Saturday, February 2, 2019

Travelling to the Philippines on Philippine Airlines and Tips for a Enjoyable Vacation!

It had been over 30 years since I boarded a plane to the Philippines! I was so excited I took pictures of our journey from LAX to Manila!
PC: Philippine Airlines
This is the seat map of the plane my family boarded!
PC: Philippine Airlines


We were in economy class, but this is a picture of the business class section which of course offers more space!
PC: Philippine Airlines
The flight was about 15 hours so plenty of time for some movies! They had a great selection of newly released movies, classics and even a couple of foreign films!


 Every seat on the plane has a monitor and a remote that is tethered so you don't lose it!
Soon after we boarded, the staff came around and offered a hot towel! It felt good to refresh your face and hands!

PC: Philippine Airlines
Each seat also came with a hospitality kit, toothbrush and toothpaste, earphones, sleeping mask and some socks!  A blanket is also offered per seat.  These are all shrink-wrapped in plastic to ensure cleanliness!

 Now for the food.  Oh my, you will not starve on this flight.
We had "dinner" first, even though it was probably 2 or 3 am PST. This is the Korean Chicken Barbecue meal.  It was very tasty!
 Then, if you were awake, a few hours later was snack time!  Cookies and a hot box was passed out! What was inside?
A warm ham and cheese sandwich! I really enjoyed it! I wish they would sell these in the U.S., perfect grab and go item.
I fell into a food coma and then when I woke up, it was breakfast time!  This was the western breakfast, chicken sausages with an omelette.
Or you can choose the Filipino breakfast: corned beef, egg, potatoes, rice, and some melon.
The flight was indeed long, but between movies, sleeping, and meals, it wasn't that bad. I do recommend getting up when it is safe to do so to walk a bit and stretch every few hours!   We made it safely to Manila and enjoyed 14 glorious days reuniting with relatives and seeing the sights!

 Here are some tips to make your Philippine vacation more enjoyable!
  • Saturate yourself with Picaridin Insect Repellent to avoid bug bites! I applied this religiously with my son throughout our stay and he didn't get bit one time. I applied it a couple of times a day. I still got a few bites, but my daughter who did not use this was attacked all over! 
  •  Bactine helped a lot with the itchiness from the bites. We ran out of the repellent and I found Off in one of the stores. It worked ok, but not as well as the Picaridin Insect Repellent. 
  • I found that 50% of the public restrooms that I visited in the Philippines did NOT have toilet paper. My friend had warned me about that. You will find spray hoses in the stalls to wash yourself with and to clean the toilet after you have used it.  However you do need something to dry yourself with so I brought my package of Charmin To Go and Wet Ones with me whenever I had to go to a public restroom.
  • Don't be surprised at the restaurants if items are not available. My guess is there is no strictly followed schedule of supplies so if something runs out, there is not much to do about it. After all you are on an island! At one restaurant,  my brother-in-law went through four different items, each item being "not available".  At the end, he said, "Ok, what DO you have?"  Fortunately, the hospitality of staff makes up for the lack of selection.
  • There are security checks almost anywhere! You'll go through metal detectors and have your bags either x-rayed or poked through. I didn't mind, safety first!  At the LAX airport on the return flight home, they are strict about claiming food on the customs form.  Any kind of pork product will be tossed, so long bag of chicharrones. 
  • Seniors are your Fast Passes to long Disney-like lines. They get front-of-the-line priority with one chaperone and sometime the whole party will be accommodated.  This happened to us at the airport several times, especially if a senior is in a wheelchair.  The airport attendants will offer a chair and stay with you, even accompany them to the bathroom if needed! Now that is service.  They also get a pretty significant discount with their senior card when making almost any kind of purchase. 
  • The water pressure can be very low for showers except for when we stayed at chain hotels.  And hot water may be a luxury.  We got used to heating water up on the stove and using a tabo!
  • Every place we stayed at offered a free breakfast, either Western, Filipino or a buffet! It was great!
  • Man purses are the norm in the Philippines.  But always make sure you carry your purse, man or woman in front of you, even your backpacks!  A nephew said, "There are many magicians here, things can disappear!"
  • Download the Grab app. It is the Philippines' version of Uber and Lyft.  Oftentimes it was cheaper than getting a private van or car.
  • For transportation needs for your travelling party , these are my recommendations:
Less than 15 minutes away - hail a tricycle.  They are plentiful and you literally just stand on the street and wave one down. Some can fit from 3 to 6!  Pay ranged from 20 pesos to 75 pesos a passenger depending on the distance.
       
 More than 15 minutes to under an hour - call a Grab.  XL vehicles are more readily available at  populated areas like malls, etc.. not impossible  a bit more challenging to get one to pick your party up at a residence if you are not in a suburban area.
       
 More than an hour to a whole day - You might consider hiring a private driver.  We got to know a couple drivers pretty well and would just negotiate a rate.For a 10 passenger van, the average rate for hiring a driver for a whole day ranged from 3000 pesos to 5000 pesos depending on distance to destination, toll road fees, and gas. 
  • Take a native speaker with you to negotiate when shopping at local places.  With privately owned businesses, there is always opportunity to negotiate for services or merchandise.  Locals can speak the language and definitely get you the best price!
I hope to visit the Philippines again soon! Have a tip to offer, please comment below!


Sunday, December 16, 2018

City Tacos - A Mexican food fiesta in North Park!

Do you know that old Rachael Ray show where she was challenged to eat three delicious meals in one day without spending more than $40? Well, I found a place that could have easily been on her list!  A friend and I had the opportunity to dine at City Tacos in North Park.  Let me tell you it was a taco fiesta!  The menu offers a great selection for meat eaters, vegetarians, and seafood lovers as well!

Let's begin with the salsa bar. In addition to the regular green and red salsas that most tacos shops offer, I appreciated the chunks of jicama and cucumber available to cool your palate after eating some heat.
In addition they had some signature salsas that were new to me!
We sampled the whole rainbow and I especially liked the salsa mango habanero on some chips with  guacamole....muy delicioso! And I REALLY REALLY liked the cilantro salsa! If they sold that in a bottle I would buy it! The chips were fresh from the fryer and the guacamole was the real thing! No thinned down saucy guac here!
My friend and I grew up in South San Diego, with some taco shops within walking distance that we  frequented on a regular basis even before we could drive, so we've been eating tacos forever! We always have Carne Asada and Pollo Asada tacos, so we opted to try a birria taco here at City Tacos. First of all the meat portion was very generous as you can see, topped with pickled onions.  This taco sells for $3, with two house made corn tortillas to soak up all the au jus that the meat has been stewing in! We pretty much divied this into two separate tacos and ate it all up!
Next up was the surf and turf taco, a mix of garlic sauteed shrimp and rib eye steak. There was a white sauce served on top which again should be bottled and sold separately!  The rib eye steak was cut a little too thick to eat delicately but the flavor was definitely good!  Personally, I don't like to mix my meat and seafood in one bite, but that sauce was soo good, I made an exception!
A third taco we tried was the Puerto Nuevo taco, a fried lobster tail served over beans and topped with crunchy rice noodles.  I am a texture girl, so the rice noodles were a fantastic element to add for some crunch without disturbing the flavor of the lobster.  My picture does not do justice to the size of the tail.  This one was served on top of a house made flour tortilla.  I prefer corn tortillas, so I'm sure if you asked for it, they would substitute the tortilla! I know for next time!
The next taco we had was an El Especial taco, Panko crusted snow crab, squid, and octopus! This is for your seafoodies!  I loved this taco. The seafood was cooked just right. With seafood you have to time the squid and octopus, otherwise it can get rubbery real fast.
I uncovered it so you can see all the seafood! I felt like I was eating a deconstructed cocktail without the clamato!  All of this for $4! Unbelievable!
I couldn't figure out what the crusty brown layer was on the bottom of the taco melted onto the tortilla.  Then it hit me, it was the Oaxacan and Cotija cheese mix that they must grill on the taco. Take a closer look!
This was a first for me! I loved it, even though it was on a flour tortilla, hahaha!

The final taco we tried was a vegetarian options, the portobello and vegetables taco. This can also come vegan if requested. This was a mountain of vegetables and argula! I used a fork and ate it like a salad as it was huge! I think I would have enjoyed it more if they used bigger portobello mushrooms instead of the baby ones. The thicker slices would make it seem more like you're eating a steak taco.  I am a mushroom person, but I guess not in tacos. It was just ok for me, but really pretty! 
A Mexican food connoisseur friend once told me that he judges a taco place not only on the taco meats, but also the beans. Here at City Tacos, the pinto beans are served whole with bits of chorizo, ham, are carnitas.  This is a side order, which could easily be an entree in itself, at least 16 oz.! So good and for only $4! 
Do you see all the yummy bits in this spoonful?
The only dessert on the menu, if you still have some room that is, are churros!  These contained a surprise filling, I want to say caramel, but not sure. The chocolate and cajeta dipping sauces come with every order.  Piping hot and crispy! How could fried dough with sugar not be yummy! Of course, 5 out of 5 stars!
I sipped on a Strawberry Margarita while we worked our way through the food fiesta! There is also a variety of cervezas available too! 
These are just a few of what they sell.
The place is kitschy and the people are fantastic. Sandra took great care of us. 
I did feel the love in their food. I'll need to go back and take my taco-loving husband and kids ! Get there early because you may work up an appetite trying to find parking and the place is smallish with limited seating.  There was a woman who didn't mind wiping down a table just to get a seat and Sandra immediately stepped in and said she would take care of it! That's how popular this place is! City Tacos has locations in North Park and La Mesa, and are opening up other locations in Imperial Beach and Encinitas so you can find one that is closest to you!  

If I were Rachael Ray and still had that show, City Tacos would definitely be at the top of my list!  A taco, if you could choose just one, an order of guacamole and chips (to eat with the addicting cilantro salsa!), and one of their sides or an order of churros would be very filling and under $20! Go live every day like it is Taco Tuesday and visit City Tacos!  

Follow City Tacos on social media: Facebook, Yelp and Instagram, @CitytacosSD
Disclosure: Me and a guest received complimentary fare in exchange for this blog post.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

"The Wonderful Winter of Oz" in Pasadena!

December 15 – 30, 2018
Pasadena Civic Theatre
300 East Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
 
Lythgoe Family Panto (LFP)
in association with Pasadena Civic Auditorium 
presents THE WONDERFUL WINTER OF OZ
Book by Kris Lythgoe
Choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo (NappyTabs)
Music Direction and Arrangements by Michael Orland (American Idol)
Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe
 
This Holiday Season, fly over the rainbow with Lythgoe Family Panto's THE WONDERFUL WINTER OF OZ! Join Mackenzie Ziegler ("Dancing with the Stars: Juniors", "DanceMoms") as Dorothy, Tony Award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur ("Celebrity Big Brother " Winner and Broadway's Hairspray) as Glinda, Kermit the Frog® as the Wizard of Oz,Jared Gertner (Broadway's The Book of Mormon) as The Scarecrow, Phil LaMarr ("Mad TV" and "Pulp Fiction") as The Tin Man, Juan Pablo Di Pace ("Dancing With The Stars" and "Fuller House") as The Cowardly Lion, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer (Nickelodeon's "The Fresh Beat Band", 'Cha Cha' on FOX's "Grease: Live!", National Tour of In the Heights) as The Wicked Witch of the West, Hailee Payne and Valerie Rockey (of "So You Think You Can Dance") and Rescue Dog Pickle C. Irwin as Toto.
 
An updated version of the beloved classic, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, THE WONDERFUL WINTER OF OZ features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with “So You Think You Can Dance” alumni), contemporary music and more. 

Tickets start at $40 and Family Four Packs for just $99 can be purchased at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, online at www.thepasadenacivic.com or by calling 800-982-2787. Golden Tickets, which allow the ticket holder (children ages 4 – 12 only) a special on-stage experience during the production, are available for an additional $75.00 each.  Group discounts (for groups of 8 or more) are available by emailing groups@americanpanto.com. This will be the seventh holiday season of Lythgoe Family Panto in Pasadena, and the second at the Pasadena Civic.TIX: https://bit.ly/2yUBhpf

Winter Wonderland: Audience members can enjoy this FREE pre-show celebration featuring crafts, games, Santa Claus (on select days), photo opportunities, and more! Starts one hour prior to curtain time. 
 
Previously Lythgoe Family Panto established their reputation with productions including Beauty and the Beast: A Christmas Rose starring Kellie Berglund, James Snyder and Gedde Watanabe, A Cinderella Christmas starring Lauren Taylor, Alex Newell and Morgan Fairchild, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell - A Pirates Christmas starring Sabrina Carpenter and John O’Hurley, Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight starring Olivia Holt and Lucy Lawless, Aladdin and His Winter Wish starring Ben Vereen, Jordan Fisher, and Ashley Argota – and A Snow White Christmas starring Ariana Grande and Neil Patrick Harris.
 
Lythgoe Family Panto produces fun, musical theatre the whole family can enjoy. Known for their creativity and involvement in television hits “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Lythgoes are dedicated to bringing affordable theatre to families across America. Based on the Grimm fairytales and others, each story has been modernized with topical scripts for parents and well known pop songs for kids. The Lythgoes pride themselves on creating a memorable experience a family can share together. In 2017 over 6000 Title 1 students were introduced by the Lythgoe’s to live theatre, through the medium of Panto.

LYTHGOE FAMILY PANTO THE WONDERFUL WINTER OF OZ 

Saturday, December 15 at 1:00 PM and 6:00PM
Sunday, December 16 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM
Thursday, December 20 at 7:30 PM
Friday, December 21 at 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Saturday, December 22 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM
Sunday, December 23 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM
Thursday, December 27 at 7:30 PM
Friday, December 28 at 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM
Saturday, December 29 at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM
Sunday, December 30 at 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM
Venue: Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91101
Tickets: Tickets start at $40 Golden Ticket (Premium, children ages 4 – 12 only) -- special on-stage experience during the production – additional $75 per child.

Tickets and Information : www.thepasadenacivic.com

Disclaimer: I received 4 complimentary tickets in exchange for this post.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Paradise Hills Night Market 2018 - This Saturday November 24!

The Paradise Hills and South San Diego community is coming together for Paradise Hills Night Market (PHNM) 2018 happening Saturday, Nov. 24 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Penn Athletic Field. Attendees can expect an evening filled with local talent, quality products, delicious eats and more from this free family-friendly event. This event originated from a group of community member’s collective desire to uplift the Paradise Hills and South San Diego community and desire to give neighbors and friends a proper platform to showcase their hard work and talent. Since the first event, a little block party in 2016, the committee grew to include more than 45 volunteers who were committed to creating a wholesome event that captured the essence of the community. The inaugural Night Market last year drew in over 10,000 attendees and featured over 100 vendors, artists, and performers.

Attractions will include:
● Entertainment by guest celebrities and award-winning performers (e.g. Andra Day, Reunitted / Tribal Theory, Marvin Calderon Jr.)
● Culinary pop-ups from the top local chefs and restaurants (e.g. Masala Street, Matua’s, Snoice)
● Craft, apparel, and more for sale from trending retail merchants (e.g. Passion Planner, Armory Survival Gear, Illa Manilla)
● Art alley with powerful exhibits from renowned visual artists (Bunny Kitty, Horrible Monster Scene, Pursue)
● Safe, enclosed kids zone with jumpers, carnival rides, face-painting
● Dance battle competition, car show, photobooth, movie screen, and more!

This year’s Night Market is South San Diego’s kickoff event for the holiday shopping season and also coincides with Small Business Saturday. Many PHNM retailers are small business owners with roots in the neighborhood. Several vendors that will line the field for the Night Market will be selling outside of their homes for the first time.
Passion Planner is a local vendor scheduled to attend the Night Market. Passion Planner Founder, CEO and Designer Angelia Trinidad is a San Diego native and local success story. Her company successfully launched five kickstarter campaigns with $1,666,164 raised total. Passion Planner now uses its success to give back through their Get One, Give One program and other philanthropic initiatives. Additional local vendors include clothing brands Human Catalyst, Mana Pono, and Tribal Streetwear.
Paradise Hills does not fall short when it comes to entertainment. DJ Cros One will return home to San Diego for PHNM after winding down from his event, FreeStyle Session. This showcase is the world’s largest bboy crew battle. DJ Cros has worked with renowned artists like the Black Eyed Peas, Ludacris and LMFAO. He’s also collaborated with large-scale music festivals like Bumbershoot, Rock the Bells and Soundset. Local artist Chikle will also have a retail booth at the second annual Night Market. He began his art pursuits in 2004 and had his work displayed in galleries in California, Texas, Italy and Mexico. He transitioned from art to education after 10 years in the printing industry. He now shares his passion for art with the youth of High Tech High Chula Vista.
The Night Market will be accompanied with endless music, sounds and sights from local talent and artists. PHNM will also feature the neighborhood’s accomplished culinary talent. Philip Esteban is a well-known chef in the culinary world for his drive and innovation. Esteban honed his craft across both coasts as a line cook at David Chang’s acclaimed Momofuku in New York, as executive chef at The Cork and Craft in San Diego to several other ventures. He now serves as innovation chef at Consortium Holdings.
 

With the success of last year's event and the number of attendees, parking was an issue. This year shuttles will be available! See the schedule below:
Stay on top of daily announcements as the event approaches on Facebook at facebook.com/madeinparadisehills,
Instagram @madeinparadisehills and
Twitter @FtParadiseHills.

About the Paradise Hills Night Market (PHNM) The Paradise Hills Night Market is a community showcase with a goal to highlight the talent and success of community members with roots in Paradise Hills and South San Diego. It is run organized by Made in Paradise Hills, a non-profit that is 100% volunteer based. The movement’s mission is to positively highlight the stories of our unique talent with roots in Paradise Hills and the surrounding community, hoping to empower each other and inspire change from within. To get involved as a sponsor, vendor, performer or volunteer or for more information, please visit phnightmarket.com.
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