New Memories Made in Lisbon, Portugal

Monday, 28 August 2023

Lisbon is one of my favourite cities, and therefore on my list to revisit at some point in this lifetime. However, my friend Damaris kindly invited me to travel with her this year, and she is one of those friends I find difficult to say no to (please don't tell her). Besides, I have this trauma from travelling with friends in the past that until now I am still trying to overcome. Of course, I didn't tell Damaris this as I didn't want to put her off. But I'm glad that we both enjoyed the trip and made new memories together.

High on our agenda was to watch the famous sunrise in Lisbon, so we headed to Jardim Julio de Castilho to do this, however we were a little bit late. It didn't matter though as this part of Lisbon is the most beautiful early in the morning. 

A few metres away is the rather popular Miradouro de Santa Luzia where most people go to watch the sunrise, or listen to Fado music later in the day. I would prefer to go here early in the morning, before the rest of the world start to flock in. This viewpoint is famous for the stunning views of the Alfama district, however I also love the the beautiful bougainvilleas in the area- it's perfect for your instagram moment.

Not far from Miradouro de Santa Luzia is the Se de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral), one of the main sights in Lisbon. Unfortunately, the church was still closed when we got there, so I was not able to go in this time. 

One good thing about Lisbon is that you can walk from one place to another if you have the time and patience for it. This is exactly what we did during this trip. Seven minutes walk from the Se is the Arco da Rua Augusta, another famous spot for tourists and travellers alike, hence can be very busy. From here, we walked through Rua Augusta to check on the Elevador de Santa Justa, which I must say is a very busy place to go to and if you're planning to ride the elevator, be warned of the long queue.

In the afternoon, we took the tram 15E for a quick trip to Belem. I have been inside the Torre de Belem before so it was okay for me not to go in this time, and Damaris was not keen either. So, we had a rest on the grounds instead and admired the tower as we caught up on a few things in life. One thing that I must say is that don't be tempted to buy those pinacoladas because they are not worth your €15, even if they say it's unlimited refill as I'm sure you will not go back for more. 

One of the reasons why I also wanted to go back to Belem was the Pastel de nata from Pasteis de Belem. I could have gone anywhere for this, however nothing beats the original as they say. Their pastel de nata is always served warm and it's soft, creamy and perfectly sweet. I had take away this time, so I escaped the long queue.

Of course, a trip to Lisbon is not complete without a day trip to Sintra. This trip was my second visit to Sintra, however I still can't say that I have actually seen it. Admittedly, my trips to this very charming town was merely to visit the famous castles. Saying this, I still only have seen two of them. On my first visit, I went up to the Castelo dos Mouros. This time around, I made sure that I visited the most talked about castle, the Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace). Having only seen it from afar, it was quite surreal to have seen it up close and personal. The colours of the palace were mesmerising. I am glad I put this on top of our itinerary.

Whilst I never thought of watching the sunset in Lisbon, my friend Damaris was all for it, hence after we came back from Sintra, we headed to Ribeira das Naus for a glass of alcoholic drink and watched the sky and the sea. Er, unfortunately, the sun didn't set the way we were expecting it to. Regardless, it was a pleasure to have experienced the chilled atmosphere of Ribeira das Naus.

We capped off our last night by a late night walk to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for a night view of the beautiful city. Retrospectively, I think I might have put our safety at risk during this time as we took a very dodgy route. But, I blame it on the map. Not only that, as the viewpoint was on top of the hill, we had to climb up a very steep set of stairs to get there, much to Damaris's disappointment. I was afraid that she probably would not want to travel with me ever again. Haha.

As much as I was skeptical in travelling with a friend (again), this trip with Damaris was memorable. Perhaps I should have warned her before that I walk a lot on holidays, but let's leave that for next time.

This trip to Lisbon with Damaris put my mind at rest and helped me overcome my trauma. I'm grateful for her for giving me the opportunity to go back to Lisbon and make new memories. I'm sure this will not be our last trip together.

How Did I spend 16 hours in Dubai?!

Sunday, 23 July 2023

After a few years of passing through Dubai, I finally decided to extend my layover so I can meet up with two special people, my niece Erlie and my nephew Moel. And it was one of the best travel decisions I've ever made, all because of those two who made sure that my first ever travel to Dubai was nothing but memorable.

I arrived at Dubai International Airport via Emirates (of course) just after midnight. My niece Erlie picked me up from the airport and we went straight back to her apartment. I haven't seen this beautiful lady for over a decade and seeing her in Dubai was so surreal. There was so much to catch up on and I can tell you now that the 16 hours I spent in Dubai was definitely not enough. As it was almost 1am, we decided to sleep as the following morning, we would meet up with Moel.

We picked up Moel from his apartment around 0730. And just like Erlie, I haven't seen Moel since he was a young boy. I am so blessed that despite the distance, we remained close and kept in contact all these years. It was a very sweet reunion and well, introduction for Erlie and Moel. After a short catch up in Moel's apartment, we headed out so I could see a bit of Dubai before I flew to Manila at 5pm on the same day. By this time, it was 8am. As I only had six hours left, we had to optimise our time. Luckily, both of my "tour guides" were very knowledgeable of Dubai, hence I saw most of the places I wanted to see and more, infact. Actually, I only wanted to see Burj Khalifa because you know, you've never really been to Dubai if you don't have a photo with the tallest tower in the world.Haha. And so, here's my Dubai itinerary, put together by Erlie and Moel:

1. Souk Madinat Jumeirah 
- From Moel's apartment, we took the taxi to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, one of Dubai's most famous shopping and dining destinations, only in traditional Arab market style. The market is located along a canal, near the Burj Al Arab. Unfortunately, it was still closed when we visited, hence I was unable to explore the Souk. This of course, is definitely one of the places I will go back to when I visit Dubai next time.

2.  Burj Al Arab
- We were conscious we didn't have much time to linger around in one place, hence we headed to Burj Al Arab which is just a few minutes walk from the Souk. Again, as this is a "taster" trip, I was happy with a photo with Burj Al Arab from afar. And I did exactly that.

3. Museum of the Future
- From Burj Al Arab, we took the taxi to the Museum of the Future. It was still closed when we got there, but I was very happy to see this incredibly unique building in person. I will definitely go inside next time.

4. Dubai Mall
- Of course I wasn't in Dubai to shop, however it was almost mandatory to visit the Dubai Mall as everyone who has been to Dubai talks about it all the time. So, from Museum of the Future, we walked to nearby Emirates Tower to take the train to Dubai Mall. I was happy to see the Patchi shop and of course, the Dubai Mall Waterfall. The waterfall runs from the 4th floor to the ground floor and has sculptures of men diving in, which I read, represent pearl divers in Dubai. Whilst at the mall, we decided to have a quick coffee then headed to our next destination.

5. Burj Khalifa
- Just outside Dubai Mall is The Dubai Fountain, overlooking Burj Khalifa. I know you can go up to the 148th floor for stunning views of Dubai, however this will (hopefully) for next time. I also would like to watch the light show.

Where we ate:
1. Papparoti - 1st Floor, Dubai Mall
- As I didn't have a list of restaurants and cafes to try in Dubai, I left it for Erlie and Moel to surprise me. For breakfast, they took me to a cafe inside the Dubai Mall called Papparoti. I read about it afterwards and found out that this is actually a Malaysian cafe. I must say that their butter buns were really good. I had the Lotus Biscoff as topping which was very rich. Overall, it was a good choice of cafe.

2. Observatory Bar and Grill- Marriot Hotel, Dubai Marina
- Lunch at the Observatory Bar and Grill was a surprise from Moel and this is probably one of the most unforgettable restaurant experiences I've ever had. Everything was outstanding.  The restaurant has a breathtaking 360  panoramic views of the Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah. Whilst I am not that keen on restaurants with a view because in my  experience, they're often loud and food is mediocre, I really, really enjoyed our lunch at The Observatory. Everything was outstanding in my opinion and I would certainly recommend lunch here.

And that's how I spent my 16 hours in Dubai. I am most grateful for Erlie and Moel for going above and beyond in ensuring that I had the best experience in Dubai. This was my first trip and I am definitely going back. 

Finding My Purpose at 47

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

I love birthdays and I always look forward to mine. This year though,it feels kinda different. The excitement seemed to have been overshadowed by feelings of regret, inadequacy and overall melancholy. These feelings have been building up for the last three months and yesterday, it finally blew up. For the first time since my 39th birthday, I was honest with myself and accepted that perhaps I was and still am having a birthday depression, or commonly known as birthday blues. I remember one of my good friends reminding me on Friday that it was soon my birthday weekend. My reply was, "I am not even thinking about it." The weekend went, and then Monday came. I started becoming an emotional wreck. I was feeling very down and cried a few times throughout the day. J tried his best to comfort me, but that even made me feel worse. I felt a complete failure. And then I started asking myself why. Why was I feeling that way? 

Then I reflected on the last year, most especially the last six months. I think a lot of the negative feelings that I have right now is due to the fact that I have been confused and have lost my focus in the last six months. All of a sudden, I couldn't find my purpose. I was overwhelmed by the thought that I have made a (very) wrong decision and now I am screwed. Someone actually asked me if I had any regrets. I was in denial then and said no. But in reality, and deep inside my heart, I knew I probably made the wrong decision. Or perhaps I didn't. Until now, I still don't know. God only knows and time can only tell. Although things are better now, I am still looking for that purpose.

That was yesterday. Today is a different story.

I woke up singing "It's A Beautiful Day" in my head. I heard myself humming to the lyrics of this beautiful and uplifting song, "Lord, I thank you for sunshine, Thank you for rain". Then I whispered to myself, it's a good day to be alive. I checked my mobile phone and saw messages from my immediate family and close friends. I felt a lot better after reading their heartfelt messages. As the day progressed, I received more messages. Then one of my good friends sent me a message saying, " In your lowest moments, always remember you have had a good year and you are going to have even better years. I'm so grateful for all the good lessons and counselling sessions and to many more." I couldn't help but cry. Then heartwarming messages continued to pour in, reminding me how blessed I am. One saying, " Continue to be a leader, continue to share kindness, good advice and loving words to those who need it most." I am not one to seek affirmation from other people, but I guess I am quite lost that I now need other people to remind me of what I am? Whilst I had a clear purpose a year ago, I now feel like I have no purpose in this life. Then one of Keith's friends greeted me and said, " So grateful to have met a person like you. There's a reason for it." And so perhaps, there is a reason for my existence after all.

From that moment, I decided to stop being miserable and enjoy my day instead. I got ready for lunch with J at our favourite restaurant. I was edgy to begin with, really quite unfair to J who was trying to give me a good birthday. But then I calmed down when he said something funny. We had a good lunch and when we got home, I opend my gifts and  read the best birthday card I received this year- from 9-year old Poppy who said that I always put a smile on her face. If this is one of my purposes in life, then I would gladly take it.

I know this is quite a negative birthday blog, but I don't know how to express myself any other way. For reassurance,  I am definitely feeling better now after a very good day, thanks to J and my family and friends who added value to my day.

As my birthday draws to a close, I look forward to another year of finding my purpose in this life. For now, I thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon me the last year. I pray for nothing but good health and inner peace this year.

10 Days In The Philippines: How Did I Do It?

Sunday, 9 July 2023

People have asked me why I only stayed 10 days in the Philippines. I guess this is a question that people should avoid asking because whether I spend 5 days, 10 days or three weeks in the Philippines, it will still not be enough. I guess the most important thing is that I was able to go home and spend time with my parents, my family and some of my friends. Ten days is very short indeed, however it is definitely how you spend those ten days that matters. In my case, I had to divide my time between my father, my mother, my pamangkins and my Aunt who was also visiting from the States at the time. Although my visit was short, I can say that I had the most amazing time. It was all about maximising each day, visiting places that mattered to us, knowing when to spend quality time with my parents and spending time with people who were worth my while.

So, here's how I spent my 10 days in the Philippines:

Day 1
- I arrived in Manila early in the morning, so we drove straight to Tagaytay for lunch. I chose Hillbarn Cafe and Restaurant because of the barn concept (with the windmill) and good reviews. And I must say, it didn't disappoint. The food was good- it came in big servings and was fairly affordable, and the service was excellent. After breakfast, we headed back to Manila to explore the Bonifacio High Street. We left for Zambales late afternoon and got home around 10pm.

As expected, my parents were still awake when we arrived home so I was able to briefly spend time with them. I remember lying in bed with both of them, my father and I at the foot of the bed, talking about random things. Perhaps when my mother noticed that I was tired, she asked me to go to sleep.

Day 2
- I briefly spent time with my mother in the morning before she went back to sleep. Afterwards, I went to visit my brother's farm with my Aunt and my father. We managed to pick some fruits and hang out under the mango tree. To be honest, one of my favourite memories during this vacation was hanging out with my father in our hammock. These are priceless moments that I will forever cherish. My mother on the other hand, will be sleeping during the day and awake at night, so most of my bonding moments with my mother was at night.

Anyway, that evening, my Aunt and Uncle wanted to visit a local bar and restaurant  so the whole family went. It was our first time to hang out as a family since 2015. It was fun to say the least.

Day 3 
- We originally planned to go to Baguio on a day trip, however my sister-in-law suggested that we go to Ilocos instead so we can visit her family. I'm really glad we did that because I was able to harvest tomatoes and chillies from their farm- a dream come true for me. It was also nice to see her family after so many years.

After Ilocos, we drove to San Juan, La Union to stay the night. The kids have always wanted to go there and I knew I had to make it happen during this trip. We arrived in San Juan just in time for sunset. There was no time wasted as we headed straight to the beach after we dropped off our stuff in Dal-luyon Cafe Gallery where we were staying. It is a simple accommodation, however it has everything that you probably need whilst on vacation. It is a few minutes walk to the buzzing San Juan beach and the service is good. Anyway, the kids discovered Brewsko when we got to the beach, so we had their milk teas whilst watching the sunset. 

Day 4
- Still in San Juan, we made a courtesy call to the Honourable Mayor, who happened to my friend's father. Afterwhich, we went for breakfast at Kabsat, courtesy of Manong Richie. Kabsat, I must say is one of the best restaurants I have been to so far in the Philippines. The food was very good and affordable. The service was very pleasant, nothing was too much to ask. 

We left San Juan, La Union just before lunch. It was indeed a very short but sweet visit to the surfing capital of the Philippines, but this experience is good enough reason for us to go back again.

Day 5
- Last time I went home, I didn't get the chance to go to the market so I made sure to visit this time. Nothing much has changed in the last 6 years in my opinion, however some of the stores that I frequented when I was younger have either closed or now owned by different people. The excitement of seeing my favourite foods remained the same. I love the market vibes whether you believe it or not- the haggling, the vendors convincing the customers to buy their products and the general bustling energy of everyone. With my Aunt and sistier-in-law in tow, we bought fish, meat and some vegetables for our lunch in the island later on that day.

We left for the island around mid-morning. Now, this island in Anawangin is owned by a family friend and is not available to the public yet. We are very blessed to have had this opportunity to solely enjoy the island. 

That evening, I also had a very meaningful catch up with one of Keith's friends, Iona at our local cafe. Yes, it is weird for me to say that we now have a local cafe in our small town. It's called 21st Bean and it definitely didn't disappoint. Their iced coffee was very good as well as their cakes. The customer service was on point, the lady was very friendly and accommodating. 

Day 6
- I basically stayed home on my 6th day. My father and I went back to the farm and I managed to feed my brother's pigs- one thing I can't remember ever doing as a child. The rest of the day was spent bonding with my family.

Day 7
- Day 7 was a very busy day. It was my Aunt's birthday and we were in the farm all day. The preparation started early in the morning and didn't finish until about late afternoon. The party then started around 6pm. It was attended by my Aunt's high school friends and our relatives whom I have not seen for years. It was good to see a lot of familiar faces and spent some time with them, albeit very very short.

Day 8
- It was a choice between a night out with the Gen Zs or the Gen Xs and the baby boomers. Haha. And of course, your Tita here is young at heart and therefore decided to hang out with the Gen Zs. The place of choice was Le Quovoh, apparently a popular hang out of local youngsters and tourists alike. The vibe was invigorating. The music was wonderful, kudos to the DJ. It was reassuring to see what kind of environment and people my niece and nephew are exposed to. It also gave me so much joy watching them have fun with their friends. Needless to say that we sang and danced until midnight- which according to the Gen Zs was early.

Day 9
- The day before we flew back to the UK and US respectively , we had a small gathering in the farm attended by close family and friends. It was a fun day to say the least. The rest of the day and the night was spent with my parents.

Day 10
- I left for the airport early in the morning with my Aunt and Uncle. It always breaks my heart to say goodbye to my parents. I tried to hold back my tears but I couldn't, especially seeing the sadness in my mother's eyes. I hold on to the hope that time flies fast and sooner than later, I will be able to go back home again.

Of course my trip will not be complete without visiting Keith's new place on earth and also Daddy Henry. One thing that I was not able to do this time though was to visit Casa San Miguel. Perhaps next time.

10 Things I Miss About Living in Central London (West End)

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

One year ago today, J and I decided to take adulting more seriously and decided to buy a property in South London. That meant giving up our rented flat in the West End and our life in Central London. It was not an easy decision as we loved living in the Heart of London- and when I say Heart of London, between the buzzing areas of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. It was indeed a privilege for me to have experienced living in this part of London where most people can only dream of residing. In fact, a lot of people we know didn't even realise that people could actually live in those buildings. Essentially, our flat was in the quieter part of Rupert Street, squeezed between the bustling Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street. However, as our flat was on the top floor, we hardly heard any noise, unless someone was screaming loudly in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps coming from a really good night out.

Although I love our new home and our new neighbourhood, I must admit that I still miss our old flat so much that I actually go back in the area quite often. Let me tell you why.

1. The Flat
- The flat is located on the fifth floor. Referred to by the building management as semi-penthouse as it has its own lift that goes directly to the flat. It was a convenience that I could have only dreamed of. It is a two bedroom flat, has a pantry and is split into two-levels. There is a small room downstairs which we used for storage. The spare room was J's office. The flat unfortunately doesn't have a balcony (hence perhaps semi-penthouse), however it has big windows. During lockdown, I would look out through the kitchen window to watch the empty streets. If you ask some of my friends, they would tell you that this flat is also their favourite. J and I had so many good memories in that flat, thus it will always have a special place in my heart.

2. My morning run route
- Where we live now, there is a massive common a few blocks away, however, I still have not gotten my head around to it. I mean, it is a big and beautiful common and a lot of people run there too, but I feel bored running around there. This is the reason why I still often go to Central London and run my old route. And who can really blame me for this? The Green Park, St James's Park and Hyde Park used to be my playground. If I ran a few kilometers farther South, the Southbank is there. I ran past historical landmarks like Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Piccadily Circus. This is the reason why I keep going back.

3. Chinatown
- We lived on the street next to Chinatown, and most mornings especially during the weekends, I was awakened by the delicious smell of freshly baked pastries and bread from the bakeries. Living next door to Chinatown also meant that I could conveniently buy my favourite Asian treats, and go to our favourite local Chinese restaurant called Orient anytime I crave for my favourite roast duck. 

4. Caffe Concerto in Shaftesbury Avenue
- To be honest, I miss Caffe Concerto because it was a big part of my whole experience living in the area. I used to buy coffee there every weekend. I became good friends with some of the baristas, and being a loyal neighbour, I used to get free coffee often, if not always. Haha. I really miss chatting with the baristas and laughing with them, but I am glad that I remained friends with some of them. In fact, I still meet up with one of them every now and again.

5. New Year's Eve
- Since I moved to the UK, I have only watched the New Year's Eve fireworks twice. It was by choice because I was put off by the inconvenience of it- cold, crowded and loud. This is why when we lived in the West End, I was very delighted to find out that we could watch the fireworks from our firescape. And we did exactly that every New Year's Eve until the pandemic came. Of course, we didn't see as much as when you are physically in the Southbank, but it was good enough to enjoy the fireworks display.

6.  Christmas
- I know it's not a big deal because I can always go back easily to Central London to see the Christmas lights, but it is different when they are almost at your doorstep. The most famous Christmas Lights of Regent Street, my favourite Advent Calendar in Fortnum and Mason and my favourite Christmas tree in St James's park are all stone's throw away from that flat. I used to just go out on a random evening and walk around with pride, telling myself how lucky I was to live in that area.
If you ever come to London at Chirstmas, you will understand why.

7.  Spring
- St James's Park is one of the most beautiful places in London to watch spring blossoms. During my morning runs, I used to take numerous photos and videos of the Cherry Blossoms in the park. 

8. The Restaurants and Cafes
- Living in Central London made me a better foodie. With the endless choices of amazing restaurants and cafes in the area, I never ran out of places to try. Of course, I have my favourites that I still go back to. But, I also loved (and still do) trying new ones. I really had a lot of very good food experiences whilst we lived there.

9. The Theatres
- Unfortunately, although we lived in the West End for 6 years, I still was unable to watch all the plays that were shown there. But the good thing is, I watched all the shows that I wanted to watch. I also enjoyed randomly meeting theatre actors outside the theatres. 

10. The Buskers
- One of the things that I really enjoyed was watching the buskers in Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Leicester Sqaure. The buskers really lit up (and they still very much do) these already buzzing areas even more. Some of the buskers I came across with were really, really good. Listening to them was like listening to a real recording artist. Most of them really deserve a record deal.

Ah, I remember how sad I was when we left our flat. I knew that perhaps it will not be easy for us to move back to Central London again. BUT, I still can see us living there in the future. One day, I would like to come back to this blog and say that I have manifested this. :)

The opportunity of living in one of the best locations in Central London is one of the biggest blessings in my life, and thanks to J, because if it were not for him, I would not been able to have this once in a lifetime experience. 

I am very grateful for every experience I had and all the lessons I learned living in that area.

Afternoon Tea in London: My Experiences in 2022

Saturday, 25 March 2023

Afternoon Tea has become a huge part of my life since 2006. It has been one of the things that's keeping me sane and happy, especially when life seems challenging and I need something to cheer me up. This is the reason why I didn't even realise that I may have actually overdone it last year. But I have no regrets because I enjoyed every single Afternoon Tea experience I had then, most especially because I shared those experiences with people who matter, old and new. In fact, I had some of the most memorable Afternoon Tea experiences last year, and I'm going to tell you why.

1. The Claridge's - Brook St.
- Afternoon Tea at The Claridge's was on top of my list last year and I am glad that I was able to share this experience with two wonderful friends, Damaris and Veronica. Perhaps I could say that this Afternoon Tea sealed our sisterhood. It's amazing because despite our huge age difference, we get on very well. And this is why this Afternoon Tea at The Claridge's is one of my favourite experiences of all time. My companions alone already made the whole experience an unforgettable one, however the experience was further enhanced by outstanding service and classic collection of sandwiches, delicious scones and delightful pastries by Thibault Hauchard. Our waitress Katya served us with warmth and smile. For tea, I had the rare Malawi Antler- a tea that is not from leaves, but rather from stem of spring shoots. Apparently, only a few kilos of them are produced each year. The traditional Afternoon Tea is served in the elegant and classy Foyer and Reading Room. It was An Afternoon Tea full of joy and laughter, and indeed a celebration of friendship. Afternoon Tea price from 1st of April this year will be at £85pp. The Claridge's doesn't have a dress code, however I would suggest smart casual.

2. The Langham- 1C Portland Pl
- It was long time coming, but I finally had Afternoon Tea at The Langham in December last year.  And it was not just any other Afternoon Tea, it was a very special one because the person that I was with was someone I only met in person for the first time. H and I were virtually introduced to each other by our mutual love, Farrah. So, when H told me that she was coming to London and would like to see me, I knew that an Afternoon Tea was the perfect way to get to know her. Luckily, she was also into the British tradition, so we both had a fantastic time getting to know each other over indulgent Festive Afternoon Tea at the Palm Court in The Langham. Their selection of sandwiches was served on individual plates and was accompanied by Christmas cheese scones with port red onion chutney and stichelton. Their exquisite pastries consisting of Christmas spiced financier, crunchy pecans, sable and mendiant were served as one in the form of a tart. Everything was delightful, a reflection of Michel Roux Jr quality. As this was their Christmas Afternoon Tea, we paid £100pp including a glass of champagne. Otherwise, the current price is from £75pp. Dress code is smart casual.  

3. The Ritz - 150 Piccadilly 
- Afternoon Tea at The Ritz will never grow old for me. After all, it is my favourite place for Afternoon Tea. So when my friend Claudia asked me to book an Afternoon Tea for her birthday last year, I suggested The Ritz. The Afternoon Tea at the time was served at the hotel's former Ballroom. It was apparently the first time in The Ritz's history that the Ballroom was opened for dining, and it was only for a limited time. We were priviledged as a matter of fact, to have experienced their Afternoon Tea at their rather grand Ballroom. As usual, the food was excellent however, we were not offered a refill of sandwiches this time which they have done during my two previous visits. Not that it mattered, but their sandwiches are actually my favourite because they use different breads- from brioche, tomato bread to granary and sourdough bread. The selection of tea has always been straightforward, so it was easy to choose. Claudia had their passion fruit and orange whilst I had Mao Jian. It was indeed a wonderful celebration of Claudia's birthday. Current price is £70pp. Dress code is formal- gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie.

4. Celeste at The Lanesborough- Hyde Park Corner
- When I left my previous employment in December 2021, there were a few people who I wanted to get to know more in a deeper personal level and one of them was Gino. Gino was one of the calmest and chilled nurse I have ever met and not only that, he is very capable and has big potential. Then there was Ken, whom I interviewed a few months before. Ken's interview was one of the most unforgettable interviews I've ever done as a manager because he exceeded my expectations. However, for some reason during that time, I didn't feel quite right that he was ready to work in the private healthcare. And I would like to think that I was right, because both Ken and Gino are now happy ward managers in the NHS. So, this Peggy Porschen Afternoon Tea at The Lanesborough was a way for us to get to know each other better and celebrate their success, over delicious finger sandwiches, pretty selection of sweet pastries and perfectly baked scones. I opted for the strong but overall refreshing Sencha tea. Afternoon Tea price was £53pp (current for their Meadow theme is £68pp). Dress code is smart casual.

5. The Tiffany Blue Box Cafe- Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road,  Knightsbridge
- Afternoon Tea at The Tiffany Blue Box Cafe was part of my leaving do when I left Epsom, however this was only with a very small group of beautiful young ladies- Charisse, Jherlin and Jenny. It was an absolutely wonderful Afternoon Tea experience full of laughter and meaningful stories. It was also a milestone for Jherlin, as it was her first time to drink tea. Needless to say, she loved it. The Tiffany Blue Box Cafe is perhaps one of those cafes that brings me comfort as the cool blue colour has a very special meaning in my life. The minimalist approach gives an impression of calm and serenity. I have visited the cafe twice and I am lucky that each time I went, it was not very busy so it was a more pleasurable experience. The dainty Afternoon Tea selection of sandwiches, sweets and scones, and the aromatic tea were served on classic Tiffany & Co teaware. It was rather enjoyable and for £69pp, it was definitely worth it. As far as I know, there is no dress code specified on their website, however I would recommend smart casual to be on the safe side.

6. Kai Mayfair- 65 S Audley St
- The Chinese Whispers Afternoon Tea at Kai Mayfair is one of my favourite Afternoon Tea experiences ever. Shared with my soul sisters Damaris and Veronica, we were treated to an extraordinary Afternoon Tea experience. I knew it was going to be an unusual Afternoon Tea experience as soon as we entered the restaurant and I saw a shelf full of fresh apples. The smell reminded me of my childhood, when my father worked in Saudi and used to bring home a few. Downstairs is a cosy room, tastefully decorated with Chinese ornaments. Highly noticeable were "The Chinese Whisper Song Birds" on the plates and Kevin Kwan's books "China Rich Girlfriend" and "Rich People Problems" where the menus were tucked in. It was a rather playful Afternoon Tea in that we were presented with a singing songbird and a "jar of whispers and conversations" to start with. We then get to whisper our secrets to the songbirds. As usual, I was the only one who followed the full rule and wrote my name on the belly of the songbird and clipped it on the birdcage. Haha. The food was unique, each tasted wonderful. My favourite were the Macarons with Clotted Cream and the Bao sandwiches. The service was outsanding, very gentle and warm. The lady served us with consistent friendly smile. Kai is definitely worth its Michelin star and for only £52pp, their Afternoon Tea is definitely a treat you should not miss. Dress code is smart casual.

7. The Rubens At The Palace- 39 Buckingham Palace Road
- It was my first Afternoon Tea experience with our Poppylove and it was great. The Rubens at the Palace has a Prince and Princess Afternoon Tea (£35) which was perfect for Poppy. It was the first time I saw her since the pandemic so this Afternoon Tea was a reunion for us. I have been waiting for the moment when I get to have an Afternoon Tea with Poppy, and there I was, watching her hold her teacup like a real princess and listening to her amusing stories. Ah, how time flies. She is growing very fast. I truly cannot wait for more Afternoon Tea spent with this beautiful and very smart young lady. The Afternoon Tea at the Rubens is served in the Palace Lounge overlooking the Royal Mews of the Buckingham Palace. The food was delightful and the service was attentive and friendly. Although the location is busy, I would still highly recommend The Rubens for a classic Afternoon Tea experience. Royal Afternoon Tea price is £70pp and dress code is smart casual.

8. Corinthia- Whitehall Pl
- So, I went back to Corinthia for an Afternoon Tea because of two special visitors from the United States. It always humbles me when someone makes time to see me when they are visiting London, but it is definitely an honour to be invited to an Afternoon Tea. I haven't seen Mailah and Auntie for so many years, therefore this Afternoon Tea was also a reunion. Mailah chose the Corinthia and I could not be happier as I love the place and their Afternoon Tea. I was actually looking forward to seeing the Baccarat crystal chandelier again which is an attraction in itself, and their red and black striped bone china teaware. The food as expected was delectable, their selection of finger sandwiches are some of the best I've had in London. The sweet delicacies were beautifully created and arranged as always and tasted so good. The scones were served in their classic white box, however something has changed this time. When I opened the box, the message, "Let's have some tea and talk about happy things" was missing. I took the courage to ask our waiter and he said that apparently, one customer complained about the message so they had to remove it. Oh, well. All in all, Afternoon Tea at the Corinthia is indeed a luxury. Traditional Afternoon Tea is £65pp. Dress Code is smart-casual.

9. The Bentley Hotel - 27-33 Harrington Gardens
- My Afternoon Tea at The Bentley hotel was a very thoughtful gift from one of my former staff. It was my first Afternoon Tea at The Bentley and it was not quite what I expected. The hotel's lobby was nice, however it was evident that it is dated. The Peridot Restaurant where the Afternoon Tea was served was poorly lit. The food was basic, far from what the hotel claims that other hotels envies. The service was okay but nothing special. For a 5 star hotel, I guess I was expecting more. BUT, my company was perfect which made up for everything. Afternoon Tea price is £42pp, and no dress code as far as I am aware.

10.  The Ivy Chelsea Garden- 195-197 King's Road
- Perhaps the worst Afternoon Tea I've ever had, and this experience at The Ivy Chelsea Garden validated my lack of interest in The Ivy Collection restaurants. Luckily, I had one of my best friends with me so my time wasn't wasted. First of all, the service was slow, impersonal and haphazard. Secondly, the food was mediocre. The ambience was unsettling and the busyness of the restaurant was palpable. We had to ask for things multiple times. You can't of course fault the decor, however we were not there mainly for that. I guess that's what you get for £29.95pp Afternoon Tea. Dress code as far as I can tell is casual.

Indeed,my Afternoon Tea experiences last year were all about getting to know people, building deeper relationships and reuniting with old and really good friends. As I feel like I overdid Afternoon Tea last year, I am planning to calm down this year. Saying that, I have already been to two Afternoon Teas since January, so we shall see. :)

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