This Side of Europe – Part I

I just came back from a 3-week sojourn to the United Kingdom and some parts of the European Union. As always, it was one memorable trip. Planned 8 months ahead, 13 travelers in tow, working on a meagre budget. By meagre means, we did the planning and the booking on our own, without the help of any travel agency. 🙂 This is one trip with an ambitious itinerary, that includes seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and putting items off our bucket list. All these came to be, because of a 50% off airfare offer from Philippine Airlines and Citibank – thank you!

Our first stop – London.

Coming back after almost 5 years, the excitement hasn’t changed. Albeit a bit expensive coming from a third world citizen’s point of view, London is worth all the trouble and worth every penny I have painstakingly saved for this trip.

Nevertheless, there are ways on how to survive London on a budget. On top of the list is the Visitor Oyster Card. We bought this at the VFS office after our Visa was granted. It is pre-loaded, worth 1,900.00 or roughly £25, can be used at the London Tube, Bus and DLR.  What makes it worthy is that you can only be charged a maximum of £8.50, more or less,  on a daily basis, regardless of how many trips you make on a bus, or the tube. 🙂 I assure you, you can never go wrong with an Oyster Card.

Anyway, one tip to note is – secure your oyster card in a luggage tag  attached to a spring clip, (talk about being creative lol) just like the photo here – so that you can easily access your oyster card, without having to reach for your wallet,  saves you the time digging on your purse looking for it, also making you less vulnerable to thieves.  You can always top-up your Oyster card when needed. You must have at least £5 or £7 load in your card.

Second – download the Metro App. This is the most valuable app on my iPhone when I’m out traveling. It practically teaches you (nah, spoon-feed, if I may say) how to get to your destination using the Tube. With the complicated London underground, you can actually get lost. But thanks to the Metro App – all you need to do is to read and follow instructions. 🙂 It basically tells you which line to take (and the direction), where to change lines, and where to get off. It also gives you how many stops before your destination, and the time of travel. You could actually pass as a local using the Tube in confidence, and plan your daily itinerary with the help of the Metro app. Honestly, I prefer the London Underground over the Hop On – Hop Off bus, which to me is outrageously overpriced. The tube can get you anywhere you want to go, particularly all the tourist spot you must visit. And oh, Metro is an offline app. You don’t need to be connected to the internet to use it. Brilliant isn’t it?

If you are a sucker for musicales, the West End is your heaven. Pre-book your tickets online. West End classics are usually fully booked on weekends, even the matinees, so it is best to plan ahead and book online. This website: lets you compare tickets on different booking agencies in London. It saves you a lot of quid, because it can tell you where to get the cheapest tickets online. We were able to watch the classics such as Les Miserables and Wicked on a fairly bargain price.

There’s so much to see even outside London. Oxford is one worth the visit. There’s also the Cotswolds, Lacock, Salisbury where the Stonehenge is and also the equally famous Bath. Post about these places soon! Please stay tuned. 🙂




Europe 2014.

I’ve seen winter and I’ve seen spring. Three years later, I get to see autumn. Europe in autumn leaves me as breathless as seeing winter and spring. Trees are almost barren while the sun is barely showing up. On some lucky days it gloriously shines, magnifying all of nature’s grandeur.

Autumn leaves under my feet – PARIS

Fall offers just the right temperature, neither too cold nor too hot, but in some parts of Europe, it feels like it’s nearly winter. The best part of autumn is the way it blends with the changing of the season. It bursts of colors in hues of yellow, orange, brown and sometimes red, so much beauty that it seems nature is showing off before breathing its last.

Gruyeres, Switzerland. 

I also love the sound of crisp autumn leaves crashing under my feet while we saunter along European streets. My tropical body welcomes the cool outdoor weather, giving us the opportunity to dress up in layers of knitted tops and trench coats, which we don’t get to wear everyday back home.

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I am thankful to the Almighty for another chance to visit Europe. For keeping us safe and at times, sending angles in the person of kind strangers we meet along the way. Thank You Lord for sustaining us throughout our trip, thank You for the company of good friends and the unforgettable memories we shared.

So there. My first actual lengthy post on the last day of the year.

Cheers to the New Year! More posts in the coming year!  Thank you 2015. You’ve been a good year to me.

What I Hate (and Love) about Facebook

I admit. I can’t end the day without logging on to my FB account. Better yet, I can’t spend the day without peeking at my mobile phone for the news feed, and even can’t control my itchy finger urging to scroll down once that red color appears on my notifications page.

I am a facebook lurker. But of late, I get distracted with what I see on my wall.

Excessive information about one’s daily life can be exasperating. Sure, I get the highs when I get connected with long lost friends, with special people whom I’ve always wondered how they were doing after not seeing them for years. And I am amazed how facebook can get us connected and updated even when we are not physically together. These are the times.

But, forgive me. Too much of the good things can get irritating. Passively annoying.

Such inordinate posts about trivial stuff can really get into one’s system. By trivial I mean – being late for work, how stressful your day is, what to wear for the day (or what you’re wearing) a missing shoe, buying a new toothbrush, having braces or removing them, a flat tire, an injured knee, going to the gym everyday, having too much to eat, playing with your pet, how you cried watching a sappy movie, trying on a new make up….and list can go on and on.

I get dizzy with too much face on my computer screen, those selfies I mean. One or two shots is excusable, but a multitude of them in different poses and angles, all bundled up in a collage, and worse, obviously photoshopped or edited by some phone app – simply outrageous.  Not to mention those poses in front of the mirror with your hand vertically holding your mobile phone.

It seemed mandatory to post the kids’ new toys, the new gadget you just purchased, your brand new car, new purses, your new chandelier, those pasalubongs, the gifts from santa. Endless ooohsss and aaaahssss and thank-yous.  I can tolerate a couple to these, but repeated, and almost habitual postings of such are just too much to ingest.

Then there are the hate posts. They are sort of guess-who-I’m-talking-about kind of thing, but it is so intriguing that you end up generating comments and queries about who and what happened. I don’t mind them at all. It is even quite amusing to join in the fun, of adding insult to injury. You get to solicit empathy from your cirlcle of friends, having an assurance that your facebook friends could rally behind you in your battles. But then again, too much of this could make you appear you are loaded with so much baggage.

But of course, Facebook is not about all these things. I love reading quotes, sensible quotes. I like getting pointers about traveling. Those baby pictures I am so fond of. Family gatherings, weddings, reunions, all things positive and worth celebrating. Everything in moderation.

With this I have come to realize that I’ve become a different person once I log in. There’s unsolicited advice on my comments, there’s disliking a friend just because of his/her posts. There’s even judgement just because of one’s status. I don’t like what I turn to when I use my facebook.

Perhaps its time to use less of facebook this coming year. Facebook has done a great deal to people who get connected again. But sometimes, it destroys friendships and ruins people’s lives.

There’s more to life than those news feeds and statuses.

And I can’t believe I am able to post again after a long time.


Down and confused.

After sixteen years of working in the industry, I still haven’t got used to the cycle of emotional ups and downs. The free roller coaster ride of loving your job and hating it. Of being pushed to the wall just so you could produce.

I’ve had my share of triumphs and losses, and these add up to my so-called corporate life. But time comes when you begin to wonder if it’s still worth  to walk the direction you chose 16 years ago. If its still worth all the pressure and the sleepless nights. When you can barely put on a smile because you think about your impending task at hand.

In this job where you’re as good as your last deal,  where one day you are seated right next to the gods because you have the numbers printed on your forehead….then to wake up the next day alone and abandoned, because your star has lost its luster, and your numbers have drastically gone down, way way down.

Sixteen years. No regrets.

But its time to think about moving on and get out of my comfort zone.

Because I am old, and I need a breath of fresh air.