Europe 2018: Amazing Iceland


Geez, Iceland. Where do I even begin with? It’s a place like no other.



Otherworldly landscapes. Countless waterfalls. Rainbows. Volcanoes and lava fields. Glaciers. Larger than life tree-less mountains. Crazy weather. Black sand beaches. Beautiful people. Interesting history and culture. And although we didn’t see it in person, northern lights!

Iceland has gained more and more popularity amongst travelers in the recent years. Before, when someone thinks of touring Europe it only meant the “highlights” – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain; the cities of Rome and Venice in Italy, London in UK, and others.

Nowadays, many people visit just Iceland and spend days driving around the unique landscapes of the country, sometimes without any other stops in Europe – even though the Schengen visa (needed by Philippine passport holders), that covers almost the entire continent, can be maximized.

Our tour guide from Reykjavik Sightseeing shared that the tourism boom started around 2008 when the country went bankrupt, hence the value of their currency Icelandic Krona dropped and suddenly the country was more affordable to tourists.

Distant islands and monstrous waves as seen from Reynisfjara

The tipping point though, was in 2010 when Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, the last being 200 years ago. The volcanic ash cloud closed Europe’s airspace for days, resulting to countless cancelled flights, not only those going in and out of Europe but other routes that utilize the airspace as well– thus the country was on a global spotlight.


I’ve read a beautiful phrase from this article:

“An Icelandic volcano brought much of the world’s air travel to a halt. And then it brought the world to Iceland.”

Thanks, Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

Þingvellir National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site

So now, in this social media age, “word of mouth” spread like wildfire and suddenly everyone wants to go to Iceland – including me. Hype is one thing, but honestly – who wouldn’t be lured by those professional travel posts on Facebook showing the Mars-like landscapes, rainbow-clad waterfalls and northern lights? When I learned that the boyfriend would be assigned again in Sweden for 3.5 month-work, choosing my side trip destinations was a no-brainer. Iceland, it was so my destiny to meet you.


Strokkur Geyser



The basalt columns of Reynisfjara

Key take-aways:

  1. Visa. Schengen visa is needed by Philippine passport holders to enter Iceland, and other parts of Europe. Aside from Schengen visa, you might also need transit visas depending on where your connecting flight/s is/are. Please do your research! 😊
  2. Geography. Iceland is an island country sitting on +0 GMT timezone, hence it is 8 hours behind PH time. It is separated from mainland Europe, situated far northwest nearer the arctic circle where the northern lights appear. Iceland strongly reminds me of Batanes and Taiwan – being surrounded by oceans (and the attractions we went to being in the south coast), it is cold and windy, and weather is super unpredictable. During our 7-hour Golden Circle tour, it got snowy, rainy, windy and sunny.
  3. Flight. WOW Air offers cheap flights between Stockholm and Reykjavik (Keflavik Airport). In fact, we scored roundtrip flights for Php 4k each. Obviously, flights from Manila would cost more. To those who are wondering how much, I could tell that if you booked a roundtrip flight from Manila to any major city in Europe (including Reykjavik, capital of Iceland) at around Php 30k per person, it’s cheap enough – because normally it would cost around Php 50k, sometimes even more, depending on the airline.
  4. Accommodation. There are plenty of hotels, hostels and AirBnBs in Reykjavik city center for every budget. The apartment we booked costs almost Php 10k/night, but the place was comfortable enough for a group of 5, and it has a living room and full kitchen, which is not present in most hotels at the same rate. Also, it is a short walking distance to Bus Stop 1 (Radhuseet – City Hall), which is one of the major pick-up/drop-off points for all tours.
  5. Getting around. Iceland lacks public transportation. It is understood for a large country of less than 400k residents, where there are more tourists and sheeps than locals. There are no trains or subways. There are no public buses from the airport, and in Reykjavik it is scarce, so it is very important to plan how you’re gonna get from point A to point B. A lot of tourists are doing DIY tours by renting a car and driving on their own around the country. Many travelers vouch that this is the cheaper option, especially when they share the ride and expenses with other travelers.

For us though, we booked all our tours from Reykjavik Sightseeing. There are other popular tour operators in Iceland, like Reykjavik Excursions and Gray Line. All of them offers similar prices for the tours, and similar itineraries, so it probably doesn’t matter that much which tour operator to choose.

6. Food. Europe is expensive, but Iceland is exceptionally expensive. Even the convenience store microwaveable ready-to-eat meals – which would typically save the day when in other countries (including Switzerland!), they cost an arm in Iceland.


Day 1 – Oct 19 2018 – Friday

It took 3 hours plane ride to reach Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, from Stockholm. We arrived in KEF (Keflavik International Airport) at around 2pm. We had a quick lunch at Dunkin’ Donuts near the exit to the bus terminals, exchanged our pre-booked voucher to bus pass, and boarded the bus going to Blue Lagoon. It was a 15-minute ride from the airport.


Rean and I brought a backpack each, it kinda fit the things we needed for this 3-day getaway.


Walking through the lava fields – rocky pathway to the lagoon proper.


We have a pre-booked schedule at 4pm. Lines were long, but fast-moving.


The original plan was to go to Blue Lagoon BUT not pay the entrance fee – just spend sometime in Blue Cafe while staring at the people in the lagoon. A lot of people do that because not everyone wants to soak in the warmth of an artificial lagoon.

Honestly, Blue Lagoon was not originally part of our plan (or rather MY plan because I planned everything :D) Plenty of “Why we won’t go to Blue Lagoon” checkboxes were ticked: It’s expensive, the Trip Advisor reviews were generally alarming, we have only 2 hours to spare there, Rean and I are not exactly the swimwear-wearing bunch, we couldn’t fathom the thought of going out half naked at 4degC, etc.


But here I am anyway, enjoying my smoothie. We went because FOMO (fear of missing out :P). Turned out we kinda enjoyed the experience.

What was not pictured was after we checked in, we got our (dirty) wristbands and (clean) towels, and proceeded to the changing rooms. Obviously camera is not allowed. In the ladies’ room, aside from the bikini-clad and naked visitors (some nationalities don’t care about being naked around – something we Asians might not get used to) there are plenty of full-length lockers. My 16L Herschel backpack fit nicely there.

img_5354If you go with luggages, there is a storage room near the entrance where the buses are parked. It’s quite a walk between that and the lagoon proper, so plan ahead what you’re gonna bring with you in the lockers.


Iceland is expensive, but Blue Lagoon is even more expensive.


The basic “comfort” package includes a free drink. Skyr is Iceland’s answer to yogurt.

Visitors are required to shower before entering the lagoon. There are plenty of private showers, equipped with shower gel and conditioner. Contrary to reviews in Trip Advisor where you might shower naked and just deal with it, I think they renovated the place to have more private showers. Also, don’t forget to leave on lots of hair conditioner to protect your hair from harmful effects of silica. Silica is good for the skin, though.

After we changed to our swimwear and showered, we brought our phones in waterproof cases and towels. Outside the shower areas, the building is still heated, so Rean and I planned how to run from there to the lagoon itself. We were barefoot and the wooden floor outside was cold, so after he hung the towels, we kinda ran (for our lives).


The fun part is applying the sticky silica mud mask to our faces. All lagoon visitors are entitled to one free mask (rather, one free tablespoon of mask).

I failed to educate my poor bebe on how to apply the mask properly. You definitely do not want to apply it below the eyebrows 😦 he just dabbed it all over like it’s facial wash or something. Now he’s winking like an oppa.


After some time the mask dried and it looked like our faces are coming out of cracked eggshells. We rinsed our faces in (guess what) the lagoon itself 😀 I know. I have mixed feelings about it, too

It was a weird feeling having your body submerged in the warm lagoon (which was very relaxing for me) while our heads are freezing. I thought the 2 hours I planned to spend there won’t be enough, but it got colder since it was nearing evening and our faces started to hurt due to frostbite. We decided to leave after an hour in the lagoon. After changing back to our clothes, we walked back to the bus terminal at the front and waited for our bus onward to Reykjavik city center. It was a 45-minute journey.


We passed by Fish & Co while walking to our apartment. Grilled cod in a bed of basil!

I received an email from Reykjavik Sightseeing telling that our Northern Lights tour was cancelled that night. We had that feeling early on during the day that it will be cancelled because of the poor weather conditions.

Day 2 – Oct 20 2018 – Saturday – SOUTH COAST CLASSIC TOUR

830am we were already in Bus Stop 1 waiting for our ride. The weather was still gloomy, but we were still excited because that was the first day of tour and I’ve read South Coast Classic has the most beautiful stops. We met with our tour guide and driver, and took our seat just 2 rows behind the driver. We were given an iPad-like tablet each, to serve as audio and visual guides.

After 40 minutes from leaving Reykjavik and driving through lava fields covered in moss, tree-less mountains and clouds covering the distant islands, we first stopped in a gas station with a store in order for us to grab a quick bite. Then shortly afterwards, onward to our first tour stop: Sólheimajökull.

Sólheimajökull, a glacier tongue crawling from the ice-cap of Mýrdalsjökull.

Second stop: The black sand beach and basalt-columns of Reynisfjara.

And then we left to have our lunch stopover in Vik, a little coastal town of less than 300 residents.

We had a stopover in Vik for a quick lunch (of lamb burgers).Also there’s a rare sighting of blue skies and the sun 😀

And then we were off to our next stop, probably my most favorite among the waterfalls: Skogafoss.

Rean went up halfway that hill. I, on the other hand, was too old and weak lol

Double rainbows

I felt so happy whenever I saw trees in Iceland. As of writing the whole country is only 2% covered with trees, reforestation efforts are on-going.

And then off to our last stop: Seljalandsfjoss, which is quite famous for that hidden pathway behind the veil of water.

The falls looked harmless from afar. On the right you can see the trail going to the pathway behind the falls. We initially tried to get behind the falls but as we go nearer, the pathway becomes more slippery and the winds blow the mist towards us. The temperature was 4degC, my limbs started to get numb so we just retracted.

Actually going behind the falls is totally doable had I only worn waterproof or leather pants. Although my jacket was waterproof, my pants were not. It was just thermal leggings and regular pants 😀 So, next time I know what to do 😀

Again, I received an email that the Northern Lights tour was cancelled that night. We were back in our apartment at around 8pm.

Day 3 – Oct 21 2018 – Sunday – GOLDEN CIRCLE CLASSIC TOUR

Honestly I was getting frustrated because of the cancelled Northern Lights tour for 2 consecutive nights. We only had 3 nights there! But I couldn’t do anything about it anyway – I’ve always read that one doesn’t go to Iceland and expect the Lady Aurora to show itself every single night. So, even though I prayed really really hard.. I lowered my expectations and instead looked forward to our last tour. 830am the following day, we were again in Bus Stop 1 to wait for our ride. The driver was the same, but the tour guide has changed.

It was snowing when we reached our first stop: Þingvellir National Park

“Walking down the lava canyon where the American and Eurasian continents are literally pulling apart” – Reykjavik Sightseeing

Our group. On a regular sunny day this place would have been perfect for hanging around with a hot cup of drink, while taking in the view.

Second stop: Geysir Hot Springs, where the Strokkur geyser erupts every few minutes.

This establisment has a cafe, restaurant and souvenir shop inside.

Third and last stop: the majestic Gullfoss waterfalls.

Walking towards Gullfoss waterfalls.

It was snowing when we got there so we had lunch first inside the restaurant.

We started going back to Reykjavik while dropping off visitors along to their respective individual tours.

One visitor, for instance, had horseback riding as part of her tour so we got the chance to see up-close the cute Icelandic horses.

It was a sunny afternoon when the weather decided to get snowy.

Passing through the snow-covered lava fields. Iceland is literally the land of fire and ice!

And we were back in Reykjavik at around 4pm! This is the first time we saw the city during daylight.

We were informed the Northern Lights tour would push through that night! So we had around 4 hours to spare before the 830pm pick-up time. After thanking Trusty and Siggy (driver and tour guide, respectively), Rean and I walked towards Hallgrimskirkja Church.


And then we continued the walk towards the city center.

Babala: Cafe Babalu

I was so grateful the weather gave way for us to walk around this pretty little town on our last day in Iceland.

We went to Ramen Momo but it was still closed so we walked back to our apartment. Rean was dead tired so I volunteered to find take-away dinner for us. I just returned to Ramen Momo after a few minutes. LOL. The place is kinda popular it was packed when I got there.

At 820pm we walked to Bus Stop 1. There are a lot of people waiting, and the crowds thinned as minutes passed by. I kept on calling our tour operator but they said our bus was on its way. We waited for an hour outside, freezing. The bus finally arrived, and Elizabeth the tour guide apologized. Anyhow, I was so tired I was just asleep during the drive. Around 10:30pm we got to the pitch-dark field in the middle of nowhere, where we would wait for the northern lights to appear. The night was actually clear, but the moon was so bright and the aurora forecast was poor, so we were informed that there was slim chance to see it. We stayed there for more than an hour to no avail, occasionally going out to stare in the sky and going back inside because it was freezing; until Elizabeth excitedly shouted for everyone to come out.

I saw a glimpse of it, and then it was gone. It was nowhere near greenish 😀 So we called it a night and went back to Reykjavik. Maybe next time!

Our airport pickup was scheduled at 330am so we had only a few hours of sleep the following day. At 630am we flew back to Stockholm. We didn’t see the northern lights, but we had a great time in Iceland. The trip is definitely unforgettable and one for the books. I hope we could visit again ❤

Europe 2016: Finding Netherlands (Part 3)

Oct 6, 2016


That day I planned to experience everything Old Holland – Dutch windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, cheese. When planning this trip, I initially aimed going to that place I always see as background video in videoke (I know, weird) where there was some sort of cheese exhibition, many people dressed in what looks like their traditional costumes and carrying loads of round cheeses. I learned that it takes place in Edam, another city in Netherlands where the name of the cheese (edam, or quezo de bola in the Philippines) originated. The “cheese demonstration” is held every Wednesday at 10am but unfortunately there was no schedule of it on my trip and that they will resume on March 2017 (as per their website).


[Image not mine! Source here] Edam Cheese Demonstration

Of course, I’d also like to see the “Holland Tulips” in the flesh, so I googled whether early October is a good time to visit Keukenhof, probably the best place where you can see those world-famous rows and rows of colorful beauty. Unfortunately again, I found out that I won’t see any flowers when I go there, and that the best time to go is around April to May. Gives us a lot of reasons to visit Europe during spring/summer – this and the fact that the weather is more tolerable for tropical people like me, and eliminates the bulk of winter jackets in our luggage, making room for more shopping because priorities.


[Image not mine! Source here] Keukenhof and the Holland tulips

Crossing out these places, I decided to go in Zaanse Schans in Zaandam, a city about 40 minutes away by bus from Amsterdam. I prepped up to check out from Owl Hotel at around 11am. After bidding goodbye to my room and leaving my luggage in the lobby for safekeeping while I’m away, I walked to Leidseplein and took the tram going to Centraal Station. I bought a burger from a fast food store in the station and looked for the bus going to Zaanse Schans. There was free wifi onboard, and I think that applies to most of public transportation in Europe. How good it would be living in countries like this?





There is no entrance fee to see the farm and the windmills and houses.



Also from Wikipedia: “Zaanse Schans has a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses.”

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90s Pinoy kids will remember Nelo and Patrasche (Dog of Flanders) with this carriage full of traditional milk cans

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A lot of product demonstrations take place in each of the houses inside Zaanse Schans. Here, they showed how Gouda cheese is made. Like Edam, Gouda is a name of a city in Netherlands.



The same house, aside from offering an assortment of cheeses, also offers syrup and honey waffles, which are called “stroopwafels” in Dutch. Stroopwafels are the greatest invention on earth, according to me.


Animals roam freely around here. In fact they are probably so used to people that they are the ones who approach you. A chicken approached me as if it wanted to start a conversation, and so I did.


What a beautiful day!


My dream house would have one of these cute little bridges over a little stream.

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This house showcases the making of wooden shoes.



These are not real tulips. They’re, well, wooden.


Inside the wooden shoe-house img_3159


A demo of making wooden shoes was taking place when I entered.


I wonder how much that costs.


They actually have sizes, you know! Pretty and colorful souvenirs! I didn’t buy though, mainly because of the price and baggage issues.

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After 2 hours and a bag of stroopwafels and cheese, I left Zaanse Schans and headed back to Amsterdam. I roamed around Centraal for a bit then boarded the tram, got off at Koningsplein for the flower market in Singel.



Stalls after stalls of ready-to-plant tulip bulbs (which I didn’t buy because it’s impossible for them to grow in tropical countries), typical souvenirs like keychains and ref magnets, and.. did you see that?


This is where we should be extra careful 😀 Examine carefully the things you buy in any place where cannabis – or marijuana, is legal. It could cause you some serious trouble in your home country’s airport.

And then I got settled inside Amarylles, a quaint little resto I saw while walking. It was around 4pm and the last thing I ate was the free taste of stroopwafels lol.

And then I got settled inside Amarylles, a quaint little resto I saw while walking. It was around 4pm and the last thing I ate was the free taste bits of stroopwafels lol.

Full english for very late brunch!

Full english for a very late brunch! Did you see that speculoos? The Netherlands is also home to that popular biscuit.


Different types of cheese

I learned that there are plenty of Henry Willig stores in Amsterdam. I decided to buy more stroopwafels because basic necessities.

I learned that there are plenty of Henry Willig stores in Amsterdam. I decided to buy more stroopwafels because basic necessities.

I went back to Owl Hotel to get and arrange my things. I was having a little sepanx before going, it was just a short two-day trip and I hoped to stay longer. It was only on my last day when I finally figured out the shortest way to go back to the hotel, oh well. My flight was scheduled for 930pm. I headed for the airport at 5pm.




Because I was too early in the airport, I roamed around and found this display at the roof deck.

Duty free shop selling 2 for 49EUR perfumes

Duty free shop selling 1 for 29 EUR, 2 for 49 EUR perfumes


I wish I learned earlier that security in Schiphol Airport would take this long. It took me about 40 minutes in queue. I really didn’t see it coming, it was not the case in Bergen and Paris – there was no queue there at all. Amsterdam Schiphol takes its security very seriously, they will tell you to take out all electronics and liquids, they scanned and rescanned my items, they made me take off my shoes, it made me rethink whether I bought that cannabis lollipop (kidding, of course I didn’t). After I was cleared, I ran like a madwoman to my gate. Lesson learned: Upon arriving at any airport, immediately check the queue for security.

This caps off my Europe 2016 series! It has been four months since my trip and I sorely miss it. I will try to make helpful travel guides in the near future 😀 You see, my posts actually serve as my online travel diary, so bear with me for writing even the most nonsense stuff.

Japan series coming up! Stay tuned 😀

Europe 2016: Finding Netherlands (Part 2)

Oct 5, 2016


Why Amsterdam? You would think. I have plenty of other European cities to choose from, everything’s a plane away from Stockholm anyway, but why Amsterdam? Five words: The Fault In Our Stars. And I dream of visiting all the places I only get to imagine while reading my books.

I also Googled Holland, and why the people in Netherlands are called Dutch. It’s a long story, so I’ll leave you the reading.

I left the hotel at around 930am. As soon as I woke up and while I ate the sandwich I bought in Stockholm, I plotted on map the places I would visit that day. Museumplein (the museum area) is just walking distance from Owl Hotel, so I went there, just in time for Van Gogh Museum’s opening hours.



I’m not really a museum-type person, and the only Van Gogh painting I know is The Starry Night. But it’s worth visiting, not just because I have free entrances to museums (or rather I paid for it in advance) because of my iAmsterdam card, but because Van Gogh‘s life is very interesting (but sad). He only became a world famous artist after he died. Throughout his life, he suffered from mental illness, depression and poverty.

I asked a security personnel where The Starry Night is, and he told me it was in Museum of Modern Art in New York. You would think all of Van Gogh’s creations should be in Van Gogh Museum, but no.


The museum is basically 3 floors of Van Gogh’s art, grouped chronologically. You can also read his life story as you walk along while observing his artworks. Many visitors rent an audio guide to accompany their tour. There were also many students here, taking notes.



Inside Van Gogh Museum. How cool is it that you can actually see the ground level outside?


The other side of the museum.


Concert Gebouw just around Museumplein

After Van Gogh Museum, I headed for Rijksmuseum, which is the top 1 must-visit place in Amsterdam according to Trip Advisor.



The noisy kids gathering around the I amsterdam sign



This is strongly reminiscent of the lights we have in our office cafeteria.


Rijksmuseum is not included in the free entrances provided by iAmsterdam card, but there’s a discount, so I shelled out 13 EUR for this.


The museum is HUGE, though certainly not Louvre-huge. It houses interesting pieces of paintings and stuff from different eras.


A 36-carat Banjarmasin diamond from Borneo, declared Dutch state property



Reminds me of Queen Elsa’s palace interiors



There’s a whole section dedicated to Rembrandt – one of the most celebrated Dutch artists.



The library of my dreams


A very detailed doll house


“Earthenware” violin made for decorative purposes only



I left Rijksmuseum at around 2pm and starving. So I got a hotdog sandwich filled to the brim with delicious sauerkraut and crispy onions from one of the hotdog stands outside the museum. I sat on a bench and ate while enjoying the view and the sun’s warmth. It was a particularly windy and chilly day, and I stupidly wore a flowy dress. Underneath, my leg-high stockings decided to roll down, and it made me extremely uncomfortable while walking. So please, when doing tour, do yourself a favor and wear your most comfortable outfit.

I decided to go to PC Hoofstraat to check the Longchamp store there, because I had to buy another bag for a friend. Also, I went inside a store by the name of Wolford, to buy proper leggings for myself.


PC Hoofstraat is home for designer goods.


I never thought I was about to buy my most expensive piece of clothing in my entire wardrobe. Probably even more expensive than all my clothes combined, I guess. Nope. That’s an exaggeration. So what happened is, I saw leggings ok. I was desperate, because it was friggin’ cold and my stockings kept on rolling down my knees. The thing is, they have the more affordable leggings, but are thin, so won’t do the job. I requested for the thicker leggings, I initially saw 9 EUR price tags. Fair enough. The crews were busy because they were doing a sort of training, and the head saleslady attended to me and even accompanied me to their oh-so-fancy fitting room. I said I’m gonna take it, and that I will wear it right then, so I headed to the counter to pay. The POS said 90 EUR. Say what? I checked the price tag and cursed that faded zero at the right of number 9. WTH, that was clearly fraud right? Or was that my poor eyesight? I asked the lady who looked like Celine Dion, so it’s 90 and not 9 EUR? She said, yes, the thin ones cost 9 EUR. What was I to do? I was already wearing the freaking thing, so I handed them my boyfriend’s credit card. At that moment, I felt like I reached my peak stupidity. What could be more stupid than that? I thought of all the things I could buy with that PHP 5000 instead – heck, that was even more expensive than my roundtrip flight to Amsterdam. I already had plans for the leggings, in my mind either I will have it framed for display in our house, or use it everyday to justify the cost. No one in their right mind buys a 90 EUR – leggings. Probably the Kardashians. Indeed, the brand Wolford, I learned later on, is typically worn by celebrities. But I’m just a peasant, so sorry for the endless rants. This is my biggest blooper in the trip.


After accepting the reality, I headed to one of the canal boat terminals for my canal cruise, which was included in the iAmsterdam card. Bought a coke while waiting for the tour to start. Like in our Paris bus tour, this boat provided earphones and had audio system in place for the recorded tour guides.



The canal cruise lasted for about an hour. It was in the afternoon – not really a good idea because of the sun, but overall I enjoyed it. It started from the terminal opposite Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam, to Jordaan, at the back of Amsterdam Centraal, to NEMO Science Museum, then back to the starting point.






After the cruise, I walked to Leidsegracht to see if I can find the bench from The Fault In Out Stars movie, where Hazel and Gus sat down.



A very beautiful afternoon




And of course I found it. I knew that was “the bench” because of the love locks and graffiti left by my fellow brothers and sisters in fandom.


I know this is just a bench but believe me, I think that was the highlight of my day. LOL.



The scene from The Fault In Our Stars


Forgive my miserable face. Okay? Okay.

Stay tuned for part 3! One more post about Amsterdam, which caps off my series for Europe 2016… After that, I’ll be writing about our trip to Japan.


Europe 2016: Finding Netherlands (Part 1)

Oct 4, 2016


In front of Rijksmuseum

My whole Europe trip was full of bloopers, but most of it probably happened during my Amsterdam trip. Upon writing this piece I’m still laughing at how I managed to pull off some Bridget Jones moments in my life and actually survived.

We arrived at our place in Stockholm around 1am of October 4, after a 2.5-hour flight from Paris and a 40-minute bus ride from Arlanda Airport to Stockholm Central. Rean had to go to work the following morning, and I had to prepare for my 630pm flight to Amsterdam. Also, my hotel (Quentin Golden Bear) cancelled my reservation that morning so I booked another (Owl Hotel).


Carrying my purple bag and small luggage, I bought a Flygbussarna ticket (Stockholm airport’s coach/bus) and hopped on the bus to take me to Arlanda Airport Terminal 5. Bought a mozzarella baguette sandwich and Fanta from Wayne’s Coffee, which I didn’t consume, then boarded the jam-packed Norwegian plane (Europe’s best low-cost airline). The flight was during sunset. I was amused with the onboard wifi.


I was nervous about this trip because I knew I’m gonna get lost as soon as I exit the bus from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Not to mention that I was traveling alone, therefore would be walking alone in the evening to find my hotel. You probably know that the city legalized prostitution and marijuana, but I took solace in knowing that Amsterdam is one of the safest places for solo female travelers, and that my hotel is situated far from the red-light district.

I headed to the airport tourist center to exchange my pre-booked 2-day iAmsterdam Card (unlimited rides for selected public transpo companies and free/discounted museum entrances) and to buy a Region Travel Card (for Old Holland trip outside Amsterdam, and unlimited Connexxion bus rides).

My travel cheat sheet said I should hop on Connexxion bus 197 (a.k.a Amsterdam Airport Express) and get off at Leidseplein. I handed a 5-euro bill to the driver, because I forgot that I can use the Region Travel Card for this. Oops, blooper no. 1.

I was getting more nervous during the ride. It was very dark outside and I rarely saw people on the streets. It was just minutes after 9pm. In my mind I was praying my bus stop would not be deserted and would show some signs of life. I got off at Leidseplein, looked around, and accepted the inevitable: man, I will be lost AF. I saw like a total of 4 people, it was dark and chilly and quiet. With the goal of finding Owl Hotel and having not much choice, I just walked. I saw two men walking, so I decided to follow them, because “people are better than no people”. They looked at me and my noisy rolling luggage. Then they turned right to a dark park. Guess what? I freaking followed. And when they stepped over the bush and sat down facing a canal like they would have a picnic, I immediately realized they probably have business behind that bush and I have to turn around very quickly. Blooper no. 2.


Amsterdam is often referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of these canals that make up the city.

“Okay, stay positive and keep on walking. Where are the freaking street signs?!” I was looking for Vondelstraat and according to my screenshot of Google map it shouldn’t be that far from the bus stop. I realized I was walking on a loop, because I returned to the spot on the other side of the canal, opposite the “bush men” who were doing, well, I don’t know and I shouldn’t care. Thank heavens I saw a traffic aide, and a Pinay who was passing by. They pointed me to the direction of Leidseplein square, which I should have found earlier hadn’t I followed the freaking “bush men”.

I found hope when I saw night life kicking in the square. Yes! People! This is not the red-light district, just a typical place with all the restaurants, cafes, bars, night-dwellers and party-goers. I needed Internet and coffee so I went inside Starbucks. I quickly emailed Owl Hotel to inform them that I was lost and looking for their location. The barista told me there’s a nearby taxi stand, so I went there and showed the drivers my map. They just laughed at me. They said I can reach it within 3 minutes by walking. So I cheerfully walked to the direction they said.

You know what? I have always assumed I’m good at directions, that that is my strength, but probably not in Amsterdam. After 10 minutes, I found myself in a deserted street. Again. Cursing under my breath, I got my internet-less iPhone and opened Maps. The thing is, nobody told me it can track my location even though it was on Flight Mode and had no internet. I searched for Owl Hotel, and indeed it was near where I was standing.


I walked the red path after getting off at the bus stop. I probably burned 500 calories just by walking that loop. From Leidseplein, after asking probably about 10 different people for directions, somehow I still took the longer way. The next day, I found out that the blue path was the right way. You simply cross the street from the bus stop. And not follow strangers to the bush. Oh well.

To sum it up, I reached Owl Hotel at around 11pm. Welcome to Amsterdam!


Owl Hotel

The friendly Asian receptionists greeted me and handed me my room key. Apparently they are used to guests getting lost. It was my first time seeing an old elevator with manual door. Finally, I reached my room and was greeted by a lovely sight.


My freaking bed!!! And a copy of a Claude Monet art.


The room is clean, though I didn’t like the location of the bathroom and TV, the dark carpet and red curtains, but fine anyhow. I was just picky. But apart from those I really liked my room! It was a very cold night, so I turned on their radiator heater (the white metal wall below the curtains). To my non-tropical readers, I have to describe the heater because we don’t have it in the Philippines. Haha.


Cute tiny bathroom



Morning view from my window


The lobby is behind this bar



Waiting area in the lobby



So much for an introduction to the Netherlands. More shenanigans in the coming posts!


Europe 2016: From Paris with Love (Part 3)

Oct 3, 2016


On Eiffel Tower, 2nd level

Going up the Eiffel Tower was not originally planned until it was suggested by my boss while we were having lunch, days prior to my trip (Hi boss! Thanks for the idea! :D) I got back to my seat at the office and booked the Eiffel Tower tickets for Rean and me. Unfortunately, the tickets for the top (Level 3) are sold out for the duration of our Paris trip, leaving us with no choice but to go up on level 2 instead. I decided to schedule it on a Monday at lunchtime, thinking we could avoid the weekend crowds. Come October 3, we checked out from the hotel and carried our bags while walking the cobbled ways toward Eiffel Tower. We were scheduled to go up at 1PM.

There are gates around the perimeter of Eiffel Tower’s base. The security was very strict and it is understandable considering that the tower is a global icon, and that there were attacks in Paris months ago. I showed our printed tickets and the security checked our bags rather meticulously. After security, we found ourselves staring upwards.



We’re staring directly up at Level 1. It was newly renovated. That glass wall and floors were added. Unfortunately our heavy luggages limited us to go there but I highly suggest you to do so.



The queue behind is for people who didn’t book entrance tickets. So as a millennial I really suggest to book everything in advance online if possible. Also, some of them will go up the tower using stairs. Say what?!


Around 5 minutes to 1PM, the guards allowed us to enter. I was bringing my take-out coffee so I assume drinks are fine. There were queue inside, but there was a special lane for us who booked online. Again, there was security (a stricter one). They instructed to take out all electronics and put them in a tray. Pointed/sharp objects were not allowed. Really, you would think you were in an airport. But again, this is Eiffel Tower, and we can’t afford to let a terrorist ruin it.

We finally got in the elevator which moved upwards along one of Eiffel Tower’s slant legs. Hence the movement was upward diagonal. The elevator was transparent, and you can see the surroundings as well as the people who took brave decisions to take the stairs.


Seine River. I imagined poor Eponine walking along its banks while singing “On My Own”.



I seldomly saw high-rise buildings in Paris. Personally I think they ruin the view.



Can you see Les Invalides from afar?


The other half of Champ de Mars was bald but full of tourists anyway. It is where most of our shots were taken.








Can you see the bridge of Pont Alexandre III from afar? Those four pillars with the gilded statues on top..


Palais de Chaillot as seen from the other side of the tower. At its center is a small plaza known as Trocadero, another popular place where you can take your profile pic-worthy Eiffel Tower photos.


I remember the recent news about Paris making all its public transportation free for days to discourage the use of cars and therefore to lessen the pollution.



Pretty Parisian buildings.. It does look neat from the plane.


And then we went down after an hour. Bought some crepes and ice cream on the sidewalk.




Forgive my poor photography skills


And then we waited for our tour bus to take us to Printemps. I bought a two-day bus tour and this was the second day. We only rode it once that day. Bye Eiffel Tower! Til next time!



Just Parisians doing their thing… Reading books while sunbathing.


Mmm.. I smell Longchamp bags.


My officemates and friends requested me to buy their bags.. I liked the feeling of shopping even though they are not for me. LOL. The price difference is astounding when compared to their price in Manila. Le Pliage Neo (medium) here costs 140 Euros (around PHP 7300) plus tourists can get a 10-12% tax refund upon exiting Europe. A friend told me it costs PHP 13500 in Greenbelt. Say what?! Almost twice the price in Paris?! That makes for a good business huh. I’m looking at you all Instagram sellers with “luxe” in their usernames 😀 I also confidently walked inside stores in the likes of Louis Vuitton and Hermes. No one would judge you in Europe, anyway. Everyone I met was nice, even the salesmen/ladies who patiently answered all our questions and rechecked their stocks.  I checked on the prices and found out LV handbags as low as 745 Euros (around PHP 40k) which I’m pretty sure sells at PHP80k++ in Manila.


I didn’t buy any bags for myself but Rean went to the rescue. He bought me a pretty gray Le Pliage Neo (small). Yay! ❤ He also bought some for her mom and sisters.

After shopping, we processed our tax refund. A friendly Korean girl assisted us. I told her our situation that the bags were sold separately to me and Rean, but my friends’ bags were bought using his credit card. And that I would be leaving Europe alone. I would need to take all the bags with me at once when I exit Europe through Sweden, in order to declare them and properly process the refund. She gave me an envelope with all our forms and receipts, ready to be handed out to Swedish customs when I leave. Efficient!!!

We left Printemps and, even though we pretty much looked like typical Pinoy tourists with all the bags, I requested one last favor from my already annoyed Rean to walk towards Galeries Lafayette, which is a few blocks away.


I had no plans of shopping. I just want to see…


…this beauty ❤


On Level 7 rooftop


Oh, one last view of the Eiffel Tower (for now)





How come even their department stores are pretty?

And then at around 5pm we headed for the taxi to take us to Paris Orly Airport for our 930pm flight back straight to Stockholm.

Merci beaucoup, Paris! Jusqu’à la prochaine fois!

Europe 2016: From Paris with Love (Part 2)

Oct 2, 2016


Prior to the whole trip, I booked a 2-day bus tour and a 1.5-hour night tour from a bus company called L’Open Tour. I know I’m a very touristy tourist – as much as I want to be a legit Parisian by taking the public transpo such as their trains and buses, it was not the better option when we only had 2 days left to tour around – we didn’t have the luxury of time to get lost!


The tour bus in all its green glory

I recommend it for people who have very limited time but want to visit as much tourist spots as possible. There are many tour bus companies to choose from – I just chose L’Open Tour because of the price and reviews. The arrangement is pretty simple. You buy tickets online, print the confirmation page, and present it to the bus driver himself, and he will give you your actual passes with maps and earphones. Anywhere you sit, there would be an audio system in place where you can plug-in your earphones and listen to a recorded tour guide, which is available in several languages. Obviously, all tour buses should stop at major tourist spots and in our case, the nearest bus stop was the Eiffel Tower. Buses arrive every 15 minutes or so.

At around 10am that Sunday, we boarded the upper deck of the tour bus.


Kilay on fleek




Les Invalides – I only know it as the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. We didn’t get off here, and up to now I still wonder why. Probably on next visit – fingers crossed! 😀


The other side of Les Invalides. You can see some construction going on at the front.


This is on Pont Alexandre III bridge a.k.a. where Louisa Clark walked in the ending of Me Before You movie (lol typical millennial references)


The Grand Palais a.k.a. where Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2016 was held (again the references)


If there’s Grand Palais, then there’s this Le Petit Palais just across it.


Fontaine des Mers in Place de la Concorde. There’s also the Luxor Obelisk behind. I’m pretty sure I remembered the audio tour guide telling that some famous people were beheaded in this plaza (I don’t remember the names). Sorry I had sh*tty photos, there were just too many views I was so confused where to point my camera. I just gave up and inhaled the views.





I love Parisian buildings. Or probably all European buildings. Look at how uniform they are.


Academie Nationale de Musique and our bus mates


Seine River


Now we decided to get off here, because just across this…


…is the Notre Dame Cathedral! Remember Quasimodo?



It was a sunny Sunday but friggin’ cold. Just played it cool with my outfit. I have this habit of underestimating the weather.



All of a sudden people formed a line so we followed since it looked like they’re gonna go inside.


Oh my God. This is the first time I saw such an old and enormous church. Because it was Sunday, there was a mass inside and of course visitors are not allowed to take photos during the mass. There are designated areas for that. We attended the mass first (though it was in French). After that, we toured around.





A scale model of the Notre Dame Cathedral. This is the side view of the church.


A diorama showing how the church was built.








My lucky scarf did little to save me from the coldddd. It bothered me in all ways. I can’t Queen Elsa  the heck of the day.

We bought souvenirs outside the cathedral. There were plenty of stores around selling souvenirs such as t-shirts, bags, ref magnets and keychains. There were also restaurants and small stores in front of them selling baguette sandwiches and crepes. Since it was around 2pm and we haven’t had lunch yet, we bought baguette sandwiches and ate them while waiting for our tour bus.

We decided to go back to the hotel so that I can change to a more thought-of cold weather-friendly outfit, and also to drop off the things we bought.



Hello again, dearie


One does not simply pass Eiffel Tower without taking a photo of it. Even if you already have hundreds of photos of it.


Inside the tour bus




Printemps, because even department stores look fancy in Paris.


The Louvre Museum houses the most famous painting of all time – Leonardo da Vinci’s Monalisa. We didn’t go inside the museum because Rean and I share this passion of not understanding art.







Les Invalides during sunset. This was about 7pm.

With more than 2 hours to kill before our night tour which was scheduled at 945pm, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant near L’Open Tour Information Office, which was the starting point of the tour.


Inside Non Coupable restaurant and cafe. Here we see my enormous thin crust margherita pizza (but where’s the basil) and my cute espresso.


Meanwhile Rean enjoys his steak.


Just before boarding our night tour bus. We were among the first in line because we learned the hard way that in order to take good photos, you have to be seated at the very front of the bus.





Notre Dame Cathedral and Seine River at night


Paris, the City of Lights.


Arc de Triomphe at night. What a lovely sight.



Eiffel Tower view at night, from Trocadero side


“Unbelievable sight, indescribable feeling…”


Was able to catch Eiffel Tower sparkle a couple of times while we walked towards it.






Stay tuned for Part 3!

Read Part 1 here.

You can also read my posts about Europe so far:

How I Got My Schengen Visa:

Stockholm, Sweden:

Bergen, Norway:

Europe 2016: From Paris with Love (Part 1)

Or baguette, which is like the same thing.


How to pack light for a Euro-trip. Keep on repeating clothes. (Of course wash them.)

Oct 1, 2016

We left early to catch our flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. Upon arriving there at 11am, we killed some time by lounging at (where else) Starbucks while munching on croissants. Rean also bought himself a polarized Rayban, which is quite cheaper there compared to its price in Manila. At around 2pm we were seated inside the packed (and noisy) plane bound for Paris.


In Copenhagen Airport

After about 2 hours, our plane mates were still rattling on and noisy as ever. Luckily we have arrived at Paris Orly Airport. I stupidly looked for the Eiffel Tower while the plane descended, to no avail. We looked for a taxi to take us to our hotel. This was planned – taxi from Orly Airport to anywhere in central Paris costs a fixed 30 EUR, and I think the price is just fair since there were two of us. The driver was very kind and helpful and not chatty and spoke a little English which probably explains it.

We were met with a taste of Parisian traffic around 15 minutes into the route. After about less than an hour we finally arrived in Hotel de l’Alma in Rue de Exposition. This would be our home for the next 2 days.

Hotel de l’Alma

First impression: tiny. But I’ve read enough reviews so I knew what to expect. For the price of 98 EUR per night (around PHP 5300 ++) for me it’s also a steal since its location is a good walking distance from Eiffel Tower. We found the tiny elevator and looked for our room in 4th floor. The hallway was 100% dark we initially thought it was brown out or something. Rean even thought we were scammed lol. (We were paranoid about the tips we got from our friends who have been there.) Eventually we found out that the rooms were concealed behind a door that looks like it says “Staff Only” but we just assumed so. Light switches are actually in place and lights automatically turn off when no one’s around.




Upon entering our room, first impression was OLD. Older than your grandma. It’s not as fancy and shiny and bright as what you would expect a hotel room to be. To be honest, the actual place looked different from the photos. Nonetheless, it was clean and it had a TV and working heater. Everything’s functional; it just had an old feeling in it.


Eiffel Tower – The First Glance

After a little rest we decided to go to – where else, Eiffel Tower. I Google Street View-ed enough prior to the trip to know which way to walk. Upon seeing “her”, damn. Butterflies in  my stomach. Kilig to the bones. The feeling was so surreal – it was quite an emotion. I was standing right in front of *probably* the most famous tourist spot in the world. Call me foolish or corny or whatever, but you know, Eiffel Tower is pretty in pictures, nothing fancy. However, seeing it in person is a whole new level of awesome. We literally took hundreds of pictures as we walk closer to it.


I sometimes wonder how I ended up with a good looking boyfriend. I can’t help it, he’s too clingy. LOL

Even though half of Champ de Mars was not green at that time because of some on-going maintenance, and the sky was gray, the moment wasn’t spoiled at all. I was still giggling at the sight of it, smiling from ear to ear as we walk nearer.


The dry and dusty grounds of Champ de Mars

It was quite a rainy Saturday afternoon but minutes later the weather gave way for a beautiful sunset. We were lucky since it started getting dark at around 730pm, giving us more day time. We walked some more and took photos and ate crepes from a nearby vendor. Understandably, there were many people – tourists and vendors alike.

We were even scammed for a stem of rose while taking selfies lol. I didn’t know why I took the rose from the vendor despite knowing we would pay for it. All I knew, I was holding my camera, the next moment I was holding the rose lol. He was so persistent that Rean just gave up and gave the man a 2 EUR coin. The man was protesting for 3 EUR but he eventually left when we totally ignored him. Sorry but Paris is full of them – street vendors selling stuff, especially around Eiffel Tower. Just ignore them and buy souvenirs from proper stores.


I became clingy to Eiffel Tower that I got sad when Rean suggested to go back to the hotel. Honestly the day was full of commutes (what with the connecting flight and traffic) it was really kind of tiring. We walked back and bought water, coffee and snacks from a grocery store along the way.


Just a beautiful Parisian building that turned golden at sunset



The hotel’s vicinity is comprised of quaint little corner restaurants, bakeries and stores selling fruits and other goods. We found ourselves looking at the menu outside one of the corner restaurants by the name of Le Petit Caillou. I confidently asked the attendant at the bar whether they have burger lol. Sometimes I tend to be unnecessarily awkward and stupid. Anyway, we were seated and being handed the menu. I had mussels in white wine sauce with a side of ratatouille; Rean had burger with mashed potato (weird) and Orangina soda (like our Royal Tru Orange). They gave us free house fries! Yay.


After our scrumptious and legit French AF dinner in a legit French AF restaurant, we headed back to our hotel, quite early as one wouldn’t expect tourists to be. But the thing millennials like us often forget is that sometimes, when you’re on a vacation you need to rest. LOL. That’s so ironic. We gave a different meaning to travel. Nowadays it means exhausting our bodies by going to as many places as possible in a short period of time. Oh well.

Stay tuned for Part 2!