Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Incredible Journey to Kyoto and Osaka, Japan! Part 2

One visit to Fushimi-Inari is simply not enough! I will make it a habit to come back when I can!
The next day of my trip to Kyoto was met with a bad habit I tend to do lately since I got back in Asia: waking up late! On average, I have been waking up later than 10am because of the night owl in me! They don't call me the midnight baker for nothing! Anyways, I woke up and fixed myself up and got to see my host Hidemi-san very hard at work. She was cleaning up the rooms and changing the bed sheets on the third floor where I was sleeping! Told me she will have guests coming from France, Canada and UK. Such a hard working woman who really cares for her guests! I felt like family when I was at her place. After I had breakfast, we spoke a bit in Japanese about me and my ambitions, etc. I told her that I was going to Fushimi-Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) or the Fushimi Inari shrines, and she made the most kind-hearted offer: she would drive me to the Shrines once she was done fixing up the rooms! I honestly felt like the luckiest person ever to have had such a wonderful host like her!

Hidemi-san is one the best hosts I have ever had! She exceeds expectations and is extremely hospitable! SUGOI!
I was surprised to know that Hidemi-san and her family are very well-traveled yet, it has only been her husband, Akihiko-san (塩谷明彦) and her son (I was not able to meet) who have been to Philippines! She also has a daughter that loves to travel as well! She fell in love with the mangoes I gave her and I have convinced her to visit Philippines because of all the delicious mangoes we have there since Japan is known to have notoriously expensive mangoes! While we were in her car, I could definitely see how much traveling had impacted her life. She has been to many places and has meet people from all over the world! I could definitely see that traveling has kept her happy, and I hope it does for me too as I keep exploring this world!
The view at the top of Kyoto Tower was pleasurable for me! The ticket purchased would get you discounted entrance into the bathhouse at the basement of the building!
Once she dropped me off at Fushimi Inari area, I started the hike. But first things first: street food time and souvenir shopping! Now for those who adore matcha green tea like me, you're in for a treat! Kyoto has the best supplies of matcha green tea powder out there! Street foods may sound cheap to others, but trust me when I say this: they are so much tastier than any food you have had anywhere else! From Wagyu beef skewers to Okonomiyaki to Chicken karaage, the food here is endless and so much more affordable than the food in the city! Although a long line at times, it's very much worth it as it satisfies my hunger! Average prices spent here for street food will be around Y500-700 JPY but it's very filling and tasty. After finishing my food, I started the hike and my goodness, already I can see just how beautiful the orange arches and shrines are! I have never seen the colour orange used in oriental architecture and shrines until I went to Japan. It was very refreshing to me and to my sight to witness something different! Every meticulous detail is there, which is what the Japanese are known for! I can see just how much care goes into this as well as maintaining the structures. With so much love and pride for its belongings, I felt the heart and passion that went into making them!
My you have a moment in life where you taste perfection on a plate! :)
As I climbed up the first couple of shrines, already I am amazed at how many there are! I felt as if I was in Japan's more quiet and peaceful past. A past that was extremely calming to me. I couldn't take my eyes off the orange arches! I kept taking so much pictures of me in it as well as asking others to take my picture there. It was wonderful to get to feel the fresh air there and have a closer look at the arches. They go on for thousands! Yes it had too many tourists along the way, which is why I decided to venture out on my own around the area. I got to see suburban houses along the area, which I easily got jealous! HAHAHA! How damn lucky those people are to live around an area as beautiful as this?! Now I understand that some may find it boring there but to me, I could spend my entire life exploring Japan and there will still be something that just amazes the hell out of me! As I was walking around the area, I got to see some Filipino tourists! I suddenly feel less lonely traveling by myself! I asked them to take my picture around the bamboo area and then off I go.
JB and I about to explore Fushimi-Inari and take lots of photos wherever there and where we walked!
After around 10 minutes of walking, I encounter them again this time with the officer in charge of the premises in his motorcycle. Obviously the English was limited so I volunteered to help my home country people out. Basically, they wanted to go explore Fushimi-Inari 'til the very top. However, it was already 4:30pm and the officer was not recommending it. He said to me in Japanese more or less that he doesn't recommend it because the lights are about to go out there and it will almost be night time, and that the walkway to get there will be very uphill and downhill. So here is my advice to them and others: if you want to explore Fushimi-Inari and make it to the very top, get there early! As early as 7am so that the view will be brighter and clearer! I felt good helping those who were struggling out! I am very thankful to have been able to help tourists enjoy this amazing country even more and break many cultural barriers!
When you travel on your own, you are forced to talk to people. You get to know some of the nicest and most amazing people when you do! What an amazing life!
As I walked around the area, I started going deeper into the community at Fushimi-Inari. I discovered so many beautiful houses there such as one that was coloured like matcha green tea! Everything was so prim and proper there; a completely refreshing feeling from chaotic and congested Manila. Even though I didn't make it to the very top that day, it felt good being surrounded with the community there! I honestly love seeing kids playing at the corner in the parks there cause they were so cute! I would love to live in a place as safe as that someday! I wish I could bring some of that weather back at home. A lot of times, it looks as if Manila's trees and nature are disappearing more and more to be replaced by an unnatural looking building. That shouldn't be like that because mother nature has so much natural beauty to offer. I just wished it would be more windy in Manila like how I felt in Fushimi-Inari!
I am no longer afraid to travel to the places I have always wanted to go to, even if on my own! The world as I see it, is a remarkable place!
The next day, I went to explore the city area of Kyoto more and saw several temples within walking distance to the train! I just felt so emotional being there because I felt like I was not worthy enough to get to taste and experience those things, and yet, I was still there loving every bit of it! I got the chance to go to Kyoto Tower and got a full 360 view of Kyoto! I was amazed and if you saw my pictures of me posing, you can definitely see how genuinely happy I was there! I love getting a top view of places because you can really see the hustle and bustle there! So happy that someone was able to take a picture of me there! Now in Kyoto Tower, they had a promo when I was there: for every ticket purchase, you get a discounted entrance to the bathhouse at the basement floor there. This was my first bathhouse experience in Kyoto so I decided to go since I was tired that day. It was satisfying enough that I got to shower and relax in jacuzzi water, despite being nude in front of others. After that, I explored the shops around Kyoto Tower, got souvenirs and then explored the restaurants around there. Tip: I brought meal replacement formula when I was there so that I could save on spending for food in the morning, which is why I was able to save. It's one of those drinks that you mix with milk so you can feel full and satisfied.
TC and I just chilling and socializing at a cafe near the train station of Kyoto. I appreciate these times!
Now Kyoto Station is the main train station of the city, which means there are several restaurants there as well as shops! The place is packed with restaurants and even has several floors of it! I chose to eat ramen since I was craving for it that night. I can never fully explain the satisfaction of having ramen on a cold night in the city! It's something that must be experienced more than told! The wonderful thing about dining in Japan is that majority of the restaurants have vending machines that takes your order and prints out a ticket to just show to the guy. Very straightforward and convenient. Gave me more time to enjoy the freshness and flavour of the soup! Take pictures while you're at the stairs of Kyoto Station. There are lights there that flash at night! All 5 floors of it, which you can actually sit down and relax a bit. Oh and don't worry, they do have escalators provided on the side!
Musician playing his Shamisen instrument on the street! World class music in front of me. I salute you busker and hope you'll be blessed!
At night, I noticed there was someone speaking Tagalog (Filipino) while I was walking the streets of where I was in Nagitsuji so I go there and immediately start talking to them! Immediately, we became instant friends. Spent majority of the time walking all around the area from Yamashina to my hostel in Nagitsuji. We didn't spend on stuff much. His name was JB and he was living in Kyoto with his mama and brother who was a resident already in Japan. He was a makeup specialist in Manila. There are so many Filipinos working in Japan, so it doesn't shock me so much anymore when I see a fellow Pinoy in Japan. He let me try Pachinco, which is the Japanese version of gambling at a casino since actual gambling is not allowed there, and it was like basically playing at an arcade. And then we talked for an hour or so while walking outside and even while sitting down outside of the convenience store. It was one of those moments where I felt happy just because I was able to connect with someone and share my life without expecting anything. We then head onto a place that had good Gyudon, so we found Sukiya. It was very satisfying for me. Almost like the first time I had Gyudon at Matsuya back in Tokyo.
A graceful Geisha on her way to an important appointment! She is purely an art. Otsukaresama!
It was wonderful to have a connection with someone you just met. That's really the beauty of traveling to me. "You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you." It may look depressing at first when I travel alone, but trust me: I know how to become happy when I explore this world! There are great people out there that you will get to know and immediately have a connection with. I never expect to be friends with the people I meet on Airbnb, Couchsurfing or any random bar I go to, but I do become friends with them! This whole process helps me become more confident and approachable so I don't see this as a negative when I go abroad by myself. What I fear most is not being able to travel or fly abroad and just staying stable and just being surrounded by the same old people. Traveling helps educate me and keep my spirit alive! I get that family is important, but every now and then, I would to meet someone and become friends with them, especially from a different cultural background.
Mother Nature blesses us with so much beauty like these flowers! Don't take them for granted!
The next day, JB and I met up. I got to meet his mama for a bit and then off we went to Fushimi-Inari again (one visit is never enough). This time, he brought his special camera with him along with a stand to take more elaborate pictures. Basically, we had a photo shoot around the area of Fushimi-Inari. It was wonderful, despite many tourists complaining about us taking a long time. It was mostly other foreigners and not the native Japanese themselves though. This place was even better the second time around! You really get to appreciate the hard work and love that these people put in from not just the orange arches, but also the people who sell food and stuff at the shopping stands. One of the guys selling the beef skewers was curious as to where JB and I were from and the moment we said Philippines, he immediately started speaking some Tagalog, which shocks the both of us! We literally took a thousand photos of wherever we walked, taking turns each time! Some of the tourists were a bit annoyed by us, but JB told me to just ignore them. I swear when you go around the areas with someone, it really does help produce better shots! I even got to take a picture with two Thai women dressed in a kimono! After Fushimi-Inari, we took a walk. A LONG WALK. I am not sure how we managed, but we enjoyed and made it all the way to Kyoto main station!
Would you dare to walk up and down these stairs? It's a nice at the top and there are ramen joints there!
When we arrived, we met a friend of his that I became close with as well. Let's call him TC! He is from France and was studying in Kyoto at the time! We spent a couple of hours talking with each other at a coffee shop called Delifrance right across the train station. As TC and I got to know each other (lover of anime and most things Japanese), JB suddenly disappears! Either he got bored of TC and I or had an emergency. It was so quick for me to process, but apparently JB was looking for his brother around the area. I was not sure how he would be able to find him because JB was relying on my pocket wifi the whole time we were there! When he disappeared, TC and I still kept on talking and we clicked as friends! We still talk to each other on Facebook even 'til this day! He loves cosplay apart from anime and yaoi. I politely accompanied him to his bus terminal, still unsure of where JB is. Then when TC left, I went to have a quick dinner at the Kyoto Station area, which has so much options for food such as ramen! One tip for any restaurant you go to in Japan: the more you see how your food is cooked and prepared in front of you, the higher the chance that it tastes good!
Generous servings of ramen when you dine in at one of the restaurants at the top floor of the Kyoto Station!
I remembered this phrase as I was munching on my super comforting ramen: "One cannot live well, sleep well, and think well if one does not dine well." I can definitely feel how tender the noodles and meat was as well as how soft the egg was as well. If this was consumed on an extremely cold night, this would bring me to euphoria! After dining there, I decided to walk around at Gion since this district was the most popular and had the most options when it comes to food and shopping! And then out of nowhere, I see JB again! I was wondering where in the world he was! He said he needed to get home so he ran off to the train station. And just like that, he ran and I have not seen him since. Kind of ironic how we spoke and became friends instantly and then the next day, acted like a different person. But I couldn't let it bring me down since I was in such a beautiful city for the first time ever! I have yet to meet more people so if one person did not click with me, just simply move on to the next one. I would like to be positive and hope to meet more people! As I am still working on Part 3, I will end with this quote: "You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you."
You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you.

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Incredible Journey to Kyoto and Osaka, Japan! Part 1

In my opinion, it's always better to see a monument for real rather than hearing it a thousand times in stories or watching it on TV. I will never get tired of Fushimi Inari!
My first time ever in Japan made a huge impact to my life of course I just had to go back! My family went to Tokyo for New Years last 2015, but did not enjoy it as much due to it being a family trip so I was not able to explore as much as I wanted to, which is why I decided to go back again on my own, but this time, a different city. I always wanted to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom season. It did not have to be in full bloom, but at least have some of the flowers remaining. I decided to try Kyoto and Osaka, since everyone has been telling me that Kyoto is so amazing and authentically Japanese in history and architecture. Osaka on the other hand, is well known for its delicious food, affordable shopping and budget friendly places, which was more than enough to convince me to go there.
This pocket wifi will be your best buddy when traveling alone! It is a life saver I swear! From teaching and guiding you where to go, to entertaining you at the most boring times!
This time on my third time back, I wanted to be more prepared to travel by myself so I did a lot of research such as finding the top places to go, which airline was the most affordable, which pocket wifi I should get, and of course, which hostels I should stay at. I usually look at airbnb.com or couchsurfing.com to look for very affordable hostels that I could stay at. I really feel like going back to Japan every year for the rest of my life if I could just because there are so many amazing things that this country has to offer. Every time I go back, there's always something that surprises and amazes me there. I can't help but feel excited every time I am back! Plus, the people are so nice and helpful, which is more than enough to make me come back and discover more!
When you preserve what Mother Nature has given to you, it really does show it's true beauty! I wish it had more nature where I lived! It felt so fresh there!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Best Things I've Tried in Barcelona, Spain Part 2

This may not look perfect, but I think it has so much life and passion inside it all! Just give it a chance and live!
Now one thing that Barcelona is known for is that there are two official languages: Español or Catalan. The latter, is currently at a dispute with the rest of Spain. So expect everything to be in both Spanish and Catalan. The Catalonia flag is even placed almost everywhere here! Same goes for whichever area you are in Spain. From Galicia, to Basque, to Ibiza, and the Canary Islands! The locals will defend you to their heart to convince you that Catalan is a language that is different from Spanish! I found it astonishing how passionate people are here! That only adds to their appeal! They are so affectionate here as well! I swear regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, most people here like to hug and kiss on the cheek their friends and relatives! Even if you just met. What a refreshing feeling to be somewhere that is so loving and affectionate!
The tapas here are endless of selections and flavours in Txapela! Go and experiment with the tastes and discover!
During the night, we went shopping. You know Zara clothing brand? Well guess what?! Zara is incredibly affordable in Spain! Obviously since this is where Zara came from! In Philippines, it's expensive due to the shipping and import fees, etc. But in Spain? Shopper's heaven! I was able to get almost a complete wardrobe adjustment in one go just because the clothes here were so damn cheap and affordable! Now I know why so many people just love shopping! Imagine: do you know that a suit with the long sleeve polo inside in Manila can cost up to PHP10,000 to PHP 20,000 ($ 200-400 USD) in tailor-made or sold in boutique shops? JUST ONE. What if I told you that with PHP 20,000 ($ 400 USD), I was already able to get not only a suit, but also 12 other pairs of clothing and pants in Barcelona?! How's that for convincing you to visit this amazing country?!
It actually FEELS GOOD to go shopping here at Zara! That's coming from someone who rarely shops in their own town!
Spain has had a recession and parts of the country are still suffering that, which is why the prices for some places have dropped dramatically. So if you wanted to go to Europe where shopping is much more affordable, then Spain would be one of your best bets! My sisters felt relieved that I was able to get new clothing for myself since my outfits have been monotonous and repetitive. I was happy in a way that I got such great deals. We decided to end our day just walking around Las Ramblas and eating even more tapas at the restaurants nearby such as Txapela. Yes, there was limited English speakers there. But the great thing is that their menu is translated 8 TIMES! English included! They are all numbered so the servers know which one you want. How convenient is that?! Really, it was scary at first to be in a country where English is limited, which is why I studied Spanish and other languages so I could somehow find my way around the world. But really, even if you did not speak the language, there will always be people who are willing to help you out!
The pastries here in Spain are so soft, buttery and heavenly! It's no wonder I drooled when I saw them!
The next day, we woke up really early in order to be able to find the place since we already have gotten lost on previous trips. We used Google Maps to find the place and were really rushing to get there cause we did not realize how intricate the streets of Barcelona were! I was the one asking all the questions since I could speak and understand some Spanish. While we were hurrying up to the place, I asked a lady who was working at a cafe for help in Spanish. One useful phrase to say in Spanish when in need of guidance is: "Ayudame, por favor." (Help me, please.) The lady was cleaning the cafe before opening it. I peeked through the window and showed the lady the place we needed to go to. She went outside and then I said that help me phrase, along with this phrase in Spanish: "Where is this place?" And then she points out to me in Spanish, and try my very best to understand the essentials like to the left/right or "A la izquierda/derecha." I give my utmost thanks and blessing to her, and my sisters and I head to the direction she said and BOOM! Found it along with the other participating tourists in the trip. "Never be afraid to ask for help and directions from locals."

Can you see how I excited I was to have arrived there?! It was so overwhelming to be around Sagrada Familia!
We finally started the tour and got to meet our tour guide and the other people that were with us in the group. I met our tour guide and she was quite the character! She was quite the character  and she was a native of Catalonia as she spoke Catalan first before Spanish and even counted the number of people in the group in Catalan. Her name, if I could remember, was Sonia from Viator. Others that were with us came from USA, Australia and Hong Kong! We toured first the streets of Barcelona and then hopped on a bus to Sagrada Familia and I swear it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in the world! This church has been taking 150 years and counting to finish, but once you are there, you will see just how magical and grand it is! As I step foot inside this amazing church, I begin to feel the intensity of it all inside it! So much life and artworks inside with roofs taller than anything I have ever seen before! This place must not be missed in Barcelona!
Imagine being inside here during service and listening to a heavenly choir performing with sunlight shining!
There is an area near the entrance where angels are carved into in the center that represents the angels and disciples of God and inside is even more grand that I could ever imagine! Cathedral windows so colorful from anything I have ever seen along with arches that have so much height to it! Yes this place is not yet officially done being built, but I feel that this place just keeps getting better and better! What I saw on television growing up such as the churches in Discovery Travel and Living as well as from the movie Hunchback of Notre Dame gave me a clue on what the appearance was. But it was overwhelming to be actually in front of it! Really. I never thought I could experience something so grand and beautiful. If you have the chance in Barcelona, go inside this place, and be amazed by it! The effort to get inside past the tourists is worth it!
These are the intricate sculptures and artworks carved outside of the church. The outside alone already gives so much life!
After going all around the area of Sagrada Familia, the tour guide decided to take us around the area for a lunch break. My sisters and I decided to eat at a paella restaurant and it was wonderful to experience our first official paella in Spain! Thank goodness because we had not eaten much since the arrival! We went into a restaurant that served very tasty Paella, and of course whenever I am at a new restaurant, I always ask for the recommendations for today! I simply asked them using the word in Spanish, "Reccomendacion?" and almost immediately, they reply back with a face so thankful that I am able to speak their language! We ordered a seared tuna fish tataki dish, and two types of paella, one that is tomato-based (picture below) and one that was coloured black also known as, Paella Negra. One thing I admire apart from the fresh quality of the seafood in Spain is the fact that they love to squeeze some lemon juice on top of most of the dishes they consume! So good! It breaks down the greasiness of the dish and adds a different level of flavour! Need water for that? No worries! Just say in Spanish "Quiero un vaso de agua, por favor/Agua, por favor!", which means I want a glass of water, please/ Water, please! And to say cold, warm or hot, just say "Frio, calentar, o caliente!" I normally ask for cold! "Muy frio con hielo, por favor!" or very cold with ice, please! And then when it's time for the bill, just simply say "La cuenta, por favor! Gracias!" I love the shocked face that most Hispanic people give to me when they hear me speak Spanish! It makes me feel like I am breaking cultural barriers and connecting! I guess growing up in a former Spanish colony, we use many words derived from Spanish even until today! Oh and having a boss from Peru helps! It all just makes me feel so happy and excited!
Life is so short. Live a little and see the world outside of your comfort zone if you can! The world is a lot bigger than you think! Go for it!
Seafood Paella or Paella con Mariscos in Spanish! Piping hot goodness with extra lemon juice on top! Divine!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Best Things I've Tried in Barcelona, Spain Part 1

Welcome to Barcelona, Spain! This is Las Ramblas, which is a popular tourist district. Bienvenidos!
From Paris, France, we took an airplane via Ryan Air to Barcelona, Spain since taking a train or bus from Paris would be too time consuming. It took less than 3 hours to fly to Barcelona. When we arrived there, we were surprised at how convenient it was to just take a cab from the airport to the main city. It should be noted that since we started out in France, we no longer needed to go through the immigration of Spain due to the fact that they are both in the Schengen area and European Union. How convenient is that?! Anyway, we decided to take a taxi instead from the airport to the main city of Barcelona in Las Ramblas since it looked affordable and Uber does not exist in Spain at the time. Thank goodness our taxi drivers could speak a little bit of English! Of course if you know me, you will know that I have huge passion for speaking in Spanish!
Tell me, have you ever seen a design like this anywhere in your life?! Gaudi really is one of Spain's national treasures!
When we arrived in Las Ramblas, we checked in our luggages. In Europe, most of the establishments will not have someone to assist you with your luggages unless you stay at the highest quality hotel. So when you're here on a budget, you're on your own. But if you make an effort to learn and speak some Spanish, that will be more than helpful! I have encountered people who really tried their best to help me simply because I was able to speak Spanish! All that is thanks to having a boss and friend from Peru and Mexico! Now the first place I recommend you to go to is Casa Batlló, located in the center of Barcelona. It is a house made by Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish Catalan man with the most creative mind! How he was able to think of those designs and combinations? I don't know! But one things for sure: it satisfies the sight and soothes the mind!
Spanish is one of my favourite languages, so you can definitely imagine how excited I was to be there!
Now walking to the place, we would ask for directions to it. Since I was the only one who could speak Spanish, I was the one who asked people around where Casa Batlló was. To say that in a polite way in Spanish, it's: "Desculpe Señor(a), pero donde está Casa Batlló?" And usually they will be polite to point at the direction or say left and right in Spanish, which is "Izquierda y derecha." I know Spanish is confusing to many sometimes, but for me it just seems so natural to speak it. I LOVE the "rolling R" accent that most Spaniards and Latinos use. It's an extremely spicy and sexy language to me, and that's just one of a hundred reasons to why I love Spanish and why I still keep practicing it even until today. Try it out for yourself! There is a phrase that goes, talk to a person in their second language, and you speak to their mind. But if you talk to them in their native language, you speak to their heart!
Simple and elegant in design. It's one of those things that does not need to much going on. Arches are classic!
The vibe as soon as we entered Casa Batlló was just stunning! Never have I ever been to a place where I got to see designs as unique as those! I was lucky to have gotten a chance to experience and view that amazing place! Antoni Gaudi really is a natural treasure to Barcelona! At the entrance of Casa Batlló, there will be a someone at the ticket booth where you'll pay entrance fee and then inside where they will provide you with an audio recording as well as video animation of the tour in English or whichever language they have provided. No worries. Most can understand English, just do not expect them to speak as much! It's a wonderful chance for you to experience another culture! Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world so there are hundreds of opportunities to learn this amazing language!
Casa Batlló stands out from the entire city of Barcelona. Go there and see it! Trust me, it's worth it!
Now inside the museum, you will notice how very odd the shape of Casa Batlló is! It's not at all a straight line, and most or if not all the structures are round and very uniquely shaped. The irregular shapes and patterns of the windows and arches are such a sight! The audio guide said that they are not only pleasing to the eyes, but also to the mind as well because they play with your creative side! The fireplace is the beginning of the trip and already you will notice how the shape of the entrance looks like a mushroom! Most of the places are designed with broken ceramic tiles that are oddly shaped, but it just goes to show that despite an odd and unique appearance, it can still look beautiful! As you walk around the area, you will notice the loft and its sixty catenary arches, which are typical designs for gothic architecture. They remind us of an animals ribcage, and some say that the simplicity of this area was built due to the fact that the top of Casa Batlló had an appearance similar to a dragon, and that those arches represented the inside of the dragon!
I have fallen in love with Barcelona, Spain! What an amazing country it is!
One of the most beautiful spots inside Casa Batlló is the Noble Floor. The audio guide describe it as a refreshing sight for the eyes as the blue tiling on the walls and windows area reminded us of the sea, ocean, and tortoise shells. And most people would agree that seeing a beach really relaxes the mind and soul! What a treat it was to have gotten to witness all that! I can definitely say that the art and architecture in Europe is just another level of beautiful! My sister in law once said that you can feel the love and care that they put into whatever they do. Most of the architecture I have seen are beautiful, but it seemed forced upon the builders to me. Unlike the ones in Europe, the structures look like they were built out of love and PASSION! I may sound weird for saying that, but trust me. When you enter a museum or even witness the art at even a church in Europe, you will feel the positive vibe of love and passion inside it! It's no wonder places like Casa Batlló have been recognized as a Unesco World Heritage sight! It really is that amazing there.
It's okay to be imperfect because you're still beautiful is what I learned from seeing the designs by Antoni Gaudi!
Now as you explore the place, you will head to the top where you will see the roof that is somewhat similar to a dragon! What's unique with this place, apart from the shapes, colors and tiles is that there are four chimney stacks on the roof along with the the "dragon's spine roof arch" from behind. When I got to the tower, I got to see a view of the city of Barcelona, and it was charming. It reminded of Philippines in a way, but much cleaner and less pollution. As we explored the balcony as well as the main floor of the central section, I could really feel the authentic Barcelona that people keep talking about! I know Philippines used to be a former Spanish colony so that's why it has that resemblance. I just wished that we still use Spanish in our curriculum and mode of education because it's such a sexy language! Luckily, people like me are enthusiastic enough to make an effort to learn the language!
Look at all those beautifully marbled and smoked Iberico ham meat right there! Outstanding by far!
After seeing the wonders of Casa Batlló, we decided to go walk around the other streets of Barcelona and see the many wonders they have to offer us. We had a small group tour scheduled so we went to the one first. It was a tapas tour! Now tapas to us may sound like the breakfast staple that we have with rice and egg, but tapas in Spain are little bites of snacks that you eat while you mingle and drink wine with loved ones. It may seem odd, but trust me, the tapas in Spain taste incredible! Spain has some of the best foods I have ever tasted, and just give it a chance! You may see something that you like! Typical tapas can be as simple as bread and tomatoes with olive oil, or eggs with potato which is Torta with Jamon Serrano on top (HEAVENLY!), or even Spanish sardines and tomatoes all on top of crispy bread! We got to experience flavours unique to us as well as mingle with other people in the tour group who came from different parts of the world like US and Australia!
Our tour guide showing us the several ingredients used for making tapas! Must try in Spain!
Now one place you MUST go and explore while you are in Barcelona is La Boqueria. It is a wonderful market full and full of delicious food such as the freshest seafood like the catch of the day along with lobsters and fish, paellas, fresh fruit juices, Jamon Serrano, Iberico Ham as well as some of the most lovely chocolates and desserts all in one place! Now the reason why I keep mentioning about Jamon Serrano is that it is so delicious! It is completely different from what is more common in the market abroad like proscuitto or parma ham (Italian), but trust me: this smoked ham is one the most sought after food in all of Spain! It is the leg of an acorn fed Iberian black pig, preserved and smoke for long periods of time. The result of that is a taste so damn good that even on it's own, it's a winner! Sweet, salty, smoky and flavourful, it is one the most common food for tapas and just about any savoury dish in Spain!
I still remember how beautiful the surroundings were here! It's no wonder it was my favourite country in Europe!
We were so glad to have gotten the chance to mingle with many foreigners and talk to many locals as well! It just gets me so excited every time I see someone from Spain and I start talking to them in Spanish! They have another word for their language apart from Español and that is Castellano. So just in case someone asks you and you hear that word, it means the language of Spain since Spain has several spoken languages and dialects like in Barcelona, a lot of people speak Catalan, which is almost similar to Spanish but with different spellings. While we were on our tour group, we noticed so many gift shops and what not so we passed by some of them and saw many products with similar names to ours but completely different in appearance such as Turrón. In Philippines, Turon is referred to as a Saba banana that has been coated in Lumpia or spring roll wrapper then deep fried and coated with sugar syrup. But in Spain, Turrón is referred to as a chewy nougat candy that has been coated with many flavours such as chocolate and filled with toppings such as almonds, nuts and dried fruit! We do have a version of this but it's called Turrones de casùy and it's made with cashew nuts instead!
Whether or not you think it's racist, I have to admit these crispy Filipinos Chocolate biscuits taste sweet and delicious!
One of the things I enjoyed while in Spain was this biscuit, which is available in almost any market or mercado in Español: Filipinos! Yes! You heard me! Filipinos biscuit cookies! They are sort of a digestive biscuit that's either wheat or dark chocolate flavoured and coated with either milk, white or dark chocolate! They come in three colourful packages: red, blue and silver so they are not difficult to miss! I think it is only available in Europe, but apparently these mini doughnut shaped cookies have caused controversy, especially where I'm from in Philippines! People in my country have called it a bit racist since the biscuit was named after the Filipino people, and its appearance looked dark on the outside and white on the inside. Whatever you may call it, I call it delicious! Sweet, crunchy, creamy and crispy goodness all in one bite! These were one of my favourite snacks in Spain, and it's also one of the most affordable snacks or souvenirs you can bring back to your home at only € 1 (around PHP50) Euro per pack! Now that is a sweet gift or pasalubong you can bring back home!
My sister in law enjoying the flower shaped ice cream around the busy streets of Las Ramblas! So many flavours with cherry on top! Delicioso!
After having tapas for dinner, we decided to go walk around the streets of Las Ramblas and got taste more wonderful stuff such as the ice cream or helado in Español. Again, this country is very proud of their culture and language, so do not expect everyone you see around you to be fluent in English. But generally, most will try their best to help you out and provide service for you. You may encounter someone saying "I don't speak English." or "No hablo Español/Castellano.", but most have been very welcoming to us and even appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language! I attempted to speak to the ice cream vendor or vendedor de helados, and he was so shocked that I could speak it given my Asian look! I feel thankful to be a person who can pronounce the "rolling R" accent like they do. I asked them how much for the ice cream or Cuánto cuestas, we payed. Then the guy asks us where we are from and then I said Las Islas Filipinas, and then he mentioned "Manny Pacquiao" to me and I was also surprised myself that he knew who he was! After apologizing that my Spanish was so bad or in Español, "Lo siento. Mi Español es muy mal.", he was very forgiving and was impressed that I made an effort to know their language! A little effort of learning and respecting another person's language and culture goes a long way when abroad! Some countries may not be as accommodating or as helpful, but I am glad that most of the Spanish people have been very helpful to me! I have to thank all my amigos y amigas en Filipinas, Mexico, Perú, Puerto Rico, Colombia, y España for helping me practice and improve my Español because were it not for you guys, it would have been even more difficult to get around the amazing country called España!
My sister in law, sister and I along with our friend who took the picture really enjoyed every bit of Barcelona. We will be back for more!
Tapas were definitely the highlight of our meals because the possibilities are endless with the selections of meat, vegetables and seafood they have in Spain! I swear the people of Spain have something going for them! When you taste food as fresh and as heavenly as theirs, you will wish that you could live in Spain! I would too if I could just because of how much amazing selection of food they have here! It's not just Paella or Cochinillo (suckling pig) they have here, but also the Churros con Chocolate, which obviously doesn't need any translating! Oh and did I mention that the people of Spain are some of the most beautiful and most handsome people I have EVER seen?! The people here are ridiculously good looking here! Employees look like they could be models! If that's not enough to motivate you apart from their super rich culture and heritage, then I don't know what will! HAHAHA! For a country that colonised half of the world, even my own home country at some point, it really does leave a huge impression on many people like me. I have so much more to explore in this world, and I am so thankful to have gotten to taste the wonders of Barcelona, Spain! Muchas gracias por su amabilidad España. Increíble ciudad y país! Continuará....
Such unique and lovely architecture around Barcelona! Can you believe the Samsung and San Miguel reached all the way here?! Amazing!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Best Things I've Tried in Paris, France! Part 2

This was our tour guide Jonathan inside the Louvre with my sister, sister in law and friend. So many people inside!
Now the next place that I would recommend you to go to is the Louvre Museum! As a museum known for having the ever so famous Mona Lisa painting, there are far more amazing places inside that are just some of the most beautiful artworks that I have ever seen in my life! We had a tour guide there named Jonathan from Paris, and we had reserved the tour months before going to Paris in order to avoid the long line! Anyway, when we first arrived at the museum, we were in shock at how big the museum was inside! This was an underground museum, and to see all those incredible works of art all stored in that place was so overwhelming! Prior to entering the Louvre, I suggest you order your tickets online instead of falling in line to purchase them because the line will be VERY long. You can save so much time by purchasing online and just showing it at the entrance area instead.


Holy crap. Even their roofs are decorated in such an incredible way! This artworks are made with love!
We first started our tour with this guide from France named Jonathan. I swear, the French accent was sticking with us and it was so infectious and romantic! He was giving us a description of each of the artworks that were the most prized ones. One of the first statues we saw was the Venus De Milo statue. Venus being known as the goddess of beauty in Greek mythology was place in the center of an area in the museum with the attention place onto her. Very elegant and intense in beauty!  Now of course Paris is the most visited city in the world and of course with that, you will encounter many people inside the Louvre who will want to get a picture just like yours. So don't be surprised if many seem rude or insensitive if they want to get a picture of the place with no one around.
Ahh the Venus De Milo statue in all its beautiful glory! Elegance and beauty is what this and all of the Louvre has!
Now when you get to the area going to the Mona Lisa, there are tons of artworks that are far more amazing than the well-known painting! Artworks that are not like any other artworks I have seen in my life! They were all difficult to figure out the theme in it, so that's why Jonathan was there to help us out! Each painting had an important message to it such as those belonging to Biblical verses or messages regarding life, love and happiness. It was really too subtle for us to figure out! Thank goodness Jonathan gets it because it was really difficult for us to capture the message of the artworks other than the fact that they look so realistic and intricate!
Far too many tourists in Paris, especially with this one painting! It's closely guarded so could not determine if it was the real one! Still, I'm happy I got to see it!
Now we get to the ever so famous Mona Lisa! Wow what a priceless moment to see the painting for real! It was not as impactful as I thought it would be though! Good luck getting a private and personal shot with the painting because there will be tourists and security everywhere around the area. The actual size of the Mona Lisa is actually not so big, but seeing it for real was finally an achievement that I can say I did! But there was more in store for me at this grand museum! I got to see several paintings that looked so perfect, I could swear it was a real photograph! What amazed me was the type of paint that they used to make it. Jonathan explained that back then, painters would grind pig organs in order to turn it into a paste to make paint for artists to use! Shocking, but efficient I guess. What shocked me even more was the time and effort the artists in Paris put into creating the artworks! Painting on the rooftops of places so high is not easy I bet. So the best thing to do is to admire them!
This was one of the paintings that made use of pigs organs in order to create! It looked so real to the point that it looked like a photograph!
As we got deeper into the museum, I was in complete surprise to find out that we were on our way to visit the exact replica of the house of Napoleon Bonaparte! I cannot emphasize enough just how grand this place is! The museum speaks of class, royalty, and artistry all in one priceless place! It still wanders in my mind even until today: how in the world did those people reach those roofs to create artworks that fantastic and grand?! Really the works there were just beyond amazing. It was unreal! And getting to know and understand some of the stories and themes behind those paintings seemed so difficult. Most artists these days create abstract art, and seems like as if not much effort was put into creating it. However, these paintings literally scream a persons heart and soul in them! So much details, color and intricate works and textures put into a masterpiece! 
Can you just imagine yourself standing there and seeing it in all its glory?! Really something you cannot put a price on so you must visit this museum while in Paris!
You could spend all day at the museum if you really wanted to! It's a treat for the eyes. Not everybody was as lucky enough to experience as I have, so if it is given to you, just take it! Now the next parts of the museum we wanted to go to was the exact replica mansion of Napoleon Bonaparte. The painting from above here is an event that occurred during Bonaparte's time. It features a woman bowing down before him, along with 5 other women on the far left. Jonathan pointed it out to me that there is another painting in Palace de Versailles that has those 5 women in this painting, but the only difference is that one of them is wearing a color pink dress instead of the color white. Just so many subtle details that Jonathan really helped us with. We appreciated the paintings and artworks even better because it all made sense! When we arrived at the mansion replica, we were amazed just how beautiful and grand it looked! 
Wow. That is a lot of gold color at this mansion! Everything is so well taken care of here that it's unbelievable!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why It's So Important to Live the Life YOU Want NOW!

Annika, you never lost your innocence and purity. May you be the angel that watches over us in our lives!
The start of 2016 was really surprising so far for me. I have been pursuing more traveling outside of the country, especially to cities I have never been to, and also figuring out what makes me come alive now. I literally got a lesson about life itself. I met well-known blogger Trisha Velarmino and got lectured about the beauty of traveling solo and going to places far from Philippines like Latin and South America. I have been wanting to do that ever since I got back from US. But one of the biggest lessons I learned so far this 2016 was this: "Live the life YOU WANT to live NOW." Because this 2016 had a really surprising and shocking impact in my life not only for me, but for my whole family. Of all people, we never thought it would happen to someone whose life had not even fully started yet.
I took this picture after finishing class and she was at home having fun and jumping around!
Let me tell you a story about this incredibly kind, young and bright girl named Annika. She was my cousin. She was born in 2003, while I was still around 12 or 13 at the time. She was just the cutest baby I saw, and growing up we watched her in her crib, attempting to say her first words, and even learning to crawl and walk! I would hang out and spend time with her after school, and even went to her on Sundays with my whole family. From attending her first birthday, to the birth of her baby sister, this was a normal routine for us up until she was 5 years old. We had some personal problems on the side, and all of us just grew apart eventually. This decision was probably the one that gave me an instant regret because after that, I would never see her again. 

I swear the look on her face when she smiled and walked around the house was very charming. It really gave a positive vibe around the house. Her parents and I were close before. Her mama was a fan of baking, who would make cheesecakes to sell when I was growing up with them, which was one of the many factors that convinced me to study culinary arts in college. Her papa was a golfer and businessman. He had previously lived in US, which was one of the reasons that inspired me to live in US before. It was really a beautiful thing they all had. I am just deeply sorry though that I never got the chance to spend time with them after we became distant.
These pictures were from over 10 years ago! She just grew her teeth! I cannot believe how fast time flies!
Though I never saw Annika growing up after 5 years old, I did hear from others like her other cousins that she was a very well-behaved girl in school, bright and successful in golf, as well as a well-travelled girl. Her parents really loved her that much, so much that they gave her the opportunity to see many parts of the world at her age! I had not achieved as much as she did when I was her age, let me tell you that! I saw photos of her growing up to become a beautiful girl. Tall, bright, intelligent, and full of capability. I even heard from her school mates that she was one of the few people in school that never really got bullied or go into a fight with anyone. A well-behaved girl like her deserved the world. And what happened to her, should not happen to anybody.

Annika and her family celebrated her papa's birthday a week before his actual birthday. They did that because they planned to go to Baguio while she was on a golf tournament there. One of Annika's cousins, Mayumi, said to me that they were talking about how beautiful and tall Annika was for someone her age. Mayumi said to Annika that she should become a model someday. Really, God sometimes makes the most outrageous things happen to anyone's life. Things that really make you wonder why, of all people. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't love Him less. Maybe these things do happen for a reason. Maybe they are a lesson or experience for us.