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Keepin’ it real at Kidzania

I need to tell you about last weekend when we brought all 4 kids to KL to visit KidZania. I know, all 4 kids!!! Out of the country!! This is called level-up parenting, wherein we attempt a test run somewhere manageable before considering something really crazy.

We’ll talk more about this later, but first, KidZania KL. 

When we first found out about Kidzania 2 years ago during a trip to Bangkok, it was one of those “woah, how do I not know that this place exists??!!” kind of moments. Because how did a place this fun just fly under the radar without me hearing about it?

The concept is great – it’s sort of like a cross between a play area and a real-world experience where kids get to have a go at different occupations. And the place is huge, with 90 different activities to choose from, ranging from popular occupations like doctors, pilots, firemen, to lesser known ones like travel agents and HR consultants.

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//I’m jumping the gun here but how adorable is this? I’ll say right now that if this is my courier delivery guy, my online shopping situation is going to be out of control.

Okay, so each kid starts off the day with 50 kidzos, and every station offers an opportunity to earn more cash or to spend it. At the end of the day, they can use their kidzos to shop for memorabilia at the department store. They can also choose to save it for use at a later time (and at any KidZania around the world).

This is great for teaching the kids about economics and wealth accumulation. Now that Truett and Kirsten have a better understanding of how savings work with their pocket money, they were very diligent with how they spent their kidzos.

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Here are all the things you need to know for a visit to KidZania:

1. Go during off-peak periods. 

This is one of those places where the kids’ enjoyment is inversely proportional to the number of kids there at the same time because more kids = more time spent queueing = less fun. Unlike theme parks where there are filler shows/parades to spread out the crowd, all the kids will be spending their time queueing for one of the popular activity stations.

2. Not all activities are created equal. 

You’ll soon realise that the some of the stations are far more popular than others and you’ll either want to head straight to the pilot/fireman/paramedic station first thing in the morning or spend an hour in the queue later in the day. These activities all had hour-long queues the 2 days we were there.

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Other occupations like mobile phone consultants were consistently empty the entire time. Clearly kids don’t see it as a viable career alternative.

3. Have a strategy.

There’s no right way to tour the place, but depending on your child’s age/preferences, they’ll adopt a different strategy in their activity choices.

Like if they are all for earning the most money, they’ll want to choose the stations that have the highest payout vs time-spent ratio and instead of spending an hour learning to be a pilot, they might do 3 manual labor stations to maximise their earnings.

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Or if they’re like Finn, who wasn’t big on the whole kidzo-earning bit, they might choose to spend their kidzos on fun stations like the burger-making or to express their artistic side. While Tru and Kirsten were off working hard for some extra dough, he chose to spend 6 kidzos to be all tortured artist at the paint studio.

Kid knows what he wants in life, that’s for sure.

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4. Make your own food and eat it. 

The best way to spend kidzos is at the food-making stations. We usually have to fork out additional cash to buy food during visits to theme parks or playgrounds, but food is already included in the cost of admission to KidZania.

Here, the kids can learn to make food like chicken burgers, wraps and Vitagen, and then eat it so you save on the cost for more overpriced food. Also, you get to see your baby wearing a ridiculous hair net, which FYI, is priceless.

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5. Bring the baby!

Even though all the activities are designed for kids aged 3 and above (that’s when they can follow instructions without a parent present), there’s no need to leave the baby at home because there’s an entire area for toddlers to play in while the big kids are off doing their thing.

Theo had a great time at the baby area with all the toys.

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There are also some stations that allow for some baby participation, like the courier delivery service.

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I couldn’t get a clearer photo of this because my ovaries had spontaneously exploded while watching my 2 little boys delivering packages. True story.

*Bonus tip: You’ll need more than one visit to KidZania.

There’s so much to do that it’s impossible to finish everything in one day. This means that there’s a lot of revisit value before the kids get bored.

And for the best part, KidZania will finally be opening in Singapore come April, so there’s no need to haul the family to KL or Bangkok just for a visit.

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Learning to save with POSB

When I started Primary 1 many years ago, I was given a dollar a day as my pocket money. It was my introduction to the world of money and I loved it. The dollar was all mine to spend on anything I wanted. Candy! Snacks! Pretty Stationery! Little trinkets that were basically useless!

For a 7-year-old, being able to make financial decisions with my dollar was liberating and so much fun. I felt powerful and grown up. But as the days went by, let’s just say I made enough dumb purchases to know that having my own money meant (gasp!)…responsibility.

Very quickly, I learnt that money management was a lot harder than I thought and I had to find a way to make the most of my $1. So I’d spend 50 cents on a bowl of noodles, another 20 cents on a drink/snack and save the remaining 30 cents. At the end of every week, I’d put whatever money I had left in a little piggy bank and when that got full, my parents would deposit all of it in my POSB savings account. It was strangely satisfying to see the account grow, even if it was just by a little at a time.

Now that I have kids, I realize how important it is to inculcate the habit of saving at a young age. Truett will be starting Primary 1 in a couple of months and we’re starting to teach him about the concept of money. He knows the basics, like how daddy works really hard to earn money and that money is used to exchange for stuff in stores. He also knows that ATMs are AMAZING MONEY MACHINES THAT GIVE OUT FREE MONEY and that credit cards are better than money because you’ll sometimes need many pieces of money but you’ll always just need one tiny little card.

At this point, the kids still come to us with their shopping list when we’re out and daddy’s like the genie that magically makes toys appear. Well, that’s going to change really soon. By the time he starts having his own money next year, it’ll be farewell genie and hello save-your-own-money-to-buy-toys.

I’ve been doing some research on the market rate for P1 allowances and it seems like the average cost per meal is now $0.80 to $1. So we’ll probably start him out at $1.50 a day.

At the same time, we’ll also introduce some incentives to encourage saving.

1. Special lunchboxes

For starters, he’ll have an option to request for a pre-packed lunchbox to bring along to school. If he wants to eat the food bought from school, that’s cool, but if he decides to eat from his lunchbox, then that’s $1.50 extra for the day that he gets to keep.

2. Daddy’s dollar matching system

We thought of having a sticker system to motivate him but this kid is so over stickers so instead, we’ll have a good old-fashioned dollar matching system where daddy will contribute an additional $1 for every $10 saved. So the more he saves, the more he’ll accumulate.

3. Piggybank & POSB bank account

There’s something about having their own piggybank and proper bank account that makes kids feel really grown up. We’ve already got him his first piggy bank to start putting his savings into and soon, we’ll be bringing him to POSB to open his first savings account. I think he’ll be so thrilled to have his own bank account like a big boy.

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4. Buy his own toys

He’ll get his first taste of financial freedom once he starts saving. Instead of having to depend on daddy and mommy to approve of any purchases, he’ll be able to make his own decisions as long as he saves up for it. He’s had his eye on a Marvel Lego set for a while – we’ll bring him to the store and let him buy it himself once he saves enough for it.

We want to encourage him to start saving right from the point where he gets his first dollar and hopefully, saving will become a habit that stays with him for life.

//I’m curious, how much do your kids get for pocket money? Any tips to encourage them to save? Take it over to the comments! 

//Also, Head over here to participate in a short POSB survey about savings by 22 August and stand to win S$50 NTUC vouchers; there will be 10 sets of vouchers up for grabs. 

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Baby Finn’s Bottom Buddy

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Diaper selection is something of an art – it’s not a decision to be randomly made, lest you suffer the wrath of angry diaper rash or an angrier baby. I’ve had to deal with both of those things and trust me, neither one is fun. So once you find that one diaper that’s just right for your baby, you stick with it.

With Truett and Kirsten, I must have gone through every diaper brand available on the market and I even had an elaborate system of day diapers vs night diapers vs outdoor pants diapers.

Yeah, total noob move.

Baby Finn has been on Drypers since he was born and it’s been working out so well that we haven’t needed a reason to switch. It’s great for daytime, nighttime, stay home time and going out time, pretty much all the time. Drypers has been his bottom buddy from birth and they’re like best of friends.

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And then I just found out that the folks from Drypers have taken a great diaper and made it even better. Introducing the newly revamped Drypers range, featuring Ultimate Comfort for little ones.

Finn has been trying out the new Drypers for the past couple of weeks and I don’t know how they did it, but they’ve managed to improve on an already superb diaper. Here are some features of the newly launched Drypers range.

Soft comfort: It’s the first thing I look for, diapers that are soft to the touch. The new Drypers come with a 100% breathable softer cloth-like cover that feels luxuriously soft on baby Finn’s delicate skin. 

You know what that means right? No more itchy scratchy bum bums.

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Skin comfort: Having soft diapers is good but what’s better is having diapers which are formulated to be gentle on baby’s skin. Each diaper now contains 4 natural plant extracts (Vitamin E, Chamomile, Olive Extract, Aloe Vera) to keep Finn’s bottom moisturised and healthy. These days he’s like “nappy rash? What’s that?”

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Dry comfort: If you ask me, a good diaper is one that’s absorbent and dry, not all squishy and moist after 20 minutes. And these Drypers are ultra absorbent, effectively locking in loose stools and pee.

  • The Wee Wee Dry range comes with an Active Absorb Layer™ that effectively absorbs and distributes urine, keeping baby’s skin dry and comfortable.
  • The Drypantz features Activ-Core™, an absorbent core quickly absorbs urine and prevents flow-back promoting long-lasting dryness.

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Fit comfort: Finally, it’s about diapers that are comfy and well fitted. Too loose and I’ll be mopping up leaks left right and centre; too tight and it’ll be pinching baby Finn’s tubby waist and thighs.

  • The Flexi-tape™ on the Wee Wee Dry range features a specially designed tape that allows for multi-refastening, making diaper-changing a breeze.
  • For Drypantz, the improved waist and tummy elastic are softer and more comfortable

Now when you have a diaper that fits just so, you get moves like this.

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Diapers may seem like a low-involvement, functional item but here’s a secret: it’s so much more than that. Finding a good diaper means a happier baby and a happier me.

Baby Finn isn’t spending all day yanking at an ill-fitted diaper that’s squishy or itchy, and I don’t have to spend all day mopping up super gross leaks everywhere. Which leaves us more time for the happy bonding moments.

From 1st to 30th June, receive a $10 FairPrice voucher when you purchase any 2 packs of Drypers diapers. All you need to do is send in a photo of the receipt (proof of purchase) along with your personal particulars (Name, address, contact number, child’s name and DOB) to sg.contest@sca.com with the subject title “Motherinc”. Promotion not applicable to Drypers Drypantz M4s, L3s, XL3s, XXL3s.

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IMAGINE – the best kind of fun

From time to time, the husband makes up wacky games to play with the kids and one of their all-time favourite games is called the Super Awesome Imagination Chamber, where their entire playroom is turned into a space/time travel machine. It’s a fairly simple game that lends itself to all kinds of silliness and sometimes awesomeness.

We close the curtains, dim the lights and put 2 special Captain’s Chairs in the middle of the room. They’ll strap down (one needs to be safe even while pretending) and take turns to decide which space planet to visit.

Often, they’ll describe what they imagine to be the coolest, funnest places in the whole universe and we’ll have imaginary parties in their chosen planets. Interestingly enough, Captain Truett’s travels will usually include epic hostile alien battles while Captain Kirsten takes us to colourful fairy rainbow planets with lots of dancing and tea parties.

When I heard about IMAGINE by Changi Airport’s Project Jewel, I had a feeling they’d be thrilled to take part.

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Ok, back up a little. Project Jewel will be the new lifestyle destination at Changi Airport offering retail offerings and unique leisure attractions, including a large-scale, lush indoor garden with a huge 40-metre central waterfall. Scheduled to open in 2018, it will be THE new awesome attraction in Singapore.

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With the IMAGINE contest, Project Jewel is getting all of us, including the little ones aged 5 to 12, to share our vision for the iconic development. It’s a brilliant move because when it comes to creating fun places, kids often have the most amazing ideas. The contest is open to anyone aged 5 years and above and residing in Singapore. All you need to do is submit a 2-dimensional artwork (like a photograph, sketch or painting) on what you imagine Project Jewel to be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to the airport, so let your imagination go crazy.

I gave Truett and Kirsten a piece of drawing block each and told them to draw a planet they’d love to visit the most and here’s what they came up with. No prizes for guessing who came up with what.

Dancing Fairy Planet, where fairies have flowers for hands and dance all day.

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Alien Battle Planet, with hostile aliens and a swirling vortex of terror. And also an ice angry bird.

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Sometimes, I look at their art creations and think they’re a little high but hey, we can all afford to have a little high in our lives once in a while.

For the contest, a total of fifteen winners will be selected to win the following prizes in the respective categories:

  • Top 10 from Open category (13 years old and above) – $1,000 Changi Vouchers each
  • Top 5 from Junior category (5-12 years old) – $500 Changi Vouchers each

Even if you don’t win the vouchers, the real prize is that there’s a chance for your artwork to displayed as a larger-than-life creative interpretation and reproduced as art on Project Jewel’s 800-metres of hoarding during its construction. Some of them may also be developed into art exhibits for display in Changi Airport itself, or produced into memorabilia.

Contest ends on 31 March 2014 so there’s still plenty of time to submit your masterpiece here. For more information, visit the Project Jewel website.

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How to experience “the life” in Bangkok

Instead of doing our rounds across Bangkok city like we usually do, we spent most of our time exploring the Mandarin Oriental’s hotel grounds and just soaking in the incredible atmosphere. Which turned out to be a good move because the one day we hauled the kids to Chatuchak market, we spent a grand total of 12 whole minutes exploring before the kids delivered their “I’m so tired and it’s so hot, let’s go back to the beautiful hotel” spiel.

But we did at least get to eat the delicious wanton noodles that I’ve been dreaming about so… score!

It was fun just hanging out at the hotel though. One of my favourite sections was the Author’s Lounge, which forms the Author’s Wing, the original wing of the hotel. We hear it’s THE place to get married in Bangkok and I can totally see why. I stood at the top of the stairs and had a little Titanic moment – I have a thing for grand staircases, even though there’s a 42% chance I’ll trip and fall on my face in heels.

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The Author’s Wing is made up of a handful of suites named after the authors who’ve stayed at the Mandarin Oriental. Not too sound too uppity but it’s true – famous celebrities are great and all but authors, they lend an air of class and refinement. Writers like Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham wrote some of their books sitting in their suites and looking out over the Chao Phraya River.

We were taken on a tour of the different suites and each of the author’s suites are designed to reflect the personalities of the various authors, some very regal, some elegant and understated, some flamboyant. I can’t decide which one I like best.

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On one of the evenings, we had a BBQ buffet dinner at the Riverside Terrace and the experience was exceptional, both in food quality and attentive service. The selection of fresh seafood, roasted cuts and even sushi was divine. We don’t do a lot of fancy sit down dinners with the kids in tow because they’re volatile in confined spaces and there’s usually a lot of frantic food shovelling required.

But this time, they were on such good behaviour that we were a little surprised. They ate their food promptly, asked for seconds and thirds, made polite conversation, it was all very enjoyable.

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Maybe it’s a sign of age but this new way of experiencing Bangkok has trumped all the other Bangkok trips combined. Then again, the kids had an equally fabulous time.

Truett summed it up best when he sat back at the pool with his hands crossed behind his head and said, “ahhh, this is the life.

Why yes, yes it is.

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Kidzania – way more fun than it sounds

While we were in Bangkok, we were introduced to this gem of a place called Kidzania. It was SO MUCH FUN (with double exclamation points!!) that I was a little surprised I haven’t heard about it before.

At first, we were expecting one of those regular run-of-the-mill sort of indoor kid playgrounds that are so popular back home. Some jumpy things, a couple of slides, lots of soft padding, maybe a handful of interactive play sections, you know the sort.

This was not that at all.

If you ever head to Bangkok with kids, trust me, you have to go to Kidzania. It will rock your socks right off.

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First of all, the theming is brilliant. It’s an entire world of exploratory play for kids aged 4-12 and the coolest part is that they are meant to do everything on their own. Parents can hang around to give encouraging pep talks, throw some hi-fives and cheer a little bit but the kids are the ones who really run the show.

So the moment they enter, each kid given a credit note for $50, which they have to exchange for cash at the bank.

They were a little nervous at first because we had to wait outside while they did their thing but they came out looking very pleased with their first solo bank transaction.

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Armed with their wad of cash, they could then decide on which activities they wanted to do. The place is made up of like 80 different activity stations, each with a customised training activity for kids. Some activities were like work activities, and they’d earn money at the end of it.

Like this fire station activity, where they got to practice being little firefighters and then take a ride on a fire engine to put out a pretend fire. It was all organised really well and THEY WERE SO THRILLED to be doing grown up stuff like it was real.

Watching them, I almost died from too much cuteness.

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little firegirl

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Turns out that Truett’s dream job was to be a car mechanic (I had no idea!). He had like the best time changing a car tire, so much so that the husband decided to let him do it the next time we have a flat.

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While Tru was having his Greased Lightnin’ moment, Kirsten decided that she wanted to be a petrol pumper person instead. Is this the most enthusiastic petrol pumper you’ve ever seen or what? And let me tell you, girl can work a petrol pump like a pro.

I mean, till this day, I still don’t know how to pump my own petrol (I usually just smile and say “Uncle, 95 full tank 谢谢!”) so that’s one skill she’s got over me.

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And hello there, Mr Postman (and little postlady).

These 2 courier delivery guys were given a task to deliver packages to various locations and they did a super fine job of it. Seriously, I’ve never seen finer courier service in all my years of signing for delivery packages. If these were my courier guys, I’d be shopping online ALL. DAY.

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Besides the various jobs to earn more dough, there were also spending activities, where they’d have to spend their money to learn new skills. As a rule of thumb, the spending activities came with a reward that they could enjoy, like their very own handmade sushi or burger.

At the sushi station, there was a sushi master to guide them through each step and after 15 minutes, voila! They each had a beautifully rolled sushi for lunch. I don’t even know how to make my own sushi and there I was, eating sushi that my kids made, which by they way, was delicious.

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The Meiji milk bottling plant was another really cool spending activity. They were like little scientists, learning how milk is made, bottled and kept fresh for drinking.

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We spent 5 hours there and it was barely enough to cover 30% of the whole place. There were so many other activities that we didn’t have time to try, like the recording studio, the performing arts class, the CSI lab, the courthouse and tons of other cool stuff.

In a nutshell, awesome, awesome place to visit with kids.

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Absolute bliss at “La Grande Dame”

So, Bangkok! We just got back and I’m going to come right out and say that the single best part of the entire trip was our stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.

I’ve heard legendary tales about the hotel that’s affectionately referred to as “La Grande Dame” along the Chao Phraya River. Built in 1876, she’s the oldest and most celebrated hotel in all of Bangkok, possibly the most luxurious anywhere in the world and she has hosted a long and impressive list of writers and celebrities. Joseph Conrad, Paul Theroux, Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Judi Dench, they’ve all been guests at this splendid hotel.

Just being there was an experience in itself, the kind that takes your breath away. And it’s not just the luxurious interiors or the gorgeous landscaping either, because those are easily replicated. This is one place that has such a rich history, it’s like taking a trip back in time to experience this breathtaking old school charm and luxury.

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We were hosted in a stunning, (I mean jaw-dropping kind of stunning) family suite and the moment we stepped in, we all had no words to describe it. All the kids could muster was a hushed “woahhhhh…”, which I guess, pretty sums it all up.

The suite was absolute bliss. Two gorgeous bedrooms, each with a ginormous en-suite bath, and connected by a spacious living room area.

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best friends

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The bathrooms? Insane. We could have a party in the bathrooms and at one point, I think we did. The tub was so massive that when the kids sat inside, we couldn’t even see the top of their heads.

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We were so spoilt during our stay that Kirsten woke up the next morning, pulled me towards her and whispered “Mom, this hotel is SO AWESOME, I cannot even believe it.”

And she was right. It was all the little touches by the staff that made it a truly memorable experience.

Like when we arrived, there was fresh fruits and a special hand-created chocolate platter for each of us, filled with macarons, truffles and other varieties of chocolate awesomeness. The room also had an on-call butler who would attend to our needs 24/7. In fact, our butler was so good, he could meet our needs before we even knew we had them. If we left the room for 20 minutes, we’d come back to find it all made up, clothes, folded, towels replenished, and he’d greet us with a welcome drink in hand. And he was so warm and friendly that we all looked forward to meeting him each time we got back to the room.

I mean, we’ve all been to hotels where the staff are smiling, but it’s all perfunctory so even when they say “how may I help you?”, what they really mean is “I’d much rather not so if you could move along, that would be perfect.”

But during our stay at the Mandarin Oriental, all the staff we met were so incredibly warm and genuine and they would go out of their way to make our stay extra memorable that we were so blown away.

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I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such incredible hospitality ever and it really felt like home – not my actual home, obviously, but the kind of home we all wish we could have. This will henceforth be the benchmark against which all other hotels will be measured against.

We can’t wait to return soon.