Sunday, September 23, 2012

Playing Parisian

I ordered a Blue Moon. My Man and My Tower

There is no woman who does not dream of going to Paris.  It is after all, cliche as this may sound, always been touted (since time immemorial)  as the Most Romantic City in the World.  And girls, whatever ages, are born romantics.

Ultimate Classy Shopping District of Champs-Elyssees
Since I was a teenager, I've always dreamed of roaming its cobble-stone streets (preferably in over- the-knee winter boots), stealing glances at smooching lovers,  sipping espresso in tiny cups outside a cafe watching chic Parisians, browsing through museums with endless collections of priceless arts,  and of course, the grand pinnacle of delights ~ Sharing a kiss under the beautiful Eiffel Tower.

Behind Richelieu wing of the Louvre

A Brassiere (it's not undergarments) but actually quaint French Restaurants or Cafes in upscale setting

3 kids and still felling like it's Honeymoon.

Yes, sweetie.  Dreams do still come true!  The City of Lights realized all the images in my dreams and much, much more!  It's beautiful. Classy. Elegant. Stunning in an understated way.  A Grand Lady whose beauty stands the tests of time and invokes in every visitor the desire to pay homage in awe.  

The River Seine.  Postcard perfect in any angle, traverses Paris into Right and Left Bank,
with a bonus island in-between called lle de la Cite.

Jardin des Tuileries, were Parisians chill out and catch the sun

I wish I can eloquently put in words what I have experienced but it will only be futile. Pictures paint a thousand words!  But then again, there's no match for actually being there ~ having all your senses assailed by the taste, smell, sight, sounds and feel of this French capital.

Tribute to the Pyramids at the entrance of the Louvre

Place de la Concorde, where they used to behead traitors to the Republic

Travelling always comes with a price.  As bad as it sounds, I sometimes wish that Europe goes into further recession, so going there can be more affordable.  :))  But then again, whatever mode you get into Europe, backpacker or middle-of-the-road budget travel, it is still costly.

cobble-stone road leading to Versailles

For us, we really pinched pennies for this once in a lifetime trip and consciously kept to our budget. Enjoy without burning the future!

Our home in Paris during our 5day stay was Pereire Arc de Triomphe.  A small bed and breakfast, short walk from Wagram Metro station and Arc de Triomphe. 

It's tiny and old as most Parisian hotels are, but strategically located and reasonably priced. Free Wifi only at the lobby. Breakfasts in most hotels don't come free.  They charge 10 euros per pax for a simple spread of croissants, ham, cheeses coffee, juices, eggs, yogurt.  We only had breakfast there once to try, and the rest of the days, made our own coffee and ate bread & fruits we brought from the supermarket.  Ain't that smart! 

Lunch is taken on the road, wherever our feet lead us.  Usually crepes, baguettes and paninis sold along quaint carts in most streets.

But for dinners, we splurge a little :)  usually in one of those French Bistros.  Wine is cheaper than bottled water in Paris.  Plus, you are spoiled with variety of choices.   Goes without saying,  I was walking around tipsy :))

Most tourists take the Hop On, Hop Off Buses to go around.   The buses stops at the major landmarks.  One can get a 1-day or 2-day passes.  A bit costly but it saves you the trouble of getting lost and commuting your way around.   This is perfect if you only have a day or two in Paris.  It's just breezing through.  However, if you are staying longer, you might not maximize the bus. Since, Paris is a walking city!  You will be tempted to just walk it out, or stay longer in some places.

But hub and I are adventurous.  We wanted to feel real Parisian everyday life.  We took walking tours. We used the regional trains, the Metro (subways), buses, even the eco-bikes.  We got lost, argued, found our way back, ask for wrong directions and the best experiences of all,  I almost got into a shouting match with 3 gypsy ladies who were trying to pick my bag!

Paris, being a tourist mecca, is also a hub of petty thieves.  Most my friends who've been here either have  an incident or 'almost' incident of being a victim.  I have thoroughly prepared by bringing, my ultra-secure cross body bag.  But once you drop your guard a little, these shady characters are just around the crowd to prey on you. Well, sorry sila, hindi sila umubra sa akin!  :)) Laking Quiapo and Avenida, Manila :))

Convoluted Map of Paris Trains.  Not for the faint-hearted!
Stroll along Ile de la Cite, the island between the two banks of the River Seine
Parisian "TukTuk or Trisikad" driven by one of 'em macho Bulgarians

It is impossible to see the whole of Paris for a week.  In fact, according to our guide,  visiting the Louvre Museum alone, and spending just 3 seconds for each display, will take you 3months to finish the entire museum!  It is that HUGE!

So, even before going to Paris, it is advised in the guidebooks to have your own Top 10 Hit List.  It's the essence of what you really want to see in Paris.  Otherwise, the sheer beauty of the surroundings can just intoxicate you ~ and you'll think you've seen the best, when the best is yet to come!!

Pretending to be Parisian :)

We managed about 9 of our Top 10.  Not bad!  I intentionally left that One, so I have another reason to go back! :))

Our Top 10  Paris Highlights ~  from The Eiffel Tower to meeting the Monalisa ...  (awestruck!!) and even venturing outside Paris to the biggest garden palace in the world ~~ Chateau de Versailles..... Up Next!
Yes, you know this place!  Feeling Marie Antoinette!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

F Girls in Italy

by Butterfly,  Guest Blogger

(Fgirls ~ is our group in Facebook composed mainly of  women who are Fun, Fearless,  Fabulous and whose motto is to : Live Life to the Fullest!  Wherever there is an F girl, anywhere in the world, You have a Friend!)


Ripemango and i have been friends, all because of my childhood friend Ted, who became her husband. We've been friends virtually on friendster, now a dead social network, and, luckily, we continued over facebook. I may have long known her husband since childhood (obviously our house back home is adjacent to theirs), but Dew and i happened to talk much thru facebook. Getting the feel of "old time friends". We both love writing and blogging. We already shared a lot, personal and mom stuffs.

First Sight

When she told me, they will be touring Europe, i was ecstatic. At last i will be able to see her. I really love the way she dress. Swak na swak, with accessories and all. Oozing with confidence. Medyo kulang ako nun, magpapahawa ako =). Meeting her for the first time at the central station, my first word was "oooh..geez, hi"...tipong lost for words. It's her! The slim & smart girl with a million dollar smile, that i always see & have in mind.

I'm sure we're discussing what to wear next =)

Virtually, i like her na. In person, i like her more. Hindi maarte, masarap ka-chika. No need for ice breaker. The only one we need is a brake. Ala na'ng preno sa chikas kasi. =) Energy talaga!

The question is, what did the F Girls do in Italy? 16GB SD memory card of digital dslr cameras won't be enough. Words are not enough to describe how we both enjoyed each other's company and how we've been fab in our european styled-everyday attire. 9 days of hopping from cities to cities, savoring italian and filipino foods, the budget may be too high, but in the end, we can't tag a price how much satisfied we were.

Grand Canal (Canal Grande) in Venice won't ever be the same again without us =)
Joining the Vogue's Fashion's Night Out in Milan
Inside St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

Salute to the heroes of the war @ Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (Rome)
Hot mama's at funicular railway in Como

It's called Standing-by with Style @ Galleria di Vittorio Emanuele in Milan

Shopping for Matching Bags @ La Rinascente, Rome

I hope it's not the first and last time we'll be together. Maybe soon i will be gallivanting over the streets of Singapore where she resides. Who knows? Or in the future, we might see ourselves in other european countries. (ipon ng madugong budget!) Anyway, our friendship has been enriched by this tour.

Arco della Pace, Milan


Teena "Butterfly"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Taste of Europe ..... Teaser.

Oh Europe, I think I've been dreaming of you for a lifetime!

It's in every wish, each time a birthday candle is blown.  It's in every Wednesday Novena prayer petition.  It's in the diaries, journals, dreams boards and every Bucket List, long before  the movie of the same phrase was coined.

Who wouldn't dream of going to Europe?  It's a throwback in time, overwhelmingly grandiose, culturally enriching, magnificent structures and oh yes, the romance and thrill it invokes.   On a more practical note, it's horrendously expensive and getting a Schengen Visa is like searching for the Holy Grail.   

St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, Italy

When my husband broached the idea of vacationing somewhere this year, I dropped the hint of visiting his childhood friend in Milan, Italy.  Kristina, has always maintained an open invitation to visit them. (Savings, honey. she can take care of our accommodation) and somewhere along the discussions, I inserted a reasonable 5-day Paris leg.  (Poor Ted, probably didn't know what hit him!)

Souvenir Shops along Champs-Elyssees, Paris

If you are like me, who dreamt of a European Trip since high school,  you must have browsed through and bravely inquired from agencies about many tour packages available.  Libreng Mangarap! 12days, 14 days European Dreams, Treasures of Europe etc.  etc.  What convenience! 5 countries in 11days!!

Regional Train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city

But when you talk to your friends who's been there and done that,  they always say, Oh, Just go on your own!  Europe is navigable.  You will save more!  Group tours are more costly and you don't really feel the real pulse of the country.  You are harassed going from one landmark to the next!  Best advise is from my friend Mitch.  Each country is meant to be savored.  We have a lifetime ahead of us, don't rush!  Enjoy!

Neptune Pool, Versailles Gardens

So, there I was ~  surfing, reading and researching for my ultimate dream escapade.... Paris and Italy.  Most helpful resources are Rick Steves Guidebooks, DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Paris, TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.  Needless to say, practical no-nonsense tips from friends are invaluable (Thanks to Mitch, Sam and Rhea). 

But no amount of intensive preparation on itinerary and budgeting has prepared us for the grandeur, the excitement, the thrill and the EXPENSE (!!!) wandering on these beautiful parts of the world!  We ooohhhed! ahhhed! hmmm... hay... grrr... wow...  and woohoo-ed every moment of our experience.

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
It was a grand two-weeks adventure.  And now, after all the touristy souvenirs are unpacked and we are settled at home again with the kids.  Hub is back to the daily grind (nervously awaiting the arrival of credit card bills :)  I'm left aglow with experience and itching to put them into prose so I have something to remember in the years to come.

Join me in my adventures!

Montmarte District.  When in Paris, do as the Parisians :)