Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lunch at the Tivoli of the Mandarin Oriental -- and three times lucky

In Manila, today, living a Travelife, my first order of the day was lunch at the Tivoli of the Mandarin Oriental with an old friend of mine.

The Tivoli was bustling with people today. I saw some other friends as soon as I walked in, and then several other people I also knew came by. I even saw Charisse Chuidian, the hotel's grand dame PR directress, at the restaurant.

I said to her: "This is the first time in a very long time that I actually got to choose a restaurant myself, and I just arrived last night from Japan at 11 PM -- and here I am at the Tivoli."

She knew exactly what I meant. I usually never have the luxury of eating out in restaurants just for the sake of having a meal. My life is a never-ending Travelife, and when it isn't, it's one event after another, or one person's house after another.

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Ironically, my most favorite thing to do is to have a one-on-one meal with a friend. I really don't like group things in general because the conversation needs to get edited or tailored too much to suit everyone. If you're eating with just one person, the conversation is just about you and him or her.

So this lunch had been planned since last month, and the choice of venue had been left to me -- and I'd decided on Tivoli, remembering my last very nice lunch there several months ago.

I'd had a wonderful slew of appetizers from the appetizer buffet -- some interesting and delicious sushi, and very good ham -- and a slab of salmon from the carving station.

I can still remember how juicy that slab of salmon was to this day, and I've been dying for an opportunity to have lunch at Tivoli again since then. Well, it finally happened today, although the salmon was not on the menu and so I had lamb instead.


What an enjoyable lunch that was. We looked at photographs, talked about South Africa and laughed about some very old times.

Then, just as I was leaving the Mandarin, my phone pinged and it was a message from a friend I hadn't seen in decades but with whom I'd reconnected recently.

The message was to me and to another guy -- these two guys and I had spent an insane amount of time together having fun in Tokyo, in a previous lifetime -- and it said: "Lunch next week? Good old days. Am in town till XXX. Pick a day."


I immediately canceled something on my calendar to make way for a nice and long overdue lunch with these two guys.

And then the good news. I actually got to pick the restaurant again as well. I chose someplace casual that I'd been hearing a lot about and that I'd been wanting to try for some time now. I'll certainly let you know what I think about it next week.


They say good luck comes in threes. At the end of the month, I'm off to Singapore for a few days to stay in a nice hotel, see some very cool exhibits, and have great food. Of course when I'd finalized my schedule in Sing this afternoon, I was immediately on the phone with my old friend Triccie to discuss how and when to meet up.

We've been friends since the time I learned how to drive myself to school. She was actually one of the few brave ones to get into the car with me in the very early days of my motor independence, when I did stupid things like bump a tree right smack in the middle.

Or leave my car right there on a one-lane road in campus during rush-hour because it had run out of gas and I had no idea what to do next. (Two very nice guys came to my rescue, by the way...)


So she knows me better than most. And when we'd settled on when to meet in Singapore, she said to me, even if she already knew the answer: "I can take you anywhere you want."

Yeah. We always have a meal at my favorite chicken rice place. No fail. But actually, this time, I was going back and forth between chicken rice and a really hot restaurant that lots of people have been talking about. The chicken rice won out in the end.

The simple pleasures in life and just another day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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