European Adventures: Milan

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Another day, another city. Better yet — another country! Upon waking up on the third day of our Mediterranean Cruise, we were already in Italy. When I started to realize that travelling was one of the best things to do in life, this country was definitely included on my bucket list. Delicious food, magnificent ruins, big churches, and not to mention the beautiful language. I wish I could speak Italian, but the next best thing is listening to it all day!

First stop on our Milan tour – the famous Milan Cathedral or the Duomo di Milano.

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The Duomo is the fifth largest Christian church in the world (outdone by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil, Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and Seville’s Cathedral).

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Aside from being one of the largest and oldest churches in the world, it is said that there are more statues on this cathedral than any other building. There are 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures that decorate the Duomo.

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After taking pictures at the Cathedral, we did some strolling, shopping and snacking at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was time for some gelato, coffee and tiramisu! We also found some souvenirs and pasalubong for our loved ones back home.

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a magnificent shopping arcade, covered with a glass and iron roof. The interior of the impressive five story structure is decorated with patriotic mosaics and statues.

Our last stop for the day was Sforza Castle.

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Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) was originally a Visconti fortress. Later, this iconic red-brick castle was home to the mighty Sforza dynasty, who ruled Renaissance Milan. The castle’s defences were designed by the multitalented da Vinci; Napoleon later drained the moat and removed the drawbridges. Today, it houses seven specialised museums, which gather together intriguing fragments of Milan’s cultural and civic history, including Michelangelo’s final work, the Rondanini Pietà, now housed beautifully in the frescoed hall of the castle’s Ospedale Spagnolo (Spanish Hospital).

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Oh, and I was able to steal a shot with this! Expo Milano 2015.

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It was a short day in Milan but I’m glad to have seen and learned about some of its iconic structures. Milan, I’ll come back someday! (I still have to see Da Vinci’s The Last Supper)

To read other posts on our European adventures, click on the following links:

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European Adventures: Marseille & Aix-en-Provence

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After spending our first night at the cruise ship, it was time for our first stop – Marseille. It was an amazing feeling waking up and knowing that we were already in a different country. We had an early call time, but of course we couldn’t do anything but to get ready on time. A day of exploring awaits!

Marseille is a rich, pulsing port city bubbling over with history, cutting-edge creative spaces and hip multicultural urbanites. Since Greek settlers came ashore around 600 BC, waves of immigrants have made Marseille (now France’s second-largest city) their home.

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Marseille’s iconic figure, Notre-Dame de la Garde or “La Bonne Mère” watches over sailors, fishermen and the entire city. It is located on the top of the hill, and also offers great views of the city.

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We also had a photo stop at The Palais Longchamp. It brings the Museum of Fine Arts, Natural History Museum and botanical garden (formerly a zoo) together on a single site.P1040180IMG_0638

Our next stop was Aix-en Provence.

A pocket of left-bank Parisian chic deep in Provence, Aix is all class: its leafy boulevards and public squares are lined with 17th- and 18th-century mansions, punctuated by gurgling moss-covered fountains. Haughty stone lions guard its grandest avenue, cafe-laced cours Mirabeau, where fashionable Aixois pose on polished pavement terraces sipping espresso. While Aix is a student hub, its upscale appeal makes it pricier than other Provençal towns.

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We walked around and browsed through small shops (although a lot were closed, maybe because it was a Sunday) and just enjoyed strolling around a Parisian town.

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After our stroll, we took a break and sat down near Fontaine de la Rotonde, a huge fountain from 1860 in the centre of Aix’ main roundabout. Some pigeons also approached us as we ate some snacks.

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Although we had very limited time, it was nice to see and visit the main sights of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence. Next stop, Italy!

For more posts about our European adventures, click on the following:

European Adventures: Barcelona (Day 3)

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So… this is the last post on the Barcelona (and Spain) leg of our European adventures! It was difficult to say ‘adios!’ to this beautiful city and country, because we had so much fun touring and appreciated everything about the place. Looking at the bright side, we had more cities to explore in the coming days!

We only had a few hours left on our last day, and we spent the morning packing our things. After our check out, we still had time to visit a nearby attraction – the Arc de Triomf.

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The “Arc de Triumph” was build as the entrance to the World Exposition in 1888. Around the arc, the emblem of Barcelona and the Spanish provinces had been affixed.

DSC01418IMG_5341We took a few photos and then proceeded to our last stop – the cruise terminal. Leaving Barcelona was difficult, but boarding a cruise ship was very exciting. It was my first time!DSC01427After our check-in, we boarded the cruise ship. Of course, we took a few photos to document the experience!DSC01434DSC01437Our ship’s name was Emerald Princess – very fancy! Upon entering the ship, we proceeded to the buffet to have our welcome lunch. The cruise was perfect for big eaters like my brothers and I – we had so many choices. Aside from the buffet which was available almost all day, we also had a sit-down dinner every night. There were also other restaurants available on deck, as well as pizza and ice cream! Oh and I almost forgot, room service for 24 hours. Food heaven!DSC01445DSC01444

The ship itself was beautiful, and it was so large. I just felt so grateful to be there! It was going to be an exciting week full of new experiences. Next stop, France!

To read other posts on our European adventures, click on the following:

European Adventures: Barcelona (Day 2)

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Plaza de Catalunya

Here’s another post on our Barcelona stay! After seeing and admiring the beauty of La Sagrada Familia, we went around and visited a few more tourist spots.

We went to Plaza de Catalunya first, and then headed to the famous Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas is the central most boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city centre and is a vibrant and lively promenade filled with Barcelona action at its best. It is approximately 1.2 kilometres long with Port Vell (near the cruise port terminal) at the Southern most end and Plaça Catalunya at the northern most end.

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Las Ramblas

We also saw the Canaletes Fountain, where legend says that anyone who drinks from the fountain will fall in love with Barcelona and return to the city time and time again. After hearing this, of course we drank from the fountain! Wouldn’t want to miss the chance to go back to Barcelona someday.

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Canaletes Fountain

We walked along Las Ramblas and headed to one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets – La Boqueria.

The Boqueria Food Market is a must-see during a trip to Barcelona. Specialist stalls selling many and varied options of olives, seafood, fruit, meats, cheeses and much more are all on offer.

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Entrance to La Boqueria

We got ourselves freshly squeezed fruit juices – delicioso!

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After our stroll in the market (and also lunch in the area), we had a quick rest and then walked around the Barri Gòtic (The Gothic Quarter). Aside from taking pictures, we also went around the shops for souvenirs and pasalubong.

The beautiful neighbourhood known as the Gothic Quarter is so called because it used to be the Roman village and thus has some remnants of its glorious past. These days because of the constant modernization it is easy to spot an ancient building right next to one built in the 90s. It is this mix of old and new that brings people from all over the world to stay in the Gothic Quarter.

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That ends Day 2 in Barcelona!

For more posts about our European adventures, click on the following:

 

European Adventures: Sagrada Familia

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La Sagrada Familia

Hello! Another day, another post. So this is about our second day in Barcelona. First stop of the day – the majestic Sagrada Familia!

La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona. It’s a giant Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and it’s not expected to be completed for some time yet.

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Before our European adventure started, of course I already read and saw articles, forums, and pictures on “where to go” and “what to see” in each city we were to visit. For Barcelona, the #1 on the list is Sagrada Familia. Looking at the pictures beforehand, I was already amazed by the beauty of the structure. I was also fascinated about the fact that even though it is unfinished, it remains as a must-see sight.

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When I finally saw the famous church, I was in awe. Actually, my whole family was! I mean, who wouldn’t be amazed by such a beautiful structure? Sagrada Familia is definitely a masterpiece.

Look at those details!

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Of course I couldn’t say no to churros con chocolate!
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With my brothers and Era, our lovely host in Barcelona

A huge thank you to Era, who was a great host! She fetched us at our place during our whole stay and toured us around Barcelona. She even brought us a typical Barcelona breakfast!

 

That’s it for now. ‘Til the next post!

For more posts about our European adventures click on the following:

European Adventures: Barcelona (Day 1)

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After our Montserrat day trip, we had late lunch and a quick rest before touring again. What’s great about our visit in Spain (and other Mediterranean countries) is that the sun sets late, around 9 pm, which gives us more time to walk around and explore. But don’t get me wrong, Barcelona is beautiful at night as well!

On our way back to our place, we passed by the Barcelona Cathedral, so we also had a photo taken here. Such a beautiful structure!

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Barcelona Cathedral

The place we stayed in was near Palau de la Música Catalana – considered as an architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau. It is the only concert venue in this style to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which today represents an essential landmark in the cultural and social life of Catalonia. Look at those details – amazing!

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Palau de la Musica Catalana
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Palau de la Musica Catalana

After getting a quick rest, it was time to see more of Barcelona – this time it was Montjuic!

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Castell de Montjuic

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We saw the Castell de Montjuic, which used to be a military fortress. The castle was used as a military prison until 1960 when it was given back to the city and used as an army base. Now, it offers stunning views of the city.

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Candid shot, one of my favorites!

When it was about to get late, we rushed down to catch the magic fountain light show, in front of another beautifully-built structure, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

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The Magic Fountain, taken with a phone cam only
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In front of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

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It was a long, tiring but very fun day exploring Barcelona! Took a few more photos before heading back to our place as more days of walking around was waiting for us. We all look so happy in our photos, I guess our happiness was caught on camera. We just loved Barcelona!

See my other posts on our European adventures:

European Adventures: Montserrat

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My favorite shot in Montserrat!

Our Spanish tour continues with our next stop – Montserrat. One hour by train from the city of Barcelona, Montserrat (often used interchangeably to mean the monastery and mountain) is a very popular day-trip for tourists. The mountain is famous for its distinctive rock formations. Halfway up the mountain lies the Benedictine Monestir de Montserrat, home to the Black Virgin, one of Spain’s most revered icons.

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Cable car ride
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After the cable car ride

 

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We’re so happy here! Welcome to Montserrat!

After the train ride, we rode on a cable car to get to the Benedictine monastery. But before that, we stopped to take some (or maybe many) pictures. The views were amazing, and I was so happy that we included this in our itinerary.

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Behind the scenes
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This was the actual shot, lol
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With Era, our host for our Barcelona trip

After taking photos, we decided to go inside the monastery and pay a visit to Our Lady of Montserrat. The line to get inside was long, but I didn’t mind the waiting time as I just took everything in – snapping more shots and admiring all the beautiful details.

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Our Lady of Montserrat

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After visiting the monastery and seeing the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, we went back outside, walked around, visited the souvenir shop, and just admired the beauty of the rock formations. More photos, of course!

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And here’s our attempt at a jump shot:

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The rock formations in these photos look amazing, and they’re even more breathtaking in person. Definitely one of the highlights of our Europe adventures! This trip to Montserrat definitely set my standards high for the next sights we were about to see. Next post will be about the places to see in Barcelona!

Check out my other posts here:

European Adventures: Valladolid

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Museo Oriental de Valladolid

Hello again! Next stop on our Europe adventure – Valladolid.  Valladolid is a city in Spain and the capital of the autonomous region of Castile and Leon. From Madrid, we rode a fast train and arrived at Valladolid in about an hour. Travel was easy and the train was almost empty!

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Like our Madrid stay, our visit to Valladolid was also a short one – just a night. We had quite a hectic schedule, we had a flight to Barcelona the next day. We did not have much time to go around but we did walk around to see some of the city sights.

I was quite surprised to know that there was a street named Paseo de Filipinos in Valladolid, where the Museo Oriental is also located. The museum is situated in the Royal College of Augustinian Fathers. We got to visit Museo Oriental where pieces from China, Japan and the Philippines are featured. It is said to have the largest collection of Oriental art in Spain.

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Plaza Mayor
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Walking around the city
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Valladolid Cathedral

We walked around the city and visited more sights, some of these are the Plaza Mayor and the Valladolid Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Assumption). After a day of walking around, we sat down for lunch and guess what we ordered – paella, of course!

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Lunch with our hosts, Tito Miguel and Tita Fe

That ends our short stay in Valladolid! A huge thank you to our hosts, Tito Miguel, Tita Fe, their daughter Cristina, and also to the Filipino seminarians in Valladolid. Next stop – Barcelona!

If you missed the other posts on our Europe adventure, click here:

 

European Adventures: Madrid (Day 2)

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Palacio Real de Madrid (side)

After getting a good night’s sleep, we were ready for another day to explore some of Madrid’s famous sights. Since we had just half a day left to explore, we visited a few places, with most of them situated near each other.

We visited the main square of the city – Plaza Mayor. It is centrally located and is just a few minutes away (by foot) from Puerta del Sol. Luckily, we went there early so the place was not crowded and we even enjoyed the cool morning breeze.

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Plaza Mayor
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Mis hermanos

Of course, we could not leave Madrid without trying some churros con chocolate, so we had that for breakfast. Freshly made churros with dark chocolate = perfection!

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Churros con chocolate

Probably the highlight of our short visit to Madrid was seeing the Royal Palace of Madrid or Palacio Real de Madrid, the largest royal palace in Western Europe. It was a magnificent structure, and I felt so small as I took photos of it. Directly opposite the Palacio Real was the Almudena Cathedral. Of course, we could not help posing for pictures!

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Palacio Real de Madrid (front)

More pictures below, mostly taken with my phone and tablet.

We also walked around Plaza de España, another large square in Madrid with a monument dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote. Plaza de España is a short walk from the Palacio Real.

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Plaza de España

Our last stop was the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Parque del Oeste, also near the Royal Palace of Madrid. The Egyptian state donated the Temple of Debod to Spain in 1968 as a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel.

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Temple of Debod

That ends our short but sweet stay in Madrid. Thank you to Tita Femy for touring us around these must-see sites. Next stop – Valladolid!

If you missed the first part of my Madrid trip, click here.

European Adventures: Madrid (Day 1)

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A tourist-y shot with my brother Patrick

Hello! It’s been a very long time since my last post, as I’ve been very busy concentrating on my academics. I’m going to start trying again, I have a lot of pending blog posts about my trips in the past two years!

So here’s the first! We traveled from Manila – Dubai – Madrid last May 2015. I was so excited for this trip as it was my first time to step on European land! This trip was sort of my delayed graduation trip (and also my brothers’) and 18th birthday present, but more importantly, it was my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary! This also seems to be our last family trip abroad wherein all 5 of us are present, since my brother’s not going to have any school breaks anymore. So of course, we made the most out of this trip – and first stop, Madrid!

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Puerta del Sol (look at that photobomber!)

Straight from our long flight (and carrying all our luggage), I couldn’t resist taking a picture in Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest and most famous squares in the city. We stayed near Puerta del Sol, which was very convenient as it was the center of Madrid. We had no problem walking around and finding what we needed – restaurants, bakeries, convenience stores, souvenir shops, and of course – picture perfect places!

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Lol sorry for being so tourist-y

Even though we were still tired from the long flight, we didn’t waste time exploring Madrid as we were only there for an overnight stay. We went to Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid and it was great that they were able to maintain a place where one can get in touch with nature amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

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My favorite among all the flowers I saw. Shot by Patrick Elio

We walked around the city and we were very amazed at the beautiful buildings that lined the streets of Madrid. I don’t know anything about architecture and all that, but it was breathtaking. Of course, we snapped more shots. We didn’t mind being tourists at all!

We also took a picture outside Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where artists such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Oscar de la Renta, and Filipino painter Juan Luna have studied their craft.

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Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando

After a long afternoon of walking, we opted to have a taste of local cuisine. We had jamon serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham), chorizo, tortilla (Spanish omelette), calamares, along with freshly baked bread. We fell in love with the jamon serrano and ordered a second plate! I guess we found our favorite “museum” in Madrid.

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My favorite museum!

A huge thank you to our hosts, who picked us up from the airport and toured us around Madrid.

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With our hosts, Tita Fe and Tita Femy

Stay tuned for Day 2 in Madrid!

Day 2 is up! Click here to read about it.