A Royal Trip Around London

Hampton Court Palace

I want to go to London for four main reasons:

  • I want to hear the British accent (man, there’s nothing like being surrounded by it hahahaha!)
  • I’m hopeful I will find Harry Potter’s Platform 9 and ¾ (and be Hermione … “wingardium leviosa!”)
  • I want to see the café where Tolkien and CS Lewis hung out
  • I am so curious about the royal family (Prince Harry, where are you?)

And so I want to begin my London tour with a “royal” trip, checking out iconic places where Britain’s identity was formed throughout the years. Here’s a list of all the places you need to check out for you to understand and appreciate its kings, queens, and the culture formed around them.

  • Buckingham Palace. The White House of Britain, the residence of the royals in London. You can tour the whole place for over a thousand pesos, but you might get disappointed at how lackluster it looks. But if you’re a fan of prince, princesses and their grand life, maybe you will still get the worth of your money.
  • Westminster Abbey. It isn’t really a cathedral, but perhaps its significance in the country is enough for it to have that impression of holiness and utmost respect. This is where the remains of Britain’s past kings and queens lie, such as that of Henry VII and Elizabeth I. It is also the place where royalties are crowned. If you’re not convinced of its worth, hear this: it is nearly a thousand years old. That should make you enter the Westminster Abbey.
  • Tower of London. A huge historical site where you can take different tours – an unguided tour that comes with booklets, an audio tour, or a 45-minute guided tour care of the Yeoman Warders. If it were me taking the tour, I’ll take the guided one. The Tower of London is full of curiosities you would love to learn more about, such as Henry VII’s armor, and the actual site where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Just make sure you watch the movie “The Other Boleyn” before you head to the Tower, so you can appreciate the story and the site more.
  • Kensington Palace. Princess Diana’s last residence before she died in a tragic car accident, the Kensington Palace offers a curious look inside this royal home. Outside, you can dip your feet into the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, or you can take your lunch at the nearby Lido Café.
  • Hampton Court Palace. Yes, London has many palaces. In fairy tales, there always seems to be just one. But lo in behold, it is grander to be a prince or a queen in real life. The Hampton Court Palace is best known for Henry VIII, one of the most interesting monarchs in the history of Britain. If you’re a student of architecture, or if you’re simply a curious mind, you will easily appreciate the marriage of Tudor and Baroque architecture meant to match that of the Versailles Palace in France. Don’t know how the Versailles Palace looks like? Then book your Philippine Airlines flight to France too!
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Secrets of Frequent Travelers

Travel Agency

Why do they love to travel? How can they travel so frequently? Why can’t I enjoy traveling the way they do? Well, aside from the fact that they’re experts in all things travel, they also have some tricks under their sleeves. Want to be a savvy traveler who can get used to flying and going from place to place? Here are the secrets of frequent travelers.

  • Earn miles. This starts with getting a credit card that will let you collect miles whenever you book flights. Know which credit card gives the best points when booking with your airline of choice.
  • Watch out for seat sale alerts. You can check out Skyscanner for a comparison of the flights available for your preferred dates. You should also subscribe to email alerts that airlines send out whenever they have a seat sale. Most of my trips are care of Cebu Pacific seat sale alerts I received right on my mobile phone. There are cheap flights to Singapore as much as there are cheap flights to Manila. All it takes is awareness of the seat sales, and a decision to just book and think about the expenses later.
  • Pack light. This cannot be overemphasized. A huge bag will limit your enjoyment of a place, even if you bring your yaya along or even if you choose to rent a car. Learn how to plan your outfits and squeeze them all in a single, easy-to-bring yet roomy luggage, and bring a carry-on bag that can contain everything you need in the plane and on a stroll.
  • Be flexible. When you travel, expect your schedule to be ruined. When that happens, chill and skip all the whining. A frequent traveler knows that anything can happen during a trip, and he knows how to make the most out of it. Aside from changing schedules, you might also have to change hotels, skip some sights, or even sleep at the airport. These should all be part of the fun.
  • Bring a book. Your flight might get canceled or delayed. Instead of fuming at the airport personnel, thank the heavens for the time when you can finally finish reading the Twilight series. Never mind that you didn’t want to read it in public. When you’ve got nothing to do but wait, better to be kept company by Edward and Bella. Besides, you can always rely on the digital copy of the books, in Kindle or n your iPad. When someone asks you what you’re reading, simply say CS Lewis or Tolkien.
  • Don’t pack your schedule too tightly. A delayed flight can have a domino effect on a super packed schedule. Your itinerary should have ample gap times for when you need to attend to something, such as your kid getting sick or you wanting to spend more time in a favorite spot. This also gives you room for adjustments when your flight gets delayed or when a tour company screws up.

Travel Books to Read: Inspiring the Wanderlust

Nobody really needs convincing that it’s nice to go on a trip. That’s already a given. But you might need some pushing and inspiration so you can start saving up and planning that long overdue trip. Here are some books that will make you wish you’re flying to some exotic country, and will make you wonder why in the world haven’t you planned that holiday yet.

The Motorcycle Diaries 

This book follows the journey of Che Guevarra and pal Alberto Granada aboard a motorcycle. It speaks of how traveling changes a person, and how it can transform you from a nobody to somebody who cares about the world and who can do something about it.

The Alchemist

Still an inspirational book that will make you look deep into your soul, this masterpiece by renowned author Paulo Coelho tells the story of a man who journeys through the world to find his great personal treasure. Explore the fields of Spain, the deserts of Egypt and the beauty of Africa as the protagonist finds something beyond the physical.

Playing with Water – Passion and Solitude on a Philippine Island

A non-fiction book that talks of James Hamilton-Paterson’s stay in the Philippines, this book tackles the fun and rich culture of the Filipino people. It gives clear and attractive descriptions of the Philippine seas and environment, and also gives a glimpse to uniquely Filipino practices like politics in the village, superstitious beliefs, and yummy food.

On the Road

Jack Kerouac isn’t a famous author for nothing. On the Road, one of his popular works, brings us to his own footsteps as he journeyed through America, from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco. You’ll read nice poetic words, hear excellent jazz music, and take some amazing drugs – all while sitting down with the book. This piece should make you think of who your best traveling buddy is – one who’s more adventurous and crazier than you are.

Lonely Planet guide books

Just browsing through the pages of a Lonely Planet guide should already make you feel excited about going to a trip. What’s your dream destination? Paris? Pick a Lonely Planet Paris guide and just immerse yourself in all the information. Soon, you’re already booking your flights and writing on your piggy bank “Paris fund”.

The Beach

Although the story is scarier than it is exciting, it is thrilling enough to make you question yourself and what you’re doing (or not doing yet). This novel has inspired travelers to head to more exotic locations and buy airline tickets that take them to uncharted territories, in search of adventure and of the ultimate escape that the protagonists in the book experienced. If only you look like Leo diCaprio, then this novel will make the most sense.

My Travel Bucket List

Ten years ago, a friend of mine has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer. It was a wake-up call for most of us, a realization that somehow our end is beyond our control. And life can be taken away from us, even if we think that we’re still young and has a lot to go for.

This is what triggered my travel bucket list, a collection of places that I want to visit and make a part of my life with. Some of these places I was lucky to have visited over the past few years, few of them are still on my to-do list. Here’s to my friend, who taught me to live my life to the fullest and without regrets.

My paradise island.

  • Maldives. It’s a beautiful island, and it aptly represents my sunny side of life. Marvel at its white sandy beaches and palm trees. Take all its beauty from the balcony of your room.

And I looked back at this marvel from the world’s past.

  • Pyramids of Egypt. Although the pyramids wouldn’t disappear, you would. Make sure you go with a tour guide, or at least you read about this historical icon, so you can really appreciate the worth of your visit.

You give me a feast for my eyes.

  • The Great Barrier Reef. The most beautiful set of marine life you will ever lay eyes on, the Great Barrier Reef will make you realize that Planet Earth isn’t just for you and your needs. Simply snorkel and see amazing sea creatures and corals.

Always my state of mind.

  • New York. Who wouldn’t want to sing “Empire State of Mind” in the place that inspired it? New York is the most famous city in the world; it would be a shame if you don’t even wish to walk its streets.

A man-made wonder of the world.

  • The Great Wall of China. This man-made marvel is so amazing that rumors once circulated that it is the only man-made structure that can be seen from the moon. What’s interesting is that although it looks oh so mighty, it actually represents the fear of being invaded. Paranoid much, China?

Enter to the unknown.

  • The Amazon. Oh nothing to see here, except half of the world’s remaining rainforests, the most number of animal species, and the largest river basin. If you want to see some nature, the Amazon’s got it all for you.

Falling in love over again.

  • Venice. Because it is simply beautiful and peaceful in the area. Bonus reason: If you’ve read Shakespeare’s the Merchant of Venice.

Pulsating with so much action.

  • The Coliseum. This Italian structure isn’t only a must-see because it is old, but because it is a place where Romans fought gory, bloody, movie-worthy fights. Yes, Gladiator was true, and even more brutal than what was in the film.

I call them the vast beyond.

  • Grand Canyon. Vast, overwhelming, wondrous. Plus you can stand on a transparent glass that is set at 4,000 feet above the floor of the Canyon. Watch 127 Hours before going there, to make the thrill complete.

I’m taken by its beauty, inside out.

  • The Louvre. This great museum in Paris houses the most important art pieces of our time. Paris could have made it on the list, but Paris without going to the Louvre is just sad. So Louvre makes my travel list complete!

Yes, there’s just a lot to see that is beyond your Manila to Cebu trip. These are some place to aspire for and inspire to live the life.

Hipster Traveling: A Rough Guide

To be young and unique.

Emphasis on rough. Because if you’re hipster, you don’t play by hard and fast rules. Your mode of living is based on unwritten rules that you know because you’re hipster, not because you read it somewhere.

It’s still a puzzle to me, but it’s so interesting to live the carefree, cool life that hipsters do.  What better way to experience it than by traveling, hipster style. Here are some tips:

  • Skip the typical. What? No photo by the Eiffel Tower? If you’re hipster, you shouldn’t mind; or you should take a photo that’s as unique as your getup.
  • Speaking of getup, you should wear attention-getting clothes that do not necessarily come in bright colors. Most hipster go for the vintage look, but hipster girls can really go for the pretty and bold look.
  • Get inspired. Hipster traveling is all about being creative. A sculpture should raise questions about feminism, a street filled with people should inspire you to create a sculpture, and so on.
  • Be an advocate. No matter where you go, you should live out your advocacy. Whether it is saving the planet, supporting local music, or promoting equal rights for all, you should be a walking rally poster. Look for avenues to help; connect with organizations in the country or area that you’re visiting, and participate by extending your help. Being helpful never goes out of style, so they say.
  • Do something that most tourists wouldn’t. For instance, take a walking tour when everybody else prefers the bus – you’ll never know what you’ll encounter. Instead of watching buskers in New York, be a busker! Take a spot, play your guitar or do your awesome yoga poses, and just enjoy the experience.
  • Go vintage. A hipster appreciates the olden days. Find old books, first edition copies, old postcards, anything old that you can place on your cool workspace at home. Of course you’re a freelancer, it’s too mainstream to work in an office anyway. Make sure you check out the flea market, you might find a great looking fedora there.

Go cheap. A hipster wouldn’t order cocktails. He goes for the beer, the rough kind of drinks and food. He enjoys local culture more than anything, so he skips the five star hotel where you will meet tourists and employees, and chooses a family-owned hostel where he can chat with the owner and have a home-cooked meal. You can start by booking that cheap Air Asia flight to Cambodia, and by keeping in mind all the other tips listed above.

My favorite desserts around the world

Sometimes, all I can think about is vanilla ice cream, and whoever invented the ice cream is to blame. Now the bigger problem is when you get to taste wonderful desserts from your travels around the world. Good luck on finding them back home when you suddenly crave for the sweet goodness of these world famous treats.

Gelato: Italy

Perfect companion while strolling the streets of Florence.

 

It’s not just ice cream. Gelato has a different feel and texture to it – softer yet denser than the usual ice cream that you taste. Florence has the best shops such as Vivoli and Carabe.

Craving? Get it at Caramia or Amici. There has been a gelato craze in the Metro, prompting for more shops to open.

Baklava: Greece; Turkey

Baklava with pistachios and kajmak, very popular in Turkey

 

A thick pastry that is meticulously prepared, baklava originated from Turkey, but is now more known as a Mediterranean dessert. It is made of a dough called Phyllo, and is flavored with honey, lemon juice and sugar. It is really filling, and can pass as a merienda, not just as a dessert.

Filipinos are not huge fans of this dessert. But if ever you would like to try it, order it after a sumptuous meal at Café Mediterranean or Cyma.

Churros: Spain

I dream of this every time it rains.

Fried soft dough dipped in rich hot chocolate – that’s churros for you. Although you can have it plain, you can also try it in other flavor; cinnamon is quite popular. How do you know tat a churros is cooked well? It should be crispy on the outside and really soft inside. And don’t forget the hot rich thick chocolate syrup as the dip.

Dulcinea makes the best churros here in the Philippines. A single order gives you five pieces and a tasty dip. It’s a generous serving for one, but a little “bitin” for two.

Macaroons: France

Coconut macaroons : A recipe I’m determined to make perfectly.

If you dig really sweet stuff, macaroons should be your thing. A pastry made of icing, egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, it is shaped perfectly like two domes stuck together. They come in different colors, usually indicative of their flavor.

Bizu made French macaroons a regular sight in malls. Safe to say that they’re the local shop that you can count on if you want a taste of great flavors.

Black Forest: Germany

Who doesn’t want CAKE?!

If you think about it, the name sounds a bit German. It’s dark and bold, and really decadent. Chocolate cake with layers of icing and cherries soaked in liquor – this is what black forest is. Of course back then it was super expensive, especially considering the ingredients involved.

Here in the Philippines, black forest is quite popular. You can get it in famous bakeshops like Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, and also in gourmet pastry shops and restaurants. No need to take that long haul of a flight from Manila to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Germany.

Popular Dances on my List

Fly to any country and you will be able to confirm that dance is universal. But there are dances around the world that are more popular than the others. Let it be clear though that Gangnam Style isn’t really the national dance of South Korea, although it seems to have become the national dance of the world.

Belly dancing

Move & groove that belly

Thanks to Shakira, belly dancing has now become more mainstream. And although it’s only she who can prove that Hips Don’t Lie, belly dancing is a very accommodating type of dance. You just have to move your body (not your belly actually) and shimmy like you mean it. This dance originated in the Middle East as a form of social dancing.

Bhangra


Another Asian dance, Bhangra is a Punjabi cultural dance done to celebrate a great harvest. It is usually attributed to Indians, although Pakistanis also perform the dance. Like most popular dances of the world, bhangra has already been turned into a workout dance, with routines meant to slim down one’s body. Hey, as long as there’s fun and colors, we’re in.

Salsa

It is as hot as the sauce, yes. Salsa the dance originated from Cuba, and is distinctively technical in style. For one to dance it excellently, there needs to be a mindset of groove and rhythm, as well as mastery of the steps. It would be fun to try it with a partner who can lead you well, though.

Tinikling

Look out for your feet.

Perhaps the most challenging dance in the world, Tinikling is a Filipino dance wherein the dancers step in and out of bamboos that open and close in increasing speed. Fun to watch, but I’m not quite sure if it is fun to dance. The name tinikling comes from the word “tikling”, a kind of bird that has a walk that looks lively, almost like a dance.

Hip-hop

Among all the dances listed here, hip-hop is the newest. It was formed in The Bronx, New York, where dance “crews” would perform on the street with their freestyle moves that involve techniques such as locking, popping and breaking. Perhaps the most pop among all the dances known today, hip-hop continues to evolve, from Justin Bieber dance moves to Usher grooves. Budget airlines like Jetstar don’t fly to New York, so you’d have to spend a lot of money on flights alone, just to see the real thing. Thanks to hip-hop’s popularity, one does not need to book a flight to New York just to learn the dance.