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Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia: A Home To The Most Celebrated Festival in Bicol Region

Like the province of Isabela where I originally come from, Camarines Sur has its fair share of well-known churches. But when it comes to ecumenical festivals, there is only one church that stands out: Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia. It may be relatively new compared to its aged counterparts but thousands to a million of devotees around the Philippines and the world converge on this church during the Peñafrancia Festival–one of the most attended Marian celebrations in Asia–which happens in September every year. This is the reason why paying a visit to the church is not only a spiritual but worthwhile experience even during the regular months.

I ticked that experience on my bucket list when I had my yearly vacation last April 2015. We usually attend a Sunday mass to any of the nearby churches but Ms. Wonderwall suggested the idea of attending one at Bicol’s most famous church, which is located along Balatas Road, last April 18 to be a treasured experience. The whole family succumbed to her idea in the afternoon of the following day.

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Upon debarking from the jeepney after a twenty-minute drive from the Heart of Bicol, Naga City, the church’s imposing facade, with its grand belfry soaring like a skyscraper and the well-scythed sward, immediately made an impression. What was more impressive was when we got inside. We were greeted by the chromatic colors of the ceiling, walls, and stained glass windows.

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The most astounding of them all were the stained glass windows courtesy of the revered mural painter and stained glass artist, Pancho Piano. The panes that were strewn with a motley of colors portray the fluvial parade of Peñafrancia as the people transfer the Lady from one church to the next.

I stopped from shooting when the mass started. I usually feel sleepy during an afternoon mass but the colors somehow kept my senses alive.

When the mass ended, I rushed outside to check the pavilion, which I already noticed before getting inside the church. This part of the place serves as shelter for the Lady after a big procession.

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I was awestruck  when I stepped inside the mini-dome structure that is capped with a glass roof and stained glass as ceiling. According to what I read, each glass pane showcases a story of devotion to the Lady and how her thaumaturgies changed people’s lives.

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Now that Lent is around the corner, the place will soon be teeming with devotees once again. The busy days will be relived with the hope of another series of historic events in Bicol’s book. One thing is for sure: Every visit to a church, especially with family, is something to be treasured.

Related Articles

Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Naga City, Camarines Sur (libotero.com)

Penafrancia Fiesta 2015 (nagayon.com)

Penafrancia Festival 2015 schedule (bicolstandard.com)

Highlights of Peñafrancia Festival 2015 (bicoltoday.com)

It’s more fun in Bicol: Peñafrancia Fiesta 2015 In Pictures (bicolph.com)

UBLA: Kaaldawan of the 41st Penafrancia Fiesta 2015 (asianjournal.com)

Adventures in Bicolandia: Aboard the Bicol Express! (darlingakongangga.blogspot.com)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

To my eyes, the most breathtaking nature feat is the sunset. I always take a second look at how the sky gets spattered with vibrant colors as the sun sets. Those colors make for a shimmering gloaming.

This is pure magic in the mundane.

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Related Posts

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant (dailypost.wordpress.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant (gleaningthenuggets.wordpress.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant (theeternaltraveller.wordpress.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant (everyphototunity.wordpress.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant (pixtowords.com)

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Top 4 Asian Budget Restaurants in Riyadh

I am Number Four: Cusina in Electron Centre Building, Batha

Cusina is a Chinese, Japanese, & Thai restaurant—the first of its kind in the city. (It is not in any way related to the trendy Italian restaurant called La Cucina in Al Faisaliah Hotel-South.) Majority of what you can see though are Japanese cuisines. They have an assortment of menu items so I am sure you can find what fits your Asian palate. The good thing about this restaurant is people, particularly Filipinos, are flocking to the place.

I was with my travel buddies when I visited the restaurant. We waited long enough to get curious about the kind of hype it projects. We had enough of the flashy reception by the time we got inside and secured a table for six. It was a fun and gastronomic adventure nonetheless.

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We had a good time with our  beef noodle, barkada treat (which comes with different kinds of maki laid on a big boat–the instant favorite) fried rice, and fruit shakes.

If you are someone who value a table top conversation before and after a meal, I will not recommend this place because of the low ceiling and stifling spaces between tables. The Japanese cuisine is a bit pricey too. Nevertheless, the dishes are okay and you can make the most of them and the attractive ambiance with SAR 30-50 in your pocket.

The Third Man: Wok to Walk in Qurdubah Plaza beside Tamimi Markets, Qurdubah Exit

There are many wok restaurants in the city but Wok to Walk stands out for me. Who would not bite the idea of making your meal at your request the quick and healthy way. They have an array of veggie meals to choose from the Menu. The same goes for non-vegetarians. All the meals, which ranges from SAR 20-40, have that distinct smell of Asian dishes.

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I am one of those who do not really prefer common fast food like burgers or fries. I want rice and this restaurant has that healthier alternative.

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All you have to do is follow their simple three step menu where (1) you choose your base (rice or noodles which is of various types); (2) pick your ingredients (vegetables such as carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, to name a few and meats from chicken, beef, prawns, to tofu); and (3) choosing your sauce (Barbecue, Sweet and Sour, Peanut, Coconut Curry, or Teriyaki). Once you confirm, your dish will be directly cooked in front of you. Watching how they do it is actually encouraged. In three to five minutes, your food is served.

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One wow thing about Wok to Walk is, it caters to every customer especially those with dietary requirements (weight loss, vegan, or vegetarian diets) or prefer tons of meat like beef (my kind of meat here) or any kind of gourmet treats. The downside is, tables are not enough for this kind of restaurant.

I got to this restaurant on a random day. I and my colleagues/friends had to buy some stuff at the supermarket. I got hungry and I told them I need something similar to Chow King’s Chow Fan but it should be served quickly.

2 Fast 2 Furious: Panda Express beside Tamimi Markets, Dabab corner, Thalateen Street

Long before I got the chance to eat at Panda Express, I have already heard a lot of buzz about the restaurant. Blogs and news are also  humming for its opening, which took place last November 2015.  Riyadh is already teeming with restaurants but there is just something that pulls the crowd if it is a world-famous joint that is coming to town.

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Panda is a Chinese restaurant that became a big hit in the United States and now, the world.

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I only tried it once so far and I got immediately disarmed by their broccoli beef with fried rice. I will surely come back for more to try other dishes in the Menu. The sound of their “create your plate” combo option, with either two or three main courses and a side dish with fried rice, is tempting.

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Two distinguishing features of Panda Express are its high ceiling and tables that are spaced well apart. They backfill any lull in the conversation. The drawback is, they lack service crew. As a result, waiting for your food is a trying experience.

You need SAR 30-60 to get enough of their Chinese cuisine.

The One: Tokyo Restaurant in Al Orouba Street, Al Wurdud

Tokyo Restaurant is the first Japanese restaurant in the concrete jungle of Riyadh and probably the most successful, gleaning from how many people I see inside each time I visit. It offers only the finest of Japanese cuisine in the city at reasonable prices. The irresistible thing is, the foods’ taste is not sacrificed.

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This Japanese restaurant combines tradition and exceptional presentation to excite guests.

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Their Menu has a variety of choices with just the right prices. Makanouchi Bento is my all-time favorite because it offers just so much of the major dishes and its absolutely economical.

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Since it is a low ceiling restaurant like Cusina, noise is beaming. Still, Tokyo Restaurant is by far the best among the rest particularly when it comes to the foods’ taste. With SAR 40-70, you can chow an authentic Japanese cuisine and experience a glimpse of Tokyo through their display of old-fangled samurai armor paired with prehistoric, framed Japanese writings on the wall.

Related Articles

Wok to Walk’s official blog: recipes, news and lots of fire! (woktowalk.com)

The How, Where, What of Riyadh for the Week (destinationksa.com)

Cusina – A Restaurant in Batha (cebuanawithlove.wordpress.com)

Top 5 Restos that Must Come to Riyadh (thepinktarha.com)

Tasty Yummy Wok Food (thefoodtechie.com)

Where to Eat in Riyadh (theculturetrip.com)

Sunrise in Riyadh City

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic

There are days when I am obliged to come very early to the office. This time of the year, I am as clinomaniac as everyone else because of the prevailing cold embrace of the Middle Eastern winter. It is hard to get up that early in the morning. But when I think of the beautiful sunrise awaiting me in front of the office, everything becomes easy. There is more to a picture of sunrise than meets the eye.

Sunrise in Riyadh City

I have always been addicted to seeing the sunrise. Let me quote Bernard Williams once again for this nature feat that awakens that optimistic spirit in me in times of despair: “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”

Related Posts

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimisic (davidoakeimages.wordpress.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic (theeternaltraveler.wordpress.com)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic (polymathically.wordpress.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic (dailypost.wordpress.com)

Expat Blog Interview

2015: A Year of Affirmations, Blurbs, and New Connections

Doing a year-end post has been something obligatory since I joined the bandwagon back in 2012 (2013: A Milestone Year for Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind). Then before the year 2015 unfolded, I was eventually compelled to share some life-changing lessons (2014: A Year of Life Lessons). It feels good and comforting to look back and reflect on the things that happened to the blog and my life year after year.

Now that 2016 has started, I was again compelled to add another episode to the now series–before January ends.

Nothing feels better when the lessons you wrote down as simple reminders of your mistakes are affirmed. There is indeed a bigger world for opportunities out there; there are more people out there whom you can forge new connections with; and immersing in nature once in a while is still the best way to recharge the batteries.

On the one hand, the benefits of welcoming new people into your life far exceed being at your accommodations all the time. On the other hand, it is a must to do an immersion in nature every once in a while because it fuels the body and soul. Traveling in this day and age is a necessity.

Getting mentions from leading social media platforms such as a website, Facebook Page, Twitter (business’) & blogsite is something that will always make a blogger very proud. Thank you very much Expat Blog (for wielding my first ever interview), Piatto (for posting my food and restaurant review on your Facebook page), White Pebbles Beach Resort (for the blurbs and photo credits–from my travel blog post “Bagolatao Trilogy’s Part 1: Basking in the Natural Scenery“–on your Facebook page), Bicolandia Today (for including my article, “CamSur Watersports Complex and Its Eco-Village“, in one of your June 2015 issues) and Pixels for Four (for making my blog post “A Haven for Chocoholics: dip ‘n dip” as a reference to one of your food reviews)!

Expat Blog Interview

Piatto Mention

White Pebbles Beach Resort's Blurb

New Mention-Bicolandia Today

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Every comment is a piece of another beautiful mind. I could not let the day passed without recognizing the new bloggers I met this year. When I say met, I meant I was able to forge new connections with–for real!

The waggish Aysa, of “aysabaw“. If you are looking for a decent diversion from the usual things you read, her blog is a very good one. She provides very poignant and humorous insights on her life through posts on music reflections and OFW life.

The witty Mabel of “Mabel Kwong (Asian Australian. Multiculturalism)“. The blog gives me a higher perspective of things about multiculturalism. It also inspires me to write better. One of the best things about the author is her ability to get back to her audience ruthlessly in a nice way. I have never seen a blogger in my circle who keeps track of every commenter and finds a way to respond no matter what. She was the one who taught me “never take for granted a comment on your blog post”.

The sexy Chia of “Wanders of Chia“. Her blog reminds me so much of how I finally came up with what I want to write. I must say she is definitely heading to the right direction.

The very strong mom, Boots, of “In the Wrong Boots“. Boot’s blog is about her lifestyle filled with constant traveling, eating well, shopping, and serious life stories about her transition from being a jetsetter to a stay-at-home mom.

The certified wanderer, Vinneve, of “Wanderlust: a new Chapter“. Vinneve is an “artist” and a traveler. She technically came from three different continents (Asia, Oceana, and Europe). She gives me that hunger to really set foot on countries in Europe or Oceana in the future.

The graphic artist, Jake, of “Jakesprinter’s inspirational quotes“. When you want some inspirational quotes, visit his blog. It is also loaded with animated and entertaining pictures, which are all created by him.

There used to be tons of bloggers frequenting the Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind but I must admit, I lost my way back to them in the busyness of my schedule. Those were the times when I had to concentrate on bigger priorities. When I tried to reconnect with them, it was already too late. Nevertheless, our time was an interaction full of learning, and each of you is always welcome to drop by again. Rekindling the connection is more preferred though.

My new year’s resolution includes making sure that my blog is taken [extra] care of. I am so looking forward to more interactions, blog posts, and travel destinations.

Related Articles

4 Reasons You Should Write a Year-End “Best of” Blog Post (clearvoice.com)

My 7 Favorite Travel Blogs of 2015 (nomadicmatt.com)

Welcoming 2016 in Serenity (justholavida.com)

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The Very Colorful and Nitid Land of Golden Souqs

The first time I passed by the shop called “Traditionals” at Granada Mall in Exit 9, I fell in love with its kaleidoscopic atmosphere. The shop sells traditional Saudi handicraft and antiques. I have always wanted to do some traditional kind of shopping and visual feasting on something variegated here in the capital city.

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The luster that vintage items projects is like an aphrodisiac to my optical organs. The sad part is, I was only able  to steal a photo of the shop’s entrance. When I got inside, I humbly asked the one in charge if I could take pictures but he simply pointed his index finger at the signage that says “No Photography”. I rest my case. I left the store with a heavy heart…It has been more than a year since.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Ace, asked me to tag along with him in his second visit to Souq Al-Thumayri, Souq Al-Dheera, and Souq Al-Zil. These markets are all located in the area of the historical Al Masmak Palace and Fortress in Deira, which is approximately half a kilometer past Al Batha Street. According to Saudi Tourism’s “Guide to Shopping in KSA”, said markets are considered three of the most important and frequented traditional markets in the kingdom. And, the things I wanted to photograph at Traditionals are swarming in those markets. The latter was the only thing I needed to know. I instantly dropped a big and heavy YES, especially when Ace told me that I could bring other friends. Traveling with friends is always cheaper and more fun! Nothing is more gripping than starting the new year with travel for someone like me.

In the chilling morning of the new year’s second day, I (armed with my Panasonic Lumix GirlFriend), Ace, Marwin, and Alvin cruised our way to Deira for almost an hour drive from Exit 7.

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The excitement that was enveloping us on the way turned into displeasure when we were caught in traffic and could not find a parking lot. The whole Deira was already teeming with cars and tourists by the time we arrived. It took us more than 30 minutes to find two blank spaces for the cars. But as soon as we began probing the shops, the enjoyment was rekindled. A little bit later, each of us started to build a world of our own.

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I traipsed all over the available commercial shops in sight such as “Camel Corner”, which has a Facebook page, “Traditional Centre”, “Asia Carpet Centre”, and so forth. I saw brasses (in multiple forms), daggers (in curved sheaths), swords (in gold and silver scabbards), clocks (from England), shishas (in various sizes); crystals (as bulbs), multicolored lamps, gold stores, keychains, dreamcatchers, figurines (of camels and elephants), telephones, gramophones, phonographs, Middle Eastern chandeliers, coffeepots, jars, jewelry boxes, carpets, Islamic prayer beads, comforters, incense, incense burners, and a whole heap more.

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It should be noted that all the antique items I tested were working.

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Then it just dawned on me that the whole souq area was a different world. As I was walking through the streets and checking each of the shops, I felt like I got stuck–but enjoying–in a 17th-century time warp world, which I called “The Land of Golden Souqs” for obvious reasons.

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Everywhere I looked, there was a presence of colorful items, especially the slightly reddish yellow ones.

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These old pieces of the old world radiate a touch of magic as if I could be transported to Narnia the moment I touch any of the clocks.

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Then I got to this corner where a peculiar view caught my attention: A man, who was sunbathing to mollify the freezing blows of the winter season.

So I shot him three times.

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I exclaimed at how the photographs turned out. Sometimes, the best photographs are usually the ones from stolen shots.

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The man simply exuded some of life’s subtleties that make for a unique and captivating photo. All because he did not feel self-conscious.

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I actually thought the man in the photo will get mad at me for stealing shots of him but he smiled–much to my surprise. He even enthused to have me take pictures of the carpets inside his store.

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As I was digging intently into the photos, I noticed my three companions already converging–while the shops were closing for prayer time.

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After all that had happened, that day was the most colorful and nitid one I ever had–literally and figuratively!

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It is fact that the kingdom boasts numerous state-of-the-art malls but the most unique shopping experience lies within the souqs. These traditional outdoor markets are the best places in the kingdom if you are up to finding ornate traditional Saudi souvenirs and making a colorful and nitid day.

Related Articles

5 Things To Experience In Riyadh’s Historic Neigborhood (destinationriyadh.com)

Deira Souk in Riyadh: A Time Travelers Wonderland (waim.yamsafer.me)

Abaya Finder: Dirah Souk 1/2 (thepinktarha.com)

Deira Souk (canadianinriyadh.blogspot.com)

Things to see in Riyadh (eyeofriyadh.com)

See and Do in Riyadh (expatarrivals.com)

Souq al-Thumairi (lonelyplanet.com)

The Princess Souq (blueabaya.com)

Traditional Souqs (arriyadh.com)

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“Antiques and Bread”

Paul Bakery & Restaurant has been flaunting in the major cities of Saudi Arabia but it was only last November of the current year (2015) that I learned about it.

Paul Bakery & Restaurant was established in France in 1889. It offers an extensive selection of refined French inspired recipes with an unrivaled excellence in French baking and patisserie. It opens daily from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM.

It was a random rainy day when my colleagues/friends and I were about to do a break when the resident connoisseur, Randy, suggested buying a decent accompaniment to our coffee. He suggested checking out Paul’s newly opened branch at Exit 6, Uthman Ibn Affan Rd, Al Mughrizat, Riyadh 12483, which is quite near the workplace.

We rapidly left the office and it just  took us approximately five minutes to get there. We immediately placed our orders and went inside to do some sort of visual digging.

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The place looked like an ordinary coffeehouse on the outside but once I get to its dining area, in spite of the fact that it is not that big,  I was transported into a different world.

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The house displays selected objects and furniture.

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Upon learning that the pieces of furniture are all antiques, the more I appreciated them.

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There is something attractive about these old collectible items especially when I think about their age, rarity,  condition, and history behind.

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Knowing that they represent a previous era in French society could not be more enchanting.

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They are the reasons behind the cozy, luxurious ambiance Paul is known for.

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The country style décor is relatively noticeable.

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What makes the place truly exquisite are the carefully selected displayed items or objects. Like they did not put one item or object there without serving a purpose.

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The furniture flows in perfect harmony within the age-old traditions of the business. Burgundy stone, wood, and brick combine to give shop a genuine old-fashioned look and feel.

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The patina of old kitchen utensil and carved woodwork blend combine to create a lovely old-fashioned ambiance. And when the salivating smell of the newly baked bread straight from the oven made the entire place, beyond question, a decent place. This is what makes Paul Patisserie’s unique appeal as a social venue.

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I was thankful there were just us during that time. I had all the liberty to photograph tirelessly and without hesitation.

I did leaf through the pages of the menu after getting enough of the shop’s interior. I could say they serve more desserts and late morning meals and not so much on heavy meals. They fit more as a breakfast, brunch, and dessert place anyway.

A few minutes later, I got my Cherry Cheesecake and so friends’. But before we finally kicked the exit door, I hurried to the bakery corner.

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The different types of bread particularly the  authentic French bread, baguette, were totally a handsome sight.

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They, in my book, primarily lend credibility to the concept’s positioning that is artisan bakery (an original French Bakery).

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Their website shows far-reaching roots in France—its origins trace back to a single family-owned restaurant in the late 1800—further bolster that reputation. All of this combines to offer customers what is perceived to be an authentic French bakery experience, something that is highly appealing to Arabian as well as expat consumers who are seeing their disposable incomes rise and looking to splurge on premium foodservice purchases.

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At the office, the weather blues heralding the start of the winter season somehow faded when I was mincing my cherry cheesecake. It combines the sweet and sour tastes of blueberries with really rich cheesecake. It has a light and fluffy texture, making every bit melts like heaven in thy mouth.

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I will sure come back for more. Plus, any of the tumblers would look sexy on my table.

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Please visit  paul-bakeries.com for the detailed menu listing.

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PAUL Bakery & Restaurant – A French Cuisine Revolution in Riyadh Saudi Arabia (thefoodtechie.com)

Take It From Paul (thepinktarha.com)

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Time for Coffee and Desserts at Paul Bakery & Restaurant (meggsblogged.com)

Paul Bakery & Restaurant Iftar (streetstylesavvy.com)

Top 5 Brunches in the City (thepinktarha.com)

Breakfast In Riyadh: PAUL’s Restaurant And Bakery (blueabaya.com)

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How To Make A World Tour In Just One Hour

It was during the first week of October this year when pictures of some of the most famous landmarks from fellow expats here in Saudi swamped my Facebook feed. I immediately got interested in knowing where did those reduced scale replicas of well-known landmarks are erected. It goes without saying my wandering feet was itching to get there too.

I was flabbergasted upon learning from a colleague that the place where those miniature models of world landmarks lie is just along the Eastern Ring Road at Exit 10, Nasir Al Raijhi, Al Mughriza–opposite the Philippines’ Star City counterpart here. It is very near our workplace. Since that was a Sunday, I was not able to go right then and there. Singles are only allowed to visit the place once a week (i.e., every Tuesday from 4:00 PM onward). The rest of the days are for the ever wonderful  families.

I later decided to invite the pack to come with me to make the experience more fun and cheap. “Tuning” our schedules though entailed waiting for another week.

We finally checked the place last 13 October 2015 via a ten-minute drive from the office. It was still prayer time when we arrived so we made use of the opportunity to take group pictures and of the park’s inviting views from the outside for our real time updates on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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A few minutes later, we were called by the gatekeeper to go at the ticket booth. SAR 10 for an entrance fee is not something that would cut the wallet I must say.

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The first attraction that greeted us was the ever imposing Eiffel Tower.

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We did not want to miss getting intimate with its loftiness watching over the whole of the most romantic city in the world: Paris.

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The Colosseo in Rome was already sending up a noisy outcry a few meters away as soon as we were done photographing the tower.

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The power of imagination brought us all into that time when gladiators dominate the scene for a gory form of entertainment. That was what we were discussing while gandering at the theater.

Soon, we felt the Tower of Pisa already leaning on our shoulders. We let it be–simultaneous with glorifying this very uncommon structure with flashes of cameras.

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Then the glimmering crescent and round moons up the respective minarets of Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, in Turkey hypnotized us.

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What transpired next was that the imaginary pendulum of the Big Ben at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London (England) lured our feet towards its Great Bell.

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Before getting lulled by the ticking short hand of the clock tower, we walked towards the Pyramids of Egypt. A perfect diversion. From the feel of cityscapes to a once upon a time and unearthly kind of vibe–supposedly.

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The progression of this one of a kind tour brought us to the dome of the most important and prominent Islamic architectural structure because it is the oldest Islamic building: Msaly Dome of the Rock.

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It is interesting to note that this dome is located in the city of Jerusalem.

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A more defined sanctity of Muslims is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is also located in the same city.

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Following that is probing another illustrious mosque in the Muslim world: Faisal Mosque (standing right next to Saudi Arabia’s contiguous country, Pakistan).

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The intriguing feature of the mosque is the absence of a dome, which is a primary feature of every Islamic mosque. The design was based on the form of a Bedouin tent.

We later shifted to catching an ephemeral sight of the land of the rising world power via the Great Wall of China.

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We actually thought it is another Islamic architecture of some sort because it is really short for a “great wall”.

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The signage in front of it confirms otherwise.

Then our optical organs were captured by an imposing skyscraper in Malaysia called The Petronas Towers.

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It should be stressed out that this impressive architecture used to be the tallest building.

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It was obliterated by Burj Khalifa of Dubai in 2010.

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We wanted to refresh our history bailiwicks so our feet schlepped to the Archaeological and Historical City in Petra, Jordan.

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The wind later pulled us to the fanning Netherland Windmills. I wonder if these are the Mills of Kinderdijk or the Windmills of Schiedam.

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Nevertheless, they still look stunning.

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Our last stop was at the national landmarks area, and some of them have been featured on this blog (“Colossal Wonders of Olaya” and “Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece“).

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The Makkah Clock Tower (The Current Highest Clock Tower in the World)

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The Madain Saleh (An Archaeological Site in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia and is also known as the Stone City in ancient times.)

The TV Tower (The Headquarters building of the Ministry of Information. It is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia.)

The TV Tower (The Headquarters building of the Ministry of Information. It is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia.)

The Prophet's Mosque (It is considered the second holy site in Islam [after the Grand Mosque in Makkah] and is built by the very Prophet, Muhammad, and is currently known as the chamber of Prophet Muhammad.)

The Prophet’s Mosque (It is considered the second holy site in Islam [after the Grand Mosque in Makkah] and is built by the very Prophet, Muhammad, and is currently known as the chamber of Prophet Muhammad.)

What we are looking forward to now is the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah that will bury in the ground Burj Khalifa in 2019.

One good thing about World Sights Park is that it is designed to make movements from one landmark to another convenient. Add to that the provision of an accessible restroom for singles, a playground for children, a clean and grassy picnic area (for families), an educational entertainment, and, of course, a world tour for just an hour.

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Our thumbs are up–pun intended–to the circular walkways linking the different parts of the park, which make raoming around easy, and the maintenance team for the upkeep of the place.

We were aware that there is a cafeteria/mini market inside but an hour of walking around the globe did not really drain us. We opted to have dinner at home instead.

Related Articles

Around The World at Landmarks Park at thepinktarha.com

World Sights Park in Riyadh: A worth place to visit at ofwfamilyconnect.com

An impressive tourist destination in Riyadh at  scta.gov.sa

See the Wonders of the World at World Sights Park Riyadh at destinationryd.com

Dubai Global Village: Travel Around the World at dubaitravelblog.com

Around Dubai: Global Village at touchofa.com

Global Village! at dxbblog.ae

My Dubai Stay Blog at mydubaistay.com

Travelling the world at Dubai’s Global Village at english.alarabiya.net

Visit Global Village with Our Dubai Tours at flamingotravels.co.in

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Quad Biking, Dune Bashing, & Nature Tripping at the Most Popular Desert in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, there are many deserts wider and nicer than Red Sand Desert. What makes said desert most popular and frequented though is its proximity to the main city and the quad bikes that were really designed to add more adventure and thrill to the desert experience.

There is no better time to experience the outdoor activities like quad biking or dune bashing  in the deserts of Riyadh than this year’s Eid Break, which fell in the last week of September and on weekdays. It should be noted that the latter was already winter’s prologue and to have it fall on weekdays means we got a long and only weekend for the entire 2015. Using the words better time was an understatement. Perfect time were the right words. My friends in the community, we learned to love, provided me with another grant-in-aid to pacify the wandering feet’s craving and the group’s for Eid Break last September 24. It was an opportune moment for a getaway.

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This was already my fourth time to visit the place yet it always seems like it is the first time. There is always something new to see like the rental (for quad bikes) “lane” that is now transferred to the other side of the main road. Nonetheless it is still easy to spot it with the bikes strutting in several rows.

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We were greeted with such a beautiful view upon seeing the red sands grinning with so many people around. That was by far Red Sand’s most crowded day I must say. It was more of a delight though than a complaint just to make it clear. The more, the merrier!

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So after a few photos at the jump-off point, we all drove our way up. It is always stimulating to feel that adrenaline rush of off-road exploration as I went further the wide expanse of the desert with absolutely tempting sand dunes. The most challenging part is being on constant watchout for holes and sudden steep hills.

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The act of riding the sand dunes up and down is dune bashing. In layman’s terms, frolicking in the sand using a four-wheeled vehicle. First timers in the place are vehemently advised to be extra careful in bashing the sand as its terrain is not as plain and safe as it looks.

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What I cannot avoid until this time is getting my wheels stuck at some point of the biking experience. I have observed that the cause of this is driving slowly or breaking, when someone suddenly blocks your way, if you go uphill. It is awkward to lift or push the bike out. Crossing my fingers to get past it the next time around.

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What completes the Red Sand experience is reaching that vantage where you get to see Brobdingnagian escarpments and herd of dromedaries ()in the distance, catch the bird’s eye view of the differently shaped dunes (Reading Another Few Pages of St. Augustine’s Proverbial), and gape at the falcons circling and swooping around.

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There is now an addition to the series: the salivating greens that form an oblong vittle for the optical organs. Who would not get charmed by this view? Fresh foliage in the middle of the desert–literally!

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Funny how a hostile place for living beings turns into one of the most stunning land features on the earth’s face.

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I separated myself from the group to find a quiet place for reflection–with the great aid of quad bike–after those activities. I needed to thank the Aura up there for yet another wonderful day and for that sudden sense of rapture creeping through my veins. I always do this to any of my trips outdoors. This is one of those moments when my body and soul are at their most relaxing and spiritual state. To well cope with the slaving corporate world in this day and age, I find time to recharge my batteries in nature.

(For more pictures, leaf through the trip’s album pages posted on the blogger and blog’s Facebook [Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind and Sonyboy Fugaban] respectively.)

Related Articles

Things to Do in Thumama Desert at destinationryd.com

Red Sands Quad Biking at yooperoveryonder.wordpress.com

Quad Biking in Bawshar at y-oman.com

Visitors throng Red Sand on weekends and holidays at arabnews.com

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The World’s Finest Wilderness Lies Beneath the Manila Ocean Park

It was 16 December 2010 when I first explored the Manila Ocean Park’s oceanarium. This is one of those activities that I would heart to do over and over again. As you know, I love nature and I immerse in its elements whenever there is a chance. The ocean park just gives that superb, magical feel of the world under the sea aside from the health benefits it gives. My gratitude to the Tuscano family who initiated the idea of this nature trip during my vacation last summer (April to May 2015). It also gave Ms. Wonderwall and me the opportunity to bond with the them more.

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This activity was actually the third among the six that came in our promo ticket’s deals.

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The Manila Ocean Park’s oceanarium is the first of its kind in the Philippines. It shelters 14,000 marine creatures from around 277 species. They are all indigenous to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The Oceanarium is an astonishing walkthrough of the watery depths featuring seven sections (Agos [Flow], Bahura [Reef], Laot [Fishing Ground], Buhay na Karagatan [Living Ocean], Kalaliman [The Deep], Pagi [Sting Ray], and Pating [Shark]) and containing 1,900 cubic meters of seawater.

Agos is a rainforest motif complete with 8 tanks of freshwater fishes.

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Bahura showcases artificial corals in 48 tanks. These tanks have smaller viewports that enables a visitor to pause for a more intimate moment with the animals.

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We could not get enough of each of the species that were just outrageously cute and stunning.

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Watching the school of fishes swimming together is, without a doubt, a great sight to gander at.

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Laot is the biggest among the six and it features big fish and Eagle-spotted rays in a long tank.

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Buhay na Karagatan is at heart of the oceanarium and considered the main attraction. It is a 25-meter long walkway tunnel with 220-degree curved acrylic walls similarly seen in Ocean Park Hong KongUnderwater World in SingaporeSiam Ocean World in Thailand, and Aquaria KLCC in Malaysia.

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This is where visitors congregate to watch more fishes in motion. It creates a spectacular underwater view of amazing sea animals swimming overhead.

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Kalaliman displays marine animals found in the deepest parts of the Philippine waters.

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Pagi showcases variety of stingrays fly over while you are under this unique Overhang Tank.

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Pating features several species of shark. This part of the oceanarium is rather dark. It was extremely hard to take a good photo.

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After exploring the oceanarium, we went straight to the Manila Ocean Park’s latest engaging interaction. The Sharks and Rays Encounter, which is located at the Acquatica area–a crystal clear outdoor pool divided into three zones filled with various species of friendly sharks, stingrays, and starfishes. There is only a stingray to show though in the picture.

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This part certainly provided us with an amazing hands-on encounter with a lot of stingrays. We had the unique thrill of playing with them in a shallow lagoon. We ran out time to go beyond the aquarium walls to have an up-close engagement with them. Moreover, doing that means giving up the Symphony Fountain Show.

The kids and us, parents, are testaments to how worthwhile, therapeutic, and fun it is to spend some time at each of the seven sections of the oceanarium. The biodiversity and the kind of beauty each of the sea animals project are so disarming. I cannot help but exclaim that, indeed, the world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves–each time I look intently at these strange beauties.

In retrospect, the Manila Ocean Park is not only a place for recreational or educational purposes but a tool for inspiring the public to take care of the ocean and the animals in it.

(Visit manilaoceanpark.com for complete details of the park’s attractions, encounters, amenities, and promos and Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind and Life Beneath the Sea Waves  for more pictures.)

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Manila Ocean Park Entrance Fee, Rates, Promos, Discounts (backpackingphilippines.com)

Manila Ocean Park Promo 2015 – Philippines Travel (philippinestravelhub.com)

The Cleanest Water in Manila Bay is in Manila Ocean Park (baratillo.net)

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A visit to Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo (nina-travels.com)

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Asiatravel Manila Ocean Park Special Package (asiatravel.com)

Yexel’s Museum At Manila Ocean Park (tweenselmom.com)

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The North Sea Oceanarium (toppenafdanmark.com)

Under the Ocean – Almost (thepinktarha.com)

Manila Ocean Park (mrjjguerrero.com)