Quiet Escape to Montpelier, Vermont

Before heading out to the cities of Boston and NYC, D and I spent a day and night in Vermont’s capital: Montpelier. Coming from Montreal, we rode the Greyhound bus and crossed from Canada to the USA in a little over four hours. En route to Vermont we passed by forests of green. Well, it is called the Green Mountain State after all. I wish I could have seen this during autumn, oh the astounding colors of orange, yellow and red it must be!

When we arrived to the city, the eye-catching Vermont City State House’s gold dome was the first thing we saw.

Walking to our AirBnB located at Marvin Street, I took to the time to do some deep breathing snf looking at the beauty around me- sunflowers and birds flying about, fruit bearing trees and maple t trees around me.

I liked our room at the AirBnB right away – rustic, clean, and the bed looked comfortable. I couldn’t wait to snuggle underneath the sheets at night, as we were told it gets chilly as soon as the sun sets at this time of the year.

Looking out the window I saw their free range hens out and about from their coop.

At the side of our room is an apple tree. I thought how lucky they must be to have loads of apples available whenever they like it, make (organic) apple pie and stock up on apple sauce. Us in the Philippines would have to buy them from the grocery and wash them at least three times to hopefully rid them of chemicals.

This little guy just dropped off from the tree

After settling in we waked back to the city center for a late lunch at Pho Capital which was at the Main Street. Then we went to the Vermont State Capital and admired the garden of flowers.

Montpelier has a lot of vintage shops, and it was quite interesting to do sime window shopping. I stumbled across The Getup Vintage that sells clothes from the 70’s to as early as the 30’s! I also found the Bear Pond Books (my favorite shop of all in Montpelier)which sells new and used books, and got myself a couple of books to read during my upcoming trips.

For coffee we tried two highly recommended cafes. The Capitol Grounds, is a busy but cozy cafe in the Main Street. We tried their bagels and flagship blend, Bob’s House Blend.

For brunch the next day we went to the Skinny Pancake. I had the Breakfast Monster (savory crepe with cage free egg, cabot cheddar, roasted squash, basil, caramelised onion and spinach), and D had the State Breakfast (sliders with bacon, egg and homemade pesto). The ambience was great and the resto had a cool vibe.

Though we stayed only for a night, we felt energized when we boarded the Greyhound bus the next day as we headed off to to Boston. Montpelier was more than what I imagined it to be. We went there because it was halfway through Montreal and Boston, and because I was intrigued by the picturesque photos I found on Google Maps. What exceeded my expectations was the warmth and friendliness of the people. From our hosts to the shopkeepers, to the people who we meet on the street to the ones who let us pass on the pedestrian crossing – they actually greeted us and/or smiled at us. We felt welcome and safe. I am glad we made this trip to Montpelier, and I will remember it with fondness for a very long time.

Free Museum Day At Boston’s MFA

No visit to Boston would be complete without going to its museums. Lucky us, we were there on Wednesday, and chanced were able to avail of the Free or Pay as You Wish days at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).

I always prefer going to the Fine Arts museums over Contemporary Arts because my favorite art is French Impressionism.

I was excited as we deposited our bags, I’ve seen a high score for this museum over at Google Maps. And I couldn’t wait to explore and be lost in the intricacies of the art. One thing I learned from past museum visits when I was short of time, is to stick to a plan, otherwise I might miss the highlight exhibitions. So, grabbing a map I prioritised the galleries I would go to. For that afternoon my goal was to see the European and American Art galleries.

We were immediately impressed by the layout of the pieces and the contrast of colors in some of the galleries, such as the red walls that were quite striking.

D’s favorites were the McElheny glass art from Gallery 247, the classically designed rooms and the this miniature art.

Here are some of the highlights from the galleries we visited. The French Impressionism pieces in itself require a blog of their own, so check out my story about that same time tomorrow.

Emperor Augustus

Sargent At Dusk

Pretty Places in Quebec

By the time I post this I’d already be in New York City. This blog sums up the beautiful places and sights D and I have seen in Quebec City during our weekend visit. I tried to give the places justice with my phone camera, but they are much more pretty in person. Glad we went there this month of September when it’s transitioning from summer to fall. How I’d love to see it more in the fall when the maple leaves are amber and red, making the place look more romantic and surreal.

Check out my previous blogs about the fairytale-like hotel, the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac; the tranquil and historical Plains of Abraham; the colorful flower-lined Jeanne-d’Arc Garden; and the old town feels at Quartier de Petit Champlain.

Neptune Inn Mural Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Place Royal Place Royal
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires chapel Notre-Dame-des-Victoires interior

Place Jean-Pelletier

Gare du Palais

Gare du Palais

Plains of Abraham

One quiet Saturday morning, D and I took a stroll at the Plains of Abraham, a big green space outside the walls of Quebec City. The sky was overcast, the air was crisp, and the place pretty much empty save for the occassional walkers like us.

We walked past Edwin-Belanger Bandstand, and then towards The Battlefield Park. I’m no expert on history so I had a quick read as to what the historical significance of this park was prior to going.

Today marks the 260th year since the Battle of Quebec, also known as Bataille des Plaines d’Abraham. After a 3-month siege by the British, on 13 September 1759, a culminating battle lasted about an hour between the British Army and Royal Navy against the French Army on this plateau, then owned by a farmer named Abraham Martin. Britain won and soon after, with the fall of Montreal in 1760, French empire in North America ended.

The Jeanne-d’Arc garden and monument located in the Plains of Abraham is a tribute to the fallen soldiers of this war.

I contemplated I tread on soil that has seen bloodshed, anguish, fright, courage and tears. As I walked in silence I thought about 260 years ago, what it must have been like being in the forefront of the battle, fighting for the country’s honor. I say a prayer for the brave souls and would like to think they would have been proud to see the state of Quebec as it is now.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Quebec

I have had Quebec City in my bucket list since last year. I almost went when I visited Montreal in the spring of 2018, but since I was pressed for time I saved a proper trip for later.

This year, D and I were able to include a couple of nights in Quebec City (thank you Delta airmiles!). Personally, it was during the first time I saw it while watching Goblin, a Korean fantasy drama, that I made a note to myself that I will go to Quebec. That was also the start of my journey on Francophonie.

We started by walking through Porte Saint-Louis, a grand concrete entrance to the old town. Reminded me of out very own Intramuros in Manila. The fortified walled city of Quebec, I read, is the only one of its kind in North America. As soon as we entered, horse-drawn carriages walked next to us.

We turned right on Rue D’Auteuil and then to Avenue Saint Denis, heading to Pierre-Dugua-D-Mons Terrace and La Terrase Saint Denis, a park with a monument, which offered a great vantage point of the picturesque Fairmont de Chateau Fronterac, and the beautiful port. As a Goblin fan, this was a must visit for me too (because there was a scene taken here). I would have loved to go back there at night to view the lights, but it was too cold and I settled to playing with Dandy the cat back at the AirBnB.

We then headed down to Terrasse Dufferin, which was the up close view of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frotenac the waterfront. The hotel was very charming, both from afar and upclose. It is, afterall, one of the most iconic structures in Quebec City.

I realized that there were canons lined up fronting the bay. D and I were amazed at how Quebec City was able to preserve these historical pieces.

In front of the Chateau is the Monument Samuel De-Champlain, there was an artist playing to his guitar and singing to Ed Sheeran’s song, Perfect. It pretty much sums up how I felt that Saturday afternoon.

Goblin Red Door at Quartier du Petit Champlain

In 2017 I’ve binge watched a popular Korean telenovela titled Goblin, a fantasy-themed love story/comedy. The cinematography and the funny lines captured my interest, and though I liked the storyline of a supporting character, the Grim Reaper more, one thing that I wrote down in my bucket list is while watching the show was to go to Quebec City in Canada.

See, in the show, Goblin had the power to travel instantaneously, and one place he kept going back to was Quebec – through the Red Door. Google maps had this location pinned along Quartier du Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial district in the area. This street is beautifully line with quaint looking boutiques, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. I browsed the shops to check out watercolor paintings, jewelry, and quirky items. Walking through this area was made more surreal as an artist played along his keyboard to beautiful classical tunes.

First order of business was a mandatory photo shoot at the Red Door. Luckily we got to the Goblin Red Door before the flock of tourists arrived. Mostly Asians lined up for a photo at the Red Door.

Afterwards, we managed to get seats within earshot of the artist playing his keyboard, in the Lapin Saute restaurant. We had coffee and tea to keep us warm on that cold Sunday afternoon, but didn’t bother to get anything to eat because rabbits are my friends.

We walked around some more and passed by the Red Door once again. I heard a group of friends saying that they drove 13 hours to get to that Red Door. I could relate – flew 18 hours and rode the bus for another 3 hours for Quebec City. That’s how special it was to me.

Jardin Jeanne-d’Arc

Located on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, the statue of Jeanne-d’Arc, the French martyr, can be seen in this quaint garden. This bronze statue erected on a limestone is a tribute to the fallen soldiers during the French and English war in 1759-1760. Jardin Jeanne-d’Arc was created in 1938 by Architect Louise Perron and officially opened on 1 September 1938.

“Patriotism and courage! In other words, through bronze and granite this monument stands through the glory of heroism incarnated in one of the greatest heroes in all human history.” — Sir Thomas Chapais

The garden is lovely, surrounded by flowers and perennials. I admired the beautiful houses fronting this place, and I thought how lucky the residents are with the Plains of Abraham and this garden at their doorstep.

I had to locate this garden as D and I were coming from the Battlefields Park. This is me panting my way up a steep slope, holding on to the short grass to preserve my dignity from a possible tumbling downhill. That short cardio workout was worth it!

Incheon and Robot

Our layover at Incheon International Airport is most likely the closest I can get in terms of setting foot on Korean soil this year. Last we’ve been to South Korea was six years ago, and I’ve been meaning to renew my Korean visa but couldnt find time to squeeze it into my schedule in between travels. Alas, maybe first thing next year.

So, Incheon – long time no see! Within a couple of hours we gaped at the mix of modern and nature-themed interiors. I had to touch a plant to check if was rea – nope it wasn’t. But it sure looked like it. Made me think – are the plants in Singapore’s Changi Airport real? Must be hard to maintain.

Anyway, I eventually found myself face to face with AIRSTAR robot as she navigated her way through the crowd trying to show the directioons to a passenger. There’s something about robots that enthrall me. Are they taking over the world? Maybe it’s too much sci-fi binge watching on TV.

AIRSTAR looked harmless, cute even. She headed her way back and announced that she needed to rest and that she’s tired, if people can please get out of her way. D was one of those people on her way. Tsk.

Later I found her taking a snooze as she recharged at a corner. How cool was that?!

Bonjour, Montreal!

Our first day in Montreal, at last. After flying 18 hours from Manila to Incheon to Minneapolis and finally arriving at Le Canada. Still don’t like flying, but I can’t complain because it was a breeze of sorts this time having D as my pillow, and because this flight was free after all, thanks to Delta Skymiles.

Immigration officer in Minneapolis asked what my purpose was, and I said Leisure and hopefully to practice using my French.

So this is Take Two, and as a good start I say my Bonjours with l’accent.

Got our $10 STM all-day pass at the airport vending machine and tthe 747 bus from Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport. Got off at Berri-UQAM and walked along Rue Saint-Denis, where a portion of the street was closed to traffic because there was an event earlier that night. It was just past midnight and some bars were still open. Walked past young folks who had a tad bit of a drink, and I remembered my college days. When the world revolved around school and Thursday night parties. Oh those were the days!

Checked in at a simple but cozy hotel – Auberge Le Jardin D’Antoine, located between Sherbrooke and Ontario Streets, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. This area has a wide variety of French and ethnic restaurants, cafes, art galleries and antique shops. At 3AM, after a good warm shower, we finally hit the sack.

0800: J’accuielle le weekend a bras ouverts! Mon petit dejeuner simple: croissant, yogurt, cafe au lait, orange juice, butter and jam.

Today we head off to Quebec City. I heard their use of French is more intense there (gulp). If all else fails there’s always Google Translate.

Have a happy weekend!

NAIA’s Club Manila Lounge

Our journey to Montreal begins at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. I hardly go to this airport as most of my flights commence from Terminals 2 and 3. This one’s the oldest of the 3 big NAIA airports, and As far as I remember it hardly stands out of the options I’ve got in Manila.

The silver lining was D telling me that we could use the Club Manila Lounge with his credit card. I didn’t bring that card with me but it was ok because cardholders can bring a plus one (yay for the freebie!). It is open for use by platinum and gold cardholders of selected banks in the Philippines. For non cardholders, the lounge is also open for a fee of 750 pesos (around $13 US).

It’s located at the fourth floor. I set my expectations low as on our way from the lift the hall was dim and there were a lot of blockages, it almost felt as if we were walking at a back alley. I wonder if we took the service lift?

At last, the lounge. It was bigger than the one we always go to at Terminal 3, and the lighting here is more relaxing. The food options are more varied: there are halal food, fruits, salad, sandwiches, hot meals, pastries, nachos and chips. For drinks there’s beer, fresh fruit juice, coffee and tea, and liquor. The seats are comfortable and the place is spacious. Wifi speed was also fast. Lastly their restrooms were clean. Unlike NAIA 3’s lounge, the boarding announcements can be heard in Club Manila Lounge. I guess the one advantage that the lounge at Terminal 3 has is the view of the runway – though it comes with too bright lighting in the whole lounge as well.

It’s quite a steal for cardholders, but something I’d reconsider if I didn’t have my card and will be paying out. I guess if I was so tired and needed a few hours’ sleep while waiting for my flight out of NAIA I’d pay for a stay at the lounge. Otherwise, I’m happy walking around next to the terminal gate, giving my feet a stretch in preparation for a long flight. Which reminds me, I have less than an hour to do that now.

Travelling Light

It’s almost 9 o’clock in the morning, and I’m humming to the tune of Leaving on a Jet Plane. I’m so excited for this long-awaited trip to Montreal (my second take at French). I would like to think I’m more equipped now, having retaken my modules in DuoLingo and having completed basic French class. I know, I have a long way to go in mastering the language, but it’s a start.  Reality check: If I don’t blog about my second attempt at speaking French in Canada, that means I’ll do a Take Three. For now, I would like to think determination and confidence will help me get my way around Montreal and Quebec.

Back to my song for this morning: “All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go.” And speaking of bags….C’est sont ma bagages.

To be exact I have one small luggage and a backpack. Been travelling for business in August and one thing I’ve started doing is packing light as I cannot be bothered to do some weight lifting with my baggage. My last trip to Singapore I didn’t even check in any luggage, and it worked just fine.

So for this trip, I only have five sets of clothes, a scarf, toothbrush, comb, socks and undergarments, my sneakers, a hoodie, and a small pouch containing my toiletries in travel-size amounts: sunblock, lotion, toothpaste, and moisturizer. For makeup I just brought BB cream, powder foundation, a lipstick and a small blush on powder. When we were booking our AirBnB, I made sure that we got the rooms with a washer and dryer so we can do our laundry in between trips.

In my backpack are my cellphone and charger, passport, hand sanitizer, pen, and my “North America wallet” because I’d like to keep my local currency bills separate to avoid confusion. I’ve got enough space and I’m contemplating now if I should bring this book that I’ve been hoping to finish reading. Maybe I will, because after hours of watching shows and movies in a plane, it’s nice to read from an actual book and rest my eyes from gadgets.

My goal next time is to do what the backpackers do. I’ll see how it goes with this trip and if it works just fine I’ll go give my big backpack (that’s gathering dust in my storage room) a try.

 

Satay by the Bay

Last week, I capped off my short visit to Singapore with a Singapore sling atop Marina Bay Sands, overlooking the Singapore skyline during sunset. And of course, a sumptuous dinner at the nearby hawker center of Satay by the Bay. It’s about a ten minute walk from Marina Bay Sands, but hungry as we were we just took a cab (I know, I know).

My eyes feasted on a wide array of dishes. One of the things that worked best when my friend Erwin brought me to Tiong Bahru market is to have a look around first, then decide after. Otherwise I might miss out.

So it took a lot of will power to stick to the plan – we got a piece of different kinds of satay each, noodles, dimsum soup, grilled fish, and salted egg chicken. It’s such value for money because we spent around 150 Singapore dollars for a feast – more than enough for 3 people. I’d say the food were all quite tasty – my favorite ones being the satay, of course. It’s called Satay by the Bay, after all.

Overlooking Gardens By The Way
Overlooking Gardens By The Way

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Satay By The Way
Satay By The Way
Dumplings
Dumplings
Satay stores at Satay By The Bay
Satay stores at Satay By The Bay

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Singapore’s Tiong Bahru Market

Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee

One of the things that Singapore is known for is its hawker centers. They are open aired food courts that house several different food vendors whose inexpensive merchandise are cooked in a very efficient manner.

During my short trip to Singapore last week, I had a chance to catch up with Erwin, my Filipino friend who has moved to Singapore since 2001. We met when we were both starting out at work fresh from the university, and it is always great meeting him every time I’m in Singapore. We never fail to reminisce and laugh about days from our youth – when we could still stay up til early through Saturday mornings coming from drinks, billiards or karaoke (or both) with a bunch of people from work on Friday nights. I can’t imagine having the stamina now to stay up too late – and my tolerance for alcohol has since dwindled to almost zero. Erwin is one of the few people who, almost two decades after, though a lot has changed in most ways he is still the same – if that makes sense. Though I’m proud with ourselves talking about more intelligent topics this time (a far cry from our topics back in our early 20’s like office gossip).

He asked me where I wanted to go for dinner last Tuesday night, and in a heartbeat I said let’s go to any hawker center. My last visit to Singapore’s hawker centers was with my brother and sister in 2012, and I was so excited going into one again.

From Fusionopolis we drove off to Tiong Bahru Market and Hawker Center. He said it is where the locals usually go to, and I found that it’s been around since 1950s. We were lucky because when we got there we still had a few hours before closing. I said I was going to be adventurous in my food options that night (so as long as it’s not red meat) and was up for having a taste of local dishes for the first time. Erwin didn’t fail to surprise me with his food choices:

Chwee Kueh or water rice cakes is made of different kinds of flour, molded,  and topped with a radish preserve. I found that it’s one of the Singaporeans’ favorite breakfast dish.

Chwee Kueh
Chwee Kueh

Hokkien Mee which we got from Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee is a savory noodle mixed with chili, prawn, squid and fish. There were different food stalls selling this and Erwin chose the one with the queue because that in itself is an indicator it must be good, right? He found that it received a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2016 and 2017. I’m no food expert, but what I can say is: he chose this one well.

Prawn noodles
Prawn noodles

I had to research what this one was actually called, and found it’s chee cheong funa rice cake rolled to imitate the look of pig’s intestine (because the literal meaning of chee cheong fun is “pig intestine noodle”). This popular snack is topped with sweet shrimp paste and sweet dark sauce.

Chee cheong fun
Chee cheong fun

We were originally looking for salted egg prawn but it was not available anymore. Erwin got the cereal prawn which was also good. It was deep fried and was not too salty.

Cereal prawns
Cereal prawns

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my most favorite dish so far: the Char Kway Teow. Ok, so reading on about this later on I found it’s a Malaysian dish. The stir fried noodle has a smoky taste as it is mixed with chives, fish cakes, and I don’t know what sauce was used but I loved its hint of spice and saltiness.

Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow

What I like about Tiong Bahru market is the wide space and cleanliness. It is a clean as you go hawker center and they have videos played showing how to manage waste properly. They also use different plates for halal and non-halal food.

Tiong Bahru Fried Keay Teow food stall
Tiong Bahru Fried Keay Teow food stall
Fresh juice at Tiong Bahru
Fresh juice at Tiong Bahru
Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee
Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee

 

 

 

Philippine National Hero in Hibiya Park

“The youth is the hope of our future.”Jose Rizal

While walking along Hibiya Park at Tokyo last week, my heart leaped at the sight of the bronze bust of the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal (1861-1896). It was quietly tucked behind the pond near the park’s entrance.

Written below the bust:

” Stayed in 1888 at Tokyo Hotel located at this site. Unveiled June 19, 1961.”

Seeing it prompted me to read back on my country’s history and the role that Dr. Jose Rizal played for the Philippines’ independence from the Spanish colony. In honor of the Philippines’ National Heroes Day which is being celebratws today, I am writing this post.

I wonder what Rizal and the Filipino heroes will think if they see the generation of today, and what has become of the country that they fought and died for.

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Cobie the Food Butler

Cobie the food butler

Just came back from a short trip to Singapore and wanted to rave about Cobie, the Food Butler. She’s a robot employed at The Park Avenue Rochester Hotel. I met her on my way up to my room one evening – and at first I thought it was just a big cart left in front of the lifts, but then I heard it speak saying: “I want to get in the lift.”

I kept the elevator door open for Cobie and followed her as she parked on her spot in the lift. When we got to my floor she carefully wheeled out of the lift and turned confidently toward the direction of the door across my room. Then the guest came out and picked up his food.

This is the first time I’ve seen this and I was so amazed I followed it and shamelessly took photos and videos. Cobie didn’t mind as she kept the smile on her face.

Cobie the food butler
Cobie the food butler
Cobie’s parking spot in the lift
Cobie’s parking spot in the lift

 

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling at the Marina Bay Sands

I’m no alcohol expert, in fact I hardly drink anything with alcohol for some years now. My friends expect me to read through the non-alcoholic beverages when we’re out on dinner nights. Until recently. I had a glass of Singapore Sling – first time since 2011, after having it for the first time en route home aboard Singapore Airlines.

I had a glass of Singapore Sling with colleagues last week, at one of the rooftop bars called Ce La Vi at Marina Bay Sands. I learned from my boss that originated from Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

I’ve forgotten how good it was – fruity, sweet, and without a hint of gin. That, and of course the breathtaking view of the sunset and the Singapore skyline to top it all. Happy days!

Singapore Sling at the Marina Bay Sands
Singapore Sling at the Marina Bay Sands
Sunset and Singapore
Sunset and Singapore

Hibiya Park, Revisited

Thanks to the longer days of summer I was able to revisit Hibiya Park after work last week, this time coming prepared as to what exactly I was going to check out. The last time I went was in spring, and made the wrong choice of just passing through it to get to the grounds of the Imperial Palace – where I did not even have the chance to stay longer as it was flocked with tourists. This time my intention was clear: get off at the Hibiya station, explore Hibiya Park, and walk all the way back to Ginza for dinner.

It was almost sunset when I got to Hibiya Park and it was not at all crowded. I read at the park’s entrance that the park was opened on June 1, 1903, as the first Western-styled park in Japan. During the Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 and the Pacific War, the park underwent renovations, but some remained as how they were back then: the areas around Shinji-ike Pond, Flower Garden #1, and Kumogata-ike Pond.

Near the entrance, I came across a German-style sunken garden surrounded by flowers of the season (roses at this time of the year). The fountain with two pelicans was a cute sight to behold. The big pond of the park gave a serene vibe, and the buildings viewed from the park’s exterior gave a contrast of modern and rustic. As I walked around the park, I hardly minded the humidity and my trickling sweat – I was too engrossed at the symphony of sounds – from the cicadas up the trees, to the sound of gleefully shrieking teenagers running to and from the Grand Fountain in the middle of the park, to the sound of speeding cars from the highways nearby. Next to the Grand Fountain was a small open air music hall – I read that regular concerts are held there on Wednesdays. Mental note to go back on a Wednesday night next time – to see the Grand Fountain lights and enjoy a concert. 

Spent an hour walking around, and I’d say it’s one of the best places I’ve visited in Tokyo last week. It’s big green oases like this that I wish we can have more in my city back home. I’d gladly skip the malls for a walk around these parks.

Map of Hibiya Park
Map of Hibiya Park
The place of death of Date Masamune
The place of death of Date Masamune

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Solar Clock at Hibiya Park
Solar Clock at Hibiya Park
Ancient Scandinavian Epitaph
This monument was given by Europe in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the air route coming from Japan to Europe via North Pole. The motif used was the ancient Nordic epitaph of the Scandinavian Vikings.

What’s the Time?

I’m on a 3-day trip to Singapore this week, and I thought I did not need to adjust as the timezone is the same as what it is back home, the temperature and humidity similar. I also consider Singapore as sort of like home, a “big BGC (Bonifacio Global City)” – the city where I worked where the layout and buildings remind me so much of Singapore (sans the parks, trees and flower-lined highways). When I got to the hotel on Monday, I did not bother to go out and play tourist. I just got to the mall next door to get my food – and then back to the hotel. Set the alarm and dozed off right away.

I vaguely remember waking up twice in the middle of the night checking what time it was. At 6:30 I woke up and looked outside, relieved it was still “night time”. But then I recalled turning off the alarm about an hour ago. I got up with a start with thoughts coming to my mind as I checked what time it really was:

Is it 6:30 AM or PM?

Did I sleep through the day? How will I explain this at work?!

Is my clock still set in Japan time? 

I figured eventually it really was 6:30 AM. I didn’t realize the sun rises late in Singapore – 7:03 Google said. This was new to me, as over the last 3 weeks I went to places where the sun rises early (Summer in North America and Japan). Oh, the things I learn in every trip.

Take Four: Food and Tokyo

Lobster sandwich, fries and ginger ale

I was able to have a taste of different kinds of food from my trip to Tokyo last week. Unlike my previous trips to Japan where I defaulted to eating the same type of food over and over again per visit, I mustered all my will power to “stick to the plan”, which was to try out a variety this time.

I guess the only time I deviated from the plan was during breakfast, because the hotel I stayed at only had 2 options: Japanese or Continental. I tried the Japanese set the first day, and the next 3 days was Continental. The Japanese breakfast set comprised of fish, pickled fruit and veggies, salad, fresh fruits, miso soup and seaweed flakes. The Continental set comprised of yogurt, a variety of bread, jam and butter, eggs, bacon and sausage (I skipped the last 2).

Japanese breakfast set
Japanese breakfast set

For dinner, I discovered a great alternative which I think I’ll resort to again next time: the basement of big department stores near the train stations usually have food courts, so I opted to buy my food (in portions) from different food courts for two nights in a row, hence my “dinner with a view” from my hotel room.

Dinner with a view part 1
Dinner with a view part 1
Dinner with a view part 2
Dinner with a view part 2

For lunch I’ve had curry and naan, cold soba and unagidon, and shrimp tonkatsu. I’ve also had my sweet tooth satisfied with the variety of cakes and pastries available almost in every corner of Tokyo (because they’re also found in the convenience stores).

On my last night, I was able to try food from an Izakaya with my colleagues. We had sushi, tempura, edamame, and skewers.

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Different kinds of tempura
Different kinds of tempura

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Because it was hot and humid, the cold drinks available in the convenience stores did not disappoint. I was lucky to have discovered Mr Bean while panting and looking for something to drink around Shibuya station. It reminded me of the taho, a soybean drink that I used to have when I was a kid.

But I’m saving the best for last. I’ve had my first ever lobster sandwich a week ago when I was in Philadelphia, and just couldn’t get enough of it. I searched for a lobster sandwich place in Tokyo and luckily, there was one at Ginza called Luke’s Lobster. I had to navigate to this one, which was a couple of buildings away from Muji Ginza. I know it’s not Japanese food, but this one satisfied my lobster craving – the size of the sandwich was just right – it came with a pickle, fries and ginger ale.

Luke’s Lobster Ginza Tokyo
Luke’s Lobster Ginza Tokyo
Lobster sandwich, fries and ginger ale
Lobster sandwich, fries and ginger ale