Tag Archive: Travel



Well …… it’s a 7 hour layover and we’re enjoying the food, drinks and huge shower room (my favorite corner here) of Al Dhabi Lounge in Abu Dhabi while waiting for our connecting flight to Manila. Still, it’s a seriously long wait and what better thing to do? BLOG ! Yes, before those memories fade. 


Palacio Cristal in Parque de Retiro


Travels have a way of emptying one’s mind of day-to-day concerns. Perhaps to make room for our fond memories. There is that giddy anticipation over new places, flavors and experiences. I delight in the novelty, discovery as well as in the rediscovery of past delights. Cameras make great memory-keepers but our minds play out varied reactions  with each discovery and replay of happy thoughts. Priceless. When I was growing up “alone” (busy parents, older sisters in college), I learned to read a lot and write down my thoughts. I completed many diaries and even named them. Dear Betty. Dear Jane. Dear Henry. Dear Kevin. Whenever I feel seriously sad, I write. Whenever I feel happy, I write more. Life is a celebration. And it’s worth writing about. If only to remind me of the many things to be grateful for.  No handwritten diaries this time. Thank God for blogsites where I can store my journals in cyberspace while drinking my cortado!


Mi favorito, Cafe Cortado!




Mi hermana. Mi sobrina. Mi nieto. Mi amigos y amigas. All together in dear Madrid, which is home for 6 years to my dear sobrina. I have visited yearly for at least a month to nearly 3 months. Left alone in our Madrid crib in times past, I’ve learned to appreciate Madrid’s many quaint alleys, tiny squares, specialty museums, roadside taperias, and many off-the-beaten paths. No tocar (don’t touch) rule in mercados doesn’t apply in my favorite fruit and vegetable stall. There, this “suki” can enjoy touching the zucchini, potatoes, carrots, spinach, asparagus, naranja, mushrooms, etc. The vendor simply hands me a bowl or basket to fill with my chosen greens and fruits. And the cheese store where I get to taste slices of different quezos — “para probar” (to try). Or ask the fish vendor to clean the fish I buy. Mercado visits are no obligations here, they’re actually delightful adventures. And walking without maps, missing turns and getting lost? There’s always a cafe bar or Iglesia to relax in, meditate, or simply sit out and while away the time. If you chance upon a wedding in the church, it’s your good luck. Cheap thrills! 


Parroquia de San Jeronimo. Behind Museo Del Prado.


And so our Spanish Holiday with sidetrips to Lourdes and Saint John Pied de Port in France is over. Temps rise as our plane lands in Manila. Our hair still a tad limp and wet from the shower we took in the lounge. Our bellies still full from the buffet spread. Our hearts warm with the precious bonding moments. Our minds filled with happy memories. Our leg muscles reminding us we’re no longer spring chickens. And our pockets dry and burned out. Tee Hee. 😉 It would likely take a week to recover our energy to prep for another flight Down Under. From the last dregs of winter to early spring to the intense summer heat of Manila before we catch the onset of Autumn in Sydney. Phew! 


Nap Time En Parque Retiro 😴

Adios, España. Hasta luego.


Why not?  Yeah, it’s cold but NOT “sufferingly cold”. And for Cebu Pacific’s basic return fare (Manila-Sydney-Manila) of only PhP13,000, how can you go wrong? Even inclusive of those add-ons (food, baggage allowance, seat assignment, etc), it’s still a steal at US$350 or so! Again, why not? 

 

Check out these links for the winter time I spent visiting family in Australia:


Of Roadtrips, Train Journeys & Flights

Back In The City (Sydney)

Househunting: Katoomba

A 3rd Visit to Watson’s Bay

Sydney’s Barracks Museum

Lake Conjola Weekend

Flaneur On The Loose

Bushwalking in Lake Parramatta

Mayfield Garden

Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee

Gold Coast 


Food Trips

The Grounds of Alexandria

Salt Meats Cheese

Dining: Cupitt’s Winery & Restaurant

Tandoori King

Donto Sapporo


Enjoy, mate!



Some of you may think I’m living way beyond a “retiree’s budget” because of all the traveling I do. Well, I can’t say I haven’t been spending but I do keep to a budget whenever I can if only so I can stretch my travel fund to cover as many trips as possible without backpacking. Not that I think backpacking is wrong. Just that I can’t hack it. I do need some wardrobe, a good bed to sleep in, and my own toilet & bath. Plus I do indulge in good food. No shopping for me. I have long turned off my “acquisition mode”. Instead, I invest in EXPERIENCES, and dining is part of that. 

And so, just how do I travel without blowing my budget?  Here are a few tips.


FLIGHT DEALS



Much has been written about how to snag promo flights and redeeming miles. Let me just say one only needs to look for them. 

  • Travel off-season
  • Save those miles
  • Subscribe to airline newsletters
  • Watch out for promo deals


FREE WALKING TOURS

I’m surprised not too many know this. Or perhaps many think they’re not good. Let me prove you wrong. Many of my best guided walking tours are free. Madrid, Florence, Rome, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin. Many of them field their best, I repeat, their BEST tour guide to entice you to book their other “paid” tours. They make you like the free tour so much that you’d be willing to book some tours with them, and pay for them. Others are simply there to promote tourism in their city. Check out these links: 

http://www.newberlintours.com/daily-tours/free-tour.html

http://www.florencefreetour.com/

      http://www.newamsterdamtours.com/

      http://www.discoverwalks.com/tour/paris-walking-tours/montmartre-tour/


Just google for FREE walking tours and your destination. Like “free walking tour in Berlin”, and be surprised how many pop out.  And if you’re happy with the guided tour, be generous and give a tip. Typical is $10-12. 


METRO PASS

First off when visiting a city for the first time, cluster all the attractions you wish to visit and figure out how to go from one cluster to the next. See what’s the minimum number of rides you need. Walk if you can. Then decide whether to buy that rail or metro or day pass. Do your arithmetic. 


LODGING and DINING


Booking.com allows me to book and cancel. I book to be safe that I’m sure there’s a bed waiting for me somewhere. I cancel after I’ve searched for better or cheaper lodgings. Most often, I choose based on location — near or in city center, walking distance to metro or subway stations, and SAFE. 

There are many choices these days. I choose AirBnb in areas where hotels and breakfasts are pricey. AirBnb or serviced apartments allow me to prepare simple breakfasts, and pre-dinner cocktails or night caps. Plus do my laundry — so I can pack light.  You bet major consideration in AirBnb selection is a coffee machine and a washing machine.  Another is wifi and cocktail glasses. Lunch is almost always a calendared event. Eat local. Have a good midday meal for energy, to sustain you through the day. No desserts. I take that  as mid afternoon break with my coffee or tea in some joint we chance upon. Dinners are hit and miss affairs — depends on the place, and how tiring the day was. 


FREEBIES


This works with many museums. Why pay €15 to visit Prado Museum when it’s free from 6-8pm daily? You can instead choose 3-4 halls or artists each visit and go 3 free days. A little research will guide you on the free museum days or hours. 


DINING Tips 


Of course, it depends on your budget. But list down all the local foods and see where they’re famously served. Lampredotto in Florence is best served in this hole-in-the-wall in Mercato Centrale called Nerbone. I bought my percebes in the market in Santiago de Compostela and asked a restaurant across the mercado to cook it for us for €6. We skipped the pricey food tours in San Sebastián and simply hopped our way around, watching where there are lines or where locals go. By itself, it’s an adventure!

Sure, you can reserve tables in fancy restaurants and enjoy good food. But again, do your research on what’s best in the area. Check out Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. for dining tips. Plus there are apps like El Tenedor (The Fork) or booky where some restaurants give as much as 30% off on your food bill when you dine certain hours of the day. Like lunch at 3pm — why not, in a fancy restaurant. 

Also, do visit the local market. Buy your breakfast supplies here (and the bread from a good bakery). Jamon in España, Prosciutto or Parma ham in Italia, croissant in France, etc. 


FINALLY. A GPS.


Whether you’re walking or driving, it makes lotsa sense to have/rent a portable wifi to use the GPS in your phone. Google maps. Waze. TripAdvisor. A friend of mine traveled with her big family and one constant problem for them is where to eat. Wifi-enabled, we were always guided on NEARBY recommended/ranked dining places wherever we were. The same app will likewise guide you on nearby landmarks. Such can save you lots of time and money. 

And when in despair, go look for a big department store and check out their food court 😀 A big group can “separate” here and choose to eat what they like, then sit close to each other. 


HAPPY TRAVELS!


Half the family. Six whole days. Five nights. A flight deal. An AirBnb find. A Disneysea dream. A shopping spree. A few discoveries. All within budget! 

Just tap on the topics below for blog photos and details. Enjoy! 

A Happy Place: Disneysea Park Tokyo

Twinnings In Tokyo

Tsukiji Market

Dining In Tokyo

Family Travel Made Easy


Do subscribe to my other blogsite “retirement suits me” for my latest blogs on our Scandinavian adventure. (https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com)

AN AMUSING SHOCKER IN BERLIN: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/berlin-a-kiss-is-just-a-kiss/


POTSDAM, a day trip from Berlin: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/poofed-in-potsdam/


Prepping for the Cruise in COPENHAGEN: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/copenhagens-treats/


CRUISING ABOARD ROYAL CARRIBEAN Serenade of the Seas: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/were-cruising-day-1-2/


A DAY IN STOCKHOLM: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/stockholm-land-of-ocs/


A DAY IN LOVELY TALLINN, ESTONIA: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/stunning-estonia/


PETERHOF PALACE IN ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/peterhofs-great-summer-playground/


COLD & WET HELSINKI: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/a-glimpse-of-helsinki/

DO THE SWITCH!


Subscribe now. Follow this link for blog updates. Will sort out photo uploading feature on this site later on. 


https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/

retirementsuitsme | Make RETIREMENT work for you!

  

A Whiff of Mirth in Myanmar


 

“Frame your mind to mirth and merriment which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.” – William Shakespeare

 

 

2015/01/img_8604.jpg

 

 

I traveled with a merry group and the holiday ain’t complete without remembering all the hearty laughs we’ve shared throughout the journey. It helps that many of us have been travel buddies of some sort, and just pulled in a few more friends and family members. A few I traveled with only 2 months earlier, just giving ourselves enough time to “miss each other”.

 

 

2015/01/img_8614.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0157.jpg

 

 

“A cheerful heart is good medicine” , so says the good Book. And this travel group is having a party! Just watch them take turns taking group photos. Oh, my Lord! There’s got to be a law banning taking the same shots with the same group in the same place WITH 10 DIFFERENT CAMERAS. Yet all with good cheer, till our facial muscles athropied into a semi-permanent smile.

 

 

2015/01/img_9511.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_6393.jpg

 

 

Who says only the young can have fun? That only the fit and healthy have the energy? We defied all rules. We slipped, our bellies gave us problems, a couple of temper outbursts (both mine), sore throats and mild fevers, gout was freely discussed like it’s an everyday issue, and temporary memory loss became the order of the day. In no time, we were just simply looking out for each other. How good is that?

 

 

2015/01/img_9464.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_9467.jpg

 

 

Food and shopping occupied the minds of many. Plus many good shots here and there as souvenirs of the trip. Ancient history twisted our minds and tongues so that each pagoda came to be “Shwe” something. We stayed in good hotels but hardly found the time to really enjoy them because of our hectic schedules. Flying from place to place took its toll, and it’s a miracle we had energy left at day’s end to take pleasure at each sunset. Our joie de vivre never waned nor faded.

 

 

2015/01/img_9007.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0070.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_6425.jpg

 

 

A holiday can be a nightmare, or a total disaster. Flights can get cancelled or terribly delayed, hotel bookings undone, itineraries messed up, weather not cooperating, expectations unmet. One’s best bet is one’s travel group. Nothing is worse than putting up with an arrogant fool, a racist, an “aromatic” companion, a perennially tardy fellow in the group, an insensitive boor. The only thing that went unhinged is our IQ’s slipping with each passing, tiring day. No Matata —- the Tropang Mapurol survived the journey! 😄

 

 

 

 

The Simple Life In Indein Village




Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

——-Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

2015/01/img_9911.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0001.jpg

 

 

Out again on a wooden canoe towards one of the villages along Inle Lake. Just past noon after a lunch of pasta & pizza, we passed some Inle fishermen rowing their flat-bottomed boat standing by the stern with one leg wrapped around an oar. There’s more of them out in the open lake doing this tribal fishing technique but this group looked like they’re done fishing, their cone-shaped basket nets having served their purpose.

 

 

2015/01/img_0283.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0124.jpg

 

 

I tried to suspend my thoughts on our way to Indein Village, not exactly knowing what to expect. Obviously this sidetrip to the southwestern bank of Inle is quite popular, seeing how many tourists there were in the jetty, ready for the half hour hike to Indein’s archeological site. The site is actually a cluster of 16th-18th century stupas and pagodas, many in utter disrepair if not largely ruined. Very atmospheric to find crumbling stupas and weather-beaten temples competing with Nature for space. The “jungle” threatens to take over this neglected archaeological site, as vegetation and banyan trees grow around many of the stupas, if not OUT of them. Many of the htis (top of stupas) are gone, and one can only imagine how this mass of hundred stupas must have looked then.

 

 

2015/01/img_0022.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0058.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0056.jpg

 

 

Indein in Burmese translates to “shallow lake”. Shallow enough that the boatmen never ever reminded us to don our life vests. Instead, the vests were used as cushions for our tired backs for the 45-minute canoe ride. In a way, the “neglect” may have “saved” these ancient monuments. Compared with some of the heavy-handed “restoration” done on some Bagan temples, the complex of pagodas and stupas here in Indein charm you in the same breath as those found in Siem Reap. Immediately, Lara Croft came to mind, though a friend of mine thought it’s more like Avatar.

 

 

2015/01/img_0044.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0098.jpg

 

 

Fisherfolks lead a very simple village life, perhaps completely oblivious to the value of the archaelogical finds here. Apart from the ruins, it was refreshing to see village folks doing their everyday business. Laundry and baths by the canals, where just across some enterprising village women sell fabrics, fruits and cracklings wok-fried in what looked like pebbles. The sprouting of al fresco beer gardens by the canals completely spoil the view, but what can I say? There’s also a vibrant market here but on the day we visited, the “5-day market” was elsewhere. As it was, the market moves from village to village. We caught the market elsewhere and I can only assume the same wares and producé are laid out for sale by the vendors.

 

 

2015/01/img_0130.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0127.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0120.jpg

 

 

It was a good walk from and back to the jetty. The Indein ruins are worth the visit, plus this glimpse of village life by the lake. Frozen in time? I’m telling ‘ya……. It’s beginning to thaw. So pack your bags and go pronto!

 

 

2015/01/img_0241.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0237.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0234.jpg

 

 

2015/01/img_0238.jpg

 

 


As the youngest member of the group said (yes, Lauren, that’s YOU), ALL THAT GOLD! Our introduction to Myanmar is all glitter, literally and figuratively speaking. Multiple pagodas or temples of gold, silver, copper, marble, lead and tin in one sacred place. Just as many stupas of same shape but different sizes. Same, same but different. Some “just” golden, others embellished with gemstones of varied colors. You have to crane your neck to see the top of the tallest, golden stupa. Then peer inside some smaller shrines where Buddhas are encased. Here, I think they are also called “Nats” or spirits (pre-Buddha) where we found pilgrims including monks at prayer.

 

 

2015/01/img_9006.jpg

 

 

Having first visited the Reclining Buddha, the Shwedagon Pagoda came next as our first-day introduction to Burma. It is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in present-day Myanmar. The most sacred place, if you will, since the octagonal pagoda with a diamond-studded spire houses relics of Gautama Buddha. It is an old pagoda but exactly how old, no one knows. I can only guess it started with a rather simple and single pagoda, then stupas were added through the years and centuries to compose this impressive temple complex.

 

 

2015/01/img_9013-0.jpg

 

 

We spent an hour here. Feeling like zombies after a long flight, the incense, the crowds (both pilgrims and tourists), the constant shutter-click sound of a camera, all these only got us more excited, unmindful of our lack of sleep and the strange feeling of walking barefoot around the huge temple complex.

 

 

2015/01/img_8995.jpg

 

 

All’s well. The Reclining Buddha and the Shwedagon Pagoda on our first day before hitting the sack prepared us for the next few days of adventure in Myanmar. This intro also prepared us for many barefoot experiences here. No shoes, no sandals, not even socks. That’s how they do it here in Myanmar. A good tip is for you to buy those cheap flipflops here to wear. Getting in and out of those rubber shoes or strapped sandals can be a chore. Plus, you can simply discard those flipflops as soon as they’ve served their purpose. So there…….

 

 

2015/01/img_8930.jpg


Spices of India. Masala. And I thought it was another spice. Rather, masala is a mix of ground spices. The very heart of Indian cuisine. And India is soooo rich in spices. Turmeric. Cumin. Pepper. Cardamom. Chilies. Fennel. Cinnamon. Caraway. Anise. Ginger. Coriander. And so much more.

 

 

 

 

Poori or Puri  Unleavened Bread. As puffy as it gets! With potato masala.

Poori or Puri Unleavened Bread. As puffy as it gets! With potato masala.

image

Chole. Chickpeas is love <3

Chole. Chickpeas is love ❤

 

 

I was quite prepared for the spicy cuisine. And I do like Indian food. One of my fav dishes is the ubiquitous Palak Paneer found on every buffet spread. That plus the dhal (lentils) and chole (chickpeas) paired with all types of flatbread. Naan, Poori, Chapati, Paratha of all types — onion, garlic, paneer, etc. And the chutneys!

 

 

Chutneys galore!

Chutneys galore!

image

image

 

 

All that bread. Imagine all that ghee. A couple more weeks here and I couldn’t slide into my pants. Plus the rice. Biryani? Basmati? Carbo overload. And don’t forget the okra — short, tiny, and crunchy. Loaded with uric acid, if you aren’t careful. Yay!

 

 

They look like doughnuts but these breads must be filled with ghee!

They look like doughnuts but these breads must be filled with ghee!

image

image

 

 

And how can you resist the curry? My fav is mutton curry, which I can’t get enough off. Rice or flatbread, the mutton curry is wiped clean off the plate or bowl. Soaking naan across the curry plate is yum! Just mind the spices. There were others, but I couldn’t get past a tasting portion without burning my tongue. Phew!

 

 

image

Indian "fried rice" was such a hit with me!

Indian “fried rice” was such a hit with me!

IMG_7638.JPG

 

 

As for desserts, that uber-sweet, syrupy gulab balls should really push your sugar levels past the Diabetes 2 threshold. Tooooo much. I won’t mind not seeing them for a year. And the almonds? Freshly shelled and milky white not to be ignored. Other nuts like pistachio also found their way into some sinful desserts.

 

 

IMG_7635.JPG

IMG_7636.JPG

 

 

 

On our last day, our guide shared this home recipe with us. I tried it…. and ended up with a spinach dip instead. (I’m hopeless)

Palek Paneer (Spinach + Cottage Cheese)

Boil spinach until wilted. Osterize to make purée. Set aside.

In a pan, put veg or olive oil. Sauté cumin seed or put cumin powder; add finely chopped onions or onion purée. When browned, put garlic paste and bit of ginger paste. Put spinach; let boil. Add chili powder, salt to taste. Add cubed cottage cheese. Add tomato purée. Add little hot water to dilute.

 

 

IMG_7404.JPG

image
<br /

IMG_7637.JPG

Thank you, Chikie, for some of the food photos