Mallow Castle

Mallow Castle – Mallow, Co. Cork

Mallow Castle is one of the many National Monuments of Ireland. It stands on a large area of gardens and parkland. The castle sits in the urban area of Deerpark, Mallow in County Cork.

The Beauty of

Mallow Castle

Exploring Ireland's Castles

Two Castles and a Dragon

This 16th-century fortified house is overlooking the Blackwater River, one of the finest salmon fishing rivers in Ireland. Visitors are in for a treat as there are two building from which to choose, a 19th-century mansion and a 13th-century castle. There is also a huge stone dragon standing tall between the two buildings.

The dragon and the castle
A dragon made of stones stands between the two castles. Sit on this throne-like seat and capture your memory of Mallow castle.

The Castle and the grounds have been in the possession of Cork County Council since 2011. It has stood in Mallow for over 800 years. While it is now a ruin, tourists and locals interested in the area’s heritage and genealogy can still visit the site. The castle ground is home to a magnificent herd of white fallow deer, which, according to British Ireland Castles, are descended from the deer given to the Castle by Queen Elizabeth 1st.

Inside the ruins of the old Mallow Castle
Inside the ruins of the old Mallow Castle.

The Castle's Architecture

Mallow Castle is a three-level rectangular strong house with wings that project from the centre of the northern and southern walls. As you step inside the castle a sharp acrid odour emanating from around the walls will envelop you. However, you will be in awe of this architecture which is somehow preserved in the present. The castle is built in an early Jacobean style. It features high gables and large windows with mullioned square heads and gun loops in the turrets.

Mallow Castle
Mallow castle
The castle ruins behind us.

Read MoreMallow Castle – Mallow, Co. Cork »
Ross Castle - Co. Kerry

Ross Castle – Killarney, Co. Kerry

Ross Castle is the first castle I have ever been to (not counting Disneyland castle in Florida). The sheer span of this imposing structure perched on a majestic site overlooking the calm waters of the lake will simply take your breath away. The sound your feet makes against the small stones scattered all around the castle grounds gives a little taste of what life would have been like back then. Much of the original structure remains unscathed and walking around the castle allows you to imagine all the merriment of those who habituated the castle long ago.

Read MoreRoss Castle – Killarney, Co. Kerry »
A feast of Japanese food at Ramen Yushoken

Eat in Cebu: Our Favorite Dishes All Over the World

There are a lot of dining places to eat in Cebu it’s almost a guarantee you will never run out of options. This is one problem that is nice to have when you are visiting Cebu for the first time or back in the city after being away for quite a while. You can feast your insatiable palate to every local and foreign cuisine, and satisfy your cravings for sweets just about anywhere.

We will share with you here some dining places in this vibrant city, most we keep coming back to, but we won’t be ranking them as each one holds their own unique tastes, thus, making them our favourites.

Cebu, the Queen City of the South, is geographically located in central Philippines where you get a balance of a progressive city, much like the country’s capital Manila, but still have the countryside vibe of southern Philippines. Cebu’s landscape has changed immensely over the years with high-rise buildings, sprawling malls, and expansive hotels sprouting like mushrooms everywhere in the metro.

The Boom in the Food Industry

Likewise, the food industry has grown alongside. From the local staples in our childhood years of lechon, barbecue (Matias), Chinese restaurants (Harbour City and Grand Majestic), and fast-food chains (MacJoy); food hopping in Cebu now offers you a plethora of tastes from all over the world. The city has become a mecca for foodies who want to sample various cuisines like Thai, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, French, and even Greek among many others without breaking the bank by having to actually travel to these countries.

Where We Eat Filipino Food

The Cordova Express at Lantaw
Unique to this floating restaurant in Cordova, the Cordova Express is a seafood concoction cooked in coconut milk.

We’ll start off with our very own Filipino cuisine. We have quite a few choices in this category but Lantaw Native Restaurant, Golden Cowrie, and Chikaan sa Cebu are our usual picks to eat in Cebu. At most times, we would order the same dishes from these restaurants every time we dine – from pork sinigang to crispy pata, pancit canton, sizzling bangus, and my all-time fave baked scallops. Another personal favourite, The Cordova Express, is unique to Lantaw though.

Cafe Laguna

Cafe Laguna, albeit on the pricier side, also gives a bang for your buck. Their dinuguan at puto is the perfect combination for a nice “merienda” with family or friends. The crispy kangkong, hubby’s favourite, is a unique twist to this unassuming but very healthy green leaf.

Abaseria

A gem tucked away in a residential area in Mabolo, Abaseria, ups the ante a further notch by offering our favourite comfort food in a homey and laid-back atmosphere. Abaseria is also a quaint shop selling a host of goodies like native handicrafts and delicacies sourced from different parts of the Philippines.

Abaseria's monggo soup is a best-seller and it isn't hard to tell why.

Where We Eat Asian Food

A feast of Japanese food at Ramen Yushoken
Ramen Yushoken is known for its wide array of authentic and savoury ramen. I had the karai maze soba (left-most) served in a generous portion.

We Can't Get Over Asian-Style Barbecue

Japanese restaurants are hard to miss in Cebu and we are simply ecstatic for the many options we have. We first fell in love with Yakiniku Wakamatsu some years back.

Then, we were introduced to Sumibi Yakiniku Tajimaya. It is best known for its all-you-can-eat meats for grilling but they also have several other food options in their menu. They have tori karaage which is good to have for the kids and the Camembert cheese fry is a great starter while waiting for your grilled meat to cook. You may also add ninniku yaki to complement to the meat.

The growing number of Korean tourists who flock to Cebu to study in English schools has brought a fad that everyone, mostly millennials, embraced with evangelical enthusiasm. Korean food and restaurants also took advantage of this popularity.

Nak Si Ter Korean barbecue
Nak Si Ter is a quintessential hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant that offers a refreshing view while you’re grilling your samgyeopsal.
Yakiniku at Wakamatsu
The grilled meat in Yakiniku Wakamatsu is best enjoyed with the Japanese rice wine, saké.
The Bada by You has affordable, flavourful and unlimited meat buffet with a variety of side dishes.

Asian Food is Not Just Barbecue

My first okonomiyaki experience was at Sachi Authentic Japanese Ramen. The rich flavours permeating through the vegetables simply wowed my tastebuds. The takoyaki is the bomb with its intense umami taste.

The California maki and gyoza in Banri are as appetizing as they look and pairs perfectly with any of their delicious ramen.

Now, if you love curry, then you won’t be disappointed as Indian cuisine to eat in Cebu are everywhere, too. You can choose to eat their food their style – by hands.

Bollywood Tandoor will whisk you away to aromatic spices and flavourings unique of Indian dishes and the staff will greet you with smiles as warm as the food they serve there.

Where We Eat European Food

Flag of France
Representing France

Restaurants offering French cuisine have taken Cebu to Parisian joie de vivre. The French boulangerie and instagram-worthy wine cellar at La Vie Parisienne will simply sweep you off of your feet.

Macaron Tango was fairly new when we dined there and French macarons were all the hype back then. I was glad that my first taste of this exquisite treat was a sweet one. They also serve delicious and filling quiches.

French Baker is our go-to place when we’re in SM shopping mall and we want convenient dining without compromising on taste. They have a variety of great dishes to choose from as well as warm soups, fresh salads, sandwiches and breads.

Macaron Tango
Bellas Bites
All fresh ingredients of Bella's Bites' chicken rice salad.
Flag of Italy
Representing Italy

If you’re in the mood for a cosy place to eat in Cebu, Bella’s Bites’ holds a reputation for healthy Italian cuisine and it is definitely well-deserved. I recommend the cheese, chicken and broccoli pasta bake with crunchy cheese breadcrumb topping. It is heart-warming with each mouthful.

You can also enjoy fast and savoury Italian food in Sbarro and the best thing is that it is conveniently located in Cebu’s main shopping malls SM and Ayala. Sbarro’s baked ziti and Chicago white deep dish always keeps us coming back for more.

Baked Ziti and Chicago White Deep Dish Sbarro

Representing Greece

I can’t seem to recall how or when my fascination with Greek food started. I reckon it probably had to do with being a cheese-lover and feta cheese happens to be one of my favourites. Cyma is our go-to Greek restaurant.

The Greeks have what they call Mezedes which is a plate of exquisite little treats to start their meals. Cyma’s vegetarian mezedes of watermelon and feta cheese with pine nuts, basil, and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) at first seemed a weird combination for me but when I tasted it I realised how all the flavours complemented each other. I loved it so much I would recreate it at home sometimes. 

Cyma - Greek food in Cebu
Saganaki (lower left) is a popular order made even special when they serve it by flaming the cheese at your table and the staff exclaiming Opa! Kotopoulo lemonato (center) is the Greek’s answer to the Filipino chicken adobo - braised lemon oregano chicken, with garlic and EVOO, served with roasted Greek potatoes and feta cheese.

Where We Eat American Food

Bigby’s cheesy-gooey blossoming spinach dip served with melba toast is such a joy to eat I can gobble it all up in one sitting. For the mains I love the Crepe Smorgasbord filled with ham, chicken and mushrooms in a creamy white sauce. The grilled chicken carbonara with its creamy garlicky cheese sauce and grilled chicken is a must-try. You can down your meals with hot calamansi or the thirst-quenching raspberry lemonade. Fudgie sensation completes the whole dining experience with its warm brownie treat topped with vanilla ice cream.

Casa Verde is known best for its jaw-dropping Brian’s pork ribs but do try the bacon and cheese potato skins and the sumptuous Tricia a la pobre. The gloriously decadent Death By Chocolate will cap off a wonderful meal.

Our little one enjoying the hummus with marinated tomatoes at Cafe Georg.

Cafe Georg is another sure spot on where to eat in Cebu and is an institution in the city’s dining establishment. As they are usually packed with people it’s best to make a reservation prior to going there. The sausage and chicken jambalaya with cajun-spiced rice is worth a try. For desserts, the blueberry cheesecake and chocolate almond tart are simply divine.

Where to Eat in Cebu: A Mix of Cuisines

Kayu Kitchen + Bar
This is duck confit of Kayu: Kitchen + Bar. Soy bean cassoulet, strawberry braised cabbage and cilantro paired with a refreshing strawberry lemongrass. Kayu: Kitchen + Bar is situated in an exclusive village in Lahug offering luxury dining of modern-fusion Japanese, Korean and Filipino cuisines.
Bos Breakfast
When I was still in the corporate world working night shifts, the hubby would sometimes collect me from the office and we would start, or in my case, end the day with a hearty breakfast. Bo's Coffee's version of McDonald's big breakfast was always a hit for us. The savoury omelette and orange chicken in Pancake House is also a great breakfast idea. And who says you can't have porkchop early in the morning? Brown Cup's pesto butter porkchop isn't bad at all to start your day.
Bo's Coffee
It was Christmas season when we dined at The Tinder Box. The interior was so festive and this fancy restaurant had me at their cheese fondue. They have a posh delicatessen with a variety of cheeses, cooked meats and pastries. The Tinder Box is a European-inspired restaurant which also offers American cuisines.
Eat Out in Mactan

My hometown Lapu-Lapu City, known by many tourists as Mactan Island, has also kept up with the boom in the food trend. If you want to know where to eat in Cebu authentic Malaysian and Thai dishes, you should try the Oriental Spice Gourmet. OSG offers Asian dishes that very nicely balances textures and flavours.

 

Not to Miss...

Must try: The Stroganov

Location: The Greenery, Kasambagan, Cebu

Must Try: All organic food – try their healthy chicken!

Location: Streetscape, Banilad

Must Try: Mongolian style all-you-can-fill bowl. They have a wide selection of sauces to challenge your taste buds.

Location: Parkmall, Ayala and SM Malls

Must Try: Chicken rice kebab

Location: Food Choices, Ayala Center Cebu

Must Try: Chicken or minced beef Shawarma

Location: Rustan’s Supermarket, Ayala Center Cebu

Photo by Wabi Jayme on Unsplash

Boracay Island – One of Our First Trips Together

We've always wanted to see Boracay island because every person we know who's gone there only has good things to say. When Cebu Pacific Air had a seat sale, we didn't miss the opportunity to go see it with our own eyes. That time, the seat sale was no rip-off, no hidden charges, no whatsoever.
Boracay white sand beach

Boracay White Sand Beach – We Love Coming Back to You

Boracay - the Philippines' Famous Beach

Boracay and its famous white sand beach.

The tropical paradise Boracay has all the necessary elements of a perfect holiday – pristine waters, powdery white sand beaches, picturesque sunsets, tall palm trees and the warm salty sea breeze on your skin. Much has been said and written, or in millennial lingo blogged and vlogged, about one of the best islands in the world found on the western coast of the Philippine archipelago, and for good reason.

Boracay Unfazed by the Season​

Willy's Rock Boracay
Willy's Rock with the grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Our first visit to Boracay was in July 2011 for our anniversary. It is not really the best month to go there because July is the start of the Habagat or wet season in the Philippines, so frequent heavy rainfall is expected. There was even a tropical storm brewing the day we got there. Our second trip was a few months later at the onset of the Amihan or dry season along with a few friends. Part of what makes Boracay the beauty that it is is its geography. White Beach which is on the western side of the island is sheltered from the wind, hence, making the water glassy-smooth during the Amihan season. Nonetheless, the island is still beautiful no matter the season.

Boracay's Geography​

Boracay has two primary tourism beaches, White Beach and Bulabog Beach. White Beach is the main tourism beach and is about four kilometers long. It is lined with resorts, hotels, lodging houses and an open concept mall of restaurants and shops. Bulabog Beach on the opposite side of the island is for leisure activities like scuba diving, parasailing, kiteboarding, windsurfing and many other water sports fun.

Puka Shell Beach

Puka Shell Beach is one hidden secret that Boracay island holds. Its name came about because of the abundance of crushed “puka” shells mixed in with the white sand. Sadly though we heard that it has since undergone some significant changes where it used to be just a long stretch of white beach now has cabanas and stalls selling coconut juice.

Where To Stay in Boracay

You can choose to stay near the white sand beaches to save you the trouble of going there. Station 1 is where most expensive hotels are operating, where most celebrities stay when they go for a holiday. Then there’s Station 2 and 3 if you go for a more affordable accommodation. They are all connected, by the way, so if you have the energy, you can go up and down between Stations 1 and 3.

Furthermore, there are big, luxury hotels outside these “stations”. But because Station 2 is where all the goings-on takes place, they provide shuttle service regularly collecting and dropping off guests to the area.

Alta Vista de Boracay
Alta Vista de Boracay .
The hotel is a big compound and our room is in this one.

We stayed at Alta Vista de Boracay situated on the hillside in Barangay Yapak. The hotel offers a panoramic view of Boracay’s highest peaks and is the perfect place to stay at if you prefer to shy away from the busy side of the island. They have Southeast Asian-inspired rooms with lovely views from the balcony. We were also surprised to see that our room has a small kitchen area equipped with a microwave oven. But the best part for us is that Alta Vista de Boracay guests get a complimentary tour to explore Puka Shell Beach.

Alta Vista infinity pool by the mountain top.
Enjoy swimming in the infinity pool if you opt to stay at the hotel.
Hotel room at Alta Vista de Boracay
Wash off the sand prior to entering your hotel room.
Book Your Next Trip to Boracay
Booking.com (function(d, sc, u) { var s = d.createElement(sc), p = d.getElementsByTagName(sc)[0]; s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.async = true; s.src = u + '?v=' + (+new Date()); p.parentNode.insertBefore(s,p); })(document, 'script', '//aff.bstatic.com/static/affiliate_base/js/flexiproduct.js');

Our Unique Experience

Then we tried helmet diving in Bulabog Beach, made more unforgettable because we witnessed a unique marriage proposal – underwater. We were in the same boat with three other tourists on our way to the diving spot. We all went underwater and started feeding the fish while the diving staff took our pictures for souvenirs when their group caught our attention. One of the gentlemen was on his knee with his polo shirt (I didn’t even notice earlier on that it did seem odd for a beach outfit) unbuttoned revealing another white shirt underneath with a print that says, “Will you marry me?” while holding out the ring to his lady. The other companion was third-wheeling to document everything.

We had a wonderful experience of pampering ourselves with a revitalizing massage at Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa’s enchanting Chi, The Spa especially exceptional with the complimentary use of their relaxation pavilion, spa pool, and jacuzzi. Our session was made unique and even more special as they used aroma and oil specific to our kind of personality.

How would you like to roll downhill inside a transparent ball? Of course, we did not miss this adventure which gave us a different thrill. The experience will have you go from fear to laughter to euphoria in just a few short minutes. You have a choice to roll inside unstrapped to the ball and with water in it, which was less extreme. But you can go with being tied to the ball, where you will feel the turns a lot more. On the way down, your friends who are watching can lie on the ground and get run down by the zorb ball.

Staying Satiated in Boracay​

Smoothies at Jonah's.
Jonah's Fruit Shakes - very popular fruit drink. For a take-away drink, the fruit shake is placed in a water bottle.

You will never run out of dining choices in Boracay that you can even have a different restaurant for each time you dine. Top of the list are the recommended ones like Real Coffee & Tea Cafe with its famous calamansi muffin and Jonah’s Fruit Shakes. But our best dining experience in the island was the buffet dinner at Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort Vintana Cafe with its appetizing array of local and international gourmet. 

Dining at Shangri-la's boracay

Boracay Comes Alive at Night​

Fire dancers around Boracay Island every night.
Fire dancers are everywhere when the sun sets in the island. Some of them perform in hotels, most of them just by the shore.

Boracay transforms even livelier at night with beachfront resorts offering entertainment like live bands, disco party and heart-stopping fire dances performed by groups of locals. Probably one facet of Boracay that entices a lot of young people.

Taking a breather from exploring Boracay
White Beach is a long strip from Station 1 to 3. It is exhausting seeing all of them, good thing there are stalls and shops along the way.

Boracay will remain one of the best islands in the world, even with its recent problems of pollution. Many locals could only reminisce the old and untouched Boracay. However, there is a lot that we can do to save it. The local tourism department must maintain its beauty while keeping up with progress. Tourists must also help in preserving the island. This union is vital so that we could always go back to Boracay and savor its beauty endlessly.

Sidetrip to Sampaguita Gardens

While planning our itinerary we came across a blog suggesting to detour in one tourist attraction when going to Boracay. The Sampaguita Gardens in New Washington, Aklan is a boutique resort located 15 minutes away from Kalibo Airport. Sam Butcher, the artist, and creator of the Precious Moments dolls with their signature teardrop loving eyes, owns the place.

The focal part of the gardens is Jojo’s Christmas Cottage, a Victorian cottage that offers an all-year-round Christmas experience. It has a Precious Moments store on the ground floor and we went up to the Christmas museum in the upper floors which showcases Precious Moments collectibles. Sampaguita Gardens also has a meditation chapel at the back of the Christmas Cottage. The chapel doesn’t have an altar, instead, has a centerpiece painting of Jesus feeding the children. This Precious Moments Chapel by the Sea is the second theme-inspired chapel after the Precious Moments Inspirational Park in Carthage, Missouri.

We also toured inside Sam Butcher’s Thai-inspired mansion where you will see his art and antique collections. It has teakwood flooring hence they asked us to leave our shoes outside. There is a grand piano in the living room and a very elegant dining room.