EST. 2009

September 10, 2015

That Everyday Exotic

AT THE HEART OF BRIGHTON, amidst the quaint winding roads, charming cafes, seaside fairground and the unfortunately frequent bachelorette party, sprawls a garden bejeweled with flowers, and furnished with an exotic palace. The Royal Pavilion Garden is one of a few fully-restored Regency gardens in the United Kingdom, sharing an estate with King George IV's former palace, the Brighton Museum and the Dome Concert Hall. Reinstated in the 90s according to John Nash's 1820 plans, the garden features curving paths, picturesque views and a variety of plants conforming as closely as possible to the original list supplied to the king. Maintained under organic guidelines, the garden uses chemical-free planting techniques that encourage the return of wildlife to the city center.

But wildlife, it seems, is not the only thing the garden cultivates. Functioning more like a public park, the Royal Pavilion Garden sees itself providing a fairy tale setting to contemporary life. People hang out here, play music, stroll, sunbathe, read, take a nap, meet up or have a picnic. They walk through the garden before work, after work, and even come by on their lunch break. On both weekdays and weekends, people come to the garden with their families, colleagues, friends and lovers, with some romances blossoming while others coming to an end. "One couple were obviously trying desperately to sort out whatever problems they had, but in the end they walked off down different paths… it was like a short story." recounted head gardener Robert Hill-Snook to The Guardian. "I’ve been here since 1988 and I’m still fascinated."

I feel fortunate to share some of Mr. Hill-Snook's fascination. Having spent some time in Brighton in the spring, I had a handful of opportunities to visit this exotic world within a world. I would wander along its paths coming back from the shops, and walk through it on the way to dinner. My boyfriend and I also cut through here the night we celebrated his new directorial role. The palace is majestic in the evening.

To behold the garden in its full splendor however, I endorse a visit by day. See the squirrels scurry, the branches sway and the flower-dotted foliage part like curtains to reveal ornate domes, pinnacles and minarets. With gardens known to commonly offer cultivation, observation and relaxation, the Royal Pavilion Garden must also be recognized for offering inspiration. Anything that brings the exotic into the mundane, however momentarily, must have some magic in it.

Royal Pavilion Garden, Brighton. Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.

August 17, 2015

That World Apart

"THE ONLY THING THEY DEMANDED WAS TO HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE THEMSELVES, not to be forced to deny or repress their feelings, to have the right to live their own lives, to be responsible, to be at ease with themselves." wrote Christer Strömholm of his friends, "les amies" of Paris' Place Blanche. In a world of night and neon light, Strömholm photographed these friends, transvestite prostitutes, with an old Leica, a few films and whatever light was available. The pictures reveal that Strömholm photographed them with tenderness too. He cared for these "night-birds" and evidently had their trust.

The year was 1959, six years before the term "transgender" would be coined by Psychiatrist John F. Oliven. The scene was Place Blanche, where the Moulin Rouge stands. It was different back then; "the Paris of Montmarte that had not yet been painted with the gloss of Amelie." explained Christian Caujolle, who wrote the foreword for Strömholm's book on the subject. Place Blanche was where boys from Normandy, North Africa and the south of France fled to escape their often hostile homes, to live as women in the wee small hours when police control was less frequent. Earning 60 francs daily at cabarets, which covered no more than food and board, working as prostitutes allowed them to save the money they would need for their gender transformation. Unfortunately, few realized their aspiration.

Strömholm's subjects exhibit glamor and sometimes humor in the photographs, in spite of the alienated lives they led. "My friends and I lived together in a world apart. A world of shadows and loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness and alienation." In his book Les Amies de Place Blanche, Strömholm tells of adopting these women's routine, of early afternoon breakfasts and carrying out the days at night. He may not have shared their experience of mismatched gender identity, but his poignant chronicle of their time on Place Blanche presents something that the rest of us can emulate: non-discriminating friendship.

It's quite simple. Friendship overlooks gender, as it does age, social class, religion or ethnicity. When stripped of surface biases, what we are drawn to when we are drawn to befriend people normally have little to do with their gender, age or religion, and more to do with their humor, flair, kindness, intelligence or strength. If there are things we struggle to understand, it's worth acknowledging that we don't always fully understand our friends anyway. Why do they say what they say? Why do they do what they do?

Strömholm's photographs reveal the beauty of camaraderie. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from his example, to offer friendship in place of rejection, and in spite of things we have yet to understand. If we valued people's hearts and minds more than their material parts, less of us would need to live in a world apart.

Les Amies de Place Blanche by Christer Strömholm, images from

July 15, 2015

That Voyage Extraordinaire

"THE UNFORESEEN DOES NOT EXIST." said Phileas Fogg, the surprisingly gallant, albeit stolid and mathematical gentleman member of the Reform Club, whose round-the-world adventures and misadventures left him consistently unfazed. "Phlegmatic" was the adjective used many times to describe his character, offset only by his comical traveling companion Jean Passepartout.

Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days kept me company through the unpacking stage of our brand new British life. Begun in the summer of this year, it was coincidentally when the whole of England seemed to have been traveling on holidays. Eleventh in the series of Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires, the novel was inspired by transport innovations current at the time of its writing. The opening of the Suez Canal, the linking of the Indian railways and the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in America allowed a newly-possible, tourist-like circumnavigation of the world.

We take such things for granted today. Over a hundred years since the beginning of global tourism, travel appears to have lost the wonder carried over from the exploration age. Where in 1870, people marveled at the concept of traveling comfortably to where only pilgrims, adventurers or men of means had previously been, in 2015, tourism has become synonymous with selfie sticks, spawning selfie-related injuries and damages, as well as next-generation selfie technologies like the Lily and the Nixie: drone cameras that follow you around taking footage.

Skipping on the sand, sea, selfie-ing and sightseeing this summer, I found pleasure in Verne's rich, cinematic paragraphs, sweeping through "cotton, coffee, nutmeg, clove and pepper plantations," "picturesque bungalows, viharis (sort of abandoned monasteries)," "marvellous temples enshrined by the exhaustless ornamentation of Indian architecture," "jungles inhabited by snakes and tigers," "vast forests of palms, arecs, bamboo, teakwood," "fir and cedar groves, sacred gates of a singular architecture, bridges half hid in the midst of bamboos and reeds," and other postcard panoramas from the British Empire. And as Phileas Fogg did not yet have Instagram in those years, Verne commissioned Léon Benett to masterfully depict his adventures in illustrated scenes that put our travel albums to shame.

The sights and scenes were naturally spectacular but it was Phileas Fogg himself that made the biggest impression on me. I admired his composure in the face of threat or loss, his British "phlegm" and lack of drama in spite of his sensation-rousing, society-stirring actions. "The unforeseen does not exist." he asserted in response to skepticism over his plan. But skeptics are averse to adventure anyway so why bother with their remarks?
Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you some of Phileas Fogg's quiet confidence, to brave what critics say cannot be done, and welcome your own voyage extraordinaire. Unless your intention is to risk your life or violate some artworks in the process of taking a selfie, do mind the critics and avoid the extraordinary. Please let travel be enjoyable for us too.

Around the World in Eighty Days, illustrations by Léon Benett. Images from

June 29, 2015

That English Channel

THE ENGLISH CHANNEL IS THE BODY OF WATER that separates England from France, while also being the body of water under which the Eurostar connects the two countries. It is 350 miles long, 150 miles wide and 571 feet at its deepest, with a history of its early 19th-century seaside tourism being a significant influence to resorts worldwide.

The English Channel has also borne witness to our first few weeks in England, spent mainly in the town of Brighton. Although the stay is no holiday, there's no ignoring the breathtaking view of the seaside, unfolding behind endless grassy fields, or peeking in through lanes of Regency-style buildings. Down by the water is lovely too, where the four-mile seafront is interrupted only by some gulls, a ferry's wheel and fair ground lights. For reference, four miles is about the length of six hundred seventy-seven double-decker buses lined up.

Close to where we lodged was the Undercliff Walk, east of the Brighton Marina where magnificent chalk cliffs run all the way to Saltdean. In my experience at least, the wind is always wild. But on a sunny day, the violent hair-whipping and skirt-blowing is worth the vistas of raging turquoise and sea foam. Hectic days don't look at all that frantic against such a backdrop and walking the dog has never been so scenic.

Still, we couldn't have been readier to move into our new London home. This channel will now at last resume regular programming. Thank you for the spectacular views.

Undercliff Walk, Brighton. Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.

June 24, 2015

That Standstill

DERIVED FROM THE LATIN WORDS SOL FOR SUN AND SISTERE, TO STAND STILL, summer solstice took place recently in the northern hemisphere, and was celebrated so exuberantly on my social media feeds. Back in my previous home of Barcelona, folks observed the Verbenas de Sant Joan with a long night of city-wide firecrackers and fiestas, followed naturally by a non-working holiday. Further back in my hometown of Manila, summer solstice is not exactly a celebrated event, but Saint John's feast day is nonetheless met with a splash, literally, as the saint's namesake district baptizes itself in an annual water festival.

Meanwhile, no merriment met the longest day over where we are. A little over a week into moving to England, we are still on the hunt for a new home, encountering much difficulty due to restrictions on tenancy with pets. Nine days have never felt so long and unsettled, with life yet again in limbo and all things only temporary. Who knew London would be so un-pet-friendly?

These days surrounding the solstice though, however long and laborious, do have their charm. Jacqueline Osborn's Table in The Corner captures our nightly congregations as of late, against 10pm twilights that paint the evenings prettier than on any other time of year. Dinners have become the one pleasurable part of our temporary standstill, especially since there hasn't been any time for lunch at all. It appears we're not in Spain anymore.

Days gradually grow shorter after the summer solstice. Perhaps demandingly long days will now gradually grow shorter too.

Table in The Corner by Jacqueline Osborn,

June 11, 2015

That Angel Style

WITH 70S FASHION MAKING ITS BIGGEST COMEBACK YET, who better to turn to for guidance than the original heaven-sent darlings of bell bottoms past? Sabrina, Jill and Kelly came into my life through afternoon reruns in my teens, long before Lucy, Drew and Cameron throttled into the millennium. The original Charlie's Angels provided a delightful contrast to the early 2000s, when volume-deprived rebonded hair had just become what would be at least a decade-long trend, along with the equally volume-deprived, seemingly-undying skinny jean.

Fortunately, nothing lasts forever. The past five years or so began to see denim loosen up a little with boyfriend and mom jeans gaining their moments and adherents. Men don't particularly love them but they've never been ecstatic about us wearing the pants anyway. So, carry on.

Spring-Summer 2015 saw denims measuring wide from bottom to bottom and long from high waist to floor. Accompanied by fluttering fringes and billowing blouses, the volume-valiant cuts lend grace and stature, unabashedly declaring "more is more." Farrah Fawcet wore a pair in her iconic skateboard chase at Griffith Park, obviously with the help of a stunt double, but memorable nonetheless. She may have been the most popular of the angels but I feel compelled to take my cue from Jaclyn Smith, the super-sleuth namesake of yours truly: Lady Jacklyn San Pedro.

So will I in fact emulate the Charlie's Angels alumna and embrace lush, volumized hair and jeans? Vogue's Laura Weir posits that "Only now does it feel entirely credible to covet and cavort in flares and fringing without it feeling like a costume." That's comforting. But who minds looking like an Angel anyway? And where are my hair rollers?

Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith from Charlie's Angels, 1976 - 1981.

May 21, 2015

Those Crowning Moments

"THEY ARE NOT LONG, THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES." reads the first line of the second stanza of Ernest Dowson's appropriately short poem. Neither are the nights, if I may add, in which friends and flavors go so pleasurably together, and before you know it, the night has run out with the wine. That wasn't entirely the case however at the Viñedos Singulares dinner party, where wine outlasted the whole bunch of us who had to head back home.

Celebrated at the brand's cellar, dressed to the nines for a night, the dinner was dedicated to the pairing of flavors in the company of friends. Degustation kicked off with a teriyaki tuna tataki paired with the clean and brillant Vino Afortunado. A pear and salmon canapé accompanied a second white: the fresh, easy Albariño-varietal Luna Creciente. Iberian pork with cranberry sauce came with the lightly mineral Corral del Obispo, sirloin tartare with the fruity Jardín Rojo, and oxtail in raspberry sauce with the intense Entrelobos. Big Band tracks encouraged dancing, interrupted only by cheese platters served with the subtly spicy El Veïnat.

Pairing seemed recurrent that evening. With dishes prepared in Caravan Made's vintage roving kitchen, and wines seemingly plucked fresh from Viñedos Singulares' warehouse shelves, there is a sense of matching old and new, vintage and young. Resurrected from the 1970s, Caravan Made's food truck literally brings gastronomy to markets and festivals dominated by a hashtagging crowd. Viñedos Singulares dedicates to the same set, with fresh, easy flavors that stay essentially true to their Designation of Origin. Never more than a couple years old, the wines move at the same pace as its consumers, driven by trend culture and the natural restlessness of youth.

Founded in 2007, the cellar works with six wineries in La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Bierzo, Rías Baixas, Rueda and Montsant, visiting each zone to administer the winemaking process from birth to bottle. On this particular night they followed through to the table and on the dance floor, joined by some of Barcelona's food and lifestyle propagators. Such was the night of "wine and roses", or in this case, wine and grapevine, which made for excellent crowns. After all the careful prepping and pairing, what food and wine really provide us are a few delightful and fortunate moments. Here's to the next!

Vino Afortunado, Luna Creciente, Corral del Obispo, Jardín Rojo, Entrelobos and El Veïnat by Viñedos Singulares, Gastronomy by Caravan Made, Photos by Raúl Muñoz.