Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Passeport pour l’Europe.

May 7, 2013

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Passport to Europe. Hosted by the amazingly witty, Samantha Brown. For those who are not familiar with the series, it’s a TV show produced for the Travel Channel, where Sam goes to one breathtaking European city after another. I was staying at my sister’s place for 6 months somewhere in the Bay Area, almost a decade ago, when the series started airing. I remember how religiously glued I was in front of the TV every single time the show is on.

Sam hosted the Great Hotels and Amazing Weekend series as well, also aired on the Travel Channel, prior to hosting Passport to Europe. The very first time I saw her on TV, I was immediately drawn to her. She has this way of describing the most mundane of objects, making it rivetingly engaging to the audience. One time she was giving a detailed description on how plush and luxurious a throw pillow is in her hotel boudoir, that it made me feel like I was right there running my fingers, squeezing the down-filled cushion myself. She can efficiently appeal to the senses, as if you were there with her, tasting the food she was eating and the drink she was having, feeling the smoothness of a marble sculpture or the chilling winter-exposed bridge railing, smelling the jasmine-scent filled air of the Tuscan region.

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I recently had a copy of the season 1 of the Passport to Europe series. Each episode is played to exhaustion, but I never get tired of it, as expected. As a matter of fact, the Brussels episode is currently playing as I type away.

I was searching for the season 2, via Amazon and iTunes. However, for some reason, it’s only available for digital purchase, and to my much dismay, is not available for purchase outside US.  And I am so looking forward to virtually tread the streets of Greece, Scandinavia, and other of the Euro cities featured in the second season 😦

To the very talented Samantha Brown, if by any chance you get to read this, please, PLEASE, please help me out to acquire a copy of the season 2 of Passport to Europe. I would be perpetually grateful to you if I get to have a copy of the series. Thank you.

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Une petite balade au centre-ville Stjørdal.

January 10, 2011

A quick stroll to downtown Stjørdal.  I went out looking for public payphones, planning to place a call to Manila. It’s only 4PM, but checkout how eerily dark it is outside. It’s like the Twilight Zone, only that it has streets lined with trees that have light bulbs for leaves, and with charming shops stacked neatly right next to each other.

The temperature is blissfully freezing. My kind of weather. Snow was constantly falling for like 4 hours straight today.

That’s me, trying to restrain my jaw from involuntary clenching my teeth. I just love the way I shiver my way into oblivion.

 

On my way back, I came across this adorable display of one of them stores within the freezing downtown perimeter. It’s like a showcase of trinkets and fixtures meant for ice queens, princesses, and royalty-frozen-diva-what-have-yous.

I am bored.

Je suis dans La Norvège

January 9, 2011

I’m in Norway. And have never thought that the first place I’d be going to in Europe would be freezing, land-of-the-midnight-sun Norway.
Well, technically, I stepped into Amsterdam first. However that was only for transit, so that does not count.

The last few weeks of December 2010, and the first few days of January 2011 were effin’ kuh-kuh-crrrazy-eeh. Let’s just say that sleep was the last thing on my list. Onset of my Euro-flight, I only had a total of 8 hours worth of sleep, for 4 days.

Anyways, departure flight was 1135 hours of January 4, final destination Trondheim, Norway. It was a 14-hour flight from Manila to Amsterdam. KLM food was, uhm, mediocre. Worse, it was mundane. I was so used to flying Korean Air that I’m used to fun food, specifically my all time fave, Bibimbap. Haha. But I have got to hand it out to them KLM guys, they were so frequent in giving out drinks throughout the duration of the flight, that I was overly confident that I can go on for a week without having even a tiny teeny drop of liquid and not go dehydrated. I was raiding the serving tray of drinks like a madman.

We arrived around 6PM in Amsterdam. Schiphol Airport is, uhm, fine. South Korea’s Incheon International Airport still is, by far, the best for me. Anyways. Schiphol is a very tourist-friendly airport. The signs were never confusing. I was headed toward terminal B. And was surprised to see a line queued for what I perceived as an immigration check. The person at the counter asked some couple random questions about my trip, and stuff, then went through the X-ray machine.

The long, fast-paced walk (and by fast-paced, I meant my usual injury-prone fast-paced gait) I did from terminal F (arrival) to terminal B (departure of connecting flight), plus getting in line for the documents check, took me around 1.5 hours, that I only waited for 30 minutes for my 8PM flight to Trondheim.

Upon boarding time, we were led to a bus, that goes straight out to the airstrip where 4-seats-a-row KLM planes wereparked. I was seated next to a really tall guy (around 6 foot 4) who’s got these two, long,  narrow cone shells (one red, one black) for ear piercings. Both on the same earlobe.  It’s like having to stab someone with a very long knife, but the knife was perceived ornamental that it was eventually left where it was stabbed into. Anyways, this guy is so tall, that while seated, his legs needed be bent sideways against the seat in front of him, just to make that comfy sitting position. All I can say is … helloooo deep vein thrombosis.

We arrived in Trondheim 30 past 10PM. I withdrew NOK 200 first for my cab fare. People were entering this wine-and-choco duty free shop, that I was subtly enticed to checkout as well. I went out carrying nothing, but I found a really interesting Chupaha Chups lollipop, as big as a size 5 football. I was so amazed that I forgot to take a photo.

I went straight to the luggage carousel. I was half praying  that my luggage won’t end up in another carousel somewhere in Europe, and half already coming up with a plan on what to say as my rant, immensely pissed-off speech if ever my luggage won’t turn up. Well, it did turn up, prayers work, kids. Haha.

Trondheim airport was pretty quaint to be an airport (although the brick walls gave it a homey feel to it), and lacked proper English signage, that I stalked this Norwegian family toward wherever the immigration counter is. Turns out, there is none. And the one I queued up in line at the Schiphol Airport actually is the immigration check. Which led me into conclusion that Trondheim is a bit too small a place that it didn’t have to bother itself with tourist immigration shit.

I was looking out for any exit portals that will lead me to a taxi bay. Good thing the Norwegian word for taxi is, well, taxi. So when the taxi signage turned up, I immediately hailed a cab, then asked to drop me off to my hotel. The cab driver was irritatingly soft spoken, that 10 minutes of listening to him talk would definitely send me off to a snooze fest.

That’s it for now. Will try my best to document any interesting stuff I should encounter. There’s a lot as of the moment, but will pick out the ones worth mentioning. Haha. Au revoir.

Ma place heureux (Deuxième Partie).

November 14, 2010

The designated official bartender.

My happy place (second part). So, right after our first dinner in SC, we went back to the villa, and then got our stuff ready for, what else, our hooch session.

I was made officially the bartender of the pack (even after the SC trip, I was the one always slaving myself away, doing the cocktails and stuff). So I got the essentials out. For the first night, it was le fantastique Grey Goose. It was the best, smoothest vodka ever. I loved it. We all loved it. Mixed it with tonic/soda, and ice, et voila! Best tasting vodka tonic ever. Even JJJ, our resident finicky alcohol drinker, gave her finicky seal of approval for that drink. Our nightly rendezvous are staged in one of the boardwalks, facing the Pacific Ocean.

Our claimed boardwalk territory. Nobody dared trespass the area while we were there. LOL.

View of the the other side of the boardwalk.

Nights at Calicoan Surf Camp is immensely mystical. Otherworldly. We often find ourselves sighing whilst looking out to the expanse of the gorgeous view laid out before our sight. What made it even more magical was the waxing gibbous moon the time when we were there, illuminating all of the Pacific Ocean, making the constantly-thrashing waves glisten like a mine of diamonds.

The waxing gibbous moon. Magical.

The four of us looking out to the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.

The infinity pool at night.

*sigh*

Nightfalls, we are regularly greeted by an army of … Fireflies! I have never seen them in this multitude. They’re so big in number that the trees in front of our villa literally look like they’re currently burning! LOL. I caught one, and gave it to JJJ, of which she eventually released onto the grass, after all the poking she did on the poor thing. But it still managed to fly away, so I guess it’s still OK. Haha.

Trees burnt by ... Fireflies! Those tiny specks of amber are clusters of fireflies.

Here are a few more photos of the place in daylight.

Jerome posing, not knowing I was in the infinity pool, posing for the shot as well. Haha.

 

Going to the dining hall, well, to dine, of course. Haha.

Our claimed area of the boardwalk in daylight. This is where I spend my early mornings reading my book, while waiting for the guys to get up.

The smile on my face in this shot is effin genuine. Haha. I love this place.

A minute before we left, we had our photo taken with the Surf Camp sign. I have a serious case of separation anxiety at this point. I don't want to leave 😦

Am definitely going back next year. Already counting down the days before going to my happy place, also known as Calicoan Surf Camp 🙂

Ma place heureux (Première Partie).

October 25, 2010

 

Surf Camp!

My happy place. Also known as The Surf Camp 🙂

It finally happened, been waiting for this since early 2009, and been pestering JJJ to go there since. The experience was, surreal, whimsical, and the adjective that we can’t help but always blurt out, magical. And it certainly was.

I often caught myself sighing in sheer amazement with everything there is in that place. It was nothing like I have been to before, and I have already been to a number of places in my 27 years of earthly existence. This one is disparate. The place was serene and intimate, yet rough, wild, and extremely fun.

Our SC trip was scheduled September 24-27, eve of the departure, we stayed in P’s place in Makati because of the too-early flight to Tacloban the next day. The girls went to sleep right away. Jerome and myself decided to stay up until departure time. He lost to a bet (he’s an easy prey when it comes to bettting), so as for the wager, he’s buying me a Strabucks.

We went out around 1AM, went to a coffee shop, bought our drinks, then we both decided to just walk around Ayala, talking about stuff. I just realized that Ayala is a fun place to rekindle one’s love of walking, particularly in the wee hours of the morning.

At 330AM we went back to the condo. Stealthily packed other stuff, woke the girls up, bid P farewell (she’s going to Denmark that weekend), hailed a cab, then headed straight to the airport to catch our 5AM flight.

At the airport, we were held upon the first security check. Security guy approached us …”What’s in the bag?“.
Now, we packed 5 bottles of booze (Bacardi Vodka, Grey Goose Vodka, Tequila Rose, Absolut Peach Vodka, and a bottle of red), and guilty as charged, I hastily replied “Ahm. Water, juice, and stuff“.

The security was not convinced with my dubious response, so he started opening the bag. And then JJJ came to my rescue, and approached the security guy “Sir, there are a few alcohol items for our trip”.

And just like that, the booze bag was let released for our taking.

 

L-R: Bacardi, Tequila Rose, Grey Goose, Absolut Peach (the bottle of red still in it's made-up packaging, haha.).

We were about to proceed to the baggage check-in counter from the security check, when we were held up yet again, this time my fùtbol was at fault.

Security guy: “You can’t bring this aboard the plane“.
Me: “Ahm, oh no …
Security guy: “You have no choice but to leave this here

My face was readily sullen, with jovial thoughts of playing fùtbol at the beach puffily bursted in thin, imaginary air, when another person from the security approached us and told us that we just need to get a ball pin to get the air out from the ball.

We finally managed to have a ball pin, and got my fùtbol deflated. We checked-in our bags, and headed to the cafeteria, Trish wanted to grab something to eat before getting on the plane.

 

JJJ at the check-in counter.

The plane departed on time, around 5-ish, as scheduled. As we settled in on our seats, the four of us were in deep open-mouthed snooze. I stirred when the stewardess approached Jerome about his phone being on. Then I went back to sleep.

 

When I woke up again, saw this gorgeous breaking dawn. Yes God, good morning to you too 🙂

The plane arrived at the Tacloban Airport after an hour of flight. The sun’s barely out, but the warmth of it’s rays is the perfect complement to the slight chill of the Leyte air.

 

Tacloban, finally! L-R: Trish, JJJ, Moi. Jerome took the peechur.

We were welcomed by our chauffeur who picked us up from the airport. We asked how much longer til we get to Surf Camp, he said 3.5 hours, of to which we all responded with a resounding “Whaaaat?!” Haha. All the while I thought the land travel will only take 30 minutes. Well, I got the 30-minute part right. I just missed the 3-hour portion by this much.

I remember JJJ looking at me snidely when she heard how much more to travel. That look is JJJ’s patented “What did you had me dragged into doing, MMM. What is this. Whattheeff!“. Haha. She cracks me up everytime she gives me that fantastic look on her face. 😀

 

San Juanico Bridge, welcoming us to ... Samar!

We crossed the infamous San Juanico Bridge, connecting Samar and Leyte. I only see this in pictures in textbooks, but now, I am actually on it. Haha. It’s not as long as I used to picture it to be. But it’s nice to finally meet a landmark in person.

I slept through half of the land travel. Got stirred when we passed by the bumpy routes, but was asleep as soon as I woke up. 3 hours 30 minutes through the long drive, I was welcomed by the sign I was so glad to see. We’re finally near Calicoan Island 🙂

 

Calicoan!

I asked the driver, how much farther, he said 30 more minutes. 30 more minutes! That makes it a total of 4 hours! Whattheeff! Haha. JJJ was already making snide remarks from behind the van (I was seated next to the driver), so I refuse to look round her direction, as I would receive more of those patented JJJ looks. 😀

We finally (finally!) arrived at our destination after that very looooong drive, and were greeted by glasses of fresh buko juice, and necklaces made out of conch shells. These are things that I normally find absurdly tacky, but this time find them simply adorable for some reason.

While we were waiting for our room to be ready, they handed us forms to fill-out, of which I abruptly handed to the Jerome.

 

The Jerome, holding forms to fill-out.

L-R: Trish, Moi, Jerome. My Aviators on Jerome, his Wayfarers on me. Dre, if you want them so much, get your own pair for chrissakes! Haha.

JJJ's playing Creeps from Jerome's iPhone. I know how effin' bored she is at this point.

We were finally directed to our villa. It’s not what I expected it to be (later on we realized that we were moved into the smallest of the villas due to a surfing competition happening the time we stayed there), it’s not as big as what they led me to believe based on the the photos in their website. They didn’t put a TV set in the room, which JJJ immediately pointed out. Again, JJJ with her snide looks at me. I can already see a big disappointment on JJJ’s face, so I hugged her to calm her down, haha B) I thought this kid might be hungry, so to make her less irate than she already is, we all headed to the dining hall to have brunch.

 

Our villa.

A peek from the inside.

A view of the outside, from the inside.

Surf Camp's dining hall.

JJJ's first authentic smile since we arrived 🙂 That smile I owe to the choco-soaked mallows 🙂

Everybody’s in the usual cordial mood right after wolfing everything there is on the table. We headed back to our villa, the guys decided to take a nap, but I was not there to sleep my ass all day, so I decided to head straight to the infinity pool.

 

The Inifinity Pool.

I love their infinity pool. I love that it’s saltwater, and not the usual chlorine-treated pool water. The place is slowly growing on me. I was just there on the edge looking out to the vast Pacific Ocean, observing surfers as they ride wave, after wave.

After a couple of hours, the guys showed up, and they all jumped right into the pool.

 

L-R: Jerome, Trish, JJJ, Moi.

2 hours into our dip, JJJ suggested that we take surfing lessons immediately, since there’s nothing left for us to do. We made arrangements, and found ourselves 3 instructors for each of us (Trish is not surfing, because it’s that time of the month, tsk.).

Surfing commenced. Did bailouts for a couple of tries, but on my third time I finally did it! It was sublime, surreal, ethereal. It’s like the first time you rode a bike without those teeny wheel supports at the back, with that pride luminescent through your face while looking at your dad 😀

 

Surfer dude! B)

Us and our surf instructors.

The waves were awesome. Gorgeous wave after wave. But like any other rose, it has it’s own version of bleed-you-like-crazy thorns, in forms of jaggedly protruding reef and rock. Hence, our surf wounds and bruises. From our backs, legs, knees, ankles, feet, palms, toes, fingers. shoulders, you name it, bruises got ’em all covered in red pigment (fresh and/or coagulated), also known as blood. But whattheeff! It’s all oh so worth it! 🙂

 

Left: JJJ | Right (bottom): Jerome | Right (top): Moi

JJJ's bruised and tattered back 🙂 We love surfing!

We got all hyped up with the surfing experience that I remember our faces would immediately stare in midair, with a fixed ear-to-ear grin, for every 3-second pause during our conversations. It’s like being in love, you smile incessantly for no apparent reason, and yet you feel it’s there.

The guys rested a bit. But I went back to the infinity pool, yet again. Haha.

After an hour, I felt the dire need to replenish lost nutrients blood. So I headed back to the villa to get the guys going, and get ready for dinner.

 

Our first Surf Camp dinner 🙂

 

To be continued …

 

La météo de Manille en Septembre vingt-quatrième à vingt-septième.

September 22, 2010

Manila weather on September 24th to 27th. That’s from Friday to Monday. I’ve been having a bit of this obsessive constant checking of weather from the 24th-27th of September, because SURF CAMP’s FINALLY HERE! Haha. Friday and Saturday’s looking quite damp (cue for ethnic  sun dance). However, Sunday and Monday are going to be soleil-parfait! Will be packing my stuff tonight, and will be sleeping-over at P’s place tomorrow for Friday’s 5AM very-early-morning-yawn-fest flight.

Je suis très, très excitation!

Un mois avant Surf Camp

August 22, 2010

(A month before Surf Camp)

I was checking out my calendar the other day, when I noticed it’s only a month to go before hitting Surf Camp in Calicoan, Leyte! I got all giddy the moment I had mental images of going to the one place we’ve been planning to go to, since mid of last year. I got so giddy that I had this sudden urge to pee. LOL.

We’d be leaving early morning of 9/24, and be back on the 27th. That’s four days of incessant surfing. I pray for clear skies and adamant waves, during our stay there. I can’t wait! 🙂

With this in the itinerary, today officially marks my month-long prep of working out.

I still have to get one of them rash guards for the trip.

C’est enfin là!

August 8, 2010

It’s finally here! The Ikea Flat Iron Building wall poster that Tenok gave me as a move-in present for my place next year 🙂 I’ve been eyeing this gorgeous, gorgeous, photo at Ikea for the past two years, and last May my sister bought it for me, so happy 🙂 My sister had it sent via courier since I can’t have it checked-in on the plane because of its irregular dimensions.

It’s so huge (200 cm x 140 cm) that it will definitely cover an entire section of a wall. Can’t wait to finally move in my place, and hang one of my fave NYC landmarks in my living room.

Je suis retour (encore)

August 8, 2010

(Moi, ma sœur, mon beau-frère, et les fabuleux twins)

D’accord, so the blogging hiatus this time was a bit longer than expected. Was supposed to post photos of me and my nieces during my stay with them in Nouveau York en Mai, but I got busy with work the moment I got back.

The weather outside is gloomy, perfect day to read a good book, curled in my bed. I’d be getting back to my book in a bit.

Poisson d’Avril

May 5, 2010

(April Fish Day :D)

OK, so our NYC-bound flight is at 1235 AM of May first. 3 hours prior the scheduled plane departure, our dad drove us to the airport. At exactly 1030PM of April 30th, we arrived at the airport, with our luggages and all. We bade our dad goodbye.

My sister and I are queued in line at the airport entrance. Armed with the lyrics, concrete jungle and all, we jovially sung our way through the Empire State of Mind song.

It was our turn on the queue. Lady guard asked for our tickets and passports. We handed the items to her.

She carefully checks the documents. Double.. triple-checking the time and date.

20.. 30 seconds went by, the guard still looks at the flight details, to the word. As if looking for some secret transaction scratch-me-up portion that will reveal if rubbed the right way if we were to be finally allowed to enter the airport. 

I was obsessively counting the mascara gunk she has on her eyelashes (there were 12), when she finally blurted-out the biggest boo-hoo of my year.

“Your flight is tomorrow.”

As if I had a momentary lapse, I asked her to repeat what she said.

“It says on your ticket 1235 of May first. Your flight is tomorrow of 1235 in the afternoon. The time is in military”.

Oh the humanity.

I was so used to having my NYC-bound flights at 1235 AM (this is the fifth consecutive year), that I did not bother to check the time in the ticket. I forgot that I asked our travel agent to book us the shortest stop over she could find for the trip.

And there we were. With our luggages packed stealthily 4 hours ago, still half-chanting our New York theme song, we were 14 hours early for our flight. I called my dad.

Just when I thought April fools was almost 30 days overdue.

Emmenez-moi à Prague

November 2, 2009
Prague | Old Town Hall

Vieux ville carré de Prague

(Take me to Prague)

Long before my fascination with France, with its culture and language, I have always been dans l’amour with Prague. I don’t know why and how exactly, but there’s something about the place that hooks me to it. It feels familiar. As if it was in my past. I even have this bizarre setting in my imagination, that in my past life I was a french guy living in Prague (I reckon I’m reading way too much fiction, lol).

Prague | Charles Bridge

Le Pont de Charles dans Prague

Whenever I read a book with a scene set in Prague, I always have this vivid image of a rustic, archaic city of yore. Old, but genuinely gorgeous. Ville d’avant, but still breathtaking even centuries forward.

Prague | Overlooking

Prague, surplombant

I want, want, WANT to visit Prague next year. Paris can wait.

Paris en année deux-mille-dix (2010)!

August 22, 2009

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Year 2010 is the year for my first time in Paris! Our français level 1 class would be ending in a week, and my classmates and I were planning on having a Paris trip next year! 🙂 Good thing Chesca would be part of an exchange student program in Lyon, France, from September to December this year, which means she could do a guided tour when we get there 😀 I would be starting on saving up for the trip, I’m sure it would be really really REALLY fun!

Can’t wait to have an espresso in a local café, drink très bien vin rouge, eat paté, foie gras, and really smelly fromage 😀 Stay all day in Place Colette, reading a good book, listening to really good music, sipping warm coffee from une tasse, fresh from a bring-along thermos 🙂 Then go ride the Metro, and checkout all the train stops (like I did in NYC). And then go to Musée de Louvre, climb Le Tour de Eiffel, and walk the cinq-kilomtre Champs-Elysées 🙂