Hot pot, Iceland style

I’m back! Sorry to have left everyone waiting for so long. Iceland, Kleine Fabriek and a Madonna concert sandwiched in between left me far more exhausted than I expected. I took the week to unplug and rest, and it was just what my body needed. Now I’m back with lots of Iceland stories and good things to share. Your patience will be rewarded!

Before I left for Iceland, the weather forecast for Reykjavik seriously freaked me out: 8℃ to 16℃ (colder than already-chilly Amsterdam) and raining all week. I was so not in the mood for cold and rain that I dragged Marlon into a long discussion of the pros and cons of canceling our trip and booking a last-minute escape to sunny Croatia.

We decided to go anyway, and I calmed myself by (over)packing for crappy weather. Among the contents of my suitcase: an umbrella, Timberland combat boots (my only “sensible” quasi-outdoor shoes), Uniqlo Heattech tops, two wool sweaters, several pairs of wool socks, two wool scarves, a knit headband, fleece leggings, a raincoat and a wool peacoat. So, which of these many garments did I actually end up using within hours of my arrival in Reykjavik?

None of the above. The answer is… my bathing suit!

With an evening arrival in Reykjavik, Marlon and I had just about enough time and energy to check into our apartment, have dinner, and do one other thing. When we found out that Laugardalslaug, Iceland’s largest geothermal swimming pool, was a 10-minute walk from our apartment, it became clear what that “one other thing” would be.

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Siena: Pattern love at the Duomo

While traveling in Italy, you can end up seeing so many churches that they all start to blend together after a while. The one church that jolted me out of my “church fatigue” after two weeks in Italy was the Duomo at Siena.

When I first walked in, it wasn’t the immense scale of the Duomo that got my attention—it was the feeling that, for a church built in the 1200s, there was something so strikingly modern about it. Then I realized what it was: black and white stripes!

Siena Duomo

The tones of midnight blue and copper in the ceiling also seem so current. I would love to use that combination somewhere in my home—to perk up our deep blue bedroom walls, maybe?

Siena Duomo ceiling

I have zero education in design, but I love patterns and I love spotting them on trips. My eyes were drawn to the marble floors of the Duomo, with their bold graphic patterns in black, ivory and rust. Don’t these look so maximalist chic?

Siena Duomo tiled floor pattern1 Siena Duomo tiled floor pattern2 Siena Duomo tiled floor pattern3

It makes sense for a church to remind people of heaven, doesn’t it? That must have been the motivation behind these celestial-inspired patterns on the dome…

Siena Duomo starry dome

… and on the floor of the aptly named Piccolomini Library, a small but stunning collection of illuminated manuscripts housed in the Duomo.

Piccolomini Library floor tiles

I know I can’t be the only secret pattern junkie around here. Now that I’ve outed myself, won’t you lovers of pattern reveal yourselves too?

By the way, this is my last post from our Italy trip. I can’t believe it took me so long to blog about everything! I dive right into Kleine Fabriek as soon as I get back from my trip, so I won’t get to post about Iceland immediately.

However, I’ve prepared something special for the weekend. It’s something I’ve never done on the blog before and combines two of my favorite things: travel and food. I’m excited and I really hope you’ll like it. Stay tuned!

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Siena: people-watching at Piazza del Campo

One of the things I love to do when traveling is watching people… and, since I got my amazingly discreet 50mm lens, taking pictures of them. Does that make me creepy? I hope not!

A day trip to Siena gave me the chance to do just that. It was a hot sunny day, and like any open-air public space in Europe on a hot sunny day, Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo was filled with people basking in the sunshine.

Siena Piazza del Campo

It looked like it could be a scene at the beach. A beach with coins in its turquoise waters…

Siena Piazza del Campo fountain

… and a herringbone pattern imprinted on its shores.

Piazza del Campo herringbone bricks

Okay, you probably wouldn’t see a 13th century town hall like the Palazzo Pubblico at the beach… so I’ll give up the comparison. By the way, the picture is curved not because of distortion from my wide-angle lens, but because the piazza itself is curved like a shallow bowl.

Siena Palazzo del Publico

In a wide open space like this, I don’t mind so many people. Besides, there is something different about the atmosphere of a town square that makes it fun. I love the luxury of doing nothing—you get to observe little differences, details, that you would otherwise miss.

This kid in a wheelchair was having the best time being wheeled by his friends up and down the gentle incline of the piazza. That made me smile…

Wheeling around Piazza del Campo

as did the sight of a giant tour group leaping into the air in sync…

Jumping in Piazza del Campo

… and these two crazy American girls dancing for a video camera. Well I don’t know for sure that they’re American, but the crazy ones always turn out to be. Just like the loud ones turn out to be Filipino!

Dancing in Piazza del Campo

Check out this Italian gentleman, looking oh so cool in his full suit. The Sartorialist I am not, but I just had to take this man’s photo. I do believe this is what they call swagger.

Italian man in suit

Oops, huli!

Italian men in suits

But this is Italy, after all. Even the police are stylish!

Italian police in Siena

Do you photographing people when you travel? Are you the bold type who takes their photos right up front, or are you shy and have to do it from a safe distance like I do?

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Countdown to Kleine Fabriek

A few months ago, I signed on as one of two booth managers representing the Philippines’ own googooandgaga at a trade fair called Kleine Fabriek in Amsterdam. (Read more about this art-driven children’s wear brand, and how I got involved here.) That means when I get back from Iceland, I’ll need to hit the ground running… because the day after I get back is the weekend of Kleine Fabriek!

Googooandgaga Kleine Fabriek invitation

I love receiving packages in the mail, don’t you? In the runup to Kleine Fabriek, I’ve been receiving them nonstop over the last few weeks. Angelique, googooandgaga’s brand partner in Europe, has thought of everything. From her, I received my half of a trade show kit that includes business cards, catalogs, invitations, double-sided tape, sample sizes, even a cute little dish for collecting business cards, and more.

Angelique's trade show kit

From Audrey in Manila, I  received samples of googooandgaga’s latest collection for boys…

Googooandgaga new collection for boys

… and for girls. Cue the baby pangs!

Googooandgaga new collection for girls

I also met up with Willem-Jan, my co-manager, which was a lot of fun. It turns out he lived in the Philippines for six months… and LOVED it! He stayed in Mandaluyong, near Jose Rizal University, which is as local as you can get—far from where most expats would dare to live and just minutes where my family used to live, in fact. Willem-Jan’s stories about being the strange white six-footer taking the jeepney and boxing at the Elorde gym on Shaw Boulevard cracked me up, and  his evident enthusiasm and fondness for the Philippines warmed this Manila girl’s heart.

The ability to attract such enthusiasm, whether for art, children’s clothes, or the Philippines itself, speaks volumes about the kind of business googooandgaga is. I think it’s a reflection of the passion AJ and Audrey put into their product and brand—love and madness, as they would say.

I’m so excited for Kleine Fabriek, and proud that I get to be part of bringing an awesome Pinoy brand there!

P.S. How do you like the Instagram-ish feel of these pics? I’m trying out Rollip, a website that lets you apply vintage filters and effects to photos, no iPhone or Instagram required. Check it out and let me know if you like it.

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Volterra views

It’s the weekend! Why don’t we go for a drive? Our destination: the medieval Tuscan town of Volterra.

On this drive, getting there is as important—and stunning—as the destination itself. With the vineyard- and olive-topped hills of Tuscany rolling out for miles in every direction, perhaps the point of this journey is not to arrive.

Driving to Volterra1

The only reason you may want to rush: the impatient Italian speed demons honking at you from behind, giving you the evil eye as they overtake you on a winding, two-lane mountain road. Pay them no mind as they zoom past; their eyes might be immune to all this beauty (or they might need to pee very badly).

Driving to Volterra2

We’re seeing all of this for the first time, and have license to linger.

Driving to Volterra3

Are you Asian, like me? You might have a hard time inconveniencing other people and “looking bad.” This may prevent you from pulling over to take pictures of the spectacular countryside through this red circular frame that suddenly pops up out of nowhere. I did, and I regret it. What great pictures those would have made.

Red circle near Volterra

Do you get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of Twilight? I did, and almost skipped Volterra because it figures prominently in the series. But I’m glad I ignored my creepy crawlies and went anyway.

Volterra rooftops

Because the views from Volterra are simply breathtaking. I could have stayed at this hilltop lookout for hours.

Volterra view1

Tuscany lays at your feet, all dappled sun and green velvet.

Volterra view2

As sunset approaches, the sky grows luminous, fighting for your attention. It’s a competition where everyone wins and we’re all happy.

Volterra view3

I know I will keep the views from Volterra with me forever. I may not be heading somewhere very green, sunny or lush this weekend, but it will be amazing all the same. Onward to Iceland!

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