Sunday, October 18, 2015

i gotta go! throwback: arriving in bath

taken four years ago at a pretty little cafe across the bath spa train station. a welcome respite after the morning we just had: faulty trains breaking down, hurriedly trying to figure out how to get to bath using a different route, kate finding out her things were soaking wet because of a bottle of water in her bag.

all those issues magically disappeared when we stepped inside this cheerful little place serving warm soup. shame i can no longer remember what its name is. it set the mood for our wonderful day in bath.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

staying at the discovery country suites

i'm very happy with how my 2015 is turning out in terms of travel. this month, i got to stay in discovery country suites in tagaytay. 

susie and i have always loved restaurant verbena in discovery country suites, and we've always been curious about the rooms in the property. last october, the discovery group was offering rooms at their various properties at huge discounts. so i checked out their website and found that their suites were at half off (if you check in on sunday-thursday). i hurriedly booked a random date in february, booking the nantucket suite for just Php 6,388 net, with complimentary country breakfast for two, milk and cookies at bedtime, complimentary wi-fi access and parking.

for those who will be booking their rooms for this property online, discovery country suites will send you a confirmation of your reservation by email. you have to send a signed copy of this back to them by a certain date, otherwise "the Hotel Management will have the discretion to release your room blockings as deemed necessary." i just thought i'd mention that, because most of our reservations these days are deemed confirmed, and don't usually require a response.

fast forward to that random date in february. since i had reserved in a hurry, i wasn't able to think things through and booked us on a wednesday, the day susie's car is under the number coding scheme. so that morning, i gave our little blueberry baby a hurried kiss goodbye at 630am so we could make it out of makati before seven.

on the road again.

we cruised along the skyway and were out of manila pretty quickly. we stopped for breakfast at petron along SLEX. we lingered and talked for a bit while the rain poured. i took my time finishing my oatmeal and hot chocolate, susie did the same with his coffee. i'm actually not used to not being in a hurry, and this was such a welcome pace.

at around 8am, we got to tagaytay. check-in at discovery was still at 2pm, so we had a lot of time to kill. susie drove up to palace in the sky, and we were hoping to check it out, since i had never been there, but it was too foggy to see anything. on our way back, we saw a coffee bean and tea leaf with a windmill on top, and thought it was a good place to stop and kill some time. 

cafe voila at crosswinds, tagaytay

as it turned out, the coffee bean and tea leaf is still being constructed and won't be open for a few more days. luckily, beside it was cafe voila, a restaurant with a rustic asian feel. it was so inviting, we couldn't help but take a seat and order drinks.

lovely, right?

such a shame we were still full from breakfast, because they had a pretty extensive menu.
after taking a few more photos, we went back to the car and drove around tagaytay some more. it was great to be in the city on a weekday--traffic was so light, so we were zipping back and forth between random places we wanted to see. we checked out the area where marcia adams tuscany was; sadly we didn't think to reserve a table.

we drove back and had brunch at breakfast at antonio's. susie was happy with his steak; i wasn't so impressed with my morcilla roesti (which, in hindsight, was probably the chorizo roesti, they may have served me the wrong dish). i was very happy with their banana macadamia nut spread, though! i took a jar home (P250) for the office folks, and they loved it.

we took our time with brunch, and drove back to verbena to finally check in. gela, who was at the concierge desk, received us warmly. we were checked in in a matter of minutes. it took them a while to open the door to our suite, though, there was a bit of a problem as the wooden door had expanded due to the humidity from the cold weather. this is what we saw when we entered: 

the nantucket suite

since we had booked months ago, i had completely forgotten about the room i chose. i remember favoring this particular suite in case we wanted to take the blueberry baby with us. it was even more spacious than i had expected, and tastefully decorated. even with the space, it still exuded a cozy feel; i just wanted to burrow under the covers and read a book then.

the room also had a large desk--in case you'd be foolish enough to do any work in this beautiful getaway. our suite also boasted a balcony, and an enormous bathroom. this is the room to book if you want quick access to the concierge or the restaurant, as it is on street level. it's also perfect for those who need PWD access, as you won't need to use the stairs to get to this room.

i also valued the sweet, little touches that they offer all guests. at sundown, they served us two glasses of wine and a platter of cheeses. when we got back to our room after dinner, there was a plate of yummy cookies and a pot of warm milk waiting for us. 

happy campers.
it was such a treat to wake up in such a comfy and cozy bed. we got even more excited when we realized we had complimentary breakfast at verbena! we got our pick of the restaurant's breakfast menu. the choices are pretty interesting; there were omelettes, different takes on eggs benedict, a selection of filipino breakfasts, among others. this was on top of the bread and butter that you can take from the buffet area, where you can also find cereals, milk, and juices. it was a very satisfying meal.

for the rest of our stay, we just hung out in the room and enjoyed it to the hilt. at around 12, we reluctantly checked out and bid the place goodbye. we vowed to go back. it was wonderful to find that the outstanding service we get in verbena matches that of discovery country suites. all the staff members we encountered treated us warmly, and were very professional and accommodating. 

so don't find it surprising if i post about staying in this place again. i was able to purchase accommodation vouchers for an overnight stay for P6,628.50 net. i'm very excited at the thought that i can book a stay anytime (until november 30, 2015, that is). 

check out more photos of our brief tagaytay fling

accommodation details
discovery country suites
address: 300 calamba road, san jose, tagaytay
phone number: +63 2 529.8172 / +63 46 413.4567

Sunday, February 8, 2015

disney's beauty and the beast at the CCP manila

my friend kc and i almost didn't get to see the first eleven minutes of disney's "beauty and the beast." we had made it just in time, but the first few notes of the overture was already starting to play, and the usher wouldn't let us in. we were horrified. luckily, another usher told usher number one to just let us sit on the seats close to the door; we can move to the seats we paid for during the intermission.

it didn't matter where we sat, though, as the show was highly entertaining from start to finish. i actually enjoyed being high enough to see the orchestra. as the familiar story unfolded, i tried to keep myself from singing loudly along: "there goes the baker with his tray like always..."

the voice of belle was incredibly spot on, the timbre of her voice was enchanting. gaston was appropriately annoying. initially, i was put-off by the portrayal of the beast as a whiny teenager--his movements were less than regal, a far cry from the skulking, stalking beast of the movie. but as the show went on, i came to accept this version of the beast; i also realized it made sense for him to act this way--after all, he was quite young when he was cursed by the enchantress, and being stuck in a castle with living inanimate objects probably didn't contribute much to his maturity. (sige, i-justify pa natin.)

the production design was also impressive, especially the economy of the set. there were so many things and cast members pulling double duty without sacrificing the presentation. it was all so amazing to see how they made it work.

the whole show was such a treat, kc and i enjoyed it so much. one of the numbers i was so entertained by was the beer mug dance during the "gaston" song. i also got to hear "human again," which was cut from the original movie and replaced by "something there." the song fits very well into the live production.

the entire musical ran for almost two hours, but we hardly felt it, as it was such a wonderful show. for a thirty-two-year-old like myself, seeing lumiere, cogsworth, the wardrobe, mrs. potts, little ol' chip riding on a cart tray, and even the feisty babette in the flesh (but as inanimate objects), dancing and singing the songs etched in my mind from all the rewatches, was such a thrilling experience.

i'm certainly looking forward to the next disney production coming our way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

a year ago

a year ago, i got the one thing i had been wishing for, and working on, for two years.

this day last year, i gave birth to my son.

susie and i were not like other couples who had it easy getting pregnant. we had to go through fertility treatments to get our precious blueberry. and these treatments aren't just a bunch of tests you have to pay for, or pills you have to take, or injectables that you have to endure. they involved lifestyle changes that tested our marriage. two years of frustration and desperation. it didn't help that the pills affected my hormones and made me emotional.

after gallons of tears, countless pills of clomiphene citrate, two doctors, more than a dozen transvaginal ultrasounds, a hysterogram, and one shot at intrauterine insemination (IUI), our hard work finally paid off. initially, i didn't like the idea of the baby not being created naturally: it was too technical, too scientific, too... cold. but then i realized, this would be a baby that we worked for, prepared for. he is completely expected, and incredibly wanted.

so for the entirety of 2013, i stayed in manila. and did not hold (that much of) a grudge. before our IUI in february, i thoughtlessly booked tickets to hong kong for may, thinking this treatment probably wouldn't work. i mean, nothing has!

but two weeks after the treatment, susie came home with a pregnancy test kit, and told me, "you've been acting different. i think you may be pregnant." i snorted. but later, at four in the morning, i got out of bed, ran to the bathroom, and had my first taste of morning sickness. i caved, peed on the stick, and what do you know: +.

we kept things hush-hush in case it was a false alarm, but an ultrasound confirmed the little blueberry inside my uterus. and for the next months, even in the face of debilitating morning sickness, i was the happiest pregnant woman. i ate healthily, exercised, slathered my stomach with shea butter, coconut oil, and other anti-stretchmark creams (they worked; i don't have any stretchmarks on my stomach), read a lot about pregnancy and childbirth, pestered mommy friends to give me their best advice, downloaded every free pregnancy app there was, and took a childbirth prep class.

of course, i also took advantage of the "perks." anything i craved for, i got, thanks to my mom. towards the end of my pregnancy, i parked in handicapped spots. my dad took me to work on my coding days, and my sister and her boyfriend billy would pick me up after work. i was happy at the new pair of boobs i was getting, and i got to wear dresses for the whole pregnancy.

my pregnancy was just wonderful: feeling the baby kick while i drove to work (he loved old school r&b and queen), random strangers smiling and asking how far along i was, drivers slowing down for me while i crossed the street. my friends were just as excited as we were--they made our gender reveal baby shower such a blast! (plus, they got us everything we wanted.)

wonderful, except for my two-week bedrest because i was having contractions. i am completely glossing over the painful acidity, the unbearably itchy stomach a few weeks before giving birth, the back pains, that helpless feeling when you've gotten too big to get out of bed or pick something up from the floor. but really, i look back on my pregnancy with fondness. and it's a good thing, because it was the only pregnancy i was gonna have.

the day i gave birth was also the day i lost my uterus. the delivery went well, fast, actually, but i wouldn't stop bleeding after that. susie told me it got to a point where the blood coming out was already diluted, like tea. i lost three liters of blood, and my doctor had to make the difficult call of performing an emergency hysterectomy. it was either me or the uterus. i think she made the right choice.

she stopped by my room hours after the surgery. "i'm sorry, i didn't have time to do a bikini cut," she told me.

i laughed, and told her, "doctora, ano ka ba. i don't care about that. i'm just glad i'm still here."

a few days after that, i would go home with my little boy, still struggling to walk. breastfeeding would drive me insane, because he would be crying every thirty minutes. he would hardly sleep. susie and i would worry about the possibility of pyloric stenosis. then the blueberry would fall off the bed on mother's day, and, on the same day, pull himself up to a standing position.

plenty of precious moments, the kind that j&j makes commercials out of, but it's also such a tough job. once you've let your guard down and start thinking, "yeaaaah, i got this," he'll start teething. or find the electrical cords particularly interesting (and delicious). or start throwing food off of his high chair.

but i'm enjoying this rollercoaster, this being a mother thing.

Djong On Morphine A Year Ago summed it up pretty well: i'm really glad i'm still here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

a new york sunday

for our first sunday in new york, our awesome, gracious hosts--my ate ianne and her husband manong rey--had a pretty busy day planned.

we started the day early, driving to manhattan from long island. we did a quick drive around queens, so we could see this:

Jollibee in Queens
we were supposed to go to the ferry terminals and hit liberty island, but when manong told us that he used to work on roosevelt island, we begged for a detour.

Manhattan from Roosevelt Island

there wasn't much to the island, though, but we managed to get a few photos of ourselves ovar there.

I don't know what we were talking about.

Me with Ate Ianne

The little boy squeezing in some play time.

then it was off to battery park, on to the ferry to liberty island and ellis island. susie and i usually traveled without other people, so we hardly have any photos of the two of us together on our trips. i gotta say, it's great to finally have some vacation photos, like this one, taken as the ferry was leaving the station:

It was a windy day.

on liberty island, we finally saw this lady up close:

we got rained on, though, so we got back on the ferry to visit ellis island, which used to be the gateway to the united states, where millions of immigrants tried their luck to live the american dream.

The Immigration Station
going through the halls of the immigration station gave me a heavy feeling, and no wonder, as the building was where millions of hopefuls were examined, interviewed, at times detained, or even deported. you can really feel all the history that went on in this building.

we made our way back to manhattan, where we saw the charging bull, the symbol of wall street, or more accurately, of "aggressive financial optimism and prosperity." of course, i couldn't resist having my photo taken with the famous beast:

I was trying to tame it.
after a whole lot of walking, we eventually ended up at the mouth of brooklyn bridge. before walking the length of it, we got some waffles and tried to muster up enough energy to cross the darned bridge together. our reward? yet another "honeymoon" photo: 

over on the other side of the bridge, we decided to soothe our tired muscles by sitting back and having some gelato at the brooklyn bridge park.

Gelato, on a very windy night.
So what if we freeze our lips off? It's yummy!
we then looked for the train that would take us back to where we parked the car. but before heading back to long island, we had to stop by tito rad's for dinner. why? because they serve this:

Tuna panga.

which is to say, i was never far from home when we were in new york. :)

a free tour of the grand central terminal

one of the best new york experiences we had when we were there in 2012 was the free tour of the grand central terminal, by the grand central partnership. you'd think that a free tour wouldn't give you a lot of bang for no bucks, but this tour was comprehensive and highly informative.

we were a bit early to the meeting point, so when we got to grand central, susie and i explored outside and took a few photos. here's one of my favorite shots:

Three iconic buildings: The Metlife (formely PanAm) Building, Grand Central Station, and the Chrysler Building.
then it was off to 120 park avenue for us, where we found a huge group of people waiting for the tour to begin. we were divided between the two guides--justin ferate and peter laskowich.

The man with the red tie is Peter Laskowich, our guide.
i was expecting him to lead us directly to grand central, but we made a detour to see this building:

i was pretty psyched to be inside the chrysler building--it was my favorite building in the NY skyline. it was hard to pay attention to everything peter was saying because i was mesmerized by the ceiling of the lobby: 

Lookit all the colors!
after this, peter led us through some labyrinthine tunnels which eventually led us to the belly of grand central terminal. he told us of the whispering gallery, letting us in on the secrets of the psychology of the train station's architecture. it was all pretty mind-blowing to hear, susie and i are still in awe of it to this day.

peter then took us to a secluded corner, went up a flight of stairs, and told us that we were privy to seeing the campbell apartment, which used to be the office of american financier john w. campbell. here, campbell didn't only keep office, but he would have parties where famous musicians would play. today, the campbell apartment, while still called that, is a bar and cocktail lounge. take a look:

I want to go back here, all dolled up.
after this, peter took us outside, telling us more about the history of midtown manhattan, and the significance of grand central terminal (and why it still exists). sus and i walked away from that tour with so much more knowledge about the train station and new york. i highly recommend this tour to everyone who'll be in new york on a friday. please, please, don't miss it.

tour information
the grand tour
schedule: every friday, 12:30pm
meeting point: street-level atrium of 120 park avenue, at the southwest corner of east 42nd street and park avenue, across grand central terminal
tour duration: 1.5-2 hours
fee: FREE, but you may give a tip if you wish
no reservations necessary

Sunday, February 26, 2012

snore: citizen hotel taipei

Double room.
at this time last night, flight 5J 310 was making its descent towards taipei taoyuan airport, a quiet terminal that exuded this gloomy vibe.

we breezed through immigration, despite my apprehension that things will probably be ruined by my visa-exempt authorization certificate.

because our flight was late, we missed the last bus that would have taken us to the city for less than NTD 300. so we had no choice but to take a cab, which was very convenient, and awesome because the taxi had FREE WI-FI!!! but ended up costing us NTD 1,170.

we arrived at citizen hotel in no time at all. i was relieved to find that they did not lose our reservation (yes, i worry a lot), the man at the reception checked us in pretty quickly.

when we got to our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find a clean, simply furnished, yet complete room. we had everything we needed: free wi-fi, toiletries, towels, slippers, closet space, and drawers. a few "luxuries" didn't hurt: a flat screen panasonic tv, complimentary bottled water, kettle, and chairs. now if only we had electrical outlets by our night tables, things would have been perfect.

this morning, we had free buffet breakfast at citizen hotel's restaurant. it featured a pretty satisfying spread: congee, siopao, ham, eggs, tofu strips, vegetables, toast, jam, and butter. for drinks, you can have tea, coffee, orange juice, cranberry juice, soy milk, or cow's milk. you can definitely fill up if you're gearing up for a long day of walking.

because a lot of walking is what you'll be doing when you stay in citizen hotel. its location is its main weakness. it is about 15 to 20 minutes away from the closest MRT station. there are buses that pass in front, but the MRT just gets you to certain spots more efficiently.

while the number of advantages definitely outweigh that one setback, it's something that will make me think twice about recommending this hotel to others. i've experienced staying in hotels that are mere steps from most important landmarks, and it just makes life a lot easier. and when you're in a foreign place, you take every single advantage that you can.

hotel information
citizen hotel taipei
address: no. 80, section 1, jinshan south road, zhongzheng district, 100 taipei
phone number: +2 2397 1377
email address: