Posted in TRAVEL

FEUSISBERG, SWITZERLAND


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Nestled in Feusisberg, outside of Zürich and already in Canton Schwyz, is a family-operated hotel we love to frequent every year–Panorama.

True to its name, the hotel on the hill gives you a stunning panoramic view of the glittering blue lake and its picturesque waterside hamlets.

Like a gift that keeps on giving, its backyard presents an equally breathtaking vista– an imposing verdant hillside that perfectly complements the arresting sky. Not too far from the entryway is a barn. Cows adorned with bells create clunking sounds that compete with the chirping of the birds as they roam around. This landlocked nation truly oozes with storybook charm. My attempts to describe the feeling of being here almost always end up futile.

I am lucky the DHB sent me and M (his bff’s wife) to this hotel while they are in Las Vegas for their friend’s bachelor’s party. It was a fair trade-off, I think. Who better deserves a spa getaway than the wives who allowed their husbands to let loose in Las Vegas, right?

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Posted in TRAVEL

MARSAXLOXX, MALTA


Mar-sa-schlock is a small fishing village in Malta.

It’s small but I just have to create a separate entry for it because of its sheer beauty.

I felt like I stepped into an illustration on a page of a fairytale. It’s so nice that we took a lot of photos and forgot the time of the next hop on, hop off bus and eventually missed it! We went rogue by knowingly hopping on a different bus company so we could reach the next destination on time. The DBF and I were holding our breaths until we were sure nobody was going to check our tickets. Getting kicked off of a tour bus is not really part of our What-to-do-in-Malta list.

Anyway, I’m letting the photos speak for themselves.

Overall, our Malta trip was a much-needed one that we certainly enjoyed. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel again as a couple. I thank God for healing the DHB’s knee fast. We really ought to maximise the life and the health we are given while we still have it.

d.

Posted in TRAVEL

VALLETTA, MALTA


The game plan was simple: hop on the red bus that will bring us from Sliema to the heart of Malta– Valleta.

The imposing gates of the city of Valletta greeted us as we were driven around the outskirts and along the different harbours and docking stations. Malta is like the parking lot of European yachts and sailboats. It's surrounded by the Mediterranean sea which allows easy sailing access to Greece, Tunisia, and to its neighbor Italy.

This small country has become the haven for Italian and British tourists. In the plane, I saw a lot of real estate ads for Malta properties in the in-flight magazine. I'm guessing there are a lot of senior citizens who choose to retire in Malta. It is not surprising because aside from the scenic view, quaint houses with colorful balconies, and clean surroundings, Malta has close to zero crime rate.

My husband was already getting annoyed at the amount of pictures I was taking while on the bus. Who can blame me?Malta is probably at the top 2 of the most photogenic countries I've ever been to. It's like all of the houses were filtered in Instagram Valencia. Everything is color limestone beige. This provides a clean background to all the Maltese balconies that pop-up in every tasteful color imagineable. And when I say tasteful, their pink is not the loud and awful Barbie pink (no offense meant to Barbie) but always 3 shades lighter, leaning more towards peach than red, and always so subdued. Pure class.

I loved everything about Malta except for the fact that it's not as cheap as we thought it would be. Meals are almost as expensive as in Zurich! The good thing though is that you have options unlike here in Switzerland where you can't find anything cheaper than 10 dollars.


 

 

Posted in TRAVEL

SLIEMA, MALTA


We celebrated our 2nd year anniversary as a married couple last January. True to his thoughtful nature, the DHB surprised me with booked tickets to Malta. But as fate would have it, he met a basketball accident and had to be operated on some time in December. He tore his ACL and his meniscus disc got twisted. He couldn't walk normally for months. He had to undergo physiotherapy everyday after his surgery. We had no choice but postpone the trip and rebook the tickets to April, in time for his 35th birthday.

Malta is a country much like the Philippines in the sense that it is also made up of islands and it was also conquered by different nations throughout its history. Malta is so much smaller though. You can tour its biggest island in a day or two.

We decided to stay in Sliema which is at the coastline and strategically located between Valletta, the city center, and St. Julian's the more touristy beach place.

What I liked about our hotel, Park Hotel, is that it's perfectly situated in front of the hop-on, hop-off bus stop. It's also just across the coastline that was perfect for walking at the crack of dawn or at night where the lights enliven the walk way and the music from the cafés provide such a dreamy atmosphere. The DBF and I walked along the coast several times, holding hands, while discussing the future. I will forever cherish these peaceful moments.

For dinner, we had kebab at this Trip Advisor awardee place that was literally just at the corner of our hotel. We also tried gluten free pasta at the Sicilian place nearby on the DHB's 35th birthday. The DHB had his favorite vongole although he wished he opted for the less healthy pasta.

The only bad thing I remember about Sliema was how rowdy the Italian teenagers were at our hotel. We were awakened every time they'd come running back to the hotel from wherever they were the entire day. Their noise just filled the halls. Malta used to be a part of Italy which is why many Italians choose it as a destination for summer. What's interesting though is that the Maltese were also invaded by the Moors, the Knights, the French, and the Brits. So you'd hear the people speak with British accents yet the doors of their houses would either have a Muslim symbol or a Catholic religious sculpture.

Overall, I think choosing Sliema as our base was a wise decision because it was not as packed as St. Julian's and not as landlocked as Valletta City.

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Posted in TRAVEL, Uncategorized

BARCELONA, SPAIN


I prayed for more weekends like the one I had in Milan (see previous post) and God granted my wish.

He gave me a trip to the land of Conquistadors to meet my cousin and her husband.

When I was still single, Spain was in my list of countries to visit. My friend and I were planning on partying in Ibiza. But that was around the time I met my now husband and my “hedonistic” plans got derailed by his protective ways. He didn’t want me to go to Spain all by myself (or just with a girl friend) because he said it wasn’t as safe as other EU countries. We never went together because he’s been there several times already and I didn’t want him to repeat a country instead of seeing a new one. And so when my cousin told me about going to Spain, I immediately took her offer of free lodging at a 5-star hotel if I meet her and her husband there. Finally, a guy to tag along and defend us just in case we get mobbed! Perfect justification to give my husband!

My cousin’s mom and my mom are sisters. They are both “mestizas” because they have Spanish blood running through them. Their surname is actually a brand of olives in Spain. One of our uncles living in the States traced and visited our relatives whom he found to be residing in Malaga. “Some of them don’t even speak English!”, he said. And this is why it’s so cool for me to be meeting family in Spain. It’s unfortunate that it was so quick but I’m grateful nevertheless.

Although we were able to go to historical sites (luckily, most of the Gaudi-designed establishments were just along our hotel street in Passeig de Gracia), most of our time was spent shopping at the luxury stores within the area. My cousin is fond of bags and shoes while her husband is into eyewear and watches. And so they both wreaked havoc from Chanel to Celine, Rimowa to Armani, Dior to Bottega Veneta. I understand though because luxury items are way cheaper in Spain than anywhere else in the world (except maybe Paris). The tax rebate was also very inviting. It was but logical and even practical for them to splurge in Europe where items are not only cheaper but quite newer than those that manage to reach Asia.

I arrived in Barcelona a day before they did and so I first stayed with my friend A who’s studying there. I met him while I was working in the Philippines. We worked on the first ever local TV commercial of Watsons. I was the Marketing Manager and he was the producer of the shoot. This is why it’s nice to have friends who are also vagabonds! You manage to bump into them during their travels or in this case, his short study escape to Barcelona. His flat was very nice and airy. It had a high-ceiling and it was just a few blocks away from touristy spot La Rambla. So that’s what I did on my first day, roam around Plaza Catalunya and have A take photos of me amidst all of the tourists.

When I finally met-up with my cousin at the hotel, we walked straight to the Boqueria Market and had paella Valenciana and a seafood platter. It was the best paella ever and this is saying a lot because we like our paella. There’s something soothingly tasty about this dish. It’s special order so they only cook everything once you decide to get it. It took about half an hour just to wait for the paella and so we had scallops, mussels, shrimps, and squids dipped in lemon butter sauce for starters. I still dream of the paella to this day! And I don’t even wanna start talking about the tapas and gold-dusted foie gras! Spanish food is worth flying to Spain for.

One of the highlights of the trip was the spontaneous yacht ride across Barceloneta Beach. We saw the expanse of the shoreline and M thought that what would heighten the experience was to sail in a boat with Moët in one hand. Who wouldn’t cheers to that?

For me, the surreal moment though was finally seeing the Sagrada Familia. It is still under construction.  It is, however, in its final stages already.

They say that 6 new towers will be added to the basilica, finishing the work that was started by Antoni Gaudi in 1882. The tallest of the six spires, the Tower of Jesus Christ, will measure over 172m and it would make the Sagrada Família the tallest religious building in Europe.

Chief architect Jordi Fauli said it will be completed in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of Gaudi’s death. I sure hope to come back to finally see it completed.

Now that I have experienced Spain, I can say for certain that this first visit won’t be the last.

Posted in RELATIONSHIPS, TRAVEL, Uncategorized

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY


August 1 is Swiss National Holiday. I was supposed to spend it doing makeup for a wedding but my husband asked me to decline the gig. He wanted to go somewhere because it is rare that he has a long weekend.

We checked out the flight prices and found the ones departing from Zürich exorbitant. The idea of flying from Basel through low-budget airline Easyjet came to mind. Rates were of course much more affordable. We just had to take a train from Zurich to Basel which was a bearable one hour ride. We chose amongst the following destinations: Spain, Tuscany, Poland, and Hungary. We settled on Hungary because 1) We both haven’t been there [It will be my 33rd new country to visit and his 37th.] 2) Living expenses over there are relatively cheaper and 3) It is big enough to explore for 4 days and 3 nights.

I can say that in the year and a half that we have been married, this is the first trip that we planned TOGETHER. There was division of labor. We debated maturely about the pros and cons. We equally shared expenses. We totally had teamwork and held each other accountable for making the trip a success. Our past trips were either just planned by him or by me individually. This was the first time that I sat down and showed him AirBNB and hotel options and we both chose which deal we liked best (We ended up staying at the 4-star Marriott hotel for the price of a small AirBNB!). He booked the hop on hop off tour while I reserved the cab that would pick us up at the airport. I must admit that I usually enjoy planning things alone and even doing things my way more. But I couldn’t deny that this was a really good exercise for our partnership.

I guess that teamwork is something that we really had a hard time attaining ever since we got married because we are both strong individually and we tend to make narcissistic decisions all the time. 🙂 It’s funny because the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am not built to withstand marriage. The beauty of it though is that regardless of how you were built, in marriage, you will be made to realize that LOVE has the power to change you for the better. The love that God has placed in your heart for your partner has the power to melt your stubborn soul and clear your brain enough to give it space for understanding, new ideas, and refreshing experiences. It’s so easy to say to your spouse, “No, let’s do it MY way.” But it’s so much more rewarding to be able to extend yourself further, with ego brushed to the side, and say “Ok, what is it that we both want and that we both will enjoy?” Or better yet, “Let’s do your thing first and then let’s do mine.”

I normally talk about what exactly I did on trips but I felt like it’s more fitting to share about this very personal experience because I like reading back what I wrote after a few months. I like marking moments and emphasizing learnings. In this trip, I learned to step back a bit and make my husband lead the way. I made him win a few more battles this time. 🙂 Like the day he all of a sudden decided that instead of going to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths on a Sunday as planned, he felt like doing it right after our bus tour that same Saturday. A part of me was starting to get annoyed that he would go off-tangent but I find that I would really not lose anything if I gave in to what he wanted. We ended-up enjoying the baths more because the sun was not too strong anymore. Good call.

Marriage is a weird thing. My Philosophy professor once said that all relationships are doomed to fail. It’s because, as philosopher Martin Heidegger pointed out, what makes you drawn to each other for the first few stages are the moments of “thaumazein” or “wonder”. When you still think that the other is so beautifully strange and interesting. And then you get to spend time together. You get to share more information about one another. And then all of a sudden, your partner feels all too flawed and familiar to you already. There’s no sense of wonder anymore. And so there’s nothing else that keeps you drawn to each other. And that’s when it starts to dwindle. And so he says that the key to a lasting marriage is to keep surprising each other. Keep making yourself interesting. Keep learning and sharing things. Shake up the routine. Don’t get fixated on the same things. Stop yourself from fighting over the same mundane details. Talk about things you have never discussed. Challenge each other to evolve. Maybe this is why we travel as a couple. To be able to see new things. To be able to talk about newer experiences. To watch each other go out of our comfort zones and beam with pride as we thrive.

Marriage is a weird thing because the law of man and the law of God bind you together for life regardless of feelings and circumstances. Yes, it is weird BUT it can also be so beautiful. We always hear people joke about how marriage can be tough and how it can feel like a prison cell. But we never really emphasize the beauty of that suffering. That in those moments of suffocation, of conflicts, of having to sacrifice your own wants and needs for the other, is when true and genuine LOVE shines through. And it’s the kind of love that an unattached person will never really grasp. And that’s what makes marriage important, necessary, and sacred. It brings out that kind of love that is deeper than all the other levels of love that you have ever felt while you were not yet bound and tied to this one person. Marriage is weird, tough, and exhausting but it can truly be a beautiful and meaningful thing. My friend just recently got married and in her vows, she said that “I will never forget that this is a once in a lifetime kind of love.” What she doesn’t know yet is that it is not even the rarity of it that makes the marriage kind of love special. It’s the depth and magnanimity of it.

I joked while we were walking across the Chain Bridge atop the River Danube that I am admittedly the Buda (coz I’m chubby!) and he’s definitely the Pest! 🙂 But just like Hungary’s Buda, Pest, and Obuda, we were united by fate and all we gotta do is build bridges of love each time we feel like we are too different or far apart.

Here’s our travel video:

 

Until our next adventure,

d.

 

 

 

Posted in PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL, Uncategorized

PARIS, FRANCE


I got a message from my grade school classmate T that she’s going to go on an EU tour soon and that she wanted to meet-up with me. I’m her marketing consultant for her organic line of beauty products.

I decided to meet her in Paris coz I can’t let her go there alone. It will be too sad! In London, I made her meet my friend F and in Rome, she met-up with my friend S.

It was my third time in Paris but the city still had a way of charming and surprising me! I loved every minute of my vacation! Thanks to the DBH for allowing me to travel alone yet again. 

My dream is to live in Paris for a month. I’ve stayed in France for almost a month before but I was based in Versailles. I wanna stay longer in the center of Paris! I want to learn the language further, explore the quaint shops, and immerse myself in the culture even more. Someday…

I didn’t take a lot of photos this time. When it’s my first time at a certain place, I find myself taking more photos and videos. The first time I was in Paris, I ended up blogging about it in three parts! 

This time around, I just want to take it all in. Later, I’ll be sharing a few of the snaps I took. 

The Eiffel is still a sight to behold, of course! T was lucky that my Tita D who has lived in Paris for 20 years met-up with us and drove us around the city at night. T saw the Eiffel blink! It sparkles every 30 minutes and we were there in the area long enough to see the lights shimmer twice.

Next, Tita D drove us to the Louvre and then to Montmarte where the Moulin Rouge is. I enjoyed seeing how the French dress up for evening gatherings. I am also amazed with how the classy old French women tie their hair up in a bun, don black and something Chanel, and wear red lipstick. It was all too chic for me! I love it!!! ❤️

The next day, T and I started our day early. We decided to go up the steep stairs of Sacre Coeur. My second favorite spot in Paris is standing from the steps right in front of the church. You could see a panoramic view of the city from there!

After Montmarte, we went down to the Louvre to see the iconic Mona Lisa. After which, we rode a tuktuk to Rue St. Honore where all the luxury brands are. T had her Hermes bag dressed up at the store with mismatched twillies. It’s crazy how that store gets packed with people when their items are priced to the roof! 

I cannot anymore count how many glasses of red wine T ordered to go with the steak, duck, and salmon we have been feasting on since day 1. I was lucky to be able to go back to le Relais de l’Entrecôte for their famous one set meal of steak x salad x fries x special sauce. Their restaurant is proof that you only have to focus on one thing and be really good at it in order to be successful. Another restaurant of that kind is Leon’s where I ate alone when T went back to London already. I had mussels dipped in créme fraische. It was uhhhaaahhmazing! 

Aside from the eating and shopping, the best part of the trip was the fact that we got to talk about our lives and process everything that we have been through within the past year. It’s nice to have girl friends who just get you and will always be there for you regardless of the time and distance that keep you apart. 

I went home refreshed and excited for the rest of my year to unfold.