Rome, the Eternal City!

The fact that I’ve already been to Italy thrice while I actually told myself that I’ll avoid visiting the same country until after I’ve been to many European countries warrants that I actually write something about the country that I visited the most in this continent! :)

Piazza Venezia

My first stop in Italy was its capital city of Rome. I spent around 4 days there. I would have preferred to stay longer but I had trains and flight to catch. I love to travel and I’ve encountered people (and or links/ blogs) who tend to distinguish between being a tourist and a traveller. Hmmm… I prefer the label traveller but if being a tourist meant going to the must-see places, trying the must-do things, chowing down on must-eat foods and taking loads of picture, then I’m a tourist to a T! But then, I don’t really enjoy joining guided tours and prefer taking my time to explore a place and every now and then, I prefer the less “touristic” route. Having said this, I would like to share how I explored this city (mistakes included so that you may avoid them yourselves. Okay, I went a bit off topic here, I tend to do that but please just bear with me ;)).

Roma’s Castel Sant’ Angelo

The city of Rome has two international airports namely Ciampino and Fiumicino. It’s pretty easy getting to downtown Rome from either of the two: you can arrange for a hotel transfer or take the express train (30minutes between Termini and Fiumicino for €11) but the cheapest option (and this is what I always do) is to just get on a bus, €5, when you arrive at the airport to take you to Roma Termini. If you’re flying out of the same airport, book a return ticket as that will save you a euro or two. Travel time takes between 40minutes (Ciampino) to an hour (Fiumicino) give or take several minutes due to traffic.

In the bus, headed to Roma Termini :)

I love the fact that in this country, the ancient and the modern blend into each other harmoniously and a result is this very interesting city, much less country, that is just brimming with history, arts and culture! Sipping coffee in a steetside cafe that’s situated in front of a church designed by Bernini several hundred years ago or seeing kids play football and even using a centuries old cathedral’s wall to bounce their ball against.

Some practical tips for the city:

If you plan to stay here for at least 3days and you want to visit museums (and other attractions), buying a Roma Pass is a pretty good way of saving money. For €30.00, you get an unlimited access to their public transportation and free entrance for 2 sites plus discounts to others in a span of 3days. It ends on the midnight of the 3rd day.

There is one more way of saving money while in Rome. In this city, I don’t have to keep buying water which is very important coz it is hot and you’re doing a lot of walking! Why? Well, the city is famous for its aqueducts and its these amazing waterway system that brings fresh water from the outside into the city. There are thousands of little fountains called fontanelle (little fountains) or nasoni (so-called because of the nose shaped faucet)  that can be found all over. The water here is refreshingly cool and tastes good. So what I do is just buy a bottle of water for €1 and I just keep refilling it while there! Saves the environment from too much plastic bottles and helps me save some euros too. ;)

One of the numerous fontanelle in Roma :)

Cooling down in the middle of a Roman summer!

Having an aperitif is a nice way of spending your evening.  Technically speaking, an aperitif is an alcoholic beverage that you drink before a meal to stimulate the appetite. In Rome though, that means having a cocktail drink (or an aperitif) PLUS an all you can eat (appetizer) buffet for a very affordable price of €7! Foods include cold pastas, finger foods and sandwiches. I went to a couple when I was there and they’d always bring a new dish almost every 30minutes aside from the ones already out. There’s always something new to try! :)

Great finds are just around the corners! :)

The best way to go about exploring this city (even other places for that matter) is to go by foot, walk I mean. :) Just pick a spot and go from there. They did say that the best finds here be it restaurants, pizzerias or gelaterias are not on the main street but are hidden inside the city’s many nooks and crannies. :)

Sample 3 Days Itinerary

I will be suggesting an itinerary but I am in no way encouraging you to strictly follow it.

DAY 1

Spanish Steps

Start the day early so you can see more. Go to Spagna Station to visit the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti), the widest staircase in Europe. It links Piazza di Spagna at the bottom with Piazza della Trinità dei Monti at the top.

Fontana di Trevi

Walk then towards Fontana di Trevi, a huge Baroque fountain that’s very beautiful and is one of the world’s most popular. That being so,expect many tourists to be here as well. After tossing a coin into the fountain so that you’ll return to this city, head now to the Pantheon. Built during ancient Roman times, it is one of te most preserved buildings since it had always been in constant use. Originally serving as a temple for all gods, it is now a Catholic church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs.

These are seriously refreshing, perfect for a hot day in Rome!

Walk now to Campo dei Fiori which literally translates to a field of flowers. It is a bustling market that sells everything from pasta to hat to fruits and flowers. Buy fresh fruits already chopped and ready to eat in a glass for €3. Near the market is Piazza Navona. It used to be a stadium where the ancient Romans came to watch the “agones” (games).

Signage on one of the restaurants that can be found in Trastevere district

If it’s around lunchtime by the time you get here, I’d suggest crossing the Tiber River and eat lunch in Trastevere (Trans Tiberem=beyond the Tiber River) district. It is a good place to look for places to eat because they serve good Italian foods at reasonable prices. Afterwards, you can walk around this district travelling in a north-easternly direction. This will lead you to Largo di Torre Argentina. Its claim to faim in this city is that it has now become an unusual cat sanctuary. A few minutes walk away is the Piazza Venezia. Built after World War 1, this monument houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour the soldiers who died and whose bodies were never found during that war. Just beside it is the Palatine Hill where it was said that the abandoned twin brothers Romulus and Remus were kept alive by a female wolf. And from here,  you can see Rome’s most iconic structure, the Colosseum. Perfect place to have pictures taken during sunset in Roma. ^_^

Pic courtesy of my friend: Ania

DAY 2

Pic courtesy of Ania :)

If you are a Catholic and would like to go to Rome especially to see the Vatican then it’s best that you allot a day for the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square. Visit Castel Sant’ Angelo after too. It was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and was later turned into a papal fortress. The late afternoon and evening would be free though for other stuff. Even if you’re not a Catholic, it’d still be nice to do this coz some of the most famous paintings could be found inside the museum and the Basilica is also really nice inside. ;)

Looking down at St. Peter’s Square from the top of the Cupola!

DAY 3

If you’re up for museums and galleries, don’t miss Galleria Borghese when in Rome. You have to call for a reservation before youc ould be let in though. OR just chill, roam around and visit other museums, churches and eat. :)

There are actually a lot more to see in this beautiful cityy but at least if you do this, you pretty much covered the must see! ;)

Ania, grazie! :D

Hopefully, I can follow up this entry with another soon! Anyways, I’m headed to Nice, France in a few days! Ciao! :D

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Londres! Londra! London!

L-O-N-D-O-N!!!

Big Ben and the Parliament from Westminster Bridge

It’s been 10months since I got to this vibrant city and I still haven’t written anything about it?! Oh my! Have to rectify that ASAP! :))

London’s Eye :)

Relocating to one of the most popular cities in the world is definitely exciting! Since it’s very popular, many people have lots of thoughts about this city. Some feedbacks that I got from friends were very varied and funny!

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millenium Bridge seen from Tate Modern Museum

“You’re going to London?!!! That’s so exciting!!!” <<It is!

“Why London, Cath?!!! It’s gray and gloomy!” <<When it’s sunny, it’s just wonderful!

“Just in time for the Olympics! Cool!” <<IKR?! :D

“Say hi to William and Kate for me!” <<I’ll even give them a hug IF I get close enough! hehe

“The food there is terrible!” <<No comment. haha

“You can now travel to other European countries!” <<True this! It’s very cheap to travel from London!

Spaniards and Spanish supporters celebrating their Euro Cup victory at Piccadilly Circus!

Terrible weather and food aside, nothing could dampen my excitement to get here! I’ve never been on my own and here I am in this very multicultural city and having so much fun! It’s amazing how people here are from all over. I went to this one house party once and there were around 12-15 of us and we were from at least 9 countries! I also hang out with some girls every other weekend (schedule permitting) and we’re all from different countries!

Olympics 2012 is the 3rd time that London hosted this sporting event!

I love history and this city has got to be one of the most historic in the world: from the London Bridge to the dungeon of Tower of London to the famed Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Also, it just seems that so many things are happening here: from Wimbledon (okay, I haven’t been to the tournament but  I will watch the Barclays ATP World Finals! Federer and Murray FTW!) to the Olympics and Paralympics (I got into the Olympic Stadium!) to cool concerts (Coldplay! Radiohead! Muse! Snowpatrol!) and many festivals and other celebrations (the Queen’s Diamond Jubille celebration, Nottinghill Carnival to name a few).

Coldplay!♥

Dancing on the streets of Nottinghill!

I’ve got to admit that I don’t know this city very well (yet) but I am in no hurry. There were even times when my friends and I still feel like tourists here and we’re totally fine with it. I’m taking my time (coz lately, I find myself travelling outside UK hehe) exploring and discovering what this amazing place has to offer! :D

The Queen’s residence :)

 

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Inside: Louvre Museum

One of the world’s biggest museum, Musée du Louvre (The Louvre Museum a.k.a. The Louvre) is also a historic monument. The museum is found inside the Louvre Palace which was built in the 12th century by Philip II as a fortress. It was then transformed into royal residence by the subsequent rulers of France until Henry XIV made a decision to have a palace built in Versailles. It was then converted into a museum on 1793. Currently, the Louvre contains 380,000 objects and is home to 35,000 works of art. With 15,000 visitors per day, it is considered as the most visited museum in the world.

The Louvre Palace grounds

Practical informations:

The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Night opening until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Closed on the following holidays: January 1, May 1, December 25

Ticket Prices:

€10 – Tickets for Permanent Collection
€11 –  Tickets for Exhibitions in the Hall Napoléon
€14 – Access to the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions in both the Louvré and the Musée Eugène Delacroix
Free admission – first Sunday of each month; disabled visitors and their guest/ helper; visitors under the age of 18

Apart from the Notre Dame Cathedral, this was where I spent the most of my time while I was on a trip in Paris. Whether I was inside the galleries or just chilling by the gardens outside the museum, I enjoyed them all the same. Although I couldn’t take the time to look at every piece of art there (I might get a headache), I still loved it! :D

Here are pictures in and around the museum to satisfy those curious minds of what’s it like there! ;)

From sculptures…

“Winged Victory of Samothrace”
The Nike of Samothrace. c. 190 BC

“Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”
Antonio Canova c. 1787

“Horse Restrained by a Groom” aka “The Horses of Marly”
Guillaume ler Coustou 1739-1745

“Venus de Milo”
Alexandros of Antioch c. 130-100 BC

To paintings…

“La Belle Ferronnière” aka “Portrait of an Unknown Woman”
Leonardo da Vinci 1490-1496

“Portrait de jeune homme”
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi aka Sandro Botticelli 1475-1480

“Portrait présumé de Gabrielle d’Estrées et de sa soeur la duchesse de Villars”
École de Fontainebleau c. 16th century

“Le Sacre de Napoléon” aka “The Coronation of Napoleon”
Jacques-Louis David 1805-1807

And not to forget the most popular room in the whole palace…

“La Joconde” aka “Mona Lisa”
Leonardo da Vinci c. 1503–1519

There are some touristy stuff that one just had to do! :))

There’s just this wonderful atmosphere of creativeness and an appreciation of art that’s very palpable inside the museum. I enjoyed seeing small groups learning about art together from little kids to those who are of more advance in age. hehe

The Louvre is this beautiful place that I kept going back to in Paris. :)

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Bella Italia!

If there’s one country that was most likely the cause for my desire to travel, I would have to say that it’s Italy. I have always loved history, arts, food and beautiful places and this country has all of those in such abundance!

I finally got to visit Italy last June for a week! :D I went to 3 cities: Roma (Rome), Firenze (Florence) and Venezia (Venice). I was supposed to travel with a friend but due to unfortunate circumstances, she wasn’t able to join me. It’s a good thing that I know people there and that I’m getting used to travelling on my own so I was fine with it albeit a tad disappointed. I’m not about to let that stop me from going there though! hehe

I try not to post photos of me but more of the places that I visit and the people that I meet. Well, maybe in just this entry, I’ll give myself an exception! haha

In Rome’s Colosseum

When I think of Italy, I almost always have Rome in mind. What with it being the capital city since ancient time and with most of the country’s famous landmarks found here. Most notable of which are the Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon and Fontana de Trevi amongst many others. While I was here, I seriously did nothing but walk around, eat pizza, walk, eat pizza, walk… you know the drill ;) hehe

At Piazza Michelango with a panoramic view of the city of Florence

I was heading north to Venice where I will fly out back to London so I decided to visit the charming city of Florence. It’s small when compared to Rome but I met an Italian in Amsterdam who told me that I HAVE TO visit Florence and skip Naples! I originally wanted to go to Napoli. Why Napoli? For pizza of course! :D I wasn’t disappointed with my change of heart since in Florence, I found something interesting at every turn. From Galileo’s tomb to where Michelangelo used to live to Boticelli’s painting of Birth of Venus which when I saw totally gave me goosebumps! A word of caution though, too much art in a day can cause headache, well, at least for me!

Posing beside Venice’s infamous gondolas! :D

Venice was my final stop in this wonderful country. I know that it’s built on water, I’ve seen pictures of it before too but I was still amazed and found this city utterly interesting and beautiful! It’s a typical Italian city (rich in history, with many monuments, etc) save for the fact that instead of solid ground for roads, theirs is water; instead of cars or buses making traffic, they have waterbuses, gondolas and water taxis too! I was amazed! hehehe

Seven days flew by quickly and the next thing I know, I’m on a plane back to London. I’m happy to say that I’ll definitely return to Italy! In fact, I’ve already booked a flight for next month! Next destination there? Sardinia! It’s time to hit the beach!!! It’s been at least 7 months now and I just can’t wait! :D

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Paris: Must See(s)

Paris has so many popular spots! Here are some places that you shouldn’t miss there, definitely must sees! :D Coz lately, I’ve been getting messages from friends who will be going to Paris and who wants to know what sights they should visit and what to do as well. They want me to share an itinerary for them but I haven’t really been able to do so since I’m away on trips. hehe

Notre Dame Cathedral

I always think of the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was based on a novel by Victor Hugo) when I think of this famous place. hehe They say it’s the most beautiful and popular Gothic church in the world. I found myself always walking towards the direction of the cathedral every afternoon coz I like the atmosphere here. I just love the Parisian sunset by the Seine River while eating crepes or eclairs at one of the benches lining this beautiful building.♥

The buttresses of the Cathedral

St. Joan of Arc

The beautiful ceiling of Notre Dame

Musee d’Orsay

A former train station, this museum is now home to many masterpiece of Impressionist and Post Impressionist painters the most popular of which includes Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. Free entrance every first Sunday of the month! Otherwise, you’ll have to pay the 9euro entrance fee. I don’t think of myself as an “artsy” person but on trips, I tend to go to lots of them! :D

The museum that was formerly a train station :)

Pantheon

King Louis XV ordered the reconstruction of the ruined church of Sainte-Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, after he had recovered from an illness. The church later on became a mausoleum for notable, distinguished French citizens. Amongst the remains buried here are Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie (yes, she’s Polish but is married to a Frenchman and lived in France most of her life) and Alexandre Dumas.

Arc de Triomphe

To celebrate his military victories, Napoleon commissioned the building of this popular French monument. However, it was completed 30years after it was begun and the Emperor Napoleon was already ousted. It honours the soldiers who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. Beneath it, lit by an eternal flame, lies the remain of The Unknown Soldier who came to symbolize the rest of the people who died and were never identified in World War I & II.

Avenue des Champs-Elysees

Probably one of the most famous street all over the world, this street is lined with luxurious shop, cafes and other stores. I wasn’t really into this place as I’m not into shopping. Anyways, due to its proximity to popular landmarks, most notably the Arc de Triomphe, parades were usually held along its streets.

The Arc de Triomphe as viewed from the famous avenue :)

Louvre Museum

One of the largest mueseum in the world, this along with the Notre Dame are my two favorite place in Paris! This is a fortress turned palace until Louis XIV vacated it for Versailles. The musueum is so huge and contains around 35,000 pieces that they say 3 whole days are not enough to give it justice. I think it’s too much so I just enjoyed myself at the Italian paintings section and some and skipped the others and passed by the rest. That way, I wasn’t overwhelmed. ;) Since I love to read, I can’t help but remember Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code while I was there. Imagining where the scenes took place. It’s not just me though coz as the book (and later, the movie) gained popularity, walking tours of the Da Vinci Code became popular! :D

Inside the musee looking out :)

The Louvre with its Pyramid

La Tour Eiffel

The iconic landmark that came to symbolize both Paris and France was once described as useless and monstrous when it was being built for the 1889 World Fair that was held in Paris. It was named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer whose company designed and built the tower. When I first saw it, I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of it! Every few steps, stop, take a picture. If I was in a different angle, I’ll stop again and take still another picture! But it feels like I couldn’t get enough! :)) Of course I wanted to get to the top pf the tower but then you’ll either have to fall in line for quite a while (maybe at LEAST an hour) OR you can buy your tickets online. You can choose to go up via lift or by stairs (ack!), Obviously I chose the former. However, the topmost part could only be accessed with a lift. What I found awesome was that I was able to make friends with random people at the top of the tower and I am planning to visit them in Stockholm and Barcelona! :D On the way down, we (my Paris travel buddy and I)decided to (ah.. uhmm..) walk the rest of the way down (waah!) just to say we’ve done it! My knees were shaking afterwards coz we were in a hurry to get down! lol

One cloudy day in Paris. hehe

View from the top :)

La Tour Eiffel on a sunny day! :D

There are definitely more places to go and buildings/monuments to see there but these are those that I think you should definitely visit (amongst others) in your Parisian trip!

Have fun! :D

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Best of Travel Photos: My 7 Super Shots

Aleah of Solitary Wanderer a.k.a. the infamous writer of “Date A Girl Who Travels” kindly included me in this online tagging that’s been going on that was started by HostelBookers 7 Super Shots. You’re supposed to choose seven pictures from the ones you’ve already taken that you think best corresponds to the theme that they’re looking for. Then choose 5 more bloggers to continue the cycle.

When she asked me if I’d like to participate, I told her that my photos can’t compare to theirs coz I looked at what they have and I was just blown away! She encouraged me to do it and I’m happy I did! It was very nice looking back at some (I have tons of photos that it’d be impossible to do so ;)) of my travel pictures. Definitely brought back wonderful memories with friends and loved ones from the crazy adventures to those chill out moments.

Takes  My Breath Away

Iligan’s Tinago Falls

Iligan is known as the city of majestic waterfalls and they’re totally right! I cajoled my buddies into going there so that we could see this waterfall and the long trip was definitely worth it. Tinago (meaning hidden in English) Falls is appropriately named coz it took us a flight to Cagayan de Oro from Manila, an almost 3 hours bus ride to Iligan, a multicab and a motorbike ride afterwards to get there plus not to forget the almost 400+ steps that would lead you down to it!

Makes Me Dream

The Peak view at night

The view from the peak is one of Hong Kong’s major touristic attraction. At anytime, the view is amazing. However, you would be squeezing yourself against the hundreds and hundreds of tourists who go there for it. On one of my trips to HK, I met this guy and we went to the Peak quite late at night and we had the place to ourself! We were enjoying this wonderful view that we weren’t sharing with anyone else (alright, with maybe a handul but they’re nowhere near us hehehe) while having some drinks. It’s such a bustling city but it looks calm from up here. Makes me dream of the many possibilities ahead of us. =)

Makes Me Think

The garden of Versailles

On my first trip to mainland Europe, France was my destination. Two French friends accompanied me for a daytrip to Versailles to stroll in its gardens and to check out the palace. I’ve heard that both are big and wonderful so I was sort of expecting it. But when I got there and saw the garden.. Oh dear! It was just HUGE! Basically, as far as I can see, THAT is the garden! It is just too much grandeur and splendour for a few people.  I know they were for the royalties, built just for then even, but still! How could… Why would… Ah.. Uhmm.. Too much! Hehe I was overwhelmed!

Makes Me Smile

Early morning in Camiguin’s White Island

When I went on a trip with 2 of my travel buddies to Mindanao, my first on this very beautiful part of the Philippines, we went to the island of Camiguin. One really early morning, we hired a boat to take us to White Island. It’s such a beautiful place right smack in the middle of the sea and we were there all sleepy waiting for the sun to rise. We were all so tired coz it was the 4th day of our trip and it was our fourth province, it was too much in too little time! The beauty there just gave us back our energy and made the trip worth it. Thinking back about that place and this trip still brings a smile to my face. :)

Makes My Mouth Water

Currently, I’m living in London. What I miss most from home aside from my loved ones are its food and (fantastic) beaches! If there’s one thing I crave the most for, it has got to be Philippines’ ripe yellow mangoes. The more fragrant, the sweeter it will be! Mmmm! And mangoes made into shakes are, for me, the perfect accompaniment to every meal! I’d always tell my mom when we’re talking, “Mommy, make sure you have mangoes when you’ll fetch me at the airport!” :D

Tells A Story

Sunset in Boracay

Boracay Island is a famous party beach place. Amidst all that partying though, people also do go there to have a nice quiet time. One sunset as I was by the beachfront with a friend, I saw them all cozy up. This just goes to show that Boracay’s beauty is for everyone.

I’m Most Proud Of: My Worthy of National Geographic Shot

Karst splendour in Guilin :)

I don’t really know what constitutes a NatGeo shot. I do know that it’s something really cool! This is where I found it most hard to choose coz this category may mean differently for each person. For my first trip to mainland China, a good friend and I went to Guilin province because of its natural beauty. We stayed at a hostel owned by a Japanese and Chinese couple. The owner’splace is just beside a karst mountain and he spent many laborious hours buidling steps to reach the top and had a pavilion built there named, Friendship Pavilion. The view from the top is simply amazing and from there you can view the small town of Xingping and surrounding places. This may be one of the reasons as to why I’m partial to karst mountains! ;)

Hope you guys liked those photos!

Now I’m going to tag Chichi of We Are Sole Sisters; Renz of The Traveling Nomad; Ron of Flip Travels; Mica of Senyorita and Marky of Nomadic Experiences. Happy choosing guys! :D

Koninginnedag in Amsterdam

Netherland’s most popular holiday is Queen’s Day locally known as Koninginnedag. And what better time (or not if you hate crowds) to visit Amsterdam for the first time! Street parties, everyone in a chill party mood and orange all around! Crazy fun that’s for sure! :D

Admittedly, I had no idea what the celebration was for. I just booked a ticket on impulse coz somebody brought to my attention the insanely cheap ticket price going there and I wanted to do some partying! ;)

The country’s monarchy before was unpopular to the public but they loved their princess, Wilhelmina. To gain national unity, it was decided that they’ll celebrate the princess’ birthday. It was then called Prinsessedag and fell on the last day of school making it popular with children. When she ascended the throne, it was renamed Koninginnedag.

When Juliana, Wilhelmina’s daughter, became the queen, they moved the date of celebration to her birthdate, April 30. Juliana’s daughter, Beatrix, married Claus (a German who served the German army during the war) causing anti-German riots during the holiday. In a bid to disrupt these riots, officials decided to open the city of Amsterdam to flea markets that are normally held outside the city so there won’t be space for the protesters, starting a new custom.

When Beatrix succeeded the throne, she retained the celebration on the 30th of April as a tribute to her mother and also because her birthday is on January, too cold for a celebration. The queen makes it a point to visit a different town each year and to honour notable citizens of Netherlands.

Some pictures taken during Koninginnedag 2012:

Amsterdam’s canals and bicycles!

Flea markets abound!

The city turns into one big market where you can buy anything from books to (Rembrandt) paintings!

There are lots of good finds. :)

Sellers are anyone from little tykes to these classy ladies ;)

Aside from turning into one big market, the city is bathed in orange! Netherland’s colours :)

People from all over come to celebrate with the locals :D

There just might be as many boats as there are bikes! Haha

Joining the fun with newly made friends! :D

Cheers from Amsterdam! x

This is my entry for Carnival of Europe hosted by DJ Yabis at Dream Euro Trip. :)

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