Archive for the ‘ Europe ’ Category

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

Related posts:
DIY: Schengen Visa Application
Getting Around in Europe
Rome, the Eternal City!
Rome: Must See(s)
Amalfi CoastInside: Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square

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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 :)

 

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 :)

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

Related Posts:

DIY: Schengen Visa Application
Getting around in Europe
Practical Tips for Paris
Inside: Louvre Museum
Le French Riviera

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. :)

Related posts:
DIY: Schengen Visa Application
Getting around in Europe
Practical tips for Paris

Practical Tips for Paris

I found the people in Paris to be kind and helpful. Though when I got back to London and told friends about my positive experience, some replied back to me, “Are you sure you went to France?!” lol Maybe it helps to look friendly and to actually make an effort to say some words in French eventhough you’re no good at it. I know I’m terrible T_T Locals still appreciated it!

For starters, a few French words:

Bonjour= good day
Bon soir= good afternoon/evening
Bonne nuit= good night
Au revoir = good bye
Merci= thanks
Oui = yes
Non = no
Sortie = exit (the most common sign you’ll see)
Poulet=chicken
Jambon=ham (gotta have something food related! :D)

Playing with Le Tour Eiffel ;)

The cheapest key chains, 3pieces for 1euro, can be bought from the guys selling them at the metro station when you get off at ‘Tour Eiffel.’

For a taste of good French food! :D

A nice place to dine at is Bergamote. I told a friend I wanted to eat good French food within a reasonable budget so he searched for one and came up with this. It’s off the main road and the place is packed during meal times. A meal (starter+main OR main+dessert) costs around 15euros. The first time I dined there, I ordered some chicken and it was soooo good! The second time, I ordered beef. I guess for a change, mine was medium rare. When it came back to me, it was cooked on the outside but raw on the inside (as I should have expected) but I found out then that I’m really not a fan of raw foods! lol So we asked them if it’s possible to recook it (well done this time around) to which they agreed. hehe Whew!

When at St. Michel, try not to eat at the ‘main street’ where there are rows upon rows of Greek food/ cafes/ etc. according to friends, food there sucks. Disclaimer: I was just repeating what I was told by several French friends! haha

10 days passed by with me not eating any rice, amazing! I was munching on these French breads! :D

For bread (croissants, pan au chocolat, eclairs etc) buy in a boulangerie (bakery) coz that’s what they’re best at, delicious and cheap! Buy cheese in a fromagerie and meat in a boucherie.

With my Paris travel buddy, Kris :)

For travels within the city, it’s mostly done either by taking the bus or the train.  It’s cheaper to buy the 10ticket pass than to get an all day pass nor when buying them one at a time. 1train tix=1.7 euro; 10tix=12+ish. Unfortunately, they don’t have a pamphlet of their train system but signs abound so just check every now and then. Also, there is a downloadable mobile app of the map but I found that I could only use it if I have wifi/3G which wasn’t often as data roaming is expensive for me. :(

Probably what I wasn’t expecting was that since in London, it’s normal to let passengers out of the train before going inside, I found it disappointing that you’re on way out and people would push you back in in their hurry to get in. -_- Also, some trains won’t automatically open their doors. There is a knob there that you have to push upward so that the doors would open up.

Inside the Louvre one busy, sunny morning :)

Entrance to Musee de Louvre is free every first Sunday of the month! Same goes for the Palace of Versailles (November-March)! Entrance to its garden is always free though opening hours may vary according to the season. :)

Have fun!!!!

Related posts:

DIY: Schengen Visa Application

Getting around in Europe
Paris Must See(s)
Inside: Louvre Museum
Le French Riviera

Getting around in Europe :)

I know I wanna travel all over Europe but I was clueless as to how to go about booking my trips. I’ve asked friends, read websites and based from my experience, it’s quite easy. As easy as booking crazy cheap fares within the Philippines! :D

Travelling within the UK:

There are various modes of transportation within the country. You can either travel by plane, bus or coach which is almost the same, I can’t differentiate one from the other -_-; or train. Buses are the cheapest mode of transportation but it’s where you’ll spend the most hours on the road. Trains are way more convenient but pricier. Planes on the other hand are affordable but the airport/s are outside of London.

Megabus is a popular choice for bus travel because they’re very cheap! And with cheap, something like £1 to go to Oxford or £8 to go to Paris! Because it’s very affordable, many tend to choose this one. I would have to say that their buses aren’t the most comfy but at least you saved some money. National Express coaches on the other hand are almost double the price of Megabus (their one-way trip for Amsterdam can cost £20) but definitely a more comfortable choice. The seats can be reclined unlike the former and you can charge your gadgets which is a big plus for people with an iPhone whose battery life totally sucks! haha :) But I recently took a National Express coach to go to Cambridge and I didn’t find any plug for chargers. Maybe they only them have on selected buses?

I am yet to travel by train within UK. Though options include National Rail, Virgin, Southwest, East Midlands and The Train Line amongst others.

Traveling within Europe:

Visiting other European countries is easy as well once you have the appropriate papers (ie. Schengen visa).  You can do it by bus, train, plane, ferry, your own car, even hitch hike if you want to. I’ve had guests who got to London via hitchhiking.

Aboard the Eurostar enroute to Paris! :D

For my first Eurotrip, I went to Paris via Eurostar. I got it for£84 return trip which according to people I know here is very cheap. I checked the prices there and it’s normally around £100+ so I guess it’s better to book in advance and it also help to travel on weekdays rather than weekends, way cheaper fares! There are several train lines to choose from when you are crossing borders within mainland Europe: TGV, Thalys; and much more if you’re traveling within a European country (ie. Italy’s Tren Italia).

Note: If traveling within mainland Europe, it’s perfectly alright to get to your train at least 10minutes before it departs because they would only check your ticket. But please arrive earlier if you’re traveling between UK and  any other European country. They have border control. I totally forgot this and got to the train station at almost the time of departure that’s why I had to miss my train back to London! T_T Disaster was avoided when they allowed me to board the next train at no extra charge. hehehe (And there I was hoping that I could stay longer in Paris! Oh well! lol)

In Brussel’s Central Station :)

Flying is cheap IF you’re going with low cost carries such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air. A one way ticket between Venice and London cost me £30. There are cheaper flights to other countries. Just be patient in looking for those cheap fares and besides, they always have promos. ;) But just with what I’ve said from the start of this post, these airlines tend to operate in airports outside of London so you have to take into consideration that you’ll travel another hour to get to them (Luton, Gatwick or Stansted) and that you’ll need to buy a bus or train ticket to get there.

On the other hand, if you really wanna travel cheap, go to mainland Europe by bus. I paid £10 (one way) for a Megabus ticket between London and Amsterdam. It entails having to sit for 10hours straight though but I guess it won’t be so bad since I’ll be with other couchsurfers! Eurolines also have cheap fares. ;)

There! Hope that helps you out in deciding on how to travel within this part of the world! ;)

Bon voyage!

ps: If you’ll notice, I’ve already bought many tickets to many countries here. Old habits die hard I guess. hehe

Related posts:

DIY: Schengen Visa Application

Practical tips for Paris
Paris Must See(s)
Inside: Louvre Museum
Le French Riviera

Koninginnedag in Amsterdam

Londres! Londra! London!

Bella Italia!
Rome, the Eternal City!
Rome: Must See(s)
Amalfi Coast
Inside: Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square

DIY: Schengen Visa Application

Being relocated to United Kingdom’s London, suddenly, feels like the world of travel threw its doors open wide for me! The possibility of going to Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Berlin and other popular European destinations is easily within reach! However, I just need one more HUGE thing to be able to actually embark on those journeys…. the Schengen visa.

What is Schengen Visa? Why do we need it?

When the European Union was formed, one of their main aim was easier access to each other’s country. They signed a treaty in the town of Schengen wherein it was agreed upon that holders of Schengen visa, they named it after that small town, would be able to travel easily within the borders of member countries.

The European Union now has 27 participating countries, from an original of 6: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Do you need a Schengen visa?

Basically, if you’re not a resident of any of those country, it would be best to check the website of the country you intend to visit just to be certain.

So once you’ve checked and you do realize that you have to apply for a Schengen visa then you apply to the consulate of your destination country (if you’ll visit just one country) OR to the consulate of the first country of your destination (if you’ll visit many countries and you’ll stay stay equal amount of days per country) OR to the consulate to the country where you’ll stay the longest (if you’ll stay longer in any one country).

*Disclaimer: This post is about my Schengen visa application to France. I am a Filipina currently based in London. It would be best if you’ll always check the website of the country wherein you’ll apply for the visa as they may have different/ additional requirements. ;)

Step 1. Decide where you’re headed to and where you’ll apply. Once you’re done with that, download their visa application form and fill it up.

Step 2. Complete the required documents.

1. Filled up application form. Make sure you don’t forget to sign! Anyways, they’ll check your application form and will point out if you missed some or will help you figure out what to write when you get there. ;)

2. 2 identical ID photos: passport size, on a white background, less than 3 months old. One should be attached to the application form.

3. Original passport and a photocopy of the pages with personal info and visas granted. Make it 2 copies of the first page, the one with the personal info. Your passport should have at least two blank pages in it for them to put the visa sticker on.

Note: Your visa to stay in the UK should still be valid for 3months upon your exit from France (or Schengen country of your destination).

4. Old passport and a photocopy of the pages containing personal info, signature and Schengen visas granted (if you have some).

5. British residence permit and photocopy. I’m just outlining it here but basically, it’s already in your passport so don’t worry about it. Just don’t forget to make a photocopy of this as well. :)

6. Working certificate, original and photocopy. This should be less than 3 months old.

7. Last three month’s payslips, original and photocopy.

8. Proof of financial means of support, original and photocopy. This should be pretty recent. Banks normally send a monthly statement of finances. Also, the minimum amount of money on it should be at least (for France) £55 per day of your intended stay. If, say, you’ll stay in France for 10 days, then you should have at least £550 in your bank account (£55 x 10days). If you don’t have one, just go to your local branch and print one from the machine, that’s what I did. :)

9. Lodging attestation or hotel booking, original and photocopy. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to book for a hotel because a French friend applied for Certificate of Board and Lodging (“Attestation d’Accueil”) in their town hall stating that I’ll be hosted by them and sent it to me.

10. Proof of travel, original and photocopy. They want confirmed travel tickets. It’d be cheaper if you book tickets in advance. I booked mine via Eurostar. £84 round trip ticket, not bad but I guess I’m hoping for something wayyyyy cheaper. Spoiled with crazy cheap fares back home I guess! lol

11. Insurance, original and photocopy. The travel insurance should be valid in the Schengen areas that you’ll be visiting and it should be able to cover at least 30,000euros of medical cost. It should also be able to cover your whole period of stay. I applied at the post office as per recommendation of a colleague at work. Since I plan to travel often, I went with the annual worldwide coverage. Definitely cheaper than if you’ll get one for every trip that you’ll make. ;)

Step 3. Schedule for an appointment. This is done online. Okay, chill, take it easy. You won’t have to go to the actual French embassy. You will submit the documents in TLS Contact. If you’ll check out the French embassy website, you’ll be redirected there as well. Make sure you book for an appointment at least 15days but no more than 3months before your intended visit.

Step 4. Submit your complete documents on the date of your appointment. A short stay visa for France costs £50. You’ll have to pay an additional £23.33 for service fees though. And £8 more if you’ll have them deliver your passport back to you. Alternatively, you can choose to just go back there to collect your passport. You’ll receive instructions online on how to get there. But since this blogpost is to help you out hehe: go to Olympia (Kensington) station, that’s an overground line. Exit at the platform 2 side, the one near the Olympia Exhibition Center. Turn left, walk towards the main road. Across the street, you’ll see The Hand and Flowers shop, turn to the street on its left. Just walk a few more and you’ll see a big sign that says Exhibition House. Go in and just keep on walking until you see the TLS Contact sign. If you’re early, they’ll make you wait outside (bummer!). If you’re late, hopefully not too late, they’ll let you head straight in. Better be early than late to be on the safe side. ;)

Your tube stop in London :)

The entrance to the TLS Contact office.

Once inside, they’ll check your application form and scan your passport. You’ll then be seated coz you’ll have to wait your turn to give your documents. There would be two screens where they’ll flash your name and the counter where you’ll have to head to. When it’s your turn, a staff would go through all your papers with you and collect the papers. Once you’re cleared, some instructions would be given such as what to do next and what to expect. Head over to the cashier and pay. You’ll be charged more if you’ll use credit card. Stick with cash or debit card. Then you’ll be made to wait again for your turn at the biometrics section where they’ll scan your fingerprints and take your picture for the visa. That’s it! I submitted mine on the 21st of February and got a decision on the 22nd! How fast is that?! :D

That’s where you’ll collect your passport as well. ;)

Schengen Visa: check!!!

Good luck guys! Hope this one helped! ;)

Cheers!

Related posts:

Getting around in Europe

Practical tips for Paris
Paris Must See(s)
Inside: Louvre Museum
Le French Riviera

Koninginnedag in Amsterdam

Londres! Londra! London!

Bella Italia!
Rome, the Eternal City!
Rome: Must See(s)
Amalfi Coast
Inside: Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square

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