Viewing: Wanderlust

Salone del Mobile at the Universita di Milano

Walking around a furniture fair for a couple days, one inevitably sees a lot of kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and chairs—especially chairs. (Why do all designers seem to be hell-bent on reinventing the chair?) After a while, it all got to be a bit too much for me. So on our last day in Milan, I suggested that we look for some of the large-scale installations I’d been seeing on Instagram, most of which seemed to be concentrated in the Universita di Milano.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Universita di Milano

It turned out to be a great way to end our visit—with hardly any of the crowds we’d previously encountered in Tortona, lots of big, playful and imaginative installations, and refreshing bursts of color.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 giant textile balls

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Endless Stairs

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 copper pendant lamp

I love looking at beautiful things as much as anyone, but after a while I had begun to crave something a little more conceptual, more thoughtful—more than just someone trying to push another product. Maybe I’m just idealistic, maybe these installations at the University of Milan were trying to sell something too, but they certainly did it in a more subtle way. By pondering big questions such as scarcity, sustainability, the future of cities, and more, they created an opportunity—in the midst of all the activity of the Salone—to pause for a little reflection.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 mirror selfie

Reflection, get it? Bada-boom-tsss! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been a great audience.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Blago travel buddies

Oh, look at me being all profound and meaningful when in fact I’m just another shallow girl who can’t resist taking a selfie!

Speaking of meaningful, I hope you’re having a rich and meaningful Easter weekend. From what I’m seeing on Instagram, everyone back home seems to be partying at the beach, but I wish you a few quiets moment to reflect, recharge and to celebrate all that is sacred to you. Have a blessed and peaceful Easter!

Milan: Downtown cool in Zona Tortona

It makes total sense that Milan has not just one, but two design districts. If Brera is uptown posh, Tortona plays it downtown cool. Although it has a grittier vibe than Brera, Tortona also explodes into a riot of activity during Salone del Mobile.

Milan Via Tortona design street

Crossing the pedestrian bridge into Via Tortona, street art serves as a kind of border that marks entry into creative, alternative, and dare I say it… hipper territory.

Milan Via Tortona pedestrian bridge street art

It’s not just stickers and spray paint that Tortona has more of. Former industrial warehouses give this neighborhood a lot more space, making it possible for brands to mount more ambitious, large-scale showpieces for the Salone.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014

Even big-name brands—such as Peugeot, whose Design Lab dreamed up this futuristic, wood-and-carbon fiber baby grand for Pleyel—want to nab a bit of Tortona’s street cred for themselves. We don’t mind; we’re just here to enjoy the show.

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Milan: Design spotting in Brera

I considered sharing my recent travels in chronological order, but with my #blago2014 travel buddies Jillian and Judith getting a head start on our adventures at this year’s Salone del Mobile, I decided it would be more fun to blog about Milan alongside them. Won’t it be interesting to see four different sides of the same story? Mine begins in the impossibly stylish district of Brera.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Brera Design District

Populated by designer names, elegant boutiques and impeccably dressed residents, Brera is a hotbed of activity of Milan’s very own Design Week.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Brera

Brera opens its polished, darkened doors to the masses during Salone del Mobile. It was an incredible experience to just wander around, popping in and out of upscale shops and showrooms, swept up in an Italian-designed lifestyle that 99% of us can only ever admire from afar.

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New York, New York!

Yep. You read that right. I’m in New York. Please don’t kill me.

New York Midtown Manhattan American flag

Every single year, Marlon and I resolve to travel less, or at least do fewer and longer travels. With this latest unexpected trip, we’ve failed in spectacular fashion. But who can resist the siren call of New York? Besides, it was either tag along or not see Marlon for nearly two weeks. It was a no-brainer.

New York Lincoln Center Steps Welcome

Do you ever feel that sometimes, life is happening too fast for you to catch up? Between Tala’s birthday and this trip, I sang in my first Dutch choir concert at one of my favorite Amsterdam museums, flew to Zurich for a last-minute work trip, stayed at this charming boutique gem and filmed at this stunning five-star hilltop hotel, and squeezed in a bit of calligraphy and watercolor for a snail mail swap. All in the span of 10 days. Whew!

Did I mention when I get back, I’m going to do an about-face right back to the airport for Milan Design Week? No? There you go.

New York American Museum of Natural History Explorer

 

That’s a lot of blog backlog to work through, but it’ll have to wait. New York is winking at me in the spring sunshine, and a little girl in a gray bear suit is tugging on the cord of my laptop. Time to explore, and have a wonderful weekend!

Paris shopping: Merci & Bonton

Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re the last person on earth to do something or go somewhere? I had that feeling for the longest time about Santorini—as if everyone I know had been there except for me (and Marlon).  More recently, I’ve felt that about watching Frozen. 

This is also the feeling I’ve had about the iconic, supercool Paris lifestyle store Merci. As I write this post, I’m picturing readers out there who will scan the title, sigh and close my blog. “Not another Merci post, yawn.” Forgive me, supercool people! After this post, I will join your jaded ranks. For now, allow me to be a wide-eyed first-timer.

On my last afternoon in Paris, I met Judith for lunch and a stroll around the Marais, but mostly to pop my Merci cherry.

Merci Paris typography suitcases

After lunch at the Merci Cinema Cafe, we elbowed past tour groups of worshipful, black-clad, carefully Eurodressed Japanese tourists—no belt bags and safari vests here—to explore three floors of supercoolness for every aspect of life. I tried to take pictures of everything (not supercool, I know) because it’s just that kind of store: it makes you believe that acquiring these artfully curated and displayed goods will make you a supercool version of yourself.

Merci Paris home section

The basement is stocked with smaller design items for the home and kitchen, and is also wire cage lamp heaven.

Merci Paris cage wire lamps

I had such a hard time finding our bedroom cage lamps online. Apparently they’ve been hiding en masse at Merci all this time.

Merci Paris lightbulbs

Call me weird, but if I had to move back home to the Philippines tomorrow, I would find a way to hoard light bulbs. Yes, light bulbs. If I never have to see another fluorescent bulb in my life, I will be fairly happy. Merci has a great selection.

Merci Paris valises star print

So, valises are apparently a thing. “They’re all the rage in Paris!” Which is the kind of thing your most annoying aunt would say.

Merci Paris valises Liberty

I loved browsing the living and dining furniture on the third floor… it just made me dream.

Merci Paris living room furniture

And it made me realize I can achieve this nonchalantly distressed, thousand-Euro effect by letting Rogue attack an armchair for a few years. “They do this in Paris,” I’ll tell visitors with a casual wave of my hand.

Merci Paris antique armchair

Post-Merci, we walked a few doors down to Bonton, a truly gorgeous (and yes, supercool) children’s store.

Bonton Paris entrance

I told you valises are a thing!

Bonton Paris spring valises

I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous colors, natural fabrics and classic yet unfussy aesthetic. But with price tags ranging from €44 for a pair of cotton bloomers to over €90 for a baby cardigan, this newly blossomed love is destined to remain a long-distance affair. Thank goodness for the bazar (read: small and cheap, but still cute and fun things) in the basement.

Bonton Paris children's clothes spring

I wish I’d known in advance that Bonton also has a coiffeur. I would’ve booked an appointment for Tala and totally become that hateful mother who can’t shut up about her daughter’s first haircut in Paris.

Bonton Paris children's coiffeur

We capped our window-shop-walk with macarons at Pierre Herme, which has officially dethroned Laduree as my favorite Paris macaron. I mean, just look at them!

Pierre Herme macarons Paris

With unusual flavor combinations such as green tea and bourbon, white truffle and hazelnut, and pistachio, cinnamon and cherry, they taste even better than they look.

Macarons Pierre Herme Paris

 

I enjoyed my window-shop-walk around the Marais, and now feel a thousand times cooler… I hope you do too!

Paris museums: Modern art at Centre Georges Pompidou

Once you’ve ticked the obligatory tourist boxes, Paris really begins to open up. Though it’s within walking distance of the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, the Centre Georges Pompidou seems to get only a fraction of the crowds that besiege its neighboring museum heavyweights.

None of those for me this time around. I decided to dedicate an entire afternoon to the Centre Pompidou’s high-tech urban architecture and vast collection of modern and contemporary art.

Paris Centre Georges Pompidou

The most striking thing about the building, obviously, is the glass-encased escalator that snakes up and across the facade. Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed the building so that all facilities for public movement and technical equipment would be funneled (their word was “centrifuged”) outside, leaving the inside floors completely free and usable.

Paris Centre Georges Pompidou with stroller

Because I had Tala with me in a stroller, I didn’t get to ride the famous escalators. Boo. But that’s okay. What wasn’t okay was wrestling with the effects of a nasty oyster, leaving me in a less than ideal mindset to, ehem, digest all that modern and contemporary (and, let’s face it, hard to understand) art.

So there I was with a baby, dashing to the bathroom every half hour, soaked in a cold sweat and feeling pukey. But never underestimate the power of art to penetrate even the worst of oyster-induced agonies. Here are few of my favorite works from the museum’s collection, and—I’ll save the best for last—the most spectacularly unmissable thing about the Centre Pompidou.

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Paris with a baby: Walk everywhere!

After visiting Paris several times, I’ve settled into a pace and style of travel that allows me to truly savor the delights of this enchanting city. Fortunately, it also happens to be a great way to experience Paris with a baby—maybe even the best way, but I might be biased here.

My entire “Paris with a baby” philosophy can be summed up in these words: Don’t plan too much. Walk everywhere. Let yourself be surprised.

Paris walking baby along the Seine River

By far, the best day we had in Paris as a family was an entire Sunday with only two things on our agenda: brunch with friends and a picture at Trocadero. A stroller is not something any parent wants to be folding, unfolding and schlepping around the Escher-esque labyrinth of stairs that is the Paris metro. So, to fill in the rest of our day, we simply walked everywhere.

Paris taking baby for a walk

We allowed ourselves a generous two hours to wander from our hotel in the 2nd arrondissement to brunch in the 17th, then another two hours to stroll home along the banks of the Seine from Trocadero. And it was simply perfect: relaxed and refreshing, with flashes of the Paris that exists beyond the tourist snapshots and postcard views.

Want to see just how much we enjoyed Paris on foot in just one day? Take a look.

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Paris eats: Le Dome Cafe’s seafood platter

More than romance and lights, Paris to me means fantastic restaurants and superb food. After living in a city with rather limited dining out options, I salivated over the idea of being able to waltz into practically any cafe or brasserie and feast on more than just the regular complement of sandwiches and soups.

We decided to splurge on our first evening out in Paris with dinner at Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse.

Le Dome Cafe Paris Montparnasse

Le Dome Cafe is the quintessential Paris brasserie at its turn-of-the-century, glamorous best.

Le Dome Cafe Paris Montparnasse outside seating

All sumptuous reds and gleaming brass, Le Dome is a throwback to turn-of-the-century Paris, where leading intellectuals, artists and authors of the day would gather here for food and conversation. 

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Paris eats: Du Pain et des Idées

It isn’t every day I can savor breakfast from one of the best bakeries in Paris—if not the best. So, one crisp and sunny morning, I trekked across Paris on foot, baby and husband in tow, to worship at baker Christophe Vasseur’s temple of bread and ideas…

Du Pain et des Idees Paris boulangerie

the aptly named Du Pain et des Idées.

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Paris, then and now

Am I getting older, or is it just getting harder to recover from travel? We came back from Paris on Wednesday and I’m still more than a little dazed. Tala brought a raging diaper rash back with her, the house is a mess and I’m paying for my oyster-greediness with a mild case of food poisoning, but of course you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about Paris!

Trocadero Paris Eiffel Tower with fiance family and baby

I’m thankful for the chance to keep returning to this vast, complex, beautiful city. Each visit is always mix of well-loved favorites and first-time experiences. Yet each time, I keep discovering things that I haven’t yet done and still want to do, and I just want to keep coming back for more.

I’m incredibly thankful to have returned to Paris with both Marlon and Tala. In 2006, Marlon proposed to me in Paris; seven years later, we’re back not as fiancees, but as a family. We tried to recreate this picture at Trocadero as best we could, marveling at how little and how much things have changed since then. Funny and amazing, how life works out.

I’ll be back next week to write about Paris in more detail: food, shopping, sights, and our favorite experiences together as a family. Till then, have a wonderful weekend!