Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My never-ending bucketlist for amazing travel


Today I just realized that although I'm on a never-ending TRAVELIFE, my bucket list for travel experiences is neither static nor shrinking. So I keep ticking things off my bucket list, but my list keeps growing longer anyway.

2 DOWN, 200 MORE TO GO

Just last month I got two things off: finally visiting the majestic ruins of Petra in Jordan, and experiencing dinner in pitch darkness in Tel Aviv.

I'd been wanting to try this dine-in-the-dark experience for some time now as they have it in certain cities around the world; but Tel Aviv is by far the most authentic one because the waiters are all actually legally blind.

Read more about the wonderful and edgy attractions of Tel Aviv in the current October-November 2013 issue of Travelife Magazine. On sale everywhere now.



In other cities like Paris and New York, where they have this dine-in-the-dark experience, it's more a trendy or fashionable experience rather than an authentic way to share an experience and provide real livelihood for people who would otherwise not find it very easy to get a regular job.

A DARK AND HEARTWARMING EXPERIENCE

But in Tel Aviv, the combination of this dinner in the dark served by blind waiters with a show performed by the deaf and blind afterwards will give you an inkling of the hardships that the physically challenged face; and realizing this will make you want to cry.

Scroll down to read more...



OFF ON HOLIDAY TO SOUTH AFRICA

Then, next weekend, I'm off to South Africa for two weeks; and I get to strike at least two things off my travel bucket list again: a safari to see the Big Five at Kruger National Park, and sunset from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town.



It's funny how I thought that a trip to South Africa for two weeks would finally fill my curiosity for this part of the world -- an area, by the way, I'd always passed up for one reason or another.

I'd long been wanting to go, but, most of the time, it just seemed so far to travel all that way. At least until I recently and finally looked at airline timetables and did the maths.


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FOR THE BEST OF SOUTH AFRICA

From the December 2012 - January 2013 issue onwards
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DOING THE DISTANCES



I always thought South Africa was far, in the same way that I find New York too far from Manila or Hong Kong (which would be the usual jump-off point for a direct flight). This is why I've been so reluctant to go in the last few years; even if I happily fly off to Europe when I can find the time and a good excuse, and that's at least a 12 hour plane ride or more.

So what a shock it was to realize that South Africa is way nearer than Europe in terms of distance. Had I bothered to do the maths before, I would have set foot in this country earlier.

TWO WEEKS AND NO TIME


Interestingly, we have two whole weeks to do as we please in South Africa; and although we decided the destinations to visit in South Africa together in a very roundabout way, the Boss left it to me to basically decide where to stay and how many days we would be in each place, while he took care of the restaurants and the sightseeing. And stuff I'm not too interested in like charter flights, airport transfers and rental cars.

So I made the basic route and chose all the hotels I've always wanted to stay in. Or, at least, I chose many of them. We don't have enough time to stay everywhere I want so I've had to leave out a lot of places for another time.

Scroll down to read more...




And except for one dinner with some industry contacts, we'd already said no to every invitation or suggestion of meeting up because there didn't seem to be any time to do so.

And, now, looking at the itinerary we've finalized, I'm left wondering where all the time went because I can't seem to even find two hours in somewhere for a massage. Or two hours for us to meet up with someone for a drink in Franschoek.

As for getting two things off my bucket list with this South Africa trip, well, having access to all this information about Africa in general has just resulted in about two dozen more things for my bucket list.



AMAZING AFRICA

Africa as a continent looks absolutely amazing, and I now want to do two dozen things I'd never even considered doing before.



Here are some of them, for Africa and the Middle East in general:

1) Stay in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
2) Do the Orient-Express safari in Botswana
3) Visit all the major attractions in Namibia

Scroll down to read more...


A NEVER-ENDING TRAVELIFE


4) Do the Karen Blixen route and another period safari in Kenya
5) Go around Lebanon
6) Explore Mozambique
7) Have a proper beach holiday in the Seychelles
8) Take the Blue Train from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and then take the Garden Route back

And so on. The list is truly endless in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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Le Club presents Beaujolais Nouveau 2012: Monte Carlo


We at Travelife Magazine can confirm that the French really know how to throw a fantastic party. If you're up for a night of good wine and company, make sure you don't miss the upcoming Beaujolais Nouveau event.

The French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines-Le Club presents Soirée Beaujolais 2012 Monte Carlo! Beaujolais Nouveau on Thursday, November 15, at 6 PM.

Photos from Soiree Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

For tickets, please contact:
The French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines-Le Club 
Tel. No. 813-9005 / 864-0447 
info@leclub-fcc.org 
events@leclub-fcc.org 
leclubfrenchchamber@gmail.com 
fccpmarketing@gmail.com 


A GREAT NIGHT AHEAD

Photos from Soiree Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

The French community, the international and local business communities and the country’s glitterati will all be at this event, and they'll be enjoying an evening of will fabulous prizes, fine wines, spectacular performances of French magicians, and the Jewelmer Fashion Show.



Photos from Soiree Beaujolais Nouveau 2011


1 MILLION PESOS WORTH OF PRIZES

Over 1 million pesos worth of prizes will be given out on November 15. The grand prize winner will go home with two (2) round trip business class tickets to Paris/Europe via Etihad Airways.

FOCUS ON MONTE CARLO

Photos from Soiree Beaujolais Nouveau 2011


It has become a tradition that the French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines features a region or a cultural aspect of France for guests to discover alongside the taste of the Beaujolais wines.



This year, the focus is on Monte Carlo, the most prominent and popular area of Monaco, epitomising wealth and glamour.



ADDED FUN

To add to the festivities, magicians will be flown in from France to provide the entertainment just for the occasion.

TRAVELIFE Magazine is a proud event partner of Beaujolais Nouveau 2012: Monte Carlo.

Photos from Soiree Beaujolais Nouveau 2011


Soirée Beaujolais 2012 is supported by: Le Cellier French Wine Selection, Etihad Airways, Total (Philippines) Corp., Asiatype Inc., International SOS, Lafarge Cement Services, Sanofi, Sanofi Pasteur, Thales, Pacific Hemisphere Dev., Ayala Land Premier, Department of Tourism, Jewelmer, Brasserie Boheme, Technolux, Thunderbird Resorts, AGS Four Winds, Coffral Access and Shoring, Mild Seven JTI, Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, M. Lhuillier Jewellers, Asian Eye Institute, Belle Corp. (Tagaytay Highlands), El Nido Resorts, Red Coconut Beach Hotel, BusinessWorld, Crossover 105.1, Travelife, Travelife TV Frequent Flyer, SDV (SCAC) Phils. Inc., International SOS, and the Embassy of France.

Photos from Soiree Beaujolais Nouveau 2011


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Oktoberfest Manila at Sofitel Philippine Plaza


Oktoberfest 2011 at Sofitel Philippine Plaza

Over 4,000 guests trooped to the Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s newly-refurbished Harbor Garden Tent for the 74th year of the Oktoberfest in Manila earlier this month.

Sofitel GM Goran Aleks and guests,
including Emy Arcilla of CATS Motors and Frank Chng of Canon Philippines


CONTINUING A TRADITION

This grand event, which was held in cooperation with the German Club Manila, was another exciting celebration of traditions, entertainment, and authentic Bavarian food and drinks evocative of the authentic Oktoberfest in Munich.

Sofitel GM Goran Aleks with the ambassadors
of Austria, Switzerland and Germany


OKTOBERFEST IN MUNICH

Munich.
We were just here last June.



OKTOBERFEST IN MANILA

In celebration of the 179th year of the Oktoberfest worldwide, the Harbor Garden Tent was decorated in the Bavarian colors of white and blue. Authentic Oktoberfest tables and benches set up gave a festive beer garden fair setting.

Ladies were dressed in the traditional dirndls and gentlemen in lederhosens to give it an authentic Oktoberfest spirit.

REAL GERMAN FOOD

Guests at the Oktoberfest at Sofitel last year

The guests enjoyed a colorful Bavarian culinary spread prepared by Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s executive chef Eric Costille,  consisting of fresh roasted pork knuckles, roasted calf, laugen rolls, grilled sausages and mouth-watering German pastries -- all paired with ice cold San Miguel beer free.

Guests at the Oktoberfest at Sofitel last year

The Bavarian Sound Express, well-known from previous Oktoberfests in Manila, made the guests dance on the table tops all night long.

TRAVELIFE Magazine was a proud media partner of this very successful event.




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Oktoberfest Manila 2012 was made possible by San Miguel Brewery Inc., Jaguar, Green Power German Engineered Energy Solutions, Etihad Airways, Bell Floorcoverings Inc., Land Rover, Bauer, Solane LPG, BDO, BAUER, Canon, Apo View Hotel, Puma, Cornerstone International Philippines, Technolux, Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, Dusit Thani Manila, STEAG State Power Inc., El Rio y Mar Island Resort Palawan, Club Paradise, Petron, Conlins, BDO, DMCI Homes.

Minor sponsors include: SIEMENS Power Operations Inc., AEG-Stiebel Eltron and BESTANK, SONY, Alta Vista de Boracay, Makati Shangri-la, Holiday Inn Galleria Manila, ANDRITZ Hydro, CATS Motors, Santa Fe Relocation Services, Gourmet Farms, Sea Explorers Philippines, The Manor Camp John Hay Baguio, STAMM Logistics, SANTIS Delicatessen, DB Schenker, CS Garment Inc., Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, Plantation Bay Resorts and Spa, Pura Vida Beach and Dive Resort, Mighty Corporation, Transwing Balikbayan, The Zen Institute, Philippe Tordjman Salon, and Le Spa.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Late lunch at the Cake Club


Recently I was at home at noon when this friend of mine who's coming along to South Africa called.

HOME ALONE

He asked: "What are you doing at home?" Yes, it was a workday and almost 1 PM, and he was supposed to ring me on my mobile. But I'd BBM-ed him to call me at home instead.


I'd dropped by to get a few things and then I was headed out to have lunch at the Cake Club, a casual restaurant in that new development just off Bonifacio High Street.

Well, we started talking about South Africa, of course, and going through our itinerary day by day; and before I knew it, we'd been on the phone for quite a while.



He was making our itinerary and sort of interviewing me to find a happy compromise on food and sightseeing. I'm glad he took the time to ask me, though, as I did no such thing when I was choosing the hotels.

He'd left the general route and the hotels to me, and I'd basically booked every place I've been wanting to stay in in South Africa without asking his opinion, and then sent the list to him as a fait accompli.



Fortunately he seems to be okay with what I've chosen. But my choices aren't so difficult to like, actually, as they're some of the best and most amazing places in South Africa.

WALKING UP A MOUNTAIN



But back to his interview.

"How are you for jetlag?" He asked me. He basically wanted to know if I was planning to crash and sleep or head for the spa after the ten- or twelve-hour flight from Hong Kong, or whether I would happily allow myself to be dragged around Johannesburg to see a couple of attractions he'd listed down for us.

He's hired a car, a driver and a guide from the hotel and on our first day in Johannesburg, he's planning to see just under a million things between our arrival and dinner time.

Everyone we've talked to has said it's impossible to see all the things he wants to see in the time we've allotted for Joburg, but I think that's just made him even more determined to make sure we see those things.


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But we're basically on the same boat, even if not on the same mad pace. Of course I want to see stuff. I'm Travelife, after all.

So I said: "I'm permanently on jetlag, so time differences and long flights don't really matter."

THE NEXT QUESTION

Then came his next question. "Are you up for walking when we get there?" Of course I am. I can walk all day through the entire Paris during sale season, without even stopping for meals. I thought this was the kind of walking he meant.



But he continued: "As in up Table Mountain?" He meant Table Mountain in Cape Town, that mountain that looms majestically over the city, and that looks like it has a table cloth on it on a cloudy day.

Walking up Table Mountain? I said to him: "Isn't there a cable car? Or can't you just hire a car and driver to get us there?"

The private helicopter charter I'd been hinting to him about to take us straight to the safari game reserve from the lawn of our hotel in Johannesburg would have come in handy here as well.

So we talked about stuff like these and finalized the restaurants we're eating in in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Franschhoek and Constantia, as we're taking the food part quite seriously. Fortunately, there are no arguments about his choice of restaurants.

FOOD, WINE & TEAMWORK



He knows his food and I liked everything he chose and he pretty much agreed on my slightly different choices. I did get to pick one or two restaurants out of the bunch, as well, and they were very different from his choices. He likes cutting edge stuff while I like traditional restaurants with long track records.

I think we've planned it so that we have at least one very big meal everyday, if not two. I don't think we've left out a single restaurant in South Africa that we should be eating in.


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WATCH OUT FOR TRAVELIFE'S PICKS
FOR THE BEST OF SOUTH AFRICA

From the December 2012 - January 2013 issue onwards
and online via the Travelife Blog 

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Actually, so far, so good. We've had very good teamwork for this trip, and certainly a lot of joking around; and we haven't had a single disagreement about where to go or what to see -- or even what time to start -- even if we've been planning this trip since May.

The only point of contention so far is the expected weight of my luggage. But that's another story...

LATE FOR CAKE



Anyway, this is why I was late for my lunch appointment at Cake Club.

When I got there, everyone was already on cake -- and lots of it. I'd made up my mind to go on some kind of diet, but when I saw the menu, I knew I simply had to order the works for lunch.

TWO SALADS AND...



I started with two salads. Yes, two salads. The first was a green salad with slices of warm goat cheese-and-onion tart that was just lovely. The onion tart gave a nice sweetness to the greens dressed with balsamic vinegar.



Then I decided to try the GM Salad, because this was apparently named after Diamond Hotel GM Vanessa Suatengco, who loves this salad. It's a mixture of greens in a parmesan cheese cup, that's served with slices of tomatoes and goat cheese.

SATO-SAN'S SPAGHETTI

For the main course, I was intrigued by a dish called Sato-san's Mentaiko Spaghetti. I was to swear off carbs today as I'd been doing major eating over the past few days; but suddenly I felt like Mentaiko Spaghetti when I saw it on the menu today.



Mentaiko spaghetti, by the way, is from Japan, and it's an original pasta dish made with egg roe. Very fattening and full of cholesterol, but very delicious as well. The Cake Club version is creamier than what's usually done in Japan, but it was great just the same, and full of a nice spiciness.

With all that food today, I was determined not to have dessert. But then I saw a couple of small cheese cakes that looked like they couldn't harm anyone, and I just had to have these.

Scroll down to read about some fantastic ice cream...



AMAZINGLY GOOD ICE CREAM

I also saw a cabinet full of ice cream.

"Cake Club makes its own ice cream?" I asked one of the restaurant staff. She nodded, and showed me all the exotic flavors.



I'm not one for missed opportunities, so of course I decided to order an ice cream.

There was one particular flavor calling my name, and it was the Moist Chocolate Cake. Wow. This one's a winner. It was really moist chocolate cake in an ice cream. And it was just as good as any luxury foreign ice cream brand I can think of.

Go live a TRAVELIFE and get some of that ice cream today at the Cake Club. It's really that good.




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