Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spain 2013

Spain: the cities, the language, the food, the people—so foreign yet so familiar. 

Here's Spain in moving pictures. I apologize for the shaky ones—it's challenging to video a place you've seen for the first time and not be awed. But I hope you'd see Spain the way I saw it. :)

Madrid | Avila | Segovia | Barcelona | Montserrat in December 2013

We didn't get a travel agency this time (a first for the Medina family — yay!) so my brother and I took care of all our travel itineraries. I'll never forget the day we bought our plane tickets and booked our day trips online—it was so out of our comfort zone. But the adrenaline rush after? Amazing. Thank you, Internet, for bringing such convenience into our lives.

So where to next? I would love to visit Spain again, but I think a 01:04 video would do for now.

And I heard Paris is (always) a good idea. #timetoplotmyconvincingplanformydad

Saturday, November 9, 2013

UK 2013: An Intro

Another overdue travel post—this time, our Europe UK trip last May 2013!

It took me a really long while to compose this blog entry because I'm afraid I couldn't give justice to the uniqueness of our first European experience. But all I know is that this trip is worth sharing, and I just have to man up and publish this post already.

I've already tried so many ways to narrate our story but it always ends up being boring and corny. I'm not that great of a writer, nor even a writer, okay? So I made it easier for myself by cutting the very long story short: Our original plan was we're supposed to join Cosmo's Wonders of Europe package tour, as part of my parents' college graduation gift to my brother and I. Countries that were included in the package were UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France. UK (London) was just our departure point, where we originally only have one day to explore to ourselves. Belgium was really where we would officially start our package tour. What was supposed to be a 2-week stay in Europe ended up being a 7-day roller coaster adventure in UK.

Just a few minutes after we arrived at our hotel in London, we found out that our bags got stolen inside our hotel's luggage room, which had my dad's passport, credit cards, my laptop, iPod, and camera equipment, and my brother's iPad and wallet. No passport means we can't go on with our package tour anymore because we need the visa to enter other Schengen countries besides UK. So in case you're planning to go to London any time soon, please don't repeat our mistake of entrusting Hotel Novotel West London your stay. London is a great city, but I can't deny the fact that this hotel had left a negative impression of London on us.

But despite the series of unfortunate events that we went through, I'm glad that we still managed to stay positive until the end of the trip. I mean, it's all that we can do that time, right? Fortunately the hotel gave an extension to our stay to make up for their mistake and also so we could settle our travel documents and at least enjoy what their city has to offer.

So, here's my bittersweet first taste of Europe—or UK, rather:
And I hope the next one would just be sweeter.

London 2013

Our getting stuck in London for 7 days allowed us to soak in as much British culture as we could.

We stayed in Hammersmith for the entire 7 days, which is a 30-minute train/bus ride to and from the buzzing city center. If only we had known our stay in London would be extended, we could've chosen a hotel somewhere nearer London's main attractions to save time for transit. But like what I said, our 7-day stay here was unexpected so we had no choice.

London is the first foreign city we've ever gotten to know so much we feel like we could live there already, probably because it was our first time to use local transportation that much. For 7 days, I think we've ridden the Tube and the red buses more than a local rides for a month. Okay, maybe that's a bit exaggerated, but we've gone through so much first times during our stay here (like going to the suburbs to meet a fellow Filipino we haven't even met yet or to the Philippine Embassy to settle our travel documents) so that felt like too much. But it's actually a really good way to know the city and its people. 

Cabs are expensive in London, so it's definitely not advisable to ride one. With London's efficient trains and buses, I think you won't even need them. I think they're cute road decorations though.

All the parks we've encountered in London had bike rental stations. If only my parents weren't the clumsiest, I could've forced my family to try one afternoon. Coming from my trip to Bali with my friends, biking around the city definitely allowed us to see the Bali in a different way. I bet our London exploration would've been a lot more memorable with these!

Covent Garden

If you're looking for good places to buy pasalubong in London, Covent Garden is a good go-to place.
Cafes and food stalls outside the Covent Garden Market

Couldn't pass up the opportunity to try one of the sweets being sold. The moment I saw this cookie, I knew I had to get one. Those cracks were the only signs I needed.

And the fact that it was almost as big as my brother's huge face!


Buckingham Palace

A quick trip to the palace for some dose of royalty goodness.


Westminster area
You can tell by these photos that London has the most moody weather ever. One minute it's sunny, then after a while it gets cloudy with quick drizzles.

More famous London icons

I couldn't count how many photo ops I had with this booth.

I don't have clearer solo photos of the London Eye because I only had my 50mm lens with me, which definitely made shooting a lot harder. My 17-40mm lens, as well as my battery charger, were included in the things that were stolen from us so I had to settle with my fixed lens and 3 battery bars during the entire trip.

Pret a Manger's are everywhere in the city. It's like the McDonald's of America, only a lot healthier and more expensive. But if you're a health conscious on a trip to London like me, you would love Pret.

Marks & Spencer is more of supermarket/food shop in London, unlike in our country where its focus is more on clothing. At lunch time, locals flock either here or Pret.

Of course, it wouldn't be a complete London experience without a shopping trip to the largest fashion store in the world. And of course I'm a good daughter, that's why I only brought home two shopping bags with me.

When you say British food, I think about fish and chips. And more fish and chips.

Fish and Chips from Garfunkel's

Room service fish and chips with Asian noodles

A healthier version from Harvey Nichols' Fifth Floor Cafe

Fish and Chips from The Rock and Sole Plaice. By far the best I've had in London because the tartar sauce is the best among the others. With all the fish and chips I've devoured, I have to say that Fish & Co. still has my heart. Nothing beats their signature fish and chips + tartar sauce!

Spent the remaining hours in the city with a trip back to our childhood! Well, it's more of my brother's because he got to read the series and I didn't. LOL

Started this UK trip with fresh white sneaks, ended it with dirty kicks. That means good, right?

So there you go, our first (and hopefully not the last) trip to London. :)

Borough Market 2013

If I were to rank the highlights of this UK trip, our visit to London's famous Borough Market is undeniably part of the top three, aside from getting our things lost in our hotel and seeing the Stonehenge for the first time. With the kind of love I have for food, I think it's quite obvious why I made sure this was part of our London itinerary.


We arrived at the market in the morning, so you could imagine how tough it was for me to make food decisions right away. Tough is such an understatement.



Stacks of attention-grabbing chocolate brownies, wheels and slices of cheeses I only get to see in Food Network shows, juices and smoothies made from organic (and rare, for us living in the Philippines) fruits, were common sights in this weekend market. Each stall has its own specialty, whether it be smoked meats, cheeses, pastries, chocolates, paellas, burgers, fish and chips—the place is definitely an epicure's heaven. I could live and die here from intense food pleasure.

Now this is what I'm talking about. How do you even start?

Shared this raclette with my family because it was too sinful for my life. I still have a figure to maintain, people. 

So in case you're planning to go to London anytime soon, make sure Borough Market is included in your must-see list! And food is not only the reason to go here. It's also a nice place to soak in some legit London culture because you get to see how the locals spend their Saturday mornings, chatting over great food and drinks. Now who doesn't want to miss that?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tower of London 2013

As I mentioned in my Windsor Castle trip, castles don't really amuse me as much as local food markets could.  They just seem irrelevant to me, no matter how hard I try to understand the story behind those historical places. History is interesting, but I find the present more exciting to deal with. That, I have yet to learn why.


I wasn't really that hyped to see (or will ever be) the Crown Jewels, but it was so chilly and windy that day I've never been that excited to get inside for a much-needed warmth. So we stayed inside just long enough to get our body temperatures back to normal. We weren't allowed to take photos anyway, so what's there to take home? Bragging rights, maybe.


But I think this was the highlight of this trip. I mean c'mon, how can you not?

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