Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sky-High Lunch with a View in Singapore: 3-Course Meal at Salt Grill & Sky Bar

When I was in Singapore last year I managed to meet up with a very old colleague for lunch. Let’s call her Sashay.

We were both very young when we met (circa 22+ years ago). It was in fact my first corporate job in Manila. I worked in the marketing department and was looking after the merchandising and design of our upscale retail shops. Sashay and I didn’t have any contact whatsoever for more than a decade until a few years ago when we bumped into each other in Facebook. She now lives in Singapore and when she knew I was in town we quickly set up a date to catch up.

It is quite extraordinary to know someone from a long-time ago chapter of your life, and then to see them again now, as if it was just yesterday.

Sky-high lunch with a view of Singapore.

When we were communicating in Facebook I told her that it would be nice if we can have lunch in a nice place with a view of the city somewhere in the Orchard area. She told me not to worry as she exactly knew a place that I would adore. Don’t you just love it when you are with a local who knows exactly the good places and the hotspots?

We met at one of the entrances of Orchard Mall and after exchanging kisses and pleasantries of – ‘My god, you have not changed at all?!’ *wink* we moved on to locating Salt Grill & Sky Bar restaurant somewhere in the adjacent mall. I tell you, if I have to find the way to this restaurant again, I might get lost. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. I hope the view would be gorgeous. I love food, but sometimes my desire for a nice ambiance and a stunning view goes first.

When we finally arrived at the restaurant and were ushered to our table on the window facing the skyscrapers, I was very much pleased. I have to admit, this is my guilty pleasure — Dining with a breathtaking view, and for this particular lunch, sky high!

The restaurant is contemporary Australian cuisine. We settled both for a glass of bubbly, a prosecco and the 3-course lunch. As we waited for each course to be served, we pampered ourselves with the breathtaking views of the city. Singapore has changed so much. So many skyscrapers have sprouted everywhere like mushrooms every year. I have always found Singapore to be a bit too clinical for my taste though. Compared to my favourite and versatile city, Hong Kong, Singapore is a bit analytic. Reticent. Detached. But I noticed that the Lion City tends to grow on you slowly.

Sashay and I talked about the old times and what we are doing right now in the current phase of our lives. She’s married and she has 2 girls. She loves to play golf. She likes travelling but hates the actual air travel so she has found a way of de-stressing whilst enroute to the final destination.

It was lovely to have catch up with an old friend. I should do this more often.

The lunch was also a great succes. The view was not only fantastic but the food was equally fabulous. It matched the high standards of the restaurant’s beautiful city views. I just found out that the chef was Australia’s celebrity chef Luke Mangan. Well thank you chef for the exquisite food. We enjoyed it very much.

Our bubblies and the breathtaking view.

Some bread and nibbles to start with.

I love the all glass walls and ceiling of this restaurant. Sashay has totally scored for bringing me here, haha.

Our first entry: A board of charcuterie delights - jamon iberico, saucisson, duck bresaola and country terrine, grilled bread and pear chutney.

The waitress saw us doing the usual selfie and offered to take a picture of us =). She managed to take a few. Thank you.

And another one of course. We looked so demure here with our hands politely placed on top of the other. And no, we did not script this.

Ah, our main course with a view.

Main course: Seared Blue Fin tuna, potato, pimento, soft quail egg, haricots, olives & anchovies dressing on a bed of greens.

The 3rd course entry is dessert: Mango sorbet with berries and crumbs. And then espresso to close the lovely lunch.

The direction inside the mall to Ion Sky building where the restaurant is located.

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Central, Singapore

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The Royal Palace of Amsterdam | Former City Hall of Amsterdam

This is another one of my long overdue posts. I visited the Royal Palace for the first time in December 2014. Locals call it the Dampaleis or the Dam Palace (abbreviated from the Amsterdam Palace).

December 2014 was a challenging end of the year month for me as I was recovering from the Pneumonia sickness I picked up during my Japan-Philippines holiday. It was the first time for me to be really sick as an adult. I felt helpless. Walking 500 metres was already a daunting activity. It was a nightmare to go up the stairs. I cannot even sit straight for half an hour without having back pains.

So I managed to arrange working 50% instead of fulltime and remotely at home as well for the whole month of December while I slowly recover. I also exerted effort to be active again by going out for walks whenever I can. The month was really about moving forward one day at a time. So during this period I spent a lot of time at home but I also did some things that I have long wanted to do but never came to really doing it, such as visiting the Dam Palace in Amsterdam.

The palace has been for a long time under renovation, which is why I wasn't able to really visit it earlier on.

When I was here I learned that the Royal Palace was originally built as the City Hall for the mayor and magistrates of Amsterdam. It was the ultimate pride of the city during the Dutch Golden Age. It was the masterpiece, the biggest and most opulent building of the country, and it was open for the public to experience and admire.

Nowadays the palace serves a different function. It is one of the 3 palaces (along with Huis ten Bosch and Noordeinde) placed by the state at the King's disposal. The Royal Palace's balcony is the balcony where the King presents himself and the rest of the royal family to the public during special royal events such as coronation, marriages and such. However, the building now primarily functions as a museum. So when the palace is not booked for royal and state events (just a few days perhaps in a year really), it is open all year round, except for Mondays and public holidays, to tourists and visitors.

Learn more about the history here: Royal Palace History and Royal Palace as Amsterdam City Hall in the 17th century 

The building was designed by Dutch artist and architect Jacob van Campen. Towards the end of the project he had a conflict with the magistrates of Amsterdam about how things should be done and decided to leave town. He was not present at the inauguration of the building. A bit sad methinks.

I took a lot of pictures and thought that I post them here as collages.

The Citizen's Hall, Amsterdam depicted as the centre of the universe during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century).

Another one of the larger rooms with exquisite chandeliers, arched ceiling with sculpted paintings and heavy draperies that would be a nightmare to wash.

The grand hallways and the Citizen's Hall.

One of the elegant rooms and a dining room in the Royal Palace.

This is the Council Chamber functioning as an advisory and meeting room (also known as Mozeszaal aka Moses Room) with a large wall to wall painting of Moses being appointed by the seventy elders (by Jacob de Wit). You know, Moses from the Bible, the prophet who delivered the Jews from slavery out of Egypt by crossing the Red Sea.

I am quite liking the chandelier on the right. It is not too abrasive and garish.

Here are more details of the Council Chamber (Mozeszaal) with beautiful gilded ceilings and paintings by Antwerp artist, Erasmus Quellinus.

Royal bedrooms at its finest. I don't mind staying for a few days and nights in a place like this (e.g. hotel weekends, holidays) but give me a modern penthouse or apartment anytime with a lovely view of the city please.

Entry and ceiling of the Citizen's Hall of the Royal Palace.

Visit Period: December 2014
Destination: Amsterdam Centrum (Amsterdam - North Holland), The Netherlands

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Part One of Haarlem: Stunning Dutch Architecture

This post is insanely long overdue. Like 2 years overdue!

The City Hall of Haarlem.

My blogging backlog is amazing and in a way I am quite grateful because that means I have been travelling and enjoying life to the fullest. I work fulltime and I work hard. I also save majority of what I earn for the future (read: I want to retire early). But I also do my best in enjoying life the way I want to.

That said, I am doing what makes me happy, and this is what is important. Why? Because life is fleeting. I have to remind myself this fact of life everytime. I have seen it up close how life is so precious, so fragile and so unfair...

Nevertheless, I was in Haarlem 2 years ago (2014) in March. It was the end of winter and the day was exceptionally lovely. The sun was shining and the skies were blue. This happens rarely in cold and grey Netherlands. In fact as I write now it is cold and raining outside.

I remember having lunch at the Grand Cafe Brinkmann, otherwise known as the living room of Haarlem and I can understand why. Then I did a stroll around the city centre, taking pictures of the lovely Dutch architecture as I walk on century's old cobbled stone streets. I went to check out the organic farmer's market at the Botermarkt square. I also witnessed a wedding.

The Netherlands is a stunning country when the weather is on her side. But when it's gloomy, windy and chilly, she could look like a scorned middle aged woman looking for a fight. So I have been lucky on this particular day because the Netherlands looked like a beautiful lady opening herself up freely to her lover. That was Haarlem on this day. The reason why I took so many pictures that I have to post them in two separate blog posts =)

TRIVIA: Did you know that Haarlem was a major and huge city in the 14th century? Much bigger than Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Back then there were 2 major old cities: Dordrecht and Haarlem.

Today Haarlem is the capital of the North Holland province, in which Amsterdam is a part of. The city has become a suburban bedroom city with a very rich historical past. It takes only a 15-minute train ride to get to Haarlem from Amsterdam Centraal, and by all means is Haarlem less frenzied than the country's capital which is perhaps the reason why many people are drawn to live here.

The Sint Bavo Cathedral (Grote Kerk) which is a protestant church.

Typical Dutch architecture on the main square of Haarlem.

A shopping alley.

Archeological Museum Haarlem.

The Grote Markt (big market square).

Yes, when the sun is out, the Dutch comes out too!

One of the hofjes in Haarlem. Hofjes are hidden gardens shared by a community (group of houses).

Typical Dutch architecture.

Inside the fitting room. Haarlem was voted as best shopping destination in the past. The city has many lovely special boutiques.

Inside Sint Bavo Church (Grote Kerk).

Inside the Douwe Egberts coffee shop, an old Dutch coffee brand.

Travel Period: March 2014
Destination: Haarlem (North Holland), The Netherlands

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