Archive for August, 2012

My European Trip Part 5 ,Venice, Italy

Hello, there ! !

This is Part 5 of  my European Trip.  ITALY !   Italy was definitely  a major destination. So, far, we ‘ve  stayed just 2 days in each country  ( England, Germany, Switzerland,  Holland, and one day in Belgium ) , but Italy was full 6 days.  I don’t know what that implies….. not that Italy  is  more beautiful or better  than the other countries we’ve already visited. . Not at all.  The reason is obviously the richness of Italy’s history that we can still see and appreciate to this day, from the ancient Roman Forum  and Coloseum to Medieval structures and  breathtaking architecture of  churches. Meanwhile……

The  scenery  from Switzerland  to Italy  was just  as  wonderful . We travelled  into mountain ranges  through numerous tunnels  that opened into more  breath-taking Alpine scenery as we descended from the cold  mountains to sunny Italy.  The change in topography  was even more stunning,   from undulating hills and  high mountain ranges of Switzerland to  beautiful valleys and green flatlands of Italy.

.I’m not sure but I think those are olive trees.

We arrived  in Venice  late afternoon, and checked in at Novotel Hotel,  but to be honest, I’m not sure about the timeline anymore. I go by the dresses I wear  in the pictures, but  they don’t coincide with the timeline.  Oh, well, it doesn’t matter, does it?  I guess I wore the same dress  in Venice and in Lugano/Florence.  O_O ”  Anyway,  we joined the Optional  Tour Venetian Night Out  + Dinner the night we arrived in Venice.  It was 65 Euro per person. (  $ 85 ).  The Venice that we know of and  are familiar with  is comprised of several small islands ( about a hundred ), the most famous of which is where the famous Piazza San Marco is situated.  Venice  is the only  car-less place in the world, and is also on the list of Living World Heritage.

.All dressed up and ready to go to dinner.

.We rode a ferry to go to the main island of San Marco.





Now on terra firma. The guy in black pants and shirt was our tour director. ” Ruben, wait up !

.That is Piazza San Marco ( St. Mark’s Square ). The buildings on the left  are the Doge Palace, and  the side entrance of St. Mark’s Basilica .

.That’s the building across from Doge Palace.  We had  coffee and pastries at the outdoor cafe the next day.

Basilica San Marco



Ugh ! I  just noticed I have only one style of posing.  Legs close together, one straight, and the other just a little bent at the knees.  What the heck ! Hahaha ! ” What’s up with the pose, Ren? ”  It’s too girly.   Next time I pose for a picture, I’ll rearrange myself and pose like this……..

.Architectural details

.That ‘s a really narrow street, isn’t it ? All the streets in Venice are that narrow.  The pic above is the street of the restaurant  where we had dinner.

That’s where we had dinner… Ristorante Antico Pignolu

.Moi, cousin, Thalin, and aunt… mom was taking the picture.

.Shrimp Alfredo

. Goat cheese


Steak that was a bit chewy

.Dessert was teramisu, then coffee after.  The steak was a disapoointment, but over-all , dinner was good. There were 3 bottles of wine on the table , and guess what, we drank the wine like it was water….  My aunt just had half a glass, so that was pretty much  like one bottle per person, lol.   I was careful not to fall into the water  as we boarded the ferry to take us back to the hotel.  We were happily tipsy. Thumbs up, Venice !

.The following day was  another tour of Venice for everyone. But, there was another Optional tour that we got…… GONDOLA SERENADE ! 40 Euro ( $52 ) By the way, I’ve been talking about Optional tours from the beginning, but have you ever wondered what the others who didn’t join were doing while the rest of us were on special tours?  For this one, the rest just  toured around on solid ground… maybe they enjoyed it more, I don’t know.  Well, we experienced that too in Switzerland.  While those who joined had fine typical Swiss dinner , we bought ours at the convenience store and hang out at the hotel’s outdoor cafe.

Anyways,  I expected the gondolier to sing a familiar Italian song,  * sings * “ O, Sole mio, la la la ….. ”  , but he didn’t sing that.  His booming voice  echoed through the narrow canals, and I wonder what the residents are thinking  everytime they hear a gondolier singing as he passes by… ” Damn tourists. ”

Boarding  area










.Oh, hi there, Paolo ! * waves and makes a V sign *

After the fun gondola ride, we went   to a glass  factory to watch a demo  on glass – blowing.   .  They also sell expensive glass stuff there. I bought a pair of  earrings for  32 E, the least expensive item on display.  Just like in Amsterdam at a diamond factory, I think we were brought there to shop. One of our group ( she’s from the Philippines too but lives in Australia ) bought an 800 Euro  (  $ 1,025 ) glass jar, free shipping to Australia.  She and my mom have become good buddies during the trip.

.To be honest, that was quite a boring activity.  My father went to a glass blowing factory in Murano, which he says is the more famous site than the one in Venice. I don’t think so. I think Venitian glass is more well-known. He brought home a Murano glass unicorn, with the etched signature of the maker.  My mother tells me I broke a lot of stuff  when I was a kid, including that unicorn. ( ^_^)”

We had pizza for lunch, the first of so many pizzas that we consumed in Italy.  Pizzarias  were everywhere, and pastas too, so much , it made  me wonder if these were the only foods Italians eat. It got me  climbing the walls by third day and dreaming of  barbecued baby back ribs, sushi  and mushu pork.

.I did say I was going to compare American pizza and pasta with authentic Italian , didn’t I ?  I hope my Italian readers won’t get offended .( I do have quite a few readers from Italy ), but , to be honest, the pizzas and pastas here in the US are so much better.  Chicago deep dish pizza, anyone?  Of course , each to his her own taste. But compare the pizza I’m eating in the photo to this ——->

Go to Wal-Mart , Ren, and check out the frozen pizzas  section there. I assure you, they taste better. And  I recommend DiGiorno. ”  \(^__^)/

Awwww, my cousin is sooo cute !

.My outfit  * smiles *  ….. White hat with polka dot trimmings, wide sunglasses, long dress…. for some reason, it reminds me of what  1950’s  Audrey Hepburn  type  ladies wore strolling on the scenic promenades  of  C’ote d’ Azur. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wore that. * whispers*  By the way, one of my tourmates was actually nursing a broken heart when she joined the tour. Her boyfriend , who was supposed to go with her on this tour, dumped her 2 weeks before the scheduled departure. I don’t know which is more preferable, getting dumped before , or after.  It would suck, either way.  Aaaargh, as far as men go, deal with them tongue in cheek.   Oh, but I digress.


.Above 2 photos are the entrances to the museum, I think.

Awesome architectural details…… It’s a pity we don’t do this stuff anymore. Modern sculpture is pure cr*p . What’s up with those pieces 0f iron welded together into an unrecognizable form and then call that art ?  I don’t appreciate what I don’t understamd. And,  there’s a reason why millions of people  travel across the  world to see Michaelangelo’s Pieta and David.

Do you know there’s no place in Venice where one can sit and rest, unless  you go to a restaurant and order something to eat ?


Sorry  if I bored you with the tons of photos I posted here.  But I hope you’ll stay with me ’til the end of my tour. We ‘ve been to so many places in Italy. Florence, Assissi, Lugano, Rome, Verona, and The Vatican.

This is all for now. Good day and PEACE.


Renxkyoko Iglesias here, hello !

This is Part 4 and I’m now in Switzerland. The trip from Germany ( Heilderberg) by way of Autobahn  to Switzerland took us nearly 5 hours.  The scenery was spectacular, as I expected…… the Swiss Alps,   the villages that dot the landscape, and herd of goats  peacefully eating grass on a hill  ( or were they sheep? )…… , that was so idyllic  and scenic !

Oh,  and it also  reminded me of the movie, The  Sound of Music. ( I know, the story happened in Austria, he he he ) But hey, I’m sure some of you know of the song, right.? * sings * High on the hill was a lonely goatherd, yodel, yodel, yodel *  Yep, the yodel thing was certainly Swiss.  Funny thing was, the tour director put in a  a  Swiss yodel cd , and let us  hear  a typical Swiss yodel song. I reckoned that was to get us in the mood.  Problem was,  for nearly 5 hours, those were the only songs that were played.  I was ready to jump off the bus after an hour of continous yodeling,, but couldn’t complain coz the old folks were merrily singing too. And horror !  I found myself unconciously tapping my feet and silently yodeling, as well.  ~.~

.Our destination was Lucerne, but the hotel we were booked in was actually in Fluelen, a small quiant town of  just over 2000 people.  The hotel was Hotel Hirschen. About the hotel….. it was the second worst hotel we’ve stayed in , so far.  Our room was tiny, and really, really in need of refurbishment.  The towels were frayed at the edges. The 2 wooden chairs were shabby and badly scratched.  But then I heard Switzerland’s recycling  rate is 96 %, so I guess, nothing is thrown away until it is totally  unuseusable..  We don’t know why Cosmos keeps on using this hotel, though.  Two reasons : very cheap, or the million dollar view from the hotel.  The hotel is right across from Lake Lucerne and part of Swiss Alps mountains.


That was the view from our hotel room, which was on the second floor, the one in the middle with open curtains.


The one below is what I saw  from my hotel window early  morning. .

There was an optional tour on our first night in Switzerland. It was dinner with Swiss folklore entertainment ( yodeling and maybe some dancing ). We didn’t get it. It was expensive , like 68 Euro each. ( $87 ) It was the only  optional tour that we didn’t get, if  I recall.   It was okay that we didn’t go. . Mom always had to pay for 3 people, herself,  me and my cousin.  So those of us  who stayed behind at the hotel had dinner  where  we could find it. There was a Burger King nearby.  Finally, an American style sandwich ! But then  we saw the price of one Whopper, small fries and regular Coke.  12,70 E ( $ 16.25 ! ! )  That’s less than $ 5 in the US ! ! (And the Coke is even unlimited) . We refused to buy not because we couldn’t afford it. It was out of principle.  We then  decided to buy something to eat at nearby convenience store, and  had coffee and drinks at the outdoor restaurant of the  hotel, and enjoyed the view.  Well, I guess the Swiss can afford to buy  a $ 16 Whopper. They have one of   the highest per capita income in the world, after all.

Next day was another optional tour that we got. . ……. At Mt. Titlis- Rotair, the world’s first revolving cable car  that  goes up to 10,000 feet.  75 E each ( $ 96 ). Mom also got  for me and my cousin a Titlus Ice Flyer for additional  12 E, an individual chair lift that takes each person  just a few feet above the glacier. Pardon me that I’m giving some dollar figures. This is just  a ” tip ” for  future travellers’  out – of  – budget  ” unexpected” expenses.


My ears just popped and I didn’t like it.

And sorry for the blurry photos. They were taken through the cable car’s dirty glass windows.


.By the way, I don’t know if you’ve even noticed it, but the grass look like carpet …. they aren’t tall, are they ?  They look like my neighbors’ lawns, ha ha ha.  I tend to notice little details like that, and wonder.  It’s mysterious, like, do they cut the grass or is that a special kind of grass that don’t grow tall ?

Well, guess what, they actually mow the grass ! ! !  I saw it ! ! !  They used  this ride – on lawnmowers, and  I saw 3 of them mowing the grass on the hills.  Mystery solved.


These are the views at the top of the snowcapped mountains. It was  eerily beautiful/

. The photo directly  below was the topmost. We rode on individual  chair lifts and  it was really beautiful up there, waaaaay above the clouds, but at the same time, it was scary. I have fear of heights, actually.  I was seated so stiffly, a bit terrified, fearing that a cable would break and I’d plunge down to my early demise. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the sheer raw beauty of the mountain.

That one above is the scenery leaving Mt. Titlis and  going to Lucerne.

After the Titlis tour, we proceeded to Lucerne  for some shopping and sightseeing.  I just wished it was Geneva though, or maybe Zurich ( Bern is the capital of Switzerland.  ) Lucerne is okay, I guess.

.Bought several packs of home-made like chocolates here. Authentic Swiss chocolates. The Swiss consume the most chocolates in the world.  Nestle, the biggest food company in the world, is Swiss. It started as a chocolate factory.  Hmmm, I wonder what that little boy was doing,  alone, at the corner. Do you see him?

.I’ve heard of Bucherer Rolex….. it’s  a  high- end store that sells 15,000 E watches and thousand dollar purses. Our tour director was being sly when he handed each of us a coupon, something like a gift certificate  from Bucherer. So we went in to see what free stuff we could get… it was a stainless Bucherer  Rolex spoon. Cool.  It was a come- on , really, to entice us to check out the store , and hopefully buy something.  Good sales tactic. My cousin and Mom bought a 39 Euro Swiss Knife, and had  names carved in the knife.,,,, for Dad, and  for my cousin’s BF. Aaargh, I don’t think  it’s a good idea to give guys potential weapons, he he, even if they  are the Swiss kind.

We got free dinner at the hotel.  That would be the second out of 9 free dinners  in the tour.  The next day was another Optional tour for us, Lake Lucerne  cruise at 28 Euro each.  Those who didn’t join  went  sightseeing  in the the city .

.Now, I don’t know if I heard it right, but the tour guide said ”  there’s no fish in this lake because it’s so clean,”.  It didn’t seem logical, but he could be right, in a way. If there’s no organic stuff to eat there, then no fish will thrive. It’ will just be one big aquarium.  Eh,  I don’t know.  We did see some swans swimming there.

And we organic humans  were there, too.

.After the cruise, we went sightseeing in the city, bought some souvenirs,  had lunch ( pastries ), and just  hang around the Bucherer area awaiting our departure for Italy.


..That’s a sculpture of The Dying Lion, made in honor of  hundreds of Swiss Guards  that defended Versailles Palace from the French Revolutionaries. Switzerland has a policy of nuetrality, but, they did allow their soldiers to serve in other countries, usually as Guards,  and not as fighting  foot  soldiers. To this day, Swiss Guards are the ones guarding  The Vatican. I assume we all know The Vatican, the seat of Roman Catholicism,  is also a country,  yes ?  They  serve as the only standing army of the country, all just a  little over 100 of them.

.I don’t remember where this was taken,  (^__^). I was resting and  my cousin took my pic. I posed though. lol

.Taken on the cable car…… posted it just to remind myself, Look, Ma, no rashes !  My skin broke out in Italy. (#_#) Guess it was the sudden change in weather.  * looks closely at my pic * ….  I can see some blackheads, and 1 pimple, but no rashes yet.  Still looking  good at this point.   Subsequent pics from Italy will show ugly  rashes on my skin. Aaaaargh. ! ! !    d*_*b  Be warned.

This is it for Switzerland…….. Beautiful country, scenic and postcard pretty…… It really lived up to my expectations.

Next is Italy.   * looking  again at my pic*  Speaking of which, our  Italian tour guide jokingly  said I had a Roman nose.  She said she had a Roman nose, too. What exactly is a Roman nose ?  I don’t know if I’ll take that as a compliment or what .   * annoyed*   (=_= )”

Good day and PEACE ! ! Don’t forgt to read my next post ! ! ITALY !!!!

European Trip, Part 3, AMSTERDAM, GERMANY

Hi ! It’s me , Ren. Are you bored yet ?  Please don’t get bored, I beg you, coz there are more to come !  ( After all, it was a 27 – day tour ! )

One thing, I used up 3 memory cards and  got a few shots from my cell phone, which I didn’t get to use much, by the way.  I also brought some trusty disposable cameras, just in case.  In fact, I dropped my camera one time, and I thought it was a goner. Luckily, I could still use it, thank goodness.

So, anyway, I said i’d post a few more photos of Amsterdam.

.Central Station area.

.More of the Red Light District. Normally, there are a lot of people on the street, but that was taken at 11 PM. In fact, we almost missed the last bus at 12 midnight.

.A beautiful structure along Amsterdam’s canals.


.Eh. I can’t resist showing these rocks.  Well, ladies, there’s the price.  1 Euro – $ 1.28. The rate varies everyday and Gassan is the name of the diamond center. Do you see that 35, 705 Euro ring ? (  ~ $ 47,000 ) To be honest  even if I had that much money to throw away, I wouldn’t buy that. These rocks are earth-made…… can be man-made, too, given the right temperature. I’d opt for gold.  I mean, gold originated  from nova – explosion. The rare element travelled  thru the wide expanse of the universe and settled on this planet.  Talk about rare.  Just the same, I ‘d like to have the pair of earrings shown above, please. And the ring, too.    ” Give me a ring… and I don’t mean  the  phone …. the one from Tifanny’s. ”   *hug*                ( >*v* > )

Diamond earrings  and a ring,  dream on, Ren ! I couldn’t even afford to buy the combo meal for  5,50 E.   I got just the frites  without the Coke for 3, 85 E .  I needed all the Euro I could save for other things.  Oh, and guess what, see the fries on the menu board? It’s supposed to come with sauce. . But we were given frites without it , and I was like,  eh,  ? Well,  I had to pay .65 E extra.   >.<

.Do you know how pitiful we were ? I had to share the fries with my cousin. That was our lunch.

.I can’t  say  “finis ” to Amsterdam without showing you a typical Dutch windmill.

.I don’t know if I heard it right, but the tour guide said that could be  the last of the windmill that is still in use.  She could be right because the photo below  shows  the typical landscape  we now see all over Europe.

Not a thing of beauty but still  a good thing. People have to harness wind power,  a resource  that is inexhaustible and free.

Above is what we saw  travelling from Amsterdam to Germany. These little pockets of villages that dot the landscape  are so postcard pretty. The real thing is  more beautiful than the photo. It really is stunning.

I just realized I have very few pics of  Germany.   Well, maybe because we stayed there for just one day. We did stay there overnight, though,  in the  city called Bruehl. It is about a few kilometres from Cologne and is also located within so-called Rhineland.   We didn’t see much of the town, actually, though from there, we took  the ” OPTIONAL ” Rhine River cruise, where we saw the famous Lorelei rock.  So, okay, here’s something about OPTIONAL tours……… These are tours that  are  not included in the package.  We had to pay  extra to join one.  28 Euro each for this cruise. . So, future travellers, caveat emptor . Always check out the details….. and bring plenty of cash and at least 3 credit cards.  American Express is the best, but some small stores do not accept AE……. Mastercard is alright, it’s accepted everywhere , but, this credit card company will automatically shut off your card use when it suspects there are unusual transactions from far-away lands.  So use the 3rd card , or pay cash.




.After the Rhine River cruise was Heildelberg, Germany. It is famous for its university, the University of  Heidelberg.  The city is beautiful. What else can I say? It’s like a fairy tale land.  Oh, wait, something else….. I googled Heidelberg  and was surprised that its No. 1 notable inhabitant is Jose Rizal, who happens to be the Philippines’ National Hero.  He lived there for a long time, and that was where he wrote his books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and with the help of his German friends, had them published and printed, and smuggled into the Philippines in the 1800s.  Noli Me Tangere ( Touch Me Not ) is actually a tragic love story, but it not only tells the story of the 2 lovers…. it  depicts more  the terrible  social conditions  of the Filipinos under Spain.  This book brought down almost 400 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines.  There are several parks and streets named after him and there’s a  statue of Jose Rizal in  a Heidelberg park  and the house where he lived has been preserved.

As always, I digress.

.That’s the City Hall.  I went in there to use the toilet, ha ha ha. ( Marked my territory )


.We had a quick lunch of  pastries and sandwich  and a Coke.  I never really had a decent lunch since the start of the tour ( except in London , our ” free” time ).  There just wasn’t enough time to go to a restaurant and  have a decent meal.  That’s the disadvantage of going on a group tour. Everything is regimented .  We stop at a place to see the sights, and we’re given just 3 hours to do that. We don’t want to waste our time seated waiting for food. We want to see as much  within  the time alloted.  So, we buy something, and go , walking and  eating at the same time.



.So, that’s it for Germany.

My father said he didn’t get to see these places when he was in Germany. Well, it’s because he didn’t join a tour, and confined himself to cities.  Munich , he said, is very, very modern.  Yes, it would be nice to see that too, of course, but I would prefer to see  places that are completely different from any other modern city in the world. That said, there’s one thing I noticed about  the beauty of Europe…… it’s man- made……… the architectural designs of buildings and churches took my breath away .  Europe is, indeed,  stunningly beautiful.

Alright, this is all for now. Next is Switzerland.

Good day and PEACE.