Day 15: À bientôt, Paris!

(September 25, 2016, Sunday) Good thing our third and last Airbnb flat in Paris was close to the Eiffel Tower. On our last day in the French capital, I walked from our flat to the tower to take a last look at it.

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Last picture. For 2016. I hope to be back soon.

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Day 14: Eiffel Tower is prettier when you’re with family

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2016

It was a dream come true for me when I set foot on Paris for the first time in 2009.

Was I happy? Of course! But I must say that I wasn’t totally happy. I realized then that it wasn’t enough to follow your dreams. It was something akin to “success is nothing without someone you love to share it with.”

I told myself while I was marveling at the beauty of the Eiffel Tower that one day, my mom would lay her eyes on Paris’ Iron Lady. Seven years later, it did happen. (Day view of Eiffel Tower, Arch of Triumph)

(September 24, 2016, Saturday) Today’s our last full day in Paris. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Ticket price to the summit was 17 euros per person.

Views from the top:

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Shadow of the Eiffel Tower:

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A short history of France’s most famous landmark:

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Back to the ground:

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Day 13: Can’t take my mind off Marie Antoinette at Palace of Versailles

(September 23, 2016, Friday) Today we went to the Palace of Versailles or Château de Versailles, located on the outskirts of Paris.

While at the palace all I could think of was that it symbolized the ostentatious lifestyle of the French monarchy at a time when the people were suffering. The people were so enraged that, eventually, they beheaded Queen Marie Antoinette near the end of the 18th century.

Entrance ticket

I don’t think it’s possible to explore the entire palace in a day without your legs killing you. So unless you’ve competed in an Olympic Marathon (and won a bronze medal, at least), I suggest you visit the Hall of Mirrors first, the central gallery of the palace. For me, it’s the essence of the Palace of Versailles.

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Palace facade:

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With my mom

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Day 12: Paris’ La Defense has lowest density of selfie sticks

(September 22, 2016, Thursday) We had been crisscrossing Europe for the past six days, with the entire family visiting Brussels, Geneva and Barcelona, and yours truly traveling solo in Rome/Vatican City and Amsterdam.

It was fun but we all had to rest at some point. That was what we did today. We also had to transfer to a different Airbnb flat today so the itinerary was pretty empty.

But before leaving for the new flat, which was closer to the Eiffel Tower, I went to Paris’ business district called La Defense.

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When I was there I felt that I was the only tourist, and all the other people were busy going about with their daily routines. I was the only one holding a selfie stick. It was a breath of fresh air in one of the most visited cities in the world.

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La Defense’s most prominent feature, the Grande Arche, was under renovation at that time. Of course because of that I wasn’t satisfied with the picture, but I was still happy to see that side of Paris that I hadn’t seen before.

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Day 11: Saw Sagrada Familia because of short stopover in Barcelona

(September 21, 2016, Wednesday) Today we flew back to Paris after an overnight stay in Geneva, Switzerland.

It wasn’t a direct flight though – we had an almost six-hour layover in Barcelona, Spain.

(Click on the lines to view flight details. Total fare for three adults was 185.34 euros.)

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We didn’t have the luxury of time, so from the airport we went straight to Sagrada Familia.

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With my mom

Sagrada Familia, designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, is still under construction. Despite this, the church is already the most iconic attraction in the city. The 0-euro souvenir banknote below lumps the unfinished structure together with other famous landmarks in Europe: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Manneken Pis in Brussels, the Colosseum in Rome, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Big Ben in London. Oh, this reminds me that I’ve never been to England. The Big Ben is the only one with no hyperlink to any of my blog posts. Anyway that’s another matter.

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Souvenir banknote

Maybe Sagrada Familia’s unfinished state adds to its allure. For a visitor like me, scaffolding on any attraction is a nightmare. But in the case of Sagrada Familia, I liked the scaffolding precisely because it’s not yet finished.

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Day 10: Jet d’Eau water fountain in Geneva, Switzerland is one of a kind

(September 20, 2016, Tuesday) Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Rome has the Colosseum and Geneva, Switzerland has the Jet d’Eau water fountain.

The attractions are the same in the sense that all of them are the iconic landmarks in their respective cities.

But Jet d’Eau, which literally means “water jet,” is a bit different. Unlike the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum, the water fountain is impermanent. It’s not always there (Please read post written on the day when we went to Geneva: I thought I wouldn’t see Jet d’eau Water Fountain in Geneva, Switzerland).

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… now you do!

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From Paris

The Jet d’Eau water fountain wasn’t the first attraction that we visited in Geneva. It was Parc des Bastions or Bastions Park, where people can play chess using giant chess boards:

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Pic below shows a chess game where white is winning. Rook against a queen? Tough. Add to that the two queening pawns. White is an idiot if it loses this game.

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I was named after a chess player.

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Not far from the giant chess boards, and still within the park, is the Reformation Wall:

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I like this park. I didn’t see couples making out.

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The next destination was the Jet d’Eau water fountain on Lake Geneva. You can find the flower clock in the vicinity:

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Day 9: Left Amsterdam to be an excursionist in Brussels; then returned to Paris

(September 19, 2016, Monday) I explored Amsterdam in the morning before having breakfast in the hotel. My first stop was Koninklijk Paleis:

Oude Kerk or Old Church:

Houses and canal:

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Amsterdam’s Centraal station:

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I returned to the hotel to have breakfast. It wasn’t included in the room price so I paid 6.80 euros for it.

Then I went to the museum.

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I paid 910.72 Philippine pesos for an e-ticket for the Rijksmuseum on July 25, 2016. The ticket says: “To avoid the crowds plan your visit before 11 am or after 2 pm.” With or without that advice, I really had to be there before 11 AM because it’s the check-out time at the hotel.

The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn. The tour guide (I was a hanger-on) said that the painting was revolutionary at that time (1642) because it depicted action; it wasn’t stationary.

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The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. A different tour guide (again I was a hanger-on) said that the basket on the upper left corner of the painting (1658) shows that there is no house without mice. The object on the lower right corner is used to warm the body up until the waist.

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Facade of the Rijksmuseum:

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I returned to the hotel after visiting Rijksmuseum. I left my room at exactly 11 AM and headed straight to the Centraal station to catch the train that would take me to Brussels, Belgium. There I would be reunited with my mom and sister, who had been in Stockholm, Sweden.

On Thalys train from 12:17 PM to 2:08 PM. Fare was 29 euros. (The route shown below may or may not be the one taken by Thalys)

We went to the Atomium after the “reunion” at the train station in Brussels.

Left: With my mom; Right: My sister.

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And then we went to the Grand Place, where we would part ways for a few hours.

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Hotel de Ville:

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I explored the rest of Brussels on my own. Below is Manneken Pis, probably the most iconic attraction in all of Belgium.

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Below is the triumphal arch at the Parc du Cinquantenaire. It’s far from Manneken Pis; and I got lost looking for the other attractions in my list, such as Palais Royal and the headquarters of the European Union. I lost the map I had bought for 1 euro at Grand Place.

It was time to reunite with my family and to return to Paris, France.

On Thalys train with my family from 8:43 PM to 10:05 PM. Fare was also 29 euros. (Again, the route shown below may or may not be the one taken by Thalys)

Day 8: Here I am, Amsterdam!

(September 18, 2016, Sunday) Compared to the Paris to Rome journey two days ago, the Rome to Amsterdam flight was a breeze.

I left the hotel in Rome then walked towards the Ottaviano station of Rome Metro. Good thing I still have the ticket (below). Fare was 1.50 euros and I used the ticket at 5:50 AM.

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My next destination was Termini or the central station. I bought a ticket there that would take me to Fiumicino Airport. Fare was 14 euros.

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I paid 4,199.33 Philippine pesos for the one-way Rome to Amsterdam flight.vueling

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Amsterdam
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Going to Amsterdam’s Centraal station

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amsterdam-ticket

The best ticket ever! Unlimited train rides in the city for 24 hours for just 7.50 euros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Above: View from the balcony of my hotel room in Amsterdam)

I wanted to stay longer in the hotel to rest but I had limited time in Amsterdam. I’d go to Zaanse Schans, a place just outside Amsterdam proper that is home to lots of windmills.

Here are the online articles (not  mine) that I used to help me find my way to Zaanse Schans:

http://mikestravelguide.com/the-easiest-way-to-get-from-amsterdam-central-station-to-zaanse-schans/

http://readypackgo.net/how-to-get-to-zaanse-schans-from-amsterdam-centraal/

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Going to back to Amsterdam:

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Museum of Prostitution: Red Light Secrets

Entrance ticket is worth 10 euros, but you can find vouchers in practically all touristy areas in Amsterdam that give 2-euro discounts.

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The Old Church or Oude Kerk as viewed from the red light district. The only church I’ve ever seen that is located at a red light district.

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I didn’t want to be in the red light district at night so I returned to the hotel before sunset. Besides I had to rest for a while again before going on a night cruise.

I booked online and paid 21 dollars on July 25, 2016. Then when I was actually already in Amsterdam, I exchanged the voucher for the ticket below that shows 0 euro.

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Day 7: Roamed the streets of Rome

(September 17, 2016, Saturday) My itinerary was jam-packed because today’s my first (and only) whole day in Rome, Italy.

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Hotel breakfast. And props

The hotel employee told me that it was a typical Italian breakfast.

This breakfast gave me the energy to roam the streets of the Eternal City.

 

 

Inside the Colosseum, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Sorry I keep saying that wonders thing, but the Colosseum was really a sight to behold. It’s the second Wonder of the World that I’ve seen, the first being the Great Wall of China.

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Arch of Constantine, just outside of the Colosseum

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The Pyramid of Cestius; on the right is Porta San Paolo. This place was a bit far from the touristy areas in Rome. Thus, it wasn’t crowded. Great success! For me.

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Spanish Steps

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which site is the most crowded of them all? Trevi Fountain!

Maybe it’s because of the legend that you will definitely return to Rome if you toss a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder. I wasn’t sure if I did it correctly – I was more concerned with taking pictures and making sure that I wouldn’t lose any of my belongings and wouldn’t literally step on someone’s toes.
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wp-1486373633006.jpgIt took lots of effort and “excuse me’s” to get close to the fountain… and to get away from it.

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wp-image-1484466332jpg.jpgI got lost while looking for a subway station. Exhausted and craving for something sweet and cold, I ate gelato.

I was wearing an immaculate white shirt at that time. Because of the gelato, the shirt was no longer spotlessly white.

So the next destination for me was my hotel room – for a “costume change.”

After resting for a while and changing my shirt, I walked from the hotel to Vatican City. Yup, it’s very near.

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Swiss Guard
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Inside St. Peter’s Basilica

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Swiss Guards. Pic is kinda grainy because I couldn’t get close to them. I wouldn’t dare.

wp-image-386832910jpg.jpgHotel just outside the Vatican. This wasn’t my hotel, but I thought its guests were quite lucky because all they had to do was get out of it to see St. Peter’s Square.

I returned to the Colosseum to take night view pictures.

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This was the highlight of my stay in Rome – eating spaghetti with meatballs just across the Colosseum. It’s 100% Italian, 100% Roman. From the point of view of a tourist like me.

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St. Peter’s Square at night.
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St. Peter’s Square at night. Sans my face.

Day 6: Flew from Paris to Rome; Saw Vatican City and Colosseum

(September 16, 2016, Friday) The journey from Paris to Rome deserves its own blog post because it was so stressful – I almost missed the flight. This was a really loooong day for me.

For purposes of brevity, therefore, this post only contains the highlights of today’s activities:

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St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
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Colosseum in Rome, Italy – one of the 7 Wonders of the World
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Vatican Museums