Amsterdam

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The first rule of travel is to find all your happiness and adventure wherever you happen to be — Pico Iyer 

Hello, Tuesday. I’ve got so many phone calls to make, but nothing I can’t handle. 🙂 I came across this wonderful quote from the writer of one of my favorite travel essays, and I felt like digging up photos from last year’s trip.

Spent only two days in Amsterdam, but made the most out of it! Such a colorful city, and everyone is just happy. Haha. I vow to return someday, like I always do.

The Ultimate Destination Wedding (Part 1)

The Ultimate Destination Wedding = Most Epic Wedding of 2011!

When my sister got engaged last December, my first question was “Does that mean we’re all going to Turkey for the wedding?!” When they finally confirmed that we were indeed flying out to Turkey, I got excited. Even more so when my brother-in-law emailed us our itinerary which included traditional bridal Turkish bath, Henna night, and a side trip to Ephesus with the entire wedding party!

We arrived a week early, and explored the lovely city of Izmir. Izmir is an hour by plane from Istanbul and sits along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in the Karsiyaka side most of the time, but crossed the sea by ferry to explore Alsancak and Konak too.

I love the laidback vibe of Izmir. I think any city beside the sea (or a body of ocean) moves at less hectic pace (oh no, wait–I take it back. Manila Bay doesn’t elicit the same feeling haha) leaves you with a calmer and happier state of mind.

Getting around the city was easy since their transportation system is organized, efficient, and friendly–there were mini buses, ferries, and cabs ready to take you wherever you need to go. You just have to struggle a bit because not a lot of people speak English here so gestures and addresses on hand are must-haves. Since this is not a very touristy place, you’ll feel less paranoid about being scammed into tourist traps and the locals are actually surprised and happy to see foreigners around town. Yep, take it from the only Asians who were in town that week.

The only problem I encountered here was the weather, simply because I didn’t pack enough clothes for a sunny trip. My suitcase was filled with fall/winter stuff thinking that summer was about to go away but I was wrong! Good thing shopping in Izmir was also FUN (hello Mango outlet!).

Next up: the hamam!

This is Why I’m Fat: Turkish edition

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Two weeks in Turkey ended with my jeans crying out for help.

First meal upon arriving in Izmir was at my sister’s in-laws’ house. Her mother-in-law made us an amazing dinner of traditional Turkish dishes–stuffed green peppers, steamed rice in grape leaves, kofte, and my new favorite–chicken with walnuts or Cerkez Tavugu. Not sure if it was meant to be an appetizer but it makes for a great meal when paired with bread.

Of course, we had the best of everything from Izmir and Istanbul. My brother-in-law made sure we had shawarma (WAY different than how we know shawarma in the Philippines), Turkish kebab, medye (which is a nice snack made up of mussels and rice MUSSELS!), fresh fish, their version of pizza called Lahmacun (really thin crust “pizza”–just meat and cheese that you roll with arugula and tomatoes), coffee, Turkish ice cream (with the matching “magic show”) and what Yigit calls “the best burger in Istanbul” over at Kizilkayalar in Taksim Square. The best burger was actually a wet burger with a tasty patty inside soft bread dipped in tomato sauce and heated on the oven before serving. Don’t believe me? Ask Anthony Bourdain.

Man I miss Turkey. I’m getting really hungry now.

Making Boards

Made a travel board last year to inspire to go to places I’ve always wanted to go or want to go back again. It’s saved in my computer as “2010-2012 Travel Board” and I printed a copy to put in my notebook.

Happy to say, I’ve gotten at least 2 down already! I made without any battle plans. My sister got me into this practice of creating inspiration boards to get me motivated to go after the things I want to do. I’ve saved images, printed them, cut out magazines, and tucked it away in a small notebook I keep near my bed. I thought this was kind of cheesy before, but I guess to some point it works and now I’m obsessed with Pinterest! 🙂

Invader Spotting!

I need to sort through 4000 photos from my month-long trip (plus edit photos from my sister’s wedding) on top of work and just getting back into the daily grind. I have a lot of stories to share (and photos, of course!), but first–the Invader sightings!

My first encounter with Invader was in Exit Through the Gift Shop (which you should see, by the way). Stuck in traffic on our way to Taksim Square from the airport, I saw a small burst of color against the stone walls. I was too excited I forgot to zoom in:

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I didn’t see any in Amsterdam, but in Paris, while making our way to the Notre Dame from the metro, I saw another one:

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Another one in Paris:

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In Blois, France:

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Gotic Quarter, Barcelona:

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When in Rome:

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And the biggest one at the Vatican:

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Lucky! I guess it wasn’t that hard because according to Wiki he puts these up in places where there are lots of people. It felt like a treasure hunt!
More on the trip soon 🙂

If These Walls Could Talk

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Intramuros is the oldest district of the present day city of Manila, the capital of the Republic of the Philippines. Nicknamed the “Walled City”, Intramuros is the historic fortified city of Manila during the Spanish Colonial Period. Located then along Manila Bay and south of the mouth of Pasig River, its thick defensive walls were built by the Spaniards in the 16th century to protect the city from invasion. Its name in Spanish, intramuros, literally “within the walls”, meaning a city enclosed by thick, high walls and surrounded by moats. (Source: Wikipedia)

I admit, my memory of Philippine History is a bit blotchy. I know the dates of important events, the highlights, some of the people, but if you ask me to piece it together and make a story I would have to map it out and find the proper way of connecting it altogether. In other words, I would suck. Thank goodness for people like Carlos Celdran who organizes awesome walking tours and gives you a theatrical, informative, and memorable tour of Manila.