Away for the Weekend: Intramuros tour

My love affair with old Manila continues as I return to my favorite Intramuros for a walking tour with my wife. We went around familiar landmarks such as Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. I took mostly black and white photographs to better capture the old Manila character. We checked out restaurants where we could have dinner but couldn’t decide where to go. We should go back here soon to try one of the restaurants.



Off exploring the outskirts of the walled city



Past Philippine presidents








Approaching Manila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral
Main door of Manila Cathedral









San Agustin Church entrance


Away for the Weekend: Laiya Coco Grove Beach Resort in Batangas

We went to Laiya Coco Grove in Laiya, San Juan, Batangas for a weekend day trip company outing. I had high expectations because of the many wonderful stories I heard about beaches in Laiya, dubbed by some of my friends as a premier strip of beach in this resort town.
First glance at Laiya Coco Grove Beach Resort: the off-white sand looked pretty, the water looked pristine and inviting, and the sky was a bright blue hue. Many lovely cottages and colorful wind-blown banners dotted the beach front.The long drive seemed worth it, after all.
We arrived there at around 10 AM. We were cued that team-building activities and games would start in a short while. The activities were finished close to lunchtime so buffet lunch was served in a short time.
Feeling full after lunch, we rested for a brief moment, took some photographs then proceeded to change to our swimming outfits.
My initial good impression about the place was vaporized when we went down to swim. The water looked a little murky, the beach was rocky and painful to our feet. There were also a lot of floating moss-like debris. I don’t have sensitive skin but I was itchy all over in about five minutes.
Disappointed with the water and with nothing left to do, we hired a boat and went island hopping, hoping to swim in clearer water. Not much luck, though, because water was still dirty. We took a dip anyway and just enjoyed the vast open sea. Upon our return to our hut, we proceeded to clean up and change after a brief stroll along the beach.
We went home later in the afternoon, tired but, as they say, satisfied (somehow) with our trip. 
Just arrived at the beach
Team Ynah
Bright blue sky, clear water and off-white sand
Stopping by in one of the cottages while exploring the beach
Bright and sunny day
Ready to head out to the beach
First team activity
First to finish wins
Interesting tree
Lovely sky
Beach essential: shades
Ready to head home
Pose for one final shot

Casa Renato: Fairview’s Hidden Gem

                                 8a6a2e65745d3a3fbceb177e4c0fced1_1407733923_200_thumb 0cc4343bd45602bc683141184751c94c_1407733922_200_thumb

Casa Renato is a gem tucked away in a quiet nook along Dahlia St. in Fairview, Quezon City. The place is warm, friendly, clean and cozy. The first thing that you would notice when you enter the place is the many antiques that were used to decorate it — a phonograph with an old record, old posters and decors, and liquor bottles to name a few.

6Antiques

Casa Renato offers Filipino, Mexican, Spanish and American cuisines. The food is great — from appetizers to the main course. The servings are hefty – perfect for sharing – and the price is just right. Worth trying are the quesadillas, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, and pasta selections. We also e njoyed dishes that were part of their Mother’s Day special menu — pan-seared tuna and beef salpicao.

34

Caesar Salad

2Pan-seared Tuna

unnamedLovely Brazo de Mercedes

The restaurant is a perfect place for intimate family dinners, weekend dates with a loved one or a relaxing after-work meal. And for those who do not like crowded places, Casa Renato is for you.

Delectable Buffet at Circle’s Event Café in Makati Shangri-La

My wife and I consider Circles as one of our most favorite and most memorable restaurants. We’ve had three celebrations at Circles, out of the four times that we’ve been there — first was the wedding anniversary of my in-laws in 2013, second was our first anniversary as a couple last January 2014 and third was our first breakfast as husband and wife last April 2014. This being the case, food at Circles always evokes fond memories of celebrations with families. And because it’s a buffet restaurant, eating here is always a culinary adventure for us.

Circles offers a good selection of international cuisines,ranging from Asian to American to Middle Eastern to European-Mediterranean. However, being unfamiliar with the dishes in the Indian and Mediterranean sections, we would usually just get food from our favorite stations.

3Fresh seafood

Our feast would normally begin with slivers of succulent salmon sashimi from the cold section. We’ve always loved their sashimi because the fish is always fresh that is why it tastes sweet. After having had our fill of sashimi, we would also have crabs, shrimps and mussels. You can either eat these cold or have them cooked in garlic and butter.We prefer ours hot so we would request for these delectable sea foods to be cooked in garlic butter.

unnamedAn assortment of steak and potatoes swimming in gravy,braised vegetables, salmon and cheeses

Another favorite is the meats from the carvery. We would always reserve space in our bellies for roast beef, steak and lamb. The meat is always perfectly cooked, rendering it with just the right tenderness and juiciness. I like mine a little salty with the edges a bit charred. The meats are best paired with potato wedges with a good dollop of mushroom gravy.

Being fish lovers, my wife and I would also sample the fish dishes that are available like grilled tuna or baked salmon.

And if there is still space in our tummies, we would also sample dim sum from the Asian station. These steamed goodies are always tasty and delightfully tender. For soup, sukiyaki is a good option.

Must try also is the assortment of cheeses available at the bread and salad station. I always get a good chunk of gruyere and camembert cheeses here.

I also remember the time when we had breakfast here the morning after our wedding, we feasted on, of course, bacon and their selection of sausages. You can also have an omelet done with your choice of ingredients like onions, mushrooms, cheese, etc.

4Butter pudding and brazo de mercedes swimming in vanilla sauce

Dessert is also a joy for us with the various assortments of sweets. We would always cap our good meal with yoghurt ice cream, Brazo de Mercedes, Tres Leches cake, warm vanilla cake and a host of other goodies.

Stuffed, you can also ask for tea or coffee to warm and relax your full tummy.

Service-wise, one can also expect a good one from the personnel. Although Circles is on the pricier side, everybody should include this in their bucket list of restaurants to try.

Also, Makati Shang-La also has an annual Circle’s voucher sale where buffet for one is priced at around P1,000++. It usually happens early in the year. Watch out for it!

*This review is also posted in Zomato