Sunday, August 21, 2016
When asked to name some of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, most people mention the ones that they are most familiar with. The Buckingham Palace in London, the Royal Palace in Madrid, The Schronbrunn Schloss in Vienna and Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany are some of the most famous castles people give at the top of their minds.
In a region as vast and diverse as Europe however, it is almost inevitable to miss and/or overlook some of the gems that can be found in its far reaches.
Take for example, the Amalienborg Slotsplads in Copenhagen.
Built in the early 18th century, Amalienborg is the winter home of the Danish Royal Family, situated at the heart of Copenhagen Denmark.
The complex boasts of four identical classical palace façades with rococo interiors around an octagonal courtyard.
The four buildings are
1.Christian VII’s Palace (also known as Moltke’s Palace, used as guest residence),
2. Christian VIII’s Palace (also known as Levetzau’ Palace, used as guest palace for Prince Joachim and Princess Benedikte),
3. Frederik VIII’s Palace (also known as Brockdorff’s Palace, home of the Crown Prince family), and
Christian IX’s Palace (also known as Schack’s Palace, home of the Queen and Prince Consort).
Actually, the four palaces were intended to be used by four noble families of Copenhagen but the fire at the Christiansborg Palace convinced the royal family to use Amaliensborg as their winter Palace in 1794. In return, the four great families were offered 40 years of tax immunity for their services to the Danish crown.
All palace facades sport a late Baroque, 18th century design and all facades are washed white, immaculate and stunning, catching any visitor off-guard.
The centerpiece of the complex is a grand statue of King Frederick V, attributed as the founde of Amalienborg. The statue depicts the Danish king in an equestrian pose.
According to historians and observers, Amalienborg boasts of the most spectacular example of Rococo (Late Baroque) architecture in all of Europe.
Inside the palaces are the Amalienborg museum which will give you an idea of the lavish lifestyle lived by members of Denmark’s royal family. The current Queen Margrethe’s photos and memorabilia can also be found inside the palace halls.
But Amalienborg is frequented by visitors to Copenhagen because of its famous changing of the guard ceremony.
Every day at noon, visitors can catch a glimpse of the changing of the guard.
According to the copenhagen.com, the ceremony is called “The King’s Watch” or “Kongevagt” when Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark is in residence. During this time, the guards are are accompanied by the Royal Guards music band.
The route, that starts at 11:31 at the barracks, goes: Rosenborggade, Købmagergade, Østergade, Kongens Nytorv, Bredgade, Sct. Annæ Plads, Amaliegade, and Amalienborg.
Meanwhile, it is called “The Lieutenant’s Watch” or “Lojtnantsvagt” if one of the Royal Princes is residing at the palace in the capacity of regents, and drums and flutes will be heard.
When the Crown Prince or Prince Joachim are in residence but not n the capacity of regents or when the palace has no residing member of the royal family, the guards march Copenhagen without musical accompaniment and this is called “Palaevagt” or Manor Watch.
I had the wonderful chance of experiencing the Lieutenant’s Watch during my visit to Copenhagen and I was thoroughly mesmerized by the richness of tradition still observed in this northern European country.
It was indeed one of the coolest things I have seen and experienced in Europe and if you have the chance to come visit Denmark, this item should be high on your bucket list
Standing in the middle of the road, looking up, I couldn’t help but smile at the marvelous vista right in front of me. Colorful houses in vivid hues, designed in architectural styles dominant in the Spanish colonial era. In almost every patio and portico, beautiful bougainvillea flowers bloom, and locals wearing friendly smiles spend the lazy afternoon resting in their rocking chairs, and they would wave at you as if you’re a long lost friend.
It’s supposed to be winter in the southern hemisphere but here, the sun shines brightly making you long for ice-cold smoothies, while lying cozily along the the Caribbean coast.
This is Cartagena de Indias, or simply Cartagena, a port city north of Colombia. It is one of the most popular destinations in South America and its offerings are limitless, attracting visitors from different parts of the world, from different economic classes.
Located at the coast of the Caribbean, Cartagena, with its colorful colonial houses has long been a playground for the rich and powerful elite. For art and history aficionados, the 400-year old houses and buildings, are a major attraction, not to mention, that jaw-dropping murals and paintings painted by the locals.
Those who are into architecture love the city for its massive churches, and colorful colonial-period houses and mansions. and for casual world travelers like me, it’s the mixture of all these makes Cartagena such an irresistible destination that you just have to visit at least once in your life.
I arrived in Cartagena, still feeling jetlagged from traveling all the way from the Philippines and then to Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and then Bogota, Colombia. But all the exhaustion vanished at the sight of Cartagena’s impressive beauty.
My wanderings were concentrated in the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site and my three days in the city weren’t enough for me to get a glimpse of of at least half of what this South American jewel has to offer.
Cartagena is a place that makes you drop all of your sightseeing routines and set ways. With virtually every corner and street boasting of a colorful sight, it is best to simply walk you way around the city and the Old Town, and go where your feet and eyes will take you.
But almost everyone will agree that in Cartagena, the first place you visit is the Centro Amurallado or the Old Walled City.
A Port City, Cartagena is surrounded by a 13-kilometer wall that both protects the city from the elements and from the raiding pirates during the 16th-18th century. You will spend roughly 90 minutes if you walk around the stone walls. Inside the walled city, almost all of the city’s highlights can be reached within minutes by walking.
At the Walled City, the first historical sight that will welcome you is the Clock Tower or the Torre del Reloj. The most original elements of the tower were built in the 17th century but over the years, its has seen several updates and repairs, and the clock it now sports is Swiss made, added in the early 1900’s.
Once inside the Centro Amurallado, be sure to check out the stunning 16th century church Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, named after the saint. The church has an imposing facade that lords over the plaza. In front of the church, are several fine dining restaurants where locals and travelers alike, stay drinking wines and dining expensive Colombian delights while waiting for the sunset.
Iglesia de San Pedro Claver
Around the wall city are several colorful plazas, houses and buildings that compete with each other in terms of beauty and elegance. One plaza that I really like is the Plaza Santo Domingo where you can find the Spanish consulate.
Another highlight destination inside the Walled City is the beautiful Cartagena cathedral dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria.The building was designed after basilicas found in Andalusia and the Canary Islands. Outside the cathedral, you can find Colombian artists selling portraits and water color-painted slices if rustic Colombian life.
Walking around the old town’s cobbled alleys, and admiring beautiful porticoes and verandas can take some time, since every houses makes an effort to stun admirers. You won’t have any difficulty finding a hotel, restaurant or souvenir shop inside the walled city, but they are a bit pricey. The up and coming bars and clubs are also located inside the walled city, just right after passing the Torre de Reloj.
If you want more value for your buck, a few blocks away from the wall city, travelers gravitate towards the hip, artistic, laid back, realistic, if a bit noisy, community of Getsemani.
Over the years, travelers have raised their eyebrows on Getsemani no thanks to its reputation as a sketchy community, where the poorer people of Cartagena live. It also had a reputation for prostitution and drugs but that reputation is slowly washing away as more and more restaurants and hotels open within this enclave, and police increase visibility in the area.
The result? An up-and-coming destination, that now attracts a serious load of travelers and tourists. Around Plaza Santissima de Trinidad, travelers, even those staying inside the walled city, hand around and mingle with locals for some authentic feel of Cartagena.
One of the most popular destinations in Cartagena, you simply cannot miss is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, one of the most impressive and solidly build fortresses in the Americas. Built in the 17th century, this fort was never taken, despite attempts by enemies.
Inside the fort is a complicated network of tunnels used by the soldiers of Cartagea to transport food and ammunition. Today, the fort remains intact and a trip to the castle’s highest tip, will reward you with a breathtaking view of Cartagena.
If you have some extra dough, you can also head south of Cartagena to Bocagrande, long considered as Catargena’s own version of Miami beach. The young, hip and moneyed Cartagenos flock to Bocagrande to dine in glitzy restaurants and stay in upscale hotels and condominiums.
Truly, Cartagena is a world class city that opens its arms to the everyone. It is a charming and colorful city that’s full of excitement and romance. It’s a city that makes you feel relaxed and complete at the same time.
If you ever get the chance to visit Cartagena, take it. You won’t ever regret it.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Saying that my teenage years were troubled may perhaps be the understatement of the decade.
I was missing classes, running with different cliques not necessarily good for me, giving in to vices just to fit in. I tried to join the drama club, because my life was full of well, drama. I dated people way older than me, so I could get that feeling of being loved and being secured.
And throughout those moments, I was in a constant search for a place where I belong and for people who would accept me for who I am. I wanted to get out and live in a parallel universe, so to speak.
It was bad enough that I needed some kind of intervention from well-meaning friends, who saw the potential in me.
And then, during my darkest hour, I found a new path that would inspire me to improve the way I was living, and go through life in a happy, positive way.
A Travel Inspiration
It was year 2000 and “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was showing in cinemas. I had to skip a class just to see it.
Everyone I knew, thrashed the movie, criticizing the bad acting, the environmental hazard it posed to Maya beach, in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, when the movie production set bulldozed the beach’s sand and planted several coconuts to make it more paradise looking.
Of course, I was also against tampering the natural beauty of the island but I saw past that and appreciated the message the movie was trying to convey. Lots of people dismiss it as a cheap escapist movie, but hey, it’s true.
We are all searching for ourselves and for a better life, and we have the means to make it come true.
The end credit showed a jump shot of the islanders with a caption “Parallel Universe”. And yes, they almost had it.
The movie, based on a book by Alex Garland, hit me like a tsunami. It became my most favorite movie of all time, not because it is the best, but because I can relate to it perfectly.
Years would pass, but it would remain to be one of the few movies that actually influenced me to hit the road and travel. It became my lifelong goal to go to places I’ve never been and meet the people that make those places unique and interesting.
I was able to travel to various countries, but my dream of stepping onto the shores of “the beach’ never wavered. It was like, every new place that I visit and conquer, was just a preparation for the feelings that would have overwhelmed me, once I finally get there.
Reaching “The Beach”
It took me 13 years, but I when I finally reached “The Beach”, I was just speechless. The feelings and memories I felt when I first saw the movie on a lonely night more than a decade ago, and during all those long years hit me like an avalanche, I had no choice but to cry.
If you ask me how I felt exactly at that moment, I won’t be able to give you an accurate description. It was surreal.
I just sat there on the shore, admiring the magnificent limestone formations that envelope the beach, oblivious to the noise of the common tourists that like me, were fascinated by Maya beach and by the movie.
It’s different now from the one I saw in the movie. There are no palm trees now, and there’s a convenience store at a hidden cove, 100 meters away from the shore. There are tsunami warnings, reminding everyone that this beach, also suffered devastation during the 2004 Asian tsunami.
But in many ways, it still is “the beach” that I dreamed of. I traveled hundreds of miles just to reach the island of Koh Phi Phi.and from there, I hired a longboat to get to the actual Maya beach
The search for a Parallel Universe
I looked around me and wondered, are all these people also searching for a place to call their own? Perhaps not, but with the multitude of backpackers I can see, I am sure that yes, some are also doing some soul-searching and wondering how to proceed with their respective lives from here.
I was almost the same age as Richard, the main character in the movie, when I first dream of reaching the shores of Maya beach. And back then, both of us are troubled by the expectations of our family, colleagues, and lovers.
13 years ago, I was tempted once again to check out, jump ship and just hit the road, leaving all problems behind me.
But at 30, life has taught me valuable lessons.
You don’t run away from your problems, no matter how big they maybe. You must face them with courage and determination, and be prepared to accept the consequences of the things you do or do not do.
A better life or a parallel universe is always tempting but you don’t always have to go far for you to reach it.
That life, that place you’ve always wanted to belong to, may be right there in front of you all along. You just have to open your eyes to see it.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Bali is the most famous of all Indonesian islands. It’s a place that boasts tropical beaches, breathtaking mountains, and friendly people. Those are just three of many reasons why tourists flock to the island each year!
You will have no doubt seen some pictures online of what Bali is like. But, how much do you really know about the island paradise? You should check out these seven fun facts to learn more:
- Bali is home to the world’s most expensive coffee
In Bali, you can buy a type of coffee called Kopi Luwak. One intriguing fact about it is you won’t be drinking a typical coffee. That’s because Kopi Luwak gets derived from undigested coffee cherry beans! They get refined from the waste material left by civet cats. Why is that type of coffee popular? Apparently, civet cats only eat the ripest coffee beans!
- It’s a popular destination for honeymooners
It doesn’t matter where people come from in the world. The island paradise is the top destination for newlyweds from all corners of the globe!
As a honeymooner, your journey may start in aluxury hotel in Bali. You could then explore the magic of the island with your new spouse. And let’s not forget the array of cuisines on offer for those romantic evening dinners! Of course, the only downside is you would need to leave and return home at some point!
- Not all beaches in Bali have beautiful white sand
You might not think it, but some of the sandybeaches on Bali is actually black! The reason for that is simple. The sand got formed from the cooled lava of the Mount Agung volcano.
- Seafood lovers will enjoy a veritable feast on Bali
Do you enjoy eating seafood? If so, Bali is the holiday destination for you! An astonishing fact about the island is that its waters are home to over 3,000 species of fish!
5. Bali relies heavily on tourism
As you can imagine, the scenic island of Bali attracts a plethora of visitors each year. And it’s just as well because tourism makes up 80% of the island’s GDP! Islanders have nothing to worry about for their economy. There’s no danger of people not visiting the island any time soon!
- Bali islanders are fluent in many languages
As you explore the island, one thing will become apparent. The locals will talk in an array of different languages and dialects. Most islanders speak Balinese, Indonesian, and English. Many will also speak other languages too.
- Bali’s new year starts in silence
The first day of Bali’s new calendar is Nyepi. Translating as the “day of silence”, it gets celebrated every Isakawarsa (Bali new year). For 24 hours from 6 am, light and sound must get kept to a minimum. The Hindu celebration also states that no-one is allowed out onto the streets or beaches. In fact, even Bali’s main airport closes during Nyepi!
Sydney locals are among the luckiest folks on the planet.
The city is one of the busiest economic centers in the world the quality of life here is something that others cities could only hope to imitate and achieve.
On top of that, Sydney is blessed with gorgeous beaches that makes balancing work and chill time so easy, breezy.
Take for example, the case of Coogee beach, located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
It only takes a 20-minute bus ride from Sydney Central to enjoy the beach life and party atmosphere Coogee has to offer.
A year-round destination for locals and visitors alike, Coogee gives everyone that inimitable beach side lifestyle that makes Sydney quite popular.
Coogee is a public beach and you can swim, paddle, snorkel to your heart’s content. The waves here are mild as compared tot he rough waters of Bondi so it is not surprisingly that this beach is preferred by families and casual, average swimmers.
Like other main beaches in Sydney, there are lifeguards patroling the main beach so you can have some sort of peace of mind.
For food lovers, the streets around the Coogee and Randwick (the suburb) are teeming with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops so there will be no shortage of areas to dine and drink.
Just a note though. Sydney is generally a pricey city so everything seems expensive. The bars and restaurants near the beach are understandably expensive. Don’t fret though since there are lots of convenience stores where you can get your beer cheap.
No matter if it’s a weekday or weekend, Coogee is full of life and visitors.
One of the reasons for this is the fact that Coogee is the starting and/or endpoint of the famous 6-kilometer Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk, one of the must-do activities whenever you visit Sydney.
This walk traverses the eastern shore of the city from Bondi to Coogee while passing the Bronte and Clovelly beaches and Gordon’s Bay.
Coogee beach is indeed of the treasures of Sydney. And if you ever have the chance to come visit the city, don’t miss the chance to take a splash in this gorgeous and picturesque beach.
A year round favourite with beach-going Sydneysiders and visitors alike, you can walk, surf, swim, snorkel, laze on the sand, shop, eat and drink here to your heart’s content.
Italy is known for many things, especially in the context of holidays. When people think of holidays in Italy, they think of glorious art museums. Or luxurious gondola rides. Many will think especially of the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
But in this article, we’re going to be looking at something else. Something the Italians do extremelywell. And that, my friend, is food. Of course, this could be said about many countries in Europe. The trick, of course, is to find out what it is they do better than any others.
Sometimes, this means consuming some of the food and wine you may already be familiar with. Many people will try to go for really exotic dishes, things with names they can barely pronounce to the waiter. But a great test of a country’s prowess when it comes to cuisine is to test its ability to make things you’re familiar with.
Don’t assume you’ve tried the best of any of these until you’ve tried them in Italy!
You may have seen some places in your hometown serving both gelato and ice cream. Many people don’t really know the difference. Nor do they take the time to appreciate the difference when they’re eating it! It’s not just the Italian word for “ice cream”.
Gelato has more of an “elastic” texture. It’s churned slower to keep it denser (a lot of ice cream is just air). It can also be a healthier choice as it has less fat content than ice cream.
Italy is certainly famous for its wines. Chianti wine is Italy’s most famous variation. The “Chianti region” is known to be Tuscany, as this is where the signature grapes are grown. If you’re looking for things to do in Florence, you could go on a luxurious Tuscan wine tour!
Ever wonder why a lot of the coffee you can buy at home has the word “Italian” in their names or descriptions? It’s because coffee producers all over the world wish to emulate the rich taste of the Italian stuff. The most famous delivery method for this stuff is in a shot of espresso, known as caffee. It’s deep, dark, and gives you one heck of a buzz!
No, I didn’t get the words the wrong way round. Outside of Italy, people usually call it a Margherita pizza. But in Italy, it’s a pizza Margherita. And if you think you know the Margherita, think again. Too many people think it’s the “plain” pizza option. Not so. In Italy, pretty much every food business has its own special sauce it uses on these pizzas. It’s one of the best ways to experience the unique sauce flavours of Italy.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Shaira Luna, the country’s most sought-after lenswoman of this generation, is all set to showcase a whole new mobile photography experience – one that urges Pinoys from all walks of life to #SeeThePhilippinesUpClose, from all sorts of new and incredible perspectives, exclusively using the iconic ASUS ZenFone Zoom.
The ZenFone Zoom is in fact the world’s thinnest 3x optical zoom smartphone, packing a powerful camera that can even take photos with up to 12 times magnification. To this, Luna adds: “This feature alone says a lot about the photography prowess of the phone. It can easily capture the country’s most unique elements in stunning close-ups, even from far distances. Imagine pro-level photography literally in the palm of your hands. That’s what you get with ZenFone Zoom!”
#SeeThePhilippinesUpClose from the Lens of the Best
The #SeeThePhilippinesUpClose campaign sets the tone for a one-of-a-kind mobile photography experience that features the country’s collection of vibrant sights, landscapes and people from exhilarating and never-before-seen angles. And for ASUS Philippines, there was no better way to curate this story, than through the images taken by renowned Filipina photographer, Shaira Luna, using the ZenFone Zoom.
“Without a doubt, Shaira is the most celebrated lenswoman in the country now, and is actually part of an ultra-exclusive group of professional photographers who were personally handpicked to be represented and managed by leading international agent Jed Root. Her talent, passion, professionalism, and unique eye for photography ultimately make her the perfect fit for the ASUS ZenFone Zoom,” shares ASUS Philippines Marketing Manager Jamie Zaldivar.
In her decade-long tenure in the industry, Luna’s cinematic, nostalgic and story-telling type of photography has caught the attention of numerous international publications across North America, the UK and even Europe. To name a few, Luna’s impressive body of work has notably graced The Interview Magazine, The Fashionisto, C-Heads, Cake Mag, and Valentina.
Luna’s extensive portfolio has also led her to become one of the country’s most sought after professional photographers. In the local scene, she has shot numerous editorial spreads with some of the most popular celebrities and personalities, and has worked with industry pillars and movers and shakers alike. Luna has also been tapped several times to lead the regional and local campaigns for various brands.
In this day and age of social media, Luna has also built an empire for herself. Present in almost all platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumbr, Luna’s following reaches far and wide, and across all markets, undeniably making her this generation’s most influential photographer.
Your Chance to #SeeThePhilippinesUpClose with the ZenFone Zoom
To give the public the chance to experience for themselves this marvel of a smartphone, ASUS Philippines will soon launch the #SeeThePhilippinesUpClose online contest that puts the spotlight on images taken exclusively using the ZenFone Zoom.
Starting May 30, and every Monday thereafter, Shaira Luna will posting a close-up photo of different Philippine-inspired elements, taken by the ZenFone Zoom. Interested participants must correctly guess in any of Shaira’s or ASUS Philippines’ social media accounts what is the actual subject before ASUS Philippines reveals what the bigger picture really is, a couple of days after.
Each Saturday, a weekly winner will be drawn for each photo, and will bring home a premium item from ASUS. At the end of 9 weeks, the participant with the most number of correct guesses all throughout the competition, wins a ZenFone Zoom.
ZenFone Zoom: The world’s thinnest 3X optical-zoom smartphone
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom is one of the newest additions to the successfully-growing product line in the ASUS ZenFone family. It is the world's thinnest 3X optical-zoom smartphone with an innovative 10-prism lens arrangement for up to 12X total magnification. It is powered by a 64-bit Intel® Atom™ processor with 4GB RAM, has a fantastic 13MP resolution and lightning-fast laser auto-focus — ensuring no incredible moment is missed.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
View from The Top (Photo from Pixabay)
While the majestic Schonbrunn Schloss has become the most famous landmark Vienna in the eyes of the outside world, Viennese still consider one familiar structure situated in the very center of the city, to be the Austrian capital’s heart and soul, dating back to the 12th century.
The impressive Stephanskirche or St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Stephanplatz remains, to this day, the very heart of Vienna.
A stunning Gothic cathedral that dominates Vienna’s skyline, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has been the national symbol of Vienna ever since its construction in 1147 AD. It bore witness to the growth of Vienna as a city, and as the seat of the Habsburg empire for centuries, until it suffered sever damage during the Turkish siege in the 17th century.
Stephanskirche also fell victim to heavy fighting the second world war, with its roof as the main casualty. Citizens of Vienna rallied to repair the church, donating tiles, leading to its eventual re-opening in 1948. It is said that each Viennese citizen owns a symbolic tile of the church,as tribute to the love and devotion shown by the city and its people to the church.
In between, St. Stephen’s Cathedral went through several reconstruction and transformation including its redesign from Romanesque to Gothic in the 14th century, as ordered by Duke Rudolph IV of Habsburg. It also bore witness to other events including the funeral of music virtuoso Mozart.
The church is well known throughout the world by its diamond patterned roof and its tall, lean southern tower fondly called “Steffie”, which made it one of the tallest structures in Europe. The treasures inside the church also make it one of the most important places in history.
Within its catacomb lies the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1754), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), the watchman`s lookout, a self portrait of the sculptor, and the Gothic winged altar.
I visited the church this spring and it was indeed one of the most stunning architectural wonders I have seen. The roof is just so pretty that you can’t help but admire it.
No matter the time of day, tourists from within Austria and beyond, troop to the church to marvel at its fantastic design, and wander inside to see its altars and naves.
Its bluish altar also makes it one of the most unique churches I have ever visited.
I spent more than an hour inside the church, alternately praying and marveling at its gorgeous interiors. In that short timespan, I immediately realized why this church is so special to the Viennese. It is simply a jewel, in a city that is already one of the prettiest in the world.
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Neil The Wanderer
travel, food, adventure
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