Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Eons of years back, when I was still in my elementary days, I heard about this peculiar tower from my father. He is a retired seafarer and has visited this leaning tower in one of his journeys.

Fast forward to present, I never thought that I would see with my own eyes the same tower that my father has told me. What made the event more memorable was that the wife and I were celebrating our silver wedding anniversary when I saw the famous “Leaning Tower of Pisa.

From Florence we booked a local train to Pisa Centrale Station. The trip lasted for around 45 minutes. Along the way we observed and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of rural Italy.

From the train station it took us another 30 min of fast paced walk to reach the tower. We couldn’t afford to lose precious time since we have to return back to Florence to catch our train trip back to Rome in the evening.

Flea market. I bought vintage diecast model cars from here at 5 Euro each

On our way to the tower we crossed Arno River through Ponte di Mezzo; this is the same river that extends up to Florence. We passed at Church of Saint Michael, Largo Parlascio and other historical buildings and ruins. Cafes, bars, resto and lodging houses abound in this side of the river. We are not surprised anymore since a few hundred meters away is the leaning tower of Pisa.

Almost there

It was a terrific moment seeing the leaning tower from afar. The wife and I were speechless as we approach the cathedral Square where the tower is located.

Cathedral Square



We loitered around the Baptistery, Campo Santo and Duomo di Pisa. We forego the idea of climbing the tower since I didn’t want to have another panic attack like the one I experienced while climbing up Arc de Triomphe; the wife was tired too.

Don't push it boy!

As expected, hordes of visitors are trying their best to appear on their shots supporting the Pisa from further tilting. The whole place is like a huge park minus the picnics.

After an hour we opted to leave the place and searched for gelato. Famished and tired we devour our gelato mixed with fresh fruits in no time at all. The wife went online and communicated with the kids.

If not for the leaning tower this place could be like any other ordinary European parks dotted with historical churches and structures. A few hours of stay is enough to enjoy the scenery and the place.

Feeling rested, we trekked back to Pisa Centrale train station and bought souvenirs from small shops that we passed by. Fortunately, our train tickets allowed us to take any train back to Florence within a couple of hours thus we embark on the first train that stopped in Pisa on its way back to Florence; we had enough time to have our dinner at Florence train station before our trip back to Rome.

I hope that our kids will be able to visit this place too in the future.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Chic & Town Luxury Rooms - Rome

The wife booked a double occupancy room due to plenty of good reviews on the net. Unbeknownst to us, we would be able to set foot in Florence and Pisa, which were not included in our itinerary because of their staff.

Days before our Paris trip, we received an email from Chic and Town inquiring about our arrival. It was a pleasant surprise since for the longest time that the wife and I have been travelling, that was the first time we received an inquiry directly from the hotel’s staff. Upon learning that we would arrive at Porta Tiburtina Station in Rome by train, their reception desk sent an instruction on how to reach their hotel coming from this station.

On our arrival, we were greeted cheerfully by Renato, a “kabayan,” and led us to the reception. It was a welcome respite to talk with a kabayan after spending a week in Paris. At the reception, the Italian guy, Pietro, obviously wanted us to enjoy our stay in Rome. He even provided us maps and clear instructions on how to explore Rome by foot.

The following day, a couple of housekeepers knocked on our door. To our surprise, they are also kabayans! We had a chat with them in the afternoon and upon learning that we were free on our last day in Rome, one of them convinced us to visit Florence and a side trip to Pisa; he gave us detailed instructions on how we can reach these places by train. So I immediately booked online a RT train ticket between Rome and Florence. Our tickets were sent to my email and printed by Pietro for free.

It was terrific! The wife and I were able to visit these two amazing places as a result of having a nice chat with our kabayan.

Free snacks

Chic and Town is located at the second floor. No worries since usually there is no queue for the elevator. We're given two keys upon check-in. One is for our room while the other is for the main door in case we'd be coming back late at night. On the day we travelled to Florence, we left early so we're the one who opened the main door.

The place offers basic amenities plus free snacks. We have a cooler inside the room filled with colas, juices and bottled water. Breads, biscuits and fruits are also provided and replenished daily.

The main drawback for this hotel is the lack of wardrobe though there is long frame where you can hang your clothes; hangers are provided. Since the place doesn't have any dining facilities we used to buy and bring pizzas to our room for midnight snack and breakfast.

Psychedelic bathroom

The bathroom has an LED bulb that changes color rhythmically though you can set it in your favorite color. Isn’t it interesting taking a bath in glowing red light? Or brushing your teeth under a green light? LOL.

Check-out was flawless too. The reception even arranged for a taxi that brought us to the airport.

All told, aside from having a competitive price and having warm and great staffs this hotel is strategically located at the center of Rome. Some of the places we visited by foot are:

- Fontana De Trevi
- Pantheon
- Piazza Navonna
- Piazza Del Popolo
- Piazza De Spagna
The only place we visited by taxi is The Colosseum. Aside from that, small food store, souvenir shops and a supermarket are nearby; don’t leave Rome without trying “Gelato."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tired of Paris City? Chateau Versailles is a perfect getaway

Months before our silver wedding anniversary trip to Paris the wife was bugging me about Chateau Versailles. The place was unknown to me so I didn’t include it in our itinerary. As usual, the wife found a way to include it in our itinerary.
See how massive this castle

The wife really knows best since Chateau Versailles is one of the most exciting places we have visited in Europe. We didn't want our time and movement inside restricted so we didn't join any guided tours.


Chateau Versailles houses thousands of art pieces and collections. Aside from that, the wide gardens around it is truly amazing; it was unfortunate that the weather wasn’t ideal on our day of visit. It was chilly and there was a slight drizzle. But I have to admit, I love chilly weather, it is the wife that couldn’t stand the freezing temperature.
At any rate, we enjoyed touring the massive castle/museum and exploring the gardens outside. By the way, we used our Paris Museum Pass for access while we paid extra 8.50 Euro to enter the gardens. Yup, Chateau Versailles garden access is not included in PMP list.

The symmetrical design of the garden make it looks like a labyrinth

Picture Perfect pedestrian/cycle road
Public Market

We came here by train. We walked a couple of kilometres before reaching Chateau Versailles. It was an added treat to our trip actually. We walked along narrow streets and passed their public market. It was an unforgettable experience for both of us since we have witnessed the normal daily lives of the locals not to mention the lovely houses, laidback environment and scenic landscape. The experience was totally new for my wife. In my case, I have spent several month eons of years ago at Lancey, France where at 7 pm you’d be lucky to meet any locals on the street. The place is just at the foot of the mountains and near the French Alps.
Since summer was almost over, there were less visitors during our visit so entrance to the place was flawless, if I may say so. Because of that, I could say that we have the entire gardens only for us; plenty of picture perfect moments.

We left the place through the other side of the road causing us to lose our way back to the train station but it gave us more time to savour the place. With help from some locals we were able to find the correct road back to the train station.

If you have spare time while in Paris then by all means visit this place for it will give you a glimpse on how the “Royals” have lived centuries back without the hustle and bustle of Paris City.

To know more about Chateau Versailles check its official website : chateauversailles


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.


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.


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


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.