Tagaytay has long been a happy place for me. It also holds as special place in my heart for some of my first stories some sixteen years ago were finds in Tagaytay: Sonya’s Garden, Antonio’s, the ube jam in Good Shepherd, Caluerega, Diner Café, and Popo’s Home and Garden. When my friend Abby suggested we celebrate my 40th birthday in Tagaytay, I instantly said, “Yes!” The joy of getting older is not controlling everything. My younger self would have wanted to control where we would eat or sleep. But this older self is now free and easy. I just blocked off my weekend and threw in a few clothes in a bag for a getaway with three good friends.
Lunch was my friend Nilda’s treat. In one her trips to Tagaytay, she discovered Lime and Basil, a quaint Thai restaurant set in a cozy home (a few meters away from Marcia Adams).
It was a foggy Saturday. But our spirits were bright and cheery when we got to Lime and Basil. The cozy home had a garden with unusual plants. There was a curly fern I adored. The interiors were painted with happy colors, decorated with elephants and other touches of Thailand. With the rain and the cool temperature, we warmed our tummies with Tom Yum Goong, fresh spring rolls, Lime and Basil Salad (with egg, basil, peanuts, fried shallots and tamarind dressing), Pad Thai, Bagoong Rice, Moo Grob (Crispy Pork, Chicharon, and Cucumber Relish), Pla Som Rod (Fried Tilapia, Tamarind Sauce, Crispy Shallots), and Chicken Pandan. They are Thai Classics executed well, with a very mild spiciness to suit Filipinos. I could have used a bit more heat, but the dishes were delicious. The Moo Grob gets my vote for must order, think lechon kawali with a refreshing Thai twist. Two other tables had families feasting on a late lunch outside. But come dessert, with the sun now shining, we opted to dine under the mango tree. There we had our Tako (water chesnut cake in Pandan Leaves) and Thai Coffee. It was exactly the kind of lunch I have been craving, very homey and intimate. A tip though from a Tagaytay local: eat in Lime and Basil on weekends. From my source, the cook is better on weekends at the restaurant, than the weekend cook.
We then proceeded to our home for the weekend, Narra Hill. It is just a few meters away from the Lime and Basil on the left side. About a kilometer or so from the Arc of Nasugbu (with fruits on top) on the left side (side of Residence Inn Zoo, opposite Marcia Adams). My friend Abby found Narra Hill, on AirB&B. It is actually a boutique Bed and Breakfast, and a wedding venue location in Laurel Batangas (yes, no longer Tagaytay). There are two huts and one balcony room for rent. Our hut had two rooms, up and down. The owner, Chian, told us the two huts were initially intended for her two kids to visit her. But in March of this year, she has opted to rent it out. Chian is a friendly host, who warmly visits guests in their rooms for some chitchat.
The room has 180-degree view of Taal Lake with lush trees surrounding the hut. Chian told us when she purchased the property her son was shocked she bought a ravine. Truly it is perched on quite a high incline, but the reward is a stunning view. Once you get to Narra Hill, you don’t really want to leave. They serve meals. We had the classic Tagaytay fare of Bulalo and Tawilis for P800 per head, with Cassava for dessert and some tortilla chips for appetizer. Set amidst trees, you will find some giant bug. Chian tells us men usually freak out when this bug attacks them. But it is harmless.
There is no sunset at Narra Hill. But the sunrise is worth waking up for. At 5:30 am, I went for a walk down the hill to the wedding venue. It is quite steep though, not good for those with bad knees. As the sky changed colors, I was so inspired to workout. I found myself doing planks. If only I had a yoga mat, I would have done some sun salutations and downward dogs.
I believe one day a year, every one should witness the sunrise. I did at Narra Hill. I also got to see a rainbow. But as I exercised looking out to this wonderful view, the rain poured. So I headed back to my hut, to journal admiring Taak Volcano’s charm until my friends awakened. (See my video at Sunrise at Instagram/themaidastouch).
Breakfast was a wonderful spread of fruits including pineapple, papaya, and Langka and Chicken Adobo with baked egg. They served a lovely Langka jam, too. Weekends are for long breakfasts. This group of four lingered in the dining table till 11am, catching up on each other’s lives.
Before heading back to Manila, we stopped by Balay Dako by the famed chef of Antonio’s Tony Boy Escalante. We tucked into more comforting Filipino dishes like Kangkong Salad with Chicharon Bulaklak, Crispy Tadyang, Dinuguan, Liempo, and Laing, all washed down with the refreshing Tamarind Shake. No visit to Antonio’s is complete without buying Lemon Curd. I love this stuff on my Greek Yogurt.
While the rain poured on our way back to Manila, nothing could dampen our spirits. The laughter was non-stop. And traffic gods must have been looking out for us. Traffic was light. We slept that Sunday night, recharged and replenished. We were full with new memories and friendships celebrated.
*You may read my post too Collect Experiences Not Things inspired by this weekend.
Thanks for reading!
Maida’s Touch: Feeding Restless Appetites
Want to join me on my travels, Follow me on instagram and Twitter to see my journey as it happens.