Sick Singapore weekend

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View from my hotel at Scotts Road in Singapore

Singapore is a 2-hour flight from Jakarta so it’s easy to fly in and out. Since it’s a long weekend for Indonesia, I decided to fly in with Arshad. I came down with something last Thursday afternoon though, so this weekend I will be on eat-sleep-recover mode, with some shopping here and there if my energy permits.

My flu shots are keeping the flu at bay. I guess the message of this blog post is that when you travel a lot – FLU SHOTS. Always keep your vaccines updated every year. It helps to also be armed with your go-to medicines all the time. Thank God for Bioflu and Kamillosan throat spray. Mental note: replenish my stash as soon as I get back to Manila!

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring PaleisI love bazaars! When I got the announcement from a friend that Tugu Kunstkring Paleis is hosting an Easter Sunday bazaar, I knew I had to go.

Bazaars for me are not just about shopping. It’s the experience. I love looking at rare and hard-to-find bazaar items for sale, since these are normally not sold in the malls. That’s the appeal of bazaar shopping for me.

Tugu Kunstkring Paleis’ Easter Sunday Bazaar was a sensory assault – just the way I like it. There were A LOT of merchants selling batik, jewelry, house ware and other unique finds. Aside from these, there were also bands playing, a Dutch family photo booth where you can don Dutch costumes, a fortune teller (in Bahasa, though), a Japanese clay workshop and a lot of food concessionnaires.

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One happy Bella scouring the ground floor with antique finds

Oh, it was dogs’ day too, since dogs were encouraged to be brought in the bazaar venue.

Here are my interesting finds:

The ground floor teemed with antique items: from Chinese ceramics, maps, furniture, accessories and paintings.

As usual, I was enamored by notebooks and journals with printed batik covers. I cannot have enough! On this day and age, I think journal writing and writing letters by hand are both a dying art.

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At the entrance of the bazaar on the second floor, a booth selling items from Holland greeted customers:

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There were also a lot of locally made products, one of my favorites was the one selling canvass pouches, ID and card holders, pencil cases, vanity and notebooks, with cute and creative printed designs:

A welcomed sensory assault of colorful batik clothes and local accessories were sold on the second floor, too.

Overall, there were a lot of great finds. I had to stop myself from buying things that I don’t need but they were very tempting. In the end, I went home withTK_antique mirror wm one item that I felt I couldn’t let go of: an antique mirror with a blue Chinese ceramics design and a jade handle. I went back for it three times just to make sure I really wanted it. It’s a much-coveted piece to be included in my own antique collection!

The great takeaway from this visit is that in the weekends to come, I will definitely go back and visit Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, not for the bazaar, but for the bar, the restaurant and the antique collection inside that I can still scrutinize and marvel at. Definitely in my bucket list for to-dos over the weekend!

Majestic Mount Bromo

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Mount Bromo: taken this morning a few minutes after the sunrise

Mount Bromo at sunrise: literally no filter. It is beautiful and majestic as it is.

I’m in Malang this weekend and will be posting about places I visited in this gem of a city in East Java.

Coming soon!

 

On another level: Altitude at The Plaza Brunch

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One giddy, happy Bella at The Altitude buffet brunch

One glorious, fine Sunday morning, I posted my favorite view of Jakarta. I was also in one of my favorite brunch places that time at Altitude, The Plaza, where three powerhouse international chefs came together to offer a rare brunch buffet.

The buffet itself is a rare occasion worth celebrating, since this buffet triad happens only once or twice a year!

Arshad and I are both fans of Salt Grill by Luke Mangan. We celebrate most of our life milestones here: my birthday, our anniversary, promotions, etc. Last year, we even won gift certificates from The Altitude, so naturally, he is part of the mailing list.

When the email came in about the buffet brunch with the 3 restaurants combined, it was a hands down “Yes, we are definitely going!.” We decided to celebrate Arshad’s birthday, albeit a belated one, at The Altitude to feast on this rare and sought-after buffet.

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Celebrating Arshad’s birthday at The Altitude’s buffet brunch

At Rp500k net for the food, I say it’s definitely worth it, what with the quality and vast choices. Free-flowing sparkling wine, red wine, beer and cocktails can be had for an additional Rp490k. I don’t think it’s a surprise what we opted for!

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Sunday Super Brunch at Altitude, The Plaza

As usual, I started my feast with salad and cheese, both of which came from The Salt Grill. Like I said in my previous post on brunch buffets, I rate restaurants based on how good their salad bar and cheese selection are, being the pescatarian that I am. As expected, my favorite restaurant did not disappoint.

Aside from these, Salt Grill was in charge of the carvery, where Arshad feasted on steak Arshad with his plate of meat from Salt Grill_wmand lamb. He said it was good, but since I don’t eat meat, I will have to take his word for it.

Salt Grill is well known for its no-nonsense grilled meat and steak, where it’s the quality of the meat that matters and the sauces are meant to enhance the flavor, not overpower the meat. For the meatlovers, this is definitely a highly recommended restaurant. They also offer salmon and barramundi for those who prefer fish and the restaurant does not take vegetarians for granted, either. That’s why for my husband and I, we get the best of both worlds at Luke Mangan’s The Salt Grill.

After the salad and cheese, my next go-to station is the sashimi and rolls, and Enmaru’s Executive Chef Takashi Tomie made sure that the diners had a fresh selection. Arshad even witnessed how Chef Takashi sliced and served a gigantic yellow fin tuna. The sashimi selection was very fresh and the salmon sashimi melts in your mouth!

Not to be ignored are the freshly-made rolls, but since I’m cutting the carbs down, it was best for me to stick to the mouth-watering sashimi.

Gaia by Oro Ristorante, on the other hand, offered the freshest seafood buffet alongside pastas, risotto and cheese. I was pleasantly surprised that they had freshly made burrata on the buffet spread and I gladly paired it up with my truffle risotto prepared inside a gigantic grana padano wheel.

I only went back to the Gaia buffet for the burrata but when I caught a whiff of the decadent truffle oil, I had to do a double take and ask for it! What was I saying about rice and carbs again? Yep, ignore that. Totally.

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freshly made burrata and truffle risotto from Gaia by Oro Ristorante

For the seafood spread, the oysters were very fresh. We thought they were air flown from Australia but we were surprised that they came from the nearby islands of Pulau Seribu. At the same time, the octopus which was flavored with Italian herbs and spices was also something to be had.

For the sweet tooth, desserts are a aplenty. again, the Gaia spread was impressive, with all the pastries, cakes, different varieties of pana cotta and fresh fruits.

I’m not a dessert person, but the ice cream teppan from The Salt Grill was irresistible, so much so that I had two servings. Yep, you read that right. Two. I had fun watching how they made the ice cream teppan and they had the magic ingredient that I can NEVER say no to: honeycomb. Vanila ice cream + generous amounts of crushed honeycomb = BLISS for Bella. Honeycomb reminds me of my childhood and Violet Crumble, my favorite chocolate bar.

In summary, the Sunday Super Brunch was a great experience and this has now become my favorite Sunday brunch place here in Jakarta.

Three great restaurants, quality selection of wine and a spectacular view of Jakarta rolled into one make up a wonderful Sunday experience in my beloved second city. Will I go back for another round should they do this again? Definitely! Never mind the hours in the gym that I had to spend afterwards! Everything was all worth it!

Altitude will have another event on the 5th of May. Though it’s not a joint buffet, the restaurant triad promises a night of sumptuous dinner, alcohol and entertainment to celebrate their anniversary. Too bad I won’t be in Jakarta at this time, but if you want to go, see the contact details of Altitude The Plaza below.

Print

Altitude The Plaza’s Anniversary Dinner

Altitude The Plaza, 46th floor

Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Kavling 28 – 30
Jakarta 10350
Ph: (62-21) 2992 2448
Direct No.: 085939922799
Fax: (62-22) 2992 2447
E-mail: info@altitude.co.id
Follow them on :
Facebook : Altitude The Plaza
Instagram : @altitudetheplaza

 

The experience is definitely 5 stars for me, with a lot of repeats in the future!

PS: This is not a paid promotion from any of the restaurants. I’m a real, raving fan of the restaurant triad. =)

5-out-of-5

Jalan Surabaya: A Charming Weekend of Antiques

Jalan S_lamps_wmTraversing Jalan Surabaya is literally strolling down memory lane, what with all the lovely antiques that you can discover in the whole stretch of this quaint street nestled in the upscale neighborhood of Menteng. Quite a paradox, actually, after seeing posh houses with sprawling yards and lush green lawns, you will be transported to a different scenery, teeming with beautiful antiques.

Solely dedicated to the trade of charming memorabilia, the wide array of items lined up in Jalan Surabaya will definitely pique the interest of antique enthusiasts or amateur appreciators like me.

The Antique Market in Jalan Surabaya was founded in 1974 by the then Governor of Jakarta, Ali Sadikin. The street became home to antique traders who used to sell their goods walking around Kota Tua (The Old City of Jakarta). The current traders manning the stalls are usually the second generation family members of the former Kota Tua traders.

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Ceramics: one of my favorite finds in Jalan Surabaya

There are several shops selling antiques including woodwork and wooden sculptures, wooden masks, wayang or puppets, paintings, woven cloths, silver and brass cutlery, metal and earthenware souvenirs, antique lamps and old fashioned accessories. You will also stumble upon telephones, cameras, typewriters, phonographs, telescopes, watches and jewelry. It will be a delightful surprise to discover that there are a handful of shops selling ship rudders, dials, compass and even old diving helmets and brass suits! There are several shops specializing in old books, plates and brassware. At the far end of the street, you can find stalls selling old bags and luggages.

My favorite purchases: ceramics displays, lamps and old Balinese paintings.

I’ve been back as an expat in Jakarta for 18 months now and I realized that I haven’t gone back. Immediately, I called my friend Mark who has never been there for a spur of the moment visit.

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with my fellow Pinoy expat Mark at one of the shops in Jalan Surabaya

As expected, Jalan Surabaya did not disappoint. Until now, this street never fails to enthrall me. The plenitude of items lined up on the street always catches my attention…and my wallet.

I had two specific items that I had in mind: an old typewriter and an old-fashioned stand fan, which will both be a nice addition to my antique collection back in Manila. While going through the shops one by one, though, I kept my eyes open for other interesting finds.

A few practical tips that will come in handy when you visit:

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  1. Getting there: For tourists who are not very familiar with Jakarta, this will be tricky. I strongly recommend getting an Uber, Grab or Blue Bird taxi. If you are buying in bulk, it is highly recommended to bring your own car if you have one. Stall owners allow customers to park alongside the shops.
  2. Location: Jalan Surabaya is located at the heart of Menteng, which is an upscale neighborhood. It’s near Jalan Cikini, Cikini Market, Proclamation Monument and Suropati park
  3. Best time to go: In the morning or afternoon over the weekend so there is a lot of parking space on the side street. For me, a Saturday afternoon is always ideal.
  4. Amount of time spent: Make sure you have plenty of time, but based on experience, I spend 2-4 hours, give or take. It is, after all, an entire street of antique shops! It is always more pleasant when Jalan Surabaya is experienced at a leisurely pace.
  5. Outfit: Wear casual clothes that are not too warm on the skin as the weather can get hot and humid in the afternoon.
  6. If you are not very fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, it is always best to bring a calculator with you so you can type in the price of the items. This is a necessary tool of the trade, so to speak, when bargaining for the price.
  7. If you are not an expert in antiques, bring a friend who has some knowledge about it. Not all the items are antiques and there are a lot of replicas. Most of the time, though, the real ones are stored in glass cabinets inside the store. Although this is not always necessarily true.
  8. Walk the entire stretch and compare prices before buying anything. This is an important reminder. When I was a newbie shopper in Jalan Surabaya, I had buyer’s remorse when I was too excited to purchase my antique ceramics, only to find out that the stores further down were cheaper!
  9. Bring cash! The shops don’t accept debit or credit card transactions. Everything is paid on cash basis.
  10. Most important of all: haggle. Haggle fiercely. The prices of the items in the stores depends on your willingness to pay for them. As a rule of thumb, ask for BIG discounts, as high as 70-80%. Yes, you read that correctly: 70-80% because some of them are willing to budge. Even if they don’t, if you get the item at 50% discount, it is still a huge win.

Armed with sheer curiosity for the old and some cash, an afternoon spent walking through the shops in Jalan Surabaya is something that I strongly recommend to expat friends and foreign visitors. Whenever someone asks me for an itinerary in Jakarta for a quick weekend trip, my list will always include a trip to this nostalgic street.

And for me, Jalan Surabaya, ironically, will never grow old and will stay as one of my favorite things to do on one fine Saturday afternoon.

Lemon Garden KL: Reopened and Revisited

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with my in-laws at Lemon Garden

Two words: buffet brunch. Our family loves buffet brunches and whenever Arshad and I would spend the weekend back in KL, this is definitely a must-do. Mum and Dad have countless membership cards for buffet brunches in hotels and even for credit card activation, this is one major consideration. Of course, Arshad and I are more than happy to ride on and use the memberships to our hearts’ (and tummies) content.

Last weekend, we went back to KL for a quick weekend break to celebrate Mum’s birthday. Since it’s her birthday, she had dibs on where we will celebrate and so Mum recommended we all go to Lemon Garden Cafe’ at the Shangri-La in KL. Lemon Garden closed for months late last year for renovation and was just newly reopened so we were all excited to go.

The ambiance was very warm and welcoming with hues of yellow, faithful to its brand
name. We arrived around lunch time and the place was packed! I guess it wasn’t just us who were excited to go back and try it.

The Intercontinental buffet spread was exhaustive: Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian-European. Being a pesco-vegetarian, a buffet spread wins if it has my awesome three:

  1. Seafood station with oysters 
  2. Cheese table 
  3. Fresh sashimi with every sashimi-able fish or seafood you can imagine

I’m glad to report that Lemon Garden has all so I’m one happy pesco-vego Bella!

The seafood station was excellent and the oysters were HUGE. The oysters didn’t have anything grainy-sandy when you eat them so they were carefully, professionally pried open and shucked.

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Don’t even ask how many plates of oysters I wiped out!

Aside from the oysters, the rest of the seafood offering were also notably fresh: scallops, mussels, clams and king prawns.

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Lemon Garden’s seafood station

My next favorite in buffet brunches is the cheese spread. Although the cheese selection was quite limited, it had emmental (my favorite) and camembert by default. The rest of the cheese (I don’t remember all of their names) were exquisite-tasting, ranging from light and soft, to hard and flavorful-strong. My cheese and seafood platter were perfectly paired with Cloudy Bay, my default go-to Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the buffet brunch did not have an option for unlimited wine and champagne. Drinks were charged extra, but the restaurant had the usual decent wine and sparkling offerings on their menu.

The rest of the buffet spread was interesting. There was an area for roast chicken and duck. Although the duck ran out, Mum talked to the chef if it’s remotely possible to get another duck from the Chinese restaurant and they actually obliged! Yep, Mum has the gift of persuasion and Arshad was one happy camper!

Other dishes included dimsum, noodles, fish, roti and dahl, curries of all kinds, pasta, soup, salads, cold cuts and a lot more.

Another notable highlight is the dessert spread. The desserts were very good, from the cakes and ice cream to the local sweet fare: ice cendol and what do you know? They have durian cake! Durian is not for the faint of heart and since I’m one of those who actually enjoy it, I tried a slice of it which Dad actually reserved for me before it ran out. It was delicious with just a hint of durian flavor so it wasn’t overwhelming. It was perfect!

One tiny hiccup they had was the waiting time spent to get our bill. I don’t understand why, but we had to ask several waiters (not one, not two, but three!) to get our bill and it took them 45 minutes to send it over. Most of the customers were gone already by the time our bill was sent!

Sans the bill fiasco, it was a pleasant experience overall. Food was fresh, delicious and spot on. It was pesco-vegetarian friendly and with what we paid for, it was definitely worth it.

The buffet can be had at RM 140 per person, but our credit cards had a 50% off promo so it was just RM 70 per person for us. Even without the discount, it’s just P1,580++ or USD 32 roughly and for a buffet with an exhaustive spread, shut up and take mah money (or my husband’s)!

Will we ever go back? The question is: Why the hell not???

For more information on Lemon Garden Cafe:

Phone:   (60 3) 2074 3900

Email:   restaurantreservations.slkl@shangri-la.com

Location:

Lobby Level

Operating Hours

Operating Hours
6am – 11.30pm (daily)

Buffet Breakfast
6am – 10.30am (daily)

Buffet Lunch
12noon – 2.30pm (Monday – Friday)
12noon – 3pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holidays)

Buffet Dinner
6.30pm – 10.30pm (daily)

Dress Code

Casual

Smoking Policy

Smoking is not permitted in Lemon Garden.

 

The woes of a traveler who doesn’t have enough time: part 1 

This year, I have 3 scheduled trips already, with booked and bought plane tickets:

  1. Spain and Portugal for our annual European vacation
  2. Malang, Indonesia – a birthday gift for Arshad; and
  3. Bali, Indonesia – a group trip that my inner circle booked so I can celebrate my birthday with them in October outside of Manila (ain’t it so posh to say you threw a party for your friends in Bali? Hahaha.)

This list doesn’t include the short trips that we normally make en route to Manila, KL and Singapore for weekends.

Sounds all exciting, doesn’t it? I am excited – super! The thing that worries me and gives me anxiety is the lack of time to research and prepare for the trips in a leisurely way that I want to.

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Bella in Salzburg, Austria (2016)

See, I’m a traveler at heart. It’s one of the major reasons why I decided to be an expat since traveling comes with the job. But the job also comes with long hours, 10-12 hours per day on the average, which either leaves me exhausted after a long day or requires me to fit my other activities in a very tight timeline: workout, bank errands, grocery and all the other usual daily grind.

And unlike some of my friends who became successful travel bloggers, I have a full-time job that takes me away from my passion for traveling. Don’t get me wrong, though. I love my job and the career that I have, which is also why I never had the intention of giving it up for other equally important passions. That, and it pays for the trips and the expenses that go along with it!

So although it may sound such a first world problem (though I clearly do not live in one), a traveler at heart with a full-time career has 2 dilemmas:

  1. Not enough time to plan 
  2. Not enough time for travel itself

For this blog entry, I specifically wanted to write about planning. For me, part of the joy of traveling is in the planning itself! The anticipation of traveling is what keeps me from being a trainwreck despite my crazy work hours as of late.

Here are some ways I do to get around my lack of time to prepare for the trip and to keep myself excited:

1.   Prepare way ahead of time. As in way ahead. This is most especially true when you are preparing for travels abroad that will require visa applications. Things you have to note on visa processing and requirements:

visa application

  • Bank references and bank statements – requests will have SLAs of 2 days to a week.
  • Visa appointment – depending on the country, some visa appointments, like for the US or the UK, can take 2-3 weeks to schedule.
  • Employment certificate – depends on how fast your company can provide this, but usually a day or two.
  • Confirmed flights and hotels – some countries requiring visas will also require that the plane tickets and accommodations have been booked and purchased. You definitely need to sit down on this to compare prices, book and buy.

At the same time, comparing accommodations, researching about restaurants, museums and activities require time. The longer the trip, the longer amount of time is required to prepare for it. For a European or US trip, I give myself 2-3 months to prepare and research, and this is crunch time already. For trips in Asia, a month is usually enough.

2.  Prepare to steal moments from your day-to-day routine to do some online research. Busy women like me fantasize about a lazy Saturday morning where we can just sit down, have a cup of coffee while browsing online to research. For most of us, though, ain’t gonna happen. There will always be pressing matters.

Whoever said, though, that there aren’t pockets of time in a day when this can be done? Reality is, we live everyday in a frenzy. If research must be done: beg, borrow or steal some time. In my case, I wake up half an hour in advance in the morning to do this, or I shorten my lunch break, lock myself inside my office and hit Google. If you’re stuck in traffic, thank God for 4G LTE so you can research faster through your mobile phone or tablet.

3. Lists. Lists will save you. Prepare checklists for almost anything and everything related to travel preparations. My personal favorite is to use Evernote and I have a notebook inside categorized as Travel. I have a checklist of requirements needed for a Shengen visa, so everytime that I need to renew or apply all over again, I have my Shengen list as reference.

trip list

from Stuff Asperger People Like

I also have a comprehensive checklist of items and clothes to bring depending on what kind of trip, where I am going and when. For example, I have a default checklist of summer essentials and what to pack on a beach trip, while I also have a checklist of what to pack for a Europe trip during autumn or winter time. It may sound extremely OCDC, but for seasoned travelers, it helps to have a default checklist to go back to, and seasoned travelers already know that there is a pattern for most kinds of trips, whether for backpacking, beach trip or cross-country.

4. Find a travel buddy who you can share the workload and planning with. Faaaaaaayn, I get away with it because my husband is an efficient travel planner. We make an effort (well, he makes the effort) to sit down and discuss our options: travel dates, whether to book a hotel or use AirBnB, what activities to do, etc.

When traveling with friends, assign the tasks. In my circle, we usually assign tasks depending on what we’re good at. Someone with a huge credit card limit can book the plane tickets, another one can plan the itinerary and someone else can research on which Michelin star restaurants to try. My specific competence, for obvious reasons, is planning trips for Indonesia and Malaysia. At the same time, since I’ve done the rounds for vineyard tours and whiskey flights, so they normally leave these things up to me.

5. Package tours. For the lazy ones, the pragmatists or those who are really running out of time, package tours is always the way to go. Package tours will already have everything: transfers, guided tour, food, detailed itinerary and even prepaid entrance tickets for museums, churches and other places of interest.

tour packages

The tour package approach, though, is not for people who want to try traveling off the beaten path. This is more for those who prefer organized travel with less risks of uncertainty.

For some, it can be a safe choice, but not as exciting and not as spur-of -the-moment.

6. Digitize and appify. Thank God for Google and all the emerging travel-related apps that can simplify research! They make life less complicated, saves me a lot of time for research and I can store everything on my mobile phone or notebook!

Here are some of my favorite travel apps and sites that I always use for research and planning:

Skyscanner

  • Skyscanner – to search and compare flights
  • Agoda and AirBnB – for accommodation
  • TripCanvas – for Indonesia and Thailand  places to go to and things to try
  • TripAdvisor – for pretty much everything about travel (including reviews)
  • Time Out – one of my favorite city guides on art, entertainment, food, drinks, film and even theater. Go figure why I like it!

7. Lastly, find joy in the experience of planning a trip. It’s very simple. What you find pleasure in, you will always make time for. Cliche’ but true: It’s the journey, not the destination. And part of the journey is planning the trip.

To the busy Bellas with wanderlust that never goes away, have fun in planning and traveling. There will always be time for these things for us. Come hell or high water, off we travel!

 

 

 

 

THE CURSE OF THE PHILIPPINE PASSPORT

Reblogging this because I feel the pain! Like Jennie, I have a Philippine passport, which means I need to apply for Visa pretty much everywhere!

This is very timely for me, as I’m going through the same process right now for my annual European trip.

The Traveling Titas of Manila

As much as I love being Filipino, holding a Philippine passport is a hindrance to spontaneity for sure!

POSTED BY JENNIE

So let’s say you wake up one morning and you’re inspired to go to…let’s say Paris. If your Schengen visa is still valid then by all means go. If not, well you’ll need to go through the whole application process and that’s not so inspiring but that’s just how it is.

I recently applied for a Schengen Visa and no matter how many times I’ve applied for one, it’s never stress free.

So here’s my latest visa application experience at the France Visa Application Center at Eco Plaza along Chino Roces Extension.

Ecoplaza_map-close_up I find it far more convenient to apply here at VFS than in the individual consulates.

Last year I discovered that you can actually renew your Schengen Visa. You’ll just need to apply before your visa expires…

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