Happiness is exploring the enchanted labyrinth of Al Hambra
Basking in the richness of gardens and palaces
Cruising along roads of green and yellow fields
Feasting your eyes on medieval Andalusia
Happiness is the timeless union of nature and architecture
Stepping on a pavement of white pebble stones
Standing behind majestic wooden doors and wrought iron gates
Walking the streets under the shade of orange trees
Happiness is witnessing an intimate flamenco showdown
Watching the dancer prance in fiery, graceful passion
Hearing the singer bare her soul
Feeling your heartbeat climb to a crescendo
Happiness is wantonly surrendering to sinful sweets
Dunking big sized churros into a hot thick chocolate drink
Getting a complimentary buffet breakfast
Eating two kinds of ice cream
Happiness is the never-ending dose of sensory satisfaction
A colorful plateful of paella
A hefty serving of Jamon Iberico with queso
An impromptu shisha session
Happiness is spontaneity
Bonding with charming Spanish speaking cousins
Laughing over silly little things
Learning the art of letting go
Happiness is writing the story of your travels
Finding catharsis in wistful wandering
Breaking down fears into smithereens
Closing a chapter for a new beginning
Happiness is contentment wrapped in faith and sobriety
Discovering churches that are old as time
Waking up to a view of mountain tops
Saying a prayer on bended knees
Happiness is that place called Granada.
I knew this place was special the minute the bus I was on, was cruising along fields of green and yellow. Then it was heading up to a narrow highway leading to this small town bursting with pretty buildings. When the bus pulled into a stop (my stop) in front of the Cathedral with a wrought-iron door & an orange tree, I was sold. Orange trees!
Then I stepped into the most interesting road and I just couldn’t (won’t) pass up the opportunity to take a picture of my black boots on those white pebble stones.
And there I was, the odd one out, wheeling my turquoise luggage asking strangers in the street if they knew where my hotel was. And even if how many times I wrongly turned on a dead-end street, even if my phone’s battery was running low, even if I was lost in translation I still found myself smiling for being wonderfully lost in this beautiful, medieval Andalucia.
My Film Appreciation professor in college once told us that the first 5 minutes of every film (Exposition) is vital and not to be missed for it can already foretell the plot of a movie. And if this were a movie, I bet you could already tell that it’s bound to have a happy ending.
Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan.It is home to one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of the 7 Wonders of Nature: the Underground River. It spells warmth—the people, the weather and food (hello, crocodile sisig!). While the beaches are not as pristine as El Nido, Coron or Boracay, the sand, sand castles and trip inside the cave will be enough to take your breath away. (Tip: keep your mouth closed for the duration of the ride.)
A visit to the Crocodile Farm, Baker’s Hill and Butterfly Eco-Garden and Tribal Village will make you feel like a tourist in your own country…do these tours. An interactive, educational and cultural tours are provided by local tourist guides. When it comes to eloquence, flexibility and generosity in bathroom breaks, Filipino guides are the best.
It was just like a field trip that my Google-searching expertise can’t provide extensively. I learned that most butterflies have a lifespan of only 2 weeks and that the smaller scorpion has the deadlier sting than the bigger one. I held a snake & a scorpion, saw a ‘tulala’ tuko & sleeping bear cat, a hundred crocodiles and a walking bayawak for the first time, up close. I came to know that there is a group of birds called peafowls— peacocks refers to the male while the female peafowls are called peahens & their offsprings, peachicks.
I saw how one’s imagination can lead to a wonderful creative paradise called, Baker’s Hill. And it’s not only bread or pastries that they sell (heck, they don’t even charge for an entrance). It has this Alice in Wonderland vibe with well-manicured lawns and garden, beautifully arranged flowers, colorful tiles, life-size figurines of Shrek, Snow White, etc., and tall trees that cover the sun.
We met the indigenous tribe, Pal’awan, who were confident in their flawless brown skin wearing only bahags (loincloth for men). They showcased their hunting tools and musical instruments like kulintang (the names I only remember reading in my highschool books). They played music and showed us how to start a fire the natural way (done in seconds!). It’s good to know that they are encouraged to make handmade products to sell and not only thrive by hunting alone (I bought a bamboo speaker).
Puerto Princesa has a good geographical location close to seaports that is why it is also called the princess of ports. For more technical information, please search the internet.
Palawan, you were a wonderful, hot summer fling. I hope to see you again next year. El Nido or Coron, here we go!
It was an 8-hour ride aboard the big vessel, Blue Star Ferries. We left the pier in Athens at 0730am and arrived in Santorini at 3pm when the tides have turned and the sky, a solid blue dotted with white fluffy clouds. There was no sunshine on this day but the ride up the mountain to our hotel provided us with a sombre yet tranquil view of the volcano and the Aegean Sea. Our welcome drinks were a cup of coffee or tea, and a carafe of the local wine which is available for free, 24 hours. You’d wonder why there’s no complimentary water, but my guess is as good as yours because in Europe, a bottle of water costs more than an alcoholic beverage. (But hey, who’s complaining?) In the four days that we stayed in Santorini (and the 2 days in Athens), we merrily indulged on white and red wines anytime of the day that there wasn’t any room to whine or gripe (make sure to try the Visanto wine which is the island’s flagship grape). One night while perusing the sunset at Fira, we struck an interesting conversation with a local guy who later offered to buy a bottle of white wine from a convenience store. We drank in plastic cups and sat on a spot by a hilly area with the cold wind breezing by, while we talked the night away. I guess it’s typically Greek. Cheers to the maker of wine and giver of life!
Pita bread, roasted meat, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce = €2 gyro, the works! Not only does it tastes so good, it is also filling and easy on the pocket. We ate it on most days and I still crave for it up to this day.
Know the bus schedules.
On days that we leave our languid state, we head out to the bus terminal and devise a plan for the day. In Santorini, time goes by so quickly and before you know it, another day has passed. The best thing with our location?— the terminal is just 10 mins. away and bus fare is less than €3 per destination.
On our way up the shops are the churches and monasteries that are open for visit. There was music playing at St. John the Baptist Cathedral and live singing from the nuns at the Monastery of Dominican Sisters. It’s cathartic praying while listening to hymns.
Wear your colours.
In my luggage was a yellow vintage dress (1970s?) straight from my mother’s closet and I wore it on the day when the forecast promised of sunshine and clear skies amid a 10 C degree weather. I paired it with a baby pink thick trench coat and leggings. Next day’s outfit was the powder blue long caftan-like dress, and the next day, a red bright long-sleeved blouse. Santorini is an ideal venue for OOTD photo-ops, most especially in summer where the sun will shine down on you like a spotlight. Leave your black outfits behind, let the colours lift you up.
Take a dip.
It was not the season to swim but we still took the bus to Akrotini to see the Red Beach. The sea was a shimmering, splendid sight and I wanted to be inside the picture, looking out. It just suddenly came, the need to connect and touch the ground so I stepped down the big rocks, took off my shoes, dipped my feet in the cold sea and sat motionless like one of the rocks.
The main attraction in Santorini is the sunset. And it sets both in Oia and Fira with the same intensity. In Oia, you have to go up the winding alleys to get a better view, so we nestled on top of a hill along with other sunset-seekers. There was an applause when the sun showed its true colours and it was ahh-mazing and to die for. I couldn’t help but stare for minutes on end until it settled down. In Fira, the view was the caldera (a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of a volcano into itself, making it a large, special form of volcanic crater) and we easily found a spot as the surrounding areas are far apart from each other. In both sunset sessions, my heart was bursting with excitement prior the showdown and then settled to a complete state of trance when the sun was down. I reckoned that if I were to spend my last day on earth somewhere, it would here.
Nobody would bother viewing an entire album of more than a 100 photos, unless they’re in it (lol), nor bother reading your (long monologue) story. But what the heck, I’m posting anyway and you can press like if you want (he he).
This album serves as a reminder that this trip has made me a little kinder, wiser, bolder and tamer (my temper not rising at all, surprisingly!). I wanted to see Barbra Streisand’s concert but in the end, got more than what I bargained for. It was a learning curve that I appreciate having in my life.
There is a reason why things don’t go your way and it usually is to develop your character and make you eat that humble pie. That you can break down in public but not cause a scene— that crying helps & praying protects.
Buy that ticket, book your hotel, enjoy your own company, fly away and make your dreams come true. See the world and travel as much as you can, get lost and find your way back in, or tread a new path.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” 💋💓