Friday, November 30, 2012

A delicious eggs benedict breakfast at the Westcliff in Johannesburg

Breakfast with a view at the Westcliff in Johannesburg

On our third day in South Africa, living a TRAVELIFE, we had a very leisurely breakfast at the beautiful Westcliff hotel before checking out to catch our flight to the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in Kruger National Park.


A sunrise balloon ride with Air to Africa
over the Cradle of Mankind 

Since we arrived, it had been a pretty crazy schedule of doing all kinds of stuff because we wanted to see everything possible in Johannesburg.

We'd ticked off every major sightseeing destination on our list and ate in the four restaurants we really wanted to eat in. And we'd even done a hot air balloon ride at sunrise and driven all the way to Sun City as well.

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From the December 2012 - January 2013 issue onwards

Holiday issue on sale everywhere
from December 15

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Our 48-hour schedule could've probably killed a springbok -- excuse the pun -- but we'd had lots of fun doing it. We'd just had two very full days, and that third morning in Johannesburg was our very first relaxed moment. Finally.

Perhaps to make up for the rush of the past 48 hours, not to mention the 18-hour door-to-door travel time between Manila and Johannesburg, we spent over an hour just having a nice breakfast at Johannesburg's grande dame of a hotel.


The elegant breakfast venue of the Westcliff

It was a sign of things to come, because after that day, I don't think we ever sat at a breakfast table -- or at any table, for that matter -- for less than an hour again. All our meals after that were very, very leisurely, and we were doing at least three courses whether we were having breakfast, lunch or dinner.

And one dinner in Cape Town was eleven courses! (Test Kitchen by Chef Luke Dale Roberts, South Africa's most famous chef...)

Everything was bloom in Johannesburg,
when we were there

The weather was beautiful and we chose a table with a view of the greenery of suburban Johannesburg. Meanwhile, out in the terrace, a very long table of extremely chic-looking women had gathered for morning tea and what looked like a baby shower.


In Johannesburg, the Westcliff is everyone's favorite destination for all the milestones in their lives, you see, so we were constantly seeing weddings, baptisms, birthdays, and baby showers going on, all over this massive and extremely picturesque property.

The locals are very proud of this hotel, as well. The Westcliff is very large and spread out, so you need to ride a van from the lobby to your room; and twice, we shared the van with some locals who were taking their overseas visitor to one of the Westcliff's restaurants for a meal.

The Westcliff is the favorite venue for all milestones...

Yes, the Westcliff experience is considered one of the "best experiences" in Johannesburg, and that's how proud the locals are of this hotel.

Personally, I would say don't miss a magical experience of champagne at sunset by the infinity pool, and definitely have breakfast on the terrace of the La Belle Terrasse restaurant on a beautiful and relaxing morning.


Breakfast here is very elegant, refined and old-fashioned. I had my usual, favorite hotel breakfast, and it was a pattern that I would follow almost religiously every day in South Africa.

I always started with a plate of fruits and a pot of roobois tea, no sugar or milk.

Then I got some smoked salmon, some cheeses, and a croissant for a second course.


For the third course, I almost always had the eggs benedict, just because I love eggs benedict. And now I can write an entire discourse on the best versions of eggs benedict in South Africa, since I've tasted the eggs benedict in all their best hotels.

The Westcliff version of eggs benedict is a classic, which is very appropriate, considering the environment and their reputation.

Muffins for two

And when we left the restaurant, we took two bran muffins to eat on the plane, on the 70-minute flight to Sabi Sabi from Johannesburg, for the next chapter in our amazing South African adventure.

Lunch enroute to Sabi Sabi


TRAVELIFE with us to Hawaii, via a dinner at the Makati Shangri-la

Experience the magic of Hawaii for one evening.

Makati Shangri-La, Manila brings guests a unique tropical experience with Me Ke Aloha (With Love), a Hawaiian affair highlighting the music and cuisine of Hawaii at the Lobby Lounge on December 4, 2012.


The evening will be filled with live acoustic performances from singer and guitarist Jeff Peterson and Chino Montero from Hawaii. Chino Montero is recognized as one of Hawaii's most talented guitarists and falsetto vocalists. He's served as opening act for Carlos Santana and his music has been featured on three Grammy-nominated recordings.

This performance is perfectly complemented by a hula dance recital by Kawena Mechler and Pomaikai Klein, who have come all the way from Hawaii as well to perform for this one evening.

Seats to this one-night only musical event are priced at P2,500 net each, and this includes cocktails and a four-course dinner menu of Hawaiian specialties.

Hawaiian Dinner Course
for Me Ke Aloha
on December 4, 2012

PhP 2500 per person, 
inclusive of 10% service charge and government taxes

Citrus watermelon, seafood, 
lemon marmalade and caramelized pineapple

Cold Soup
Auntie Lei's aloha chilled spicy ginger bisque 
with prawn and avocado

Choice of meat or fish

Pulehu grilled beef medallion (black salt and herb crust)
with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions,
beets and sweet potatoes


Seared mahi mahi with macadamia nuts and scallops,
purple potato mash, asparagus and micro greens

Lava chocolate cake 
with salted caramel pineapple and spice cream

As a prelude, guests can enjoy a buffet spread of Hawaiian seafood delights at Circles Event Café from November 30 to December 4, 2012.

For inquiries on this one-night only event, please contact: 
Makati Shangri-la Restaurant Reservations 
Tel (632) 813 8888


The all new look of NAIA's Duty Free Philippines

So one week after returning from a pretty enjoyable trip to South Africa, living a TRAVELIFE, I'm back at the airport again to spend the long weekend in Hong Kong.

It's going to be lots of walking around with kids in the daytime, but at least I can look forward to a nice and relaxing dinner every night -- the kind of dinners you bring little black dresses (LBD) for. So, of course, I've brought three LBDs for my three evenings in Hong Kong.


My schedule this week was so crazy -- and yesterday especially so -- that I actually forgot to tell my household that we were flying to Hong Kong first thing in the morning today. I knew in my mind that I was flying today, Friday, but apparently I'd completely forgotten to tell everyone else.

So the first they'd heard that they were going to Hong Kong was last night at 10 PM, when I'd returned from a long day and was planning to pack for the trip before sleeping.


And this morning I passed the Duty Free at NAIA 1 and I noticed that it's been completely renewed. I was just here three weeks ago, on my way to South Africa, and I hadn't noticed this all new look then.

But today, I had just enough time to pass by and check out the new displays and new products, and everything looked very attractive.

It's a fresher and more contemporary look, and it has a more First World feel now.

I'm posting some photos here so you can see how nicely Duty Free Philippines has re-invented itself.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

A crazy life and a long weekend somewhere cold

It truly is a wonderfully fulfilling, never-endingly eventful and crazily busy TRAVELIFE. Just reading this blog feels like an aerobics session to some people -- but what you read here is exactly how a Travelife is going so far.

I like to write about things, places and people that stand out each day because that's what makes life and this blog interesting. And because of this, perhaps, not a few people reportedly read this blog first thing in the morning or last thing at night -- or even both.


There's not much editing that goes on here as it's just a blog (in contrast, we edit each article at least 12 times for Travelife Magazine, by the way) and spontaneity is key.

And, yes, sometimes we have too much fun recalling and writing stuff here because life's really fun; and then it becomes cocktail party fodder in this small town.


Anyway, one day, I'm actually going to slow down -- but it certainly won't be tomorrow or next week. Or even next year. For now, we're living a Travelife and loving it. And not a day passes that I don't realize how lucky I am to be doing so.


But today was one of those crazy days when I was too busy to have breakfast or lunch. In fact, my last meal was at Kasbah for lunch yesterday. 

Last night, I was at a big party but I had two glasses of ice water and -- literally -- about four pieces of macaroni. I haven't felt much like eating lately -- but perhaps that'll change this weekend, with three pretty nice dinners in a row planned out. It's about time I actually had a proper meal.

Anyway, I was at work today until late afternoon, finishing up our next issue and editing a last-minute article from someone who obviously got inspired to write because he ended up sending me a piece double the length we'd talked about.

It was a very nice article, though, easy to edit and reading it made me smile because I knew he'd worked hard at it. But double the length just meant double the time to edit -- and time was one commodity I didn't really have today.


And just after 5 PM, finished with the edit, I rushed home to change into another formal dress to emcee the cultural evening that the embassy of Sri Lanka had organized for about 300 persons at a Makati hotel.

I was planning to wear a saree. But when I realized I had only five minutes to change, I took one of my Malaysian silk gowns from a closet and changed and was out the door again in four-and-a-half minutes. It takes me about ten minutes to get a saree on, so this wasn't an option tonight.


Well, traffic along McKinley Avenue certainly put a damper on my schedule, and I ended up slightly late for emceeing my own program. But there was no time to lose when I got to the hotel; so from the driveway, I literally went straight to the ballroom and up the stage without pausing for breath -- and just in time to grab the mike and welcome guests for the evening.

Talk about photo-finish. When I finally had a minute to sit down backstage -- and that was about an hour later, and still no food -- I thought to myself: "What a crazy life." But I love it, and I wouldn't exchange it for anyone else's right now.


That's not the end of my story either. After the program ended at about 10 PM, I avoided the usual socializing and returned straight home to correct layouts and pack up.

Yes, I've just returned from South Africa but I'm on another Travelife first thing tomorrow. But fortunately, it's only for the long weekend.

I'm going somewhere cold and delicious for the next three days, so not much packing's involved -- although I've had to think carefully about what to wear for three days of winter walking and three evenings of pretty nice but cold dinners.  Especially as I'm headed for a kind of fashion-conscious city, and one of my dinners is a very long degustation meal at one of my (current) favorite restaurants.

Basically, I packed three little black dresses and a black trench, and then a couple of dark jeans and black pullovers for the day. And my sunglasses which I always use as headband.

What a contrast to Manila, where I've been wearing all the colorful clothes imaginable, and even to South Africa, where I actually brought exactly the same iron-free dress but in about 9 or 10 colors for variety.


Speaking of South Africa, here's a funny story concerning my clothes. On the way to and from Johannesburg, we found ourselves on the same plane and even in the same section as an Asian couple who'd gone on a two-week holiday to South Africa as well, safari and all.

We'd never noticed them because the plane configuration from HK to JBG is all single seating and we'd literally slept all the way and back on the flat beds, save for about two hours out of the 12 when I'd watched a movie. But apparently, they remembered us pretty well.

On the return trip, just as we were landing in Hong Kong, the guy struck a conversation with us.

"You guys were on the same plane with us to South Africa two weeks ago," he said, smilingly. And here's the clincher. He then looked at me and said, "And you were wearing exactly those same clothes."

Uh-oh. He was right, though. I'd worn a white polo shirt and loose black pants for the overnight flight from Hong Kong to Joburg, and then I'd chucked these into a hotel laundry bag for dry cleaning at one of our hotels in the Cape area, and worn the same thing back, freshly laundered.

I was amazed at his memory, and at the coincidence of being on exactly the same flights.

What are the odds of that? Anyway we'd exchanged notes on our trips as they'd done almost exactly the same route as we had, except they'd opted for a self-drive trip to Kruger National Park, while we'd headed for the Sabi Sabi game reserve.

Reading about my today might give some people palpitations. But to me, it's just another day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Snow and a white Christmas at the Mall of Asia with the ECCP

Christkindlmrkt in Europe
The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) cordially invites you to a unique EUROPEAN CHRISTMAS NETWORKING NIGHT on Monday, December 3.

This celebration will take place in Manila, but in a European Christmas Village setting popularly known in Europe as the “Christkindlmarket.

Christkindlmrkt in Europe

This European tradition of celebrating Christmas first started in Nuremberg, Germany in 1545 and today it's widely celebrated all over Europe.


Christkindlmrkt in Europe

The ECCP is inviting everyone to celebrate Christmas the European way.

A Christkindlmarkt will be organized on-site and a special Christmas concert of traditional songs follows. After the concert, there will be the Christmas Tree Lighting and the ceremonial toast with the much anticipated Gluhwein.

Gluhwein for the holidays

There will also be ballet performances from the Nutcracker.

Everyone will enjoy the Christkindlmarket atmosphere, along with plenty of food and wine. There will also be a chance to win raffle prizes.

Please wear appropriate winter clothes. Occasional snowfall is expected.

European Christmas Networking Night
December 3, 2012
6:30PM – 9:30PM
Skating Rink, SM Mall of Asia (MOA)

Tickets cost PhP 1400 per person.

For more information, 
please contact Linsey Yang at ECCP
Tel (63)(2) 845-1324 or (63)(2) 759-6680


Stephen Bishop at the Marriott in Manila

Mint tea, good food and conversation today at Kasbah

"Everyone needs a healthy dose of sorrow and happiness. There's no depth without sorrow, and no point in life without happiness."

This was one of the topics of conversation today at lunch, at Kasbah in the Fort. I had lunch with Kasbah owner Madonna English, and after talking about travel -- and particularly our favorite places in Morocco -- the conversation got steered somehow towards this balance of sorrow and happiness in every person's life.

And how sorrow is sometimes good for people.


How apt this topic was as well, as late afternoon in our Travelife turned a little bit into sorrow. Hopefully, though, that made us better able to finish the writing for this issue.

Sorrow gives people depth in writing and in anything creative. And so far Travelife Magazine's December 2012-January 2013 holiday issue is turning out to be the best on record yet.

So in a way, it's again a little bit of sorrow and happiness. Even in a Travelife.


Tonight, I attended the Philippines Yearbook 2012 party at the Marriott Hotel. It was hosted by Grace Glory Go and her son Vernon, and Grace is one of my favorite persons in the media.

The party was extremely well-attended by the business community. I walked through the ballroom and I basically saw everyone I needed to see or wanted to see in Manila, after being away for so long on a series of trips to Singapore, Japan, and South Africa.


But the piece de resistance tonight -- at least for a certain generation of people -- was a very private and intimate concert by Stephen Bishop, arranged by Grace and Vernon for their guests at the Philippines Yearbook party tonight.

So the evening began with the cocktails and the program proper, and by 830 PM it was over, and Stephen Bishop came onstage to entertain Gracie's guests. It was a very small crowd at the end and so the full-length concert was so enjoyable and personal.


I found myself seated next to two friends called M, and we had a very enjoyable time listening to pretty sentimental music from another era and recalling all kinds of things. We were like three schoolgirls.

I haven't seen both of these Ms in a while. M#1, I've known a long time, while M#2 is a lady I traveled with to South India two years ago. Tonight we talked about doing a trip to North India next year.

The three of us chatted away about travel and Stephen Bishop's songs, which were romantic and nostalgic at the same time. It was just what I needed tonight, and I really liked what he sang for us.


One More Night
Separate Lives
Never Letting Go
Save It For a Rainy Day
It Might Be You
Looking for the Right One

When Stephen Bishop sang the song "Looking for the Right One," he recalled how his ex-wife had asked him to sing this very song at their wedding because it was such a beautiful song.

Then he said: "We got divorced and she subsequently remarried. When she got married, I cried all night. For him."

That certainly got us laughing. And on that note, sorrow kind of turned into happiness in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.