Saturday, May 29, 2010

Miracosta Hotel at Tokyo Disneysea

My Tokyo friend told me that Disneyland is the number one dating destination in Japan. The young people don't mind waiting hours in line for ride--in fact, the longer the line, the better for them! Not for us, who need to get as much done in one day.

On one Tokyo trip with the whole family, we spent our last night at the Miracosta Hotel right in Disneysea.


We got there right after lunch, checked in and then explored the park, which by that time was swarming with people. Since our hotel was right in Disneysea, the folks could go back and rest when they were tired. When it got dark and the crowds thinned, we had the whole park to ourselves.

We did the rides over and over again...and then again! And when we had our fill, it was nice to just walk back to the hotel instead of taking a long train ride back into Tokyo. The next morning, we enjoyed Disneyland before the crowd got in too.

The Miracosta opens out right into Disneysea. Our room had two double beds, one which even had a trundle --so four of us fit comfortably in one room. Our group got three rooms, two of them connecting to each other. I was still renovating the house when we stayed here so I took lots of photos of interior details.

On other trips, we did Disneysea and Disneyland only for the day, so we went by subway and then took the train. It's about an hour commute. It's very efficient, but we just have to plan our return well so that the kids are not too tired for the trip home.

Staying at a hotel in the Disney area rounded off our Disney experience and helped us maximize our park visits. Glad that our schedule allowed us to do that then.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sofitel Dalat Palace

This is the lobby of the Sofitel in Dalat. I talked about their mirrors here, but I want to post more shots of the public areas. As Domino's manifesto said--"copy from homes you like"--lets add hotels to that too!
This is one of the function rooms in the lobby with dinner/lunch set up for 10. Notice the paintings on easels as decor. They weren't done yet when I peeked because the artwork was just scattered all around the room, some still on the floor. Unless that was intentional!

 I like the effect of the double drapes. The contrast of elegance in a countryside setting is what attracts me to this.

I want to put sheer curtains from my living room to the powder room. The interiors of the Sofitel public areas were charming specially when candlelit at night--but I think they were taking this "traditional" thing a bit too seriously. For example the bathrooms of the guestrooms were only equipped with bathtubs and not showers. The men were not too thrilled.

I was also surprised to see that the rooms were not air-conditioned, and they weren't equipped with ceiling fans (they had chandeliers). If it wasn't that cool a night in Dalat,  you'd have to open the windows so it wouldn't be too stuffy. But they had no screens!

The Sofitel is high on tradition, but not too high on comfort. The Mercure du Parc next door is also managed by the Sofitel group.  Although it also has no aircon and rooms can get stuffy, you can ask to an electric fan and they'll provide an antique-looking one. (I guess you could do that for the Sofitel too)
 The Mercure window also has no screen and from the looks of it, you're not encouraged to open it

The prices are almost a third of the Sofitel so of course the room is much simpler but at least it has a shower stall, even if it's the same one as the bathtub. 

 Mercure bathroom

Oh, the spa treatments at the Mercure also cost much less. We had massages at both places and we preferred the service and prices of the Mercure. So if you're looking for a basic good deal, go for the Mercure, but if you are looking for romantic ambience, then it's the Sofitel Dalat Palace.
In front of the Sofitel

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Missing Domino

 Louis XVI and Eero, together

I took this photo about a year ago, at the magazine stand of the Singapore airport. No, I don't make it a habit to take photos of magazines and NOT buy the magazine, but I was just in transit and didn't want to be carrying yet another magazine on the plane. This photo spoke to me--I love the chandelier, the old chairs, and the modern table! It's so...Domino and Elle Decor. But this photo I think is from Martha Stewart Living, I can read the small print on the bottom left of the photo.

My two all-time favorite magazines are Domino and Elle Decor. Okay, since Domino shut down, only Elle Decor. I hope that doesn't shut down too!

Back issues I got at Book Sale for P65 ($1.50) each

I really liked what Domino stood for--it's exactly what I think and feel, so I feel validated reading this which I believe was taken from their (now gone) website.

Domino’s Manifesto

  • Home Should Make You Happy!
  • We swear by the 3 R’s: repaint, repaper, reupholster
  • Steal ideas from other people’s houses
  • Even the insides of the closets & cabinets can be beautiful
  • It’s ok to NOT BE finished
  • A chandelier is as timeless as a black dress
  • Renters need not be second class citizens
  • Sometimes your mistakes become your greatest inspirations
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO MIX STYLES (Louis XIV and Eero Saarinen should hang out more often)
I copied the above from one of my favorite blogs, Paris Apartment.

Good thing Domino published this book. Lots of wonderful photos in it. I found it at National Bookstore for P995. So before you order online and pay top dollar, find out if the National near you has it. Every design library should have this book.

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to find Domino back issues at Book Sale. There's one very near my home. Sometimes they have it for P65 only! I also score a lot of old Elle Decor there. Then I leave all my old design magazines at the beach house so guests can enjoy them (and few have swiped them--I know who you are..)  I shouldn't be telling you this because I'm creating my own competition.

The magazines are only few months old, but it wouldn't matter to me if they are even more than a year old because the style never is out of date, and the resources are still usable to me. Elle Decor is about P110 ($2.20). I never buy full price locally because I think it's a rip-off, but I one of the reasons I get excited for US trips is because I can update my magazines. Cheap thrills or what?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Countdown to Honolulu

In three days we'll be off to Honolulu for the last hurrah of this very hot summer. Being in Honolulu will be a welcome change.

The last time we were there, we didn't bring the kids to Discovery Center. They loved that place so much as little kids, and number one on their "must do" list. Now they are 7 and 9, and even if they say they still want to  visit it, I think they won't enjoy it as much anymore.

This is an old photo--Volcano Express now has enclosed tunnels at the top connecting to this slide

What they are really looking forward to is the waterpark. So we'll definitely have to make that trek again on this trip. The nice thing about this whole-day excursion is that the waterpark closes at 4 pm. That gives the adults some time to do our stuff, which is to pass by Waikele Premium Outlets (exit 7) on the way back to Waikiki. We usually end up having dinner there too, making it a full day for the whole family.

There are not that many stores here, and it's very tiny compared Woodbury Commons on the east coast, and doesn't compare either to the Premium Outlets on the west coast. But at least it has a BCBG Max Azria.
 Free shuttle to take you to one part of Waikele to the other side 

Also on the last trip, the kids were old enough to understand what the Pacific war was all about so we brought them to see the Battleship Missouri and the USS Bowfin submarine in Pearl Harbor.

 Aboard the Battleship Missouri
I didn't think the girls would be so interested in "boy" stuff, so we took our time getting ready and went a bit late. They loved exploring the Bowfin and seeing how to crew lived. We stopped by quickly at the Bowfin museum and then went to the Missouri, which they enjoyed thoroughly too! This year, I'll make sure we take them in the  morning and spend more time there.

Hamming it up in the torpedo room of the USS Bowfin

 Engrossed in the USS Bowfin museum

Aside from the weather of course, there are tons of things  I'm looking forward to on this trip. High up there is Waiola Shave Ice--I'll treat the kids to this everyday! It tastes as good as Matsumoto's in the North Shore and the best part is it's 3 minutes from the house! Before friends told us about this hole-in-the-wall local favorite, we'd drive all the way to the North Shore just for superb shave ice. I'm sorry to say, but the he shave ice in all other parts of Waikiki, or any other place for that matter can't compare to this or  to Matsumoto's!

This isn't at Waiola--but it's a colorful picture of liquid sugar!

The kids always get "Rainbow" and I always get "coconut, pineapple and lilikoi". I should try the one with ice cream and mochi balls in the bottom, azuki beans and condensed milk. It's like having halo-halo and snow cone together. Oooh, but don't say "snow cone" to Hawaiians--it's "shave ice" here. I don't have a nice snap of the shave ice, so I will make sure I do a post just on this when I get there!

I'm also looking forward to doing a long lazy drive to the to the other side of the island--just  to have lunch at those shrimp trucks over there. Unfortunately, nothing in the Waikiki side comes close to this. I can't wait...

 Sauteed with lots of garlic!

I was prepared to write about all my other favorite Honolulu stuff, but now I'm very hungry and I'm suffering just looking at this picture in front of me. So bye for now while I have dinner. I should've been organizing my desk and paying bills, but I blogged instead. Oh well...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tiptoe.. Through the Tulips

On the other side of the globe, where the weather is a bit cooler, gardens are a different story. Last year we were able to see the Keukenhof International Flower Exhibition in Holland in all its glory. I say "able to see" because Keukenhof is only open in the spring time--from late March to late May every year. The rest of the year, it is closed.

But what's with the clashing colors?

Keukenof is the largest spring garden in the world covering 32 hectares, with over 4 million tulip bulbs in 100 different varieties.

I loved seeing the tulips, but I didn't like that the tulip beds were planted randomly--meaning the colors were not matching. It would've been more attractive if there was some order to colors. For example, cool colors together and warm ones together, or maybe all pastels grouped together, and then all bright ones grouped together.  I would group them depending on hue, on tonal value, and then also on degree of saturation. It's just basic color theory.  But what am I saying?--these people are the experts, they probably have their own reasons.

We spent a whole afternoon here because there was lots for the girls to do. There was a playground with contraptions that were new to them.

Then there was a petting zoo with animals like furry ponies, furry chickens, goats, rabbits, a calf...

furry chickens!

And scattered around the park were different things to explore like a maze, a twig tunnel and a zip line.

There were also many areas for lazing around like these bales of hay doubling as lounging beds.

And there were also down cushions scattered on one part of the lawn, with people were napping on them.

Food was available from food carts--at least that's all we saw because we came late in the afternoon. The cafeterias were all closed by this time. But the grilled sausage from the cart was delicious!

Keukenhof was started by a group of Dutch growers who wanted to showcase the flowers of Amsterdam. It has now become the most famous tourist destination in the area--oh, and the website says it's the most photographed tourist site in the world. Hmm, I wonder how they concluded that?

If you are from a climate that is hospitable to tulips, you can actually order tulips while you are here (or even online I think) and they will send the bulbs to you in the fall so that they can be ready for the next spring.  I understand they ship all over the world. Unfortunately for us, these  tulips will never survive here!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wanted: Lush Garden

It's been unbearably hot this summer and the plants in my garden are complaining and withering away! In Laguna though, plants seem to thrive all year round.  Ponce Veridiano's hideaway in Laguna is the ultimate in LUSH. His Laguna house has a beautiful garden--or actually it would be more appropriate to say that his beautiful garden has a house in it! 

The sitting area of the 2-bedroom villa

At the we visited, he was in the middle of building the pool for the 2-bedroom villa he is going to rent by-the-day to vacationers. This is his first attempt at interior design and it was coming along really nice and tasteful--but what still really stood out was his landscape design. This guy is naturally talented!

Healthy and happy calatheas

Ponce is a self-taught landscape artist from Laguna. He is an electrical engineer by training and in another life, he worked for Meralco in a very junior post. It was during this time that he the Meralco Garden Club (!)  at the prodding of one of his office mates.  He won the second garden show he joined and got the attention of  a Chinese lady to asked him to create a pocket garden inside her condo. From there her friends saw it, and also hired him.

View from the master bedroom of the main house

Eventually he found himself rubbing elbows with chi-chi personalities in Manila, and he got his first "commercial" job when Tony Floirendo (the father, not Tony-boy) asked him to landscape the family-owned Pearl Farm Resort on Samal Island. He had quite a long stint there because the family took to him and treated him like family.  Not only did he design the gardens of the different members of the family there, he also styled parties and weddings. He is that creative.

the open living room of his house

Through working with the Floirendos, Ponce got to meet other prominent families. I think it was about this time that the Ayalas either heard about him or saw his work. He was then tasked to do the gardens of Greenbelt in Makati.

View from the den--don't step out though--those are all waterlilies covering a pond.

His style was strikingly different from whatever landscapers did in the past. He plays with a monochromatic palette of green and hardly uses any flowering plants. relying on the shapes of the leaves and massing for his design statement. The gardens he creates are ultimately simple but extraordinary, low-key but elegant.

At the entrance of Kawayan Cove

After Greenbelt, he did the landscaping of Kawayan Cove, an exclusive seaside community in Nasugbu, Batangas. His style fit the development perfectly since Kawayan is elegant in its simplicity. His restrained use of plants and colors contributes to the harmony of the place--nothing jarring to the senses here. In fact, as soon as you pass through the entrance, you are overtaken by a sense of calm.  Definitely very tasteful.

Back to his house in Laguna...aside from the main house and the 2-bedroom villa, he has this bahay kubo structure across the street, for hanging out. 

From here you can listen to the raging river below. Ponce said he used to swim in it as a child.

I like the contrast of the crystal chandelier in a structure that's in the middle of the boonies.

He continues to be in demand for residential projects in Forbes, Dasmarinas and Urdaneta Villages in Makati. Inspite of his talent, and being highly sought-after by "people-in-the-know",  he remains down-to-earth and humble. He doesn't even want his picture taken or published.

From the garden looking into the main house (this is still Ponce's house, not mine!)

Every now and then, I call Jess, his top landscaper, to take peek at my small Ponce-designed garden (good thing Ponce still has ongoing projects nearby so Jess can easily swing by). He said my gardener is basically just cleaning and tidying the garden instead of caring for the plants. Jess tried to teach him twice, how to prune certain plants, but it seems that the gardener didn't want to learn new things.

My (once) lush garden when it was newly planted. Grass was not put in yet.

I think I'll have to put in new plants after the summer and right before the rainy season (first they steam in the humid heat of the summer, hopefully they don't drown next). By that time, I hope I have a better gardener! I'm learning so many things about these plants that soon I will be able to do my garden by myself.


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