Philippines in 7 Days (or less)

 

It was a three week vacation, but because we had to  fit in  Hong kong and Indonesia, the time literally spent in the Philippines got  trimmed down to a week..

So here’s a list of activities that what we did in a week in Pinas.Next blog posts will be the time spent in Bali and Hongkong.

1. visited the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene known canonically as Parish of Saint John the Baptist, and also known as the Quiapo Church

We were warned not to visit it on a Friday or Quiapo Day. For lack of time, we had no choice but to visit it on a  Friday. The car trip from Parañaque to Quiapo, Manila took more than 2 hours because of heavy traffic along Roxas Blvd.  on a high noon, we braved the thick crowd, heat and humidity just to get to the church. Love the wonderful and colorful religious products sold by different vendors outside the church though. Great place to get religious articles  like rosary, and santo ninos,love the  fresh sampaguita and ylang ylang garlands which perfumed the car for at least a week , even fans, clothing and other household stuff. We lit a candle and offered prayers for some special intentions. Why Quiapo church? we thought it was quintessentially Filipino,  and we wanted the kids to see that.

2. next, we stopped at the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat

A nice follow up to our visit of the Our Lady Of Montserrat in Barcelona last April and because we said our I do’s here. This time we visited it with the kids. The ceiling is still amazing!

We bought a few of the St Benedict’s Medal to bring home to the US as pasalubongs to family. While we were waiting for our St Benedict medal  to be blessed, we chanced  upon Vince’s high school Principal , Father Narciso (and it became a  reunion of sorts) which    made  our visit more special . He showed us the special part of the monastery where Benedictine monks and priests  are buried.

3. passed by San Beda College

Vince’s high school alma mater. It used to be a high school for boys . Now it only offers college degree courses.

4. and because we were in the hood, we visited Vince’s old house in Sampaloc.

 

5. spent a weekend in the Southeastern part of the Philippines, Butuan City.

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Barcelona in Three Days

 

We will be back! for sure. A quick tour of this beautiful region in Spain and three days is never enough to explore this city. I lost my cellphone to a pickpocket in Barcelona, but even that is negligible compared to the wonderful experience we had there.

We took the late night flight from Marrakech, so we arrived Barcelona’s  El Prat  at around 2 in the morning. Utilizing the not so comfy airport benches, we tried to catch some zzz’s while we waited for the car rental to open at 6:00  in the morning. It was uncomfortable, but it was one of those money saving efforts we did for this trip. We rented a car via Costco for 2 days which cost us 27 euros per day, saved us a hotel cost for a night and allowed us to visit other places in the Catalunia region at our own pace.

First stop so early in the morning was the beautiful city of  Tarragona.

The Castle of Altafulla or Castell dels Montserrat is a castle palace of the Tarragonès dating from 1059 . It is not open for public viewing.

Esglesia de Sant Marti d’ Altafulia is built between 1701 to 1705

Clear skies with a few clouds,a gorgeous view of  the Mediterranean sea from the Tarragona amphitheater ruins, a plate of black seafood paella and just walking aimlessly in the the alleys of the city square was our idea of a good time.

Tarragona Amphitheater

Tarraco Arena Placa

Pont del Diable

After devouring that delicious black seafood paella, we headed back to Barcelona to prepare for our most awaited activity of the night. We really worked hard to get tickets for this game and even cancelled our booking in Cadaques just to watch Messi and the FC Barcelona play against Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou. Every night we checked the website for ticket availability. Finally got a couple of tickets  2 days before the match. This is when I lost my cellphone in the train (we took the train from our hotel so we didn’t have to worry about parking, etc) and DSLR battery died! Photos here are from the Iphone but I’m glad we decided to watch them.  Just being in the crowd of passionate soccer fans, joining them sing and cheer for Barca, hearing the curses and praises; that was a great once in a lifetime experience.

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Four Days In Marrakesh

It was supposed to be just Barcelona and other parts of Northeastern Spain, but upon learning that the plane fare from Barcelona is the same price going to Seville,  we decided to add Marrakech  to our itinerary. It cost 231 euros for  2 people which included a 23 kg baggage allowance on the way back via Vuelling airlines. We arranged for a transport service to pick us up at the airport and bring us  to our riad  which cost 15 euros. Our flight was scheduled late in the afternoon  so we arrived in Marrakesh around 10:00 pm. Without this pre-arranged pick up, We’d probably get lost as our riad was located near Jemaa el-Fnaa. It was great to see it at night though, a nice way to start our Moroccan adventure.

Lots of trust and faith here. We were dropped off by the taxi driver near the old square as it can’t pass through the alleys and narrow roads. This guy from the riad picked us up from the drop off point and accompanied us to Riad Tasneem. It was  a good 10 minute walk.

We booked Riad Tasneem via Airbnb for 64 euros. I loved  the design of tiles on the walls.

Early morning view from the rooftop. The weather was perfect during our time here. Mostly cloudy with a few minutes of rain occasionally which  was just right, to cool us down. Locals said that in summer, it’s terribly warm.

We started Day 1 early to meet up with our tour group. We booked a 3 day tour to Merzouga  with Go Adventures Morocco.  Abdel is a sweet and attentive tour guide. The 3 day Merzouga semi private  tour is all inclusive (transportation, accomodation and meals) at $175 per person. He also provided us with scarves and a local sim card. Though our mobile company provided a free data roaming service, the local sim card was quite fast and efficient.

Ait Benhaddou

A UNESCO World Heritage site; it  is a village located between the old caravan route of Sahara and Marrakech. A lot of great movies were filmed here, Gladiator, Prince of Persia, Alexander, etc.  It was also featured as the city of Yunkai in the season 3 of Game of Thrones. Love the pop of vivid colors from the different merchandise sold by local artisans.

Gorges Du Dades

What a sight! The Gorges du Dades are a series of rugged gorges carved out by the Dades River in Morocco which originates in the High Atlas range of the Atlas Mountains.

We spent the night at at  Hotel La Gazelle which is located near the gorges.

A Berber Village

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