How to Honeymoon in El Nido, Philippines (And What to do!)

With a running list of places I plan to visit one day, determining where we should honeymoon should have been easy right?

Wrong.

With flights, costs, timing, seasons and future plans, I found picking a place to be almost overwhelming.

We narrowed it down by determining what we wanted to do. A honeymoon to me has always looked like a beach, a lounge chair and a cocktail in hand. We wanted a region we probably would not visit for some time afterward.

The Philippines has always been on that running list and after seeing images of El Nido; I was on board.

El Nido is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. El Nido is in the province of Palawan. The white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and limestone cliffs are breathtaking.

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After many google searches and trip reviews, we found and settled on El Nido Resorts for our stay. It doesn’t get more “honeymoon-esq” than Pangulasian Island Resort. With only 42 villas, at times we felt like the only guests at the resort. We always had more than enough space on the beach and at the pool. We rented kayaks and paddled our way around the island. Service was impeccable and I always felt so welcome. We were told the average stay here is more like 4 days; so by the time we left they were calling us the long timers. We actually met a family also from Minnesota at the resort. They’ve been coming for years and plan to continue to do so; 30 plus hours of travel be damned. If that doesn’t speak to the magic of this place, I don’t know what else will. The monkeys were the only ones not thrilled with our arrival 🙂 Make sure you lock your doors as they are known to enter your villa and make a mess of things! Or they will steal your bananas and cookies!

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There are many stay options from airbnbs on the beach of El Nido, to hostels and bed and breakfasts and other resorts off of the mainland.

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To get there we flew from Minneapolis to Chicago, Chicago to Seoul, Seoul to Manila and from Manila we took Air Swift to El Nido. The views over the islands are spectacular in flight. Try to grab a window seat 😉 Bonus if you are staying at an El Nido Resort Hotel; at the airport you have a private lounge with snacks, water and wifi; key! (Just a warning; Air Swift is prone to delays and cancellations. Hold your breath and hope for a smooth arrival!)

Once we got to the El Nido airport our hotel guide was waiting to take us on a golf cart to the docks and then a 30 minute boat ride to the resort.

The resort offered a lot of the island tours included with your stay; but if you are staying in town, get up early and negotiate a private boat tour. The lagoons will get crowded. I’m serious about the early part! Catching the sunrises are an extra perk.

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The secret lagoon was my favorite; we kayaked through the hole and found ourselves the only visitors. It was serene and stunning. Again…. go early! There are so many island tour places to see; Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Helicopter Island, Snake Island, Commandos beach and more.

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Besides island hopping, the diving and snorkeling are out of this world. The coral reefs are unbelievable. We only had to swim five feet from our hotel beach to see the beauty of the underwater world. We also took a boat tour that dropped us off in a few different spots; sharks, turtles, squid and jack fish were everywhere.

If you need a break from the sun and water, try some bar hopping. El Nido is hastily developing and every traveler and backpacker looking for a cold one has options.

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You must eat grilled seafood on the beach; point and pick out what you’d like. Its grilled right there in all its glory.

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We took full advantage of the “it’s our honeymoon so we are just going to relax mantra.” I mean, could you find a better spot to do so?

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There are also private island day trips to be found. El Nido Resorts owns one of them: Entalula Island. We paid for a day trip to the island, which included lunch and an all-day stay. With cabanas, cocktails and that stunning view; what more could you want? There was a public side to the island where many of the boat tours dock for lunch as well.

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Is El Nido on your list? If so, any other questions for me about El Nido? There is so much to say 🙂

Back to Blogging 2018

Hello friends! It’s been some time since words hit this white space. A lot has changed. You won’t find any more comedy about bad dates. Though you can re-read and reminisce here. And here.

Instead, you may find the joys, laughs, and lessons of marriage.

Because this happened:

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You will still find delectable bites and drinks; perhaps an occasional recipe or two. The love of food doesn’t fade.

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In about five months you may also catch tips and tricks for the new mom or mom to be.

Because this also happened:

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What does remain unwavering is the love of travel and joy of writing. With trips to Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges, and the Philippines; we’ve got a lot to catch up on!

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Ready to join me again? Or for the very first time? 🙂

How to Staycation: AC Hotel Bloomington

Growing up I moved ten times before high school. Ten! When your family moves that much it is inevitable that you will live or spend significant time in hotels. I look forward to hotel stays, heck I even crave going to a hotel just to relax. It feels like coming home.

These days I am most certainly not moving around as much but I still enjoy a good staycation. In fact after last weekend I’m pretty sure Staycations will happen for me more often. I’m getting them on the calendar 🙂

There is no better place than the AC Hotel Bloomington Mall of America to kick off your staycation tradition or to book for your next trip to the Twin Cities. With its proximity to the Mall of America, a shopping weekend could not be easier. It was the perfect excuse for me to pop in to the new Zara and do a little wardrobe updating.

From the minute you walk in the lounge, the entrance is enticing. The signature scent embraces you. All of the natural lighting makes the lounge a comfortable space to hang out, relax or to get some work done. The modern clean lines remind you of Europe yet the art is local and gives you that Minnesota feel at the same time.

 

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After all that tiresome wardrobe updating at the MOA, nothing could be more refreshing than one or two of the hotel’s signature cocktails.

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Cocktails require accompaniments and the AC’s tapas style lounge menu will absolutely do!

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After an evening of signature cocktails and tapas, getting out of that heavenly king sized bed was not on the top of my to do list. I could have stayed cozy in there all morning!

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But alas I had to… a European breakfast was calling my name! I mean they even have a machine fresh cutting prosciutto for you each morning. How do I get one of these in my house?!

 

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I was also pretty impressed with the help yourself breakfast drink selections. Iced coffee and soy milk, yes please!

Now if this doesn’t look like the perfect little breakfast plate.. 🙂

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Signature scents, cocktails, tapas and beds you don’t want to get out of.. what more could you want in your staycation?

Thank you AC Hotel Bloomington MOA; I had a wonderful stay!

(Disclaimer: A complimentary stay was provided in partnership with this post)

Where to Wine: Willamette Valley

I recently returned from a bucket list trip to Portland, Oregon. I had heard tales of this Foodie Mecca and for far too long drooled over the Instagram posts coming out of that city.

Finally it was time for me to explore Portland and feast away!

We walked all over; ate till we could not eat anymore; stopped by as many breweries as we could in sequence… and got caught in a political protest!  The airbnb may have had mice, but even that could not stop my new found love for Portland.

Not only did we traverse the city…. But we found ourselves a driver and booked it to wine country. I may be a wine country newbie but the Willamette Valley blew me away. Our driver Chris, if you can, you must find Chris, was the most knowledgeable, funny and charismatic guy. He has lived in the area for many years and developed relationships at multiple vineyards. I credit Chris for much of the attention and care we received in each and every tasting room.  With Chris we truly received the VIP treatment. Every naïve wine question I asked was answered with respect and an intent to educate. I’m quite certain we received more pours than the anyone else in those tasting rooms.

The rooms we were in felt personal, welcoming and boutique.

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Our first stop was at Domain Roy & Fils. Upon arrival we were treated to champagne and a tour around the facility. We were given time to enjoy the view and walk around. I could sit on the patio here all day. Our tasting took place by the fireplace and could not have been more enjoyable. Jordan explain their processes, the wines and exchanged dog stories. If you go, he is the best!

Our second stop was at Alexana Winery; another beautiful tasting room with floor to ceiling windows over looking an 80 acre vineyard. Here to my surprise I found a Chardonnay that I absolutely love. It is a stunning bottle and may have reopened my palate to Chardonnay. I’d be remiss not to mention that I also walked out of Alexana with a few Pinot Noirs as well. The staff here were beyond happy to educate, talk and get to know you.

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Our third stop was Fairsing Vineyard and I’m quite certain the view cannot get any better than here.

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There are no descriptors for this place. Its like a heaven on earth, a peace, a calm and warmth from the wine. Take me back.

Our fourth and final stop was Saffron Fields Vineyard. We sampled more wine and walked around the beautiful Japanese garden here. Our trip happened to coincide with a thanksgiving meal pairing and we snacked to our hearts’ content. I walked away with a bottle of the most delicious Rose.  The tasting room staff gave us many more restaurant recommendations for our last night in Portland.

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Seriously stunning. I’m dying to go back. Who is with me?

 

To Do In Philly: The Magic Gardens

On this 70 degree November day, my heart is happy. I’m jumping for joy and lifting my face upwards towards the sun. Give me all the rays!

I am one of those forever summer people; one who’d be pretty happy posted up on a beach for the rest of forever. So naturally I get the end of summer blues. At 30 I’ve finally learned the cure to such blues.

Fall travel!

The first such trip was to Philly in September. Have you been? I absolutely love Philadelphia. On this trip I wanted to check out Philly’s Magic Gardens. The Magic Gardens are a non-profit, visionary art environment. Its located within Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork. The gardens are an outdoor installation spanning half a city block on South Street. Isaiah used nontraditional materials to transform an empty city lot.

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Walking through this beautiful mosaic garden, I felt almost transported back to Spain. It felt like a Gaudi masterpiece. There was so much to look at, so many colors, materials and sayings. As we perused the garden, the artist himself was even there, happily engaging visitors in conversations regarding his work.

 

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I highly recommend you add the Magic Gardens to your itinerary. And after you’ve explored to your heart’s content, you’re going to need some afternoon wine and snacks. So make your way over to Tredici Enoteca.

The restaurant has a warm coastal feeling.

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 No better place to Rose all Day 😉

To enjoy some oysters..

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And to eat hands down, the best bacon wrapped stuffed dates ever!

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I’d say this trip was a great fall blues cure.

Do you experience the same blues? How do you beat em?

 

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The Montserrat Tour to Take: Barcelona, Spain

I was listening to a podcast the other day, in which the speaker stated that there were two ways to look at life. There were those that would sit in their cubes dutifully saving income in order to live life after 60. Then there were those that looked at life as a now and not as a future state. Those that seek to explore while they are young. Those that will find a way to build that lifestyle they seek now.

Of course there are more than two ways to look at life. However if we are going to follow along and play into that speaker’s philosophy, I’d fall into option two. I strive to find a way to play now. To explore now. To put my wanderlusting soul in a box, with a key only to be opened upon hitting a certain amount in my 401k; would equate to a death sentence for that part of my soul.

Perhaps you call option two the proverbial millennial in me. Call it what you will.

Travel I must. It’s a directive running through my veins. It cannot be ignored.

So along the lines of option two, I am finally getting up a few more Spain travel posts.

Most of our trip in Spain we planned on our own, not being held to tour times or group travel. Some places were picked out and others we ignorantly wandered into. But that’s how we like it. A mix of planned and spontaneous. I’d call myself semi-type A, I like lists and itinerarys but I also like to get lost. To see what I may never have seen. To meet and taste and smell the unexpected. Even if sometimes that means I’m lost in an Irish field,the rain is sprinkling down, my hair in hideous waves due to the thick fog and my nose dripping with snot. (See story here)

While we mostly wandered Barcelona on our own schedule we did take one tour. If you are to take one tour in or around Barcelona, this is the one company to use! They gave us exactly what we liked. A bit of an organized tour, a bit of time to ourselves to wander and a guide who was personable, knowledgeable and eager to build new relationships.

Our tour was to the must see monastery and mountain region of Montserrat. The area is full of legend, housing a beautiful Benedictine abbey, the Virgin Sanctuary and did I mention a farmers market of cheese vendors?! You can also ride the Funicular up to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views and a walk with the clouds. It is not to be missed!

Walking in the Clouds

The beauty, mystique and legend of this place not only speaks for itself, it can be felt. My descriptors and pictures lack just how this place takes your breath away. You are quite literally walking within the clouds. Whatever your religious leaning may be, the spiritual presence is enveloping.

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Our tour capped off with a leisurely Spanish lunch and winery tour.

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Oller de Mas is a boutique winery built out of a family legacy. They are quite literally bottling by hand and allowing the youngest family members draw and design the labels. Even the children have a hand in the boutique aspects of this place. With a private tasting room within the castle we got to know our intimate tour group. Thought not a sommelier our guide knew his wine and knew the winery. Our wine tasting was knowledgeable, fun, relaxed and hey, there was a lot of wine!

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I cannot recommend this tour more. It was one of the top days of our trip. I may or may not have ended the day with a slight wine induced nap back to the city.

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Winnery Barrels

Thank you Castlexperience tours for an unforgettable day!

(To be clear we found this tour through other reviews. The company did not compensate me for this post, (nor did they even know I was writing it) I merely wanted to share a great experience with those looking for tour options in Barcelona)

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Kiosk Universal: Barcelona Must Eat

Our Barcelona trip was full of must eats. The Tapas, duh. Jamon and queso, yum yes like three times a day.

Seafood? Seafood was required.

Some of the best seafood we had was at Kiosk Universal.

You can find Kiosk Universal in La Boqueria. La Boqueria is, no bias at all here, one of the best markets in the world. It is said that here, you can find a paradise for the senses. I strongly agree as my foodie desires were more than fulfilled perusing the stalls. We purchased a variety of olives to take back to our airbnb and sniffed out different fruits to try. Cheese and meats will be yours in abundance should you sample and purchase to take home.

We headed to Kiosk Universal on a tip from friends.

Where else can you sit and ogle razor claims, mushrooms, shellfish and fish piled all up in your face?

I mean look at those! So fresh the stall to your left, right, other side, front, back etc. is selling the freshest catch.

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Holy green sauce were said friends right. This place, its seafood and its green sauce are to die for. Order everything.

I was instructed to order everything, so I pass on the same sentiment to you.

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Lick up that green sauce and enjoy!

Mussles

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Head to the back of the market. You’ll know it by the fact its packed. All the time. Elbow your way in and enjoy allll the delights.

Thank me later 🙂

Kiosk Menu

Rob with three desserts

The Best Meal in Barcelona

The best meal in all of Barcelona?  Quite the statement, I know.

Perhaps it was the magic of a two week trip winding down.

The culmination of the exploration and needing some place to top it all off.

It may have been built up by our wonderful airbnb host, who stated upon our arrival, that he himself as foodie considered this place the best of the best.

Barcelona is full of culinary delights… full of jamon and queso… full of pincho bars where one can toothpick their way through endless selections..

We ate and ate for two weeks.

Our last spot however has my heart.

On the recommendation of our host, we made it to Bar Canete on our last night. We perhaps should have made a reservation! But to our delight we were seated shortly after ordering a drink to wait with.

I had to start with oysters. Oysters and I are obsessed. with each other. And I get to eat them ALL as a certain someone claims he is allergic. (which I doubt based upon described symptoms…)

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The spicy clams came next.

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Rabbit cutlets to continue the meal..which were perfectly cooked and mild.

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As my main I had to order the wildly popular, seemingly social media classic, the Cannelloni of roast poularde and foie bechamel.  O my heaven in my mouth. It was meaty yet light, rich and creamy, scrape my plate delicious. I would have licked the plate had I have had another glass of wine..

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My dining parter aka world travel partner ordered the aged beef steak with foe and truffle sauce… perhaps we indulged a bit 😉

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And of course; no trip finale is complete without ordering half the dessert platter.

Because it is vacation of course.

Rob with three desserts

Orange dessert

Chocolate torte

If you find yourself in Barcelona, go go go go go here! I’ll just be over here drooling.

Perhaps I should have started this post with a, “hey we went to Spain” intro! Or started posting chronologically, depicting the places we went, things we saw, restaurants we tried… but no. This time I started at the end. The end which was the best capstone I could have asked for. Hopefully the posts to come fill in the gaps 🙂

Philly and My Cheese Steak.

Each plane ride leads me to the next. Each trip, long or short, has me craving a new adventure.

I am always dreaming of that next departure.

I cannot be still and stay. My most comfortable place is the airport.

Last weekend was spent traipsing through Philadelphia with the one and only KB.

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Off we were to explore her new city and eat just about everything in sight. It was as we called it, a foodie weekend, with not much but food crawls on our  minds.

Naturally our first stop had to be a cheese steak.   I’ve had Pat’s and Geno’s on a previous Philly trip, so this time, we walked blocks and I mean like 6 miles to get to Jim’s Steaks.

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I made (yes made) KB order, as technically she had never ordered one before. Don’t worry, whiz was involved.

Our next stop was a jaunt to a pop up beer garden for happy hour. I could live in this pop up beer garden. Which by the way at the end of the season is stripped down to the bare parking lot that it came from. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society puts these on and it may be the best summer activity ever. Beyond jealous one is not on my street. Ahemmm Minneapolis….

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Post beer garden, you should probably head to Tria Fitler Square for you know… carbs and cheese.  The perfect “beer-soaker-uper”. Get the Truffled Egg Toast with Fontina Fontal. O my god this is the best toast or anything else that you will ever put in your mouth.  We also had the Pistachio Herbed Ricotta with Lavender Honey Bruschetta.  I plan to recreate this at home very soon. SO good. The braised beef short rib gnocchi was also to die for. All in all, carb heaven.

Naturally the next morning, we had to start brunch on the same carb and cheese train. Because we totally did not have enough the night before. AND we had trekked all the way to the new Century 21, meaning we had burned off at least half of the night’s delights.

Check out Zavino Wine Bar for seriously the largest meat and cheese tray ever.

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After more walking, exploring and a daytime cocktail or two, our dinner reservation at Mercato arrived. I’m told you are not to take photos here, and as I do not break the rules, I refused to do it. However others were doing it and KB demanded documentation. Somehow, someone managed to take the below………..

 

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(Shhhh!)

With my stomach and carb love full, off we went to wander the picturesque historic streets. If anyone would like to purchase the below home for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.  Then I could spend more time traipsing through the city and sampling the restaurants to my heart’s content.

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While I’m over here already dreaming of the next trip, I left Philly happy at a friend’s new home, happy for her next adventures and delighted to have met some of her new people;  amazed at her already amassed knowledge of the city and passion to explore.

(I’ll be over here eating salad all week)

Have you been to Philly?

Water and The Soul.


I’ve got the travel bug again, and I’ve got it bad. Spain is on the brain. Have you been? I think I may need to go.

Spain may be next.

So while I’m dreaming of tapas and architecture, my mini travels to weddings this summer will have to suffice.

And suffice they  have.

Bayfield, Wisconsin may have stolen my heart a few weeks ago. Who knew this charming place was a mere 4 hours away?

Not me.

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A town that claims to be where the water meets the soul. I’d very much have to agree.

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Waking early to the sun over the water, the town slowly creeping to life. the early birds sailing through the calm waters.. buying the ferry tickets to Madeline Island.. and taking in the calm around you.

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I could totally spend another weekend on the shores of Lake Superior.

Renting mopeds and exploring the island.

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Eating white fish cakes and hearing about the island’s late night shenanigans.

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I’ll take another order please.

I’m ready to plan my next weekend here. Have you been?

Bayfield, you’ve kept my travel bug at bay.

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