Vacation Memories

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


IT WAS a wonderful three-week vacation for the hubby and me in the USA with beloved relatives and dear friends making all the difference. Each time we visit, they always give us the red carpet treatment.

We spent the first two weeks at the New Jersey/New York area. Our home base was Saddle River, New Jersey, at the beautiful residence of my sister Zenda and her husband Dr. Emmanuel Lat, which is just 30 minutes away from the heart of New York. It was also the headquarters of the five of us sisters (Nelia, Elma, Zenda, Joyce and Gina) who purposely timed our vacation in New Jersey at the same date so we could do things together in the land of milk and honey. Zenda’s home was an ideal place for us who enjoyed going to NY every now and then, but who also loved the shopping in NJ with its no-tax-for-clothes policy.

To really feel the pulse of New York, the hubby and I decided to spend a weekend at the well-appointed apartment of my niece Marla (Dizon) and husband Joe Ewart in Manhattan, just across Central Park South. And what do you know?.... Popular singer Lady Gaga also lives in the same apartment building. Imagine our surprise when as we were going out one day, we saw a huge crowd outside the lobby. We asked the doorman what it was all about and he said that they were waiting for Lady Gaga to come out.

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Out of curiousity, I was kind of hoping that I would bump into her at the elevator. No such luck. It seems that her bodyguard always reserves one elevator when she’s ready to come down.

It was lovely walking around Central Park one bright and sunny morning. Portrait artists were all over the place and the hubby couldn’t resist having ours done by a Russian immigrant. Marla was the perfect guide who knew exactly where to bring us - from the must-see spots in the enormous park to the must-visit places around the city.

Though we are NY veterans having been there so many times, there are still places we haven’t been to. We’re glad she brought us to the Museum of Modern Art and to High Line Park which was formerly an elevated railroad track but now transformed into a park. We also had a glimpse of the Freedom Tower which was once Ground Zero. It is now the tallest building in NY. Of course, we also visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral where we heard Sunday mass.

One afternoon we met up with Ferdie and Corie Jakosalem (Cebuanos who were also on vacation there) at the Rockefeller Center and together visited the Chelsea market.

Then there were the delectable dinners in NY - at a Cuban resto hosted by Jul’s sister Kit and her fiancé Michael Greenbaum; at a French restaurant owned by American chef/media personality Mario Batali for the birthday dinner of David (Iman and Zenda’s son); and at the popular Buddakan resto specializing in Asian fusion cuisine with Joe and Marla and their darling boys, James and Michael.

Back in NJ, we had our share of delightful meals like the home-cooked dinner at the lovely home of Dr. Ervin and Dr. Lucy (Matriano) Bough, and the varied fare we got to taste at the different restos where Zenda and Iman treated us... seafood, Italian, typical American and more.

We spent our second weekend at Iman and Zenda’s lakehouse in Lake Hopatcong, the largest fresh water body in NJ. The scenery around the lake was breathtaking.... tall, tall trees bordering the glistening waters, pretty houses sitting on rolling terrain, and at the far end, quaint and charming restaurants dotting the lakeside...it seemed like a scene out of a fairy tale.

All too soon we had to move on to our next stop: Chicago. I always look forward to Chicago because it brings back memories of my student days there. More than that, Jul’s sis Vicky (and husband Dr. Lou Valdez) and brod Manny (and wife Nenet) live there. And then there is my dear friend and batchmate, Zita (Katigbak) who has stayed on since our student days. She married Chicago-trained internist, Dr. Rene Arias while I came home to marry my patiently-waiting boyfriend. Rene and Zita rolled out the red carpet and treated us to an excellent French dinner at the exclusive five-star Everest retaurant atop one of the Chicago skyscrapers.

Another unforgettable dinner was the one hosted by Ben and Susan Paca at Fuji, a top-rated Japanese resto in Orland Park. The Japanese chef was not only a superb cook (he did everything from scratch before our very eyes) but a showman as well with his juggling antics.

An experience we truly enjoyed was the cruise down the Chicago River all the way to the periphery of Lake Michigan. There’s a gate (the Chicago Lock) that separates the river from the lake because the lake water is higher than the river water. When the gate is opened, the water adjusts its level and the boat passes through. The 90-minute narrated tour showed a comprehensive overview of Chicago with focus on its magnificent skyline and architectural heritage.

Time flies when one is enjoying oneself. The despedida dinner for us at the home of Manny and Nenet came too soon. I had to ask myself...wasn’t it only yesterday that we had the grand welcome dinner organized by Lou and Vicky? Oh well, that’s life. Time moves on.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 14, 2014.

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