Sweet Swiss Life

Ciao!

It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog entry. Lethargy took over. Haha!  Now I will share with you guys, the short but sweet stop I had in Switzerland.  Most of you are familiar with the more popular cities in this country such as Zurich, Lucerne, Geneva and probably St. Gallen, since a recent Filipino movie just featured it.

But there’s a hidden gem in the countryside. Interlaken lies in the Bernese Oberland on an alluvial plain, between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The vacation destination, which is presided over by the three mighty mountains, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, is the starting point for numerous activities.

Unlike Amsterdam and Paris, there are no tall hotels in this part of Switzerland, but instead full of homey and unpretentious accommodations surrounded by mountains and trees. We stayed at Alpenrose Hotel and Gardens which perfectly represents the Swiss life. Laid-back and relaxing.

Expat Explore didn’t fail to warn us that it has no elevators and so we had to take our luggage via stairs. It was not a problem for me, and it didn’t became problem for our older people in the tour as well since someone was there to assist them.

After we settled in our things and freshened up ourselves, the free dinner was ready at the restaurant. We all shared our first Swiss meal. Everyone needed to eat and rest well since it will be our free day the next day.

On our way back to our rooms after dinner, this hilarious signage caught everyone’s attention. And it’s still funny to me until now.  Lol

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I woke up around 7:30 AM the next day, quite late since I was in charge of my day. 80% of the group actually woke up early since they opted to take the Jungfraujoch Top of the Europe tour offered by Expat Explore. It was one of the choices they gave us to spend our free day.  It’s basically a train ride that will take you to Europe’s highest train station with the chance of seeing snow and all. It’s not a cheap excursion but I still think it is worth a try for first timers.

I just came from Armenia 8 months ago and was not really that excited to see snow again,  thus I chose not to join the tour.  Instead, I booked a FREE Interlaken Walking Tour from http://www.interlakenfreetour.com a few weeks before I left Dubai. Yes, you read it right, it was free. Our meeting point was at Balmer’s Hostel, which is 5-minute bus ride from our hotel. One of the cool things about Interlaken is that they provide free local transportation for tourists which  is available at all hotels.

I was at the meeting point 15 minutes earlier and the tour guide came exactly at 10:40 AM as agreed. We were around 12 people who joined the free walking tour. Some are as young as me, one is an old couple, a few girls from US and a guy from India.

I guess it’s only proper to give commendation to our tour guide, Juliano. It was so nice of him to make an effort for the group to jive by introducing ourselves and sharing our hobbies and interests.

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Juliano, our tour guide 🙂

The tour lasted around 2 hours, but I didn’t even notice it because all the places were just too stunning. All the spots were very rich in culture and picture perfect. It’s indeed a piece of heaven on earth. Walking the fields, trekking the mountain, indulging in the lakes, right there and then, I knew I made the right choice about this tour. Before the tour ends, everyone gave Juliano the gratuity that he deserves. To everyone who will be joining this free walking tour in the near future, please give generously.

The last stop of the walking tour was at the Outdoor Interlaken Höheweg Shop which is just a few blocks away from the location of my next activity, chocolate making!!! For 69 CHF, that’s around 260 in dirhams or 3600 in pesos, I was able to book myself a 1-hr workshop inclusive of unlimited chocolate tasting. It was really an experience to remember since Swiss chocolates are very famous, not to mention very yummy!

In general, I must say that Switzerland is really an expensive country. The basic necessities are much higher compared to other European countries. Imagine peeing using  a public toilet for 54 pesos. Not cool! Haha.  But mind you, their toilets may be considered public but it is very elite, clean and really well-maintained.

If you want to go to Europe to relax and just take off your mind from everything else, Switzerland is the perfect place to be.

Until next time.

Xoxo,

Jenjen

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Purely Magical Paris

Bonjour!  Welcome to the city of love. ❤️

When asked about their dream destination, I think most people choose Paris as answer. It was definitely in my checklist too.  I wanted to see for myself what everyone is talking about. But more over, I was so excited to tick off my 2nd Disneyland! I hope to be able to go to every Disneyland in the world.

We reached Paris a little over 4PM. Our tour leader decided to drop us off first at our hotel to quickly freshen up and leave our bags. We stayed at B&B Hotel Porte des Lilas. It was quite far from the city centre, but it’s convenient because it is just a 5-minute walk away from Porte des Lilas metro station which will bring you to anywhere in Paris.  It was basic but neat. We also didn’t need a card to access the room, all we had was a pass code. So cool!

After everyone checked in, we went out for a driving tour of the city. It was a like a preview of what to see for the next few days. It was cool seeing Paris at night for the first time. All the bright lights made me excited. After the driving tour, we drove to Au Bistro de la Montagne to experience the traditional Parisian dinner. I know the photos of the food don’t look appetizing. It’s okay, you can blame my photography skills. 😐

After dinner, everyone chose to head back to the hotel. We all knew how long the the next day is gonna be. It’s a free day for everyone so we all had our own itinerary.

I woke up the next day at 5:30 AM. Sounded like I woke up for work but really, the day will be that long.  The hotel buffet breakfast was basic. But as the tour went by, I realized that for us Filipinos, European breakfast will always be basic. Bread, jams, pancakes, egg. No fried rice, longganisa, tapa, tocino, BASIC! Haha! But in all fairness, it was really decent enough to fuel you for the whole day.

First thing in my agenda was to see the Eiffel Tower up close early in the morning. It was still quite dark when I left the hotel. The metro station was just a few minutes walk. Their train stations are old though I can say that it is still efficient. The train lines were easy to understand and follow. From the train station,  I walked a few blocks to reach the famous landmark of the city. As I was walking towards it, it felt so surreal. I used to see it only in photos, magazines and books and that time, I was actually in front of it.

I have always dreamed of roaming the world, but it’s still a different feeling when you are already there. I just let myself drown in the moment, stared at it and took some photos and left.

My next goal was to see Arc de Triomphe. It is one of the popular monuments in Paris. It honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces.

Just across Arc de Triomphe is probably one of the most recognized avenues in the world, Champs-Élysées. It’s a 1.9 km stretch of prominent luxury shops,  restaurants and theaters. The biggest Louis Vuitton shop is actually located here.

Another thing that fascinated me was Palais Garnier. It’s a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. The whole architecture made me swoon.

Also one of the limitless tourist spots here in Paris is the renowned Louvre Museum. Tickets must be booked online prior to avoid the very long line. I’m not an artsy person but it was just so surreal seeing the original Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting.

I was also able to visit Notre Dame. According to Wikipedia, it is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and is among the largest and best-known Catholic Church buildings in the world.

Indeed, the landscape of this church is jaw-dropping. I couldn’t help but gaze at it  the whole time I was there.

Lastly, my Paris trip won’t be complete without a Disneyland visit. I can vividly remember my Hongkong experience. I literally cried during fireworks because it was just so moving. I promised myself that I will do my best to be able to visit all the Disneyland in the world.

It rained during the parade, but nonetheless it was still very amusing. Just like a child, I enjoyed every minute of it. I even wanted to ride It’s A Small World twice. Haha!  I’m not sure if it was because it’s autumn but the park closed at 8PM that day so the firework schedule was early. It was astonishing to hear  French Disney songs but no matter what the language was, it still brought me the same feeling as the first time I witnessed it.

My Paris trip is indeed one for the books, one surely worth remembering.

Xoxo,

Jenjen

The Beauty That is Brussels

Hello everyone! 🙂

As mentioned in my previous post, I joined Expat Explore  for my Europe tour. During my last night in Amsterdam, I met the group which was headed by our lovely tour guide, Lish. We assembled at Hamptons by Hilton hotel which was also our home for the first night of the tour.

We had a chance to have dinner together and roam around the city for a few hours. However, we had to call the night early because we have a 7AM call time the next day. That’s the catch of choosing a group tour, you have to abide by the rules especially the time. If you think you will cause any trouble, then don’t ever join one. Lol

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So the next day after the early breakfast, we gathered in front of our coach for our first destination, Brussels. It was just actually a short visit en route to Paris. The ride from Amsterdam to Brussels was 2 hours, more or less.

Our first stop? The Atomium! As per Wikipedia, it is a landmark building in Brussels, originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It is located on the Heysel Plateau, where the exhibition took place. And now, it has become a museum. We did not go inside since it was just a quick stop over.

On our way to the main attraction, I was able to take some shots of the city.  It’s very simple and unassuming.  The weather during that time was very gloomy that added more drama in the background.

But when I finally laid eyes on the Grand Palace, everything just turned so magical.  It felt so surreal. It’s like seeing the whole Europe in one frame. My photo won’t do enough justice to describe it’s majesty but believe me, it was quite perfection.

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The Grand Palace is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by a town hall, a beer museum and a collection of restaurants and souvenir shops. It is also the home of numerous festive and cultural events of Belgium.

A few steps away from the main square is also one of the tourist spots in Brussels, the Mannekin Pis. It’s a cute small bronze sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating in a fountain’s basin. They say that it embodies the sense of humor of the people of Brussels and their independence of mind.

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But just like all the other places, the one thing that always makes the difference is the food.  Waffles, fries and chocolates — everything Belgian!  Taking pride of these popular treats, they made sure that you can just buy everything  in every corner.  Sugar waffles are available for 1 EUR and the rest depends on the flavor. It was fun being surrounded by colorful waffles. Happiness!

Brussels is a combination of simplicity and grandeur. Even if you only have  a few hours to spare, the aesthetic of this city will fill your soul with so much peace. It’s the place where you can just sit all by yourself and will never feel alone. Oh, that feeling that Brussels brings.

On to my next destination, Paris! ❤️

Happy wandering!

Xoxo,

Jenjen

Holland’s Charming Countryside

After a full day drifting the electrifying city of Amsterdam, my next plan was to visit the countryside. Nothing beats nature and we all deserve the quiet side of that crazy city.

Unlike what I did in Amsterdam where I chose to do the tour alone, I decided to take a Holland Day Trip from Viator.  I just thought that it will save me a lot of time since there’s really no concrete means of transportation in moving from place to place.  The day trip costs 109 EUR inclusive of lunch.

The local operator was Tours and Tickets and they have their office just around Amsterdam Central.  It is also the meeting point for all their tours. The departure time of my tour was 9:45 AM.  I made sure that I was already in the meeting place 45 minutes earlier. If you know me, you know that I’m very particular with time. Lol. I was lucky enough because there’s Mcdonalds just beside the meeting place.  Mcdo breakfast is life!

A few minutes before the call time, a pleasant lady with a big placard started calling out our names and gathered us. We walked towards the air conditioned coach which we used for the rest of the day. I had companions from different countries but an old Filipino couple who came straight from the Philippines made me so happy. Kabayan!! 🙂

The tour covered villages and towns like Edam, Marken, Volendam and Zaanse Schans. Our first stop was Edam. This town is like a piece of heaven on earth. Our tour guide led us to an informative walking tour around the town’s charming churches and famous former shipyard.

Combined with Edam  is Volendam which forms the municipality of Edam-Volendam. It is well known for its old fishing boats and traditional clothing still worn by some residents.  We headed to a local cheese shop which I really enjoyed. Being a cheese lover, cheese tasting was unarguably the best part. It was my first time to see a green cheese, which is surprisingly pesto flavored. But my most favorite discovery is the Mosterd Dille Dip. Google and try it. So good with cheese, I had to buy one for home.

We also went went to a Stroopwafel Museum which is also around the vicinity. It is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle and it’s very popular in Netherlands. A local Dutch lady showed us how to make one and of course, free stroopwafel for everyone. Yuhooo!

After satisfying our taste buds with all the free taste, our group was gathered again by our tour leader. Then we were off to our next stop,  Marken. It  is the traditional fishing town famed for its preservation of Dutch culture. For us to get there, we needed to climbed aboard a boat. Along the way, we were able to witness the stunning views of Lake Ijssel. Upon arrival, quaint boutiques and picturesque harbor of the fishing village welcomed us.

We were not able to explore much of it since we had to convene again for lunch. The tour included a lunch at a local restaurant which was just in front of the harbor.  De Visscher Taverne is a traditional diner tucked in this scenic calm village. The interior reflects so much of the Dutch culture and the staff was very nice.

The last stop of the tour was the province of Zaanse Schans. It is one of the famous attractions in Netherlands because it has a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. It’s actually surreal to see these windmills in person. We also had the chance to see first hand how it works. Really fascinating! Historically, it has served many purposes but the most important was pumping water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers so that the land could be farmed. It was only restored for viewing and has become one of the tourist spots of the province.

Before the ride back to Amsterdam, we were dropped to some local souvenir shops where they also demonstrated how to make their customary wooden shoes known as clogs. I am familiar with clogs because I once used it during a United Nations school program when I was in Kindergarten. Haha! I did not think that it still exists. Some locals were actually wearing it during our tour.

After the last activity, we moved to the coach and comfortably sat our way back to the city.

Amsterdam deserves the popularity it is getting because it is really astonishing. But if ever you have the chance to go to Netherlands soon, do visit the countryside also. Believe me, you will get to experience a different kind of ecstasy.  ❤

Happy wandering!

Xoxo,

Jenjen

Intoxicating City Called Amsterdam

Hello co-wanderers! I’m back.

This must be a good sign. You are currently reading my second blog entry so it only means that I have not lost my will to write yet. Haha. Anyway, so as mentioned in my first blog, I am hoping that I would be able to share with you all my past travels, one at a time, starting from the most recent.

So let’s do this…

Last October 2017, I went for a Europe  coach tour with Expat Explore. For 16 days, I was able to visit a total of 12 cities within 6 countries. Let me start my second blog with the first stop of our Europe tour, the Netherlands.

I have always been interested in its vibrant capital. Aside from the fact that I love the movie, The Fault in our Stars, where the significant parts were shot there,  I’ve been very eager about all the firsts that I can do in this insane city.

I took  KLM Royal Dutch airlines from Dubai. Generally, the whole experience was okay. The plane left on time, the leg room was big enough and the food was tolerable.  The flight took around 6 hours.

Schiphol Airport is directly connected to Schiphol Plaza where the main train stations connect to almost everywhere including other cities such as Paris, Brussels, etc. I reached Amsterdam around 6 in the morning. The Dutch immigration officers were very cute and accommodating, what a way to start the day. Goedemorgen!

Before I left Dubai, I already researched everything I needed. Since I have 2 extra days before the tour starts, I bought the 2-day Amsterdam Travel ticket  which will essentially cover all my public transport needs. It is available in 1, 2 or 3 days. Mine was for 2 days and it costs 21 EUR.

Since my guided tour which includes all hotel accommodations was two days away, I preferred to book Ibis Budget Hotel, situated in Badhoevedorp Netherlands. It is near the airport and an hour away from Amsterdam Central. It has free shuttles from and to the airport so it was really an easy peasy transition for me. It includes free wifi and you can avail the buffet breakfast for 7.50 EUR. It’s a nice choice for budget travelers.

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No time to waste, I already prepared myself for a whole day stroll in the city.  From the hotel, I just took a bus directly to Rijksmuseum. A few blocks away is my featured photo above, the famous big set of letters that spells Amsterdam. I also went to visit Van Gogh Museum but I did not really pay to get inside. Yea yea, I’m just a poser. I just took a photo and left. 😅

Google map was my hero all through out the day. I depended on it on which direction to turn since I was just walking from one place to another, maximizing my per-ordered all Europe sim card with unlimited internet data from Prepaid Zero.

My Anne Frank Museum was scheduled at 12NN, so while waiting, I decided to try the famous Pancake Bakery. It’s just a block away so it’s very convenient. When you read articles on where to eat, this one is always at the top of the list. I ordered their savory pancake with ham and cheese plus coffee. Yum!

Anne Frank Museum is indeed an interesting place to visit. It is a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. I won’t pretend to be a history or art enthusiast, but upon entering, you will be amazed on how everything was perfectly preserved. Each visitor gets an audio guide which you can listen to. It will provide a clear narration about her life and writings. While listening, you can visualize some of the things which she actually used many years ago. Everything is accounted properly and you will remember it vividly. It will surely make you appreciate the freedom that we are enjoying now.

Cameras are strictly prohibited inside the museum. Thus,  I cannot really share what my eyes saw inside. Please go and see for yourself.

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After the amazing Anne Frank experience, I continued roaming the place. It is intense and busy but always alluring because of the canals.  Amsterdam is made for walking and cycling.  You must be really extra careful because bikers won’t be responsible for you. Mind your lane, always!

It was almost sunset when I went to try another adrenaline adventure. Day 1 in Europe and yes, I wanted to be a daredevil immediately. For 17.50 EUR, I was able to experience Europe’s highest swing. Over the Edge will dangle you 100 meters high,  back and forth over the edge of the tower with the whole Amsterdam below your feet. Incredible feeling!

As for the food, listen guys, this will be the #tipidtips for this entry….Febo! This one is such a golden catch for budget travelers. It is a chain of Dutch walk-up fast food restaurants but in a vendo machine. See, you can have your fries and burgers automatically. So cool! Haha. When you visit Amsterdam, do try this one. It is also best known for its croquettes.

Now, we have come to the most awaited part. A lot of people will agree with me when I say that Amsterdam is insane and exciting at night. Have you ever heard about the popular Red Light District? Of course, I am never leaving Amsterdam without checking it out. Haha! This is the place where a cluster of prostitution and sex-oriented business are located. Yes, marijuana and prostitution are legal in Amsterdam.

I was really thrilled to see what it looks like in real life. Sorry, I won’t be able to post pictures here since cameras are not allowed in that area also. It’s somehow a sign of respect for the women who are offering sexual services from behind a window or glass door, illuminated by red lights, hence the name Red Light District.

Their cabins are placed beside each other, and you just have to walk along if you want to avail their service. I did walk along, but not for their service. Lol. I was really curious about how they look like, what they do and all. Some were really pretty, some were young and others were obviously seasoned. Although I’m not really a supporter, I must say that they still have my respect, considering the fact that it is legal and they are paying their taxes.

Also in this district are the very famous “coffee shops”. No,  it doesn’t mean Starbucks, Costa or some local shops that offer our favorite cappuccino or latte. In Amsterdam, these are the stores where marijuana and other cannabis products are sold. There’s actually nothing wrong in trying, hello YOLO! Haha! But I didn’t have the guts to try smoking marijuana. I chickened out, besides I don’t even smoke. But I did try the edible ones. I purchased cannabis chocolate and space cake. The guy at the store said that these are perfect for first timers and for those who just wanted to try for the heck of it. So I took his advice. Haha!

I consumed a quarter of the chocolate and a pinch of the brownie. I was scared like that. Boo! The smell of the brownie will make you feel high that I became so worried to eat a lot. From what I read, it should take effect after an hour or so. I was expecting that I will laugh and cry and be crazy like that. But fortunately (or not), nothing strange happened to me, at all. Epic fail!

It’s not every day that you get to experience all this. Amsterdam is probably like one of your crazy friends. It will give you comfort, it will make you smile, drive you mad, keeps you thrilled but at the end of the day, you will always go back to.

If someone asks me if I would like to go back, yes.. I’d do it in a heartbeat.  🙂

Happy wandering! And ohhhh, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Stay in love with life. ❤️

Xoxo,

Jenjen

*All photos were taken from my IP7 and GoPro, unless stated otherwise.*