Hamley’s at Central Square

Hubby and I are really just two kids at heart so we were giddy with excitement when we found out that Hamley’s was opening a branch here. Originally called Noah’s Ark, Hamley’s was founded by William Hamley in Lindon in 1760, which makes it the oldest toy shop in the world!

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The toy store had a lot of the usual toys – legos, barbie dolls…

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Lots of plushies!

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They have all sorts of bubble makers which would delight any kid. I found them rather expensive though – I got the bubble camera (right-most from the photo below) for Georgie and I was mildly disappointed that for a simple toy worth close to Php 500, it failed to make the different bubble shapes and kept spilling on my hands. My Php 20 bubble canister (the one you always find in loot bags) performed better. Still, it was aesthetically pleasing enough and I guess that’s what I paid for.

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 Arts and crafts!

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The main reason hubby and I were excited to go to Hamley’s was because we wanted to buy old-fashioned toys. You know, the ones made of die-cast metal and wood, and hand-made. These wooden blocks were the closest we got to our wish.

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We also found these cute binoculars and telescopes, similar to the ones by Lonely Planet which I spied at Toy Kingdom a few weeks ago, albeit cuter. I wanted to get one for Joey but he didn’t want it (he only realized later on when he saw we got one for his cousin that he actually wanted one himself).

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Oh, and they have Tokyo Vinyl stuff here, for the collectors out there.

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Hamley’s, given its location at the Central Square, is a nice alternative to the other toy stores since it is less crowded, but, if they plan on opening near a Toys R Us or Toy Kingdom, they’d better stock up on more unique toys to attract customers. As it is, you can find the same stuff in other toy stores so hubby and I were a little disappointed (no die cast double decker buses!!!).

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Out and About in Milan

Whenever I think of Italian food, pizza and pasta would normally come to mind. Surprisingly though, I didn’t really find any pasta/pizza dish in Milan that stood out. But we found this neighborhood cafe serving gelato and chocolates that were oh so good we didn’t mind visiting almost every day after our daily excursion.

We found Cioccolat Italiani by accident – we were on our daily walk from our charming apartment near the San Lorenzo columns when we chanced upon this cafe a few steps back from Via Torino. It had a laid back and cozy atmosphere which we immediately liked.

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And how appropriate that the cafe is beside the Church of St. George?

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Our handsome server patiently explaining the different gelato flavors. He didn’t need to – we’ll have whatever they’re serving. Hahaha!

Inside was an open kitchen where you can see the staff preparing your coffee or gelato. Can you all those chocolate bars near our table? I thought I was gonna die of happiness.

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We got their chocolate gelato sampler – five different kinds of chocolate to choose from! I can’t even remember which one I liked most but I would definitely recommend this to all chocolate lovers out there. They were all so creamy, not too sweet and the chocolate was very rich, whether you get the milk chocolate, the dark chocolate, the hazelnut, or the white chocolate.

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Well, it was kinda hard focusing on gelato that day…

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And you have to try their coffee and waffles! Sure to perk you up for the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Surprisingly, one of the best meals we had in Milan didn’t involve pasta and pizza but rather sort of Asian fusion. We were so hungry on our first day after a long train ride from Paris that we didn’t have much energy to go far from our apartment in Urbano – which turned out perfectly fine because we stumbled upon this quaint little place in front of the Roman columns of San Lorenzo that served the best smoked ham and cheese, and rolls! Too bad we were so hungry we forgot to jot down the name of the place but if ever you’re in Milan and find yourself near the columns, it’s just across the street and comes highly recommended by me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our neighborhood in Milan is actually the “hip” part of Milan, with a whole street lined up with bars (really loud ones!) and several whole in the wall restos, one of which we really liked is the Cantina della Vetra, where I first tasted the stuffed zucchini. I loved it so much I ordered the same dish almost everywhere (sadly, Cantina’s version was the best I tasted in all the restos we went to).

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Milan is so fashionable not even the walls were spared. How I wish street art in Manila is this cool! Sadly, ours look like drunken kids and teenagers were given spray paint and brushes.

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The Eiffel Tower

Paris… City of Lights. I will never get tired of you.

It is a really beautiful city, and just about every inch of it is picture perfect. When I first visited Pairs two years ago, I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower up close – I was five months pregnant then and had a fever (yet nothing could stop me from traveling!) so I let the hubby and our friends go to the tower while I stayed behind sleeping in our hotel.

Last year though, I made sure to walk right up to it, bad weather be damned.

My friends and I took a cruise on the Seine river, which, in my opinion, is a must when visiting Paris. Unfortunately, it was raining quite hard and I didn’t really like how Bateaux Parisienne boats have these telephone-like gadgets you put to your ear to listen to an audio recording explaining the sights around you. I found it rather inconvenient that my hands were tied up holding the huge receiver and my umbrella, and that I couldn’t take photos because of it. I’d much prefer a live guide to talk me through it, similar to my first Seine cruise. Still, nothing can beat the beauty and magic of Paris.

Anyway, it was quite dark when we finished our cruise and dinner – perfect time to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. There’s just something magical about it. I wish I could show you the video but I haven’t figured out yet how to upgrade/post videos here yet (I know, such a lame excuse).

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Grey skies only made its beauty stand out more. I can’t believe the people almost tore it down a century ago.

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Our cruise included dinner at Le Notre, a quaint little restaurant on a boat anchored in the Seine river banks, quite near the Eiffel. I was famished so I got the tomato/ham salad – it looked so yummy when it was served, and I actually thought the tomato was meat coz it was almost as red as the ham!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI got some meat dish as my entree but I didn’t really enjoy it much… or maybe I was just bummed that it was our last night in Paris already.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor dessert, I got the lemon cake coz I didn’t want a very sweet dessert. Talk about getting more than you ask for – the cake was so sour I felt like it was drizzled with fresh lemons! Seriously! Even my friends tried and couldn’t take one bite of it. I should have gotten the strawberry shortcake instead, which my friend willingly shared with me after seeing how disappointed I was with my lemon cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d stick with strawberries next time.

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This is the last of my Paris posts which makes me sad just thinking about it. Oh well, time to plan my next trip to Europe!