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Showing posts from June, 2015

Bale Dutung

The "decathlon" of dining experiences.

That's how I'd describe Claude Tayag's menu at Bale Dutung, the restaurant my clique of museum hoppers chose as our splurge destination this year for our June 19th culture and food field trip. Yes, I drove all the way to Angeles City, Pampanga to eat at Chef Claude's well-known restaurant. It's also, I think, the epitome of Kapampangan cuisine. 
This trip was two years in the making. Man, JP, and I stumbled upon Bale Dutung when we went to the 2013 Philippine International Hot-Air Balloon Festival in Clark Field, Pampanga. Our wallets were not prepared for such decadence so we ate somewhere else. Since then, Bale Dutung was in my and in Man's restaurant bucket list. It finally became a reality this year. And it certainly was worth the wait.

We were welcomed into the very airy abode of the Tayags, with a bigger group composed of Xavier School alumni. This was their daddies'-day-out, complete with a road trip,…

Top 15 survival tips from San Andreas (2015)

With one end of the West Valley fault lying so close to where I live, I thought that this disaster movie was an appropriate movie to watch one lazy weekend afternoon. It's all about a rescue helicopter pilot who successfully saved his wife and daughter in California after the strongest and most devastating fictional earthquake in history ravaged the length of San Andreas fault. Of course, the worst damage just had to be in San Francisco, which was levelled during the 1906 earthquake.
In the fictional earthquake scenario presented in the movie, parts of San Francisco was burning. The low-lying areas were underwater following a gigantic tsunami that went over the height of the Golden Gate Bridge. The skyscrapers dotting the city collapsed like dominoes. The peninsula became an island as the earthquake tore off the San Francisco area from the rest of California. Armageddon situation, right?
Now, to survive an earthquake such as this, I learned from the movie that one must have the f…

Bois de Sauvabelin

I like to explore places, specially since it only happens once in one's lifetime to be in a place for the first time. So for my first ever stay on the European mainland, I thought I ought to do a bit of exploring. After visiting the lakeside Château de Chillon, I decided to veer away from water for a while and go somewhere more inland... so I caught a bus, went down at some bus stop, and hiked (well, huffed and puffed, more like it!) without any preparation... and ended up facing a lake AGAIN. Yes, I walked my way towards Lac de Sauvabelin. 
The lake was an interesting place to be despite the lack of sporty activities aside from walking. As I sat down to rest after my hike, I noticed that there were lots of waterfowl calling the lake home... I had wanted to see a black swan but I didn't see one on this trip. Then there were the endangered animals that call the park by the lake home. I didn't know that there were breeds of cows, pigs, chicken, and rabbits whose populations…

In macaron heaven

One of the most colourful confectionery I've ever seen. And they're pretty memorable for me too because I've been snacking on them whenever I encounter them when I travel.

As the Nestle Conference was drawing to a close, one of the other fellows mentioned that a must-try in Lausanne is the macaron. Okay, I just had to taste this... Particularly since this is Laduree, touted to be just the best macaron in the world.
A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on Jun 4, 2015 at 12:41pm PDT
It was really good! I thought that this was the perfect pasalubong for family and friends. And so I hoarded macarons... I bought 48 pieces of these wonderful sweets and packed them the best I could in my luggage, with the wish that they'd survive the journey home.

Well, they did survive. Just barely. The macarons were all fractured when I opened the box that ended up with my family. Oh well, it's the thought and the effort that counted.

Parlez-vous Anglais?

The clues were all there... I really had to learn how to speak French because I never know when I'll find myself in a French-speaking country. My academic supervisor at the University of Queensland speaks French.I used to housesit for two French postdoctoral fellows in Sydney when I first began to study for my PhD.I found myself in Hanoi, where a lot of people speak French.During the GRISP leadership course, I wound up with a group of African francophones whose attempt at teaching me to speak French led to me remembering tout de suite (roughly, this is French for right now, immediately, ASAP... you get the picture).Matty and Val have been switching to French when they talk with each other while I watch with a blank face. (And they jokingly told me that when they tell me something in French, I just answer Oui).I bought (on a whim) a Lonely Planet European languages phrasebook right after graduating from college and, naturally, there's a section in it about French sentences.In T…

How many languages does it take to buy cheese?

My last day in Switzerland finally arrived. But instead of relaxing in the morning before I went to the airport, I was doing what typical Filipinos do when they're out-of-town: pasalubong shopping. I had already purchased macarons and chocolate. The last item on my list was Val's special request: cheese. As per the advice of one of the shopkeepers, I proceeded to Globus, a hypermarket in Lausanne. After a quick tour around, I couldn't find the cheese. So I looked for someone who could speak in English. 
(here I go again, I know)
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a grocer who spoke English at that time. I did find, however, find a guy who carved ham for customers to taste. After tasting the ham he offered (which I don't think is jamon iberico... must be from some other breed of pig), I attempted to ask where the cheese was. And at that point, I realised that I could barely speak other languages aside from French. Here's how our conversation went (where was m…

my top five reasons to revisit Lausanne-Ouchy, Switzerland

I was lucky to have been selected as one of the young scientist attendees at the Nestlé Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Thank you to the people who made one of the items in my bucket list become a reality! 
And so (as per usual), I only prepared clothes for the conference. I didn't know anything about where I was going outside conference hours. I didn't even know that many of the people I would be interacting with, outside of the conference, did not (or refused to) converse with me in English. And little did I know that I was staying in a VERY DIFFERENT part of Lausanne compared to the conference venue. So, I read up about the place a bit while I was exploring the area. Thanks to Wikipedia, Google Maps, Compagnie Générale de Navigation, I was able to learn more about the village; and my trusty Nikon D60, my Sony Action Camera, and my iPhone, because I was able to capture the beauty of the place.
Here's what I've gathered... and I'll add more information as I …

Touring around Zürich

I just barely checked in at the Hotel du Port when I set off again. This time, I was taking the train from Lausanne Gare, in French-speaking Switzerland, to Zürich Hauptbahnhof in Swiss-German Switzerland. No time to rest (yet) because I was going to meet up with Pogs... and it was all worth it because the view throughout the train ride was picturesque. Two hours afterwards, I was disembarking on one of the largest train stations I've been to. I'm not sure if this train station is busier than the Sydney Central Railway Station... but I can't wrap the idea around my head that it is possible to ride a train here and end up in Germany, Italy, France, or Austria. I'm just too much of an small-country island-girl to get a grasp at how big mainland Europe is.  

I met Pogs at the giant clock in the train station. From there, with him as my guide for the afternoon, my Zürich adventure began!
One of the first thing I noticed was how crowded the city was! There were a LOT of pe…

An afternoon in France

When the Nestle Conference ended, we, young scientists, wanted to explore the region but we didn't know where we had to start. I suggested that we begin our adventure by crossing Lac Leman and visiting France. My friends agreed that it's something worth trying and so we ran to the ticket booth to get tickets in time for the ferry ride to the other side of the lake. The African young scientists decided that they wanted to stay in Switzerland, maybe thinking that France was too far way. So the group that visited France was composed of a South African, a Spaniard, an Indian, and a Filipina... how more international can we get right?

And NONE of us were native French speakers! This was the ultimate adventure; we were winging it in the communications aspect. It reminded me of being in South Korea and not knowing how to communicate there!
Anyway, the ferry ride was amazing! It offered views of the Alps and the calm waters of Lac Leman. The greenery of Switzerland and of France were…

Château de Chillon

I have to be honest about my Switzerland touristy goal: I wanted to see that famous cuckoo clock tower I saw years ago on the telly. However, this tower is in Germany! No wonder it's not in any of the travel guides I had read about Switzerland!

Blooper aside, there are quite a few things I wanted to experience when I got to Switzerland: see the Alps, visit a lake, eat good food... and see cultural landmarks. And so I trooped to the CGN ticket counter to discuss my touristy options with the ticket vendor before I bought a ticket to ride a ferry. The ticket lady suggested a trip to Chateau de Chillon, which I saw in a guidebook as a must-see place, so I took a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride to Veytaux despite not knowing where that is exactly. As you can see, I really didn't plan this trip very well (hello, Korea side trips!).

Turns out that this was a good decision because I saw the snowcapped Alps!! The closest approach I could get, in fact. It's summer and I was actually…