Tuesday, 30 December 2014

But First, Vatican Museum

Luke is the only one among us who haven't been inside the Vatican Museum.  It wasn't pricey but if you leave it to last minute, it will take you ages to get inside as the queues are very long.  I remember, queueing up for the first time and then booking a tour as we can't be bothered with the wait.  It did cost us as we didn't do our research and it was summer but it was the best decision we've done at the time.  

There are Pros and Cons on doing the DIY Tour VS the Tour Guide:

Tour Groups will have a special pass that enables you to by-pass the long queue.  Assuming that you have a very good tour guide, you will learn more as you can interact with your guide.  The Con, you do as you are told.  You may end up skipping some areas in the Vatican that your guide deems insignificant.  This happened to us on this tour.  It felt shorter than usual. In fact, it only took us an hour and a half.  I was disappointed but what you don't know won't hurt you.  :P

DIY tours on the other hand takes so much of your time queueing up unless you are the first one in the line.  The Vatican Museum opens at 9AM but when we get there at 8AM, it was a block long queue already.  You can stop and take photos, you can rest in between and you'll be able to enjoy everything the museum has to offer.  You can have breakfast inside the Vatican if you wanted too as well.  In short, DIY tours enables you to go about on your own phase without waiting for anyone.  It's always the question of time when you are on holiday isn't it?  Time has to be spent wisely.

We paid 41EU per person for this tour but that was after bargaining.  If you are on a bigger tour, maybe try haggling.  It wouldn't hurt to ask.  :)

One of the few painted ceilings in the Museum.

From the Vatican Museum, you can access the St. Peter's without having to queue up.  This is probably the best group photo we have inside as my husband is opposed to having too much "selfies" inside the sacred place.  If you happen to go inside the St. Peter's, you can also go see the tombs of the previous Popes.  No photos allowed but people always try to sneak in.  BTW, St. John Paul II is open for viewing.  

Had a very tiring morning.  Later that day, we flew back home to England and I went back to work the next day.  I wonder where and when the next trip is?  With so much unexpected bills monthly - e.i boiler and car breakdown, I don't think it's wise to spend money no?  Stay tuned. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Roman Historical Tour - Colosseo Roma and The Forum

I wasn't born well-off.  Both my parents were employed when I was growing up so I guess we are what you call middle class.  I didn't even travel abroad until I was 20 years old.  Not by choice but we don't have the means to do it.  The farthest I've been before my 20th was maybe an overnight trip to my grandma's in Marinduque or a two hour plane ride to one of the islands in the Philippines so I consider myself extremely lucky when I get to see one country twice in my life.  I had a slight obsession on going to a country that I haven't been before once a year provided that we are not overdoing it.  I may be, but my dear husband puts a stop on my craziness.  :P

Like I said, it wasn't my first rodeo in Rome.  This is why I am taking everything easy.  My first time was very hectic trip with my mum and my sister and I lost a lot of weight walking from that trip.  We didn't dive in to any culinary experience as we were on a budget.  I am very stingy and strict when I need to.  

On our third day in Rome, we left late and headed to the Colosseo Roma.  I went crazy with Luke with the train tickets as the attendant gave him a single journey ticket(1.50EU) when I wanted him to purchase a day ticket(6EU).  I was annoyed but he was able to disperse it.  Thank God my husband knows how to handle my craziness.  Noone like him.  :)  

So much has changed since I first visited Rome.  Even so when Luke first visited.  Apparently, the Colosseo was free then and you can just go anywhere the ruins and walk anywhere.  I went in the summer so we definitely queued up but it was never as full as when we visited.  Everywhere you go, people are carrying monopods or selfie sticks in the European world.  :P  The only good change at the moment was the diverted traffic around the Forum and Colosseo.  
We missed the Forum Tour as I had a 30 minute wait at the toilet.  The next one was 3PM so we had coffee and pizza at the restaurant across the Colosseo.  I wouldn't recommend but I was desperate to eat, sit and to waste 1.5 hours of my time until the next Forum tour.  It was bloody freezing that day as well and I wasn't winter ready.  I didn't factor in wind to the trip.  

 Another one for the books.  
 I'm inlove with Rome's "umbrella" trees.  
This is why Luke is desperate to do the Forum tour.  He loves history and Rome has so much history to offer.  This is just half of the Forum.  Unfortunately for us, when our tour concluded, the Forum closed as well.  So I suggest do your tour early.  The place closes at 4:30PM.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Hello Rome, We Meet Again

Oh My God!  I haven't blogged in ages.  So long that I have forgotten my email address.  I went to a full on panic mode when I entered my old email address and I was told that the email has been deleted.  Yes, I have used several email addresses in the past and created more than one blog. I belong to the era where everyone wanted to write and over exposed themselves.  :P  I had a personal blog once, a fashion blog and a blog to sell my clothes but I only maintained this one as my personal life has began stagnant, my fashion went nowhere and I have sold all my unwanted clothes.  

From July until November, I was focused on work.  Honestly, the only social life I had was my workmate's leaving do.  I was basically married to my job.  Travelling 20 hours each week, working full time and working for my dream job.  Only now I realised that I shouldn't waste too much time on work but on things that matters.  Anyway, this is a travel blog so let me tell you about my trip to Rome.

This isn't my first time to Rome.  Let's get that out of the way.  Rome holds a special place to my heart as it was one of the first European countries that I've been in.  It was also the starting point of my 2009 European trip.  2009 was my most challenging year.  It was the year that I lost my first high paying job, I experienced a proper broken heart, my family got separated to work in different countries and it was also the year that I started dating my husband.  Just telling you about it makes me feel exhausted.  Rome is a city full of history.  It is exciting if you are into it, but not so if you hate walking.  This trip was planned but I had nothing on our agenda as it was my MIL's 60th.

I had to work boxing day and my husband booked a late flight so when we arrived in Rome, it was almost time for dinner.  The first night was spent eating seafood, pasta and cheese and drinking Proseco.  :)  The following day, we woke up early for the mass in Vatican.

Shot of the Vatican City at 7:30am on a Sunday.

As a Catholic, there is nothing more exciting than attending a mass in Vatican or seeing the Pope.  Luckily, I was able to experience both in the same day.  On our first trip to the Vatican, we were able to see the old Pope, Pope Benedict and attend his mass as well. This time, we attended a mass in Italian by a Vatican priest where I had to respond in either English or Tagalog.  I know how mass sequence goes but I also had to focus on trying to understand what the Priest is saying as I don't know how to speak Italian.  Some words I did understood so I just had to piece together what the Priest was saying.  If you want to go to the Vatican City or attend the mass, I suggest you go super early so you don't have to queue.  It's nice to see the square deserted as well and you don't have to queue up to get inside the St. Peter's.  On Sundays, Pope Francis gives his speech as well.  I was on the verge of crying just experiencing his Holiness.  

From the Vatican, we walked to the Pantheon.  It was a 20-30 minutes walk.  Apparently, it was a Pagan site until it was converted into a Church.  Forgive my photos as everything was taken from my iPhone. 

My photo don't do justice to the place.  It was a magnificent structure that survived the test of time.

From Pantheon, you can walk to the Roman Forum and the Colosseo Roma.  At this point, I was knackered and my feet was hurting so we had to go back to the hotel and rest before my MIL's birthday dinner.

My MIL's birthday was a success.  It was very intimate, immediate family only and partners.  I am lucky as my MIL is incredibly generous and kind woman.  She thinks about her family first and is extremely over protective of the people that she loves.  She raised her children well and I thank my lucky stars everyday that I met my husband.  

 My husband and I overjoyed.  Not even a drop of Proseco at this point.
That parcel was filled with cheese.  Cheese with pancetta and asparagus is amazing together. 
The chocolate panna cotta that is a normal panna cotta drizzled with chocolate.  You had me fooled then.  Nothing still beats the panna cotta in Morocco.  

Friday, 11 July 2014

Day 5: Likya Winery and Gombe Lake

There is something enticing about being in a predominantly Islamic country and going to a Vineyard.  It's like breaking the rule and at the same time doing it legally.  In Islam, alcohol is forbidden.  That's all I know.  I am raised as a Catholic.  

I am getting tired of paying over priced alcohol.  So when we found about this "wine tasting" in Turkey, I thought, it would be an experience.  It was an experience alright.  Luke had to drive 3 hours both ways to get to Elmali and back.  There are no signs directing you to Elmali.  At a crossroad, Luke had to do the tourist way and shouted "Elmali!?" to the tambay as we don't know where to go.  Luckily, he directed us to the right path.  :P  The drive was very scenic but boring until we got a little bit lost and had to stop in a petrol station to ask for directions.  When we finally reached the vineyard, there was no tour, no wine tasting.  Apparently, the new leader of their country changed the rule and you can't taste wine anymore.  So with blind faith, we bought 3 bottles of wine.  I am not a big wine drinker to begin with.  The owners of the Likya winery is very accommodating though.  We had a tour in their factory and we also had a chat with the owners.  As for the wine, we haven't tasted it yet and we are saving it for another occasion.  A bottle by the way cost 10 quid each. 

I've taken photo of the Gombe lake from afar.  There is nothing interesting about it in my opinion but it just looked nice so we had to stop.  On our way back to the hotel, we got stopped by the Turkish police.  They had guns with them and as usual, I sh*t myself.  I am very anti-guns.  I don't see the point of having one.  Anyway, they were asking for our passports but Luke only had his driver's license with him and I've got my residence permit with me.  Good thing one of the police is nicer and told his buddy to stop bullying us and let us pass.  He told us that next time, we should bring our passports when travelling.  

For dinner, we went to Kas.  I was extremely hungry by then.  We initially planned to just stay in Kalkan but the food is very unsatisfying and expensive for Turkey standards.  We went back to the same restaurant from the previous night as we loved their service and food.  We told them that we drove all the way from Kalkan and gave us free coke.  We gave 10 TL in tip or we had to as the server didn't bother giving us change.  

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Day 4: Saklikent and Kas

I am pleasantly surprised with Turkey.  The country have so much to offer.  It caters to everyone.  Historically, they have UNESCO heritage sites, there is an abundance of beaches and for the dare devils, you can do paragliding, camping, hiking.  For a week, we were able to do different things and visited different areas.  Sounds hectic?  No.  As we have a great location, everywhere is of driving range.  Daily, we wake up just in time for breakfast, we leave on our chosen time without pressure, we eat when we are hungry and most importantly, I can take my afternoon nap.  You have no idea how amazing that feels.  For someone who travels 20 hours weekly for work, everything is a luxury.

1.  Saklikent Gorge

I wanted to hike.  I thought it would be a good exercise and honestly, I wanna see the big rock formations.  I thought it would be easy.  I didn't realise that you have to go through a natural spring water which is as cold as ice and swim through the small gaps in the gorge. The whole scene reminded me of 127 hours minus the accident.  :P  It takes an hour to get to the end of the hike which you will be rewarded with a waterfall.  We almost made it until I had an accident.  With 150 metres to the waterfall, I climbed the rocks and slipped.  It wasn't a very high fall but a fall nonetheless.  Luckily, I didn't hit my head and I went straight through the water.  I am not sure if going to the waterfall is worth all the effort but as soon as i slipped, we had to abort the mission.  After all, I have been to better waterfalls in the Philippines.  :)  

Walking will take you about an hour depending on your pace of course.  The entrance fee is 5 Turkish Lira per person so that's less than 2 quid.  You have to wear a footwear with grip which is free in the restaurants.  Yes, that's their way of luring customers to the business.  I didn't mind as it helped us through the hike.  You will also have to hike in swimming costumes as you have to swim at one point.  Bring water and water proof bag. 

This day, I discovered Turkish pancake or Gozleme.  I started with Cheese pancake and had 4 different varieties in the trip.  They have a different pancake compared to the western world.  Theirs is more like doughy but crepe thin.  

2.  Kas

We decided to check out Kas.  Luke intended to stay here initially but his workmates are staying in the area so we went to Kalkan instead.  Thank God for that.  Kalkan is way better than Kas and is less touristy.  The only upside of staying in Kas is that, they've got better restaurants with better prices.  If I have to describe Kas, it has to be Manila bay with better restaurants.  Don't trust me as I'm not the Kas expert though.  :p 

This is the day that I've discovered Pide.  Pide is like Turkish pizza.  The ingredients are basic but as it was made fresh, it taste better than store bought pizza.  I also had a yogurt drink thinking that it would resemble Lassi, the indian counterpart.  It was more salty and tasted horrible I learnt my lesson and didn't order it again.  :P

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Day 3: Xanthos and Patara Plaji

I am very lucky that I found my partner and my best friend.  With my husband, I can be myself.  I have been in relationships where I had to change myself not for the better but so my personality can fit my partner.  But I learnt early on that you can't expect people to change and you have to love them for who they really are and not their potential.  My husband and I have different interest.  Music wise, we are the polar opposites.  Travelling though is a different matter.  We are explorers, we aren't afraid to try out different things, eat different food and immerse in the culture.  Luke loves long drives.  As long as there is petrol in the car, sunblock and money in our pockets then we are ready to go.  It does help that we are both low maintenance.  When I first started travelling, photo was the priority.  As a middle class Filipino, sometimes you only have one chance to visit a place so you want proof.  Now though, I get to enjoy the experience.  :)

Luke and I didn't have any plans.  Just like everyday of this trip.  I went to Turkey to really get away from England and work.  I just wanna relax and expected daily beach trips.  But Luke and I can't sit still.  The owner recommended Patara Plaji(beach) to us but on our way, we saw Xanthos so we drove there anyway.  It is a UNESCO heritage site.  It has ruins.  Not Roman, but Lycian.  To be honest, I didn't know the difference but its just amazing to see that after hundreds of years, the amphithreatre looked intact still.  The best of all, the entrance and parking is FREE. :)

It was a very hot sunny day so after 10 minutes or so of exploring, we left for Patara Plaji.  The Patara Plaji is a UNESCO heritage site as well.  On the way to the beach, there was a long drive where you can see ruins just like Xanthos.  The drive reminded me on Bopal in India when we went to see the Bhimbetka Cave Paintings.  At the end of the drive was a 5 minute walk to the beach.  The beach reminded me of Candolim Beach as they both have strong waves and massive shore.  The only difference is Patara have whiter water and lesser stores.  To be honest, there were only one small pub hut and shared toilets.  Umbrellas and sun beds are available for rent in the area.  I suggest renting one as the sand gets really really hot when the sun is strong.  

Unlike all the beaches that I've been in, I was amazed that no one bothered me through out our whole stay in the beach.  No lady walking offering massages or selling souvenirs.  Although the wave is strong, the water is shallow so you can go very far without swimming.  A plus when you are a non swimmer like me. :)  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Day 1 and 2: Kalkan, Turkey

I have to admit, I've been neglecting blogging lately.  Between work and my non-existent social life, I don't really have the time to write.  Since Berlin, I have been to Prague, Malaysia and almost a month holiday back home in the Philippines.  It was exciting but also resources draining.  You think you won't spend money 'cause you are in your own country but it's the other way around.  I found myself converting peso to pounds all the time and thinking everything was cheap.  It was, until every expenses added up.

Turkey was not on my travel bucket list.  I thought I was done with Europe and Asia so I was thinking of Mexico, South America or Caribbean but those aren't visa free countries. I am limited to countries that don't need visa to travel and sometimes, I have that to be thankful for.  This is why Luke and I ended up in Morocco and Turkey this time.  I am a Filipino passport holder and resident of the UK.  Because of my status, I was able to travel to Turkey with my online purchased visa.

When I told Luke that I wanted to go to Turkey, I didn't really have an idea where to go.  If I have to be honest, he made everything happen.  Just like our wedding, my responsible husband took control.  He went online, asked friends and researched places where we can both enjoy.  Luckily, he made the right choice.  

Kalkan is a very picturesque city.  Its nearest airport is Dalaman which is an hour and a half drive.  Possibly the best place for me and Luke to stay in as everything is of driving distance.  We lived near the Sehir Merkezi (town centre) but to explore and do some activity, you have to drive a bit further.  

Our first day was uneventful.  We took an afternoon flight which arrived at 10PM.  With 2 hours time difference ahead of England plus driving time, we were in Kalkan by midnight.  I wasn't expecting much to be honest.  I learnt that if we weren't staying 5 stars, that I should be fully prepared with toiletries and low expectations.  :-P  The place where we stayed in was a 10 room guest accommodation with amazing ocean view.  

 View from our room.
 The pool with amazing view.
 Lunchtime view.

Our second day didn't start right.  First off, Luke was disappointed about the breakfast.  This is something that we always look forward to when we go on holiday.  But in Turkey, you get Turkish breakfast which means, olives, mixed fruits, cheese and bread.  It supposed to have eggs on it but our small hotel didn't provide for one.  When the owner told us to help ourselves to breakfast, Luke can't help but add, "to what?".  She's a sweet lady but her breakfast didn't satisfy our hunger at all. Nothing was on the agenda that day.  We both just want to top up our tan.  But with both Asian genes, tanning came to easy for us.  By 2PM we retreated to our room and got ready to explore the Sehir Merkezi.  When we asked the people how long will it take to the town centre, they replied, 5 minutes.  But with strong sunshine, it felt like 30.  The same day, we asked for a rental car.  Walking became unbearable.


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