2012: Exploring Europe
2012 is coming to an end. Many were even saying that the world is literally going to end but December 21 had gone and passed us by with the world still intact *whew* and here’s another end-of-the-year post to celebrate the year that was!
November 2011. The most amazing gift that I’ve received was the fact that I was finally able to relocate to UK, the country where I wanted to go to since I was a little girl. And live in London at that! 3months after, I got my Schengen visa which made visiting European countries not just a dream but a reality for me! :D
Here are the list of places that I’ve been to in this small but delightful and utterly charming continent ;)
Paris, Nice and Cannes
First stop is our neighboring country, France. Everyone encouraged me to apply for a Schengen here. According to friends they are most likely to give you a multiple entry for several months. Well, I was given a 3months multiple entry for my first application and a one year multiple entry for my second! :D
I totally enjoyed it here. I got to see famous sights like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral just to name a few. I made lots of new friends! I was hosted by a CSer that I met back home. He was plain great! He hosted me for 8 days, you see. ;) I like French foods and they know how to have fun. Would love to go back again and again here!
Namur, Brussels and Antwerp
Whilst in France, I was invited by my friend to visit him and his wife in Belgium. I accepted his invitation coz it’s always nice to meet/ catch up with friends! It was nonstop waffles, chocolates and beer (well, not much beers for me hehe). Mmm! It was interesting how the southern part speaks just French and that the more north we go, they speak more Dutch (and thankfully, English too).
Browsing around the CS London thread, somebody mentioned that Megabus has a £1 one-way offer to Amsterdam and that it was going to be their Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) weekend. I was kinda in a party mood then and I thought it’d be great to go to Amsterdam so even though I knew no one there, I booked the tickets and had a wonderful time with other travellers! I never really liked the colour orange but seeing the whole city awashed in it was pretty cool!
Gavle and Stockholm
Scandinavian countries aren’t high on the list of my places to go to for two reasons the cold climate and the high expenses. But for a friend, maybe I’ll give it a try. Well, she did say she’ll host and take care of me there. No complaints on that one! ;) haha I went there during their midsummer festival. The fact that it was around 21 hours of daytime was a nice experience.
Madrid, Salamanca, Montserrat and Barcelona
The first time I went to Spain was to join a travel buddy of mine in touring Madrid and to be hosted by him in Salamanca where he was studying Spanish. It was crazy the day I got to Madrid. Some austerity measures had just been passed into law. On my way back to the hostel in the middle of the city, was a riot in protest of the austerity package. I almost got caught in the middle where it not for the kind waiter who pulled me inside their restaurant before barring their doors. Salamanca on the other hand is a big party place. It has many Spanish schools and people from all over go there to study the language. Clubs everywhere, they do not ask for IDs, no entrance fees and shots cost a euro! That’s the reason why the Spanish phrase I was thought there was “estoy borracho.” lol
Second time was for my birthday celebration. To sum up how varied my interests could be: on the morning of my special day, we went up to the mountains of Montserrat to visit a monastery and a sacred site then an aquarium early in the evening and partied after dinner! :D
Mozart. Classical music. Schnitzel. Sachertorte. Some of my favourite things in this charming city! It’s true that I didn’t expect much but I was very happy to be proven otherwise. I had such a wonderful time in Vienna with my good friend and host, Diana, that I would come back for sure! :D
7. Czech Republic
A question that was a bit confusing for our host in Prague is when he’d ask me and my friend where we’re from and how we met, why we’re travelling together. Our answer?
My friend: I’m from Romania but I’m Austrian. I live in Vienna.
Me: I live in London but I’m originally form Manila, Philippines.
Us: We met in Bangkok. When Cat was still living in the Philippines. She visited me in Vienna from London. Then I joined her on this trip to Prague.
Everyone I know had been telling me that Prague is their absolute favourite European city so that kinda built up the expectation that unfortunately wasn’t met. I can’t say if it was because of the rainy weather. I was cold because I was (more) prepared for a warm climate since I was headed straight to sunny Italy. Oh well. I’ll give it another chance for sure! :)
A quick sidetrip to Monaco was in order when a friend and I went to Nice. The one place that we went to here is the casino since I was too sick to actually explore around. This place is a billionaire’s playground. You’ll see it in the expensive cars being driven as well as the high end stores everywhere!
Rome, Florence, Venice, Sardinia, Naples, Procida Island, Pompeii, and Amalfi Coast
June, August, September, October
Italy is my definite favourite country that I’ve been to here in Europe and the one that I kept going back to and would definitely visit again! I’ve dreamt of going there since I was young. I love pizzas and pastas, renaissance, architecture and history and they have it all and much more in overflowing abundance! The first time I was there, I did the typical route of Rome-Florence-Venice, I didn’t make it to Milan coz I had no time.
The second was when I went to the island of Sardinia. It was a week’s worth of beach hopping! The water was amazing but I’d have to say that it doesn’t come close to the beaches that we have in the Philippines and this is me trying to be objective. ;)
The third time around, I headed south. Rome-Naples-Amalfi Coast was the route that made me fall in love with this country more! Pizza in Napoli is just mmmmm! When I got back to Rome, the pizza there that I liked a lot before became just alright for me. haha And Amalfi Coast? It is truly deserving of its UNESCO world heritage site title, I would have to say that it’s the most beautiful place I’ve been to so far in this continent!♥
My last trip was a quick one to Rome. I went to attend the canonization of the Philippines’ second saint, Pedro Calungsod and heard the mass that was presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. :)
It was a pretty busy year full of wonderful sights and amazing experiences. I’ve been to 9 countries and even returned to some of them several times! I’m definitely lucky! I was corrected by a friend once and was told that… we’re not lucky, we’re blessed. I couldn’t agree more!
Cheers 2012! You’ve been way awesome and nice to me. Looking forward to 2013! :D