Milan: Beautiful city, beautiful people

Even without the excitement of the Salone del Mobile, Milan is a beautiful city to explore. With our most comfortable walking shoes on, my #blago2014 travel buddies and I pounded Milanese pavement for hours, passing by some of the city’s most iconic sights along the way.

Milan Duomo and Galleria wide angle

Oh my DSLR and wide-angle lens, how I’ve missed you! I love my little Sony point-and-shoot, but it would never let me get the immense Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in a single shot…

Milan Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II

or to capture the Galleria from head to toe, for that matter.

Speaking of head to toe, Milan’s beautiful and stylishly dressed citizens sure know how to steal attention away from its stunning architecture.

Milan people-watching hipster carabinieri

I secretly love to people-watch, and Milan’s unique flair makes my little pastime a true pleasure.

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Studs and chocolate

Apologies for the non-activity on this blog. I’ve gone out of the country on each of the last two weekends, been busy in between, and it’s caught up with me. I’ve spent the whole day in bed with a bad cold and a slight fever.

I have lots to post about our spectacular weekends in Prague, Czech Republic and Köln, Germany—also about a few new developments at home. But those will have to wait until I feel better. In the meantime, let me leave you with by two of my favorite impulse purchases from last weekend.

So, between:

a) These gorgeous studded Balmain (Balmain!) leather brogues for €49 (Php 2,800)… or
b) A Ritter Sport Nugat chocolate bar as big as my freaking face for €2.65 (Php 150)

… which was the better buy? Help me decide. Shoes versus chocolate, it’s a tough choice!

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Shopping in Antwerp

A few days ago, Marlon said to me, “If we lived in Belgium, we’d be really fat and really poor.” Because there’s nothing I want to do on my return trip to Antwerp except eat and shop, eat and shop, eat and shop. I didn’t quite get enough of that during our day trip a few weeks ago!
I would have liked to step into Het Modepaleis, housed in a lovely Art Deco building on shopping street Nationalestraat, to pay obeisance to Dries Van Noten. But being a couchwife with an irregular income doesn’t afford me that luxury, so I had to be content with snapping a photo.
Slightly closer to, but still nowhere within my meager means was Allsaints Spitalfields, a brand that’s completely new to me.

Its shop window, with its massive collection of vintage sewing machines, was the kind of display that promises all sorts of awesomeness inside.

I wanted to take home everything, but sadly, it was not to be. I did put some of my favorites up on my Pinterest board for future reference. I’ll be back for one of you, my pretties. 

Afterwards, we headed to the Meir, a wide pedestrian boulevard that is Antwerp’s biggest and most famous shopping street. I haven’t been to a mall since my last trip home, but the Stadfeestzal (City Festival Hall), a turn-of-the-century government building converted into a shopping center, beckoned with its stately grandeur.

Inside: glass-domed ceilings, mosaic floors, and marble staircases. Sumptuous! But that’s not what sent my jaw crashing to the floor.

What really got me was the presence of an Urban Outfitters in the building. Urban Outfitters! Three floors! Why do we not have this in Holland?!

I may not be able to afford Dries Van Noten or even, Allsaints, but I can definitely cough up enough change for Urban Outfitters. So I disappeared into the madness and found a few pretty things to take home. Check out my goodies, after the cut!

Purchase number one: gray velvet mullet dress (short in front, long in back), on sale for €20 (Php 1,200). I can’t wait for warmer weather so I can wear it out with just a black leather jacket.

For some reason, I’ve had velvet on the brain lately. So I also picked up a pencil skirt in a magenta stretch velvet, to go with all my black tops and a favorite gray sweatshirt from Muji.  This was a bargain at €10 (about Php 600). 


There was a time when I thought if I saw another thing shaped like a heart (or even the comment “Heart this!”) on Pinterest, I would vomit. I really have to choke back the hurl now, because I fell for these emerald green patent loafers with… a tiny heart cutout. *hangs head*

The cherry on my shopping sundae (or dame blanche, since this is Belgium we’re talking about) was the abundance of affordable vintage clothes in Antwerp. In a small vintage store called Sussies on Kammenstraat (with a great selection of pieces), my inner magpie/old lady was drawn to this glittery cardigan with a Missoni-esque pattern for just €10, or Php 600. Faithful jeans and white tank top, meet your newest friend.

I barely scratched the surface, but just by ducking into a few more stores it was easy to establish that vintage shopping here is way, way cheaper than it is in Amsterdam.

And that is why I can’t wait to go back to Antwerp. Next time, I’m taking all my pennies with me!

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Fall uniform

If I hadn’t moved to Amsterdam, I would never have realized that I had a raincoat-shaped hole in my wardrobe. After getting soaked in the rain one stormy August night and getting sick the week following that, I decided that “summer” was as good a time as any to buy a rain jacket. 
The most important criteria: it had to have a hood, be waterproof, and cover my legs at least partially. It took a couple of afternoons combing the shops, I found this navy blue McG rain jacket at De Bijenkorf. I chose it for the semi-tailored preppy feel, as well as for the soft jersey lining and the cute little grosgrain belt that ties in a bow at my waist. I spent more on it than I had hoped to, but I felt better forking over the moolah knowing I’d get lots of wear out of this jacket. 
And I was right. This jacket already feels like a uniform, with all the rain we’ve had here. Although I must say I felt slightly odd wearing it out for the first time. It just didn’t seem very… well, very me. Even Marlon gave a thoughtful hmmm the first time he saw me in it. 

This is my template outfit these days. I’ve gotten used to the rain jacket; I figure feeling “slightly odd” is a million times better than feeling downright cold, wet and miserable. Now that the temperature is on a steady downward trend, I’ve replaced my usual black stretchy cotton leggings with fleece leggings from HEMA, which feel awesome—like my legs are getting a nice warm hug.

The other part of my fall uniform is these brogue-slash-granny boots I scored on my day trip to Maastricht. They reminded me of the brown granny boots I used to own, which my mom brought back from Europe in the heyday of grunge. Ah, the Nineties.

Except my old granny boots didn’t have the brogue-ish look of this pair, nor did they have this combination of black, brown and gray leather. Now resisting a pair of boots is always hard for me. But boots that go with everything? Oh hell yes.
Besides, it’s fall. Lots of rain, getting cold and all that. I’m just being practical. Right? 
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Sibling revelry

A week before Easter, Marlon and I welcomed our first official houseguest in the person of my sister, Sheila. 
Many awesome things transpired during, and because of, her visit. First and foremost among them was the cleanup of the spare bedroom, and its transformation from disaster area/dumping ground for assorted junk into a hospitable and rather pretty guest space.

I loved being able to finally do girly things, things that I’ve learned not to foist on Marlon. Such as hours upon hours of window shopping…

Loved this gold bag by A.P.C. Hope to find it at the A.P.C. outlet in Paree!
Move over, Kate Moss… make way for Kate Mouse!

… during which, naturally, some actual shopping also took place.
 My new suede shoes: comfy lace-up sandal/booties from Bershka

Our girly pursuits also extended to gratuitous camwhoring…

Huli ka, Ate!
… and camwhoring’s style blog-inspired subset, known as outfit shots. It was so nice to just go “Outfit shot!” without reservation and have someone automatically know what to do. I haven’t trained the husband in this area yet. Nahihiya pa ako. But with a sister, hiya does not apply.
Outfit shot! on Prinsengracht
Outfit shot! at Museumplein

Outfit shot! in the Jordaan

Finally, it wouldn’t have been a girly week without our shared appreciation of the many… er, ways that Amsterdam is superior to Singapore, KL and Oslo (all cities we’ve lived in). We didn’t agree though on whether or not it is superior to Manila in terms of eye candy. 
 Ben Affleck isdatchu? Maybe 10 years from now!

From the tram rides to the police at Schiphol airport, the Dutch men did not disappoint. It must have been the weather! Salamat, mga ginooat di naman ako napahiya sa aking bisita.

Kikay pursuits aside, it was great to just show my sister around my new home, my new life, and take her to some places that have become fast favorites in the four months that I’ve lived in Amsterdam.

Lipsmackingly authentic Chinese food at Nam Kee in Zeedijk 
(complete with MSG headache!)
Dutch design for your home at Moooi Gallery
merchandised with playfulness and panache 

The yummiest (refillable!) giant margaritas, 
caramel crepes and Mexican grub at Los Pilones
Green serenity at the Begijnhof, a 14th-century courtyard tucked into the busy Spui 
Lazy sun-drenched afternoon at the Vondelpark with a good book
Steak and lobster at Restaurant Red on Keizersgracht

Having my sister around also gave me a great excuse to go out, explore the city, and discover some new favorites. Call me weird, but I prefer to keep my exploring down to a minimum when Marlon is at work. He gets so envious (not that he stops me), I end up feeling sorry for the poor guy—what with me out and about in this gorgeous city while he has to stay cooped up in the office all day, 5 days a week.

 Apres Anne Frank House, La Perla’s crisp wood-fired pizzas

 Enjoying an appeltart, coffee and sunshine at Cafe P96, a boat cafe on Prinsengracht
 The Friday book market at the Spui

Besides, going out and exploring is just so much more fun with company. So I (and Marlon, on the weekend) went on the tourist trail for the first time since moving here and finally got to tick off some tourist staples.

 Requisite tourist photo at Dam Square

 Amsterdam’s ‘floating’ flower market, the Bloemenmarkt

 Rediscovering a girlhood heroine at the Anne Frank House

 After the Rijksmuseum, camwhoring at the giant Iamsterdam sign in Museumplein

Day trip to Keukenhof, Holland’s famous (and eye-popping!) tulip garden

Whew! Ang dami pala naming nagawa! Not bad considering we never left the house before lunchtime, in true Paul fashion.

It’s funny, I was doing the hosting (okay, with significant help from Marlon, haha) but I really have to say thank you, Ate! It was so much fun having you here!

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