A Day in Pisa and Lucca

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I got thrilled right away to see Pisa on the itinerary for our honeymoon journey in Italy.  Then my excitement waned when I began to realize one thing.

“Oh no… Am I supposed to ‘lean’ on it, as everybody does?”

‘Lean’ at the Tower of Pisa.

When we speak about Italy, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is amongst the firsts that pop in our heads.  Pizza is another, but just because this Italian delicacy and the old city sound alike, I was tickled to death when I heard somebody claiming that pizza originated from Pisa. Mamma mia!

It would have been a disgrace especially to the one who built it, purely because the Tower of Pisa is an architectural mistake. Interestingly though, this miscalculation had actually brought a symbol of civic pride.  Especially for most cheeky tourists nowadays, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the perfect muse to practice the art of ‘forced perspective.’ Read more

3 Days in Cinque Terre

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Visiting these five crazily stacked, colorful fishing villages of Cinque Terre perched on the Ligurian coast seems to be entering a world drawn only for a storybook.  Grape terraces, lemon trees, the ocean, and steep cliffs will corner you; yet still, it’s a great place to get stuck after all.

A UNESCO world heritage site since 1997, Cinque Terre consists of five villages dating from the early medieval period: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Cinque Terre’s unique feature is attributed to the carefully built houses and terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean sea.  The “five lands” form part of Italy’s most rugged coastline, isolated and inaccessible for centuries until a railway was completed in 1874. Read more

An Overnight Stay in Genoa

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The Nordic wind seemed to tell us that summer would be gone soon in a couple of weeks in Denmark.  By September, the good chance we could still catch the summer breeze is when we go further south.  So, a day after we tied the knot in Aeroskobing, we headed back to Copenhagen and took a flight back to Switzerland.

The next morning, we found ourselves heading towards the Mont Blanc Tunnel.  Then it’s official – we’re definitely heading to Italy!

I’ve always liked Italy.

After visiting Florence once and Rome twice, I couldn’t get my mind off from wishing to explore this beautiful country more.  By the time we were already looking for our honeymoon destination, I said it right away, “I want to go (back) to Italy.” Read more

My 10 Most Unforgettable Travels in 2013 (2 of 2)

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If you missed the first half of this post, check it out at Part 1 of My Top 10 Most Unforgettable Travels in 2013.

After getting married in a fairytale-like Nordic island called Aeroskobing, we flew back to Switzerland, packed our luggages again and went on to our honeymoon the next day.  Yet the honeymoon seemed to continue after Italy. We also went to visit Porto in Portugal for a long weekend, and the Philippines for 3 weeks.

6. Hiking through the five villages of Cinque Terre

Otherwise known as the “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre features five beautiful fishing villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We stayed in Levanto, a village that lies at the northern end of these little villages of Cinque Terre. After many months of being in the cold, we had our first good dose of Italian sun at its beach.

We took the train to visit these five villages, starting at the opposite end and heading back to Levanto. We were only able to visit Riomaggiore, Manarola and Monterosso al Mare. We thought we could be able to visit the two other villages by car, but we found out along the way that the roads heading to Vernazza and Corniglia were closed. Taking the hiking trails in Cinque Terre would have been an amazing, rewarding experience as well.

7. Experiencing Italian life in Tuscany and Siena

As soon as we reached Tuscany, we visited Pisa to see its famous leaning campanile; and the walled city Lucca to see the symbolic tower with trees sitting atop of it. We stayed in a centuries-old villa in Buggiano, which is a dainty village sitting atop of a hill with a panoramic sight of other Tuscan towns and olive trees growing bountiful all around. We also went to visit Florence particularly, the Medici chapels, the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio. Then we relaxed ourselves in historic thermal baths before we headed to equally stunning Siena.

The province of Siena has the most majestic, enchanting hilly landscapes that I’ve ever seen, particularly, the Val d’Orcia that we saw afar from Pienza, which is also one of the interesting medieval villages I visited. We also went around to visit the famous wine villages – Montepulciano and Montelcino. And of course, we also visited the medieval city, Siena.

It was a bummer that we didn’t stay in Siena that long. Staying either in a rustic farmhouse or a romantic medieval castle, we could have enjoyed hiking or biking around its cultivated lands, relishing traditional Italian dishes and savory Tuscan wines, visiting historical sites and more. If there’s any chance, I’ll surely come back to Siena. Here it’s dolce vita at its finest.

8. Falling in love all over again in Verona and Venice

Truth is, it was in Verona that I fell in love right away to a seductive Amarone della Valpolicella. I enjoyed Amarone very much when we went to an open wine tasting in Musella estate and during an exquisite dinner at Antica Bottega del Vino. A euphoric moment it was that I started moonlighting of becoming a sommelier, for the nth time! I might be infatuated, yet indeed it was still a luscious meeting between Amarone and I.

Then of course, Venice. Seeing its grand architecture and artworks, and the charming gondolas, I surely was smitten.

9. A taste of Porto and its port wines

I’ve always been curious about Portugal. It started when I asked my dad, “Of all the places you have been, which is the best for you?” And he answered, “Portugal. Lisbon, particularly.”

It was supposed to be Lisbon first, but since he’s been there already, hubby suggested if there’s any other place in Portugal where I can take my training. I replied, “there is one in Porto.” Obviously for me, Porto is unheard of. At any rate, I don’t mind. It’s still a slice of Portugal I can enjoy for the first time. Off we then went to Porto.

It was its old mysterious, gothic charm that makes Porto fascinating. Walking along its old zigzag streets is a labyrinth to the city’s extravagant baroque churches and iconic buildings, while the steep ones lead to the Ribiera, the oldest part of Porto and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, straddling along the Rio Duoro. Porto feasted us with its gastronomical specialties such as tripas à modo do Porto, tripe cooked with dried beans, vegetables, pig’s trotters and offals served with rice; bacalhau, dried and salted cod cooked in different ways (one of which I had was bacalhau com todos, as translated literally, “cod with everyone,” which consisted of boiled bacalhau and vegetables and seasoned with olive oil, garlic and wine vinegar); francesinha, bread topped with steak, sausage and cheese and a beer-flavored sauce; and pastel de nata, the infamous Portuguese egg tart. And of course, the Port Wine, or Vinho do Porto, is a sweet, red wine with huge varieties, that is exclusively produced in the Duoro valley in Porto.

It’s a perfect weekend after all.  Yet visiting Porto doesn’t seem to be enough, I’m afraid. I eagerly look forward to visiting Portugal again, and hopefully I make it to Lisbon.

10. At home in Pinas with my Mister

I have been away from home for almost 2 years, so just imagine how excited I was when we decided to spend our new year holiday in the Philippines. Not only I would be able to see my family and friends again, but I also would be able to formally present my husband with them. At the same time, I also planned to tour him around more, so he can see tids-and-bits of my home country.

The Philippines isn’t entirely new for him. As a matter of fact, it must be his fifth visit to the country already, but usually it’s only for the New Year celebration in Boracay when he and his friends from all over, who’ve originally met each other either in Shanghai or Hong Kong, would get all together. After the NYC in Boracay, we then flew to Cebu, took a ferry to Dumaguete, flew back to Manila and wandered there around, and went on a road trip to Batangas and Tagaytay.  So far, he survived. Happy moi!

So…what’s up for On the Go in 2014?

No definite travel plans so far, as it’s always been the case. Predictably we could be in more places in Europe or in the Philippines maybe during the holidays. What I can assure somehow – because this is going to be my new year’s resolution – is that I’ll spend time to blog more about my travels. Right away, beefed up with lots of stories, photos, tips and ideas worth sharing.

Apart from that, I wish our traveling would be more into “quality over quantity.” A slow travel so to speak, and for me that means, we stay longer in one place without the maddening rush to get to another destination, so we can really get to know more about the place, and spend quality time with ourselves and each other at the same time. Take a pause. Think and immerse. Saunter and enjoy the details.

Let our feet itch to travel again and take us where it will interest us. So 2014, give us some giddy-yaps!

Italy is LOVE

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Our honeymoon escapade in Italy just got published at the 5th issue of The Filipino Expat Magazine. Check it out here.

I have been to Rome twice, to Florence once, and yet, I still yearn to go back. The perfect timing came when I got married and was looking for a honeymoon destination. My husband has never been to any of those Italian cities I just mentioned. So the day after exchanging marital vows on a fairytale-like Nordic island, we flew back home to Switzerland, packed our stuff, and took an unforgettable road trip to Italy.

Undoubtedly, Italy is one of the most highly-recommended honeymoon spots in the world. This we realized after our two-week blissful tour around the north and central Italy. We were simply awestruck by the European country’s sheer beauty and exquisiteness. If you find yourselves in Italy, especially during the love month, do try to include the following in your itinerary:

Hike through the five villages of Cinque Terre.

Otherwise known as the “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre features five beautiful fishing villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. You can get there by taking the train or boat. As these villages sit atop cliffs, expect some serious walking. If you have the stamina for it, try the six-hour hiking trail particularly, the path between Monterosso and Vernaza. The steep, narrow goat trail provides a spectacular view of the Ligurian Sea.

“Lean” on the tower of Pisa.

A popular Italian landmark, be prepared to bump into a lot of tourists swarming around the slightly angled campanile. Don’t be shy to make the silliest, most creative poses with the leaning tower as almost everyone there is doing it anyways.

Get lost in the walled city of Lucca.

Lucca’s centuries-old defensive walls were designed by the genius, Leonardo Da Vinci. Walking or riding a bike within the walls of the city will lead you to the most interesting places: An amphitheatre, the famous cathedral Duomo de San Martino, Torre Guinigi known for the oak trees on its rooftop, the Piazza Napoleone or Lucca’s biggest square, among many others.

Relax in historic thermal baths.

Aside from being blessed with fertile grounds, majestic landscapes and generally mild climate, Tuscany is also home to many natural hot springs. The most famous include the thermal baths in Saturnia and Monsummano. We spent days at a spa in Monsummano’s Grotta Giusti, which is known for its natural cave with an underground lake featuring therapeutic hot water. The cave highlights three zones, each one increasing in heat. For your spa treatment, you can choose either “Paradise,” “Purgatory” or “Hell.” If you’re not up for this treatment, Grotta Giusti has modern thermal pools and a number of spa services as well.

Get mesmerized by the grandeur of Florence.

A cultural, artistic and architectural gem, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance or the Age of Discovery and Creativity. Florence never fails to attract visitors from all over with its rich, colorful history. In this city alone, there’s over 80 museums, 60 churches and over a thousand restaurants to enjoy. It can be overwhelming. So if you plan to stay for a day or two we recommend you first visit the popular ones: Piazzale Michelangelo, Duomo di Firenze, the Medici Chapels and Church of San Lorenzo, Piazza Signoria, Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio.

Savor Tuscan wines.

Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions namely, Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano. We visited Montalcino and Montepulciano for the most intimate wine drinking experience. The wines from these two Tuscan cities are my favorites, particularly the Brunello di Montalcino.

Stroll around Pienza in Val d’Orcia.

Pienza is the Tuscan town that first employed the so- called Renaissance urbanism. It offers stunning views of the entire valley of Val d’Orcia (or Valdorcia). All around, it is very picturesque.

Experience Siena’s medieval vibe.

Of all the old Tuscan cities and villages, Siena has wonderfully preserved its medieval past. Gothic architecture dating hundreds of years are almost everywhere. The city is built around the Piazza del Campo. Here is the perfect place to people-watch especially late afternoons.

Stay in centuries-old villas and farmhouses.

Agri-tourism is transforming charming old villas and rustic farmhouses into themed accommodations for tourists. The idea is for you to experience either the life of a farmer or a great don. Most host families also offer a good selection of activities like horse riding, wine tasting and cooking lessons for guests.

Exchange vows of eternal fidelity in Verona.

The star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, as immortalized by Shakespeare, continue to live on in the city of Verona. Lovelorn tourists flock to Casa di Guiletta to see the bronze statue of Juliet and the balcony where Romeo famously wooed his one true love. Writing love notes, posting them on the walls, as well as touching the right breast of Juliet’s statue are believed to bring luck to lovers. You can also watch the theatrical play of Romeo and Juliet at Verona’s The Arena. But don’t leave Verona without watching Guiseppe Verdi’s Aida, as well.

Bask in the sun by the Lake Garda.  

Known as the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda is a popular holiday destination for those who are into watersports and other outdoor activities. Lake Garda is surrounded by mountains and small resort towns. Try visiting Bardolino and Peschiera.

Taste Valpolicella and Amarone.

 Valpolicella is a viticultural zone north of Italy. It is known worldwide for producing the most prestigious and expensive Italian wine, Amarone della Valpolicella. Of course, throughout our stay in Verona, we drank mostly Valpolicella classics. On our last night, we dropped by the fancy and historic Antica Bottega del Vino where I tasted the most divine Amarone ever. It was a luscious meeting between Amarone and I.

Follow the duke’s steps in Mantua. 

It starts at Palazzo Te, which was built as the duke’s leisure palace. Take the straight road to get you to the city centre where you’ll find other equally fascinating architectural works such as the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, Mantua Cathedral, and the Palazzo Ducale.

Sigh over magnificent Venice.

It sounds cliché alright, but Venice is definitely one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world. While most honeymooners jump right into the gondolas and kiss under the Bridge of Sighs, we enjoyed Venice differently. Without a map or a guide, we dived straight into the maze-like streets of Venice, crossing bridges over canals, passing by hole-in-the-wall shops, and quaint restaurants. We stayed a bit at the Rialto Bridge to enjoy the Grand Canal. Walking further, we reached San Marco and found its famous square. By late afternoon, we finally took a taxi boat to experience the Grand Canal.

Attend cooking class together.

During our cooking class, we made our very own tagliatelle pasta noodles. We also prepared some appetizers as well as a main course. It was heart-melting to see my apron-wrapped hubby chopping raw vegetables, kneading the pasta dough, and sipping red wine with me.

Eat like an Italian.

Italian food is probably the reason why I so wanted to return. I needed to satisfy my cravings for good seafood and yes, Italian wines. While my hubby had been wanting to try the Fiorentina steak. However, our visit here led us to the discovery of the black truffle pasta. Hands down, this is now both our favorite. Ready your tummies when you come here. A typical Italian meal is served in this order: aperitivo, antipasto, primo platti, secondo platti, contorno, formaggi e fruta, dolce, caffè, and digestif –all served in generous amounts. That’s Italy for you.

week enders: loving italia et le francais plus

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“About week enders, I’ll give you snippets of the highs and lows of my week.”

Apart from other things I’m busy with, I’m back to school, to another French one exactement.  Coincidentally, the first homework ma professeur gave required us to write the activities we did on the past week. It’s hitting two birds in one stone et voila! I’ve just written something for weekenders as well.

I also had to wait for ma professeur de corriger mon devoir before I posted it here, hence, the delay (and a good excuse).

Well then, enjoy!

27.08.2012 monday

L’après-midi, je suis allée à l’aéroport et j’ai rencontré mes amies.  Après deux heures d’avion, nous sommes arrivées à Rome.

Après notre arrivée à l’hôtel, nous somme allées àu restaurant pour le dîner.  Nous avons mangé des pâtes, des fruits de mer et de la pizza. Et nous avons bu de la bière et des vins italiens.

Ensuite, nous avons dormi.

28.08.2012 tuesday

Le lendemain, nous avons pris le bus à la gare Termini pour visiter le Vatican.  Nous sommes arrivées à la Place Saint-Pierre.

 

Là, nous avons commencé à prendre beaucoup de photos. De plus, nous avons rencontré les gardes suisses sur la place.

Après, nous sommes allées à l’interieur de la basilique Saint-Pierre.

A midi, nous avons mangé des pâtes, de la pizza et beaucoup de viande grillée.

Après, nous avons visité le musée du Vatican. Nous avons vu la belle fresque de Michelangelo à la Chapelle Sixtine.

En d’après-midi, nous avons visité la Place d’Espagne et nous avons commencé à faire du shopping! Là, nous avons rencontré un ami de Gina, Jojo.

La nuit, nous sommes allées à l’Eataly pour le dîner, et il y avait beaucoup de délicieuses spécialités italiennes! Nous avons mangé une grosse assiette de fruits de mer frits, différentes sortes de fromages, tomates avec mozarella et de la crème glacée. Tout était délicieux!

Avant de nous rendre à notre hôtel, nous avons visité le Coliséé la nuit. C’était magnifique.

29.08.2012 wednesday

Mercredi, nous avons commencé à faire les bagages.  Avant de nous rendre à la gare, nous sommes allées dans restaurant philippin pour notre brunch. Nous avons mangé <<tapsilog>> et j’ai aimé.

Nous avons pris le train pour Florence. Nous sommes arrivées à Florence après deux heures. Nous somme allées à notre hotel. Nous avons pris une sieste un peu. Ensuite, nous sommes allées à ce restaurant chic près de notre hôtel. Nous avons apprécié notre dîner et nous avons décidé de retourner dans le restaurant.

30.08.2012 thursday

Le lendemain, nous avons commencé à faire un tour. Nous somme allèes à la Place de Michelangelo et nous avons vu toute la ville de Florence. C’etait très magnifique!

Ensuite, nous avons visité la cathédrale de Florence et là, nous avons pris notre déjeuner.

Après, nous sommes allées pour plus faire du shopping. J’ai acheté une paire de bottes en cuir et un sac en cuir. Aussi, nous sommes passées devant la célèbre statue de David de Michelangelo.

31.08.2012 friday

Vendredi, nous avons commencé à preparer notre voyage pour rentrer à la maison. 

Nous avons pris un train pour rentrer à Rome. À l’aéroport de Fiumicino, nous avons pris notre avion de retour à Genève.

01.09.2012 saturday

– @perkyperpie tweets: “after a weeklong vacation in zurich & italy, i’ll just be chillaxin’ on a chilly Saturday. specially homemade Indian gourmet tonight. #home”

– @perkyperpie tweets: “it’s still summer in #switzerland but i’m wearing a sweater and a scarf. #whatsgoingon”

02.09.2012 sunday

Le week-end, je me suis beaucoup reposée! Mais, j’aime voyager encore. A la prochaine fois!

 

What is it with these words in red, you might be wondering? Oh these were les corrections de ma professeur, just taking note… d’accord?

TIP: If this is giving you nose bleed, use Google Chrome so the browser will do the translation for you. Another option, use Google translate.