Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mind Your Travel Manners

A break from the Europe series. I’ll still be updating my backlogs.

We travel to unwind, discover, experience and enjoy. During my adventures, I encounter some people and situations that just ruin entire experience. I compiled my two-cents worth of thoughts on good manners when traveling.

Say Thank You
I believe that this is one of the first few lessons taught to us when we were kids. Don’t leave this at home when you travel. Say “Thank you” even when you are in a hurry. Notice that even the contestants of the Amazing Race manage to say “Thank You” to all the people they deal with. Even better, learn how to say “thank you” in their native language. I’ve noticed that they have a bigger smile when you say this in their language - even if your accent is off.

Accent Alert
Every dialect/language is unique. There are endless jokes about funny accents or people trying to speak your dialect but their accent is so obvious. While most may laugh, try to leave this at home (or keep it within your circle). It can be quite hard not to laugh especially when the accent gives the word an entirely different meaning. Grammatically incorrect signs are also posted everywhere. Well, at least they tried translating, right?

Try not to laugh. Cultural sensitivity please. I’m still trying to master this one.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Europe Musings: Closing Remarks

It has been almost nine months since I got back from my 24-day solo DIY Europe trip (this post is backdated). The euphoria should’ve faded. But, every time I write another Europe post, I can still feel the happiness. The euphoria wouldn’t die.

Everytime I come back from a trip, my “bubble of happy thoughts” gets bigger. After this trip, I’ve accumulated happy thought bubbles that I would rekindle forever. Random things remind me of random memories that occurred during my trip. As I blog my adventures, I am amazed that it really happened.

Why am I feeling so victorious?  This is one trip I’ve been aching to do forthe longest time. Now I finally did it. An idea was translated to numbers,saved and tracked in an excel spreadsheet, plotted and planned in another workbook then blessed with a stamp in my passport. After all the saving and planning, these finally translated into an actual experience, imprinted in my mind, immortalized in pictures.

The Colosseum in Rome.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shopping, Swiping, Spending in Europe

Traveling in Europe is expensive; the basic necessities alone can take you months or years to save. Don’t forget to budget some for shopping. What is Europe without shopping?

I did not have the budget to shop for the high-end brands because I still can’t grasp the full concept of having designer bags anyway. I’m more in shopping in stores which are not yet in the Philippines concept. If you are a fan of Louis Vuitton and the like, then shopping will be a serious part of your agenda. 

The long line in an LV store in Paris.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hostelling Experience in Europe

Staying in hostels is a really good option if you are traveling alone. I loved the freedom of solo travel at day. After everything, it is good to have a chat with a fellow travel enthusiast at night. Hostels are also reasonably priced and they have the basic facilities necessary for travel survival.

It was quite an adjustment for me at first. I have my own room so I am used to having my own territory. From that, to sharing a room with a bunch of strangers for three weeks. I know it is a crazy idea for some people - sharing a room with strangers - but since I decided to do Europe alone on a budget, this is a practical option for me.

Bunk beds

Manners were taught since kindergarten but sometimes, some people forget the basic manners when they travel. There is an unspoken and unwritten (or sometimes written) rule about hosteling etiquette but don't expect that your roommates with adhere to them.

The Problem
The Fix
Snoring roommates
Mp3 player
Farting roommates/ stinky roommates/stinky clothes/ stinky shoes/ stinky food
Sleep under the covers
Noisy roommates
Mp3 player
Pack until midnight (guilty of this)
Mp3 player
Packing and moving your stuff with rustling plastic and paper
Mp3 player
Turns the lights on at 3am
Eye shade
Roommates who come in at 3am
Mp3 player and eyeshades

 See how useful your mp3 player is? I have no other idea how to deal with the stinky smell though.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flying Back To Reality

Most people spend a lot of time dreaming and planning how to get there. As I stated at the beginning of this Europe Series, “A goal without a plan, is just a wish”. I spent and I still continue to spend a considerable amount of time reading books and blogs how to motivate myself and keep my vision, my dreams. How to get there.

The plan was just a plan, not so long ago.

But I was not prepared how to ease myself out of a dream. Most people dream about buying a house, a car or getting married and settling down and all that. Well, you live with that forever. This dream of mine took two years of saving and planning which took place for three weeks. So how do you ease yourself out of a dream? What do you do when you finally hit the ground? I can’t stay in my dream.

It was still a cold morning. But I revered in the cold moment. My next morning will be warm (if not hot and humid). I dragged my luggage and myself to the tram station. I was fortunate enough to witness a canal going up and down.

Canal bridge going up

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Coming Full Circle...In Amsterdam

It was a scenic ride going back to Amsterdam. I had 3.5 hours to kill. Memories swirl my mind as I recalled what happened during the last three weeks.

I landed in the Amsterdam Centraal Station with memories in tow. I located GVB’s building outside the station to purchase a day’s worth of pass. I was leaving in 18 hours. *sniff**sob*

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paris Takeaway Thoughts & Tips

Arriving In Paris
  • I’ve heard and read a lot of horror stories about the pickpockets in Paris. As a solo traveler, I opted for the more costly option of booking the ParisShuttle to pick me up in Paris Orly Terminal and drop me off to the hostel for only €18. Their regular rate is €25 but I got a discount because I flew using Easyjet.
  • Alternatively, Paris Orly Terminal has a train connecting the airport to the main line. But I didn’t want the hassle of reading maps while being alert with my luggage in a new city.  
Getting Around
  • You can buy a carnet of 10 tickets for €12,50. The carnet is valid in zone 1 only.
  • There is also the Paris Visite Pass comes in two options: a pass valid for zones 1-3 or zones 1-5 which can be valid for 1-5 days.  Plan your itinerary in such a way that the adjoining areas can be reached by foot. You can use one ticket to go there and another one going back.
  • Maps are useful. A pen would be a handy accessory. Don’t be afraid to use them. There’s always someone else reading that map a few feet away from you.
Take a picture of the map at the entrance

Hostel Review: The Plug-Inn Hostel

Everybody knows that Paris is an expensive city. I had a difficult time choosing a hostel. Most hostels offering the basic necessities costs €35 a night, and it only cost me €25 a night in the other cities – well, except for my accommodation in Venice. Choosing an area to stay in Paris was difficult. Every traveler recommends a certain spot. But each city's corner is just near a metro stop so you are not really that far from anything.

The hostel's rules

Monday, January 9, 2012

Au Revior Paris, 'Til We Meet Again

Well, here we are. The last day in Paris. I knew it was going to be a somewhat depressing day.To jumpstart my day, I headed out to Galleries Lafayette. It was a couple of blocks away from my hostel. It probably took me around 30 minutes to get to the mall on foot, but I didn’t mind walking. After all, it was my last morning in Paris. I wanted to inhale the neighborhood as much as I can.

I reached the mall at a quarter past 10:00am and hurried to the Longchamp store. Longchamp became such a craze in the Philippines. I’ve been wanting to buy one online but I can’t distinguish the real one from the replica. I held off buying any LCs until I reached Paris.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Everywhere Else In Paris

It was another gloomy morning in Paris. The blue skies that I enjoyed in the other cities faded into the clouds. The sticky phlegm since Italy is more evident in my throat. It was one of those gloomy days. Perhaps its was the cold weather, perhaps it was the phlegm, or a big perhaps goes to the realization that it was my last full day in Paris. Tomorrow, I will head back to Amsterdam to spend the night. A day after, I’m flying back to Manila. My Europe trip is ending.

The Plan: Musee D' Orsay/Rodin Museum/Napoleon's Tomb
What Happened:  Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris), Day Seine River Cruise, Mass, Tuileries again.

I decided to skip the museums even though some are covered by the Paris Museum Pass. I wasn’t leaning towards an art appreciation day. It was a blah day in Europe.

The morning began with an uphill walk to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Rode the metro and got off at Anvers station – which is just two stops away from my home base stop – Blanche Station. It is short walk going to the entrance of the basilica – a short uphill walk. The streets are lined with a lot of souvenir shops. Which reminded me that I needed to shop because my trip was ending.

It was a raining. People had their umbrellas out. 

In The Queen's Estate

Most of the sights during my Europe trip consists of visiting architecturally “eye-candy” churches and museums. I love admiring their architecture and their details. But admiring them can be handful at times, and I crave the haven offered by nature - in the form of parks. The grandest garden I’ve been to was the Gardens of Marie Antoinette in Chateau de Versailles.

After exiting the castle, I tried to look for a place to eat. There a decent restaurant but I didn’t really want to shell out €20-30 and eat for the next two hours. It was almost 1pm and I have to eat or my big intestine will eat my small intestine, if that is even possible.  Good thing they have a cafeteria to cater to the more budget conscious people like me. I got a salmon sandwich at €5 and a bottle of water for €1.50. Geez, the water was probably purified out of a golden purifier.
A bit of history as I understood it. France was ruled by a rich and powerful family using the taxpayers money to build their own playgrounds. There was hunger and starvation in the outskirts. The lower class hated it. Then came the upheaval. They overthrew the government. That's it - in a very small nutshell.

You can enter the garden without purchasing another ticket. If you want to watch the fountain musical, that’s when you have to shell out for additional fee.

Gloomy skies.
See the that end? I walked going there.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Charmed By The Chateau

I learned about Chateau de Versailles before I learned how to multiply fractions. Not at school, but from this thick blue book entitled “How? Where? When? Why?”; I think it was a supplement book from of encyclopedias that we had.  Yeap, you read that word right – encyclopedia.There was the good ol' encyclopedia those days where you could lose your thoughts into.

Probably what remained in my young mind when I read about Chateau de Versailles was that castles were real. The castles of the Disney cartoons were just...moving pictures. This picture in the book was real. In the far country of France in a continent called Europe, there lies Palace de Versailles. It didn't become my dream goal at that moment, but it was rather a pipe dream of sorts back then.

Childhood and castles
Today,Imma see a castle. Palace, castle, whatever, I'm gonna see it. I’ve seen Doge’s Palace in Venice and Palazzo de Vecchio in Florence but this is the one that palace that I was really looking forward to visit.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Fell For The Eiffel Tower

I know, I know. A title can’t get any cornier than this one.

Everyone has an ultimate dream destination. Mine is Europe. Where in Europe? The iconic Eiffel Tower.

From the movie G.I. Joe

I walked from Arc de Triomphe going to the Eiffel Tower. I still had a couple of hours of daylight left. My plan was to enjoy the view at the top at night. 

 "Paris. Somebody pinch me."

Almost there.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On The Way To Arc de Triomphe

I had only two planned metro rides that day. One going to the Louvre, and the other going back from the Eiffel Tower. I walked going to everywhere else. You can plan your day out so that you visit the sites that can reached by foot from another tourist spot.

It was already past lunch time when I exited the Louvre. I think there is a cafe inside the museum but I wanted to eat in the cold outdoors. Weird, but the atmosphere outside the Louvre is just...inviting me to stay in the area a bit longer.

A smaller version of Arc de Triomphe just across the Louvre. 
I have gloomy cloudy skies in Paris. No crystal clear blue sky.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lost In The Louvre

Boujour Paris! It was another cold morning in Paris. Although I was in one of the most beautiful cities on earth, I wasn’t exactly springing out of my bunk bed when I woke up. Felt like I was waking up to a morning going to Simbang Gabi – read: anlamig. I had a lazy morning. Took my time in eating my breakfast and getting ready to conquer Paris.

The Louvre is also covered by the Paris Museum Pass. So I can skip the line to buy tickets. However, there is still the line to enter the museum – which can be quite long, if you enter the Pyramid entrance.

If you want to skip the long lines, use the side entrance in Passage Richelieu. Get off at metro stop Palais-Royal Musee du Louvre. I’ve gotten hold of the metro by now. I still need to consult the map of course, but as long as you have your destination in mind, you’ll eventually figure out which trains to ride and which stops to get off. It is like solving a puzzle every time you  ride the metro – finding the easiest route from point A to B.

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