Friday, January 23, 2015

Conversations over dinner at an ambassador's house, including the past of Pope Francis

I began yesterday in Tokyo very early in the morning to catch my 930 AM flight to Manila.

Luckily, I got a ride to the airport as someone was flying from Tokyo to London yesterday, and he very nicely took a car out to the airport two hours earlier than his own flight to bring me as well.

As we had time after I checked in, we had a cup of tea on the second floor of Tokyo's airport at a specialty tea shop that brewed a good pot of green tea.

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The result of this, however, was that I was late to board, and once again the very last person on the plane as usual -- in spite of my New Year's resolutions to try and get to airplanes earlier.

The flight itself was uneventful, although I have to say that I had a very good lunch onboard.

I chose the Western menu with a wagyu in a red wine sauce for a main course, simply because I'd been having way too much Japanese food the whole week.


Then I got the stewardess to give me some rice from the Japanese menu for my stew, and a glass of red wine.

Frankly, I wasn't expecting much either from the wagyu stew or the red wine, as I've rarely had stew or wine I can rave about with gusto on a short-haul flight, even in business class.


Well, well.

The stew was delicious, especially with the rice.

As for the wine, I didn't even bother to ask what the wine was, since the options from the stewardess -- even in business class -- were a small individual bottle of red wine or a glass, without any other explanations.

However, this too turned out surprisingly drinkable, and very nice with my meat dish. I think I had two glasses just because it was so enjoyable.

The appetizers onboard my flight yesterday


And when I got to Manila, it was straight to work before two parties on the diplomatic circuit last night.

The first was a farewell cocktail party at the home of a European ambassador, and I came on the dot knowing I would have to do a French exit in exactly 50 minutes.

And then I got into my car and headed one block down to the home of another ambassador, who was hosting a formal sit-down dinner in honour of a visitor.


That was really very enjoyable, especially as everyone at the table was such a good conversationalist, beginning with the good ambassador himself.

There were so many jokes and interesting stories in spite of the very eclectic crowd.


For example, did you know that Pope Francis once worked as a bouncer at a nightclub?

I fell off my seat when I heard this, but the gentleman who told the story swears it's true. In fact, he says this little-known fact is in the official Vatican biographical records of the pope.

There were dozens of other really funny or nice stories, and I hope to recount some of them over the next few days, in Manila, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

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