Meet Maricel

Hello!  I'm Maricel.

Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Japan

After marrying my high school sweetheart in 2006, we moved 7 times in the next 7 years in the US and Japan.  During this time, we became parents to two, exuberant, little boys, T (5) and C (3).  At first, I was a bit hesitant about moving to Tokyo (mostly because I loved my former career in marketing for a nonprofit organization), but now I couldn't imagine my life without living here.  I love exploring new places with my family, eating local cuisine, and soaking in the different cultures as much as I can.  

Where, of all the places you have never been, do you want to go most?
France.  I studied French for 4 years in high school, so I would love to visit France.  It has been over 10 years since I first learned the language, so I don't know how well I would do; but my ears perk up whenever I hear French.

Where do you most want to go back to?
The Philippines.  My parents are from the Philippines; and the last time we visited, I was only 4 years old.  One of my fondest memories is walking to the corner stand with my grandma to eat a bowl of lugaw (rice porridge).  It would be great to visit to learn more about my family's heritage and meet family. 

Favorite city?
Singapore, Singapore.  This city (and country) is so small yet so diverse.  On this tiny island, there's a cosmopolitan city with beautiful architecture and skyscrapers, beaches, art, and nature reserves.  You can pretty much eat whatever cuisine you're in the mood for; and it's very family-friendly, especially when you have little ones (except crowded train stations and crosswalks).  Need I say more?

Least favorite city?
Monument, Colorado.  This was a tough one because I usually try to find something I like in every city, but my encounter with a police officer left a sour taste in my mouth.  The car I was driving picked up speed as I was going downhill—only 5 miles over the speed limit—but apparently driving one mile over the speed limit would have been enough to slap me with a ticket; and, to add insult to injury, I also received an expired license ticket (I was borrowing my then-boyfriend-turned-husband's car).  You know what she said as she handed me my tickets, "Thank you."  Still bitter?  Yes.

Do you speak other languages?
My grandma lived with us until she passed away, and she only spoke Tagalog and Kapampangan (Filipino dialects).  I learned Tagalog, but my family thought I sounded funny with my American accent (go figure), so I'm really shy about trying to speak it.  Learning a second language at such a young age, though, has helped me pick up other languages easier.  When submerged in a culture, my language skills get better.  Other than French, I've picked up some Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Thai; but, I am, by no means, fluent (or good) at any of them.

How do you get by without being fluent?
I learn a few key phrases, especially "Excuse me," "Do you speak English?" "Please," "Thank You," and "It's delicious."  I find that being polite can go very far when I'm trying to ask for help.  Plus, smiling and sign language seem to work (and, no, other than the alphabet, I'm not fluent in ASL).

Best airport?
Narita International Airport.  Friendliest staff ever, especially when you have toddlers.

Worst airport?
LAX.  Sadly, I'm calling out my home airport; but as an international airport, its facilities don't match up to others. 

Best travel tips?
Have a credit card that builds points (just make sure you're spending within your budget so you don't rack the bills) and sign up for every frequent flyer/membership.  You never know when you're going to use the same company again, and the points really add up.  Because of it, we've been able to have free accommodations and flight upgrades.

Biggest travel mistake?
Misinterpreting an airline's [cough*Sri Lankan Airlines*cough] definition of complimentary hotel accommodations while booking our flights.  Long story short, if it sounds too good to be true, call the company and have someone explain it to you, and then document it.

Best coffee outside of the USA?
Homestead, Samcheong-dong, Seoul, South Korea.  Not only is your day brightened with the latte art, but the cafe's 3-story building (including a roof-top patio) has a woodsy, contemporary feel with views of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Best meal while traveling?
Australian rack of lamb from the New York Grill, Park Hyatt, Shinjuku, Japan.  The lamb was so buttery and tender.  We started dinner with their pan-seared foie gras with vanilla-glazed Fuji apples, Spanish almonds and homemade ricotta, which was pretty amazing.  Of course, we couldn't end dinner without dessert, so we had the Valrhona chocolate mousse with popcorn ice cream and salty toffee sauce. mouth is salivating just thinking about them all.  I'm so glad we celebrated my hubby's birthday there!

Most breathtaking view?
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, I love the city and the beach equally.  Lately, moments that are reminiscent of home are what I find most breathtaking.

Literally just steps away from our room at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort in the Maldives. Even with the dark clouds looming towards us, I could wake up to this every day.

Watching the sunset over Singapore atop the Marina Bay Sands.

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