum everything up, Las Vegas was a pretty good experience. I wish I could really delve on the details of my trip but that would literally take me days to finish writing. So for now, I hope this will do. Rest assured, you’ll hear more about Las Vegas in the future because I am definitely going back there! Maybe I’ll even invite Vanessa to come with me next time!


Note: Just a tip, if you’re from San Francisco and you also plan want to visit Las Vegas, I suggest you take the plane going there. An hour and a half plane ride would certainly be less stressful compared to an 8 and a half hour drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

Best of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since USA Today dubbed it as “America’s Best Lake” in 2012. Although it’s nearer compared to the 7-hour drive from San Francisco to Laguna Beach, California, I have only ever heard of people gushing about how they had an awesome experience in Lake Tahoe.  It’s really unfortunate that I haven’t been there when it’s just 3 to 4 hours away! So with the tiniest hint of hesitation, I decided to pack my things and see what the “largest alpine lake in North America” has in store for a gypsy soul like me!


For my trip to Lake Tahoe, I made reservations at Lakeland Village, a beach and mountain resort that has over “19 acres of scenic, mountainside woodlands,” or so they claim. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect. For starters, I’ve never been to this side of my state and secondly, I’m not sure if I’m actually entering a beach haven or a forest oasis. Good thing I have a knack for making good decisions in spite of my ignorance because Lakeland Village was gorgeous!

picture of lake tahoe

Lakeland Village is actually not exactly a hotel. Other than the suites and the studio type rooms you can rent, they also have townhomes in the area which you can get for you and your family in case you come in numbers. Moreover, in contrast to luxury hotels that can be found at Nevada’s side of the lake, Lakeland Village has a more cozy and homey air to it. I love how the room I got (which is a deluxe studio) is clean and well-kept. It even had a fireplace of its own and a balcony that faces the beach!


The view was everything I could imagine and more. The calm waters and the scenic mountainside definitely set the mood for my relaxing getaway.


Another plus for this wonderful place is their friendly staff. They were very warm and welcoming from the day I set foot in the resort to the day I bid goodbye. As a lone guest, I actually had a great time just walking around the area and conversing with everyone I meet. Also having a free wifi in my own room wasn’t so bad. I still get my alone time while being able to connect with my family and friends who I will definitely be bringing here someday.


Although the bathroom is quite a bit small for my liking, I didn’t mind it so much because I was having a great time outdoors. The resort has a lot of activities you can enjoy during this time of the year when the sun is up and shining. I tried windsurfing, sailing, hiking, and mountain biking!


Not to mention, during winter, thousands of people come to Lake Tahoe to enjoy the ice, and go skiing and snowboarding! It was even ranked as the No. 1 ski destination by Rand McNally and Orbitz, and the No. 1 travel destination by TripAdvisor.


Overall, it was just a great relaxing experience that gave me inner peace and the opportunity to enjoy my own company—something I’ve learned to appreciate during my stay in Lakeland Village.


Lake Tahoe definitely lived up to my expectations. I mean, it’s too beautiful for words. You need to experience it yourself to understand what I’m talking about.


With the wonderful memories I’ll be bringing home, I can say with utmost certainty that I’m definitely coming back to Lake Tahoe on winter!

Coming back home

As a homegrown San Franciscan, I have always been proud of my own city and felt at home in every corner I round into in San Francisco. I have been in the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the historic Union Square, the Exploratorium, the Fisherman’s Wharf—you name it! But in spite of the many things one can see in my beautiful hometown, what I always love to come back to in San Francisco is the food!


And because I have gone on one too many out-of-town trips recently (which you will be able to read on in the next few days), I have decided to catch up with Kim and two of my close friends in high school, Nat and Bree, in the “crown jewel of the largest urban national park in the United States,” Cliff House!


(Oh yeah, by the way, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, food brings us together. It’s our common denominator and probably the only thing we love more than a great pair of shoes.)


They say you don’t come to Cliff House because you’re a “Foodie.” You come here for the fantastic view of the ocean as its waves fondly crash with the rocks. But my friends and I beg to differ. Although we do appreciate the picturesque view, we totally came for the food—most especially for the popovers!


When we arrived at Cliff House, we were so lucky to chance on an empty table by a window overlooking the vast ocean. The sky was clear and the day was just perfect for a mini reunion. So to waste no time, after we sat down and admired the view, we called our server and ordered for popovers, clam chowders, and some frutti de mare.


Truth is, it’s not our first time in Cliff House. We knew beforehand that the popovers and the clam chowders were to die for. But we are just amazed at how even after all these years, they undeniably serve the best popovers and clam chowders in San Francisco!


The popovers were flaky, airy and hands down delicious! They were exactly just how I remembered it when I first fell in love with the place. Moreover, the clam chowder was perfectly balance in flavor. It was rich and creamy with the right amount of clams.


My friends and I also enjoyed our frutti de mare (basically seafood pasta) which was surprisingly flavorful.


Although the food was absolutely commendable, what made the whole experience memorable was the time I spent with my friends. We were able to catch up with each other and bond over good food—something I’ll hold dear in my heart.


Cliff House is truly a wonderful place to build lasting memories in. My friends and I don’t get to spend much time often which is why I’m really grateful for the wonderful meal by the window. For sure, one day, Kim, Nat, Bree and I, will meet each other again in the exact same spot where we dined days ago and reminisce about how we had a great time at Cliff House.


Thank heavens for good food, majestic views and great friends!

Summer time beach fun

Hello, summer!


Finally, it’s that time of the year again when we can bask under the heat of the sun and get tan lines! I have been gushing about a beach resort in Los Angeles for months before my childhood best friend, Kim, finally caved in and agreed to come with me.


Coming from San Francisco, I have had my fair share of beaches but it still excites me to visit other places and experience how the shore feels like at their side of the world. Although we all share the same massive body of water, you’ll be amazed to know that every beach actually has their own character.

california beach

For our out-of-town trip, Kim and I went to Montage Laguna Beach. It’s almost a 7-hour drive from San Francisco since the beach resort is in South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA. The drive was totally worth it, though.


Kim and I arrived at the resort just a little after noon and we were really delighted to be greeted by a very polite valet. In that instance, we’ve decided that we already love the place! And since we’ve made reservations before coming, it’s noteworthy that we were accommodated instantly.


When we got to our room, we can’t help but gape at what welcomed us. Our room was directly facing the beach! The view definitely took our breath away. We can even hear the waves crashing on the shore!


The room itself was very cozy with its own mini living room and a terrace facing the shoreline. It also has a full marble bathroom with a deep soak tub.


Kim and I immediately settled in because we were hoping to dip our feet at the beach before sun down. So after a quick shower, we then walked around the resort’s grounds and along the shoreline. The weather was perfect and the summer breeze felt really good on the skin. After quite a long drive, just being able to walk around and enjoy the company of my best friend is definitely how I would love to spend the rest of my summer.


When it started to get dark, Kim and I decided to eat at their restaurant which had a wonderful view of the beach and the pool. Although their food is a bit pricey, the heavenly taste of their dishes totally made up for it. Roasted meat paired with red wine was definitely the best way to cap our night.


After a very long (and interesting) talk with Kim, we decided that it was time to retire and return to our room for a good night’s sleep.


The next day, after the sun woke us up and the beach greeted us with much tranquillity, we decided that it was a great day to have a massage. So after we had our breakfast in our room, we went to the spa and went for the Laguna Beach Body Bliss.


Laguna Beach Body Bliss massage is, as found on their website, a “light to medium pressure massage using primarily Swedish techniques [that] will provide you with deep relaxation, increased circulation and flexibility.” The area was also filled with soft meditative aromas to help the body relax. It was definitely one of the most relaxing 60 minutes of my life. Probably for Kim as well!


After the spa, we decided to just enjoy the abundant body of waters at our disposal. From the pool, we transferred to the beach, bathe under the sun, back to the pool and back to sunbathing. Of course, we had lunch somewhere in that routine.


By nighttime, we were back at the shore—just lying down and staring at the sky. We had such an amazing stay at Montage Laguna Beach and we’re really glad to have made that long drive.


The next day, Kim and I began to pack our bags and got ready to leave. Although our short vacation was quite expensive, the whole experience was worth every penny. The beach, the view, the food, and the staff were great; it’s almost heartbreaking to leave!  But all things must come to an end.


So as Kim and I bid our farewell to this oasis, we made a silent promise to come back to this place again sometime soon. Hopefully.

New York Night out

I love to travel. There’s just something about being in an unfamiliar place that’s very freeing. And in every trip, one of the things I am most excited about is discovering restaurants and cafés that speak so much about the different cultures of the world!


In my recent wanderlust in New York, I’ve been looking forward to Peasant, a rustic restaurant that can be found in Nolita, a neighborhood in Manhattan that has been derived from “North of Little Italy.” I was dying to find a cozy restaurant that is true to its roots and serves amazing authentic dishes—and this is where Time Out and Yelp led me.

rustic restaurant

I opted to go to Peasant on Thursday at 6pm, which I thought would be the best time to visit the place. But lo and behold, it’s already packed with people! I had to wait in line before they could accommodate a lone guest like me. Fortunately, it didn’t take long before the waiter came to escort me to my table.


The interior was true to its description. It was indeed rustic with an urban chic vibe. Wooden tables and metallic chairs are also in place on the cemented floor. Their kitchen is even visible to the guests! You can see how the food is cooked over open fire and brick ovens. Very Italian.


While I was deciding which dish to order, they served bread and fresh ricotta which motivated me to order sooner. So in a split second, I decided to try their bocconcini and gamey lamb with smooth polenta which are highly recommended by those who have tried eating at Peasant.


After a few minutes of nibbling on my bread, my waiter finally laid the bocconcini on my table. And let me tell you, their food is to die for!


The bocconcini, which is basically mozzarella cheese in a size of an egg, was wrapped in prosciutto and baked. It tastes as good as it smells! I am a self-confessed turophile and I swear, these molten balls of cheese made half of my night—the other half went to the gamey lamb with smooth polenta.


The lamb was incredibly cooked to perfection with no hint of any unpleasant aftertaste which you usually get from lamb meat. The lamb was really tender and the texture of the polenta complements it very nicely. It’s quite heavy on the stomach but definitely worth it.


They also have a wide selection of wines from the wine bar located just below the restaurant itself! You can order from your table or check out their bar below which is a “very rustic room with old barn wood, French laundry tables and hand hewn benches.”


Overall, my dinner at Peasant was a very pleasant experience! The place, the food, and the service were all commendable. Not to mention, they’re one of those authentic Italian restaurants that serves farm-to-table food. You can just imagine how good and fresh the food really is at Peasant. It was definitely worth the trip!


They say seafood at Peasant is also a must-try! Maybe on my next visit, I’ll devour those next! 😉