The Store at Soho House Berlin

There are things that draw me in, and things that turn me away. For example, I’m attracted to creativity, but intimidated by luxury. This was on my mind when after-work wanderings led me into The Store at Soho House Berlin, a concept store fusing design, food, furnishings, clothing, beauty, books and music in a stylish luxury setting.

As I browsed The Store, part of me waited for the point when an exorbitant price tag or a snooty sales associate would eventually make me want me to step out. As it turned out, that moment never came.

The Store Soho House Berlin

I was both secretly delighted and suitably impressed. How can a space that is so beautifully sleek, so achingly cool, also feel so inviting?

The Store Soho House Berlin colorful cafe seating area

The Urban Jungle Bloggers will probably tell you: it’s the plants.

The Store Soho House Berlin big plant

At The Store, maximalist explosions of green warm up the space, giving it an eclectic and casual vibe.

The Store Soho House Berlin green cinema chairs

This makes it feel less like an expensive store where you’re not allowed to touch anything, and more like a very cool (and wealthy) friend’s home where you can just hang out and chat over coffee.

The Store Soho House Berlin coffee and cactus

The Store Soho House Berlin rattan swing chair

The Store Soho House Berlin copper bureau and big plants

The plants at The Store are huge. They really make a statement! Something about them calls to my tropical soul—the same part of me that insists on keeping a big fig tree by my desk in cold and gray Amsterdam.

The Store Soho House Berlin giant plants

I would have loved to stop by the funky nail bar upstairs for some pampering, but I was working then.

The Store Soho House Berlin nail bar

From the nail bar, you get an overview of the whole store. Looks rather different when you don’t see all the big, beautiful plants, doesn’t it?

The Store Soho House Berlin overall layout

I may not make my living in a visual or retail industry, but creative spaces like The Store inspire me. Being able to bring together different objects, moods, influences and ideas so that they live comfortably together, is something I’m always drawn to and admire.

I love discovering places like this. Don’t you?

The Store
Soho House Berlin
Torstrasse 1

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Travel Diary: Berlin

Do you ever put off blogging because you want to write the perfect post—carefully researched, well-selected photos, thoughtfully written… then life just takes over and you never seem to find the time? This is the story of my life lately. It’s already summer, and I have yet to blog about my spring travels.

I’ve decided to say “So what?” to perfection, otherwise I’ll never get any blog posts written! Let’s go for something short, sweet and simple: a travel diary of my (already not-so-recent) trip to Berlin.

Berlin Soho House selfie with Alexanderplatz TV Tower

When I learned I would be sent to Berlin for a client shoot, I was thrilled. What began as a weekend fling years ago grew into a love affair with this captivating city. After being back several times, it has already begun to feel familiar—yet Berlin being Berlin, it will always be unknowable, a chameleon, constantly evolving.

To recognize parts of yourself in a place, yet be confronted with secrets to discover and enigmas to unravel —for me, that makes perfect travel alchemy.

Berlin Brandenburger Tor tattooed organ grinder

It’s no secret that I love food, and in Berlin good food is abundant, varied and best of all, affordable. The Diplomatic Wife and I pigged out on a massive brunch at Cabslam in Neukolln—including the best salted caramel cheesecake I’ve had in years… no, wait, ever—and our restaurant bill was ridiculously low, a fraction of what it would have been for a meal of the same quality in Amsterdam.

Berlin Cabslam salted caramel cheesecake

I love street art, too. In this facet of urban life, Berlin is a feast for the eyes…

Berlin street art girls dancing

a constantly evolving gallery.

Berlin street art JR paste remnants

I’m positive this used to be a huge mural by JR!

One of the press perks of my working visit was a private evening tour of the Alte Nationalgalerie. Led through a darkened museum by a bearded old art historian with thousands of tales to tell, I learned the secret story of why this innocent-looking painting by Manet caused a scandal in the 1800s, and had to be banned…

Auguste Renoir In Sommer Berlin National Galerie

and also recognized shades of my own domestic life, those too-familiar tantrums and tears, in this marble Venus and Cupid. Again, that fine line between discovery and familiarity, being transported and finding yourself at home.

Berlin National Galerie Venus and Cupid sculpture

My shoot was at Soho House on Torstrasse in Mitte, and I loved wandering around that area after work. From hipsters to hausfraus, iced lattes to hot latex, the diversity of cafes, shops, businesses and restaurants makes for fascinating window shopping.

Berlin old book frontispieces wallpaper store

A shop along Torstrasse beautifully wallpapered with antique front pages

Where else can seventeenth-century cemeteries coexist so closely with third wave coffee bars? That’s Berlin, where there’s always a dark undercurrent to all the energy, a poignant counterpoint to all the hipness.

Berlin Alter Garnisonsfriedhof

I’m tempted to say I feel something of Manila in Berlin, and in a way, being in Berlin relieves my homesickness a little bit. Okay, German efficiency and Filipino chaos seem universes apart. If you’ve been to both cities, maybe you can tell me if I’m on to something here, or if I’m just crazy.

Berlin U-Bahn

On your travels, have you ever felt that sweet spot between familiarity and discovery? Where does it happen for you? I’d love to know.

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Sorry, not sorry

I was about to sit down with my tail between my legs, and write a sheepish apology for having been away from the blog for so long.

But, after 4.5 years in the Netherlands, the land of confident directness and zero apologies, this exceedingly polite, too-eager-to-please Filipina has learned to distinguish between the apologies that are necessary, and those that aren’t.

So, as the hashtag goes, I’m #sorrynotsorry…

… that I’ve been traveling for work. In the last two months, work has taken me to two of my absolute, most favorite cities in Europe: Berlin…

Berlin Brandenburger Tor

and Barcelona.

El Born Barcelona plaza

As someone who tends to joke I’m just a WAHM who sits at the computer in my pajamas all day, it’s a thrill to realize that my work as a freelance writer and producer can actually be… glamorous. Backing up footage in a hotel room with floor-to-ceiling views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Ocean can do wonders for one’s perspective.

Barcelona beach view from the W Hotel

I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve been working a lot. Last year I had a Tim Gunn “make it work” moment, when I realized that I need to acquire more local clients in Amsterdam, and develop a network of contacts here as strong as the ones I left behind in Manila and Singapore. Because this is home now.

Well, I’m doing just that. Work has begun to trickle in from local businesses and entrepreneurs, some of whom are doing design-led, inspiring work that excites me (even if the pay doesn’t always).

These days, work takes up most of my writing time and brain. With what’s left over, I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve sought (and found) new things to love about Amsterdam.

WWIM11 2015 Amsterdam

I joined the 11th Worldwide InstaMeet hosted by the local Instagram community in another effort to bring my online life offline. I met like-minded explorers, discovered postcard-perfect spots in my own city, and became more addicted to Instagram than ever. Hmm, time to revive Instagramsterdam?

I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve blown off work to go on weekday dates with my husband. Marlon has had a few weekdays off, and after dropping off Tala at the gastouder, we date like giddy teenagers. Shedding the mom-and-dad routine for a day, we get high on the bliss of afternoon movie matinees. We talk about our pipe dreams. We try “that place” we’ve been wanting to try (there’s always a long list).

ArtDeli Amsterdam

Then toss back a glass or two of wine before cycling back to reality, back to the daughter who runs squealing into our arms, and back to the household we have to keep running.

I’m sorry, not sorry… that I’ve been cementing our life with traditions and routines. Friday lattes with my mommy friends at the new cafe with the awesome play corner. Afternoons at the playground and Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market. The food trucks of Rollende Keukens and the orange fever of King’s Day.

King's Day for kids at Westerpark

All of that takes time, effort, and energy—all of which goes into solidifying one’s sense of home in a foreign land. And I can’t do any of that from behind the computer!

Finally, and it should go without saying, that the one thing I’ll never be sorry for… is that I’ve simply been away being Tala’s mom.

Reading her books upon books, and singing her Filipino folk songs. Choosing her outfits in the morning (a power I won’t be holding for long), and searching for wooden legs for her new desk on Etsy. Wiping her hands of chalk after she’s gone wild drawing “polka dots” on her bedroom wall, and brushing her hair despite her toddlerrific efforts to resist.

Tala chalkboard wall closeup

Trying to act normal and ignore her throughout Hulk-sized fits of rage (quickest way to end it), researching her school options in our neighborhood, and worrying about why she suddenly seems to hate the babies at her daycare. Marveling at how quickly she falls asleep after a good long cuddle from me, at how much she needs Mama’s touch to feel calm, safe and loved. And so much more.

This is my life lately, a life that has enticed me away from the computer. I have nothing to apologize for, and everything to celebrate. What are you #sorrynotsorry for?

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2013: My Year in Travel

The plan for 2013, believe it or not, was to seriously cut down on travel. Looking back at the year in travel, that was clearly a fail.

We might have failed, but we didn’t fail miserably—we had so much fun doing it! Tala’s arrival only slowed us down for the first three months; it wasn’t long until we got itchy feet again.

Berlin Oberbaum Bridge street art

Berlin, Germany was our first trip of the year, and our first with Tala. Cheap eats, great nightlife, street art, Tala’s first museum visit, blogger meetups, and a redemptive visit to my favorite hangout, the Badeschiff, were some of the highlights that cemented Berlin as one of my favorite cities in Europe.

Monkey installation building Berlin

A monkey-covered building I saw in Mitte. Anyone know what it is?

Fueled by so much inspiration, I went on a blogging bender from just five days in Berlin. Look at all these posts!

Tala’s first flight, my first giveaway
Street art sightings in Berlin
Nhow Hotel Berlin
Breakfast in Berlin
Berlinische Galerie
Date night: Berlin edition
A walk to remember
Badeschiff: The return

Alicante Spain beach

As a couple, patience is not one of our virtues. That really showed in our spur-of-the-moment weekend in Alicante, Spain—the result of a too-long winter, a dismal spring, and a summer that seemed to take forever to get to Amsterdam.

Extra large mojito Alicante

Oversized sparkling sangrias (plus mojito o’ clock !) on the beach, cooling off in the Mediterranean Ocean and excellent restaurants mere steps from our hotel justified our spontaneous and kinda crazy getaway.

Alicante: Playa Postiguet
At the beach with baby
Out and about in Alicante
Alicante: Where to eat (and eat and eat)
Maastricht Selexyz Dominicanen

Closer to home, Maastricht was another weekend destination we revisited this year. Good food, contemporary art and a visit to one of the world’s most stunning bookstores made this a fun and fulfilling weekend drive.

Weekend in Maastricht
Selexyz Dominicanen: Heaven for booklovers
Bonnefanten Museum

Naxos port

Greece was actually the only trip we had planned to take this year. As the Big Trip of 2013, Greece did not disappoint. This country captured my heart with its warm and friendly people, mouthwatering food, picturesque villages and beautiful beaches—not to mention the underlying thrill of its epic history and ancient myths. We loved our time in Naxos…

The beautiful beaches of Naxos
Exploring the port of Naxos
Away from it all in Apiranthos
Traditional charm at Taverna Lefteris

Santorini sunset

and ticked a big one off the bucket list in Santorini—even if a sick baby and husband made our trip less than ideal.

7 great places to catch the sunset in Santorini
Oia: Postcard perfect Santorini
Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini
Greece: a few last things

Dusseldorf Christmas market ferris wheel

In December we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Christmas markets in Dusseldorf, Germany. Gluhwein, gingerbread and gallivanting in the cold got us all revved up for Christmas and put us in the holiday mood for our trip to Manila.

Not bad for two first-time parents with a new baby, eh? What a year it’s been… and it’s not over yet! This weekend, I get to strike another long-awaited destination off our travel wishlist in celebration of our sixth wedding anniversary. I’m so excited!

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Badeschiff: The Return

To cap my series of Berlin posts, I’m happy to report my return to the Badeschiff!

Last year, I was delighted to discover this awesome hangout and barge-turned-pool floating in the river Spree. But because I didn’t pack a swimsuit and have a serious case of Asian modesty, I was forced to sit on the deck, stewing in my own envy as everyone enjoyed a swim on a sizzing hot day. Everyone except me!

This time, I came prepared. I made sure to return on the warmest day of the week, during a weekday afternoon, to avoid the huge crowds of my past weekend visit.

Badeschiff Berlin weekday afternoon

It was super easy to grab a seat, which was a relief after my previous sardines-in-a-can experience. People were killing each other for these deck chairs last year.

Badeschiff Berlin white canvas sun loungers

Not only did I return with a swimsuit,  I also brought a friend—the Diplomatic Wife, freshly relocated from Jakarta. And oh yes… I brought a baby with me too!

Badeschiff with baby

The summer heat made Tala drowsy, putting her to sleep most of the time. Occasionally, her tiny feet would pop out and she’d wiggle her toes, letting me know she was awake and in need of a little attention.

Tala's toes

Notice the mole on her right foot? According to Filipino superstition (my mom is big on them), a mole on your foot means that you are meant to be traveler. I have one on mine, too!

Anyway, Daddy joined us after work, which was fun…

Tala at the Badeschiff Berlin

… and together with The Diplomatic Wife and her Diplomat, we all just kicked back with a few beers and chillaxed in the sun. We may have had to deal with a poop explosion or two, but I’ve accepted it comes with the territory now. By the way, in this picture you can see the Nhow Hotel Berlin, where we stayed, on the right.

Badeschiff Berlin deck chairs

A huge thank you goes out to The Diplomatic Wife for being fab company, for teaching me the right way to put on sunblock, and for watching Tala while I finally took that swim I’ve been longing to take. I was as happy as a seal, and just about as large, too—so the pictures of me actually swimming in the Badeschiff will never see the light of day.

I’m always the one behind the camera, so it’s really nice when we have a friend around to take a family photo!

Family photo Badeschiff Berlin

Our sun-drenched afternoon at the Badeschiff already feels like ages ago. It’s been dismal and cold here, so we are chasing the sun this weekend with a last-minute escape to the Costa Blanca in Spain. I hope to share some sunny pictures and Spanish stories when we get back.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

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