Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer weekend at a beach villa near Tokyo with roasted pig, barbecue ribs and a grandmother's lasagna.



So last weekend, in Tokyo living a #Travelife, we drove across town via the city's newest underground highway and then connected onto the Aqua Line, which is the 10-kilometer underwater tunnel that links greater Tokyo to a far corner of the Chiba peninsula.


Ordinarily, this is quite a long drive on the regular highway, especially with weekend traffic.

But with the opening of the new highway and the Aqua Line tunnel that literally cuts across the sea, getting to this part of Chiba is a breeze.

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SO NEAR,
AND YET SO TROPICAL

This part of Chiba is quite unlike greater Tokyo, in spite of its proximity. It's got quite a tropical atmosphere, for one, so the first thing you see when you get out of the tunnel is a row of palm trees. 

Quite surreal.

This is just the pool house of the beach estate

Then unlike the rest of Japan, which is just so inundated by 24-hour convenience stores, this part of Chiba actually has very few convenience stores. 

I'm so used to seeing at least a handful of convenience stores in every town, and between the tunnel exit and my friend's beach villa, which is quite a distance, I passed through at least four towns and counted all of three convenience stores.

A TOP HEDGE FUND MANAGER
DOES ALL THE COOKING



Last Sunday, this guy with the beach villa -- who is also one of Japan's most successful hedge fund managers -- did most of the cooking.

He actually got an entire suckling pig and also ordered real Louisianna ribs for a barbecue, plus several chickens.



All of these he marinated the night before with a hodge podge of specialty barbecue sauces from all over the world, and then on Sunday morning he stuck everything into is state-of-the-art barbecue grill, made-to-order in Texas and delivered to Tokyo.

A FAMOUS ITALIAN CHEF
MAKES AN OLD-FASHIONED LASAGNA



A famous Italian chef also joined us for Sunday lunch, bringing with him a couple of nice wines and a big tray of lasagna which he made based on his grandmother's recipe.

The lasagna was tasty and so gooey, and I must have eaten two platefuls.



Then we all sort of just sat around in this pretty massive and lovely estate with its own private mountain, forest and waterfalls. Some people went swimming, others tried a new zipline he'd installed across the property, and a couple of others went to play tennis as this guy also has his own tennis court.

As for me, I sort of just sat around with a glass of wine, listening to 80s music being piped all over the estate from high-tech speakers installed everywhere but invisible, living and loving a never-ending #Travelife.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Solving a murder mystery on the British Pullman


Last month in England, living a #Travelife, we rode the British Pullman for a murder mystery adventure.

The train itself is beautiful and this alone is enough reason to ride it at least once, if you're a history buff. Each carriage has a history and a pedigree.


Our carriage had carried Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip across England, at some point in time.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had also ridden this very carriage.

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GOURMET LUNCH ON A LUXURY TRAIN

This train experience is operated by the Belmond group, which used to be known as the Orient Express group.

They have in their stable a collection of unique properties all over the world, including hotels, trains and boats. I've stayed in many of their properties and I especially like the historical ones that are quite unlike most other hotels in the world.


Then there's the wonderful experience of having a gourmet five-course meal onboard as you rumble through the beautiful English countryside.

Especially in early summer, when England is at its most beautiful, this is truly special.


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A REAL OLD-FASHIONED
WHODUNNIT

And finally there's all the fun of having to solve a murder mystery onboard.



It's like being in a theater with audience participation, only this show is five hours long and you get to have something good to eat and lots of champagne at the same time.

I can't complain about the very comfortable plush velvet armchairs either. What a beautiful train this is.


THE LUXURY AND FUN
OF A PRIVATE CARRIAGE

And for this trip, we took a private carriage so that we had the murder mystery characters all to ourselves.


Each character comes by to give passengers a blow-by-blow account of what happened,  you see, as well as to tell you what they think happened, and who they believe did it.

You can ask questions and discuss the case with them, so you become very involved. And all in all it was a wonderful day and a very special experience in England, living a #Travelife.

Read more about the British Pullman
in the upcoming issue of #Travelife Magazine


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Saturday dinner with friends and Sunday at a beach, 30 minutes from Tokyo

At the start of L'Aperitivo Italiano last Wednesday

Good morning from Tokyo, living a #Travelife.

I flew in last night, after our very successful L'Aperitivo Italiano event on Wednesday, organised together with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, the Embassy of Italy and the Dante Alighieri Society.

It's a pretty full weekend, beginning with a nice dinner tomorrow with some college friends from the Ateneo who are also flying into Tokyo for a week of fun.

SUNDAY AT A BEACH
30 MINUTES AWAY FROM TOKYO



Then on Sunday, it's a day at the beach at the pretty swish estate of one of my master of the universe friends in Tokyo, complete with a private mountain, renovated antique Japanese farmhouses with wine cellars and all, underground speakers all over the estate so that you hear your favourite songs wherever you are on the property, and waterfalls created by a famous landscaper.

Ordinarily it's about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Tokyo along a remote area of the Chiba peninsula that's pretty hard to get to.

The best way to get here used to be by helicopter.

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WHAT A DIFFERENCE
AN UNDERWATER HIGHWAY MAKES

But several years ago, a new underwater highway, ten minutes long underwater, was opened to this particular area of Chiba, giving people willing to pay the steep highway tolls an incredible shortcut from Tokyo.

This highway literally cuts across the sea, but about 300 feet underground.

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THE MOST EXPENSIVE TOLLROAD
IN THE WORLD

The last time I drove this highway, it was something like US$100 one-way in toll fees -- and therefore US$200 roundtrip -- for this 10-minute underwater drive that shortened a 3.5 hour trip into 40 minutes.

This was once dubbed the most expensive tollroad in the world, and it probably still is. But it sure is worth it.

10 MINUTES SHORTER
BECAUSE OF TOKYO'S NEWEST HIGHWAY

Then just this morning, I heard that Tokyo's newest underground highway, with an exit literally outside my neighborhood, connects with this underwater tollroad, further shaving 10 minutes from the trip.

So now, a pristine beach without crowds or pollution, is 30 minutes away door-to-door by car. No traffic either. Because it's quite pricey, so few cars use this route.

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20 MINUTES TO HANEDA AIRPORT

This same highway also cuts across a heavily populated suburban area of Tokyo, albeit underground, to head straight into central Tokyo. So now, Haneda Airport is 20 minutes away by car from my house via this new highway. 

Not bad at all. And that's what I call a real lucky #Travelife.