Monday, January 30, 2012

In Rome, our last day in Europe

The next day was our last day in Europe. Not a bit on a rush since there was one last planned excursion for the day. We actually woke up a bit late and finished up around 9AM because usually, we start our day at around 7 in the morning.

Well, we were planning to go to the Vatican museum. We were going to see all of Vatican's glorious masterpieces. We commuted through train still and arrived at the station a bit drenched of Rome's summer. Don't be mistaken, the sun was not that scorching.... Well we arrived at the queuing area and there was a huge crowd. The servicing at the queue is quite fast so we went inside so unharmed and less sweat.

Our main target was the Sistine Chapel and so we had to walk a mile long I guess. It was a pleasure walk though seeing the different paintings, sculptures and some iconic epitaph of the Romans. The chapel was located at the far end and so we needed to walk a bit faster.

We arrived at the chapel and it was hugely packed. And seriously, no picture taking, and silence must be observed. Well, as human as we are, there are those who are so undisciplined and took pictures and the guards had to apprehend them. Since the place is crowded, you will hear from time to time some hushes and the guards will make it worse by shouting, "silence please". But yeah, the alfresco was really amazing. Imagine all the formidable forces of Italian renaissance joining forces with Michaelangelo. I would say Michaelangelo's "The Last Judgement" is really amazing. Sigh again, we were not allowed to take pictures. Well, consider this that camera flashes will destroy the paintings in due time so yeah we have to respect their rules.

After the tour at the chapel we were heading out. There will still many displays at the exit hallway. I was using my iphone most of the time because it was really handy. It was another long walk actually and we had to take a good pace because it was already lunch time.

We dined out at a nearby restaurant and I had tortellinis and some of my friends had other kinds of pastas. It was a huge meal as I have said they've got really huge servings.

After satisfying lunch, we headed back to our hostel, packed up, took the train going to the airport and viola, we were taking the Qatar Airways' 747 plane bound for Doha then to Singapore.

And that my friend was the most expensive travel I had(good luck to my savings {cough2x}) . Yet, it was the most amazing vacation I took and words and even photos are still not enough to describe the whole journey. I am planning to actually visit other countries in Europe and hopefully I win the lottery!!!

Ooops, some of the photos were in my external hard drive and I left it in Cebu when I had my new year vacation :(

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Euro tour : Venice and Rome :)

From Paris, we went to Venice!

We arrived early in the morning. There was an Italian guy who rode with us. He's Andrea and he works in a bar and at the same time studied to become a cop. We asked him what to try in Venice and he suggested we try the Spritz and ofcourse the pastas.

We alighted at a wrong station, in fact we had to stop at the next station. So we waited for Kay and Elaine as they went to the counter to get another train tickets going to Venezia.

We arrived at Venice rather fast and the ride was smooth. The sun was bright and the sky was blue - very relaxing to start the day. We looked for our hotel and it was just a few meters walking distance from the station. Since we arrived too early, we left our luggage at the hotel's store room and we decided to look for a restaurant where we could eat. There were a lot of choices but we were particular for a place which has a wireless connection for the internet - it's the only way for us to upload our pics you see. We found one near the church and the fun part was there was a procession of bride and groom obviously for their wedding. The street was filled with lots of tourists taking pictures at everything fascinating and the well the famous masks of Venice were all over the place. We sat and ordered food. I had a spaghetti bolognese and God it was so good, thank you ;) We ordered Spritz and it had the strong one and it was really strong. I got a bit tipsy. Since there was free wifi, we had to browse and update our facebook. After the sumptuous breakfast, we decided to go back to our hotel, and prepare for our day trip. We cannot allow to waste time here because we will be staying just overnight :)

After we had our keys and stuff in order inside our rooms, we decided to go to the Plaza San Marco. It was a few minutes ride of the water taxi. The sun was blazing which I loved. I really like Mr. Sunshine and the tan will just be very perfect. Anyway, we reached San Marco and it was really crowded. Well obviously the gondolas were parked everywhere, and so it never escaped our cameras. We just had fun watching stuff sold by vendors and really nice masks and shirts. Before we decided to buy or anything, we just explored the place together. It felt like walking my entire life but it was fun though seriously tiring. I would recommend you to really wear a good pair of shoes.

We got tired of all the walking and hungry at that so we decided to dine. Their serving was huge and I had the pasta with squid ink. After that, the girls bought some HardRock stuff. I'm not a fan of the shirts so I did not have one with me. Anyway, the highlight of the long walks was to witness the sunset and it was really beautiful. Leme-leme an application in my iphone is really helful in making my photos a bit dramatic.

After the long walks and all, we decided to go back to our hotel room and some of us wanted to still check out some stuff so there we strolled the nearby streets and alleyways in our hotel. Peter went to our room first to take a rest while the girls went somewhere while I stayed outside just people watching. I have with me some book so I read at the same time. It was getting dark outside so I decided to walk around. I saw Kay and other girls coming so I caught up with them. We decided to leave our belongings and look for some place to dine :D

Then we called it a day!

The next day was we went to see the glass factories at Murano. They actually call the glass as Murano glass. We went to there through the taxi cab and it was interesting coz they showed us how it was made. Oh my the glass masterpieces were expensive. It was scary to even touch them or transport them or anything. After the tour, we wanted to eat but then there was no restaurant so we decided to go back to the plaza and stroll again until we found a place to eat. It was another pasta adventure. So yeah, after that we strolled and strolled. My feet ached. There was one moment that we just took a seat at a corner. Wahhahaha. Honestly, Venice was more expensive than any other city we just visited and I think there was not much other things to do. Staying there for two one night and two days was good enough :)

We left Venice at around 9pm and the couchette we had a a first class so the train ride was really great. It was the first time that I was able to sleep really well on a couchette. Darn the trip to Rome was rather short like 6 hours....

Rome we were on the next day and it was a bit cold in the morning of 7.

From the Eurail station, we took the mrt and from there began walk. Our hostel according to the map was a walking distance actually from the MRT. But we got lost (a bit) and just asked some people around and good thing we found our hostel. It was too early and the attendant was not really expecting us to be there on time. So yeah we had to ring the attendant before we can settle. There was an old elevator system in that building which was interesting and a bit scary if you'd entertain some of your imagination that seriously. Anyway, we had a light breakfast, we paid the owner whom we thought as the attendant and viola we were able to use our rooms. If my memory served me right the room which would be for Peter and I was still occupied till 10 am was still being used so we had to park our things at the girls' room. Since we have to visit some interesting places in Rome, we had to start to wash up and prepare.

After everyone had their turns in freshening up, we decided to start our excursion. Our first stop was the Colosseum. Their train station was convenient in fact the ancient structure was a walking distance .... We took the group tour of the Colosseum. Even though the queue was discouraging, it did not stop us from enjoying the tour. Well, sad to note that the Italian tour guide was heavily accented and that proved really a bit annoying when she began explaining things. Anyway, after the group tour, we were allowed to explore the whole structure and it was fun taking pictures. It's indeed a wonderful experience.

Our next stop was to visit the ruins of the Palatine Hill. It was a walking distance from the Colosseum but we couldn't find the entrance, in short we got lost. We had to turn back and head to the opposite direction and from there found ourselves at the right entrance. It was fun walking and climbing up the hill. The ruins were amazing. I was walking the paths of the gladiators again. Well officially, the first one was at the Colosseum :) At the top of the hill there was a spring water, so we tried it and it was really fresh. I managed to fill my water bottle twice as I finished the first one. The 500ml of water bottle is actually expensive as it can range from a euro to 3. Anyway, we went up to the hill top a good view actually and there was a museum. We did not get inside and just waited for the girls there who were using the loo. After that, we decided to descend and our next stop would be the St. Peter's Basilica. We took the MRT then alighted at the nearest station. It was another long walk and our tummy were calling us of the hunger. So we decided to stop at a restaurant and ate to our hearts content. After that, we also bought some ice cream ala Rome. The servings were huge just to remind you guys. After that, we continued walking to the Basilica. It was my first time to see the Swiss guards and they looked like clowns because of their colorful costume during that time. Anyway, the entrance of the Basilica grounds was amazing. All the huge pillars lining up with all the Catholic Saints on top. We took some pictures and all. Then we decided to get inside the Basilica itself. Wearing of shorts and sleeveless is not allowed in this holy place and since Bud (our Thai friend) was wearing sleeveless, she could not have entered the heart of the Basilica but the good thing was, we had scarves to cover her.

When we got inside the Basilica the feeling was really great. It's really spirited and holy. I had this unexplained happiness and feeling of peace.

After the Basilica tour, we got out of the place and saw this small post and gift shop. We entered and bought some stuff. I bought two nice rosaries for my aunts in Cebu who are really devout Catholics.

After we had a great tour at the Basilica, we then decided to look for another Bernini masterpiece the fountain of Trevi. We saw one but it was not really the fountain we were looking for but it was a replica but still made by Bernini. Then we had to ask for directions again and after some few minutes of walking we found the real one. It was so crowded and all we could do was appreciate the beautiful fountain. The lights, the water splashing, the sculpture was really beautiful. I think it's one of the most beautiful fountain I saw in my life. The girls where busy throwing coins for their wishes (a bit superstitious). After the fountain trail we decided to call it a night and we headed back to our hostel.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Last day in Paris

Truly a beautiful place to visit, Paris.

This was the last day of our Paris adventure. Our plan was to see the Louvre and shop. Going to the Louvre was pretty easy since we were used to the train system already of Paris (but honestly not for me). Anyway, we reached the museum rather early. It was a bit cold and at the same time really exciting. The entrance was not that expensive compared to some of Singapore's attractions. The place is a monster and really big. We queued and got in. I forgot where we went exactly but it was like touring art pieces from different countries and time. The collection is really amazing. One which excited the group was the Mona Lisa. Well, I have read about the painting in our English literature when I was in primary school and it's one of the most beautiful painting in the world because of its mysterious smile. Going to the Mona Lisa was a long journey I mean really, it felt like we were walking from my flat to the office and back. But it was a feast for the eyes so nevertheless it's worthy of that long trek? Anyway, when we reached Mona Lisa, I was not expecting it to be small but it's still captivating. I am grateful for the opportunity of seeing the it live.

After the photos, Kay suggested that we see the Monet paintings. We were a bit lost and so we had to ask a couple of times as to where we can see his paintings. It was another mile long walk. After passing the artifacts from Africa and Egypt, we had to climb the stairs as it's the place of Claude Monet and other artists. We were not disappointed. Claude Monet's work were brilliant. According to Kay, there's another museum devoted to him. Well it was not part of the itinerary but if I will have time and resources, I'll be happy to visit his works and maybe if I will seriously have a lot of money, I'll go buy one of his masterpieces. After the tour de Louvre, we decided to shop!

Since the girls wanted to buy Longchamp and the boys were buying other things so we decided to split up and just meet somewhere. We cannot afford to lose time since we might be caught up with a lot of tourists. It was another long walk and after few times of asking we reached the shopping district which I forgot what it was called. But anyway, the mall that we went into was called Printemps. Peter bought a Louis Vuitton and I bought a Fred Perry. The girls had the Longchamp and since there were limited displays, they searched for the bags in some other store. Peter and I were a bit hungry, so we stopped at a nearby restaurant serving mainly pasta. I was looking for rice but it was raining and were hungry so I have to settle for pasta. As usual, their pasta is tasteless (I am excited for Italy). Anyway, the good thing was the serving was huge wahahahah :P

After lunch and checking for some shops, we had to wait for the girls at some corner and Peter was a bit tired already so we looked from some place to sit. It was a bit boring doing nothing plus their were smokers everywhere so I decided to check other shops. We still have some few hours actually based on the plan and so there I went for a sneak. There were lots of things to buy but I did not want to add to the bulk in my luggage. After checking stuff's here and there, I went back where Peter was, and he looked in a bad mood really. It was because of this one Caucasian guy who felt he owned the place and knowing Peter to say something so he talked back to this Caucasian guy. If I recalled they were arguing about the seat or something. Anyway, since waiting for the girls at the mall proved useless, Peter and I decided to go back to the hotel and them there. There was wifi so I enjoyed it and I was a bit tired of all the walking that we did so I took a nap at the hotel's mini waiting area.

The girls came around 4PM and we needed to catch our train going to Venice at around 7PM. We packed our stuff and off we went to the train station. We reached the station too early and it's great because I get paranoid if I'm late for this type of schedules. The feeling was relaxing and a bit lonely. In fact, for the first time, I felt sad because I am leaving Paris and I felt that there were still some things that I need to enjoy and like. Well, I promised to go back to France and explore the country for all its worth. Good luck to my bank account :))

But, I guess I have to say Bonjor no Italy ;)