Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Day at Yarra Valley



From the Melbourne Airport, we got a car from Hertz and drove straight to the Yarra Valley where we were going to spend the night. We made sure we had a Hertz Neverlost, which is just a nice name for a GPS. It's essential specially for people like us, who drive on the "other side of the road"!

Drove straight to Healesville so we could have lunch at The Innocent Bystander. We had heard so much about this place and wanted to try it. We were driving and didn't know our way around yet, so decided not to do any wine tasting yet. We were more hungry...


The Four-Cheese pizza was delicious with a very thin crisp crust. It was a bit salty for me but what wonderful flavors. We also had something like a hummus dip which came with fresh country bread and full-flavored olive oil for dipping.



The place had free wifi, and the password is "buyourwine". The ambience reminded me of NY. Funky cafe. 



And the first of many delicious lattes I was  going to enjoy here in Australia. These people take their coffee very seriously. No weak brews here, all espresso-based coffees. 

Those are canelles in the background. They had a promo--a coffee and a canelle for $6 (less $1 for buying it together), and the canelle would be free if you weren't thrilled by it. Well, I really wasn't thrilled by it, but my canelle reference is directly from Paris, straight from a canelle cart called Le canele Baillardran. I remember it fondly being hot, very crisp on the outside, and soft and almost empty on the inside. I was blown away when I first tried this five years ago that I googled what a canelle was then.  I was now pleasantly surprised to see it in Melbourne, as a regular pastry in many of the coffee shops.  Altho it was less than spectacular here, I decided to be nice and not say anything about not being totally thrilled. I still enjoyed coffee and canelle very much.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Patterned Floors


Paoay Church in Ilocos

I've always been attracted to cement tiles/encaustic tiles. I came across a website that explained everything about encaustic tiles--it's history, and even how to care for them. It's an American site. It also listed the suppliers who still make these tiles all over the world. Unfortunately at the time I discovered the website, there was nothing listed for the Philippines. I quickly fixed that by emailing them!



The Laguna house where my father-in-law grew up has cement tiles in all the rooms, in different patterns. His ancestral home was turned into a library for kids.


Quan An Ngon in Hanoi

Only when I started being more observant of floors did I start noticing how ordinary these tiles were in places such as Vietnam, where even the streetmarket stalls had them. Maybe they were once the cheapest tiles? They are definitely not the cheapest tiles in Manila, where a lot of people refer to them as "Machuca tiles". Machuca is actually a name of a person, a Spanish dude who started making if here at the turn of the century. Today, many old tiles are "harvested" off old homes and resold to collectors and people who restore homes. The thing is, there is no reason to buy the worn out ones when Machuca still makes tiles in Manila the way they did for many decades. Many homeowners and commercial establishments still use them.

Most of the Machuca patterns are multi-colored. They hardly have any which are just one color like the one above, although you can customize and specify what you want, after all, a one color tile is much simpler to make than the many-colored tiles The only other manufacturer in Manila I'm aware of is Malaga tiles or Habitiles.


A restaurant in Saigon

After growing up with the Machuca patterns, it was refreshing to see the selection of Malaga Tiles. Malaga Tiles/Habitiles has many one-colored patterns and reproduce older-looking ones. It's owned by  Edwin Espiritu who is extremely accommodating. I had a clear idea of the effect I wanted, but I didn't know how to achieve it.  Finally after a number of meetings in his shop, he decided  he would make a pattern one just for me (copying a pattern from Architectural Digest). We changed the colors to the colors I wanted for my kitchen, and voila! I love my kitchen!



My kitchen during construction days..


For my  foyer, I just chose something from what he had because I wanted black and white only. I love the look--it has so much character.


The rest of the house has wooden floors. It's a very nice contrast.

Out of Africa?

Flying above Kruger National Park in Africa--everything looked quite "manicured". I think I was expecting a jungle.
We stayed at King's Camp in the Timbavati Reserve, right outside of Kruger. They had about 12 cottages, and they were quite luxurious. I loved the crystal and silver details in the room.I always take photos of interior details observing how designers solve "termination" problems. Lots of times I copy things I see years later and I usually refer to these pictures. Why reinvent the wheel?


This was the sitting room in our cottage. English style furniture. I lay on the couch and had a sherry which was in a crystal decanter on the coffee table. I don't even drink sherry, but I had to feel the part.

The whole room smelled very "natural", like raw grass.  The roofs of the all cottages are thatched grass. Nice effect. Very comfortable bed, definitely didn't want to leave it at the crack of dawn to look for animals.


Days started very early, but there was lots of free time in between drives--just to hang out, swim or read a book.

The safari--or the journey. Which was driving around until we spotted the "Big 5". Sometimes we drove for hours not seeing anything. We would stop in the middle for coffee/tea in the middle of the morning drive. In the afternoon drive, we would stop for "sundowners", which would consist of a cocktail and hot canapes. Very chi-chi touches. But I wasn't impressed with driving around for hours to spy wild animals that were living in their habitat. It all seemed staged to me. I was told that I would really feel the wilderness in the Okavonga Delta and not here in the reserves.


I don't think I'm an animal sort of person because I enjoyed the luxe part of the trip more than the animals. (I have more photos of the camp than of the animals!) But Africa still is alluring--I still love Out of Africa, for many things: the period setting, romantic angle, beautiful soundtrack, captivating cinematography, and of course, Robert Redford.

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