Birmingham: The Gateway to the West Midlands

Staying in Birmingham certainly has its perks – centrally located in the heart of England, there’s many places in its vicinity that are easily accessible when using this Midlands metropolis as a base. Click here for some fabulous hotel deals in the city and plan your itinerary to include central Birmingham activities as well as venturing further afield to see what else the West Midlands has on offer.

An exterior view of the new Library of Birmingham and its outdoor roof terrace garden at Centenary Square

Picture courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

When the sun is shining, it’s all the more reason to explore as much as possible and the sheer volume of attractions and things to do in and around Birmingham is quite impressive. Whether you’re visiting with family or it’s a strictly grown up affair, the possibilities are endless.

Castles are a great addition to any West Midlands break, with Warwick and Kenilworth Castles being within easy access of the city. Throughout the summer, there’s a full programme of events to keep youngsters busy while the heritage and history of these majestic fortifications is enough to enthral adults for an afternoon. With a season full of jousts and tournaments, a trip to Kenilworth Castle is well worth it for your fill of medieval thrills.

The Black Country Living Museum is less than half an hour away from the city, in the heart of Dudley town, and takes visitors back to the Industrial Revolution, in which the West Midlands were exceedingly important. Set over 26 acres, the museum will engross you in years of urban heritage that has been flawlessly rebuilt in this dedicated space.

Black Country Living Museum. pic courtesy of visitbirmingham.com

Museums are rife in and around Birmingham, perfect if you’re up for a day of culture and history. While young children may resent you a little for traipsing them around museums, if you’re travelling without kids, visiting museums can be a great way to while away the hours – particularly if the weather outside is a little drab. From the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, the Pen Museum and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the city centre, to the fab Midland Air Museum and Coventry Transport Museum in, you guessed it, Coventry, there’s plenty to keep the inquisitive minds occupied.

If thrills are more your thing, Birmingham is just a short distance away from the awesome Alton Towers which will keep even the most mature of people screaming with delight. A brief hour on the road and you will arrive at this fantastic theme park, set in the middle of lush countryside. While Thorpe Park competes with the park to be the UK’s number one theme park for thrills, Alton Towers has it all. From fast-paced adrenaline rides including Rita, 13, Oblivion, Nemesis and Air to gentle strolls around the beautiful gardens, there’s something for everyone. Plus, grab an online deal or special offer and you can save plenty on entrance fees.

Alton Tower’s The Smiler. pic courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

If you choose to stay in the city of Birmingham, spend an evening at the Electric Cinema – the oldest working cinema in the UK and now showing an eclectic mix of art-house and mainstream films. Located on Station Street, in the heart of the city and just around the corner from the Bull Ring Shopping Centre, upcoming movie delights include Scarface, Blackfish and Otway the Movie.

Start planning your Birmingham trip, today. ;)

 

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Gorgeous Gambia

If you’re looking for a holiday destination with a touch of the exotic, where the sands shimmer under the blazing sun, the beaches are fringed with lush greenery and the shores sparkle like scattered diamonds, look no further than the Gambia.

Pic courtesy of thomascook.com

Holidays in Gambia are a little bit unusual, and that’s exactly why they’re so special. They also tick plenty of holiday boxes. If you’re after lashings of sun, sea and sand, you’ll find that in abundance in this beautiful corner of West Africa. It’s got vibrant beach resorts, lovely sunbathing spots, welcoming hotels and an attentive service that’s cheery and personable.

The Gambia has a fascinating heritage too, which you can explore through numerous tours and museums. On the subject of tours, you can’t beat a boat trip along the Gambian River. Kick back and relax as you drift leisurely along the country’s namesake, looking out for amazing animals like monkeys, crocodiles and exotic birds.

Pic courtesy of thomascook.com

The culture here is a blend of various influences, given its diverse history. There are various throw-backs to the British, following their occupation in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with various other cultures that are evident in the cuisine as well as the local architecture, adding an intriguing blend to this culturally diverse and heritage-rich country.

If you’re after a holiday with a difference, which comes with plenty of traditional beach necessities yet offers plenty of fascinating sites and sounds to explore, a holiday in the Gambia could be just the ticket.

Pic courtesy of thomascook.com

Find out more about holidays in Gambia online at thomascook.com, the world’s best-known name in travel, to search for the latest deals and to gain inspiration on various travel factors including the best time to visit, where to stay, and what to do when you get there. The Gambia is a beautiful holiday destination that’s well worth a visit – when will you tick Gambia off your ‘must-go’ list? ;)

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Top 5 Things To Do In Santorini

1. Ride a donkey
€5 per person

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It’s not everyday that you’re in the beautiful island of Santorini where riding one of the donkeys (or mule) had been done since who -knows-when-but-might-as well-do-it-coz it’s-definitely-an-experience! It’s a quintessential Santorini experience along with watching-the-sunset-wearing-gorgeous-clothes-for-those-picture-perfect-shots (we weren’t since we’ve just come from a boat tour)! I would recommend it despite the fact that while atop my ride, another mule (accidentally) spewed spit on my foot or that other mules’ tails flicked my leg or that my ride can’t make up it’s mind if it’d gallop up the staircase (I had to hold on pretty tight!) or just munch on grass while we’re on a turn hence blocking the traffic (I was trying to coerce it to get moving again to no avail). It was so entertaining I didn’t mind any of those! It was a different story while we were walking down earlier that day though. Ugh! lol

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Gregory on his donkey. :D

2. Eat – and drink!

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Daphne Taverna

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So many things had been written about Santorini and its sunset that I had no clue that they’ve got amazing foods! My bad coz it IS a Greek island and that should be reason enough, Back in the Philippines, I’d always want to eat out in a Greek/ Mediterranean restaurant. As almost always the case, the authentic ones are better – plus cheaper! Also, this 2013, the island is celebrating a year of gastronomy thus highlighting their rich culinary heritage.

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In Fira, we ate in a place called Daphne Taverna. They had really good food at affordable prices. We love their tzatziki! Greg had a plate of sea bass cooked with lemon and other herbs for €9 while I had lamb cooked to such tenderness that it was falling apart for only €6! I wanted to order more but it’s impossible to do so – we were stuffed!

In Oia, there’s a place called Lotza. Their view was amazing. Food portions were generous. Price wasn’t as cheap as those in Fira but still more affordable than most restaurants in Oia. We were walking along the alleyway when we smelled the enticing aroma coming from their kitchen. It made us curious and definitely caught our attention. What’s entertaining to see was how everybody else stopped mid-stride in front of their entrance coz of the delicious smell! Mmmm! It’s worth it. :D

3. Go on a boat tour
Caldera roundtrip tour with Pelican Travel Services – €19 per person

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Why? You’ll get to visit the volcano in the middle of the caldera that is in almost every picture that you’ll take of Santorini.  You’ll get to swim in a hot spring – or in our case, a slightly-less-cold-than-the-surrounding-area’s-water. And also, you’ll get to visit the island of Thirasia. You could also go on a sunset tour and have dinner in some island but you can only avail of it during peak season. Plus, it’s affordable!

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4. Rent a motorbike/ ATV/ car + Explore the island
We rented our motorbike -with helmets -in Tony’s at Fira for €20 per day.
We paid €5 for full insurance coverage.
A full tank on our bike costs around €8. It was more than enough for 2 full day.

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There are many rental shops in the island so just keep looking (and/or bargaining) if you want a deal to suit your budget.

I would advise against renting transportation if you haven’t had any experience in driving. Haha Well, people do attempt to rent vehicles even if they don’t know how! :p Anyways, there IS public transportation in Santorini. There are buses plying the island. It’s just that nothing beats the convenience of having a car (or in our case, a motorbike) at your disposal. Santorini has quite a number of places to visit… red beach, white beach and black beaches; monastery; archaeological sites and vineyards.

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Our trusty 125cc motorbike

Our trusty 125cc motorbike

I love how he'd pull over every time I make a remark as to how beautiful the view is so that I could appreciate it!♥

I love how he’d pull over every time I make a remark as to how beautiful the view is so that I could appreciate it!♥

Gorgeous Red Beach

Gorgeous Red Beach

5. Watch the sunset

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You could basically do it anywhere on top of the caldera. You’re spoilt for choices. There’s Fira, Imerovigli and Oia to name a few. Oia would be the most popular choice. It’s a very picturesque small town perched at the edge if a cliff. We were told though that during peak season (summer months: late June til early September), the whole island has got tons of visitors that if you’ll go to Oia for the sunset, you will be crammed with other tourists and might end up stuck in some narrow passageway for an hour! We encountered many visitors but not enough that we got some nice spots all to ourselves!

Fira sunset

Fira sunset

Oia sunset

Oia sunset

Having a memorable trip to Santorini – priceless! ;)

Any other suggestions on what would be a nice thing to do in the island of Santorini? I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Santorini in Pictures

Santorini In Pictures

The Greek island of Santorini is such a popular destination. It’s almost always included in any list of the most romantic island in the planet; or a list of the most popular. No wonder it’s a popular wedding destination! I told one of my Greek patient that I’ll visit Santorini and his first question to me was whether I plan to get married there.  -_- hehe

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Since I’m so excited to share about this trip, here are some pictures of Santorini that I took just a few days ago – I got back to London only a few hours ago! haha

The town of Fira – capital of Santorini.

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Kameni Volcano Island

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Red Beach. The island has also got a white and black beaches but I haven’t seen a red yet so that’s where we went. P1070772

Oia, the town that’s known for its beautiful sunset! I gotta say that Oia is prettier than Fira. This is the case because the earthquake that shook the island in 1956 destroyed most of Oia so it’s basically a young town (by Greek standard. hehe) . The pictures that come to mind when people speak of Santorini were most likely taken from this town.

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Few more posts about Greece coming really soon! :D

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8 Foods To Try When In London

London isn’t really popular for being a foodie’s paradise. My friends were aghast that I’m moving here – one of the most common reactions I got then was “food there is terrible!” – not! Although it’s true that it’s not as popular as Italy nor France for it’s food, UK (and specifically, London) is one not to be left behind. It is a melting pot of different culture and as such has a rich variety of food to choose from. One not to be left behind is the local British cuisine which I’m happy to say I got to taste (again) in my (first English) food tour with Eating London all the way to the East side (I’m from the other end. hehe)

Colourful and vibrant East London!

Colourful and vibrant East London!

**Doing a blog post about food is one of the few times wherein I wish I could be more poetic and flowery with my words in hopes that I might at least  be able to convey to you what it felt like for me. But alas! It’s not meant to be. So here I am trying in my simple words to share my beautiful experience. ;) **

We had around 8 stops and to prepare for it, breakfast was a foregone conclusion. hehe

1st stop: St. John Bread and Wine

Try their bacon sandwich with special ketchup. A very flavourful and hearty start of our day. I did think to myself that if this is any indicator, then it’s gonna be one awesome day!

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2nd stop: The English Restaurant

I’ve had pudding just a few times but every experience had definitely been good and the last always seem to top the one before it. The banana bread pudding here was no exception! I have a sweet tooth and the pudding per se already looked oh so tempting! Then they added that cream – with rhum in it!- and it was just delish! Typical English, drinking even in the morning. haha

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3rd stop: Androuet

Cheese! Lots and lots of them! Need I say more?

I’ve been to Spitalfields Old Market just once and this shop definitely caught my attention then. It looked so cozy and inviting! And the fact that their sign says that got well over 80 types of cheese, you just had to go in and check the place out!

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4th stop: Poppies

Fish and Chips. Some would argue that this is the country’s national dish and I kinda thought so too but that is not the case. It is one very English experience though. Munching on your white fish which is usually cod that is coated in batter and then deep fried, with chips (that’s fries for you non English speaking people) and mushy peas on the sides. Condiments may include malt vinegar, tartar sauce and some pepper.

There are TONS of fish’n’chips stores in London alone. One of the most popular has got to be Poppies, They’ve been around for quite a while. The restaurant’s ambiance is that of an old American diner which is pretty cool. I like that they even have their own newspaper to wrap those take aways in! :D
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5th stop: Pride of Spitalfields

Before (or do I say in the olden days? hehehe), people would gather in a “public” house after work to socialize and consume alcohol and/or spirits while having a meal hence the evolution of the word, pub. If I may say so myself, I’ve been to several pubs that serve good and affordable food so you may want to try it the next time you come to UK. In this part of the city, the unassuming exterior of this pub doesn’t do justice its interior. It was just so cozy in there!  It’s a bit off the beaten track which makes it one of the locale’s open secret. :D

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6th stop: Aladin

The country’s national dish is none other than…. chicken tikka masala! *gasp* Yes! Curry is THE dish to try in this part of the globe. With the huge Indian (and South Asian in general) population in the UK, their influence could be definitely felt in the food scene. I am not one to complain coz I love this dish! Yummy!

Where to go in a country that’s popular for curry? Why not follow the lead of HRH Prince Charles and head down to Brick Lane’s Aladin! We tried several dishes of curry ranging from mild to hot and the hot I found really hot – but that’s just me, you gotta try it yourself ;)

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7th stop: Beigel Bake

Walking around, you won’t miss Beigel Bake and their open 24 hours signage. Made me wonder why there was a need for the lock in the door when it’s never closed? hehehe Aside from their signage (it’s rare to see something open 24/7 here!), what you won’t fail to miss is the long queue that’s almost always here. So of course you’ll check out what the fuss is all about because all of those people can’t be lining up, waiting for just an okay food. I love the fact that the they’re selling really affordable, freshly baked food. Their best seller is the salt beef beigel with mustard. I am not a fun of mustard (although I love honey dijon mustard!) but the rest was so tasty! Mmm!

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8th (and last) stop: Pizza East

Around this time, I was already thinking to myself that I am soooo full and that it’s gonna be impossible to take another bit of food. But then I was told we’re gonna have dessert and I’m one to never (ever) say no to sweets! lol It’s unfortunate that you can’t really take pictures of the interior in this building. It had an industrial turned rustic-that-makes-it-look-homey kind of look. We has salted caramel chocolate tart. Those bits of salt brought out the flavours more because of the contrast. Mmmmm!!!! Perfect with a hot cup of tea!

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The map of goodies!

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Our ever bubbly guide, Nicole, and the silent Carlos. What a team! :D

Now that I’ve finished writing about that amazing morning experience, I can’t wait for my day off to go to Shoreditch and try them all out again! Mica!!! Thanks for inviting me to join you. You’re the best! *hugs* Thank you Nicole for being a fantastic guide! Your stories made it all the more memorable. Two thumbs up!!!

Tempting? Do check out their site for more info! :D

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Cabo da Roca, Europe’s westernmost point!

On a recent visit to Portugal, my friend and I visited Cabo da Roca. It is mainland Europe’s westernmost point and is known as the Rock of Lisbon.

Cabo da Roca: located at the westernmost tip of mainland Europe

Cabo da Roca: located at the westernmost tip of mainland Europe

Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa…[Here, where the land ends and the sea begins…]

– Luis de Camões, a 16th century Portuguese poet

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I’ve always loved nature’s rugged beauty!

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The light house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

The light house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

It was one of the most beautiful sunset I've seen!

It was one of the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen!

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Trying not to let the strong wind and cold temperature get in the way of a nice picture! ;)

Trying not to let the strong wind and cold temperature get in the way of a nice picture! ;)

Jessica, my Spanish guide in this Portuguese country. :D

Jessica, my Spanish guide in this Portuguese country. :D

To get here: From Lisbon’s centre, Rossio, take a train to Sintra. Catch bus # 403 which is just outside the train station. The ride would take around 40 minutes and costs almost 5euros for a single use. It is much cheaper to buy an all day bus + train pass for just 12euros.

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Travel Keepsakes and Souvenirs

What kind of souvenirs do you buy when you travel? Are you the type who buy those I love -insert name of locale here- shirts? What about key chains? Shot glass? Fridge magnet? Local foods?

When I was in the Philippines, whenever I got back from a trip and have some minutes to kill while waiting for my dad to pick me up, I kinda got in the habit of guessing where people flew in from. It was pretty easy if you’ll check out the foods they have with them. A box of lechon? That’s the queen city of the south, Cebu. A box of lanzones? Must have gotten back from a trip to Camiguin. Several box of pastel bread? Then they must have also dropped by Cagayan de Oro. If they have sweets like piaya or napoleones, then I’m pretty certain they went to Bacolod. If those are peanut kisses, then it’s the beautiful island of Bohol! hehehe I should know, those were the foods I brought back for family and friends whenever I travel. ;)

Then, I developed a love for photography and started taking notice of postcards. To friends who I know are not able to travel or go to certain places, they are the ones I love sending these postcards to because I want them to have that desire to see what a beautiful world we have. I also enjoy writing postcards because written letters beat electronic ones any time of the day. To arrive home from work with a beautiful postcard with a personal message from a friend never fail to brighten up my day!

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Want a postcard from me the next time I hit the road? Send me your address and I’ll happily write you one! Next destination: Lisbon, Portugal and Valencia, Spain! :D

There are people who don’t like buying knick knacks as they tend to be dust gatherers. I can’t help but buy one though to remind me that I’ve been to certain places. My current collection are travel plates. But somehow, they didn’t work out while I was going around the Philippines. Couldn’t really find any that’s why I was buying keychains then. After I started travelling outside the country more, then it was easier to get access to these lovely plates.

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Mix of keychains and magnets I received from friends and bought myself.

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Plates from Morocco, Sweden and Italy!

I’m not the kind of person who tend to shop much. I don’t like a cramped space – although I love a homey feel. If you’d walk into my room, you know you’re in the place of somebody who’s passionate about travelling: a world map, postcards from every corner of the world, plates and paintings. Things I buy are things that remind me of what I love to do most and that is to see the world!

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My lovely world map <3

This is my entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for July 2013. With the theme “Memorable Travel Souvenirs, Objects and Mementoes,” hosted by Jun Baris of GalangPusa. To read previous blog carnival, click on this link.

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