Sunday, July 31, 2016

Art in the Park in Sapporo. And about the song Mannatsu no Kajitsu by Southern All Stars and Kuwata Keisuke.


In Sapporo over the weekend, living a #Travelife, we decided to head over to a park to see some art, take a walk and hopefully get more steps clocked in towards my daily goal, and to attend a Sunday jazz festival performance that was open to the public.

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SAPPORO'S OPEN-AIR ART MUSEUM


The park itself reminded me of the Open Air Museum in Hakone, although the artworks in the Sapporo park are mostly by Japanese artists rather than world-famous ones.

ARTWORKS & NATURE


It was very enjoyable to be among the greenery, walking up and down low hills and through shady forests with artworks on display in strategic places or else hidden from obvious view so that they popped out at you when you least expected it.


THE SAPPORO SUMMER JAZZ FESTIVAL

Meanwhile, the Sapporo Summer Jazz festival was very enjoyable. It was really a community effort to make music and to experience it together.

Interestingly the first piece they played was one of my favorite Japanese pieces. It's called "Mannatsu no Kajitsu" by Southern All Stars, sung by its lead singer Kuwata Keisuke, and it's about the memories of summer. 

MEMORIES OF SUMMER
AND MANNATSU NO KAJITSU
BY THE SOUTHERN ALL STARS
& KUWATA KEISUKE


This certainly brought back my own memories of summer a lifetime ago in Tokyo, when the places to be in July and August were the areas of Hayama and Shonan

We would drive down from Tokyo, or stay in someone's beach house in Hayama, which is the most chic beach area near Tokyo, and the highlight of the trip was a long lunch or dinner at a very fashionable (then) Italian restaurant right by the sea.


When you ate at this restaurant, I swear life was perfect. And I remember these times whenever I hear the song "Mannatsu no Kajitsu."

Hearing the song Mannatsu no Kajitsu last Saturday was pretty appropriate, by the way, as life seemed just about perfect on the Travelife Magazine company outing to Hokkaido this long weekend.

Of course, as always, living a #Travelife.

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Shopping for art in Niseko and walking along Susukino in Sapporo after an izakaya dinner on a Friday night



Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, is by and large a very quiet city compared to large cities in the mainland of Japan. 

But if you are looking for some action in Sapporo on a Friday night, living a #Travelife, all you need to do is look for the arcade that starts at Susukino and ends a few blocks down at the edge of the city center.

FRIDAY NIGHT IN SUSUKINO



On a summer Friday night, the Susukino area where this arcade is located is full of noisy bars and lively restaurants, with musicians playing impromptu gigs on the sidewalks and people walking around with the requisite glasses of Sapporo beer.

Yes, we are in Sapporo, after all, so nothing else but Sapporo beer will do.

THE OLD SHOPPING ARCADES
OF JAPAN



Arcades like these used to be the fad and fashion all over Japan many years ago, and when I was studying in Tokyo a couple of lifetimes ago, there were so many of these, especially in the burbs. 



These days, these arcades with their small shops have largely given way to swanky malls and fashionable streets with indie boutiques -- so it's not so easy anymore to find an arcade still in real use and not just lined with tired old shops on the verge of closing down.

DINNER AT THE BEST IZAKAYA
 IN SAPPORO



I had a terribly big meal (and terribly delicious) last night with my Travelife Magazine team, on our company outing in Hokkaido for the weekend

We'd gone to one of the most popular Japanese-style izakaya pubs in Sapporo for a taste of the real Japan instead of my usual favourite fancy Japan.

This izakaya is very  good, notoriously hard to book, and not likely to break the bank while sending you home with a full stomach. so I resisted our guide's kind invitation to hop into a cab to the hotel and decided to walk home.


NIGHT SHOPPING IN SAPPORO

Everyone else was heading in every direction in search of things on their shopping lists as tomorrow we're at a hot springs resort in the middle of nowhere with no shops whatsoever. 

So it was last-minute shopping for all except for me, as I live in Japan part of the time, so I don't need to stock up on Muji and Japanese groceries unlike most other people.

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SHOPPING FOR ART IN NISEKO

Besides, I'd picked up an artwork of sorts at an upscale boutique in Niseko, which I intend to use for entertaining and dinner parties back home in Manila. So that's my major shopping for this trip -- if anyone is to believe me.

So instead I put on my music -- the song "Invisible" by Ashlee Simpson, would you believe -- and strolled the long way back to the hotel, on just another wonderful evening in my never-ending #Travelife.   

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

A classic French dinner at Mikuni in Sapporo


Last night in Hokkaido, living a #Travelife, the Travelife Magazine team, on a long weekend trip to this northernmost island of Japan, had dinner at the Sapporo branch of Mikuni, which is one of the most famous restaurants in Japan.

Located at the top of the JR Tower in Sapporo, with one of the best views in Sapporo from its private room, was quite fittingly a fancy dinner for a never-ending #Travelife.


Mikuni, which has a branch in Tokyo's Yotsuya district, just behind the Gakushuin school where all of Japan's Imperial family and aristocracy are enrolled for primary and high school, is originally from Sapporo.

But his main restaurant is the Tokyo one, located in a charming old house that was once perhaps owned by a Japanese aristocrat, considering its size and proximity to Gakushuin.

RESTAURANT MIKUNI
IN TOKYO


I used to go quite often to Mikuni in Tokyo but I'd never been to Mikuni's restaurant in Sapporo until this trip.

So, as this is my fourth visit to Hokkaido this year, I thought it was high time to finally visit Mikuni in Sapporo, the city's top fine dining French restaurant.

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MIKUNI IN SAPPORO

It's also fitting that Mikuni has two restaurants in his hometown of Sapporo.

Mikuni is known for very old-fashioned, classic French-style cooking. For some foodies, his style may be too old-fashioned in view of the big and quite fashionable trend towards the modern and experimental taking place all over the foodie world.

THERE'S A PLACE FOR US


But personally, I strongly feel there is always a place in the world for fine traditional cooking in the style of Mikuni. It is fancy comfort food at its best.

No need to wonder what's on your plate. Every dish is obvious and also delicious.


If I had to describe Mikuni's cooking in very plain terms, I'd say it's the kind of food that makes you want to open a very nice bottle of wine to accompany your meal. 

And then to have a real conversation about the world, about Travel & Life, and not just about the food. 

If you get what I mean. Having a real conversation with just one person over a very nice meal and a bottle of equally good wine is my idea of a perfect evening, by the way. I'm not into parties or into large groups of people having dinner all together because I get bored very easily having to discuss the weather -- or else the same lame jokes over and over again.

CUTTING EDGE RESTAURANTS
ARE ALL ABOUT THE FOOD


My idea of a very nice evening, as well, is going to a fine dining traditional restaurant like Mikuni, which is spacious and fancy enough, but not stuffy. Because if you go to a cutting-edge restaurant that's constantly pushing surprises onto your plate, you end up talking about nothing but the surprises on your plate. 

But with Mikuni, there's only finely crafted good food -- albeit not cheap good food -- so there is enough mental space and encouragement to think about the finer things in life other than out-of-the-box cooking.


That's my philosophy, as well, to talk about the finer things in life whenever possible (I don't mean diamonds and Ferraris here, although I think both are wonderful) because this world is too big and too wonderful to confine to very few things -- wonderful as they are. 

In other words, a conversation about the world over dinner at Mikuni represents everything I want in my never-endingly wonderful #Travelife.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Lunch and a visit to a winery in Yoichi, Hokkaido


In Hokkaido today, living a #Travelife, we went for lunch at a winery in the district of Yoichi that is known for having good wines and better yet a very simple but nice restaurant serving Western food with locally sourced ingredients.

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GROWING WINE IN JAPAN,
PARTICULARLY IN HOKKAIDO

Yoichi is a wine-growing district that is reportedly quite similar to southern Germany and the Alsace region of France so the winemakers in this area are hoping to replicate the success of German and French wines from this region.

Meanwhile, I thought the surroundings looked like a bit like Napa Valley as it definitely has a New World feel to it in spite of its Old World influences.

LUNCH AT A HOKKAIDO WINERY


We had a very nice three-course lunch with lamb as the main dish, and I tried one of their homegrown reds with it as I wanted to see just how good the wines were.

They were quite New World but interestingly pretty Old World in terms of price.



After lunch, the winery owner gave us a tour of his facilities. By the standards of the great winemakers around the world, it's a modest wine-making operation but he actually makes reds, whites and even sparkling wine.

So the output is not modest at all.


WINE-TASTING IN HOKKAIDO


To end, as we'd walked around his production area and his cave, we did a wine-tasting of some of his recommended wines.

I asked him: "Which is your favourite?"

He said: "Depends on my mood. And as I just had sushi for lunch today, I prefer these." He then pointed to two bottles, including a young red.

A WINE CALLED BACCHUS


As for me, I liked one wine called Bacchus as it was crisp and sharp when served cold.

But, to tell you the truth, my mind was already on dinner and what to drink with it, as we were headed for one of the most famous restaurants in Hokkaido, if not in the whole Japan, for an eight-course gastronomic dinner with a view.

As always, living a #Travelife.


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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Macao is one of the venues in the movie Now You See Me, part 2, starting Mark Ruffalo and Woody Harrelson



Macao is one of the venues for the second part of the 2013 box office hit movie Now You See Me, called Now You See Me 2.

In Now You See Me 2, an all-star cast including Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson head to Asia in their latest exciting adventure.

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HOLLYWOOD STARS IN MACAO

In his movie, Macao is the setting for much of the action as the master magicians known as the Four Horsemen - Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Lizzy Caplan - return for their most daring and astounding caper ever.

Together with London and New York, Macao is one of the three main destinations showcased in the film, which showcases everything from Macao's street vendors and people playing mah-jongg on the streets to luxury hotels, both sides of Macao's “east-meets-west” personality.

THE PERFECT VENUE FOR A MOVIE



For Jon Chu, who directed Now You See Me 2, Macao was the perfect place to set many of the film's central scenes.

He said: “Macao is an exotic, beautiful, strange mix of Portuguese architecture and Chinese culture, with Las Vegas thrown in for good measure. Everywhere you point the camera is gorgeous. The feeling and the texture of the place embody the spirit of what this movie is about.” 

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Talking about his decision to shoot on location, Chu says, “You can't duplicate the streets of Macao. Every detail is important, from the tiles on the sidewalks to locals putting up their laundry.

All Macao photos courtesy of the Macao Tourism Government Office


The world's most expensive beaches are in French Polynesia, the Seychelles and Okinawa


Package holiday specialists TravelBird have released a study offering the most comprehensive information regarding summer holidays: a Beach Price Index of 250 of the world’s most popular beachfronts. 

The Beach Price Index calculates the cost of a day at each seafront, allowing travellers to worry less about the costs of their break and focus more on having an amazing travel experience. As a company which prides itself in constantly inspiring holidaymakers, TravelBird’s Beach Price Index arms travellers with ample information for their perfect beach get-away.

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FROM 900 BEACHES
TO 250 BEACHES IN 66 COUNTRIES

To create the ranking, TravelBird began with a list of 900 of the world’s most popular seasides and whittled the list down to 250 of the best beaches from 66 countries worldwide.

Then they calculated the cost of a day at each, factoring in average costs for the following:

1) Sun cream
2) A bottle of water
3) A beer
4) Ice-cream
5) Lunch

All prices are calculated by standardising the sizes of products, and with monetary transactions true to exchange rates on 1st July 2016.

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THE MOST EXPENSIVE BEACHES IN THE WORLD

The world's 10 most expensive beaches are: 

1
La Plage de Maui
Tahiti French Polynesia 
US$60.13  

2
Mareto Plage Publique
Moorea French Polynesia 
US$58.36 

3
Anse Vata
Noumea New Caledonia 
US$56.11 

4
Anse Georgette
Praslin Seychelles  
US$54.25 

5
Anse Soleil Beach
Seychelles 
US$54.18 

6
Beau Vallon
Mahe Seychelles
US$53.13 

7
Poe Beach
New Caledonia 
US$52.99 

8
Nishihama Beach
Okinawa, Japan
US$52.09 

9
Yonaha Maehama Beach
Okinawa, Japan 
US$50.75 

10
Main Beach
East Hampton, New York
US$48.85 

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PRICE OF SUNCARE PRODUCTS

The beach with the most affordable suncare products is Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An (Vietnam) at US$2.01, whilst the most expensive were Beau Vallon, Anse Georgette and Anse Soleil, all found in the Seychelles, where sincere products cost approximately $27.08.

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PRICE OF WATER

The beach with the most affordable water is Palolem Beach, Goa (India) costing US$0.22, with the most expensive being Enterprise Beach and Mullins Beach in Barbados at US$2.63.

PRICE OF BEER

The beach with the most affordable beer is Navagio, Zakynthos (Greece) at US$1.49, with the most expensive being Mareto Plage Publique, Moorea (French Polynesia) at US$7.62.

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Ms Universe Pageant 2017 to be held in Manila on January 30, 2017


As I literally began my descent into Hokkaido earlier today, landing in Sapporo's New Chitose International Airport, living a #Travelife, our Travelife Magazine team led by Marketing Manager Ron Hernandez was attending an intimate press conference with the Department of Tourism (DOT) officials in real-time discussing the breaking news of the day: 

The Philippines is set to host the next Ms. Universe beauty pageant for 2017 in Manila this January 30, 2017. 

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A FISCALLY SOUND PLAN
FOR HOSTING THE MS. UNIVERSE PAGEANT

According to the message I received from the Travelife Magazine team straight from the DOT Secretary's office via WiFi in the sky of Japan Airlines, the Philippine government will not spend a single peso on this event as everything will be sponsored and hosted by private corporations.

Congratulations to the Philippines and our very best wishes for the success of this international event, from all of us at Travelife Magazine, the leading travel & lifestyle publication.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A chance meeting at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and a villa in Cap Ferrat

A chance meeting at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and a villa in Cap Ferrat
Charles de Gaulle Airport 

This is a post about a chance meeting at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and a villa in Cap Ferrat.

So there I was last Sunday, at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, living a Travelife and killing some time before my Qatar Airways flight to Doha.

I'd just had two wonderful weeks of a summer in Spain and France, filled with great restaurants, so many memorable moments, and some of the most beautiful hotels in this part of the world.

In Champagne, living a #Travelife at one of my favourite hotels...

I LOVE NUXE OIL

Now I was headed back to Asia and thinking about a million things including work and a couple of upcoming trips that still needed to be sorted out.

After checking in, I also made a beeline for the pharmacy at the airport to stock up on one of my new discoveries: Nuxe oil.

More on Nuxe oil in a later post.



I'd been seeing Nuxe oil all over France on my last few trips but I hadn't lifted a finger to buy it simply because I already have too many beauty products from all over the world on my dressing table.

NUXE OIL 
AT THE GRAND HOTEL DE BORDEAUX


But I'd tried it at the spa of the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux and then I bought a bottle somewhere on the trip -- and after using it a few times, I'm completely hooked.

So I just had to buy a few more bottles at Charles de Gaulle airport as who knows when I'll be in France again...

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The chances of being in Paris again sooner than later are higher than most people, of course, as I'm on a never-endingly eventful Travelife.

But nevertheless, Paris is not on the cards for the next few months unless something delicious or irresistible comes up to make me book a flight back.

I'm not too difficult to convince about something like this.

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A DETOX IN GREECE
AND A WEEKEND IN MADRID

As I write this, I'm actually mulling over a weekend in Madrid, on my way back from a detox-from-everything trip to the Greek islands, sooner rather than later in my Travelife.

But I'll save that for another blog post as well.

In Madrid last September,
living a Travelife...

HEADED FOR THE LOUNGE
AT CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT

Anyway,  back to a chance meeting at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and a villa in Cap Ferrat. After making my purchases, I went through the Acces No. 1 line at Charles de Gaulle.

The Acces No. 1 lane is the priority lane for business class that gets you through customs and immigrations in about 1 minute instead of 20 minutes via the regular line.




Then I headed for the lounge as I wanted to get online and send a few emails and post some photos on Instagram.

Follow us on Instagram please. @travelifemagazine

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SECOND TIME AROUND

I was seated at a table with my customary glass of ice when someone approached and called my name.

What do you know? 

It was an old friend from Tokyo, and the last time I was at Charles de Gaulle Airport in April, I'd actually bumped into him as well.

A BOTTLE OF SALON CHAMPAGNE



Last April, I'd bumped into him at the Duty Free Shops below, as he was waiting for a flight somewhere and I was waiting for a flight to Istanbul.

And he was carrying very conspicuously a bottle of vintage Salon champagne, very pleased with himself. Later on, he'd said to me: "Found this in the Duty Free, would you believe? Cost a fortune but it's one of those things you don't even think about when you actually are able to find it." 

Then, recovering from the high of the impulse purchase, he said to me: "By the way, have you now made Charles de Gaulle your home? Or are you actually working here and just not telling me?"

A RARE MOMENT OF SPEECHLESSNESS



I have to admit that I was speechless for a few minutes. How could two people who live in two different countries meet twice at the same airport in an entirely different city halfway around the world, in a span of three or four months?

Wouldn't you be shocked at the coincidence?

Being at a loss for words doesn't happen very often to me in my Travelife, but I was completely taken aback by this chance meeting.

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SHOCK AND HUMOR.
AND A BIG PURCHASE.

Finally I said, turning the tables to him and without even replying to his question: "So. What really are you doing here?"

He replied, with his usual dry humor: "Waiting for my flight to Tokyo. I would've taken my jet but the flight's too long to be in my small plane and I would've had to stop in strange places to refuel. Yes, I'm happy to ride Japan Airlines for this one."

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I said: "I mean, in France. What are you doing here in France?"

He replied, and he wasn't joking either: "I just bought a villa in the south of France. Near Cap Ferrat."



I looked at him.

He's a very famous and successful businessman who I've known for a long time; and since I moved out of Tokyo, I usually only get to keep track of him via the newspapers.

When I read about him in the international newspapers, he's either doing a deal or making some pronouncement on the world economy.

A VILLA IN CAP FERRAT


And St. Jean Cap Ferrat, which many people simply call Cap Ferrat, is one of the most beautiful places in France, with many amazing villas.

But I teased him: "Couldn't think of anything else to spend your money on?"

He laughed. "It's nothing major," he replied, although of course I looked like I didn't believe him. "No kidding. Just a regular villa, but it's got one of the best views of the sea."



"For a holiday home?" I asked him. I'd seen some of his other homes in other parts of the world and they're all pretty amazing. And he's not the modest type.

So it was hard to believe he was getting a regular villa as a holiday home in the glamorous south of France, of all places, where everyone is competing with everyone else in a strip of coastline full of Alpha personalities. And if you can't compete in this arena, IMHO, you should just get a suite in a nice hotel and live happily ever after without the maintenance headaches. 

There are many places where you can enjoy a vacation quietly in a modest holiday home -- but Cap Ferrat is not one of them.

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RELYING ON A RUSSIAN

He shrugged. "I liked the views, and it's near one of my favourite restaurants. And who knows? I'll probably sell it to some rich Russian for triple the price in a few years."

And before we could go on any further, it was time to board, and I had to say goodbye and head out for another flight in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.