Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dad's Review - Bose Quiet Comfort 25

When my Blaupunkt Noise Cancelling headphone went kaput due to broken plastic frame after several years of rigorous use I decided to purchase one of the best noise cancelling headphones in the market at that time.

I chose Bose Quiet Comfort 25 over the ear headphone due to good reviews by several known tech blogs; I didn't regret my decision until a few months back.

Enclosure

Folded headphone

Upon connecting my new Bose headphone to my ever dependable Sony Walkman, immediately I realized this headphone is a class of its own. When I played some of my “Rock favorites” I noticed several musical instruments being played which I never heard before using my previous (Sony, Philips and Blaupunkt) headphones. It was a momentous event for any music lovers to hear his favorite songs crystal clear and with added bass though I can say that other Bose headphone models can give stronger bass minus the noise cancelling function; I tested various Bose headphones at their Trinoma show room. Moreover, my Bose performs better than Emirates Airlines business class noise cancelling headphone.

One main drawback is the lack of rechargeable battery. Nevertheless, a single AAA battery would  last for around 20 hours of continuous use. Enough to last for round trip between Manila and my job site somewhere in Africa; you can still use the headset even if the battery run out of juice but degradation of audio output is noticeable.

For a frequent traveller like me, I am working in a monthly rotational basis, I need a good headphone with noise cancelling function to suppress the plane's engine noise especially during long haul flight. This function can easily determine whether I would have a good sleep during a 12 hour flight. With Bose headphone, I must admit that its noise suppression or cancelling function is better than my previous Blaupunkt headphone and my Sony Walkman’s earphone with built-in noise cancelling though I must admit that I haven’t tried other known headphone brands with noise cancelling function.

Quiet Comfort 25 comes with a hardened pouch which is great especially during travelling. It was pretty convenient to just throw the pouch to your luggage or bag. It also comes with an adaptor for airplane’s dual audio connector.

I bought my Bose headphone from Bose outlet in Trinoma Mall in December 2015 as Christmas gift to myself. It costs 20,000 pesos or around 400$. To be honest, the local price was quite expensive compared to its price abroad.

After more than a year of blissful use I started to notice small cracks appearing on both right and left cushions. The soft leather like material started disintegrating and even clinging to my ears after each use. Lately, both of its foam pads came out from their faux leather enclosure. This is the first time I have encountered such incident in all of my previous headphones.

Both foam pads came out

Looks frightening isn't it?

I complained to Bose Service Center at Greenhills, Metro Manila. The service guy told me to bring out the headphone from its pouch from time to time to prevent this problem from occurring again. He added that my Bose headphone was manufactured in a cold country thus when used for long period of time in a tropics country like Philippines it is expected to deteriorate. Okay, how about Bose replacement cushions being sold in UK and US? Those are cold countries aren’t they?

Come on guys! Even those Chinese made headphones that can be bought at CD-R King for a song didn’t manifest this kind of problem for short period of time. In fact, if I'd count the number of hours I have used this headphone, it won’t reach one full month since as I have mentioned earlier I am using this headphone while travelling only.

Anyway, since the headphone is still functional I decided to purchase a new pair of cushion for 1,900 PHP or around 37 $. The damaged cushions were replaced in a couple of minutes.

Hence, next time I’ll encounter the same problem perhaps I’ll try to purchase another good but cheaper headphone instead of constantly paying 37$ for replacement cushions.

 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The place to be in Rome - The Colloseum

If you are in Rome, this is the place to be.

Within Rome City are numerous historical and magnificent Piazzas, Fontanas and medieval structures but Colloseum obviously outshines them all. Upon seeing how massive this centuries old amphitheatre the wife and I were lost for words because amidst the modern and bustling city is a magnificent structure that withstood the test of time. Once inside you couldn’t help but imagine how the ancient Romans have entertain themselves with brutal games; this is the place where gladiators have fought and hunts wild animals.

We bought admission vouchers online for 16 Euro per person so as to “skip the line” of tourists entering this place. The ticket includes access to “The Roman Forum” and “Palatine Hills” within two days. After the security check you have to exchange your vouchers to admission tickets before you’d be allowed to enter the actual place.

Having read on internet that due to security and safety reasons they are limiting the visitors inside up to 3000 only at the same time so we decided to reserve our visit at 9 am. As expected, there are less queues during early morning and those with reserved tickets enter a different security gate; after passing the security we proceeded to the reservation counters to exchange our vouchers into admission tickets. However, since it wasn’t 9 O’clock yet the turnstile didn’t bulge when our tickets were scanned thus we were asked to wait for another couple of minutes. There were other people waiting with us.  






Arco De Constantino

There are two levels inside the Coloseum. We explored both levels inside and had a great view of “Arco De Constantino.” Unfortunately, the Arena area was off limits.

"The Forum" view from Colloseum

The "Palatine Hills" view from "The Forum"



Temple under renovation at "The Roman Forum"

After more than an hour we searched for the exit and proceeded to adjacent ‘Palatine Hills” and “Roman Forum.” At "The Roman Forum" you’d find ruins of several ancient temples and structures while going up the Palatine Hills will give you a majestic view of surrounding area.

Nasoni

Having seen the different Piazzas, Fontanas and the Pantheon the wife opted to have some rest under the shade while I strolled up the "Palatine Hills." Soon after, I coerced the wife to explore "The Roman Forum." Doing so, we noticed a “Nasoni” or free flowing drinking water fountain. At first, the wife was hesitant to refill our empty water bottle but upon seeing a couple of police personnel drinking directly from it we filled our bottles with refreshingly cold water.  

We couldn’t believe that we have visited this magnificent monument. The entire place could give you a window on how the ancient Romans have lived.

We left the place before noon; summer in Rome is quite unbearably hot compared with Paris. We took a taxi to return back to our hotel.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Louvre Museum because Paris is not only the Eiffel Tower

If there is a “must visit” place for any first timers in Paris aside from Eiffel Tower that is Louvre Museum. It rivals the Eiffel Tower in terms of importance in French’s tourism industry and history if I may say so.

According to our Seine River tour guide, if you’d spend 3 seconds looking on each art piece in Louvre it will take you 33 days to see them all. That is how massive Louvre’s collections.

Taking the Metro, we arrived at 8:30 am and waited outside the glass pyramid for the gate to open; yup, that is one of the entrances. There is a separate queue for those who have Paris Museum Pass (PMP) but all these queues are for security check only. Once inside there is no need to acquire or buy a ticket, just show your PMP and off you go to Mona Lisa, LOL.

Mona Lisa

Guided Tour inside the Mona Lisa room
After securing a free map we followed throngs of early birds racing towards the location of Mona Lisa. We were lucky that the crowds haven’t arrived yet thus we had an unobstructed view of Louvre’s biggest attraction. I have been informed that Mona Lisa has been transferred to this room recently. By the way, selfie stick is not allowed inside. After having a selfie with “M” I was politely reminded by a security staff that selfie stick is not allowed.

Wall size painting

Egyptian artefact

Pieta

Another Pieta

After the Mona Lisa, the wife and I just strolled inside guided by the free map. We are not art lovers nor art fanboys but we cannot help but marvelled on those countless masterpieces and artworks. It was a never ending paintings, statues, figurines, antiques, artefacts and so on and so forth. It was an art overload for our brains.




We explored the place in our own pace; that is the advantage if you don’t join any tour group. We visited each nook and corner of Louvre; sometimes we were alone in one room while in other places the crowds were suffocating especially when members of tour groups are vying to take photos of an art piece that has an interesting story as narrated by their tour guide. I wonder whether they would still remember the story after their trip in Paris.





Massive rooms and high ceiling hallways are the norms inside Louvre but there are also rooms that look like cellar or basement. Without the free map and exit signs, you can easily get lost.

Remembering those warnings on net about pickpockets in Louvre I kept on checking my wallet and bags whenever the crowds start to become unbearable. Nevertheless, nothing untoward happened; the wife and I felt secured inside even if we found ourselves alone in a certain room due to numerous CCTVs and security staffs posted in many places.

Underneath the glass pyramid connecting to Carrousel de Louvre mall

After more than three hours we called it a day. We bought some souvenirs and left Louvre through Carrousel de Louvre, an underground shopping mall connected beneath Louvre's glass pyramid. To make our visit more memorable I bought the wife an Eiffel charm for her bracelet at Pandora shop in CDL. I could sense her overwhelming joy since she had  mentioned to me once about this kind of charm before we flew to Paris. Don't fret guys if you don't understand this "charm," it is a magical word that could appease any Pandora's ladies. Google Pandora's charm and you'd know what I mean, LOL.

Just to add, you can also enter Louvre through this mall to avoid the long queues outside the glass pyramid. 

Less queue outside the glass pyramid - 

I can say that visiting Louvre at the end of August/summer in Paris is ideal since there are less crowds and tourists. The weather is also perfect, chilly in the morning and evening while moderate during daytime.

With my Mona Lisa



Visiting Louvre is one of our ardent dreams; seeing and admiring its unparalleled collections made our dreams more meaningful. Of course, the Eiffel charm as well.






Monday, September 25, 2017

Explore Florence in one day

Florence or Firenze is not actually included in our Rome trip itinerary. It so happens that we have one remaining free day in Rome before our flight back to Paris.

During a friendly chat with our Filipino housekeeper in our hotel, Chic&Town, he suggested that we could visit Florence and Pisa for one day.

Within hours I booked an online round trip train tickets from Roma Tiburitini to Florence at GoEuro website. In short, we set foot at Florence the following day; we left Roma Tiburtina train station at 5:53 am and arrived at Firenze Santa Maria Novella at 7:17 am. It took more than one hour for Italo fast train to reach Florence at top speed of 260 kph. Upon arrival at Florence train station, we purchased return train tickets for our later visit to Pisa.

Baptistery in front of the cathedral
Duomo
Horse carriage at Piazza del Duomo

A couple of kilometers from the train station is its most famous landmark and part of UNESCO World Heritage Site, “Piazza del Duomo” which includes the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Baptistery and Campanille. From here we strolled up to Palazzo Pitti passing through Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of all bridges crossing river Arno, with a coffee break at Piazza della Signora.

The centuries old gothic Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. Its exterior is covered with marble panels of varying shades. Upon setting our eyesight on this unique building the wife and I were speechless for some time. At first the structure seemed like a caricature or drawing; its uniqueness was simply indescribable. 

Piazza della Signora

We walked around the cathedral searching for its entrance but we were too early, the cathedral was still closed so we searched for Ponte Vecchio. From here we reached Piazza della Signora after a couple of minutes of strolling; we had a coffee break and searched Google maps on how to reach Ponte Vecchio. This is our way of connecting to the internet in case we need to find the correct path to our destination, have a coffee and at the same time take some rest.

Love locks at Ponte Vecchio

River Arno
Jewelry shops

In no time at all we reached Ponte Vecchio. It is simply an old bridge crossing river Arno. Aside from the open space at the center the entire bridge is like a jewelry souk or market since jewelry shops lined both sidewalks of the bridge. You would notice also some love locks at Ponte Vecchio.

Palazzo Pitti

Garden at the back of Palazzo Pitti

INSIDE THE MUSEUM



Victor Hugo

From this bridge we followed the main road until we reached Palazzo Pitti. We bought entrance tickets and explore the four museums inside; the garden at the back requires separate tickets. Though we have visited Louvre and Orsay in Paris, we find these museums still worth visiting; there are several famous painters and artists from Tuscany region where Florence belongs. We spent more than two hours exploring the place before we decided to return back to the train station to have our lunch and wait for our train trip to Pisa.

Mercato del Porcellino

On our way back to the train station we passed again at Ponte Vecchio but this time we chose a different route, we passed at Mercato del Porcellino, a 16th century covered market building. Most of the merchandises being sold here are leather goods thus even when your eyes are close you’d know that there are plenty of leather materials around due to its distinct smell. The wife’s eyes started exploring so I reminded her that we have a train to catch, LOL.



Florence is a walkable town. With Google map as our guide we were able to visit their famous landmarks and buildings on foot. When you get lost in Florence, just go with the flow of tourists and chances are you’ll end up at the place you are searching.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dad's Review - Paris Museum pass

Having no time to book online and collect Paris Museum Pass (PMP) from their airport and city outlets we opted to purchase it ourselves from Galeries Lafayette (GL) since we would be staying at Champs Elysees area. GL is just a couple of kilometres away from our hotel.

Hence, upon arrival at the hotel we trekked towards Galeries Lafayette. Unbeknownst to us, there are three Galleries Lafayette buildings within the area, one for men, the other is for women and the third if I am not mistaken is a general department store. Long story short, we got our PMP from the tourist information counter at Galeries Lafayette Men’s building for 96 Euro (2 sets). The pass contains flyers showing the list of places you can visit within the validity period.

For complete details visit PMP official website: parismuseumpass



PMP covers your entrance fee to many Museums and tourist sites in and out of Paris City. You can purchase a 2-day, 4-day or 6-day pass. Validity period commences on the day you start using your PMP; on your first visit to any of those accredited places, the staff would stamp at the back of your PMP the date of your visit; timer starts ticking.

Since our initial stay in Paris is good for 5 days only before traveling to Rome we decided that a 2 day pass would be enough for us.

We visited these places using PMP:
-          Louvre Museum
-      Orsay Museum
-          Notre Dame Church (but it was open for public on the day we visited it)
-          Sainte-Chapelle
-          Conciergerie
-          Arc de Triomphe
-          Chateau Versailles (Garden not included – extra fee of 8.50 Euro to enter the garden)

I can say that PMP is bang for the buck. Aside from huge savings you can also save time because your queue is different from the general admission though you still have to fall in line for security check. After security check, you proceed directly to “reserve” line or what they call as "skip the line." Sometimes they would require you to get an admission voucher from a "reserve line" counters. Just show your PMP and enjoy the site.

Because we want to maximise the benefit of PMP, the wife and I decided to pay a visit at Arc de Triomphe viewing deck instead of just strolling around the vicinity. Doing so I had a claustrophobic attack on our way to the viewing deck, thankfully the attack was manageable, LOL.

Read my experience at Arc de Triomphe


Friday, September 15, 2017

Hotel Augustin Astotel Paris


Paris boutique hotels are truly a class of their own. You'd immediately recognize the artistic design / decoration and the comfort it offers to its guests but don't expect to enjoy the flat screen since all TV channels are in French while English movies are dubbed in French as well.

Surprisingly, they gave us corner "attic" room thus we had 2 balconies overlooking the streets below. It was terrific on our first couple of days but after noticing that nearby buildings' upper floors were unoccupied we never opened our windows during night time anymore.

lovely interior

restaurant

stairs

Due to its minuscule size, our room doesn't have any walk in closet; they just install a metal frame with hangers. We couldn't even open our mid size luggage comfortably. We even took our room service dinner on bed.

As expected, bedding and towels are in good condition while basic toiletries are provided except toothbrush and slippers.

The thickly carpeted room has a small electronic vault, electric kettle, hair dryer, cooler and flat screen. All beverages (non-alcoholic) inside the cooler are free and refilled daily. Wifi connection is also stable and fast.




Though the complimentary buffet breakfast is just a basic meal such as breads, fruits, flavored yogurt, sausages, eggs and fruit juices we enjoyed authentic croissant and French bread. Brewed coffee and milk would be brought to your table upon request.

typical breakfast
room service - great food except the rock solid bread

Just a reminder, if you're a couple then don't occupy the table for four otherwise you'd be asked to transfer to a table for two; we learned this on our second day.

Our hotel is a member of Astotel chain of hotels thus during our check-in they provided us list of their member hotels where we can have free snacks from 2 pm to 1 am. You read it right, our hotel offers free snack.


The nearest metro station is Saint Augustin; locate the hotel from Google map before traveling. Being confident in our previous travels in Asia, we never bothered to locate its exact location thus we ended up paying 7 Euro for a kilometer ride from Saint Lazare metro station. Anyway, taxicab in Paris is quite an experience, they use limousine type vehicles while the drivers are well dressed and groomed.

Be aware though that during summer they leave the windows open to enjoy the warm air breeze. On our last day, we asked the reception to book us a taxi, a few minutes later a coat and tie guy arrived and drove us all the way to Gare de Lyon.

Though the hotel offers room service, the food is arranged and delivered by an outside company or restaurant. The hefty serving is quite tasty but pricey compared when you dine outside.

Reception is 24/7 hence on our last day, we checked out, paid our bills using my credit card and arranged a taxi at 5 am without any ado.