Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Because my flight was in the evening, I still had a full day in Auckland and I made sure I put it to good use. I made a mental note the day before to go to Devonport, which was a 15-minute a boat ride, according to guidebooks, but I wasn’t sure if the weather would let me.

A blazing sun and blue skies greeted me so I went to the Fullers office at the ferry terminal to buy a ticket.  

(Above) Devonport from the boat

I wanted to ride the buggy with cute horses

Devonport has all the requisite clapboard homes and flower-paved roads that define charm.

I looked around the stores first before settling at the Stone Oven Bakery and Cafe for lunch.

I took my time, reading a local newspaper and magazine while enjoying the food and coffee.

To burn off some of the calories that have piled up during this trip, I hiked to the highest peak of Devonport, which offered a sweeping view of Auckland. As I walked up, I looked back and saw the view above. Lovely.

From the top

A playful touch

Going down, I took another road and saw beautiful and bountiful blooms.

Next time, I’d really like to spend a night at a bed and breakfast here. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Down Under With Gusto (Part IX)

Although I am a big Lord of The Rings fan, I had misgivings about joining The Hobbiton tour. I wasn’t sure how much of the set was kept and the tour wasn’t exactly cheap. But I also knew that I’d regret not going, so, waiting until the last minute, I booked with Red Carpet Tours. Cheaper rates can be had if you arrange your own transportation to Matamata where most tours depart but, seeing that the weather was erratic, I opted for an all-inclusive tour with lunch and hotel pickup.

In the two hours that it took us to get to the sheep farm where the movie set was located, I was so taken by the beauty of New Zealand. No matter which side you looked, there was always a view to be admired. The grandeur reached its height at our destination, with its undulating terrain carpeted in a dense green and dotted with hundreds of fluffy white sheep.

We got off our van and boarded a bus, which took us to “The Shire.” During the ride, it was all oohs and aahs. When we finally arrived at the set, the child in us simply took over.



I felt for a moment that there was nothing better in the world than living in a hobbit-hole facing a vegetable patch.


I was so into it that I even went inside one house and had my photo taken while looking out the window.


The biggest was Bilbo Baggins’s house, which had a sweeping view of The Shire and the sweep of green beyond it.


By the time we got to the Party Tree, it started to rain. Hard. We had seen all the houses by then so we rushed to the Green Dragon pub for a refreshing ginger ale.



Ahh! I was as happy as a hobbit can be.

I got back at my hotel at around 4 p.m. I wanted to explore and have dinner at Parnell, which was described during our bus tour as a charming, high-end neighborhood.

All city buses and trains depart from Britomart, which was a short walk from the hotel. Aside from being a transport hub, Britomart turned out to be a happening place clustered with charming shops and restaurants. I considered having dinner there instead but decided to stick to the original plan and took the bus to Parnell.


It was a chilly weeknight and Parnell was quiet. I had no idea where to eat so I chose the busiest place, La Porchetta, where I had my fill of spaghetti and pizza.

P. S. Before heading out that morning, I grabbed a latte and a bran ginger muffin at Sofitel’s 21 Viaduct Cafe. The muffin was sooo good. It was beautifully moist and flavorful. It was genius.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Had a lovely calligraphy and lettering crafternoon with @jmbulauitan at @alessandralanot’s workshop, followed by dinner and Sonja cupcakes with Tito Judd. #theartoflivingwell #blessed

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chance Encounters

*Originally published in GMANews Online

As superb as foie gras may be, it doesn’t fill me up quite like my Lola Illang’s estofado and Mama Ning’s dulce de leche. It doesn’t even come close to a hearty bowl of tomato basil soup. Some foods are only for flirting, while others, you just know, are for keeps.

Childhood favorites, for sure, occupy a revered place in the food altar, laced as they are with rich memories of Sunday lunches and family get-togethers. But there’s also a kind of romance in the ones that come to our lives belatedly, often by chance, and never leave.

Coup de Foie Gras

*Originally Published in GMANews Online

Pardon my French but I hated foie gras at first bite. That first forkful was akin to biting a slab of lard. The aftertaste, though subtle, was undeniably foul. It was a potent first impression, and one piercing to the ego. I realized that, despite being a foodie, my taste was decidedly pedestrian. But there were always enough good things to eat that I never had to try foie gras again. Until that day.


*Originally published in GMANews Online

Time was when I thought that all bacon were created equal. I arrived at the conclusion when I realized that I’ve never tasted bacon I didn’t like. To be sure, there were differences in flavor, both obvious and nuanced, but all invariably gave me the rush of endorphins that I needed to feel filled and fulfilled.

That night opened my mind to the hierarchy of bacon.


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