Joy next door







When it comes to staycations, three things are essential: accessibility, entertainment and pampering options. Novotel Manila seems to have checked off three out of three.

Getting to Novotel is fairly easy. It’s located right at the heart of Araneta Center so you have plenty of options to get around. Within proximity are two shopping centers and Araneta Coliseum — always a good thing if you’re a concert fanatic.

As always, check-in is at 2 p.m. but somehow, on the day of our staycation, traffic was on my side so I got there earlier. I picked a random table at The Gourmet Bar, one of Novotel’s restaurants. There was an AFAM (A Foreigner Around Manila, in case you’re not in the loop) vlogging to my right. On the other side, there was a group of businessmen having a serious conversation involving charts and numbers. There was a good mix of business and pleasure in the environment.

Somewhere between ogling other people’s food and listening to their kickass early ‘00s playlist, the chef approached the aforementioned AFAM. “Are you ready?” the chef says. The AFAM said yes with enthusiasm. And right on cue, a waiter brought out a huge goblet filled with 15 scoops (I didn’t count, I overheard) of ice cream. Called Le Mont Gourmand, the challenge was to finish the entire thing. There seems to be no time limit so you’d think that it would be easy. But the struggle was visible on his face. So far, my overnight staycation at Novotel was already interesting.

My room’s view from 14th floor was unexpected. You’d think that Cubao was just a jump-off point for travelers who want to go out of town for their dream vacations. But from the hotel, it looked like a place where new adventures can take place. For the first time, I saw Cubao in a different light.

Their deluxe room was luxurious but it utilizes the space well. One of the highlights: the shower encased in a glass divider overlooks the bedroom, and the rest of Cubao. But if you’re not comfortable with taking a shower that the outside world can also see, you can always pull down the electronic blinds. (Pro tip from the manager: You can use the blinds as a timer for charades. If your team doesn’t guess the correct answer before the blinds reach the floor, then you lose.) Another fascinating feature is the double bathroom doors that were disguised as closet doors. I was so ready to get ready in the cold but my snooping paid off.

Of course, what’s a four-star hotel without a stellar Internet connection? I was lounging on the extremely comfortable bed watching Haters Back Off when Marga Buenaventura, Young Star’s editor, texted. She was apparently covering the A1 presscon that was set to perform in Araneta Coliseum that weekend. I promised her that I would do my best to find their hotel rooms (the concert venue conveniently located right next door!) but I was pretty sure that I’d just see other fangirls checked in. (Note to self: Book a room in Novotel if ever One Direction decides to hold the Manila leg of their comeback concert series in Cubao.)

A little more exploring in the hotel brought me to their premier lounge. It’s at the topmost floor, ensuring you of the best view while you’re having your morning coffee and getting some work done. The snacks table is also open all day so you don’t have to worry about paying for room service for a cookie and a cuppa joe. The lounge is only open to VIP guests, to maintain greater privacy.

Located at the sixth floor is their top-notch gym and pool. Their gym is quiet and well equipped with dumbbells, mats, medicine balls and so much more. The pool is quite huge and it can be seen from all the floors so make sure you wear your cutest swimwear if ever guests decide to take a Snapchat. The fifth floor is home to their InBalance spa where you can take your staycation to another level of chill. I tried their Swedish massage and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Spa packages are also available and, for sure, something that I will go back for.

That night was peaceful to say the least. With unlimited Netflix choices (again: fast Internet connection) and a good room service selection (they’re vegetarian-friendly), I had a good night at Novotel. To cap off my stay, next day’s breakfast buffet at the Food Exchange Manila was remarkable. They have the basics: cereals, milk, yogurt, bread, juice, coffee and all that jazz. They have Filipino and Chinese food for those craving rice and soup. But best of all, they have hummus and a variety of dipping sauces. Two racks of spices and sauces were displayed in one of their counters and I just stared in fascination and appreciation. There’s no better way to start the day.

Short but sweet, our staycation was the perfect mix of relaxation and opportunities for exploration. Although it’s in the middle of a booming business and entertainment center, Novotel provides the much-needed peace and comfort for guests looking for a home away from home.

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