Rocking The Rocks

The Rocks is one of the historic places in Sydney. One of the sites where the first settlers lived. One of areas I haven’t been to and was dying to see after I read its history.

One fine day, I ventured on my own to the city for a walk through the cobbled and touristy steps of this side of Sydney near Circular Quay. Alighting from the train station, I was so excited to find my way to Gloucester Street. Amidst the sea of people lining up at the wharf, I was so giddy walking towards the Museum of Contemporary Art and beyond.

The MCA

The MCA

Nurses Walk was the first area I stumbled upon and I got lost with the nooks and crannies of what I refer to as a walk through time. It was getting lost in a good sense because I could go around and around the area looking at old structures (turn of the century houses and pubs), climbing stairs and getting into an archeological find without thinking that my companion might not be enjoying this DIY walking tour.

Nurses Walk houses small cafes and stores. It pays homage to the nurses that served the country and the world during the war. A small bench and a commemorative plate describe the area.

Nurses Walk

Nurses Walk

As I was finding my way towards Susannah Place, I took a peek of what looked like an excavation at Cumberland. At the ground floor of YHA hotel is the Big Dig, a discovery of authentic remnants of late 18 century houses of local laborers with some of household tools on display. It was good know that they preserved the site and built the hotel on top of it. Think of an old bahay na bato with open space at the ground floor. I can’t describe how excited I was upon seeing the place. I felt like I discovered it by myself. Maybe because I used to dream of becoming an archeologist when I was in grade school.

The Big Dig

The Big Dig and its study center

A few more walks and climbs, I finally saw what I was searching for – row of houses that witnessed the development of the city for centuries. Susannah Place is just one of those actual houses preserved to tell the stories of the working class years ago. It is some sort of a living museum since some of which are still resided by locals until now. The museum was closed that hour but it didn’t stop me from walking up and down the small street.

Susannah Place

Susannah Place

After I satiated myself of the old world, I turned by attention to the open spaces and engineering grandeur. I walked through the Argyle Cut which was an under ground tunnel turned parking lot made possible by carving the large stone that used to face the harbour. I marvelled at the sight in Dawes Point Park where riders and tourists abound for some picturesque views. I contemplated of having lunch out in the sun while people  watching.

I managed to find myself at the foot of the Harbour Bridge. That’s what you get if you don’t tell manong cleaner that you’re a bit lost.

Since it was summer, people were having lunch out in the sun – at the First Fleet Park where a big anchor monument awaits, at the Rocks Market or any open spaces where one can sit and have a quiet lunch with the pigeons.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market (without the stalls that day)

I ended having calamari and chips at a nearby air-conditioned food court after hours of walking and changing from flats to fit-flops. I must say, having a historical tour all by myself is not so bad. I will definitely do this again.

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My combo lunch

 

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Getting There

(source: http://www.therocks.com/getting-here.aspx)

On foot: The Rocks is an easy, 15-minute downhill stroll from Town Hall station, 10-minutes from Wynyard station and a two-minute walk from Circular Quay. The main entry point to The Rocks is via George Street. If you’re walking from Darling Harbour, you can take Hickson Road via Walsh Bay, or Kent and Argyle streets through Millers Point.

By train : Take the train to Circular Quay, head in the direction of Sydney Harbour Bridge, and you’re only a stroll away. If you’re coming from Wynyard station, walk north down George Street towards the harbour and you’ll be here in 10 minutes.

By Ferry : Take a ride to Circular Quay and it is s short walk from there.

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Cruising through Hanoi

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My two-day stay in Hanoi was not really enough to explore the temples (did not have a chance to visit one) or marvel at the whole Old Quarter (it was more of get lost in the Silk Street) but I made most of my free time feeling the city.

Watch out!

Wow, Do they love their motorcycles? It really didn’t matter if you are dressed in skirt or wearing shorts because motorcycles can really get you from point a to point b pronto. Saying that, one must be careful in crossing the streets. Being good navigators, drivers mastered the way of avoiding pedestrians. Just don’t panic when you see swarm of Vespas going your way.

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Hoam Kiem Lake

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Pho, banh mi and coffee

There are three foods that Viet Nam is famous for : rice noodles or pho, coldcut sandwich or banh mi and Vietnamese pressed coffee.

Pho is your typical rice noodles similar to the noodles used for pad thai. The difference is that the noodles swim in a bowl of tasty broth with a hint of cilantro, spring onions and red hot bell pepper. Srachi sauce and lemon are optional. You can pick out from three proteins to go with the noodles – chicken, beef or ground pork. One can get this from the swanky restos in the Old Quarter or the stalls at the nearest side street.

The true pho experience, however, is eating it on the side street with the rest of the common tao. The makeshift tables, plastic soup spoon, sweaty forehead and all, make slurping pho away an unforgettable dining experience. It didn’t matter that I had to do some kind of sign language while conversing with manang tindera for the type of pho that I want.

Cold cut sandwich reminiscent of cold heros is very Vietnamese if one is eating it with their baguette. Unlike the French counterpart of the bread, their baguette version is not as makunat as one can imagine. And one can buy this from vendors hawking them on their bicycles. Such a treat because it is like their version of pandesal at 12 pesos for a 6 inch bread! As for the spread, one can have the pate spread, chicken strips or ham over a bed of lettuce. Did I mention cheap and healthy?

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Dark  rich coffee that can really kick your ass. It can awaken the senses ala barako but it is best savored with condensed or fresh milk. The taste shouts pressed style, the Vietnamese way.

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You definitely have to forget all your imported high end coffee shops because in Hanoi, it is hip to sit on those low chairs sipping hooooot coffee.

Overruns overload

Viet Nam,lately, is also synonymous to Northface, Kipling and Samsonite at very low prices. Funny thing is that when we were looking at these stalls, there was only one toursit couple I saw buying the goods (probably for their backpacking trip up north) but met alot of pinoys. Are we the only one so into export overruns? One thing for sure, you will get a TNF Borealis at 80 percent off the original price. Be your own quality control when buying them, though.

Feel French

Being colonized by France, it is but logical that there are parts in the city that shouts French. And I am not referring to the bread or the fries (hehehe).

There is the Old Quarter which houses alot of buildings reminiscent of France with ornate facade and large columns. And these buildings house cafes, cosmetic shops, boutiques and all. Aaaah, and the lighting inside these stores add to the drama.

The grand Opera House and the rotunda ala Arc d Triomphe (based on my Vietnam 101) are the ultimate influence. Yellow and all, you will be in awe just like I did when I saw them.

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VIet Nam has a lot to offer aside from the food and the overruns. There are temples to explore, Halong Bay to pay homage to and all the historical places in Ho Chi Minh. One thing for sure, I will be back. Maybe soak in the Vietnamese culture, dip my feet in Halong Bay and crawl my way in Củ Chi tunnel. In between, I’ll still be sippling coffee and eating pho on those low chairs.

Taking Iloilo by Storm

Literally.

What is it with our vacations and rain? First was Baguio..Puerto Galera..Boracay (where our flight was cancelled!)..Bantayan (swimming under the rain, anyone?)..and now, Iloilo.

Shirl and I arrived in Iloilo at 6 AM…a good 10 hours before Rhiza boarded the plane to join us. We were greeted by strong winds upon stepping out of the plane.

But that didn’t discourage us to pursue the #1 in To-Do List — to visit Miag-ao Church. After taking a nap at Century 21 Hotel Lobby (nice hotel, btw) and a much-needed 30 mins doze off session, we proceeded to Molo Church and Plaza to visit the Church and take our ride to Miag-ao from the said place.

Molo Church has a gothic renaissance architecture but reminds you of a castle with its red roof. You might want to imagine Sleeping Beauty inside instead of the saints on each pillar.

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St. Anne Parish (Molo Church)
We had an idea that it would take us time before reaching the Unesco Heritage site…but we didn’t expect that we will be travelling an hour, passing 3 towns while rain was pouring non-stop and the waves were hitting the shores like there was no tomorrow. It was a bit of sight to behold (or gasp) – on our left was the sea, on our right were the mountains.After so many stops, we finally reached our destination. It made as sigh .. the sight floored us. Of course, we saw more than a dozen churches in our lives but with Miag-ao’s facade, color and structure – it did demand attention. We were not able to go inside the Church so we just strolled its perimeter, including the churchyard and occasionally posed for a photo-op under the drizzle.
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Miag-ao Church up front.
With the threat of incoming heavy rain, we proceeded to Guimbal Church that we passed before reaching Miag-ao. Sandstone, old style and small. One won’t miss it since the church seems to welcome you upon reaching the town (more welcoming than the municipal hall and the humongous gym).
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Sandstoned Guimbal Church
And the rain didn’t bother to wait for us to reach the city. It poured nonstop upon reaching the town of Oton. We managed to reach the city without looking like basang sisiw.Time to meet Rhiza! After the greet and chika, we travelled to Arevalo to get a taste of Breakthrough. It was a toss between Tatoy’s and Breakthrough and somehow, we did choose the latter. We had sisig, prawns, oyster (talaba, bala haw), chopseuy and crablets for dinner. Takaw tingin! We were almost done and Carlo was nowhere to be seen. He managed to join us after a few minutes (which was fast considering we travelled almost an hour to reach Breakthrough) and after getting shocked at how cheap our bill was…we went videoke at Nuova.I let the real singers sing. I was the pampagulo. No wonder it rained so hard that night. We had a blast singing (and listening for me) love songs, heartbreaking songs and songs for the sawi. It was a night-out! And this is just day 1.Day 2 could have started very early since we planned to leave for Guimaras. But with the incessant rains and strong winds, we ended up in SM Delgado and Marymart. We visited Jaro Church and its belfry, glimpsed at Nelly Garden and look at old estatwas in Museo Iloilo. Had a steaming hot batchoy at Ted’s and off we went to San Pedro to see Guimaras from a distance(good thing we didn’t force ourselves to hop to the next pumpboat, the waves were not so friendly). We strolled along Calle Real and tried to relive pre-war Iloilo with the old structures standing along the JM Basa Street. And we proceeded to the 3rd oldest parish in Arevalo. Villa in the town is also the older capitol of the province. The Church reminds you of old American churches in a 1930s village… or probably think of “The Village” or American Gothic painting.
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Calle Real in downtown Iloilo
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Shirl and Rhiz in La Villa del Arevalo
We revisited Molo church by this time, we know the route by heart).We were able to go inside the church this time. Indeed, if one needs ideas for a name of a girl – there were plenty to choose from the lady saints lining the pillars of the Church.

We went pasalubong shopping at the must-visit Panaderia de Molo for its famous Kastila sounding delicacies such as galletas and bañadas. After we had our tastebuds filled with sweet everythings, we took some baby steps to Biscocho House for the must-buy butterscotch. Yum yum.

At that point, we did look like tourists carrying bags of pasalubongs. 🙂 With aching feet and bad weather, we had dinner – room service.

I, on the other hand, had a night cap that lasted til 3 in the morning.

Sunny and rainy…that was our third day. Time to pack and leave the city of biscocho and talaba. While we raced ourselves to the airport, we ended up waiting for a good 45 minutes before boarding. We must be the 1% delayed flight 🙂

It was literally a wet trip. And we enjoyed every minute of it. The rain might have dampened our spirits a bit but it didn’t stop us to stroll the streets.

Our next stop? Hmm, probably, I have to start refilling my piggy bank again.