Friday, 11 October 2013

Trip back home: Last day in Berlin

Too many reasons why I love Berlin.

a.  Art.  Graffiti or not, I love that I can see art everywhere.
b.  Bike ways.  Apart from Amsterdam, I've never been to a place where cyclists share the same priority as the pedestrians.
c.  Parks.
d.  People.  I found Germans quite friendly actually.

I used to book late flight out thinking that I have a bonus day to explore the city.  Now that I have enough travel experience, I found that 6-7PM is the perfect time for me.  It gives me enough time to explore the city without getting Too bored or tired waiting for my flight.

As I am in the zone still, I remember telling my mum that I was lenient with her the previous day.  I only took her to 3 places so that counts as being lenient right?  I was that inconsiderate.  I know my mother is unfit but I expected her to have the same energy as someone my age.  Inconsiderate, I tell you.  :(

First stop:  Topographie Des Terrors

It is amazing what you can learn from going to this place.  It is one of the shocking and truthful depiction on the Nazi Regime.  Enough said.

We went to Charlie's checkpoint again this day.  Just to see if we missed anything.  I usually look through the google photos to double check if I miss anything base on other people's trip.  :P  


Sorry I didn't realise that I left this unfinished.  Sometimes I start something in this blog and then I forget and now, more than a year later, I am finishing this post.  I blame my job.  Blogging is my hobby so it is the least of my priorities.  :P

Final Stop:  Berliner Dom

I remember loving this final day in Berlin.  I love Autumn.  I love the colours of the leaves and when the leaves fall.  I wish my husband was with me in this trip but I also understand that we should go on certain trips separately and enjoy the company of others.  :)  We head back to England after this.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Rainy Berlin: A Square, A Checkpoint and An Outside Gallery

Two things I love about travelling off peak.  1.  Cheap flights and accommodation.  Five star hotel, centrally located with flight  for two cost less than the peak plane ticket to the Philippines.  2.  The spots are almost always deserted.  

Today is my sister's birthday.  Originally, the plan is to go to the US for a week.  This trip was supposed to be her birthday and graduation present.  Even my brother JR applied for his visa to the US from Singapore but got rejected with no valid reason.  My sister's passport on the other hand is still in the Home Office. I have no idea how long will it take to process but she's been waiting for a year now with no answer.  A failed family trip if you ask me but JR is visiting in a month's time so never mind.  

3 things was in the agenda for today.  It include a square, a trip back to the Checkpoint Charlie and an outside gallery.

1.  Gendarmenmarkt

With the risk of sounding like a snob, this is just a square with 2 cathedrals and a concert house.  So far, nothing beats the Grote Markt in Brussels.  The only beauty lies in the area as it is a haven for shoppers.  Think Knightsbridge in London minus Harrods and Harvey Nichols but replace it with Galeries Lafayette and surround the area with high street shops and expensive hotels.

Red Carpet ang peg ni mother!
Deserted.  Perfect for photo.  :)

2.  Checkpoint Charlie V.2

Going back to Checkpoint Charlie was my decision.  I needed to find something that I saw in photos that we didn't see on our first visit.  I am happy to report that we found it...the next day.  :P  What a waste of effort.  We also found something else on this second visit, Photokabine.  It wasn't a waste of effort after all.

I've read somewhere that one of the things that you should do when in Berlin was to have your Photokabine photo.  We can't pass up in this opportunity.  We found this just behind the Berlin Wall exhibition.  Doing this somehow reminds me of the film Amelie.  :)

3.  East Side Gallery

Sounding pretentious, I love art.  I see it everywhere, in architecture, clothing, painting.  I have no talent per se.  I can't even draw if it saves my life but I can appreciate greatness, beauty.  Living in the UK somehow developed my eye for it and working for retail helped too.  At one point in my career, I managed team of artists and been trained as a merchandiser.  I am not bad if you think about it.  :P

East Side Gallery is a free outside Gallery.  It's a mock Berlin wall covered in mural.  If I'm not mistaken, it is 2 km long.  You have to appreciate art to go here as it is a long walk.  When mum and I visited, it was raining.  It didn't dampen my mood though, although I had several rants against mum.  I blame the Filipino Travel Zone.  I love my mother but sometimes, I don't understand her situation.  Her being passive don't help either.  She is like my husband in a way.  Maybe that's why I married Luke.  He is calm.  I need calmness in my life.

After this tiring day, we retreated to our hotel.  For dinner, we went to Potsdamer Platz and check their Christmas Market.  It wasn't amazing but at least you have the feeling the Christmas is just around the corner which is nice.  :)  I can't wait for Christmas with the family and for my present.  Kidding babe.  xxx

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Braving the rain: Exploring Berlin with Map in Hand

Okay, the title is a bit dramatic but that's how I feel like at the moment so deal with it.  :P

I used to travel with full itinerary.  I wanted to explore everything that the city has to offer, museums, spots.  You get the idea.  I call it the Filipino Travel Zone.  It is a phenomena where you want to do everything and anything that the guide book told you to do.  Travelling with my mum, somehow unleashed the beast.  It wasn't something that I am proud of.  :(

My husband told me that I am very organised when it comes to travelling.  He wished that I am the same when it comes to our home.  I am not very messy but I like to put things where I see them.  He likes order, he likes to clean up so leave the rest to him right?  He enjoys it and I like to please my husband.  LOL!  If you asked me how I do my itinerary, I'll send you to google.  I like to open a spreadsheet, write the places I want to visit, note which one is free, opening times, metro, the full works.  It makes me happy that I know what I am doing, what I am wearing for the day.  I like to be fully prepared.

This day proved to be a very hectic one.

1.  Treptower Park

According to my research, Treptower Park used to be a themed park.  Bearing that in mind, I thought I would see abandoned ferris wheels and carousels.  I was wrong.  At the moment, it is just a park.  There is nothing interesting with it perse, (according to me but don't take my word for it) apart from the Soviet War Memorial.  It would be worth the visit if you know your history and German as the writings are in German.  Unfortunately for me, all the history I know involves fashion and I can't understand German so I didn't appreciate it as much as I should of.  I love the symmetry of this place though.

2.  Checkpoint Charlie

Whilst planning for this trip, I asked my mum where she wanted to go.  She wanted to see the Berlin wall.  I told her that the Berlin wall was taken down years ago.  I told my husband and we had a good laugh about it.  

Checkpoint Charlie is one of the most touristy places I've been in Berlin.  It might be the most famous too as they've got McDonald's just around the corner.  :P  I have never been to a touristy place without McDonald's and I have been to more than 10 countries all over the world.  Checkpoint Charlie was the old border crossing point.  That's all I know. 

The golden arches on the side. :)
This photo is such a rip off!  You have to pay 2 Euros each to have your photo taken and if you happen to take photo, you still have to pay.  Since we were on holiday, we gave in and paid.  We then proceeded to the nearby museum where Berlin wall history and photos with wall painted by famous artists are free.

Very asian photos of me and my mother.  If we can get away with it, why not? :)

3.  Holocaust Memorial

This proved to be a very poignant experience for me.  Reading about innocent people being murdered not because of what they did but because of their faith.  Totally not cool.  

After visiting these places, mum and I retreated to our hotel.  I return to reading my e-books with predictable plots and she focused on her new series, House of Cards.  Went to the Sony Centre for dinner.  I tried German food for the first time.  Not bratwurst but pork knuckle the size of my face.  Tried apple  juice with beer as well.  Germans make the most amazing beer combo!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

First night in Berlin

I have to admit, Germany is not in the list of countries I want to visit.  Scratch that, I want to go to Germany only to experience authentic Oktoberfest feel.  I have been to Oktoberfest homages in few countries but nothing beats the original right?  

When we were in Germany, I asked mum why she chose Berlin.  She answered with, I asked the same question myself last Saturday before my flight to the UK.  I didn't know why I didn't think of Prague and Venice.  Glad we didn't go to Prague as I am going next month.  I am selfish like that.  :P

We took the train from the airport.  Gambling as we didn't know anything about the place.  It was both our first time in Berlin.  I just remembered using google earth to know how the area looked like and I remember seeing the Sony Building so I thought of using that as our reference in case we get lost.  Luckily, the hotel is centrally located and we didn't have a hard time finding the building.  We didn't have to resort to using the cab either.  If there is one thing that I hate, it is unnecessary spending.  I am stingy like that.  Well, if you are a regular reader, you do know that about me already but I just like to stress that out.  LOL!

As part of my/Luke and I's (although Luke's not with us) travel ritual, we rest, buy provisions and eat dinner.  Buying provisions is a must to avoid late night room service.  Let me tell you, I stay in 5 star hotels but I am still sensible about spending.  

After dinner, we went to explore our area and stumble upon the test run for festival of lights.  Lucky eh?  I was actually planning to research about this event but since we already found it without looking, I didn't bother with the other places.  

 The next day, it rained so hard and the area became very cramped with tourist.  As if act of God that we have a good view of the festival of light the previous night.  :)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Love Lock Bridge, Paris

According to my research, there are 2 different love lock bridges in Paris.  Each one has its own significance.  Ponts des Arts is for committed love and Pont de L'Archeveche is for lovers.  As tourists, we went to both.  :-P  Pont de L'Archeveche is just behind Notre Dame whilst Ponts des Arts is infront of Louvre.  I don't have particular interest to this but since it was our anniversary, I want it to be cheesy as possible.

Here are some of the professional looking locks that we saw.  Love really is a serious business. :)

Versus the lock that we use:

This didn't almost happen.  I wanted it to be perfect that I didn't find the perfect lock.  Not even Ebay can save us.  At the end, we bought a normal lock without a key.  So much for throwing the key in the river.  I was such a bitch the previous day that I kept on dropping hints that if we didn't find a lock, then we should go back in the future to do it.  I think Luke had enough of spending.  This year has alone, we have been to 3 trips, Morocco, Greece then France.  Czech Republic is in the works too.  Maybe that would be the final trip for this year. :)

Right after the Louvre, Luke and I had a big blow out.  I wanted to have a perfect photo infront of the Louvre where they had the glassy pyramid but I didn't get mine and I got so upset.  It was so irrational.  I have been to Paris twice before this trip and twice I took a photo with it on the background.  I even have photos on two different seasons.  I told you, irrational.  I spent an hour(probably) a little upset then we head to Galleries La Fayette.  I have to be honest, I am a bit disappointed.  It is nice inside but a little cramped.  Imagine Harrods but with big dome in the centre.  I am a Selfridges girl by heart still.  We had nothing to do after so we head back to the hotel, rested and left in time for dinner.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Unplanned Paris Tour

Okay, I promised Luke that we won't do the full Paris trip.  No sights, just few things on my wish list.  It involves going inside the Notre Dame and Jardin du Luxembourg as it is my favourite site in Paris.  Tour de Eiffel didn't even make it on my list as I have seen it on my last Paris trips.  I know, it should be the first one as this was an anniversary trip.  Paris always equates to couples with Eiffel Tower photo in the background.  But not for me.  It's too much of a cliche.  :-P

The first stop on the trip was Jardin du Luxembourg.  I kept on mispronouncing jardin to "hardin" instead of "jardan".  I blame the similarity on Tagalog and my Spanish class for this mistake.  When I was single, I promised to go back to this place when I have a boyfriend.  I didn't realise that after 4 years, I will be back celebrating my 1st year wedding anniversary.  Fate have a funny way of giving us what we want.

 I want this on the wall babe!!!

Plakada sa hair!  No more buns for this trip!

In Jardin du Luxembourg, we found an Asian sister to take photo of us.  Mind you, she approached us first as she was alone on holiday.  Luckily, Asians have Asian photo standards which explains the lovey dovey couple pics of my hub and I :)) 

Across Jardin du Luxembourg is Parthenon so we had quick photo session as well.

This has to be taken with my iPhone.  Our camera wasn't focusing properly that day.

From Parthenon, we head to the train station to buy 2 days unlimited pass and ask for directions to Pere Lachaise.  We boarded the wrong train and ended up in Tour de Eiffel.  Fate have funny way of doing things.  So here's the cliche, totally ate my words.

Thank God for iPhone!  Without it, we won't be able to have couple pic.  We only took few shots and this was the best.  This should go to the wall too babe.  X

Pere Lachaise was a disaster!  This is probably the most famous cemetery in Paris.  It has Chopin, Modigliani and Jim Morrison buried on it.  What I didn't realise was the place was massive and doing a tour on your own is not advisable.  They may have a map but finding the actual grave site is still difficult.  We spent over an hour in there but we only found Chopin.  At least we found one or I will be totally pissed.  Hahaha!  Actually, I am getting pissed that we can't find any grave site.  We first settled to Jim Morrison then Modigliani but since Chopin was very near to where we were during that time, we settled for him.  
We were hungry at this point so we decided to go to Basin de la Villette.  According to my research, it is the largest lake in Paris.  What I failed to read was, it is the largest artificial lake in Paris.  I thought it would be something different but when we got there, I realised that I have been.  It was the area where we stayed in our 2009 trip.  My research also lead me to believe that the area is full of restaurants.  It wasn't.  It feels more like a residential area for me with handful of restaurants.  I think staying in the centre of Paris spoilt it for us.  Luckily, we had a fab meal overlooking the lake.

If this is your first time in Paris, give this a miss.  There are so many places to visit closer to the city centre.  19th Arr is so far!!  

Lastly, we went to Parc de Villette for a free outdoor cinema since we were in the area.  I messed up with the train so we ended up in the wrong place.  I thought we could walk it through.  We can't.  Luckily, there was a train station in the area.  We took it on the right time.  If we didn't, we could we'll end up nowhere.

This photo was taken before dusk.  By the time the film started, there were at least a thousand people in the whole park.  We were there at the right time and we were seated close enough to the screen, exit and toilet.  :)  Tetro was playing that night.  We left halfway through the film as we weren't confident with the train times.  The film BTW, started at half 10.  By the time that we left, it was almost 12 midnight.  

Luke slept til late that night.  

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Dancing on Port St. Bernard, Paris

Since Luke and I have been to Paris before and we both have been to all the tourist spots, I made sure that this trip will be as culturally filled as possible.  When I googled Paris festivals, I got excited as they were so many during the summer.  All I needed to do was to choose which one will suit us and which one would be exciting for us to do.

I have always pictured dancing beside the River Seine to be very romantic.  I expected slow dance with champagne in hand but it turns out, it was salsa night!  Everyone had their salsa hips on which intimidated the both of us.  Even normal looking guys can dance!  In the end, Luke and I watched people move their salsa hips and left.  That same night, Luke and I made a pact to enrol to Salsa class once we were back in England.  We need a bit of social dancing in our lives!

The walk back from Port St. Bernard at night time is amazing.  There were so many buskers.  Near Notre Dame, we stumble upon a group of Jazz singers.  The voice of the man was so authentic I felt like I was back in the prohibition era.  Yes, I went that far.  :P  I would love to live in Paris in the future.  I love the whole Paris vibe.  

The same night, Luke and I explored the Latin Quarters towards St. Germain.  The area is filled with cafes, restaurants and pubs.  I love the laid back style.  I hate the rip off drinks price after happy hour.  A little flute of champers is 10 Euros.  People watching is amazing in this area too.  Too many bearded, slim and tall guys.  Total feast for my eyes!!! 

Notre Dame Hotel, Paris

Luke and I turned 1.  This is the main reason why we went for another holiday.  1 year, paper anniversary.  Luke paid for accommodation and I paid for I can't remember now.  :-P  As it was our paper anniversary, I gave Luke a love letter that he didn't expect inside a Prada wallet.  I do like to splurge on my non-designer(with his shoes as an exception) wearing husband.  

I have never noticed this before but French people are terrible with their customer service.  Luke rang the boutique hotel before we left Rouen to ask for parking directions.  Originally when he rang, he was told that the daily rate was 17 Euros, that morning, he was informed that it was 24 per day and when we arrived, it was 35 Euros.  When we asked the lady in the reception where to park with cheaper rates, she smirk and told us that it is the same everywhere without giving us ideas where to park.  I don't expect that customer service especially if we have to pay £150 a night.  The following day, it rained, we asked for umbrella and we were told, no we don't have any left.  I expect people to at least pretend and look but nothing.  I am still annoyed thinking about this.

Stay at this hotel if you want to be centrally located.  The view is amazing, I can't deny that.  Walking at River Seine is lovely at night time too.  Notre Dame is less than 5 minutes walk, Parthenon is less than 10 minutes and 15 for Jardin du Luxembourg.  The love lock bridge for lovers is less than 5 minutes walk and for the undying love, it can be 30 minutes walk or 3 train stops away.  For 150 a night, you pay for a compact room without fridge, just telly, shower without bath with shampoo/soap and lotion toiletries.  Breakfast is not even included.  Stay away if you want peace and quiet.  You can't get that in Latin quarters.  During our stay, we here sirens go every night and traffic.  Double glazing can't do anything with the traffic noise.  Lucky for me, I am used to it.  

And oh, if you like being connected in the WWW, stay away from this place.  The wi-fi is horrendous!  It goes off every 10 minutes.  
Double bed.  This is the actual width of the room.  
This photo was taken from our room.  This is what 150 a night is for.  That and the Christian Lacroix designed rooms.

Giverny - Paris

If there is one thing I love about road trips, it is the fact that we were not time bound.  You can wake up any time you please (apart from when there is free breakfast which is usually until 11AM) and you can leave whenever, until check out time of course.  :)

Rouen was nice but it is good for a day or two.  I am a big city girl and my body craves for traffic, noise and overpopulation.  I am weird that way.  I haven't appreciated solidarity yet.  I am still young, I have loads of time for that in the future.  :-P

Giverny is an hour and a half away from Rouen and an hour an a bit to Paris.  It is famous for being Monet's town.  Yup, Claude Monet the French impressionist.  It was his garden and pond that inspired most of his paintings.  For weeks, we went back and forth discussing between driving and taking the Eurostar and decided that it would be fun driving plus Luke bought Z4 this year and Euro road trip is the only reason why I am letting him keep that car.  *evil stare*

Few things you should know about Monet House and Garden:

1.  It is not free.   The house and garden is 9.50 Euros and with the museum visit, it is about 19 Euros.  We only went to the garden and house as I've been to bigger museums before and I've seen Monet's work.  Living in Europe has its perks.  British museums are the best!  Most of them are free unless they have a private exhibition.

2.  Parking is free.  Hurray!

3.  Food in the area is expensive.  We may own a Z4 but we are very reasonable with spendings.  To give you an idea, a small beer is 6 Euros.

4.  You can book in advance online.  Alternatively, arrive early as there is queueing.  Monet house and gardens and the museum is the only attraction in the area.  

Inspired by this painting

You get the idea.  :)  The place is very very scenic.  I can see why Monet was inspired.  What's surprising about this trip were the paintings on his house.  They were all from Japanese era.

Find me!!!

 I can easily blend in in the garden!
Floral top and floral skirt FTW!

Although I slept so much the previous night, I slept throughout the drive to Paris.  I only woke up near Le Defense.  I recognise the area as we stayed there the first time we visited France.  :)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Rouen - Paris

When I was younger, I dreamt of travelling America on a convertible or VW Combi.  In my early 20s, my dream was changed to driving in a convertible to Europe.  Now that I've done it, it wasn't much of a fun for me.  1.  There is the hair situation when your hair can't stay perfect no matter how much you style it.  2.  I get motion sickness which leads me to sleeping on the car most of the time.   3.  I can't drive yet.  I really need to sort my license out.

I have been to Paris twice before.  Both times with my mum and my sister.  We have covered mostly all the famous spots in Paris so this trip didn't need much planning for me.  I can just eat, relax and enjoy the scenery.  I can't tell you if the drive to Rouen was scenic.  All I can remember was the long motorways then I woke up and bam!  We were in Rouen. :-P

Rouen doesn't feel like Paris at all.  It feels more like a small English town with loads of Gothic Churches, tea places, cafes and restaurants, high street and designers boutiques (Hermes to name one) and timber incorporated houses.  In the UK we call them Tudor houses as they were made in the Tudor era but in Rouen, it feels like it was incorporated into the design of the house.  

When we first arrived in Rouen, my first thought was, where can we park?  The roads in the city centre is small, usually single lane in residential area.  The traffic system is weird.  They have go for both cars and people BUT only go for cars if there are no pedestrian passing.  We almost had an accident on our first hour which scares the hell out of me.  When we finally found the parking and the boutique hotel, we did our usual, slept and rest for hours and got up in time to explore the town.

I've got only 5 things to see in this trip.  I'm quite lenient since I know I am here to stay for good in Europe. :P  Here they are:

1.  Church of Joan d'Arc

Very interesting architecture, in the shape of the dragon.  This is the actual site where Joan of Arc was burnt.

2.  Rue de Gros Horloge

3.  Rue St. Romain

Where all the good tea places are and everything shabby chic in my eyes are.  :P  

4.  Cathedral de Notre Dame light show

This is free and not to be missed.  Our show started at dusk.  We sat right in the middle with wide lens angle and got these amazing photos.  If you miss the first few minutes of the show, don't despair.  They played it back to back.  

5.  Les Jardin Du Sculpteur Jean-Marc de Pas

The last one didn't happen though as we intended to go Giverny instead.

In Rouen, all you need is a good camera, good shoes for walking and basic French to survive.  I don't have basic French skills but my husband does.  Thank God!  He is specially good with asking for directions.  


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