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Showing posts from November, 2011

time to go back to [my] real world

After two weeks with my parents, brother, aunts and uncles, and cousins, it was time once again to fly out and go home. The past few days were like a dream. While approaching the queue for the security check at the San Francisco International Airport, I just had to look back at some of the highlights:
I went into discount shopping boot camp.We mulled over the mysteries of defying gravity.We became Cirque du Soleil fans.We walked on the edge at the Grand Canyon west.Daddy's car went off-road for the first time, ever.I went around the world through food.

In some ways, going home was like waking up... or driving through fog.

When the fog cleared, I was back in tropical Manila, jetlagged but raring to go back to work, back to driving through heavy and chaotic traffic, and to heat and humidity.

my first Thanksgiving ever

I kept wondering why there were lots of displays of vegetables and fruit at the Bellagio's Conservatory at this time of year when we toured the Las Vegas Strip. The pieces of the puzzle fell only when Thanksgiving Day arrived: this holiday is the USA's version of a harvest festival! 
This was my first Thanksgiving celebration. And I celebrated it with relatives (plus a whole lot of people who I've met for the first time -- they're mainly my cousin's girlfriend's family) in Sacramento. So basically, what I witnessed was the Fil-Am version of the holiday.
As with any feast, there was an abundance of food and of beverages, just as I always see on tv shows. But instead of having a sit-down dinner, we celebrated it less formally: with the food presented buffet-style over lunch and with everyone eating where there's a spot to sit on... very much like the way parties with lots of people are done in my family back home. On tv, the turkey was the star of the feast;…

Lion King, the Musical

The Lion King is one my favorite cartoons of all time. So when I saw that the musical version was being presented in Las Vegas by Disney Theatrical at Mandalay Bay, I just had to convince either (or both) of my parents and my brother to watch it with me... the other option, which was also good, was Cirque du Soleil's The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage. The Lion King eventually won because my mom opted to go shopping that afternoon and LOVE did not have a performance before my brother's flight back to San Francisco.
One thing I noticed about The Lion King musical: it was a crowd-drawer. Families came in droves to watch it! No surprise there. The puppetry and the costumes were great; the stage decorations and the lighting did not draw attention away from the characters; and the actors -- particularly those behind Timon, Rafiki, Simba (the cub and the lion), Scar, and Zazu -- were superb. Then there were the songs; aside from Timon and Pumbaa's "Hakuna Matata" and "…

Midnight snack: Mitchell's ice cream

I love watching travel shows on tv, "The Lonely Planet". A few years ago, I was watching a feature on San Francisco (with Justine Shapiro, if I remember it correctly) and an ice cream shop was featured in that episode. I eventually forgot the name, of course, but what struck me was that this particular shop served ice cream where some of the flavors are of Philippine fruits.
While planning my California vacation this year, my mom supplied the name: Mitchell's Ice Cream. Yes, that's the one! I was curious because it's also in the to-do list for San Francisco tourists and residents alike.  It must be so good. Luckily, on this third visit, I was able to drop by the quiet corner of 29th Street and San Jose Avenue on that cold evening after I ate at Asmara with Biboy and his friends.
Even at the late hour we arrived, people were still lined up and others still were on their way! I was becoming more convinced that the ice cream must really be yummy: people on midnight…

dinner at the Asmara Restaurant

I've tried African food at Le Kilimanjaro in Newtown, NSW as a student at the University of Sydney a few years back. But I could not remember if the items in the menu were identified based on the regional divisions of such a big continent. And so when Biboy told me that we were eating Ethiopian food, I did not know what I was in for. I just guessed that coconuts would somehow be involved.
Diego and Lisa, Biboy's friends, went with us. The first restaurant was closed when we stopped by so we drove on to Asmara Restaurant in Oakland, CA. The first thing I noticed was its Central Asian feel (or at least what I think is a Central Asian feel): dim yellow lights, dark wood tables and chairs, and the strong smell of spices. The vivid colors of the paintings, however, reminded me that we're supposed to be in Africa... to be in Ethiopia and Eritrea, in fact.

The food was as colorful as the paintings. We got an appetizing platter of a number of items covering the different food gro…

at the Grand Canyon West

road trip to the Grand Canyon West, a set on Flickr. The Hualapai Indians have ring side seats to some of the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon! I'm happy that they are sharing these to tourists.

One of the highlights of my 2011 visit to the US... definitely.

Cirque du Soleil's "KA"

A theater experience that defies the laws of gravity. That description got me curious about the show we were flying all the way to Las Vegas for. And so a few days after we saw Totem, I was in queue to watch my second Cirque du Soleil show this week: KA.
It's my first time in Vegas. Although I've seen the city several times on tv and in movies, it was still a different experience to be actually in it. For instance, the venue of KA, the MGM Grand, lives up to its name. The building is huge! Nothing about it is small: the golden lion statue, David Copperfield's intent stare, and Twin Brother's sideways glance are all larger than life. 

At its core, KA's story is about siblings who got separated and lost their home. Thrown into the "real world", they learned about life and love, ultimately fighting for the home that was stolen from them.
A usual story about going against all odds and succeeding, alright. However, Cirque du Soleil transformed such a stereoty…

Cirque du Soleil's "Totem"

TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations. Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. Somewhere between science and legend, TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.                                                      --TOTEM website 
I've heard of Cirque du Soleil before but this was the first time that I was actually going to watch its show... and under a circus tent too! TOTEM was a good choice for our first Cirque du Soleil experience, I think, since it's about Man's evolution. And so I trooped to the AT&T Park in San Francisco with my parents and my brother. I just wish that our sister, Anna, was here with us as well. We're sure she&#…

mystified by The Mystery Spot

November 13, 2011.

Hidden away in the forests of Santa Cruz, CA is a location frequented by tourists willing to be baffled for 45 minutes. This area is aptly called Mystery Spot and was one of the first destinations I had on my list of things to see during my vacation. It's literally off the beaten path (and is reached by taking a relatively rough road) but it's worth a visit for people who are interested in the quirky and the strange.
As we entered the park, we were welcomed by a gentle giant, the tourist spot's very own Mastiff. After a short wait, we began the walk around the mysterious spot, trying to decipher how we could possibly lose as quickly what we have gained. The path going up the slope was steeper than one would expect and only a few people could claim that they haven't taken an extra effort to climb it. Once up the path, visitors are given a treat: a tilted house where people could stand at an extreme angle and not fall off, jump off tables and land wh…

"Shopping is a sport"

And I quote Ate Grace for that.
If the guys were all about watching Manny Pacquiao's boxing match, we girls travelled for about two hours south to Gilroy CA to go shopping at the Gilroy Premium Outlets.
I was in the presence of some of the best bargain shoppers I know: my Mom, Tita Babie, and Ate Grace.
It's been almost a decade since I last bought really good clothes. At that time, my Mom had said that it's better to pick quality pieces that just need to be mixed and matched. Since then, work and grad school got in the way of shopping and I never had to worry about my clothes because they're mainly durable. Recently, though, I had to let go of many good pieces because the colours have already faded or the fabrics have already become tattered (particularly the pants).
This shopping day was very productive because I bought many pieces and didn't go over half my budget. Every store we got into had clearance racks (I couldn't deal with so many clothes crowding th…

Vietnamese-fusion at Saba Cafe

Redwood City.

It was about a two-hour scenic drive from my family's house. The fiery colours of the trees along the way made for a sharp contrast to the overcast skies but did nothing to warm me up on this cold and rainy day. After the long drive, and a few minutes searching on the internet, Biboy found the perfect spot for our family's lunch: Saba Cafe (
According to reviews, Saba Cafe is classified as "Vietnamese-fusion". I have no idea what "fusion cuisine" actually means but I have tried Northern Vietnamese cuisine in Hanoi last year and loved the pho ga. Perhaps, by "fusion", Saba Cafe mixed elements of American cooking into Vietnamese food. Since I am no culinary expert, I decided to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the food regardless of the regional influence.
That turned out to be a great idea because I was STARVING.
Everyone enjoyed our starter: the kaffir lime chicken salad. The kaffir lime in the dressing c…

Family bonding in Jollibee

I flew halfway across the globe to breakfast at...JOLLIBEE!

Yes, my first breakfast in the Bay Area was, unbelievably, at one of the most recognizable restaurant brands of the Philippines. That, after stocking up on cheese-flavoured french fries and cheeseburgers in the Philippines just a few days before I flew in fear of missing the local fastfood.
I ended up in Jollibee because while my brother and my dad were thinking of places to eat at such an early hour (we had dropped my mom off at her office), the name Jollibee cropped up. I didn't believe that there's now a branch near my parents' house because the closest one, three years ago, was a few hours away. I even entered an argument with my brother who knew the place better. So just to prove their point, they brought me to Seafood City in Concord, CA.
Lo and behold! It was as if I never left the Philippines... as if I never left my hometown! Seafood City had some of the other famous Pinoy food brands too: Chowking, Red …

Train: Save Me, San Francisco (Golden Gate Edition)

Not thinking too much about what I was doing, I bought a CD of Train's "Save Me, San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge Edition)" on the same day I bought Maroon 5's latest CD. I was so happy that I found one because it's been a challenge to find a Train CD where I shop; it's been five years since I started looking for the band's CD which has "Drops of Jupiter" (one of my favorite songs -- it was one of only five songs in my playlist when I was adjusting to grad school life -- thanks to a fellow student at that time, Ali).
Fast forward to 2011: "Save Me, San Francisco" has been test driven. The songs were relaxing... perfect for an easy drive on a relatively empty freeway. "Hey, Soul Sister" is as upbeat as the Glee version while the country vibe of "Save Me, San Francisco" makes me stomp my feet in time as I drive. Train's rendition of "Umbrella" is also good -- I like it better than the original, actual…