Overnight in Mabini, Batangas

A few weeks ago, my friends and I drove down to Mabini, Batangas for an overnight trip. It was only a two and a half hour drive from Metro Manila, so there was not a lot of planning needed for the trip.

Side note: I’d forgotten how easy it is to do an overnight trip to the beach in the Philippines. Oh, yes, there’s Ocean Beach in San Francisco, but the water is cold and the waves are strong. Maybe somewhere in SoCal? But that’s another ~6 hour drive away. On the other hand, Batangas just south of Manila, and Subic north. (La Union is a little farther up, but I hear it’s an easy trip there as well.) And weather permitting, the beach is warm throughout the year. What’s not so easy: finding a weekend when everyone is available.

My friends and I rented a small place by the beach. It had a fully functioning kitchen and a porch with a nice view, which made for a nice stay. I spent a lot of time on the porch because I love a nice ocean view. I was up early the next day, and I watched the sky change as the sun rose. As for the beach on premise, well, it was rocky. This didn’t bother us so much since we had planned to have a boat take us to a neighboring island in the morning.

(I’m pretty sure) we went to Maricaban Island. The shore was rocky, but this time the rocks looked interesting: they were charred—was there a volcano nearby? Or maybe I just haven’t seen enough nature in my life.

My friends and I found a nice spot at the beach, laid down our blankets, and …fell asleep. On the boat ride back, we stopped for a bit to take a swim in slightly deeper water (not the real deep water—just far enough from the rocks). It was a pleasant swim. The water was warm, the waves were not strong, and it was easy to float in the water. (There were also life jackets on the boat just in case.)

Long story short we didn’t do much. But the trip was so refreshing! It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m looking forward to more of these. It’s good to be back.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Coffee & Tea in Toronto

While in Toronto, I made it a point to visit as many coffee and tea (matcha) shops as I could. My sister provided me with a “hipster coffee fund,” so I had a bigger budget and didn’t need need to skimp out of the coffee. YAY.

Since there were simply too many coffee shops in Toronto, I couldn’t visit everything on my list. (My sister gave me a list of recommendations, and I searched for highly rated coffee shops online.) I didn’t realize until I got there that Toronto was so big. Oh well, I guess I just need to keep coming back.

Here are my favorites from the trip:

Arvo

Located in the Distillery District, Arvo Coffee has a nice space and a great brew. Coffee prices aren’t too expensive either. I enjoyed my cup so much that I bought beans to brew at home after.

Goldstruck Coffee

I have loved Goldstruck since I got introduced to it last year. This is my go-to coffee spot in Yorkville. Although the coffee here is on the pricey side, a bag of beans costs pretty much the same as anywhere else—any other specialty coffee shop, I mean. If it’s your first time here, I suggest trying out their regular brewed coffee, and if you decide you’re a fan, buy their beans. I love their beans from Peru and Colombia. The former is nice and light, and the latter tastes like chocolate.

Neo Coffee Bar

Located in St. Lawrence Market, Neo Coffee Bar not only serves coffee but also matcha—and it’s good matcha. (Don’t let the picture fool you; the barista that prepared the drink was still new and didn’t know how to make a pretty latte yet. While the drink wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, it was still very good.) They also serve pastries, some of them seasonal. The cake was so good that I wanted a second slice…

HotBlack Coffee

A cool spot on Queen Street West, HotBlack Coffee didn’t disappoint. Their coffee went down smoothly, and their pastries were delicious. What else do you need? (Oh, no wifi here. And it was a bit crowded when I was there.)

Haute Coffee

Haute Coffee is a cozy local spot in the Annex. When I was there, I noticed that the baristas seemed to know most of their customers, and the customers talked to each other even if they were at different tables. Coffee is good, and this was where I tried my first butter tart. Yum.

Little Pebbles

One of my favorite neighborhoods to visit for food was Kensington Market. Little Pebbles is a very unassuming coffee and matcha shop there. I tried their matcha latte, and it was really good. (Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as one would think to find a place with a good matcha latte.) I would come back.

Piedmont Coffee Bar

I think this was a new spot when I went to Piedmont Coffee Bar. Located in Church-Wellesley Village, this was a nice spot to work and/or unwind. I went here a couple times because it was close enough to Bloor-Yonge, and I could stay in and read my books.

Icha Tea

OK, so I bought bubble tea from Icha Tea, but this shop really specializes in tea. Even their bubble tea was made of freshly brewed tea—using real tea leaves and not those powdered or syrup alternatives—so I fell in love. Since this is high quality tea, even the take out bubble tea is priced at a premium. It’s worth a try though. I am a big fan. Try it if you’re walking along Spadina in Chinatown.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Favorite Restaurants in Toronto

As you may have noticed, I was in Toronto for quite a while. Which means… I got to eat a lot of food when I was there. Although I don’t have in depth discussions about taste and texture, here’s my list of favorite restaurants (in no particular order).

I’m getting a bit hungry just thinking about them…

Playa Cabana

This restaurant is so consistently good that I just keep coming back to it. I found this spot a trip ago (see Top 3 Spots from Toronto Trip #3), and I just got hooked. I also tried the other affiliated restaurants because they have slightly different items on the menu. I liked them, too, but I liked Playa Cabana’s selection the most.

Madrina

I love this place because everything. This place serves amazing drinks and also amazing food and it’s located in my favorite place in Toronto, the Distillery. This place probably the best pulpo we’ve had, and I am never disappointed when I come here.

Mamakas

This place made me appreciate Greek food for real. No, not fast slow food Greek salads, but actual dishes that you take your time eating and savoring the taste. Y u m. Because this place is so amazing, it does get crowded. We lucked out and found seats on the day we went here, but we’d conditioned ourselves to be ready to eat elsewhere before we even tried. We didn’t even have to wait! So worthwhile.

Casa Manila

If you are somehow craving for Filipino food, this is the place to go. I admit that it’s a bit of a trek to get there, but it was worth it. And yes, you can trust me (and my family) when it comes to judging Filipino food. We ordered these and even ordered extra dishes to take home. Yup, we liked it that much.

PROJECT:FISH

Wow, this place was amazing. We went here during my last weekend in Toronto, and I guess we unintentionally saved the best for last because this was my best sushi experience during my grand detour. We mostly went for aburi style nigiri, but we also tried other dishes. It was such a great dinner that I miss it already.