On our trip to London last October we visited Shoreditch, a district of East London which is known for it's street art and it's gentrification. I spent a semester in London in the 90's and have visited twice after but had never have been to this area. I loved it! The art, the gritty cool vibe and the creative air. It reminds me of the Meatpacking District and the East Village in New York. Fascinating!
Dark Sugar ...memorable chocolate indulgence
141 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB, UK
HKK ...their Saturday Duck & Champagne Brunch is extraordinary
88 Worship St, London EC2A 2BE, UK
Poppie's Fish and Chips
6-8 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR, UK
Shoreditch Street Art Tour ...3 1/2 hours walk.... excellent way to explore the area.
I am always game for an epic gastro trip and one of my joys is traveling with close friends and family to eat and try new cuisines. One of my best friends, Carmina (aka @thecrazycook_ph) visited San Diego with her family in May. She read about the burgeoning Guadalupe Valley food and wine scene in the and wanted to visit.
We invited Candice, who recommended restaurants and the seven of us drove into Mexico on a beautiful Wednesday in May.
Our first stop was at Doña Sabina Bandera's La Guerrerense in Ensanada, the street mariscos cart made famous by Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in 2012. I heard lots of great things about their tostadas and was intrigued. I bit into a sea urchin and clam tostada and my first thought was that is is not chilled (most raw food that I eat in the States is refrigerated) followed by the taste of pure fresh seafood deliciousness. The tostada was phenomenal and I can see why they were invited to be a vendor at Anthony Bourdain's Pier 57 food hall opening in New York on August 1, 2017.
I love destination weddings aka a perfect excuse for a vacation especially if the one getting married is family. When my cousin announced that he was getting married in Costa Rica, we excitedly booked our flight and made made plans to share a condo rental with other cousins. I did not know much about Costa Rica except that it was a popular surf and nature destination and I heard that many Americans were buying property and retiring there.
Last May, we flew from San Diego to Liberia and stayed in Tamarindo which is in the Northern Pacific coast in the province of Guanacaste. My cousin booked a 2 bedroom apartment at the Diria condominiums which is across the street from the Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort. On our first night, we met with other wedding guests and walked around town. My first thought was that it reminded me of how San Diego must have been in the 60's and 70's. A laid back, casual, unpretentious family friendly beach town. I was charmed.
This is one of my favorite travel photos. My cousin Frannie and me (Peter was also with us) visited Halong Bay in 2015. The bay was stunning but our boat ride was pretty horrible. We spent days walking around Saigon and Hanoi and were looking forward to a relaxing Halong Bay "cruise". I envisioned having cocktails at sunset and dining on fresh Vietnamese seafood dishes in an elegant junk boat with majestic sails. We paid for a "deluxe" cruise and were told that there would be 10 passengers. There were more than double the people on board, our room and bathroom were dilapidated and dirty and the blankets and towels had stains. The food was extraordinary terrible....moldy bread, instant ramen noodles and a puny fish divided by 6 people that was so small that by the time it got to Frannie and Peter all that was left was the head. Entertainment was beer pong with muddy looking beer served from a pail. It was an overnight "cruise" and early the next day, a man banged on our door and window, woke us up and commanded that we stay on deck till the end of the trip.
We were hungry, tired and felt duped.
Thankful for travel partners who, when all is horrible, can just take a selfie, laugh, and enjoy the ride.
I used to feel uncomfortable about taking photos of First Class or Business Class travel, even though I use points, because I felt it was flaunty. ( I had to get over that since my blog focuses on travel.) I have now decided that excellent flights with exceptional service and interesting lounge design should be recognized and included in my blog in the same way an innovative restaurant or beautiful architecture should be.
I flew from Manila to San Diego with a 5 hour layover in Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific (thank you American Airlines points) The journey was one of the highlights of my holiday trip. Here are some photos....
My first stop was the Cathay Pacific lounge in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila which was opened in May 2015 and meant to look like a domestic space. I felt like I was in a Danish Modern, Mad Men style living room and I love the wood walls (I am not sure what type of wood) which looks like teak. I was surprised and how nice the lounge is.
If you visit Saigon and love crab, eat at 94 Quan Thuy, a no frills restaurant frequented by locals that serves delicious fresh crab dishes. The restaurant is small and clean, the food is served quickly and prices are very reasonable.
We stayed at the budget friendly Hanoi Pearl Hotel which included a good buffet breakfast which I enjoyed since Vietnamese ice coffee was included. The rooms were clean and comfortable and the location was excellent for exploring and shopping.
My "feels like a spy film moment" was when we went for a walk on an empty street and out of nowhere, a police car suddenly drove in and policemen barged into a bar in what looked like a raid. For a moment I thought that there was a curfew that our hotel did not tell us about. The policement saw us and for a frightening moment I thought that we would be arrested.
Peter's mom, who is from Hanoi, is one of the most gifted cooks. Peter and I have been together for over 15 years and one of her dishes that I absolutely love is her cha ca (the classic Hanoi sautéed fish with turmeric, dill and galangal served with vermicelli noodles) which she cooks on special occasions. I have always wanted to visit Hanoi and finally got the chance last March. We visited an old friend Sacha, who moved there to teach at an International School and spent four days touring and tasting different dishes.
A list of our best eats in Hanoi.
Peter, my cousin Frannie and I visited Saigon in March. For Peter, visiting Vietnam is a glimpse into his heritage since his father is from Saigon and his mom is from Hanoi. They fled the country in the 70's and settled in San Diego.
We were in Saigon 9 years ago and we could see the drastic changes. New modern buildings, fancier restaurants, more shops and international food chains (I was shocked to see Marukame Udon here since I had eaten in the Honolulu location a week earlier) and many more cars. Plus I heard that the first underground Metro Station will be built in front of the Opera House.
The city is clearly alive, full of color, vibrancy and buzzing energy...a growing metropolis full of ambitious people driven to succeed. If Saigon was the Paris of the East...Ho Chi Minh City looks like it is transforming into Asia's New York City.
Innsbruck brings back bittersweet memories. Back in the 80's, I went to a boarding school run by nuns. The school was excellent, my classmates were very nice, the nuns were kind but I was an extremely homesick 15 year old, struggling to learn German and just wanted to go back to the Philippines. I did not finish the school year and went back home. Fast forward many years (I cannot believe how fast time flies), I have been back twice and now appreciate the charming alpine city.