Rome and Cats

I don’t believe there is anything that I can tell you about Rome that you don’t already know or haven’t already seen so I’ll keep this short.

So after our trip to Santorini, we flew out to Rome to spend one night there before going back to Berlin. So with two whole days to go roam around, we tried to make the most out of it.

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But first, lunch. Buffalo mozzarella is an essential part every trip to Italy. It’s just sooo goood.

After lunch, we took the mandatory tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Obviously, it was fantastic and worth a visit – just probably not on a summer’s day because it just gets really hot in Rome this time of the year. We would have wanted to see more if it hadn’t been 40C outside.

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But this is just gorgeous from all angles.

We were surprised by how cheap a cab ride is in this city – to a point that we even let ourselves be toured by a local cab driver, showing us the most important attractions in this city. We didn’t have to pay more than 10 € for a 10 minute ride with light traffic.

For more flexibility, we decided to rent Vespas – one for each couple, to complete the whole Italian experience.

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And realised they are not exactly comfortable for riding in tandem…

At night we drove around Vatican City, and then to Fountain Trevi. Some attractions in this city are just so busy even late at night.

The next day, our friends woke up to some bad news from back home and they had to leave for LA with the next flight. We were supposed to leave Rome at night then spend the whole day in Berlin the next day and drive them to the airport the day after that. The wife and I then decided to make a quiet day of it, just driving around on our Vespa.

At some point in the afternoon, we went to Torre Argentina. Today it doubles as a cat sanctuary that houses around 150 gatti. It may be visited in the afternoons during which you may choose to adopt a little feline of all ages. They also sell some goodies like towels and mugs made by a few volunteers to help raise some money for the cats’ needs. Don’t forget to leave a donation!

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They are so lucky to be taken care of by volunteers, surviving off donations from locals and tourists alike. And they get to live among ancient ruins of this historical city!

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From there, we walked towards the Pantheon, which in my opinion, was the most beautiful attraction in this city. Seeing the inside of this building is free of charge and it’s just amazing how it’s still standing hundreds of years after it was built.

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And after we have satisfied our eyes and tastebuds with all the best of Italy, we took our ride to the airport to take our flight back to Berlin. It was a short holiday indeed, but so eventful.

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All these in less than a week!

 

Ah, but before we go…

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Gelato!

Weekend in Liverpool and North Wales

Once in a while I get a weekend off and I always make sure to make plans with the wife since we rarely get to spend a full day together anymore. So last weekend was a special one because it was also our anniversary – we got married on the same day we got together, only three years later, three years ago. We set this date to avoid confusion. So this year, it wasn’t clear what exactly we celebrated – our third year of marriage or our 6th year together. Not that it mattered because who doesn’t like a celebration or two right?

The truth is, days before the trip we weren’t even sure where to go. We booked an accommodation near Lake Constance and cancelled that because the weather was being a little crazy that week in Germany. So we were back to square one until I stumbled upon a travel post on Facebook about the Llangollen Canal and thought it was amazing. It’s in North Wales, and just an hour’s drive away from Liverpool. We checked for flights and easily found a roundtrip at convenient hours and for a good price, too.

We did not know what to expect from Liverpool and North Wales but we decided to just surprise ourselves and just go.

We arrived in Liverpool on Friday night and picked up our rental car. It’s my wife’s first right-hand drive and I must say, she mastered it pretty quickly!

Llangollen Canal, North Wales

So the photo of this place that I saw on the Internet made me believe it was possible to go kayaking around here but after I spent days trying to look for kayak boat rentals around the area, I have come to accept that it’s not something they offer, probably for safety reasons.

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I mean, the one side does not have any safety rails…
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…and it’s pretty high up there.

Dear readers, this is Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. It’s been around for more than 200 years and was built for industrial use although the route that was supposed to go up to Liverpool was never completed. Today, it’s a popular tourist spot which allows visitors to take tours on a narrow boat and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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But instead of taking the narrow boat tour, we decided to rent some bikes to see more of the surrounding area.

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We were in luck because it was a beautiful day in this part of the UK!

Liverpool

I remember on my post about our trip to London earlier this year I said that we seemed to have waited this long to finally go to the UK together and now, it’s already been our second time there and we even made it back in the same year. I really like being there and I’d love to see more of what it has to offer. But Liverpool is just so much different in comparison to London, understandably. It’s less crowded and more relaxed. It’s home to The Beatles and they couldn’t make it any more obvious. Their songs still play on the radio every so often and their souvenir shops are full of The Beatles merchandise. Hey, even the airport is named in honour of John Lennon.

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It was nice just walking around downtown Liverpool, having dinner at one of the many pubs, enjoying a cold pint of apple cider – just one of the many things I love about the UK.

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We made sure to make a few visits to Albert Dock and Pier Head. This time of the year there is the summer fair called Pier Head Village right by The Beatles’ statue to enjoy on sunny days and the Ferris Wheel that is there all year long for the best views of the city from above.

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To me, that’s an anniversary well spent! 🙂

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Solo Trip to Hong Kong

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I have shared in a previous post a sneak peek of my experience from my trip to Hong Kong last May and how it went terribly wrong. But on this post I wanted to focus on the trip as whole, and that’s including the good stuff.

Let me start with why I chose Hong Kong – of all the fine places in Asia that are easily reachable from the Philippines nowadays. I just thought, since I am going alone and with the limited time that I had, it’s just the perfect destination. Added to that, I bet it’s just the one place that my wife would not miss out on too much. We usually do these things together but as I have mentioned, she wasn’t able to join.

I got there in the afternoon after a 2h flight from Manila. First thing I did was get an Octopus Card. For 150 HKD, you get a card with a 100 HKD balance and 50 HKD refundable value – unless of course you’d want to keep the card as a souvenir.

 

And it’s really the easiest way to get around the city. You may reload it at MTR stations or various convenience stores and you may use it to pay at some selected establishments, and even at vending machines. I just found the deduction of fares after every ride a bit unpredictable, or maybe it’s just something I haven’t been able to figure out in my short stay. Let me just say I had spent about 250 HKD of fare money in  three days and that’s including the ride up The Peak Tower with the Peak Tram plus entrance fee to Sky Terrace all worth 140 HKD.

I took the A21 bus that goes straight to Mong Kok and stops at Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. It’s the station closest to my hostel, in one of those touristy neighbourhoods in the city. In fact, most of my options were in this very area. I think it’s a good place to stay at because of its proximity Victoria Harbour, and everything you’d want to see is easily reachable.

After I got checked in to my hostel, I went out to get familiarised to my neighbourhood. Most importantly, I looked for places where I can grab some bites. I found street food right around the corner, a few restaurants, and a 7Eleven. This is where I realised that food in Hong Kong is rather pricey.

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I mean, it was really good but this octopus skewer cost me 11 HKD, about 1,20 €


Kowloon Park

The next morning, I decided to just grab a snack from 7Eleven (I’m a sucker for store-bought snack cakes and everywhere I go, I try to get each country’s own version of it) for breakfast and I proceeded with my day’s agenda – just walking around the city. I read somewhere that 60% of Hong Kong is actually green – which is hard to believe at first because when you think of Hong Kong, the first thing that comes to mind is the army of skyscrapers. I decided to see the parks first, starting with Kowloon Park, which is close to my hostel.

And from there I just followed the road that lead to the water.

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Nathan Road

I wasn’t sure where to go next so I just walked down Nathan Road. The heat of this city was just something I couldn’t get accustomed to. Humidity was just so much higher there than in the Philippines and I couldn’t help but take a few breaks inside the shopping centres along the way just to cool down. But I did find some interesting bookstores and gift shops inside.

I had lunch at a local diner – fried chicken in lemon sauce and a pot of tea. I was alone so the staff sat me at a round table with another lone guest sitting. I can’t point out enough the cost of food – I paid around 30 € for that order!

After I filled my backpack with gifts that I bought to take home to the wife, I walked back to my hostel and took another shower. It felt necessary if I wanted to walk around some more.


Markets

My next stops were the street markets. The first one I went to, and also the only one I actually wanted to see, was the Ladies’ Market. I didn’t take photos, neither did I even take out my phone let alone my camera, because everyone started to get extra aware of their belongings when they entered. I thought I’d do the same because I really hate losing things, more importantly I have this deep fear of having my things stolen from me. I literally have nightmares of this event every so often, all in different versions. I wanted to come here to buy accessories for my phone and to check out what else the place has to offer. I had fun haggling with the vendors. They lower the price down every five seconds, or give you deals for lower value. It’s ridiculous how they start you off with prices going through the roof and then giving you a final price of 20% of the original price. I know it’s just strategy and it seems to be working out just fine for them.

I then walked down the road towards the Flower Market, through Goldfish Market and took the MTR back to my hostel.

 

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I especially love the tea set. The vendor sold it to me for about 12 €. I honestly would have paid more.


Victoria Peak and Central District

Quick summary from my previous post:

After I dropped my street market haul off at the hostel, I was bound for Victoria Peak. But when I took the hostel building’s elevator going down, it got stuck and I had to wait for almost an hour for the rescue team, alone. So when I got out, I guess I was over-motivated to reach the peak which then turned out was a bad idea, because it was so foggy up there that it was impossible to see anything looking down. But at least it made for interesting photos looking up from Central District.

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Nan Lian Garden

It was my last day in Hong Kong and I ended it with a relaxing day in the park. This charming garden is located in the myriad of high-rise buildings of Diamond Hill. It gives out a contrast of the tranquility of a Tang Dynasty-styled park and the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Hong Kong Park

This was the very last place I went to before I headed to the airport. But this park was busier than I thought! I was here at around noon on a Friday, enjoying a rice snack from 7Eleven but it took a while before I found an empty bench. I didn’t stay long to make space for the busy corporate animals from Central District to enjoy their lunch break. Ah, but what I wouldn’t give to have such a venue for my own lunch breaks from work!

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This rice snack with tuna and mayonnaise filling is enough to get me through the day

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Going back to the airport, I took the A21 bus again. I thought it was really the more convenient option to and from Mong Kok but somehow it wasn’t among Google’s suggestions.