Eurotrip (8/29/12 - 9/15/12)

Europe has always been my dream destination.

Having been to the Americas, China, Middle East and around Southeast Asia, it was the one area of the world that seemed so elusive to me.  Part of what made it so was the fact that my family always chose to go to the States for the holidays.

So when I found out that there was a chance that we were going to go this August, I was beyond excited.

My cousin, Rachel, decided to have a destination wedding; and being the romantic that she is, she decided to have it in an actual castle in Florence, Italy.

* Ate Rachel and her fairy tale wedding.

Now it seemed like we were not only going to Europe, the whole family was going as well.  Around 20 of us, including my lola.

The month leading towards the trip, I got excited about the prospect of seeing all these beautiful faces that I had only read about in books and seen in movies.

I got word that the wedding was going to be part of a Mediterranean cruise. So I suggested to my folks that after the cruise, we might as well hit Paris, as what trip to Europe would be complete without a stopover at the City of Lights?

We had initially considered adding either Amsterdam, Madrid or Venice to our itinerary to maximize our EU Visa and since these were all nearby.  As a joke, I suggested London thinking the odds of it being considered were slim especially since you needed a whole new visa for it and hey, it’s in a whole different island!

However, when I saw my mom stop and think during one of our Skype sessions, I thought "Holy S*&^! She’s seriously considering it!"

I pushed the idea, hard.

I knew my mom was a big fan of the Royal Family, especially of the late Princess Di and the William-Kate wedding.  I mentioned Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Harrods and the recently concluded Olympics in my attempt to sway her.

To my delight, Here was the itinerary that my folks and I finally agreed upon:

1.  Barcelona - 4 days and meeting point for the whole Aguilar clan

2.  Toulon, France - first stop on the cruise

3.  Cote d’Azur - second stop

4.  Florence - third stop and wedding venue

5.  Rome - fourth stop

6.  Naples, Sorrento & Positano - last stop on the cruise

7.  Paris - 5 days in the City of Lights with my parents and Godinez family

8.  London - 4 days in the capital of the United Kingdom

Four major capitals of Europe in 1 trip, all in 3 weeks. 

In preparation for this awesome trip, I made sure to accomplish a bunch of tasks:

a.  I needed a new bag; so I purchased a Delsey roller for the occasion.  I opted for a soft-case one as it expands to be able to fit more pasalubong.  At a mere 3 kg it defined the term, LIGHTWEIGHT.

* The perfect bag for clothing and souvenir shopping.

b.  I exercised to lose 10 pounds in anticipation for all the weight that I was sure to gain.  (Sure enough, I would gain 10 pounds during the trip.)

c.  Of course, being the geek that I am, I read as much as I could on the various stops in our itinerary.  Apart from Wikipedia, Wikitravel, Tripadvisor and other travel websites, I relied heavily on my “DK Eyewitness Travel: Europe" book which I highly recommend for its straight to the point approach, abundance of pictures and practical information on the various stops.

* I read this book everyday for two months.  AWESOME source of info.

d.  I also relied heavily on the iPad, which I loaded with a bunch of great apps (which I will discuss in a future entry).  It was my most indispensable gadget during the whole trip.

Getting a visa wasn’t complicated at all, only tedious due to all the requirements. (bank statements, confirmed itineraries and signed leave forms)

* A collection of Visas.

What’s ironic was that when i got to Barcelona from Manila, immigration took all of two seconds to look at my passport and to wave me in.

The whole thing didn’t sink it till I was already at the airport in NAIA, waiting to board my Qatar Airways flight to Barcelona via Doha.

This was really happening.  I was not only going to EUROPE, for the first time.. I was also accomplishing my goal of going to 7 countries this year. (US, Israel, Jordan, China, Spain, Italy, France and England).

I’m reminded of my favorite quote from the book, The Alchemist.. “When you want something bad enough, the whole universe conspires to make it happen.

* At NAIA, the storm before the calm.


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