The Mansfield

My home for five days in Manhattan is a beautiful gem right at the heart of the ‘city that never sleeps’. Upon stepping outside the car that picked me up from the airport, the hotel took my breath away. Being a tourist, I was immediately taken by its old world charm, which I have only read in novels and seen on television or the silver screen. It was one of those establishments that have stood the times and has witnessed how history unfolded itself. I will not attempt to pretend to know its architectural details, but this description in The Mansfield‘s website says it all:

Constructed in the popular Beaux Arts style, and influenced by neoclassical Roman and Greek architecture, the Mansfield was originally built as a hostelry for well-heeled bachelors and socialites. Notables such as painter John Butler Yeats, father of the poet William Butler Yeats, stayed to experience a thriving New York following his immigration from Ireland. During the 1950s, the Mansfield was home to Max von Gerlach, who was believed to be the inspiration for Jay Gatsby, from F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

The photos I took on my iPhone do not do justice to its elegance. And its strategic location is not bad at all. Given the limited time I had, it was lucky that a lot of the places of interests are within walking distance that I was able to see as much as I could squeeze in my free time.

And of all the foreign travels I have had in the last ten years, I only had one night of jetlag, maybe because of super comfortable beddings. Despite the oldness of the whole building, the amenities of the rooms are ultra modern, and wifi was not so bad (a must nowadays especially if you’re travelling alone).

Continental breakfast was a bit sad, though. If you are a Filipino like me, who considers breakfast the ultimate meal of the day, you would be disappointed, too. lol

But I love, love,love this hotel!

Facade

Lobby

Library

M bar

Breakfast

The Junior Suite

Manhattan on foot

There is truly too much to see in the Big Apple. But since I only had one free day, I could only explore those in the neighborhood around the hotel I was billeted in. I was glad for the opportunity even though I almost had blisters in my feet, and my shins and calves shouted in my protest as I kept on going and going the dozen blocks I went around in. Anyway, I swore to myself that I will be back, and next time, I will make sure to visit all the things the city has to offer. But for now, my feet took me to these places…

Business class

I just got back from the Big Apple a few days ago. As always, I will blog about it in the days to come, but this one here deserves a separate post. Yay! For the first ever, I got an upgrade from Cathay Pacific to Business class! I wished that I got the upgrade during the long haul flight from New York to Hongkong so that I got to travel more comfortably, but I will take this any day. I was really so giddy the whole time. Who wouldn’t enjoy the pre-flight champagne, 18-inch LCD screen, huge legroom (though I have short legs, lol), upgraded menu, and much much more personalized service.

I could get used to this. I loooove Cathay Pacific, and have travelled with them on my first international flight to London, then to Canada, then to Cambodia (through Cathay Dragon), and now to New York. If at all possible, I will always use them for all my trips abroad. It can also be said that I totally dig transiting in the Hongkong airport, absolutely one of my favorite airports in the world!

Hundred Islands

This is sooo late, but better than never right?

So last Holy Week, we brought ourselves to Pangasinan so we can try something new. The highlight of our trip was the famed Hundred Islands. Mischa has been dying to go here because it has continuously cropped up in her lessons, mostly in Social Studies, and one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.

We set out very early because we knew it would be so crowded given that 90% of the workforce is on holiday. Thank goodness we had a wonderful host, and Mommy Ann, being a local of Alaminos, pre-arranged everything for us, including our boat ride. We had to spend some time at the port, which was teeming with people of all sizes, ages, gender, etc. on that Holy Friday. The local government requires all visitors to register with them first prior to venturing out to sea plus pay a minimal amount for the continued maintenance of the islands and its surroundings. Since we were a large group, we had to be in two boats.

We just got off one island-Marcos Island-and stayed there for lunch and of course, beach frolicking. You wouldn’t believe how clear the water is and how semi-fine the sand. It is a bit rocky near the edge of the beach though.

Afterwards, we went around the area and just viewed all the other islands from our boat. Almost all the beaches were occupied. Most of the bigger and dock-able islands are named. It is noteworthy that those that we went to or seen even from afar seemed to be impeccable and well-maintained. Good for the people and environment, as well. I am not sorry we came here at all.

Up north

We had our annual family vacation this year in Alaminos, Pangasinan. This actually happened about three weeks ago but hadn’t had the chance to blog about it yet. Anyway, we kind of dragged ourselves there because it was kind of far away, and this is the longest we drove in a private car (we went to the hubby’s home province in Cagayan but on a public bus so no one among us got tired driving), and I am happy to report that we all survived haha. My brother was going on and on about “not doing this again ever” because no. 1: it was Holy Week and everyone was driving away from Metro Manila, ergo, major major traffic!; no. 2: it was a ten-hour drive; and no. 3: let’s just go abroad!

Because I was not driving, I enjoyed myself because I really like the provincial scenery. It is really like leaving your worries behind in the Metro as you drink in the beauty of nature–trees, animals, fields, mountains, rivers. Even the kids like it when they were not asleep. I like to hear the awe, especially in Maxine’s innocent young voice, as she points out birds, cows, dogs, goats.

Finally, we arrived in Alaminos City in the mid-afternoon of Holy Thursday. We had enough time to visit the city’s church and had some time relaxing by the pool of the Northwood Hotel where we stayed. We had dinners and breakfasts at the home of our host, whom we fondly call Mommy Ann. She used to be based here in the Metro but has since moved back to their ancestral home. It was such a great place, full of old charm and history.

The following day was spent traveling (again) for the better part of the day down to Cabongaoan, a place in Burgos, Pangasinan known for its wonderful and secluded beaches. It was dirt road for the most part, and we rented a jeepney to take us there, but the destination was great. There were even depth pools, which we didn’t have the energy to trek for. lol.

Kids had so much fun, even Mischa, who used to dislike the beach and wanted to swim just in pools. Great that they’re beginning to love the sea!

Dagupena

Because I try as much as possible to try things, especially food and restaurants, whenever I am in a new place, We searched and asked around for the best dining experience in Dagupan City. Our cursory review of the Net and referrals led us to Dagupena, one of the oldest and well-known in the city. We got quite a laugh when we realized that Dagupena is not really in Dagupan, but located in the neighboring town of Calasiao. We thought we got a little ripped off by the tricycle fare, but I would like to think that the needs of the family of the tricycle driver is much greater than mine so there you go.

And because Dagupan City is Bangus (milkfish) city, we just had to have bangus! While I don’t normally like bangus because, number 1, it has more bones or tinik than you can imagine. You spend almost all of your time removing them than actually eating, and by the time you’re done, you might have already lost your appetite. Number 2, sometimes it kinda tastes like mud. But the bangus I had here was yummy, juicy, and more importantly, boneless! Haha. Seriously though, it had a sweet, savory tang to it that made me enjoyed it. We paired the sizzling fish with the national food in the Philippines, which is sinigang. The two were a perfect blend in the mouth. We capped it off with dessert (I had sansrival ice cream).

Despite it being a weekday when we came, the restaurant was full, and the service seemed slow. It seemed to me that the crowd was a mix of well-off locals and tourists like us. The lighting could also be improved, as well as the ambiance in general. But the place is still being patronized, maybe because of its long history in the business, and its reputation precedes it. It really could do more but the food really wasn’t so bad.

Motel One

Before I completely forget, I have to write about Motel One. This chain of hotels has several branches all across Germany and Europe, and I stayed in two of them during my trip. I was ribbing my friend that she was a stockholder because she she spoke so highly of the establishment, and after Day 1, I could actually understand why.

It had me at blue.

But other than that, I would say that staying in these hotels are worth the price. It was actually not so hefty given the range of hotel rates in Europe. Both of them (Berlin and Essen) are very clean and sleek. The outside is very industrial, while the interiors are cool, really restful for an excited but weary traveller like me. Wifi is strong. And the wonderful part of Berlin was we got the best room (I think), which is on the topmost of a semicircular tower, giving us an unobstructed 180 degree view of the zoological garden nearby, as well as the distant Tiergarten. Really, really amazing, especially at night.

The room itself was on the tiny side, with a tiny bathroom, but the furniture and decors were very artsy and tasteful. I liked the organic soap and shampoo! Smart TV was huge, too bad it didn’t have English channels.

Didn’t get to taste food so I cannot judge. But they both have great lounges ideal for coffee or even dinner.

Also both strategically located–in Berlin near the Embassy where we had business and the shopping district of Kurfurstendamm, and Essen, near the central Haupftbanhof and still the shopping district. (Did not do any shopping at all haha)

Berlin Upper West

Essen

Definitely recommending to those travelling to Germany!