Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dining Out in Vaujany, French Alps at the La Remise

Vaujany is a small village and there are only a handful restaurants here that are open in the evening. Many wintersport holidaymakers coming here usually opt for self-catering or have their meals catered by the chalet apartment or hotel they are staying.

Now Dutchman and I are always open to any combinations of catering. We mostly self-cater though, bringing with us some winter dishes from the Netherlands, simply because we love eating them in the cold Alps. Dutch cuisine is not for the gourmet foodies but its comfort food for us especially during wintertime. I am talking about you boerenkool, zuurkool and hutspot with rookworst. Yum! But to break the monotony, we go out and eat at restaurants on some evenings.

La Remise

Our dinner spread at La Remise. Nicely plated huh?

La Remise

We have also experienced our meals being catered before. We quite liked it as well because it was convenient and hassle free. A wintersport holiday is not a summer holiday or a city trip where you hit the restaurants every night. It is super cold outside and there are evenings when you just want to spend your time indoors. The catered meal experience we had was our wintersport holiday in Valmorel several years ago. We stayed in an all-catered traditional chalet hotel in nearby Le Crey. We really liked the concept, maybe because they have meal themes every night, and they also have a lively bar.

So here at Vaujany I managed to list down a few restaurants in the village that we would like to try out. My short lists were: Restaurant La Remise, La Table de la Fare, Restaurant Le Stou and Hotel-Restaurant Les Cimes. We only managed to eat at 2 restaurants, La Remise and Le Stou. La Table de la Fare was busy and they only had a table available after 21:00, whereas we didn’t make it to Les Cimes since we still have some Dutch winter dishes available for heating up.

We however made a good choice with Restaurant La Remise. I have read good reviews about the restaurant and I can only say nice things about them as well. Some people say that the restaurant is traditional yet touristy. Well of course it is. Who else will eat here every night? Not the 300 inhabitants of this small alpine village but its tourists and visitors, right?

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Amazing Nature: Overcast and Blue Skies Altogether in Vaujany, French Alps

This is when we stand in awe of the power and beauty of mother nature.

She makes you feel insignificant and vulnerable, like a little child brought down to her knees for disobedience. But she is also generous and amazing. You become speechless when you stare at her, emboldened and renewed at her display of wonder. You just simply have to admire her in all her power and glory. Yes, that is mother nature.


 I do not always get to enjoy this kind of theatrical display of nature, so whenever I witness something like this, I always cherish these stunning and fleeting nature moments.


One morning, I woke up with heavy mist in the mountain ski resort village of Vaujany. The small alpine village in the Isere valley lay under a very thick gray overcast. Because of this I told the Dutchman that I will go for a skiing day off but will go up the mountains to check out the restaurant terraces, and perhaps have a drink and lunch there.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Vaujany, French Alps: Lunching and People Watching on the Piste at Les Airelles

I usually take a day off skiing during wintersport holiday but this does not mean I stay away from the pistes. In fact I love visiting them on foot with my normal snow boots and not with ski boots and skis!

By the way, in Europe we call slopes pistes here.

Restaurant Les Airelles
Montfrais

This is my view on the piste whilst lunching. I can see skiers and snowboarders passing through and coming down the pistes from the Les Airelles terrace. 

One of things I look forward to is being able to hop from one mountain restaurant terrace to another, both skiing and on foot. And I just love people watching from the outdoor terrace as well! Not just any kind of people watching though, but skiers and snowboarders watching. It is very entertaining.

In Vaujany, on the Montfrais terrain you will find 3 cafe restaurant terraces and all three are situated on different altitudes with approximately 500 metres distance from each other. The first restaurant you will encounter from the piste if you are coming from l'Alpette is Restaurant Les Airelles which has the biggest and perhaps the best outdoor terrace on Montfrais. The restaurant looks out to 3 pistes. Great for watching the skiers and snowboarders pass by and come down the mountain.

I passed by this restaurant the day before this scheduled lunch whilst skiing with the Dutchman and I told myself that I will have lunch here the next day.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Skiing Mugshot at Montfrais in the French Alps

My skiing mugshot yesterday on a lovely blue skies sunny day here in the French Alps.


This was taken in Montfrais 1650 ski area in Vaujany. You can get here with the Montfrais gondola from Vaujany 1250, but we actually came here skiing from l'Álpette 2050 following the blue slopes of Chalets and Les Travers. The area is not so huge.

The slope Vaujaniate from Montfrais going to La Vilette village and the halfway-through stop of the Montfrais-Vaujany gondola was not really nice. It was a bit sketchy with icy snow crumbles. I heard it became worse the day after. Some skiers were complaining that you could skate on it. Eww.

Anyway, I came back here today to have lunch at one of the restaurant terraces on this particular slope =)

Here is a quick look at the ski map: Piste Map of Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski Resort (which Vaujany is a part of).

Travel Period: January 2017
Destination: Vaujany (Isere - Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes), France

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

Monday, January 23, 2017

French Alps: Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski on a Sunday and Missing our Connection to Vaujany

Salut. Bonsoir. I am currently in the French Alps!

We are staying in one of the ski villages of Alpe d'Huez Grande Domaine Ski Resort. Our village is smaller and does not really have the best connections to the slopes around the Alpe d'Huez bowl and beyond so it was a bit tricky for us this Sunday because we started quite late. It was just before lunch time when we picked up our ski passes and hit the Alpe d'Huez main ski area.

Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski

The weather was very erratic. We had sun and blue skies, as well as wind and overcast.


Moi in action today.

This is the piste map (slopes) of Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski Resort: Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski Piste Map

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: The Iconic “Pho” Meal

Our first meal in Vietnam is naturally the iconic Phở that originated in northern Vietnam but eaten everywhere in the country, on the streets and in the restaurants.

We arrived at our hotel in the city centre just before lunch time, which was a bonus because we were able to relax, recover from the long ordeal the night before and freshen up before going out for lunch. It took us actually some time to get out of the airport because of my visa. I will post a separate entry about this soon, as well about the hotel we stayed at. (Update: The Visa Application and Visa on Arrival Situation in Vietnam)

Pho Saigon

A lovely spread of our delicious pho lunch.

Pho 2000

The restaurant is located on top of the Coffee Bean Company Cafe beside Ben Thanh market.

We found out about the restaurant courtesy of our hotel, the Avanti Hotel. Upon check-in, they gave us a few 10% discount coupons of Pho 2000. It was very timing as we were looking for a restaurant to have lunch. Well, why not? The bellboy told us that it’s just around the corner and above a coffee shop. At least my mum does not have to walk that far and we can check out the Ben Thanh market across after lunching.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cebu to Ho Chi Minh: Dodging the Storm, Wings Transit Lounge and Manila Airport (NAIA) Logistical Challenges

One of the worst nightmares of a traveller is going through bad weather.

I have learned about the impending storm in the Philippines from my friend Pie. Their whole family from her husband’s side were going to Hong Kong and Macau after Christmas so they were obsessively monitoring the weather news. I became a little bit worried because the storm is supposed to hit on the 24th, a day before Christmas and will leave the country on the 26th. This is going to be a Merry Stormy Christmas I thought and our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam via Manila is on the 26th at 22:00 hours. A bit too close for comfort methinks.

Mactan airport

We flew with a huge Airbus plane from Cebu to Manila with Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Stressing out will do no good really so I tried to stay positive. Cebu was not really affected of the storm. We only experienced grey clouds and scattered rain showers. On the day of our flight, I heard from the news that the storm has finally left the jurisdiction of the Philippines. This was in the afternoon and our flight is scheduled in the evening.

We arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport early as planned. We are flying with Philippine Airlines (PAL) at 22:00 to Manila landing at NAIA terminal 2 and we will have a red-eye 5-6 hours layover before flying the next day early at 06:50 to Ho Chi Minh City. Because of this we have booked a family room at the Wings Transit Lounge at NAIA terminal 3 where we can rest and sleep. Sadly, there is no direct flight to Vietnam from Cebu.

NAIA is acronym for Ninoy Aquino Interntional Airport which is the Manila International Airport. The airport has 4 terminals with terminal 2 and 3 often used for international flights.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cebu, Philippines: A Tale of Two Shopping Malls, Trip Down Dimsum Memory Lane and More

Please excuse me but my shopping mall stories are far from over!

I really did serious ‘malling’ before Christmas in Cebu. My sister and I were cramming for our Christmas eve family get together gift giving. We managed to buy most of the gifts but we still have a few left on the list. The parents also gave us the task to buy their gifts so that added up to our to-do items. But the whole exercise was fun. It is good therapy to shop for someone, as long as you know what item to buy. It is nothing like reckless idle shopping that some of us (well, not me really) can be guilty of.

Lights Show Ayala

The Lights Show at the Ayala Centre Terraces, one of the two malls we visited for the day. The other was SM City. Scroll down for the short video I made.

I was also in Cebu for some personal affairs and I learned that at SM City there is a government service shared centre where you can ask information about tax services, PRC (professional regulations commission), social security services, Philhealth and much more. This is just brilliant!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kasadya sa SRP in Cebu, Philippines (Local Funfair + Street Food)

The sister and I never really planned on visiting this local funfair, the ‘Kasadya sa SRP’ but while we were having dinner at the Lantaw Native Restaurant SRP, we were entertained by strange noises and music in the background. We wondered where it was coming from and then we realised it was a night event nearby.


Entrance to the Kasadya sa SRP


It was actually the noise, and not really the music that intrigued us. We kept on hearing this eerie sound of a dog howling, followed by scared people murmuring in the background and then a woman screaming at the top of her voice. The musical live band act of the restaurant already left so this was literally our background sound the whole time were eating our alfresco dinner at Lantaw. Can you imagine? Haha. (We later found out that the noise was from the Horror Ride attraction)

So we asked one of the waiters about the night event and found out that it is a funfair. Since we have an hour to spare before midnight we decided to check it out before going home.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Cebu, Philippines: Lantaw Native Restaurant SRP for the second time

Every time I visit the Philippines I gain 5 kilos or more. It does not help that Filipino food is all about meat and rice. Not really the best combination for a healthy low calorie meal. But it’s delicious =)

Now I have been to Lantaw Native Restaurant at SRP before but my sister hasn’t. It helps that Lantaw SRP is near SM Seaside City mall where we were so after shopping and watching Star Wars Rogue One we only had to drive a bit then make a U-turn to reach Lantaw. Because it was evening, ergo dark and I am not anymore that familiar with the location of the restaurant because technically I do not live here, we missed it. We made it on the second attempt!

Lantaw srp

Finally at the restaurant the sister and I ordered our drinks – green mango shake as we wait for our dinner. It is less sweeter than a ripe mango with a touch of sourness. Love it, although I do not always go for shakes (read: do not like the sugar), but this was an exception because I cannot remember the last time I had a green mango shake.

We arrived a bit late actually, almost 22:00 and the musical band they have hired have already left for the day. Many restaurants and pubs in the Philippines hire bands to perform as live acts for the evening. Filipinos love entertainment and many seem to be gifted with great singing voices, well except me. If I will sing, all glass installations nearby will for sure break, haha.

So we hurried up with our order and voila....

Green mango shake

Our green mango shake. Have you tried? It is very popular under the locals in the Philippines.

Pancit canton

Pancit canton, typical Filipino noodle dish which is garnished with seafood, meat and vegetables. The calamansi (the small green lemon) makes a huge difference!

Fried calamari

Fried calamari was not that crunchy.

Pinakbet

This was the winner of the day. The delicious quintessential Filipino vegetable dish garnished with a little bit of meat and seafood -- Pinakbet!

Lantaw srp dinner
Grilled Pork Belly

Then the grilled pork belly came last. They almost forgot this. This was also not that really good. Doable but nothing to rave about.

We could not finish everything so we brought the rest home. Taking a doggy bag home is nothing to be ashamed of in the Philippines. It is similar practice in America. You don’t however do the doggy bag thing in Europe. People will not laugh at you, but they will wonder why. Firstly, why order a lot when you cannot finish it? But then again, the servings in Europe are not that huge. Plus meals are not like in Asia which are meant for sharing.

To sum up – we have not enjoyed this dinner as much as we have expected and wanted to. The calamari was not crunchy, the pancit canton was okay but nothing spectacular and the grilled pork belly came very late and was not well done. It was the pinakbet that saved the day though, which was superb!

Here is my first visit last 2015: Family Dinner at Lantaw Native Restaurant SRP IL CORSO.

I have also been to their floating restaurant branch in Mactan Island: Family Dinner at Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant in Cordova, Mactan

In addition, I have recently been to their Busay branch in the mountains as well. Lantaw should start giving me a discount, haha. More Cebu food diaries to come.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Cebu City (Cebu - Visayas), Philippines

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cebu, Philippines: Seaside City Mall, Skypark and Star Wars

Shopping malls are huge in the Philippines. Big business. There seems to be a new one being built every few months somewhere in the country. The newest addition is the SM Seaside City mall at the SRP coastal road of Cebu. It is said to be the 3rd largest shopping mall in the Philippines and 8th largest in the world.

A visit therefore to the Philippines is not complete without doing the “malling” thing =)

SM Seaside

The glass elevator is an installation worth to see. 

1000 pesos

Of course, it is part of my agenda to go malling and visit this newly talked-about shopping mall in Cebu! But the main reason why I will be visiting this Seaside City mall earlier than planned is because I need to shop. You heard it right -- I am going shopping!

For our family gathering on Christmas eve, we are giving each family member a gift. It is similar to an exchanging of gifts situation. To make sure that we are giving something that the person will like and will use, we have resorted into implementing some practical guidelines. Each one of us has created a gift wish list. We have also given a minimum budget per gift.

I am not a shopping gal, but when you are going out to buy a particular item for someone, the whole shopping activity does not become a boring chore anymore, but a purpose. So I highly recommend people to create wish lists for next Christmas because it makes shopping for presents really practical and easy.

At the Seaside City mall, my sister and I were able to shop and cross out a large number of items on the family’s wish list. Hallelujah, just a few more to go!


Love the free gift wrapping services they offer.

We had about 15 items wrapped and the staff asked us to come back the next day to pick it up because they have a huge wrapping backlog. No problemo. We are just thankful that someone is wrapping the gifts for us.

skypark sm seaside

The children's playground and viewing deck at the Skypark. Beautiful shade pavilion here designed by K. Cobonpue, a local designer.

Skypark

A lot of people were doing the selfie thing here, including us!

Skypark

We also visited the Skypark which is adjacent to the food court. It is without a doubt the newest attraction of the mall, rather, the whole SRP, haha. There is a colourful children’s playground designed by local designer Cobonpue, a spacious viewing deck and a number of outdoor restaurants.

Because we were in the tropics, it was obviously very hot here at the Skypark. After the obligated selfie/picture-taking, we sought shelter.

Then the sister and I settled for a little snack at the Lava, a cafe restaurant specialising in speciality lava cakes. I was not in the mood to eat anything sugary, however, the sister was eyeing the quesadillas on their menu so she asked for a serving. We were however entertained by the different colours of lava cakes several customers ordered. It is basically a small cake with hot gooey chocolate inside and topped with an ice cream. I am not a sweet-tooth person so I was not tempted at all =)

Quesadillas

Having quesadillas snack at Lava. 

Cebu Skypark

The viewing deck at Skypark does bid a nice panoramic view of Cebu.


Another thing we did was watch Star Wars Rogue One.

SM Seaside City Mall boasts state-of-the-art cinema theatres. We watched the movie in 3D technology. It was really cool because we wore our 3D glasses. Yeah, 3D makes a huge difference in terms of the movie experience.


Well, I think I am getting old because I did not really enjoy the Star Wars movie. I find it to be ridiculously replete of non-stop action? Like I felt there was never a chance to breathe in and out? The scenes made me exhausted. It was OVER everything. In Dutch we call it TE. Too much. Too much of everything really. And all the main cast of characters died! That was unexpected and strange.

The story did manage to circle back to Darth Vader and Princess Leia, which brought back memories of Star Wars when I was a kid in the 70’s and early 80’s. Remember the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi sequels? Those were the best films in my opinion.

So, how shall I say this -- It is not the same? Not.

On the other hand, I have always been a picky type when it comes to movies. I much prefer documentaries, reality-life shows and secret service intelligence type of film entertainment.

cinema sm

This is the entrance to the cinema.


It was not a very full show at all. 

cinema sm seaside

Anyway, one thing I really loved about the SM Seaside City mall is the parking area!

It is massive, clean and high-tech. You will not run out of car parking spaces here. Plus you have the technology as your assistant. For parking spaces that are taken, a suspended red light automatically lights up on top of the parking space, whereas the light turns green when it is not occupied. This is really awesome. I wish we have something like this in the Netherlands.

And oh, it is free parking here as well! =)


Can you see the suspended red and green lights on top of the parking spaces? Those are not our cars by the way.

The mall also has an ice skating rink, a cyber zone and soon to be opened, Seaside tower. There is a contemporary church built on the property called the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod. It is also currently building a Cebu Ocean Park. Residential buildings, hotels, a convention and exhibition centre, a school and a hospital are part of its future development plans.

I guess this part of SRP will look different when I come back next time around. We shall see.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Cebu (Visayas), Philippines

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Xiamen, China: Tea Drinking at the Tushita in Nanputuo Temple

The Nanputuo Temple (South Putuo Temple) is a big place and if one is planning to climb the Five Old Men hills (Wulaofeng) that is part of its property, a good supply of water is needed. This place is definitely not for the lazy and faint-hearted.

As I mount the paved pathway of the hills, I noticed that many Chinese families climb all the way to the top with the whole clan, with grandma and grandpa in tow. It is quite an impressive sight to see old people climbing the rocks. The old generation in China are very active. I often read that they can be seen dominating the parks in the city during early mornings and sundown, stretching out their muscles as they practice the Tai Chi. Hmm, I will have to see this for myself tomorrow.

China does not hold the highest record for life expectancy in the world but in the last study, its sub-state, the once-governed by Portugal state of Macau held the fourth slot. I read that gambling revenues partly go to a government fund that invests in the social and quality living of its resident retirees. Good for them.

Tea Tushita Nanputuo Temple

The Tushita Building offer visitors to the park some siesta tea time.

I was getting a little bit thirsty from the ascent and because of the warm weather as well. December is winter season in Xiamen but I find it very mild compared to north Europe. Temperatures here during winter are between 18C and 26C, which are actually similar to summer temperatures in the Netherlands. So yes, I was kind of sweating, haha.

Well I struck luck when I came upon the Tushita building halfway through the climb. They have converted the place into a tea shop and tea house. It used to be a retreat house of the previous abbot of Nanputuo. It is not a place to eat at though. The vegetarian restaurant on the temple grounds are better suited for hungry visitors.

The list of tea they have on the menu was quite long and everything was in Chinese. So even if I wanted to pick the best, I would not know which, unless I gamble and go for the expensive ones. But alas, we all know that price is never a guarantee for taste and quality. So I asked the man from the tea shop that I specifically want oolong tea. He does not speak English but understood me perfectly. He pointed the oolong teas on the menu. Being sensible (read: sometimes frugal) with spending, I picked one of the affordable choices which was going at 50 CNY (€6.80).

For an order you get a big thermos of hot water. The tea is actually good for 2-4 people, so I am a bit of a disadvantage here buying this for only 1 person consumption.

As I wait for one of the men to serve the tea, I strolled along the edges of the terrace to enjoy the surrounding views. The Tushita building is not very high on the Wulaofeng hills, but from its terrace you can have good views of the area and the buildings nearby.

I guess the man serving me knew that I am a greenhorn when it comes to Chinese tea, so he showed me how to prepare tea and how to drink it. In the western world, we drink tea rather simply. Either a cup with a tea bag in it or loose leaf with a strainer. In China, rather the Chinese way of drinking tea, they do it differently. It is a process, similar to a ritual. The man first cleaned the porcelains with hot water before beginning with the actual tea preparation.

After seeing how tea is prepared, I followed his instructions for my next cuppa, I first poured water on the loose leaves, let it sit for a quarter of a minute (or depends on the intensity you want), then pour the tea into the little pot strainer, and then afterwards pour the tea into the super tiny tea cups. Drink and then repeat the process.

Actually, if you really want to drink tea refinedly, you will have to stop for a bit every time you pour a cup -- breathe deeply, inhale, exhale and smell the tea. My sister and I had fun doing this several years ago in Singapore when we went to this tea house for traditional Chinese tea. Read here: The Fine Art of Oriental Tea Drinking at Yizing Xuan Teahouse

I guess I managed to almost drink the whole thermos of hot water. I never had so much fluids in my body as this day, but I badly needed it as I was on the verge of getting the flu before the trip. Having lots of fluid is what I needed to combat sickness and dehydration, especially after a long flight and a bit of jetlag. I can literally say that I was tea drunk from this tea drinking activity here at Nanputuo!

The tea house here at Tushita building was really a good find! This was really a nice surprise.


Entrance to the Tushita tea house. 

Tushita building

The Tushita building used to be a retreat house. It is now a tea shop and tea house. Tea is served outdoors on its terrace. They also sell local cookies and biscuits.

Tea preparation

Showing me how to prepare tea here.

Tea drinking

You first pour hot water on the loose tea leaves, then pour the tea to the pot strainer, and lastly, pour the tea to the tiny teacups. Drink! Then repeat the process for your next cuppa.

Loose tea leaves

Views from the outdoor terrace of Tushita tea house.


Of course the liter of tea I drank had to go somewhere. This is their public toilet. This kind of  toilet accommodation is very common in China and in many parts of Asia. No worries really, you can even find them in France =)

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Xiamen (Fujian), China

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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