Monday, May 14, 2012

The world is our oyster

Team Travelife in Subic yesterday

What a nice weekend it was.

First, the Travelife Magazine team placed second in the Columbia Regatta in Subic yesterday -- which was certainly a happy surprise. We're used to being the #1 travel & lifestyle publication and also to getting a lot of firsts in travel and writing; but we're quite happy not to win any prizes in sports since this is not really our forte. However, it seems our hardworking team has talents in this arena as well.


Travelife Magazine is the #1 travel publication in the country, but we have other firsts to be happy about. Carlo Velasco, head of Travelife TV, recently garnered the grand prize in a singing competition sponsored by Malaysia Tourism Board and he got a free trip for two to Kuala Lumpur, hotel accommodations and airline included.

Then Travelife Magazine also got the grand prize in the Travel Writing Contest sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Ogilvy, besting all other newspapers and magazines. The article that represented Travelife and won the prize was by our editor at large, Gabby Malvar.

So as you can see, we're quite used to being #1. And now we're very happy to come in second in sports.


On Saturday night, I met up with two friends who are coming along with me to the Czech Republic next month. We were supposed to have dinner at XO 46 in Salcedo Village (as I was so craving more Filipino food) but XO 46 and it's sister restaurant The Visayan Room were both fully booked. You can't imagine how disappointed I was as in my mind I was already ordering their beef adobo and spicy squid and getting incredibly hungry doing so.

So instead I invited my two friends over to my house and then we ordered takeout from XO 46 -- the next best thing to eating there. We ordered the beef adobo and spicy squid that I'd already pre-ordered in my mind, of course, plus my all-time favorite bangus salpicao, a new chicken dish, and some ube puto. I also decided to make a lechon kawali with a spicy sauce and some alamang fried rice to go with everything.


What fun we had discussing our trip next month, which begins in Istanbul in June and then ends in the Czech Republic. I'd already made arrangements to be in Prague on a certain date, but we thought it would be nice to go somewhere else either before or after our Prague trip for more of a bit of fun.

Istanbul's Reina
We three had already been to Istanbul together sometime back, and we'd had so much fun that we all didn't mind doing Istanbul together again.

"And this time we can have dinner at Reina," S said.

Yeah. The last time we were in Istanbul, we'd been so busy that we hadn't had time for dinner in Reina although we did eat at a restaurant that served an authentic a meal as possible from the 13th century, and at Istanbul's best kebab restaurant.

And June is just about the perfect time to be at Reina if the weather is fine, as that view of the Bosphorus from the restaurant is just amazing. The food is pretty good -- Reina serves a proper Turkish degustation meal -- but it's really the view that's the killer. You feel there's nothing wrong with the world when you're sitting on one of the lounge chairs on the open terrace by the dance floor, watching the people dancing on one side and the boats passing by on the other side, with a glass of raki and good company on a perfect night.


Ready to throw a monkey wrench into the plans, I said: "How about going to someplace we've all never been -- like driving to Safranbolu?" Safranbolu is a university town near the Black Sea that's known for its unique architecture, and it's a UNESCO World Heritage site as well. I'd been wanting to visit it for a very long time but had simply not found the time or the companions.

UNESCO World Heritage Site of Safranbolu
Then my other friend A said: "Or we can drive to Greece. Everything's cheap there now."

Greece was an idea. I'd just bumped into the Ambassador of Greece at a party last week and this was exactly what we'd discussed: driving from Istanbul to the Greek border. Apparently it's relatively easy and  it only takes a few hours.


Bulgaria Cathedral
So there we were sitting around liberally throwing names of places into the discussion ring, and we even  briefly discussed Bulgaria and Romania as well. But eventually we settled on Vienna, one of my favorite cities in the world.

The moment I suggested it, everyone said yes very quickly and we all were very happy. It has great hotels, very good food and even more delicious cakes, interesting museums; and, with some luck, my friend A can even rent this cool sportscar he's been wanting to get, so he can drive us from Vienna to Prague.



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