Thursday, December 5, 2013

Of Wineries, Mud Baths and Friendships - Calistoga, CA USA

My best friend, Kat and I have been bffs since the first grade. Our friendship is unique because despite us being bffs, we both had separate groups of people we hung out with. We didn't spend every single second of our free time with each other. We had separate lives and different interests. But despite that, our friendship was solid and strong. Immediately after our high school graduation, I left for a foreign country to become a rotary exchange scholar. I was 16, wide-eyed and innocent, yet ready to take on the world. I was eager to leave and shed the shackles of propriety and catholic school rules of no make-up, no nail polish and no boyfriends. I was on my way to FREEDOM! There was something liberating and adventurous about leaving the safety of home. And I devoured every second of my newfound freedom. I learned many things about myself that year. After my exchange scholarship ended, I enrolled as a freshman at a Pennsylvania University in the USA. After a year, I transferred to a West Coast University where I studied architecture and marketing and where I later graduated and received my Bachelor's. My best friend went on and studied medicine at a local University. We were worlds apart. And only saw each other during Christmas break. After 8.5 years of living in a foreign country, it was time I returned home. Two months after returning home, I moved to the capital and started working as a fashion marketing coordinator. Coincidentally, my bff lived 15 minutes away from me. But we never saw each other. We were both busy pursuing our own interests. Me in my new career and her with her career in the medical field. Occasionally we would meet for dinner and catch up. But despite not seeing or talking to each other for many months and even for many years, each time we get together it was like old times. Two years into my young career, Katrina moved to Ohio and eventually to California to pursue her medical dream. And once again, we were worlds apart. But fate had other ideas. She moved to a city where my family has business interests in. And coincidentally, some of our high school friends were living in the San Francisco area. And was only a matter of time before we had a mini reunion.

After many years, a blast from the past was ripe to happen. So off we went to NorCal (Northern California). On this roadtrip, we all agreed that we wanted to do fun, girlie things. And that included wineries, good food, mud bath spas and lots of laughter. We went to Calistoga. It was a very eventful roadtrip filled with misadventures, DUH and LOL moments. Calistoga is a small, quaint town near San Francisco located at the center of the California wine valley. It is famously know for its hot springs and mud bath spas.

First Stop: Salutti Winery. This place is a great place to have a pic-nic. They have huge grounds with pic-nic tables, an outdoor bbq and pizzaria, and a deli that sold the best antipasti! After filling our bellies with good wines and delicious food, we continued on to Calistoga for the mud baths.

If you've been to one of these mud bath know what I'm talking about when I say that these spas market it as a very romantic thing to do with your significant other with packages for two of massages, champagne and warm mud baths. But in reality, romance is the furthest thing of what you'll experience. Let me explain why.

1. These spas encourage you to bathe in the mud nude. (I'm all for birthday suit bathing. But in the mud? Not advisable.) Why? BECAUSE....the mud with tiny little twigs get into crevices that should never see nor feel the light of tiny, little rooty twigs.
2. The couples massage they tell you about lasts about 30 minutes. Not nearly enough time to unwind and cool down from a hot, mud-soaked bath that's immediately followed by a 20 minute jacuzzi stint.
3. The champagne is a nice touch. But served in a jacuzzi whose cleanliness is suspect. Hmmm...makes you want to down the whole bottle.
4. If the first three reasons aren't enough to ruin a "romantic spa experience" (yes even with your bff), You'll need your partner (in my case my best friend) to use a powerful shower head with a strong water pressure to get into places to wash off rooty twigs that should never have been there in the first place! I swear...I felt like I was going through a colonoscopy. Forget those sexy scenes of mud-soaked women spraying each other to wash off the mud from each other's bodies. It was more like a medical examination of men bent over getting their prostrates checked. Lucky for me, I got a doctor to help me out. Unlucky for my friend, she has me. Lol.
5. Last but not least...we had a large, hairy (with a mustache) female attendant. While our other friends in the other room got a sexy stud to cater to their every need. ReallY? Aren't we all paying for the same spa experience here?

And to add insult to injury, I thought I lost my ONLY internationally approved credit card. Called my bank to cancel the card, only to find it under the car seat 2 minutes after I hung up the phone. This! Right before I was about to leave for my Central American trip where I was forced to travel using strictly cash. So you can imagine my anxiety at the thought of running out of money in Central America. But that's a whole different blog entry.

So there you go folks! Our friendship earned a level up that day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Its Been a While.

Wow! Its been almost 2 years since I last wrote anything on this blog. I've been busy and to be quite honest lacked the inspiration to write anything. But I think I got my writing mojo back. So here's my first entry since March of 2011. Just a quick update on what's been going on with my goals.

I may not have accomplished all that I have written in the last post, but I am proud to say that I have accomplished a good number of them and I'm continuing my efforts to achieve the rest.

As for my travel bucketlist, I'm even prouder to say that I've been to the following countries since I last wrote on this blog: Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, India, Indonesia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Iran, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Easter Island, Chile. I've stepped on 4 out of the 7 continents. I hope and pray that I could accomplish to step on 1 or 2 more this year. But only time will tell.

I shall be writing about all the places I saw and talk about the experiences that came along with it. So I hope that you"ll be patient with me and keep coming back to read my blog. Please feel free to leave comments on my comment box. I would love to hear from you all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My New Bucketlist

Every year my bucket list gets longer and the tasks get more impossible. So here's the deal...I don't know what it is, I just feel like I'm running out of time to do all the things I want to do. I've set deadlines for myself and when I don't accomplish the tasks I've aligned in time, I get frustrated. Every week is a roller coaster ride. Up, down, sideways and backwards. So I decided to segregate my goals and categorize them.

Thinking about the work goals stress me out. But thinking about the Travel and adventure goals, get me excited and happy. It gives me hope and something to look forward to. While thinking of my personal ones, give me anxiety. Such is the case with me. Like I said...roller coaster! I hope there's a fairy god mother or a fairy god father who reads this blog, takes pity on me and give me a million bucks so I can do everything at once. Then I can die happy and fulfilled.


1. Make existing restaurant a success
2. Expand and open a catering business
3. Open a string of franchised food carts
4. Open an Italian Cafe and Gelateria
5. Open a clean and economical waxing place
6. Develop a cured meats business
7. Open a cute candy shop
8. Open an artsy cafe
9. Learn how to Bake gourmet breads
10. Open a Gourmet Deli and Bakery (and hopefully supply hotels and restaurants).
11. Have my own little Travel Cafe
12. Open a Bed and Breakfast somewhere beautiful and exotic like Costa Rica.
13. Make lots and lots of money so i can do all the things I want to do before I die.


1. See Europe by the end of 2011
2. Travel to Central and South America by 2012
3. Backpack China, Tibet & Mongolia (2012 or 2013)
4. Make a quick organized tour to India and Nepal (Cannot even begin to imagine backpacking India!)
5. Go on an African Safari
6. Dive the Galapagos
7. Dive Palau
8. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
9. Have an awesome week-long holiday at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, swim with the dolphins and dive, dive, dive!
10. Dive Egypt and the Red Sea (Cleopatra's Tomb is becoming an obsession).
11. Explore and join a dessert caravan around the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Turkey)
12. Ride the Orient Express from China to Russia (or vice versa)
13. Fly over the Bermuda Triangle and (hopefully survive) to discover why so many strange disappearances happen there.
14. Have a quick jaunt in Iceland and set foot in the North Pole.
15. Take a cruise to the South Pole, and plant my flag in some random area.
16. Have a very sexy and erotic affaire du coeur with an Argentinian man.
17. Ride a 16-hands high stallion at a breakneck speed in the coastal cliffs of Ireland.
18. Look out for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.
19. Learn to dance on a stripper pole like a pro in Vegas.
20. Learn additional carnal arts from a Dutch Prostitute.
21. Stomp on grapes to make wine in the Rhine Valley.
22. Harvest flowers and participate in creating a parfum in France.
23. Make love in a field of violets on a lazy afternoon.
24. Work in a European patisserie for a month.
25. Paint Carnaval Masks in Venezia.
26. Learn to blow glass from a seasoned artisan in Murano.
27. Ride a vespa while cruising the Amalfi Coast
28. Participate in a clam bake in Maine one summer.
29. Spend New Year's Eve in Paris.
30. Dive in a cage with angry and agressive great white sharks.
31. Dance on a Carnival Float during Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro.
32. Participate and kick ass in the biggest food fight in the world, during the Tomatina Festival in Spain.
33. Run for my life while being chased by 100 angry bulls.
34. Learn to Tango in Argentina.
35. Explore Machu Pichu.
36. Take a slow train over the Andes.
37. Become a member of the mile high club (preferably with a hot pilot).
38. Explore Chile by land.
39. Find someone who is willing to retrace and do the motorcycle diaries adventure with me.
40. Roll a cuban cigar in Cuba, smoke it and drink lots of mojitos 'till I pass out on the beach.
41. Walk on water, walk on air in Bolivia's Mirror Lake.
42. Go on a pre-dawn hot air balloon ride over the Fariy Mountains in Cappadocia, Turkey.
43. Do THE MARATHON trail in Greece.
44. Skydive
45. Explore the Scottish Highlands wearing a Kilt (even if I'm a girl.)
46. Get pissing drunk during St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.
47. Explore the Carpathian Mountains by air (Preferably paragliding).
48. Learn how to surf cloud 9s in Hawaii.
49. Go on a wolf sledding escapade in Alaska (missed out on it, the last time I was there).
50. Go on an intensive 6 week yoga crash course in Costa Rica.
51. Have the most amazing sex with a beautiful man on horseback during a thunderstorm.


1. Loose weight!
2. Study Photography to become a professional photographer.
3. Change careers.
4. Find a man who would be my partner in every sense of the word.
5. Do most if not all of the things in my bucket list before I croak!

Monday, February 14, 2011

California Coastal Cruising

I consider California as my second home. I have family and friends here. I even worked in this beautiful state after graduation. I've been shuffling back between the Philippines and the US since I was 7. It serves as much as a home to me as Manila does. Sometimes even more so. I don't even consider going to Cali a vacation any longer. It's so familiar, that I often feel like I'm going to my other home for a change of scenery. However my recent trip to Cali felt like a vacation. And this is due to generous friends who took the time to entertain and to show me around town. (Thanks Anna, Hya, Ging and Jorgette). Whenever I go to LA, I normally stay in the downtown area. My cousins used to have a condo there, where I stayed whenever I went for a visit. It was either that or stay in Hollywood where my friends, Malou and Miles used to live. So I know the area quite well. This time I stayed at Hermosa Beach with Anna. I've been to LA countless times, and I have never driven by Hermosa Beach. So I was very excited when Anna offered to let me stay with her. And boy did we have a blast! The last time I had such a great time was in college. She drove me everywhere. I even got to see areas of LA I didn't know existed. In short, I had a great time being a tourist.

I'll let the photos do the talking. We were cruising highway 1 (California Coastal Highway - A very scenic drive that stretches from Oregon all the way to San Diego). We drove from Hermosa Beach to Pedro's Point, to Malibu and all the way up to Palos Verdes.

The view from Trump's Palos Verdes Golf Course was absolutely breathtaking. The photos I took don't come close to how gorgeous the scenery was. When we were there, we were able to enter the newly developed and highly exclusive Trump Golf Course estates. There was a new house being built by a seaside cliff overlooking an incredible view of the ocean with a private walkway that led down to the beach beneath the cliffs. While strolling the private grounds (illegally), we were blessed by a glorious sunset over the water's horizon. Moments like this make me appreciate just how blessed I'am. It shows what an awesome gift this planet is to the human race.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Canadian Gem - Quebec City

Quebec City wasn't in my itinerary when I decided to go to Montreal. In fact, it wasn't even in my radar of places to visit. It wasn't until my host Benoit, mentioned it would make an excellent side trip. Upon his recommendation, I decided to go. So I immediately looked into day tours to Quebec online. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of information available regarding off-season tours. All the schedules listed online were for summer. By the time I gathered all the information I needed, it was too late to make a booking. The bus was scheduled to take off at 7am the next day. Which meant, I had to be up by 5:30am navigate the subway system, look for the tourist information office in downtown Montreal and hope to arrive in time. I didn't know if they were going to be open by seven or if I could even join the tour, last minute. But I decided to take the chance and go anyway. When I arrived at the tourist information center, it was still closed. I could see the bus, but without a ticket, I couldn't get on; nor do they sell them on board. Luckily, there was someone available from the bus company to accomodate me. Suffice to say, I made it by a hairline.

The Old Military Fort

The bus ride took 2 hours and it was comfortably warm. I was giving myself a nice pat on the back about making it on the tour. I didn't really know what to expect other than it was "nice." So I was pleasantly surprised when we got there. We were brought to a nice waterfall (in the summer - you could take the lifts up to the mountain that lead to the viewing decks offering spectacular views of the falls.) Despite the rain and cold winds, I was having a good time. I was in a great mood. I was happy to be there. After the quick waterfall stop, we were driven around Quebec City before being dropped off at the old Fort and Artist's Row.

It is here where Quebec's infamous charm can be seen and felt. I became infatuated with the place. One could really feel the Christmas spirit in this town (Sorry, this entry is 4 months overdue). Most of the public buildings, street lights, stores and hotels were decorated with cheerful decors. It has been a long time since I felt excited about the Christmas season. As I strolled down the cobbled stone streets of this very European town, I couldn't help but day dream what it must be like in the winter. With the streets covered in snow, with the scent of roasted chestnuts wafting through the air, the sound of children's laughter mingled with vendors' shouts selling their wares echoing in the wind, and the sight of kids sledding down gentle slopes covered in snow, while parents observed from a distance sipping hot ciders. I was unreasonably happy. I had a string tugging at my heart as I imagined this scene. In addition to its quaint beauty, it was filled with independent artisan shops. Most of the places sold local handicrafts by resident artists using local materials which made it even more special. I had an incredible and surprisingly great time touring this little jewel. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and quaint get-away.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Osaka Castle - 2010

One of the sights I went to visit in Osaka was Osaka Castle. I didn't get to appreciate all the historical displays within the building because everything was written and explained in Japanese (and I don't understand a word of it.). However I found the castle's grounds enchanting. The sights and sounds around the castle's compound was bursting with life. I had so much fun interacting with the locals, taking in the scenery and sampling the street foods.

The canopied walk in the park, leading to the Castle was a peaceful and soothing experience. As I walked through the beautiful park, I thought to myself, how lucky the Japanese are to have this at their doorstep. It served as a wonderful retreat from the heat. If I had more time, I would have spent an entire day there, meditating.

The views from the top of the castle show the Business District of Osaka very clearly. When I was there, I was blessed with a perfectly blue and clear, sunny sky.

As I strolled the grounds, I came across this man who had 3 very large and very colorful dragons. I had fun chatting with him and taking photos of his pets. Around the grounds, several food stalls can be found where delicious local fares are being sold.

The shaved ice were everywhere. And I finally got tempted into buying one. It served as a blessed relief from walking in the heat the whole day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dressing Up as a Geisha

Before I left for my Japanese trip, I read up on the places I wanted to see. One of the must-see places in Japan is Kyoto City. As I flipped through the pages of my Lonely Planet book, I saw there are studios that specialize on dressing tourists up as Geishas. It also indicated that it was pricey. So I tethered between going for it or not. On my 2nd day in Kyoto, it was miserably grey and wet. My umbrella was too small. The rain drops dripped from my umbrella into the back of my shirt. My Fendi bag got wet (thank God it was canvas and not leather!) and I was just plain miserable walking with pained feet around Kyoto. But I wasn't ready to give up and go home. I trudged on until I stumbled upon this small sign that had Geisha photos on it. I didn't understand a word it said because it was written in Japanese. But the arrow that pointed toward a set of stairs that led down into a basement was filled with hundreds of "geisha" photographs. As I descended the stairs, I was still unsure of whether to push through with it or not. When I entered the studio, there were 4 women ahead of me. So I decided to simply sit, observe and contemplate if I really wanted to blow Y10,500 to put on some odd make-up and constricting clothes. But as I sat there, and truly thought about it, I decided that I was going to push through with it. And the reason behind it is because I wanted to have a unique and special experience to remember my trip to Japan. So I decided to throw my budget to the wind, and just do it!

Upon being ushered into the make-up room, we were asked to remove our clothes and were given a clean robe. We were instructed to wash our faces and necks before we were showed to our seats. I couldn't see much of what happened while they applied the white paste on my face and neck because we were told to keep our eyes shut while the paint dried. When I opened my eyes, I took a quick snapshot to document the experience.

Next step was choosing the Kimono and all the trappings that came with it. It was actually harder than I expected. There were so many factors that went into Kimono dressing. It was layer upon layer of beautifully designed cloths.

After being dressed in impressive Kimonos, I was showed into the studio where I sat and waited for a few minutes before being called in for the photo shoot. And below are the results.

Taking the Kimono and make-up off proved to be a lot easier than putting them on. But I was very happy I did it. As I look back, I don't regret blowing a chunk of my budget because I got to experience something unique.