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: http://www.comparetheatretickets.com 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. 🙂

 

Autumn

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.

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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.

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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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Paris

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.

The Month that WAS

December as always, is the busiest month of the year. And having an eleven-day off from work helped me manage a whole caboodle of affairs in my hands and somehow kept my stress levels to a manageable (if not minimum) stage.

My holidays this year seemed to be the most special thus far. First, my cousin and her family flew in from Canada after 14 years to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary here. And I, until now, is in awe how all five of them were able to fit like sardines in my tiny room, not to mention all of their suitcases and stuff.

Second, organizing their silver wedding affair is not a joke. Though the event was planned one year ahead, things crop up at the last minute and trivialities such as missing misalletes and misplaced wedding rings could turn your head upside down. But after some bloopers and minor glitches, the event went out well. Maybe I could set up my own events organizer office in the future.

Third, spending the holidays in Boracay was a first. Boracay welcomed us with big waves and heavy rains while the sun decided to shy away from the over-crowded beach during the whole course of our stay. Despite all these, this brief Boracay escapade was a blast.

Then there’s the countless Christmas parties and family reunions you have to attend to, staying until the wee hours of the morning and waking up a couple of hours later to attend the traditional simbang gabi. Then add up a number of driving errands for your balikbayan visitors after office hours, all these are squeezed in to your daily December life. At times like these, energizer drinks are my best friends, if not for these wonder drinks, I don’t think I could pull it off or my physical body would have given up long before the Christmas eve strikes.

So there. It’s the first day of work, remnants of the holidays are written all over my face, but things are slowly getting back to normal. Reality is gradually creeping back to my system and before I know it, I’m back to my feet again.

Cheers! 

Chocolates and Ice Cream

Of late, I feel like a ten year old kid who is overly ecstatic about getting her share of her favorite chocolates and ice cream as a reward for something good she’s done. Nah, not that I’ve done something really good lately, but I just felt like I do deserve some chocolates and ice cream these days.

In about a couple of days, I’m off for a weekend getaway to my favorite summer destination. Yeah I know, it’s kinda late for a beach escapade considering that it’s already the start of the wet-and- above-the-waist-flood season, but what the heck, I feel like I so deserved this vacation. There came a point where out of desperation, I’d reserve an airline seat and a hotel room just one, if in case not a single travel friend comes in handy – no matter what the cost. But lo and behold, two of my friends are willing and able to come with me in such short notice.

Friends are indeed heaven sent. Oh well, in any case, I’m counting the days until I get a taste of chocolates and ice cream. My feet raring to feel those powdery white sand again. Oh and let me not forget a good book and an endless swig of red wine to complete this rainy season’s break.

Cheers!