It’s been ages since JodiesDaddy and I have been to Baguio but because of work schedules and budget constraints its always been put on the back burner. Lucky for us, JodiesDaddy finally got some time off (the perks of being in-between jobs) and Manor was 40% off, we finally pushed through! Exciting!
We left for Baguio on a Sunday — before sunrise (3:45AM to be exact). We were a bit apprehensive about the drive since it was our first time driving there and taking TPLEX, but lo and behold it turned out to be a very stress-free driving experience. Yay! In fact, it was a beautiful drive! I loved watching the sunrise over the rice fields and was overwhelmed by the towering Cordillera Mountain Range.
We finally arrived Baguio before 8:00AM.. not bad at all, making the drive up a total of approximately 4hours (including 2 pee breaks). We headed to the Manor to leave our luggage as I didn’t want to lug it around as we toured the city. But guess what?! Our room was ready! This allowed us to freshen up and do our “business” before we started our day. So far, so good eh?
First on our agenda was to pick up JodiesDaddy’s ex-officemate, ZI who is from and now lives in Baguio. ZI was kind enough to be our tour guid for half a day. Top on our list of must-do’s in Baguio was Strawberry Picking. This came highly recommended by friends who either frequent or who had just visited Baguio. Technically this is not in Baguio per se, instead it is located in La Trinidad a good 10-30minutes drive from the city (depending on traffic – which we were forewarned about). Good thing ZI was with us, otherwise I think we would have been stressed trying to figure out where it was located. ZI told us that more tourists do this at the end of their stay in Baguio to make sure the strawberries last until their arrival in Manila (for our case, the strawberries were wiped out before we headed home — I ended up eating all of it as an in-between-meal snack. Jodie and her dad don’t like strawberries).
When we got to the University of Benguet where the Strawberry Picking was, there were a lot of cars already parked and I worried that the farms were going to be packed. But it wasn’t (I honestly don’t know where the other people were haha). How it works is there are a lot of farms/gardens within the area and you can choose (I think) which garden to go to for the strawberry picking. The gardens had a schedule so it was fair to everyone. While there was NO entrance fee to enter (yay!) you had to pay Php450.00 for a basket of 1kg of strawberries. This was well above market price, but I felt it was worth it. Like for us, we were 3 adults and 1 kid — all we had to do was pay for this basket and we all got to experience the strawberry picking.
I am a very sedentary person, so even if this involved a lot of walking and bending over, I didn’t mind. It was actually fun! ZI gave us a tip (which I will share with you all), go the farthest end of the farm/garden you choose — there you will find the bigger strawberries! Also, try to get strawberries that are bigger than your thumb to let the tiny ones grow (although were were told that the sweetest ones were the smaller red ones). It took us almost an hour to fill our basket. The sun was up but because of the chilly weather up in the mountains, we weren’t exhausted.
By the time we were done, lunch was creeping in. We were supposed to try out this restaurant (The Cabin) which I found in TripAdvisor, but we could not find it! I guess that was a blessing in disguise because ZI took us to this relatively new, authentic Greek (I call it authentic because the chef/owner, we saw was actually of Greek descent) restaurant called Lemons and Olives. The restaurant appeared to be an old house restored to be a restaurant. It was located along Outlook Drive and had a fantastic view! Again, because of the great weather in Baguio, we chose to be seated outside.
I was too hungry to take photos of all the food we ate, but we loved most of it. To start with, we had these really yummy zucchini fritters (Kolokithokeftedes). Imagine thinly sliced (close to paper thin) zucchini fried to almost a crisp served with a tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip with olive oil, cucumbers and garlic) sauce. This was wiped out. We also ordered these feta cheese puff-pastry pies. It had generous amounts of feta which made the pie a tad too salty, but I still liked it. Each of us ordered our own main dishes:
- ZI got a Special Lamb Rack which he was raving about (not shown here)
- JodiesDaddy ordered a porterhouse steak. It was nicely grilled and well-worth the Php380.00 price tag.
- Jodie had the Pastitsio which was described as a plate of authentic Greek pasta. It reminded me of a lasagna. It was a hefty serving size that was too big for Jodie to finish. (side story: I think they forgot their order because it came later than the others. To make up for this, the chef himself served it hot to Jodie haha)
- I had the Beef Gyro. Out of all the dishes, I didn’t like mine the most. I should have just gotten a Kebab. It wasn’t what I was expecting as it looked different from the ones they serve in Cyma. Oh well.
For dessert we all shared a Baklava (one of the best I’ve had) and had some Greek coffee which JodiesDaddy and I didn’t like too much – it tasted like water down coffee with some left over “grains”. So I’m not sure if that’s how Greek coffee really should be. Despite a few misses, it was overall a relatively good first meal in Baguio which I would definitely recommend. Thanks to ZI for the recommendation because if ZI had not been with us, I don’t think we would have gone here as it was not (yet) in any of the recommended lists I found online.
After taking ZI home, we made our way back to the hotel for a much needed nap as we could feel the exhaustion creeping in (waking up early in the morning was no joke).
When we woke up from our nap, we no longer wanted to venture out of Camp John Hay. Good thing, there was another restaurant in my must-try list right inside Camp John Hay, Choco-Late de Batirol and we decided to go there for merienda (afternoon snack). It was only a 2-minute drive from Manor so we decided to walk. Again, since I am not an active person, the walk proved to be a challenging one for me because of the hills at CJH. It probably took me a good 20 minutes to walk there (I had Jodie and her dad go ahead so that they could get a table).
Choco-Late de Batirol had a nice “ethnic” Filipino ambiance that blended with the surroundings. We ordered the Traditional hot chocolate (Jodie got the one with cinnamon) and paired it with Turon de Lanka and Pancit Palabok. We were very happy with the food and it was definitely a good afternoon snack. JodiesDaddy and I loved the turon and we tried to make Jodie eat it by not telling her what was inside (she doesn’t like any form of fruits). In fairness to her, she took a bite and immediately said she didn’t like it haha I guess she detected the fruit right away. On the upside, that left us (JodiesDaddy and I) more turon to devour. The Palabok we all LOVED. On the other hand, we were a bit disappointed with the hot chocolate. I guess we each had our expectations on what good tsokolate de batirol is supposed to be, and it didn’t quite meet our expectations.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was pretty laid back as decided to spend it in the hotel. This included lounging around and having a couple of beers in the Piano Bar and dinner at Le Chef.
Ahhhh Le Chef. The food here was quite pricey, but to be honest, in the end it was all worth it. Why?! Because 1) the serving sizes were good for sharing (JodiesDaddy forgot the tip of his friend who had told him about this!), 2) the food was excellent! I mean who would’ve thought that I would find the best laing (at least in my own opinion) in Baguio and at a swanky restaurant no less. Even Jodie’s fish and chips were good because the fish was nice and firm and not your ordinary cream dory and 3) service was impeccable and 4) ambiance was perfect. So again, the whole dining experience made up for its price tag. And it was definitely the best way to end our first day in Baguio.