Showing posts from 2013

Saying Hello To the Queen at Buckingham Palace

Being a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, the movie Eurotrip, British musicians such as the Beatles, Coldplay etc, and British imperial history, I knew that London would be the pinnacle of any European sojourn. There are just too many places here that I wanted to see! However to have the chance to visit the city twice in two years (one with family in 2012, the other for work in 2013), gave me a good appreciation of what this city has to offer.

And like any traveler in the good old days, I did what any newcomer in a strange locale was expected to first do upon arriving, and that is topay my respects to the Sovereign.

Buckingham Palace is known the world over as the official residence of the British Monarchy. As you can see in the succeeding photographs, there is a huge differencebetween the size of the crowd last year (2012) and this year (2013). When I visited last year, it was about the time that the London Olympics had just ended and for some reason, there was a shortage of tourists in…

Haggis, Scotch and Bagpipes at Ballindalloch Castle

As an added bonus to what was already an awesome trip, we were able to visit an honest-to-goodness Scottish castle! Built in 1546, Ballindalloch, known affectionately as the Pearl of the North, is one of the more beautiful and romantic-looking castles in Scotland. Having been continuously occupied by the Macpherson-Grant family since its inception, the estate and its grounds are now open to the public as a museum, distillery, public garden, golf course, dog walking park and ranch serving its own renowned Angus beef.

* Driving by Lord of the Rings-esquelandscapes on the way to the castle. I'm pretty sure that there are orcs / barbarians / vikings hiding in that forest.

Whiskey Tour - The Glenlivet Distillery

The second stop on our whiskey tour was theGlenlivet Distillery, producer of the renowned Glenlivet single-malt (duh!). Known as the "single malt that started it all," Glenlivet is currently the biggest selling single malt brand in the USand is personally my favorite single-malt scotch.

* This sign goes to show how all of our beloved scotch whiskey brands are just literally, neighbors.

Whiskey Tour - Strathisla Distillery

For my profession, I find that I am extremely lucky to be able to call myself a salesmanof some of the world's finest brands of spirits and liqueurs. It's one thing to care about what it is you sell, may it be a service, smartphone, shoes, food, but to actually LOVE what you sell(and I do love my booze) is an entirely different thing.

It is in this spirit that I, along with my officemates, was very fortunate to have been sent on aneducational trip to Scotland, where our beloved scotch whiskey brands are produced.

* On the road, we passed by warehouses full of Chivas Regal, definitely my preferred blended scotch due to its sweetness and smooth finish as compared with other scotch brands. It was surreal to realize that a bottle of scotch that I will enjoy years from now, is currently in one of these warehouses. 

Exploring the Bishopric of Elgin, Scotland

In between the company scheduled tours, dinners and activities, I found some time to walk around and explore the area our hotel was located in.

To my surprise, I found out that Elgin was a former cathedral city(town built around a medieval cathedral) created as a Royal Burgh(official royal town) in the 12th centuryby King David I of Scotland. So historically, there are a lot of places here to whet one's appetite.

On a pop culture note, the Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd and The Kinks all performed in a dance hall here back in the 60's; so, add extra points for coolness!!

* The view of the town from my attic-style hotel room's window!

Manila - Singapore - England - Scotland

After 13 hours, 3 movies, 5 TV shows, 2 full meals, 1 in-flight magazine (read from cover-to-cover) and numerous conversations with my colleagues, we finally arrived in London.. just in time to catch our connecting flight to Scotland!

* Thank God for the gift ofaisle seating as I had the chance to stretch every few hours. I could have happily walked for miles upon arriving in Heathrow after that grueling flight duration.

6 Hours in Singapore

En route on my company trip from Manila to London, I was awarded a 6-hour opportunity to explore the ultra-modern and oh-so-neat city of Singapore. The last time I was here was around 15 years ago, so I was excited to see how much the place changed. (In hindsight though, this was the exact same orderly, clean and prosperous city that I remembered from my youth.) 

* Touchdown Singapore, after a short flight enjoying Singapore Airlines' great in-flight entertainment service and cuisine.

The Tourist-Loving Dogs of Greece

I can’t end my entry on our Greek travels without talking about one of my favorite parts of the whole trip: the Greek dogs!!

Standing guard, walking around, but mostly sleeping; these HUGE (like Beethoven big), somewhatchubby, docile and friendly creatures can be found EVERYWHERE in the country!  And by everywhere, I mean even in friggin boutique stores!

Apparently, these guys are every bit as important to the Greek state as its own citizens as they are constantly fed and protected by the local government and shop owners themselves. That’s some heart-warming stuff right there, people!

* Outside Zara along Ermou St.

A Wedding in Greece

A week after the start of our Greek escapade, from bustling and busy Athens to calm and reflective Northern Greece, to exciting and wonderful Santorini and Mykonos, we finally got around to our whole reason for coming: the wedding of Monicca’s good childhood-friend, Bryn Martinez to Greek-American, John Zavras.

When I saw these two back in Manila a year ago, I knew that they would make an excellent match. I can go on about complementary personalities or shared life goals or similar family backgrounds especially in terms of the concept of family, but the fact is, he’s Greek! You can’t go wrong with the lineage of Leonidas and Hercules, people!

* My stunning fiancee posing with the whole of Ornos beach as a backdrop. The wedding was on a hilltop overlooking this fantastic view.

Mythology (Delos) and Partying (Mykonos Beaches) in a Day!

Much more than just a shopping town, Mykonos also offers something for history junkies, such as myself. A short boat ride away lies the island of Delos; famous for being the birthplace of the twin gods, Apollo and Artemis, and for being one of the most important archaeological sites in all of Greece.

Of course, no trip to Mykonos would be complete without seeing some of its world-famous party beaches, revered the world over by clubholics.

* The fiancee and I posing by Mykonos Port before boarding our ferry to Delos. We were extremely fortunate to have seen the official island mascot, Petros the Pelican, the night before. (See previous entry)

Being Welcomed by Petros the Pelican at Mykonos Town

After our stop in fantastic Santorini, we made our way to the equally awesome island of Mykonos for the wedding of Monicca’s childhood friend. Legend has it that this island is the site of Zeus’ battle against his father, Cronus, and the Titans.

Today, Mykonos is known as one of Europe’s clubbing and nightlife capitals(along with Ibiza), and also has the distinction of being THE ultimate gay destination in Europe.

* Taking the Catamaran (a really fast sea vessel) to Mykonos from the port of Santorini took around 3 hours, which I happily took to do some leisure reading.

Oia, Santorini - Jewel of the Cyclades

Our Santorini adventure continued on as we explored Santorini’s other, more well-known, and visited town, Oia. Taking the bus in the island is the more fun and hassle-free way of getting around as it can get rather expensive to rent a car (especially if you only plan to explore the towns and not the beaches), and taxi cabs are few and far between.

* While Fira is Santorini’s capital and busiest town, Oia is where all the tourists and couples flock to experience Santorini’s picturesque beauty.

Getting Engaged in Santorini at the Beautiful Town of Fira!

As I was getting my cultural and historical fix in Athens and Northern Greece, I knew that for Monicca, this whole trip was leading up to her personal highlight, Santorini. Sure I knew from all the pictures and movies shot here how beautiful the island is; but what got me really excited was when I read that the Legend of Atlantis was actually based off of this island! To get a chance to explore the so-called most beautiful city in antiquity, destroyed by the gods because of its citizens’ hubris? Count me in!

* The departure gate at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos. You know you’re going to have an epic time when all your fellow passengers are wearing shorts and sandals.

The Reclusive Monasteries of Meteora

Not just known as the title of Linkin Park’s epic second album, Meteora, (translating to “suspended in the air”) is home to one of the most important and beautiful Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece. On day two of our travels across Northern Greece, we actually went up a couple of these monasteries to experience this extraordinary early Christian site and get a glimpse of the lives of its inhabitants.

* Made by the same natural forces that shaped the Grand Canyon and Petra, the scenery of Meteora is dominated by six monasteries that are built on top of natural sandstone rock pillars.

A Day with the Oracle and Leonidas

After spending much time admiring the hustle and bustle of Athens, and before flying off to enjoy the enchanting beauty of the Cyclades(Greek islands in the Aegean), we set off to tour the Greek countryside to gain a further understanding and appreciation for the link between Greek history and the mythological and legendary stories found within her culture.

On Day 1 of our tour, we visited the renowned Oracle of Delphi and the Battlefield of Thermopylae.

* What’s a tour without tourist traps? Fortunately here in Greece, they come with excellent Greek coffeegelato and Paprika-flavored Pringles. Add the very fresh Greek countryside air to the mix and you have a hell of a great time!

Crazy Souvenir Shopping in Athens

While a big chunk of any itinerary in Athens involves sight-seeing, one must alsomake sure to leave enough time (a day at least!) for souvenir shopping! Seriously, of all the countries I’ve been in, this is where I had the most fun at not only buying souvenirs but also window-shopping the huge variety of items for sale.

So whether you’re a fan of fashion (branded and local), typical tourist souvenirs(tshirts, hoodies, magnets, spoons etc)AWESOME tourist souvenirs(orthodox icons, statues, swords and armor!!) or just plain weird stuff(antiques, old pictures of random families, taxidermied animals), Athens has something for you.

* Such a nice day for a stroll along Plaka’s streets. Armed with time for leisure-strolling, the art of exploring, getting lost, and finding one’s way again equates to a very pleasurable experience indeed.

Separated! The Tale of the Acropolis in Athens, and London

This is a story of two cities: Athens and London. Two cities separated by over 3000 kilometers but united culturally because of their great contributions to our study and understanding of Greek culture.

Wait what, London?! Yes, London. For when the Ottoman Turks had the whole of Greece under their rule, an enterprising Brit with the title of Lord of Elgin fell in love with the Parthenon upon seeing it and decided to use his official title, as British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to legally purchase almost ALL the sculptures in the Parthenon, of which can now be found in the British Museum of London.

But first things first, let’s take a look at the Acropolis in Athens!

1. The Acropolis in Athens.

* The Propylaea serves as the main entrance to the Acropolis. Meaning monumental gateway, the Propylaea’s design has been copied numerous times; from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to the Propylaea in Munich.

10 Amazing Things To See In Athens

Having already written about the Plaka area of Athens (including Monastiraki Square, Ermou Street, the Ancient Agora and the Metropolitan Cathedral) and wanting to save the Acropolis for its own post, I decided to give you this Top Ten list of other places to see in Athens!!

1. Temple of Olympian Zeus

* The colossal and enormous Temple of Olympian Zeus, dedicated to the King of all Olympian gods, was once the largest temple in all of Greece. While the building of the temple started in the 6th Century BC, it wasn’t finished until 638 years later, in the 2nd Century AD. Talk about procrastination!!  

Awesome Athens and its Neighborhood of the Gods, Plaka!

Such is the beauty of this city, that a random turn on some street corner can expose you to a sight like this.

Continuing on my life-goal to explore a big chunk of the world in this lifetime, I found this Athens trip significant for three reasons:

a. This crossed out another city from my “Civilization II / Age of Empires Ancient Capital” list; having already done Jerusalem and Rome and just leaving Cairo and Istanbul.

b. This was the first foreign trip that Monicca(my sweeter, much more attractive, definitely less grumpy, half) and I have ever gone on together.

c. By attending the wedding of Monicca’s good friend in Mykonos(the whole reason for the trip to Greece), I could now check both "Attend a Greek wedding" and "Experience an Orthodox mass" from ye olde bucket list.

So accompanied by our beloved chaperone, Khamil(Monicca’s aunt), and having re-watched 300, Troy and Percy Jackson as a refresher course on Greek culture, we embarked on our 18-hour trip (including…

Visiting King Louis at the Chateau de Versailles

Being a fan of the 90’s Three Musketeer films (which starred Chris O’Donnel, a sober Charlie Sheen, and Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland; and later on Leonardo DiCaprio), I always wanted to see where the Musketeers had faithfully served the King and fought against the forces of the evil Cardinal Richelieu, as masterfully played by Tim Curry.

That being said, I was thrilled at the chance to visit the Chateau de Versailles, one of the most beautiful and famous palaces in history.

* A statue of Louis XIV on horseback can be found on the very front of the castle grounds, looking all gangsta and victorious. Louis XIV, known as the Sun King and Louis the Great, was the King of France and Navarre for 72 years: the record for longest reign ever!

He was so old when he died, that his great-grandson inherited the throne as Louis’ son and two grandsons were already dead! Having won three major wars (against Germany, Spain and the Dutch), Louis was king during France’s highest point in histo…

The Artistic Quarter of Montmartre with the Fantastic View from Sacre Coeur

Frequented by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani and Piet Mondrian, Montmartre is Paris’ artistic quarter.

An area bustling with poets, street performers, musicians, young lovers, philosophers and gypsies; it seems that one could come out of this place a little bit more creative and reflective just by breathing the air.

Definitely a MUST for every traveller in Paris, Montmartre is where one would go not to admire buildings, works of art or masterpieces; but people and the creative spirit.

* Coming out of the Abbesses Metro, one can’t help but feel cozy walking along the streets of Montmartre. So this is the real charming part of town.. no grand museums or monuments to kings, no outward displays of religious art; the most interesting part of this area is the people itself. Just charm, pure charm.

Tribute to Warfare - Musee de I'Armee and Napoleon's Tomb

One of the most overlooked attractions in Paris is the Musee de I’Armee. Located in Les Invalides, this museum has one subject and one subject alone, WARFARE.

Originally, I wanted to see the place only because it contains Napoleon’s Tomb, which is something I had wanted to see ever since I saw the episode of GI Joe where the Joes battled Cobra because Cobra needed Napoleon’s DNA to build Serpentor. (Geek talk) But this place turned out to be so much more.

Containing weapons, armor and artifacts from antiquity, the dark ages, the Renaissance, all the way to the two World Wars, this Museum is as awesome as it gets, it being one of the largest and most complete military museums in the world.

So fellows, when all that your ladies want to do is shop along Champs Elysees, do yourself a favor; HEAD HERE!

And feel the manliness coursing through your veins.

* After getting off the Varenne metro stop, one must take a very pleasant walk towards the Museum. I would highly recommend you listen to…

Historic Paris - Ile de la Cite with Notra Dame and Saint-Chapelle

Ile de la Cite(or Lutetia to us Asterix fans) is a small island located in the very center of Paris. Consequently, it is where the city of Paris was founded and contains its most ancient buildings.

* The Palais de Justice (Palace of Justice) is where the justice of the state has been administered since medieval times. It was also the seat of the French Parliament from the 16th Century to the French Revolution.

Two Grand Museums: Palais du Louvre & Musee d'Orsay

Right after the morning in the Catacombs, we made our way to the Louvre for a half-day of sculpture appreciation and pretend-reflection on the various paintings, mumbling things like, "This painting.. it moves me.."

Being a lifelong fan of sculptures(which is the reason why I’m a huge stickler for playing with clay, plaster and action figures; but that’s a different story), I was excited to see all the beautiful works-of-art hand-made by various masters throughout the centuries. May it be Greek, Egyptian or Renaissance, I wanted to see them all. What surprised me though, was how I came out much more appreciative of paintings, especially the huge-ass ones depicting key moments in French history.

* One of the funniest posters that I saw on the Paris Metro on the way to the Louvre. Wonder what it’s about..

The Catacombs of Paris

One place that I had been looking forward to seeing in Paris was the Catacombes de Paris. It has been on my bucket-list of Places to Explore ever since I saw it being featured on the 90’s TV show, Scariest Places on Earth.

Paris, being the historical city that it is, has been home to millions of people throughout the centuries. And like every city, its citizens have needs: food, water, shelter, security, a vibrant economy, culture. However, with all that life, also comes death. Millions of Parisians have died here creating a unique situation when it comes to body disposal. So instead of adding to the already numerous and overflowing cemeteries, the local government long-ago decided to just create a network of tunnels underground and to store everyone there in a first-in, first-out basis.

The result of this is the Catacombes de Paris, aka the final resting place for a whole lot of unnamed Parisians who lived back in the Dark Ages, Renaissance til the 19th Century and who died in all s…

13 Things To Do in The Holy Land (Besides Pray)

One usually thinks of the Holy Land as a place for prayer, reflection and soul-searching.

However, it is also very much an entertainment mecca, historical time-capsule and religious Disney Land all-in-one; where instead of rides, you have places that you have only read about growing up.

Check out these amazing activities:

1. Go boating in the Sea of Galilee.

A charming wooden boat + cool and windy weather + lively Jewish music + dancing = Relaxation

Good Friday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem

A year ago, I was blessed to be able to celebrate Good Friday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is thus only fitting that I look back and reflect on what is undoubtedly the holiest place in all of Christianity, and my pick as the most beautiful church in the world (Italy, France and UK included) in terms of ambiance, history and sheer spiritual weight.

* View of the Holy Sepulcher from the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross). The beautiful blue dome definitely complements Islam’s Golden Dome of The Rock and helps give Jerusalem its ethereal vibe.

Hello Paris!! CDG, Arc de Triomphe & Eiffel Tower

After Barcelona and the Mediterranean Coast, our adventure continued on to Paris where I was totally stoked to spend 5 full days exploring the city.

Having grown up with images of Paris from books, movies (with Da Vinci Code and Taken as my personal favorites) and stories from friends and family who have gone before me, I was fully prepared to absorb as much history, sightseeing, culture, arts and culinary delights as I could in those 5 days. Leave the shopping for the ladies of the group, I was here to get my sensory overload fix!

* The EasyJet terminal in Barcelona kinda reminded me of one of our own airports here in the Philippines, NAIA 2; not the run-down, “world’s worst airport” yet strangely charming (in my opinion) NAIA 1.

The Ruins of Pompeii

The final stop on our week-long Mediterranean Cruise was the ancient Roman City of Pompeii. Partially destroyed and buried under 20 feet of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, Pompeii was rediscovered 1500 years later and is hailed for giving us a detailed glimpse of what life was like during Roman Times.

Having seen Rome with its majestic arcs, temples and forums, I was very excited to see the other side of the coin, that of the quaint, provincial town far away from the capital. Maybe it’s the Cebuano in me talking, but being here made me feel nostalgic for the good ol’ days before Manila, when the pace of life was more steady and chill.

* One of the many courtyards in town. The Romans sure loved their open-areas! You can feel how much they must have appreciated the fresh air and cool breeze.

Italian Food Trippin'

Our relaxed visit to the Amalfi Coast, gave us the opportunity to savor some of our favorite Italian dishes. It felt refreshing to actually eat in our own time (unlike in Florence and Rome where we were in a hurry) and to eat such quality food(unlike the unlimited food on our cruise ship which was definitely more about quantity than quality).

* My mind still keeps coming back to this place in Sorrento whenever I have my morning cup of Joe. When you mix awesome ambiance with Napoletane guitar music and a smile-y barista; what you get is a credible claim to have the best damn Cappuccino, not just in Sorrento, but EVER.

Amalfi Coast, Sorrento & Positano

One of the highlights of the cruise was getting to dock on the world-famous Amalfi Coast. Compared to the hectic, run-and-gun tours of Florence and Rome, our visit here was very relaxed and pleasant as we really got to take our time and sight-see, enjoy the food, sip some coffee and people watch; the way the Italians love to do!

Easily, the Amalfi Coast is one of the most incredible locales in all of Italy. And that’s saying a lot since almost every city in Italy has it’s own character and charm! What it lacks in history (Rome), art (Florence) and majesty (Venice), the Coast makes up for with sheer breath-taking beauty!

* The town of Sorrento, where many artists and poets have found love and inspiration throughout the centuries.

Rome - In The Footsteps of The Pilgrim

Visiting the Vatican just a few months after Jerusalem was such an awesome experience. While Jerusalem shall always be the spiritual center of Christianity which it shares with Judaism and Islam, the Vatican serves as the center of Roman Catholicism and contains the most beautiful churches and works of art in tribute to Christianity.

Thanks to our awesome tour guide, we were able to navigate around the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and Square with ease. In this album; however, there are no pictures of the Sistine Chapel due to its sensitivity to being photographed.

A lot of times, my cousins and I found ourselves making up our own Gregorian Chants as we were walking around the grounds.  The place is definitely conducive to coming up with “religious” sounding chants that don’t actually make sense.

If I have but one complaint about St. Peter’s is that though it is the most iconic church in Roman Catholicism, you hardly see anyone praying inside.  People are just …

Rome - Trevi Fountain and Pantheon

After the Colosseum and Roman Forum, we went straight to the Trevi Fountain, which is not only one of Rome’s more iconic tourist spots, but also is apparently, a favorite of pickpockets and snatchers. Upon arriving, I could see why, as tourists were cramped like sardines all over the place!

* The beautiful Trevi Fountain which I assume is even more glorious at night when all the lights are turned on. For some reason, I kept on thinking bout that fountain stage in Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Rome - In The Footsteps of Gladiator

Rome was my biggest disappointment this whole trip. Disappointment not because I wasn’t moved or impressed by the place but because we had but one day (8 hours) to explore BOTH Rome AND The Vatican. That would be the equivalent of spending an hour in Disneyworld.

Ideally, I would like to explore the city of Rome for a whole week, and The Vatican for a few more days after. Hopefully one day my cousin Clark, an even bigger History buff than myself, decides to follow his dream of being an archaeologist and actually move to Rome so that I can come and crash in his place when I visit.

* The first view of Constantine’s Arch and The Colosseum. Take note of the line of tourists towards the right going inside the Colosseum with an estimated waiting time of 1 hour and 20min.  Now compare that to the one hour which was the total time we spent here in this part of Rome.

Florence - Birthplace of the Renaissance

Since I had my cousin’s wedding for majority of the day in Florence, we only actually had about two hours to explore the city center. This resulted in the “spot-point-click-run" shots below as I was literally running from one part of Florence to another, not stopping to truly appreciate what I think is the most beautiful city in this whole Euro trip.

Everything about Florence just screams art, and no wonder this is so as Florence is where the Renaissance was born with the works of Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci dotting the “city of the Medici’s" and where the likes of Dante Alighieri and Niccolo Machiavelli circulated their literary masterpieces. 

Two hours is definitely not enough to spend in Florence and I immediately resolved to return someday and to stay for at least a week!

* The Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo, has in my opinion the most impressive outdoor facade of any church that I have seen so far (and that is…

A Wedding in Tuscany - Castello di Vincigliata

Being the fan of fairy tales and Disney movies that she is, my cousin, Rachel, decided to get married in an actual medieval castle. And since she is one of my closest female cousins (both in friendship and in age), I was stoked to be there!

Originally built in the 13th Century and located a few miles from Florence in the Fiesole Hill, the Castello di Vincigliata has been a family stronghold, a glass production center and a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II before finally settling down to it’s most fitting role, a wedding venue.

But it’s not just some medieval castle, it’s a haunted medieval castle!

Urban Exploration - Villefranche sur Mer

One of the pleasures of being in a foreign place is getting lost on purpose.

And while I usually get lost alone (see entries on Hong Kong, Shanghai and Jerusalem), for this trip, I was very lucky to be in the company of my two cousins and partners-in-crime, Clark and Argee. For once, there could actually be a picture of me (hell-yeah!), instead of just the scenery.

After the day-trip to Monaco, we had about four hours to kill before the cruise ship was to depart.  And while everyone else was already on board the ship (sleeping/eating/gambling/enjoying the theatrical production of Grease), Argee and I decided to explore Villefranche a bit longer.

* My partner in crime, Argee, trying his best to look like one of the locals.. with his huge camera bag, US marine hat and Back to the Future sneakers.

Glitzy Monte-Carlo in Monaco

The second stop on our cruise was the glamorous Monaco. Known as the playground of the rich and famous, Monaco is the smallest country in the world next to the Vatican.  But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in style with almost everyone wearing something branded, including the police!

Like sur Mer, this was a light, relaxed day, which really helped with my jetlag. Well that and all the cappuccinos and espresso shots that my cousins and I were taking!

The only downside to this stop was that it was raining non-stop the whole day. Ergo, I couldn’t take pictures of the beautiful parks, architecture and cars to protect my camera from the elements.  And when I say cars, I mean cars like the Bugatti Veyron which is apparently a common sight in this place and NOWHERE to be found back home in Manila.

* Casino de Monte Carlo which I mistakenly thought was the setting of my favorite James Bond movie, Casino Royale (sorry Skyfall fans!!)  Too bad it was raining pretty hard; would have been…

Royal Carribean - Mediterranean Cruise

Before I continue on the Eurotrip, I would like to write a special thank you to our cruise liner and it’s staff, Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, for taking excellent care of us on our Mediterranean Cruise.

For the whole week that we were cruisin, I was pampered, fed (A LOT) and treated very politely by everyone on board.  So Kudos to the Captain and his mates!

* The Barcelona Pier is just awesome, looking a lot like an airport terminal complete with restaurants and souvenir stores, which my dad (guy on the right) took advantage of.

Sleepy and Charming Villefranche sur Mer

After the insane shopping and sight-seeing of Barcelona, the excitement of being in Europe for the first time got bogged down by every traveller’s worst enemy, jetlag. As we started our Mediterranean Cruise, I had to fight to stay asleep.

THANK GOD, our first stop was the charming and sleepy town of Villefranche sur Mer.

With picturesque scenery (see above) and a laid-back, relaxed vibe, sur Mer was our most hassle-free and uneventful stop in the whole trip, and that’s a GOOD THING.