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London Days Part 2

A quintessential London street, on what was, at that time, a freezingly cold London morning...



The Tower of London was a sight I was itching to see that I missed during my last visit, so C and I woke up bright and early to go and join the throngs to see this.  The tour was really worth being in a crowd for, a lot of dry humor, wit, and some interesting stories.  Plus we got to know stuff like where Anne Boleyn is buried and other details we would have missed just walking around on our own.



Makes you wanna go home and watch The Tudors again.



A bit unnerving to see birds in flight in a place where a number of ravens were kept with clipped wings....I think those thin slits in the castle walls were what they called murder holes, used during sieges to drop boiling oil through among other things...





The story is, so long as ravens remain in the tower, the monarchy will not fall.  So there have been ravens with clipped wings here since Charles II or something.  Our guide said clipping their wings doesn't hurt them, but I find myself wondering how the hell they know that.  Granted, these make for some of the most well-fed looking birds I've ever seen. 



This guard was like a statue.  Crazy job.  How do they train these guys not to move?  This is beside the entrance to the crown jewels...some of the largest diamonds I've ever seen...my jaw dropped when I saw them...obviously no pictures allowed...



Surreal, animals created in fine wire were found all over the place.  I think this was a temporary exhibition,  it created a little bit of strangeness to the experience, I never imagined they had animals here at all...



Stepping out of the exit, we walked straight out to the Tower Bridge, or what many people think is the London bridge.  It was an overcast, cold, muggy, day, with seagulls everywhere, even in the water.



Pub food, and the novelty of pub signage.



Chicken pie.



Shepherds pie.



The stark lines of the Tate Modern.



Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds.  Hand-fired and hand painted  porcelain, each and every single one of these 100 million tiny babies.  This is just an amazing piece of work, especially when you see this up close.



The view of the dome of St. Peter's and the Millennium Bridge from the Tate Modern balcony.  The last time I was here, it was a snowy view. 



This installation was like a dream.  Just white walls and these floating steps in the middle.  You have that irrepressible urge to climb the steps into some lightly padded, cloudy universe.







We stepped out of the museum to a cold London night.



Dinner was at Harrod's Food Hall....a foodie shopper institution...









The sweetest Filipino chef was working the rotisserie area, and he gave us this cake with cream on the side.  Such a sweetheart.  It's such a great experience to meet these kind of people so far from home.



Back to the hotel to get some rest, walking through some interesting blue-tiled tunnel walls on the way to the tube.



“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

Bill Bryson
C and I heard on the radio last Sunday about Whitney Houston passing away.  How strange and surreal to find my last post with a quote from her, from her more sane and sober days.  RIP Whitney.  I was never a crazed fan, but some people figure in one's memories so clearly, like a backdrop that will never change.  

 

Inspiration Board

Let me return in my next life looking like this.









That second outfit in line?  My dream work outfit.  I want it so bad.












"I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants."

Whitney Houston

Everything from jak and jil



Crafty

I posted two Christmases ago about the Lego and Muji tie-up I saw in Hong Kong.  Although they did not have the exact same stuff I saw at that time, Muji in Manila did come out with a semblance of the stuff, for 6 year old kids.

Call it coping, but this made me happy.





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London Days Part 1

We woke up to muggy, wet London.  Thankfully no snow, but very very cold Eeyore weather. 



There were these food trucks outside the British Museum, we had our Subway sandwich breakfast here (tuna, drizzle of olive oil, cheese, and mayo...) with crepes for dessert.





I almost didn't use the wooden fork and knife, they were such a lovely pair!  I wish I had those in stock at home.  And the bottled water, with the 'delightfully still' caption is classic.  I want to drink this water everyday.  Language and water, in this case, is a match made in gulpy heaven....



Quirky, intellectual Bloomsbury right outside the museum.



One of my favorite places in the city.   I think it was school visit day or something, there were so many students.  I wish I had this level of museum experience growing up.







We walked from the museum to West End, snacking on some English sweets along the way.  It's a wonder the English have all their teeth intact.







The quintessential English alley....



Pub food.  A comfort in cold weather, but terribly difficult to get rid of the weight once it settles...





Mashed potatoes and the crust on their pies...this city swims in buttery love anywhere you go....





Check out the old man in the corner we glimpsed while walking through West End, a character straight out of a novel.



We visited the National Gallery (no pictures), and sat contemplating the merits of Van Gogh's sunflowers.  I didn't really appreciate it the last time I visited, but after seeing more of Van Gogh's work in Paris, I found I had a better feel for the piece this time around.  We also caught a glimpse of The Last Supper, which was a paid exhibition, so we didn't go in to see it up close, which on hindsight I regret.



A white cabbie...cheap thrill...like a unicorn sighting in a sea of black....



The London Eye.  Europe and Ferris Wheels.



Big Ben...



Westminster...for the second time, I did not get to go in since it was already late by the time we got here.  I will have to keep visiting London until I finally get to step inside it.



The Tube.  Did not get to use this the last time I was here, since it was closed at that time (rallies, big freeze, all that....).  I love the brisk, no-nonsense efficiency of it, especially after our traumatic experiences on the Paris subway.



Our stop.





We wanted to try Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck.  But because of time constraints, we opted to just try his new restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, Dinner that had just opened.  We were lucky enough to get through the wait list for a dinner confirmation through Innah's advanced preparations.  Unfortunately she wasn't able to join us because she fell sick that day, so C and I went ahead and tried it, given all the effort already put into getting a table.

We didn't get the smoke and mirrors effect of Fat Duck, but our dishes were intelligent, witty twists on old English staples.  Each dish even includes the approximate year of its origins.  The food was good, the wine excellent, and the service fantastic.  If there were any issues, the timing was less than perfect (noticeable gaps in between dishes), and hopefully they iron that out for future guests who may not be as forgiving.



The famous 'Meat Fruit' (c1500) starter.  This was fantastic.  Just perfect.  It looked exactly like an orange (it was this perfectly made mandarin jelly coating), but once you slice into it, the chicken liver parfait inside is marvelously creamy and a dream with toasted bread.  I could have had more of this genius plate.



If this looks unappetizing in this picture, I'll have to be honest and say this is really what it looked like.  I won't even begin to quote C's comment when this arrived, since it may turn people off this dish for good. This dish is called 'Rice and Flesh' (c1390) and was very good, with the risotto perfectly made and the little strands of saffron with tiny calf tail pieces lending the dish a sophisticated taste that melts into your well of food memories.



Wing rib of Irish Angus with mushroom ketchup (c1830).  Essentially a good steak, which is hard to get wrong.  I couldn't adapt to the mushroom ketchup though, try as I might to remain open minded, it just tasted so strange.  So we ended up with just salt, which is, for me, the best way to eat a steak anyway.



An interesting savory and sweet dessert



The famous 'Tipsy Cake' (c1810) is their dessert highlight, with this warm, chewy caramelized bun that melts in the mouth and is meant to be eaten with the roasted pineapple that is taken from this amazing roasting spit seen through the open kitchen



I am taking forever to finish my European tour entries, but then I have a ton of memories, and no deadlines, so in this area of my life, I can relax.  Besides, I turned out to be quite healthy after all, so I have time.

To Health

I just received my full medical report from my health check-up at St. Lukes.  Some minor bumps to iron out, but overall I'm okay, and cannot even begin to explain how relieved I am that I am healthy enough to undergo that dratted operation I need to have. 

I have been trying to deal with the shadow of more surprises with my health after my traumatic experience a few weeks ago.  Its hard, when you need to soldier on, work and act normal when so much has changed, and you have so many fears, so many anxieties fluttering like angry bubbles in the mind. 

So that weekend after the crazy news that I had a condition that requires surgery to the degree that I would have to take a leave of more than a month off, a long time to put your career and life on hold, C and I flew out to the most conveniently close place, Boracay.

The brand-spanking new Boracay airport.



Progress, and the inevitable hordes of tourists as Boracay's inescapable future.



Discovery Shores, no place like home.





Their Kaldereta, which is one of the best things on their menu.  It was great to just stay in the hotel, veg out, and pretend nothing bad ever happened.



C's happy brekky.



My brekky, trying to be healthy.  Didn't last very long though.



The fast-changing beauty of this beach.  The shoreline is so much smaller now than before the world discovered this place, and in a few years, I think all this will just be a memory.  Nothing really lasts.



Speaking of which, apparently Discovery has a new manager now, and Randy moved to Cebu or something.  Service was a little spotty when we were there (for the first time in all these years!), but I am inclined to want to believe that maybe its because they had three back to back weddings (including one on the day we arrived).   I'll know the next time we visit.

C's perfect plate from the Sands buffet. 



It was cloudy on that Sunday so we ended up just hanging out in the room for the remainder of the day.  Which, when you're staying at Shores, is not a bad thing at all.



And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off

Florence and the Machine

Train Travel and Arriving in London

We slept well on the train back to Paris, and woke up to a French sunrise.  It is something in one's life to be in motion with a continuously changing landscape sweeping by in seconds right outside your window.  Given the speed with which some of the things you see imprint themselves on your memory, they are also as quick to leave you, if you do not find the time to savor the experience. 



This is what our cabin looks like when the beds are put up (those yellow things in the back were the beds) in preparation for breakfast.



Not the best, but not bad either.  They make up in quantity what they lack in quality.  Coffee, orange juice, yogurt, cheese, cold cuts...



Bread and croissants with (gasp) margarine.  Yes.  Our only bad (lack of) butter experience in Europe.


Back in Paris Est train station.



The exterior facade of the Gare du Nord station is the only thing that is good about it, and seeing it for the first time will have you gaping at its size, but in comparison with Est, this station is seething with people, some appearing to be of dubious character, and one of the few places in the city we felt we had to keep an eye on our bags.



The sleek Eurostar trains. 





Since we had a few hours to kill we rented lockers (you'll need exact change) at the station to keep our bags in so we could step out without having to lug them with us everywhere.



Right outside the station...Paris, even in its most congested areas, is a beauty.





We opted to try a Bacon Royal, at Mcdonalds, which is technically a quarter pounder with bacon.  Where else will you get to try a quarter pounder called a Royal but in Paris?  Check out the menu, which, in French, just seems oddly more appealing.





Sauce for the fries...





Eurostar seats.  Not bad at all.  While preparing to board, we were having a conversation near the escalators when Monica Bellucci passed us.  C had one of her rare moments of complete disorientation.  She could not even speak.  Especially since we had just seen Monica's beautiful pictures in Berlin, at the Museum of Photography, taken by Helmut Newton.  No words.  One of those times we kicked ourselves for booking economy seats on a train with that goddess of a woman.  She looks thinner in person, and is a hundred times hotter.



Fat, happy clouds seen from this super fast train.



The French and their trees....





We arrived in St. Pancras in a little over two hours.  Got to sleep on the train too.





The joys of being back in an English-speaking country, and the happy efficiency of the Brits.  I love this city.



Our pretty little hotel in Marylebone.









Should have taken these nice toiletries home.  But our bags were so full, I can't even begin to think about how we squeezed everything in (and bought extra luggage) without some degree of pain.





We explored our area, which was 5 minutes from Bond Street.  C had her first taste of pub food (which we would end up carrying all the way home together with everything else we ate in our now obvious kangaroo pouches!).



Fish and chips.



Thwaites Nutty black.  Yum.



Beef and vintage ale pie.  The crust on this thing, God, I wiped it out.



To see the Christmas lights on Oxford street a second year in a row is no less thrilling, and no less wonderful for me.  I feel an affinity for this city like no other. 



South Molton street.



Close-up of the lights, with Browns in the background.  But unlike last year, this was not a shopping trip.



Red mailboxes calling for some snailmail.





A little birdie at Liberty.



Our hotel door at night.



Walking through our area is practically a Dickensian experience, and Marylebone makes you feel like you might bump into Sherlock Holmes or the Ghost of Christmas Past.



The coolest lamps.  I want one of those.  I love jellyfish.  I love London.



We were so hungry, and fortunately passed by this Lebanese restaurant on a brightly lit corner, and sat down for dinner.







To come all the way from Berlin to Paris to London was a singular experience.  To be able to travel so far, and see so much, and still have so much ahead of you, makes you stop and thank fate for your (relative) youth and freedom.  To be able to live your life, choose your path, and gain a greater degree of understanding of the world you live in.  This is what I live for.

Berlin Day 4

Last Berlin post, and am feeling a sense of accomplishment finally getting this city done, with more sensible (in my mind) recollections that my Paris entries which were rushed and less personal.

Started the day (again) with my last healthy meal of the whole trip, which was taking advantage of the hotel's organic breakfast buffet.   



Healthy food in bulk, since we were still feeling the aftereffects of the weird concoctions we had the night before.





Dessert plates of homemade granola, yogurt, and nutella.



Fruits with organic muesli.



We walked towards Cafe Cinema, at that time hoping we could still catch Berlin Calling...

My no longer pristine comme des garcons jack purcells...they were so clean when we arrived in Paris...



Random remnants of a fun night in this city...







Leftover Halloween decor?



We met Chagall on a street corner, such a beautiful dog, owned by an Old Brit couple on vacation.



Cafe Cinema was still closed when we got there, so we didn't get to see the screening schedules for the film.  This is a city that wakes up quite late, but given they party till noon, I am not that surprised.





Awesome mailboxes...makes you want to go back to writing letters...



Right beside Cafe Cinema, is a place with a completely different look (unpredictability runs in the streets), all tiled up (literally) and neat, with its own cinema too..







Old and new, bohemian and intellectual, everything comes to a head here...





We took the train to the East Side Gallery, which has remnants of the Berlin wall painted over every how many years by various artists from around the world...

This is the graffiti side...



We wrote our names on this side of the wall...hopefully we can come back one day to see it again...from Paris to Berlin...



The gallery side...



The river spree seen through a small opening...









The requisite currywurst stand, found all over the city, and did we stop to have some?  It was a long wall.





There are merits to having the sausage longer than the bread...



Awesome menu...check out the spelling of iced tea here...





We took a taxi back, and ended up with one that smelled like wet dog inside.  I think it was the second one in line in this picture...



This was when we found out that we missed the showing of Berlin Calling, so we just walked back to our hotel to prepare for our train back to Paris, where we needed to take the Eurostar to London.

We had our last German meal at Fabische, which is the hotel restaurant.



A cold tomato soup/bloody mary? complimentary starter...



Organic pumpkin soup...way too healthy for us.  I prefer mine full of cream...which may be why I almost died on my stress test yesterday.



I had beef cheeks, which was so tender I ate it all so fast.  I think I may have gone straight to swallowing it, which is typical of me.



C had their version of the wiener schnitzel, personally I thought the one I had on my first day was better.  This seemed a little overcooked.



Hotel lobby view before we left for the train station.



"The greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine."
David Bowie on Berlin


Berlin Day 3

So I'm home from my full women's healthcare check-up at St. Luke's at the Fort.  Service overall was great with some areas, but not consistent across.  Room was functional, new, and certainly better than being in Makati Med, which always depresses me.  I'll get my results next week and am crossing my fingers.

I was hoping to finish my Berlin entries at the hospital, but they had extremely slow wifi, so I just opted to continue reading The God Delusion, together with some bouts of Revenge, the first few episodes, which we got from Horny Devil at Metrowalk.

Anyway, back to Berlin Day 3...

Berlin street view from our window that morning.



The start of every Berlin day is the awesome organic breakfast buffet for 8 euros at Circus hotel.  This was my Day 3 healthy hit.  Bread, buttter, cheese, cold cuts, mushrooms, tuna and greens with some sweet mustard vinaigrette.



Homemade strawberry cereal, with their homemade yoghurt and strawberry jam for dessert.



From the hotel, we walked down the street towards the Hackescher Markt Station...

Greens and yellows on the cobbled sidewalk outside a Vietnamese restaurant.  I am not sure what those green things are, but they were there everyday that we passed this place...



Not a store for children.  And not a question you should allow them to see...will make for some difficult family discussions....



Cool red building, the bar at the corner has these shabby chic interiors that are like a German version of the I Love You Store. 



TV tower up ahead.





Preserved cobbled streets. 



Berlin is the kind of place with a rawness that keeps your senses on the alert.  It is not a predictable city, and always has some small surprising detail you might miss if you are not paying too much attention to your surroundings. 

Name plates on the cobblestones of Jewish families who were deported by the Nazis.  The plates include the year they were deported and where they were taken and is placed in front of the homes they used to live in.  You will find a lot of them in our side of the city.



A sobering reminder of what happened, and the poignancy of happening upon these names you've never known will move you when you run into them.

Cafe Cinema, is this really cool place, a mix of different hole-in-the-wall stuff, kinda like Cubao Expo, but way better.  They show art films in the back, and C and I were supposed to watch Berlin Calling, but missed the schedule...







The end of our street, crossing here will get you to the Hackeschker Markt station.



There was a Christmas market right outside the station, selling big-ass artichokes...



And REAL Christmas wreaths!  Man, the only wreaths I've ever seen were the crepe paper ones we used to make in school, and the plastic ones you get from the mall.  It feels a bit like seeing Santa.  I'm being silly, but I've never seen a wreath that used real greens before, I had to touch them to believe it.



The exterior of the Haikeshker station...



Torsten, our new friend, who we met in the Christmas market, waiting for the train...



We got off at the other end of the city (charlottenburg area), to visit the Museum of Photography, which is an amazing experience, but the irony is that they do not allow photographs in the museum.  Helmut Newton's photographs (the nudes he took in the 80's among others!), and his life, as experienced in the museum, is a must-see for anyone who loves either photography, fashion, or a glimpse of an exceptional life.



"I was there", the camera doesn't lie, the approaching storm, the death strip in Berlin, it was real.  Jesus on the cross, who knows?  It was so long ago.  True of false? It must have been flesh and blood, and stone and mortar, otherwise it would not be on film.

My k-swiss in New York.  Helmut Newton. 1991.



Before we took the train back to our side of the city, we had another currywurst run at this fastfood institution...



Their mayo in this city rocks!  This snack was so good!



We went back to Brandenburg gate and C took some awesome shots, then walked to the Reichstag hoping to see the glass and steel dome, with a view of the city at night.

Unfortunately we didn't know bookings needed to be made 2-3 days in advance, so we didn't get to go in, and this being the second to the last day, we knew we had missed the opportunity.  This was right outside the entrance...so many names in this city with so many memories...



Friedrichstrasse station at night...



We were curious about the Chinese take out beside the hotel, so we decided to have some for dinner.



Our chinese takeout in Berlin, taken in our hotel room before we attacked it.



The verdict?  Bland.  We stepped out for more food after that.



More currywurst.  This place, also beside our hotel, was the best so far that we've had, in an obviously crazy-about-hollywood interior (there was a huge Brad Pitt picture behind the counter) too bad I don't have a picture of the food, currywurst looks exactly the same everywhere though, as can vaguely be seen behind that orange fizzy drink C got.





We rested a bit in the hotel, and finally stepped out at midnight to go to two places we had read about, the first was Trust, which was near our hotel, but hard to find since it did not have a sign in front, and one had to knock (hopefully on the right door) to get inside.  I didn't take any pictures, the place was packed, and we were so buzzed when we left, since the only thing you drink in this place is their signature drink, called (predictably) Trust, which is a mix of vodka and I have no idea what else, but will certainly push you towards drunkeness faster than anything you've had before.  I love the interiors, which was kind of a raw clubby feel, and their bartenders look like either Jude Law or a Victoria's Secret model, therefore people's inclination to trust the drinks they push on you.  The music was so good, I have no idea who the DJ was that night, but it was a great start to our nocturnal adventure and we stepped out skipping in an alcohol haze.



We then headed for Berghain, hoping against hope we would be part of the 40% that were allowed to enter its hallowed walls.  We were in line for around 30 minutes or so, in freezing cold, and wearing leather (vs. our poofy jackets) close to freezing, but worried our poofy jackets might be held against us if we looked like pandas in the cold.  This place is in the top 10 best clubs in the world, and is famous for stories of decadence and hedonism (party runs till noon the next day), since the place has its roots as a fetish club.  They do not allow any pictures, and there are no mirrors anywhere (not even the restrooms), which allows for a level of craziness and lack of self-consciousness you will not feel anywhere else.  If you want full abandon, in one of the best sound systems in a public space, this is the place.



We had low expectations about getting in, but sometimes, we can have those lucky, lucky moments.



“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Happy Chinese New Year

In my very predictable manner of switching from one entry to a totally different one (then eventually returning to complete the unfinished one...) I will move back to the present and hope that this Chinese New Year turns out well.  I hope for health more than anything else this year.

I've started out pretty well, I'm booked for my full medical at St. Luke's at the Fort next week.  I also bought those ten vials of Kerastase hair treatment to address my falling hair problem (although honestly, I really think retiring will do the trick...). 

As for losing weight, I think its an uphill battle...what with the meal I just had earlier.

The Moreno table last night before the feast was laid out (that is a huge Costa Brava cake in the back, for Tita L's birthday)...



C passed out from the food.  Really, I have no clue how I can work on my weight loss hopes this year with all the eating I've been doing...

As for reading, my bedside first quarter reading material is a reflection of my current escapist tendencies...



The Story of Art - E.H. Gombrich
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
Linamnam - Claude Tayag and Mary Ann Quioc
Art The Whole Story - Stephen Farthing
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
January British Vogue

Art, fashion, food, and if all goes well this year, Japan.

One of my New Year's resolutions after the European trip was to become an expert on Art History, therefore the two Art books.  I have this crazy ambition to retire to a museum tour guide job.  Something not very promising in this country, but I am still hopeful.  I can't very well imagine I'll still be working for a bank twenty years from now right?  That prospect is too gloomy to even consider.

Anyway, here's to a good year ahead and may the dragon be kind to me.


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