Back to the Philippines after 10 years – Part 1

While the Czech Republic was knee-deep in snow, we went for a short trip to my motherland, the Philippines.  It was the first trip for my family to this land of eternal sunshine, and we all enjoyed it immensely.

Our first few days were spent in Manila, where I was able to meet and spend time with my long-time friends.  We stayed at a hotel in the Makati business district.  I specifically chose this location because it was not too far from the airport and close to one of the popular malls in the city.  Prior to our trip, I’ve read news about the worsening traffic in the metro, so I decided to have us stay in a place where meetups will be convenient and a trip to the airport will not melt the snow folks who are travelling with me.

It was great bonding with my friends again and I was happy that my family instantly became comfortable with them.

After 3 days, we flew out to Bohol, where we spent the most time in.  Everyday there was something in the itinerary.  A few of the places we visited were….

SONY DSC  The exotic animal park in Loay, where my son and my husband fearlessly petted a snake.

The idea seemed cool, but it was not to my liking.  I would rather watch them at a distance.  On this trip, I was also able to show my kids where the rice comes from.

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If you have ever met a Filipino, you would know that we love rice.   It is such an important element in our culture.  I have yet to meet a Filipino who doesn’t like rice.

Another famous attraction that we visited is the Loboc floating restaurant.

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I have been to this restaurant several times during my younger years, and I was quite happy to go back there.  I have noticed a few improvements from the last 10 years.  The port is now well-built and those boats themselves had a little face lift.

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But what amused me though were the air-conditioned bathrooms.   Finally someone figured out that a restroom should live up to its name — a place to rest.  Those restrooms provided visitors a much-needed respite from the tropical heat.

On this same journey, we also hit another major spot, the Chocolate hills.

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The hills were not very “chocolatey” on this visit because it was just the end of the monsoon season.  Every day it had its daily dose of rain.

On the way there, we also dropped by the Bilar man-made tropical forest, where we paid a visit to the all-knowing Tarsiers of Bohol at a conservation park nearby.

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Before heading out for home, we decided to drop by a butterfly sanctuary where there was much fun to be had.

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We had a very funny guide who told us that he used to work with a Czech volunteer.  It was interesting to know that like Filipinos, Czechs are also everywhere.

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Like this Czech butterfly for instance.

Stay tuned for the next part of this butterfly’s Philippine adventure.

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Destination: Valtice and Lednice

On our way back to Czech, my father-in-law took us to two of the most beautiful places in Moravia: Valtice & Lednice.  These places are currently protected as  UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The chateaus in both towns originally belonged to the Lichtenstein family, when they were still ruling the area.

We left our hotel right after breakfast, and the Valtice Colonnade was our first stop.

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This structure was situated atop a small hill in the middle of wine vineyards, home of the famous Valtice wine.

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Since it was getting close to lunch time, we emptied our food bags and had a little picnic under a shaded area.

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Afterwhich, we climbed 89 steps to get to the top of the colonnade.

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It was tiring, but all worth it because of the view from the top – the beautiful Moravian countryside.

During the communist era, this structure also served a less desirable purpose.  It used to be a lookout tower for the national guards, searching for vehicles trying to cross the Austrian border.

But all that is now just a part of history.  This place has now been fully restored, and is one of the important cultural sights in the area.

Next stop was a quick exploration of the town of Valtice.

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We also went to the chateau, the structure whose image can be found on the label of Valtice wine.

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We didn’t get to go to the museum due to time constraints, but we were satisfied just walking through town and viewing the buildings from the outside.

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We then headed out to the Lednice area for lunch.  This place is also notable for having one of the most beautiful chateaus in the area.

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I’m glad we took my in-laws in this trip.  We got to explore not only Vienna but the beautiful Moravian wine country as well.

Next time around, when the kids are a bit older, we hope to go back and stay longer, exploring this beautiful place aboard our bicycles.  But for now, I’ll just have to wait.

A Fun Weekend in Vienna

This may not sound very normal to some, but we love travelling with our parents.  On a recent trip to Vienna, we decided to take them along.  This time, since all of us are already familiar with the historical sights, we decided to make it a fun trip involving food and taking the kids to an amusement park.

After having a hearty lunch at Mikulov, we drove to Vienna to get some coffee and a taste of the classic pork knee.

Vienna is famous for its cafes, so it was no wonder that they were all packed when we got there.  Luckily, we found the Gutenberg, a quaint restaurant tucked along a small street in Vienna’s shopping district.  The coffee was good, and so was the sacher torte that I had with it.  And it was too late before I realized that I should have taken a picture.

But anyhow, I think the picture I took from this place was more precious than the food – my children, in such a tender moment.

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We then proceeded to Prater Amusement park, where my son enjoyed the bumper cars with his father.

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And because he was too young to drive his own bump car, he begged to go on more rides where it was totally ok for him to take the wheel.

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Still, that wasn’t enough.  He is crazy about fire trucks, so here he is driving his own.

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The day will never be complete if we don’t get to taste the Viennese pork knee.  So we proceeded to the Schweizerhaus (Swiss house) and beer garden  to grab a mouthful and down it all off with a good glass(es) of beer.

The roasted pork knee is probably one of the unhealthiest food in this planet, but it tastes so good!  It reminded me of a typical Filipino dish, crispy pata.

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Yes, that was my portion.    So now you know why I am still fat.

 

Destination: Mikulov

This past weekend, we travelled with my husband’s parents to the Southern part of Moravia and Lower Austria (Vienna).

Our first stop was in Mikulov, a beautiful town which used to be ruled by the Lichtenstein family (the noble family whose name is the same as the little country that they still rule to this day)  when this part of the country used to be part of the Austrian empire.

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According to other writers, this part of Moravia used to be Sigmund Freud’s playground.

Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian neurologist and the founding father of psychoanalysis was born in Příbor, a little town in South Moravia.   That was back during the day when Moravia was still part of the Austrian empire.  It is said that when he is tired of the hustle and bustle in Vienna, he is a frequent visitor of Mikulov.  No wonder, it is just and hour’s drive from Vienna, and very very close to the Austrian border.

Perhaps the most famous and most prominent historical spot in this town is the Chateau.

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This chateau used to be the summer residence of the Lichtenstein noble family.  Later on, it was sold to the Dietrichstein family who occupied this place until 1945.

In fact, another notable monument is the Dietrichstein tomb, where the remains of the family members now lie.

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Inside the chateau grounds, is a beautiful garden which is open to the public all year round.

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Up in the chateau grounds, one can view the whole town.

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In the distance, one can also see another interesting monument, the Svatý kopeček (Holy Hill), where the St. Sebastian chapel can be found.

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We never really went to this place because it sits on a different hill.

It seems like there were a few pilgrims who made their way to the top.  But on the other hand, they may not be pilgrims.  This hill is also home to several rare plants and animal species and has been declared a nature reserve.

Still on a different hill, one can also find the Kozí hrádek (Goat Tower).

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This was a very significant tower for the protection of Mikulov in the 15th century.  It contains a two-storey bombarding tower, which at that time was considered an advanced defense system in the Central European context.  Today, it is has been landscaped and included as a recreational area.

There were still a lot of interesting places that we didn’t get to see due to time constraints.  But with what I saw, I am not wondering why Freud loved this place.

Mikulov offers a wide range or nature activities and for those who appreciate good wine, this town also has a rich viticulture tradition.  The historical monuments I mentioned was just a tip of the iceberg.

I have just added this in my list of favorite places to visit.  Not sure when we can go back, but we definitely will.

If you would like to know more about Mikulov, please click here.

 

Destination: Marianske Lazne

Between all the visits and my husband’s busy work schedule these past few days, we were able to squeeze in a short trip to Marianske Lazne, one of the most popular spa destinations in this country.

It is located in the Western part of the Czech Republic and is a 2-hour drive from our place.

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This town is made up of romantic colonnades, cozy hotels, and places for varied seasonal sports activities.

The city is quite small, and it is enough to walk through it in one day.    Our main goal was to go to the Krizovy (Cross) spring pavilion.

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It is the main pavilion in the Colonnade where one can taste the spring waters from the 6 different springs in this town.

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There are 6 main springs in Marianske Lazne, all of them with different ionic concentrations and each one believed to cure different illnesses.

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Here you can see my husband enjoying his cup of the spring water.

We then proceeded to walk towards the fountains.  Jakub was having the time of his life running around, jumping and what have you.

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Its tranquil gardens were awe-inspiring and certainly adds to the beauty of the place.

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The architecture of the colonnade itself  is very remarkable.  It speaks volumes of the grandeur of this place.

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Walking around town, the buildings also didn’t fail to impress.  Even regular houses were already quite grand.

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This one even looks like a castle in a fairytale.

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Not sure if this is a house or a hotel.  But either way, in my eyes, the architecture is impressive.

Anyhow, I’m glad we visited this place.    I hope that the next time we come back, it will be for a week of relaxation in this beautiful place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go to Vegas: A Guide to Sin City

This year, I am opening a new category in this blog called “Travel Picks.”  In this category, I am collaborating with travel experts and fellow bloggers on their favorite places to travel.  

My first contributor for this series is Kendra Thornton, a mother of 3 and an expert traveler.  Before being promoted to the full time position of mom, she was the former Orbitz Director of Communications where she was able to travel a great deal.  She now lives in Chicago with her family, where they are her number one priority in everyday life.  

Kendra and I have come up with this article about Las Vegas, her favorite place to travel.  So if the travel bug has hit you already, then let’s go to Vegas.

Photo courtesy of Kendra Thornton
Photo courtesy of Kendra Thornton

Over 40 million travelers head to this oasis in the Midwest for some excitement and daring entertainment. Las Vegas is an incredible vacation spot known for its casinos and celebrity shows. It’s where you can see Britney Spears perform live or catch the famous Cirque du Soleil “O” show on the strip. There’s so much to do in this town, and these are just a few of my favorite places when travelling to Sin City.

CSI Fans: Get a Closer Look
If you love the show “CSI: Las Vegas,” you can get an up close look at the television program at CSI Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. You get to experience the show and truly become apart of the crime scene experience. Visitors enter into a crime scene, collect information and help solve the case. Of course, it’s not always so obvious who the killer is.

Relax at Mandalay Bay
When traveling to Las Vegas with friends, there’s always one day when you need to just unwind and take a chill pill. Mandalay Bay’s Beach is perfect for that. There are several pools here with nearby tiki bars. You can grab a floating tube and just float for hours in pure bliss. Kids also can enjoy the wave pool, lazy river and water slides.

Photo courtesy of Kendra Thornton
Photo courtesy of Kendra Thornton

Pink Jeep Tours in Las Vegas

The main attraction for any Las Vegas traveler is the strip. It’s gorgeous at night, but there’s a whole other side to Las Vegas’ beauty on the outside. Pink Jeep Tours provides an adventure tour that takes you through the sights surrounding Las Vegas. You can take an air helicopter ride or hop into a Pink Jeep from your hotel and zoom across the Southern Nevada desert. Your guide will provide a totally unique experience and even take you on a day trip to the Grand Canyon.
Fine Italian at Its Best
The best Italian cuisine you’ll find in Vegas is at D.vino at the Monte Carlo in Vegas. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with a unique atmosphere that works for both romantic occasions and family groups. They have delicious food like stuffed zucchini, and you won’t find a better wine selection than at D.vino. The restaurant has an Enomatic system that has 18 exquisite selections of wine that are incredibly hard to find anywhere else. You can taste all the wine in 1oz, 2oz or 5oz pours.
Las Vegas is a wonderful place to travel with friends and even family! With its hotels catering to every type of traveler and family, it is a truly a unique oasis. Sites like Gogobot make it even easier to read user reviews so you can feel even more comfortable about your hotel purchase.