That Very Short Trip To Seattle, Washington

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Things indeed happen for a reason. Whilst I was disappointed that our trip to California in August was cancelled at the last minute, I am grateful that we were able to visit Seattle a few weeks ago, even just for a couple of days. This trip came as a surprise, so we didn't have much time to plan our itinerary. J and I had different priorities, and mine was to catch up with my cousin Dyami, whom I haven't seen since 2015. The last time I saw him was in the Philippines.

As I was telling Dyami, I think that full day I spent with him in Seattle was our first proper bonding moment in more than 20 years. It was very heartwarming to have been able to have a proper catch up with this funny young man. 

I requested to see a panoramic view of Seattle, so he took me first to Hamilton Viewpoint Park. Then we drove back to Downtown Seattle and visited the very popular Pike Place Market.

Dyami was very enthusiastic in showing me the gum wall that I didn't understand what he was telling me at first because of his thick American accent. Until we got to an alley and I saw the most disgusting brick wall I have ever seen. I just don't understand why people would stick their chewing gum on a wall? As revolting as it was, it was something that I must see apparently, so a wall shot was called for.

Then of course, there was also the unmissable original Starbucks cafe. I am no longer a Starbucks fan, but for the sake of my trip to Seattle, I joined in the very long queue for a cup of pumpkin spice latte and had an obligatory photo outside. 

Overall, Pike Place Market is definitely a must-see in Seattle. It's full of vibrant, colourful and artistic things. 

On the same day, while J was in a business meeting in Fremont, I explored the area and found a couple of treasures - one of them scared the hell out of me.

So, after I dropped J off to his meeting, I walked back and came across the Aurora bridge. Looking up the bridge was rather nauseating for me. Walking underneath it sent shivers down my spine. Yes, I am scared of bridges, especially the high ones.

Whilst searching for other things to do in Fremont (over coffee at Milstead & Co), I read about the troll under Victoria Bridge. Although I was enjoying being a temporary solo traveller, I was not very keen on walking under the bridge again. So, I ordered an Uber taxi and asked my driver if we could stop by the Fremont Troll on our way back to town. I didn't have to get out of the car because the troll was big enough to be captured (by a phone camera) from afar. 

On our second and last day in Seattle, J and I decided to explore the city on foot to get a real feel of the place. I took him back to Pike Place Market and then we walked from there to the Space Needle. We couldn't see the point of going up there, so we continued our walk and headed to Kerry Park instead. By this time, we felt that we have seen enough of Seattle, so we made our way back to our hotel to rest before dinner.

So, that was it.

Where we ate:
1) Blueacre Seafood Restaurant, 1700 7th Avenue 98101
- Very good ambience. The staff were very attentive, and food was excellent. I had the Angry Whole Dungeness Crab (in toasted garlic, crispy basil, serrano chillies and lemon zest) for $28/pound, while J had Tim's Cascade Potato Chip Crusted Fish and Chips and onion rings for $20. Both were very satisfying.

2) Great State Burger, 2041 7th Avenue 98121
- Because we couldn't be in America and not eat burger. Great State Burger was a pleasant surprise. Ordering our food was very quick and efficient. And the burger and crinkle-cut fries were an absolute treat.Add to that, the bottomless soft drinks. It was the first time I ate a burger guilt-free because it wasn't oily at all. Besides, they use organically raised grass fed beef.

Where we stayed:
The Westin, 1900 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101
- We both loved everything about The Westin. The room was big and it was very clean. The staff was friendly and helpful. The food at the Relish Burger Bistro was really good. And the view? It was amazing! We would wake up in the middle of the night just to take photos of it.

We only spent two days in Seattle but we still managed to do quite a bit I think. Most importantly on my part, I was able to spend some quality time with my cousin.

Although this trip could have potentially been another opportunity for us to live in a new city, we thought that Seattle wasn't for us, as much as we enjoyed our short visit.

TIN x

The Oxford Street Incident

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Yesterday, what was meant to be a lovely catch up with a friend I haven't seen in two years turned into a rather terrifying experience. 

It was around 1615 when I met up with Lizzie in one of the busiest streets in London -Carnaby Street. The place was even busier yesterday because of Black Friday. Also, a lot of people visit the area this time of the year because of the impressive Christmas lights and unique decorations. 

So, we decided to have a quick coffee in Sacred Cafe along Ganton St for some "New Zealand cafe experience" as I have been missing New Zealand coffee lately. This explained why I finished my latte in five minutes. 

Deep into our conversation, the waiter interrupted us and asked if he could take our empty cups away. Lizzie and I said "yes, please" in unison. We were talking about going to Primark in Oxford Street to buy some pyjamas, when all of a sudden we heard a commotion from the street. The sight of fleeing crowds, screaming and crying, sent us into a panic mode. And then I heard loud banging and clanking noise, as more and more people entered the cafe. It seemed like the people were being chased. The first thing that occurred to me was the Westminster bridge attack. It couldn't be another terror attack, I thought. But it certainly felt like it was. Then I realised that Carnaby Street is pedestrian only so it couldn't be a vehicle incident.  As the cafe staff instructed us to go down the basement, my mind went blank for a second. Lizzie led me down the stairs and when I realised what was happening, I started shaking and my body went cold. People rushed down in a calm manner, and the next thing I knew, we were in a very dark place.

The people having coffee at the basement had no clue what was going on. They looked as confused as we were. Lizzie and I went all the way to the back of the basement. I noticed a lady opened a door. I had a peek and saw  bottles of water and some cans inside. My mind suddenly played, "If anything bad happens, Lizzie and I will hide inside the room" 

Buffled, I phoned J to tell him not to get out of his office, and that we were in a basement because something happened. As soon as I put the phone down, I heard loud footsteps coming down the stairs. Lizzie told me to sit down. I heard the door shut. It suddenly dawned on me that something terrible has happened. Terror attack sprung to my mind. What if someone went down the basement and started shooting at us? I was shaking terribly and my heart was pounding. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. That was it, we were locked down.

Then a lady next to us caught our attention. She was crying because she got separated from her family, including two children. She was one of the people who ran inside the cafe for safety. She came from Oxford Street. She told us that there were numerous police cars in the area. She didn't know what was going on either. Then someone said gunshots were heard in Oxford St.

I'm not sure how long we were locked down in the basement but it felt so long. When the staff finally said it was safe to go out, Lizzie and I made our way up. Lizzie actually left her suitcase upstairs. Luckily, it was still there when we went back.

We were instructed to avoid the main roads. Fortunately, we could take the back road to our flat. Lizzie doubted at first whether it was safer to stay at the cafe for a few more minutes. In the end, we decided to leave.

We braved the whole situation and started walking. People we met on the streets were on their phone, looking so worried and confused. We walked hand in hand, Lizzie obviously very shaken by what happened. I have calmed down by then. As we got closer to our flat, there was a sense of security. People in our area seemed oblivious of the chaos only one kilometre away.

When we got home, we had cup of tea- because tea makes everything better. Lizzie started crying when she spoke to her parents. I was calm, only because I was in emotional shock. I watched the news while Lizzie spoke to her loved ones. After an hour, it was reported that there was no evidence of gunshots. I felt so relieved. I thanked God no one was hurt this time. 

Lizzie and I reflected on what happened afterwards. Now we know how it feels like to be in that situation. It felt so surreal. I felt like I was in a dream. It may have been a false alarm, but what if it wasn't? Lizzie was at the Oxford Tube Station less than an hour before panic erupted in the area. Imagine?

Our reunion may have been cut short, but we were very thankful for the renewed life and friendship. I am glad I was with Lizzie. We are lucky because although we were terrified, at least we were not traumatised.

Yesterday is certainly one of those days I will never forget.

TIN x


The Day Trip To Paris That Became All About Me

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

"Ate, who is the tourist, you or your friend?" is the question I was asked by one of my dearest Adings when she saw my photos with my friends who visited London from the States in the summer. It happens all the time when I am playing tourist guide either in my city or any other place that I have been to before. Sometimes I even doubt myself whether I genuinely want to be the tourist guide, or because I just want my photos taken. Haha. Either way, I should really be a very special person to you, for you to even consider asking me to show you around, because I have the tendency to make your most anticipated trip to be all about me. You have been warned. Lol.

Kidding aside, a much needed catch up with one of my favourite people warranted a trip to Paris in October. Paris, being so convenient from London, has become a perfect rendezvous for me and anyone who genuinely wants to spend some time with me. Whilst I half-heartedly put Paris as one of my favourite cities in the world previously, I can now guarantee you that I absolutely love Paris. What I like about traveling to Paris is that each time I go there, I learn something new (of course), not only about the city but most importantly, about myself.

So, what is special about this trip? Well...

At last, I met up with Kristale in a place other than under our mango tree in Zambales. Having come from humble beginnings, where we are in our lives now is a proof that dreams do come true

Also, this time I went around Paris like a local. Naks. Only because I finally found my way from Paris Gare du Nord to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre on foot without getting lost. Big achievement indeed. :)

From Montmartre,  we walked down to Boulevard de Clichy for Moulin Rouge as per Kristale's request

As we had reservation for lunch and were running late, we took an Uber taxi from Moulin Rouge to Rue de Rivoli for more or less than 10 euros. You would think that I would go back to Laduree because I used to love this place. However, I wanted to try something different this time. I wanted Kristale to experience something that perhaps people she knows who have been to Paris haven't heard of before. Besides, we have Laduree in London so I can easily go there whenever I fancy some Laduree treats. 

So I chose Angelina, a traditional Parisian cafe which opened in 1903 and was apparently frequented by the likes of Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn. I was in awe of the cafe's magnificent interior. The elaborate paintings, large mirrors, classic French furniture and that golden lighting gave me the authentic Parisian feel. 

Angelina is famous for their L'Africain hot chocolate and their signature Mont Blanc dessert.  However, I was not very keen on chocolate drinks and sweets that day so I opted for what I was craving for  (scrambled egg) and some extras (pain aux raisins, croissant, pain au chocolat and brioche) . The only thing Kristale requested was a glass of champagne. 
Angelina
226 Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris

After our carb-heavy brunch,  we walked to the Louvre via Tuileries Garden. 

Somehow I always get excited whenever I see the Louvre pyramid(s). It was even more exciting that I was with someone who was as keen to  take photos. One thing I love about this courtyard is that there are so many different angles you can take good photos of. 

I love candid photos and this is one of my favourite photos of Kristale:

And then she instructed me to do the "my head hurts" or "I have dandruff" pose. Well, because I am blogger after all. :)

After our mini-photoshoot in the Louvre, we moved on to the Eiffel Tower. I suppose my trips to Paris will never be complete without dropping by my favourite spot for a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower- the Trocadero. Can I just say that Kristale takes amazing selfies? 

And blogger photos of course. 

Our last destination was Notre Dame. I am really glad that I was able to go there during this trip because I missed it last time.  

And that was about seven hours spent in Paris. 

It was very heart-warming to meet up with Kristale in Paris. If anything, it was sort of surreal.  It felt like it wasn't that long ago when we were both still in the Philippines, perhaps dreaming of the same big things. And here we are now, having champagne in Paris, seeing wonderful places and creating life-changing experiences. I am very happy for her, and I am even happier that we have managed to maintain our good relationship. Loyalty indeed shouldn't be questioned by people who are truly confident and happy.

TIN x

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