Saturday, December 31, 2011

The year that was

As I look back on this year, I bid it with a smile. It was a hard start. Reeling from 2010. The stark contrast was very evident. That is something that I know I share with a lot of people.

I remember being very exhausted at the end of 2010. That I was glad it was ending. I remember hoping and wishing and whispering to the wind that I really hoped 2011 would be a better one. And it was.

The bossa music is playing in my background, the scent of the apple wood candle distinct in every deep inhalation. I meditated for a few minutes. Closed my eyes and let it wander in the year that was.

Reeling from the end of what was a long relationship, I embraced 2011  with a promise of having a better quality of life. I told myself that there will be goals that would be reached before I end the third decade of my life. Maturity, patience and happiness in solitude would be some of the things I wanted to achieve.

The travel, seeing Europe, scuba diving, the great images and the people I've met are the pages to a chapter that would prove to be one of my favorites thus far. Wow, what a story.

I learned that I have great self control. I was just recently told that I embrace my age. That I love myself, which is good. I have gained respect and showed others that the big life goals can be achieved by little baby steps of little successful goals.

2011 will be hard to top. I feel like 2012 will have a few surprises. I sense that it will prove some of the feelings and fears I felt in this ending year were wrong. I feel that some of the wishes of the people I love around me will come true for me. I throw caution to the wind to make sure that I will not disappoint myself too much if certain things fail to come true.

I've found a balance in my life somewhat, but I feel like I am still reeling in from what could be described as the calm after the storm. I believe that the balance that I've found will from here in forward allow me to take in the future storms that will come my way.

Thanks 2011. Here's to a great New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I screwed up my Getting Lost Blogs - my trips we're not published chronologically.

Here they are in proper order.

Getting lost 1.0 - Las Vegas to Paris via Charlotte and London
Getting lost 1.2 - London Saint Pancras to Paris Nord Paris at night
Getting lost 1.3 - First Full day in Paris
Getting lost 1.4 - Second Full day in Paris
Getting lost 1.5 - More Paris 
Getting lost 1.6 - Paris from a perspective

Getting lost 2.1- Rome 
Getting lost 2.2- Rome: The Coppola and an old friend 
Getting lost 2.3- Rome: Roommates and Piaza del Poppolo
Getting lost 2.4- Rome: Last day and a cancelled flight

PARIS - Getting Lost 1.4

28 November, 2011-Monday
Paris, France
Second full day in France

The hippo last night was out first decent meal since we left London, for me though, longer than that. At this point the task of trying to stay awake during the day and trying to stay asleep in the morning is beginning to take its toll.

I woke up a little bit earlier to take a walk down the street for a quick cafe creme and a visit to Le poste for stamps. I had observed the typical roaring in Clichy. The kids walling by themselves to school, as young as 4 years old. The proletariat having their morning coffee at the bistros. In France,for the most part, your barista for coffee is also your bartender for your alcohol.

Breakfast again at the hotel to get ready for our Montmarte visit. The bus took us in city to the north of Paris where the soucre couer church is. Along the way you will see the famous Moulan Rouge and a lot of sex shops along the way. The walk to Montmarte was faIrly quick.

When we got there, I was introduced to something that I will be seeing a lot around Europe. In this particular case, a man from northern Africa or somewhere in the Mediterranean walked up to me and offered to make me a bracelet. When I asked how much, he said it was free. His insistence allowed him to start wrapping the threads around my fingers... At this point I was tied to it, literally. As soon as he was done, and I started walking away, he started asking for money... I took out the coins I have and started giving him 1 euro. At this point he started asking for ten. Thats when I started walking away. Tip for the weary: just start walking away. Just say sorry and no.

The cathedral was very grand. And amazing sight. The view from its steps though was much more grand. If it weren't only for thE bad weather, the city view as I can imagine would have been amazing.

After debating what to do next, we all proceeded to the market below the Soucre Ceour and started buying gifts to take home. Shopping was a sin you don't want to always indulge on when traveling.

It was decided that we will jn the bus on the way back to the Sein. From there, make our way to the louvre. Honestly... On the map it looked quite close. It wasn't.

We were able to walk past the Alexander bridge, the grand palaise, the petit palaise, the place de la Concorde, the jardan de Tuilerie and into the entrance to the Louvre. As soon as we all regrouped inside the louvre we took a direct route to see the Mona Lisa. Mission accomplished. Now, we are hungry.

There was no avoiding getting lost in that museum. We did, later on after passing thru Etruscan antiquities towards the French painters wing we got message from Ross that he was at notre dame. So, off to notre dame we went.

Getting all touristy in notre dame was the only choice. I did know though that I needed to get to Shakespeare and company from there to procure a promised gift.

Later that night we all congregated at the champs élysées for the christmas market for some sausages and drinks. Vin Chaude was the odd favorite. Just like German warm beer. I just got contented with my hot chocolate.

A few things at this point:

- my feet started to hurt because the thick socks eventually contributed to blood flow constriction. (note to self: comfy shoes, always...)

- I've gotten Ross into the mission of mailing out post cards from the Eiffel so it would have that special stamp.

We got home and slept soundly that night.

ROME - Getting lost 2.2

1 December, 2011 - Thursday
Roma Italy
Second full day

I decided t head back to the Vatican, at the piaza, I sat down next to one of the columns to catch up on some writing. I sat next to a slender old man in a brown vest. After which I ended up meeting to elderly ladies from Manila who was there're for official visit with COA. We took pictures of each other.

I decided to take on the 500 plus hike up the Coppola of San Pietro. Man that was nuts. The steps kept on coming... I could have paid an extra 2 euros to use an elevator half way up the base of the coppola. Didn't. The view from the cage on the base of the Coppola was great. But then i saw mor steps going up which followed.

The steps took me higher and higher through narrowing corridors and halls and windows. You will realize that you are close to the to when the walls start bending to the right for you..

More steps and then a spiral staircase. Voila! Rome and everything else in front of you.

Upon coming down, I went into a chapel on the right side of the cathedral to pray more. I then after exiting, decided to do the trek to castel sant Angelo. There's wasnt much to see there. It was stepping into time though, looking through archer holes and imagining how it was like. From there I made my way to piazza novono. There was a Christmas market there. Along the way I walked through the pretty narrow streets of central Rome and stopped by different shops. When I got t the piazza, started looking for trinkets and saw some.

I then proceeded to walk to the Spanish steps after realizing that there was no metro between them. I got there and chaos. Lol there were people everywhere. Nice.

I met Niña at the cafe Greco. Apparently a very old shop. From there we went t the piazza del popolo to have dinner and drinks. Walked some more and talked about many things. We ended up finding our way to venneza and then the colosseum at night. When we realized that it was late and that we were tired, we then went back to the termini to get back home to our own places.


PARIS - Getting lost 1.2

Day 1
25 November, 2011
London Saint Pancras to Paris Nord

Arrived in Paris Nord via the euro star.

The density of civilization gave away the clues to getting close to Paris. From the train station we took a bus to our hotel. Michele, our guide was quite embarrassed when our first 30 minutes was spent in traffic. She said that arriving during rush hour was a great introduction to the real Paris.

Check in was quick. I insisted that i needed to shower first before heading out. At this point I've been up around 48 hours. We all met downstairs to proceed to the champs élysées. I had to peel off from the group to pick up my Paris pass from the hard rock cafe. As I emerged from the Metro station, I smiled and thought t myself that I was really in Paris. The scape was similar to the New York, San Francisco and Chicago. But it was in French, it was cosmopolitan. People dressed well walked by beggars, the miserables. I practiced my first French phrase at the hard rock... "excuse moi, vous parlez anglais?" this allowed me to procure my Paris pass.

I took the metro again to get to the Franklin Roosevelt station along the champs élysées. From the stop, through the thousands who were there I started looking for my friends.

I found them. I did! Near the arc de triomphe. They were there with tripods and cameras. I really wanted to go up the arc. But maybe next time. We then proceeded to get to see the tower. The metro took us to the trocadero station. As soon as we emerged from underground, we were given the poplar view of the tower. It was grand. A sight to see. I had lost my companions while we were taking photos. They went to meet chuck at the tower. From there I decided to head back on my own to the hotel to catch a well need rest. Called it a night.


ROME - Getting lost 2.1

30 November, 2011 Wednesday
Rome, Italy
The beehive hostel
First full day in Rome

Jean Luca was a tall slender man who see very softly but with clear English words and subtle hand movements. He was the cook in the basement cafe of the beehive. He prepared my meal and served it with care. After my meal, I called up Emanuel.

"jab, why you didn't tel me you were coming? I wanted to get everyone read and the whole city ready for you..." we agreed to meet for dinner that evening.

I went to pick u a Roma pass for 25€. I then proceeded to the Vatican. On the line A getting off the ottaviano station you will get immediately the sense of how crazy morning Rome is. The crowd moved in such a violent rush into the trains.

I found my sa eventually to the Vatican entrance - as soon as Saint Peters square opened up to me - all I could call on was God. I was able to absorb that moment fairly quickly. I then decided to follow the queue to the entrance.

What happened next was a feeling ive never ever felt before.

A few steps into the cathedral, an overwhelming sense of great power took over. The immerses structure was too much for my to take in. I started crying... I've been saying in the past Few weeks that "anything is attainable..." I was in the cathedral made by mans hand. However, all I can think about was that it was impossible for man to this this without the power of faith. I am in n way preaching... But I do believe that man alone cannot be capable of such a structure without a divine hand of guidance.

As soon as I found a place to kneel and pray, I dropped my things and started to pray. 20 minutes might have passed and was sniffling and crying as I prayed, praised and gave thanks.

I spent around 2 hours absorbing the great building was in.

After the Vatican, I picked up some stamps and post cards. I was writing on the cards in the middle of the piazza when I met about 8 teenag girls all shooting in film. All lovely girls who were very very Italian. I then walked down the street grab a pizza. I the shop I ordered my meal and it turned out that the guy I was speaking to the whole time was Filipino. Haha

Getting lost in the streets of Rome was a good habit. I ended up walking int commanding, a popular place for people to buy religious gifts and stuff. I went to town in comandini.

After a quick snack decided to go to the Vatican museum to get to the Sistine chapel. Breezing through the collections I was determined to go see the great chapel... Did and was able to take some photos.

I went back home to the hostel to relax and wait for the time to meet with Emanuel. They had picked me up at the termini and being a gracious guest and brought me to have dinner at an American restaurant... Haha

After dinner with Emanuel the Romano and lovely the napolitano they took me to an overlooking part of town to see Rome.


PARIS Getting Lost 1.6

En Route to Roma-fumiccino airport.
Vueling airlines
November 29, 2011 (Tuesday)

Seeing Paris is such an amazing experience. A piece of you is left there and it's replaced by a more enlightened spirit that appreciates more of life. Did i discover joie de vivre while I was there? I think I did. I think i saw a glimpse of it, was sure it was it and got close enough for an autograph.

Many things ran through my mind including how t create a lifestyle that will allow me to come visit again not ad a tourist but as a should that needs a refill of some Paris. I think I have an idea. Just need some divine intervention and lots of hard work.

The history-both good and bad is something that the French keep and showcase. Much as they acknowledge that they are rude sometimes, bad drivers (park everywhere and have that god awful twelve lane arc de triomphe roundabout) they proudly show it to the world and rightly so I think.

Its hairy balls out, but balls out nonetheless. The French had Voltaire, Renoir, Monet, Bonaparte, Hugo, Dumas and many others. Borrowed da Vinci at one point and had relations with the Russians, Egyptians, Spanish, war with the Prussians, Germans and their own proletariat (or bourgeoise depending on how you see it).

Visiting France requires that you bring with you a companion that appreciates it beyond the possibility of being able to post photos on Facebook standing in front of the many locations. One must be able to speak with that companion and dissect the history, correct each others errors on knowledge, disagree on many things, agree on others, has a good grasp of history and is both appreciative and critical of where you had both come from.

Paris is not just surface tourism. Like Las Vegas. It's more skin deep. It's more than just something to see - but something that you ingest and take in. It's a lot to take in too mind you.

Find someone who does not question why having cafe creme while watching the world go by you is a good experience. Someone who finds walking an exercise for the heart and soul not for the calves. A friend that is open to learning a few words and phrases and is not scared to speak to a local. Someone who drinks. Imbibes. Find someone who's not on a diet.

Paris has a lot of surprises in store - you don't just share photos online to people. One must encourage people to see it. You have 3 countries to visit before you die? Put Paris on that list.

This was my first non English speaking country to visit. I must say that it was quite nice to hear many conversations around you but could note eavesdrop since you can't understand them. Technically my second country in Europe, having passed through the UK. Would I want to see more of France? Of course, but still think I've not gotten enough of Paris yet.

PARIS - Getting Lost 1.5

29 november, 2011
Paris, France -
heading to Rome in the evening

Packed up and ready to go. The itinerary for today was to head to the Eiffel to send out some mail. After frolicking there and took photos, we decided to head the Latin quarter to see the pantheon and have lunch.

The pantheon housed the great dead French peeps. I was able to pay my respects to Voltaire, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas.

We had lunch at a wonderful street side cafe with a wonderful garçon who entertained and charmed us. Steak for everybody!

We got back to Timhotel in time. I've split up from the group to take the train to the airport to catch my flight to Rome.


PARIS - Getting Lost 1.3

26, November 2011
Timhotel, Clichy, Paris, France
2nd day in France (first full day)

Sleep I thought, at this point will make or break me. My body has no idea of the time but knows that after a few hours without the sun, it ill soon fall into a sub-coma-tic state and I'll beg for a bed. However, the adrenalin, the excitement and just being away meant that sleep will be an a flyer thought.

Breakfast downstairs saves euros. However, somehow I that it would cost me the cafe creme at a bistro in france experience. Sometimes, convenience becomes inconvenient.

We hopped on our bus for our morning in Paris overview. This is pre-emotive to our hike out to Versailles. On the bus, Michel provided a mix of historical and "today" information. It is b the way, Paris. A very sheik and modern world nestled on a plush bed of history. We drove by the arc du triomph again, drove b the Ritz (noted as the place where princess dianna stayed before she died). We also were shown the riverside attractions -Sein, Alexander bridge, place de la concorde,musee d orsay,the louvre, grand palais,the petit palace and notre dame. To be able to see a general overview of the city is suggested. I would be easier to figure our logistics and itinerary after.

After a brief stop by the Eiffel, we then drove outside of Paris to the palace of Versailles. I will not provide the history of this since this is something that is available somewhere else.

Versailles. Pomp and extravagance. This place is beyond words. It really is. It rivals any modern architecture and logical thinking. I can't fathom how someone can think of a place like this and actually do it.

We had fun at Versailles. It was an introduction to the fact that wee will wear out our feet for the next few days. We also had time to go downtown to grab a bite to eat and see the local market and locals in action or interaction.

We went back to the hotel to regroup and re-arm. That evening, we went back to the Eiffel and took the Sein river boat tour. There wasn't that much that we haven't seen but from the river it was different. We saw the Parisians walk along the walls on the Sein, they were sitting, kissing, talking and drinking.

From the river tour, even though we knew we were all hungry and tired-we went up the montparnasse tower to see a different view of Paris. We then all enjoyed a nice dinner at this restaurant called the hippo.


ROME - Getting Lost 2.4

3 December 2011
Roma, italia
Last day

Packing got easier round this point. After figuring that part out, joined m roommates for breakfast, we exchAnged facebooks and told them they are welcome in las Vegas.

I then went to the Vatican again t meet up with Nina. This allowed melt catch up on some writing. Oddly, the man who was sitting there was there again and I think he noticed me.

Met with Nina, had lunch, bought some things and then went back to the termini area to finalize my packing. We had another round of coffee before making a buzzer beater run to catch my train to fumiccino. Nina packed me with so much stuff from cheeses to wine to chocolates. I'm really worried at how I'll be able to take ths back to the states.

My flight was cancelled.

But I still decided to go to the check in counter. The ground attendant said, we can rebook you on an earlier flight that leaves in an hour and will get you to heathrow... I was happy.

ROME Getting lost 2.3

2 December, 2011
Rome Italy
3rd full day in Rome.

At this point, I've come to be familiar with my roommates. Specifically Lindsey from Canada, jean from Australia, Alan from Manchester and max from Toronto, originally from Vancouver. We shared stories and tips in the morning and went on our separate ways.

That day I decided to start my morning at piazz spagns I grabbed a coffee at the mcdonalds, ate on the steps and started my walk. I went in the church on to of the piazza and found my way into the gardens past the spagns area towards piaza del popolo. I spent a good 2 hours at the piaza del popolo looking at people and taking photos.

I then took the metro to the Trevi. There, the weekend crowd started to become evident. Tons of people there. After mine Trevi, I started my way to the forum. My main goal was the coloseo. I grabbed a quick snack then spent the afternoon in and around the colosseum. I gave myself enough time to be able to head back t get some rest at the beehive before meeting with Nina to have dinner.

After dinner near the termini area, we went to the piazza novona to buy more trinkets many grab a drink at a local place. At this point, I was sold
I the fact that the bus was also a great way to see Rome...

We retired after catching up on stories and our past.


ROME Getting lost 1.5.2

29 November, 2011
Rome, Italy
First night in Rome

The arrival was uneventful. The luggage was ready in minutes. I followed the signs that said shuttle busses to the Termini.

I didn't realize how central the termini was to Rome. I also didn't realize how close the beehive was to the termini. On the bus, I heard a gentleman ask an Italian man about a hotel. The Italian obviously didn't speak English. I asked the man if he needed a hotel because I was staying at the hostel and he can go there with me.

His name was Richard, from Australia. He just came from the netherlands, couched surfed with cousins there for a few weeks. He explained to me that the next day he would be headed to a farm outside of work where he will be working there're in exchange for lodging. The man who owns the farm was the cousin of another man he met when he was in Mexico looking the crystal caves. He said that he met this man on the bus and offered him a place to stay. Richard offered to pay for the food and drinks while he was there.

My roommates where there in their beds when I got in. Max, Asian. Student from Toronto originally from Vancouver and this blonde girl from Colorado. I introduced myself and after gathering my self told max that I will go and grab a drink. We asked Colorado girl to join us.

At the tavern, we shared a pitcher of new castle. Our conversations were merely sweeping generalities of our past few days talking about the places we've visited. Colorado girl has been working in farms, had been studying sustainable farming and grows marijuana back home. Richard, is just one of those vagabonds who's been everywhere but is obviously hiding the reason as to how he can lead that bohemian life.

Colorad girl soon left after the first pitcher. Richard and I then ordered another full ne and started talKing about everything or from our past, our families and the quality of life and the people we meet.

Our conversation lasted another hour when we decided to call it a night. We went back to the beehive to call it a night.