Sojourns with Joel and Melissa

Theirs is a love story that began with a dinner in Manila. He was living in Paris then while she had just returned to the Philippine capital after staying for seven years in Los Angeles.

Only last November, Paris-born-and-raised Joel Journe and Filipina Melissa Lopez, who belongs to the prominent Lopez and Lazatin clans of Iloilo and Pampanga, respectively, celebrated their 25th anniversary. She is the daughter of Albertito Lopez and Chona Mejia.

In this issue, we are starting our forthnightly series on personalities and couples and their favorite destinations. And I am pleased to share with you the beautiful experiences that Joel and Melissa and their son, Hadriend, have enjoyed while visiting various parts of the globe.

Joel and Melissa met at a dinner party 26 years ago in Manila. Socialite Mayen Carmona introduced them to each other. It began as a long-distance love affair. “I had been reluctant with the idea of moving to Paris, having been away from Manila for seven years,” Melissa recounts. “I finally made the difficult decision and enrolled in the Ritz Escoffier culinary school in Paris to keep me busy during the day. I took up traditional French cuisine. Then, I enrolled in a patisserie course at Lenotre Paris.”

On her second year living in Paris, they decided to have a child. Their son Hadrien is now 23 years old. He recently graduated from the International University of Monaco.

“We split our time between Paris and Saint Remy de Provence,” Melissa says. “My husband, who is self-employed working in commercial real estate, has taken some time off and is now semi-retired.

“Before Covid-19 we were like gypsies who would travel six to seven times a year. We like visiting cities that we have never been to — exotic destinations like Marrakech, Cuba, Turkey, Santorini and Tulum, Mexico. Nowadays we are just traveling around Europe until the pandemic ends.

“The past year, we enjoyed the peace and tranquility of Provence, almost Covid-19-free and hardly any tourists. We visited beautiful little towns around our area like Gordes, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Saint Tropez and Nice. We have learnt to cherish each day and find positivity during the pandemic.”

Joel and Melissa have just come up with a new list of places they intend to visit when they are permitted to travel without restrictions. These places include Peru, Saint Barth, Cartagena, Egypt, Russia and Bodrum in Turkey.

Meanwhile, gourmet food remains a passion for Melissa. “I share my creations on Facebook and Instagram. I hope to have enough followers so that one day, I would be able to start a digital cookcook featuring all my recipes from two decades of traveling.”

For Joel and Melissa, travel is not a break from their life’s journey. Instead, it is part of the happily-living-after voyage that they embarked on 25 years ago.

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