MANILA, April 8, 2004 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - Majestically perched on a ridge and overlooking the most picturesque volcano within a lake is a magnificent structure of Tudor design. If one had never stepped into the old Taal Vista Lodge in his childhood, he would think the new Taal Vista Hotel was a totally brand new edifice. Beneath this newly acquired opulence lies 70 years of history.

The great tycoon Henry Sy was driving through Aguinaldo highway when he chanced upon the old Taal Vista Lodge, a famous landmark that had been shut down in 1998. He realized this was indeed his dream property and he envisioned the grandiose structure that proudly stands today. With P400 million, Sy turned his dream into reality, that of providing a world-class hotel for local and foreign tourists in the second summer capital of the Philippines. Taal Vista Hotel is a precious jewel of tourism in Tagaytay that shimmers with sheer class, impeccable taste and ultra comfort.

Once you step into the elegant lobby of maroon and cream tones, you feel transported into a breathtaking place of splendid architecture. Glass paneling from ceiling to floor allows the most panoramic view of Taal Volcano. This most popular scene is probably the most photographed in postcards, prints and films. A baby grand piano stands handsomely beside a stone-furnaced fireplace, where one can imagine children gathering round this place of warmth. FilBarcelo and Properties Management Corporation must be truly proud of this flagship project.Celine Borja Architects and designer Manny Samson and Associates have created a stunning hotel of world-class distinction.

A few steps from the lobby is the Café on the Ridge "which serves an array of Asian and continental food prepared by the numerous chefs meticulously trained," enthused GM Alex Groizard. One may eat inside the well-appointed café or outdoors where tables with billowing umbrellas are set up. In the evenings as the symphony of cicadas enchants, flickering candles illuminate the picturesque scene.

There are a total of 80 rooms, though 70 more rooms, a spa and swimming pool will be completed by the last quarter of the year. Guests will truly be pampered at the five-star rooms decorated in contemporary manner with neutral tones each with a view of the Taal Lake and volcano.Truly fit for a king and his queen, Egyptian cotton bed linen with eclectic pillows, homey accessories, spacious bathrooms and walk in closets are featured in these rooms.

Taal Vista Hotel has seven function rooms and five breakout rooms. Weddings , receptions and corporate functions will find a haven here to suit their needs.

After our guided tour at the hotel, we proceeded to Massimo’s Café in Royal Pines Subdivision (near the Petron gas station, just before the Mahogany market). It was delightful to discover the excellent cuisine of chef Hazel Yu-Galvez who sharpened her culinary prowess in Italy. Hazel and businessman hubby Chito Galvez will sweep you off your feet with their hospitality, exquisite food wine, and entertaining stories. We had the artichoke cheese dip with foccacia bread, chicken liver pate, mushroom, tomato and pumpkin soup (using pumpkin newly harvested from the garden), flavorful pizza bistecca a la Florentina (marinated in aged balsamic vinegar), osso buco, salmon on risotto, heavenly desserts of homemade gelato, warm chocolate cake where the chocolate bursts in the center, the sinfully-salivating pannacotta and wines from all vineyards of the world.

Last but not least, we proceeded to the Spa&Lodge in Tagaytay Highlands. The Spa&Lodge is a log cabin structure with a level dedicated to a full range of state-of-the-art facilities, an elegant receiving area with a lobby lounge and coffee shop and 25 fully furnished bedroom suites. Reminiscent of ski lodges in Aspen, Colorado, the spa is open to all members of Highlands and Midlands.

At the receiving area, your senses are welcomed by the scents of verbana and eucalyptus wafting in the air. Soft music soothes the soul as you make your way around the spa. You are served delightful drinks then ushered into the locker room adjacent to the steam, dry sauna and jacuzzis.

While sipping ice cold tea, we submerged our weary bodies into the warm jacuzzi tub and our worries were whirled away. Here, we connected with our innermost being as we were treated to an aromatherapy massage using lavender and mint essential oils. The warm-hued room was so relaxing, we plopped ourselves on the mattress covered with white linen and felt the gentle but firm strokes of the therapist on our back. It was sheer bliss. We couldn’t ask for more.

For the sunset cocktails, we went to Bellhouse 2 or Lake View House where we saw the master’s bedroom. Overlooking the enchanting vista shrouded in mist, we told ourselves that a thing of beauty, indeed, is a joy forever.

Tagaytay’s treasures are waiting to be discovered. The Taal Vista Hotel seems like a fairy tale castle whose beauty and elegance were restored in just a swish of Henry Sy’s magic wand. Massimo’s Café offers the food for the gods whose craving for sumptuous cuisine cannot be satiated. The Spa&Lodge at Tagaytay Highlands is simply heaven on earth waiting to pamper guests.

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For more information, call Taal Vista Hotel at 751-3088-89 or visit their website at www.barcelo-asia.com. For reservations at Massimo’s Café, call 0916-3715449 or 046-8602247. The Spa&Lodge at Tagaytay Highlands can be reached at 046-4132080 or e-mail spalodgeth@pacific.net.ph. Post me a note at miladay@pacific.net.ph.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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