Spend a Friday Night with Apl.de.ap’s “Take U to the Philippines”

A Glimpse of Annecy

Annecy is one of the villages at the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France and it is known for its lake, Lac d’Annecy. Together with our very own Taal Lake in the Philippines, Lake Annecy has also been featured as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world at Budget Travel magazine.

Tell me, who would ever contend?

From the city proper, there’s a beautiful green park and a very charming canal, alluring us to walk a few steps more; and there you will find where the water is coming from. At the foot of a majestic mountain lies the equally bewitching lake of Annecy.

We found ourselves very lucky, since the weather turned out to be warmer than we expected. The bright, sunny day added to the beauty of the lake. The water’s captivatingly clear that I really felt like going for a good plunge, just like the ducks here that were not shy to show off their butts!

I'm standing here at the picturesque Bridge of Love (Pont des Amours). Where's my Romeo? He might be there, sinking.

There’s a cruise that gives tourists a wonderful way to appreciate the lake.  There’s lunch and dinner options for a 2-hour cruise ride. For short tour, say thirty minutes, there are also small wooden boats around.

Annecy is a nice place to walk around. As you pass by the European Gardens, there’s a bigger canal that somewhat welcomes you to the old town of Annecy.

The most recognizable landmark in this part of Annecy is the Palais de I’lle that sits on a small island in the middle of the river canal. It’s also known to be a prison-castle because it was originally built as a home to a lord until it was used as a prison at later time. Now it serves as a museum showing the history of the building and the city.

I got caught up by the little castle in the middle that I didn’t realize that we went inside the Church of St Maurice, which is apparently known for a 15th century mural of a decomposing corpse for a noble, which is also thought to be a reflection of the anxieties over the 100 years war.

If only I knew, I wouldn't miss that creepy mural.

Along the emerald green Thiou River you’ll find the rustic establishments with traditional architecture in the old town. It’s a rather nice stroll at a cobblestone street on a bright, sunny Friday. As my colleague’s mom summed up this quick, fancy tour, “what else can you complain, iha?”

So Swiss: Genève et Moi, in Retrospect

WOW. I didn’t imagine I would ever reach a year. I can still vividly remember the time I first came here. With me were thoughts of a global city. For one, Geneva is dubbed as an important financial district in Europe, next to London and Zurich. Also, Geneva hosts many international organizations; that includes headquarters of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross. Geneva as one of the most expensive cities with the highest quality of life to boot, would I be blamed for expecting too much?

Unlike the more sophisticated airports of Hong Kong and of Heathrow in London, the arrival area in Geneva airport is an unwelcoming sight. It’s like a plain, boring waiting hall for visitors like me to see, c’est tout. I arrived on a Sunday and Geneva appeared to be a ghost town that day. I came across the train station (gare Cornavin) and met rather peculiar strangers along the way. It was an eerie, to the extent, disheartening experience for a first day.

I came to realize that it’s an entirely different place, and that my life would change dramatically; in a good way or not, at that time then, it’s hard to figure. A greenhorn I was, I struggled with speaking and understanding the language (it’s French, people!), knowing where and how to go (it’s a different way of commuting, only better, I admit now), handling my finances (it’s all shockingly expensive I must say), finding my kind of coffee (even this, yes!), trusting people I meet, among many others.  I thought I was already adventurous, open-minded and strong-spirited enough.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t. I got overwhelmed, “This isn’t my place, not the kind of life I wanted.”  During my first two months, all I was ever thinking of is going home.  I’m officially away from the usual comforts of home with my family, and so I began to similarly feel what others had also felt in this same moment.

Obviously, Geneva and I didn’t mesh perfectly well at first, but it is in this city my life in Switzerland began to unravel. Luck found its way for me. I feel grateful that I found good Samaritans who helped me achieve what I wished for.  As opportunities start coming along, Geneva has become an indispensable lot. My views towards this city have gradually changed and I begin to appreciate what it has in store.

I still couldn’t entirely say that Geneva is the right place for me, but at least, it is in Geneva I truly started living a life on my own – a life in Europe, away from home. I’m beginning to blend in.

apartments in Geneva

My first stay in an apartment in Geneva, I was unaware then that I had a nice view of Salève and Mont Blanc from afar. No skycrapers around, most of the apartment/office buildings here don’t go beyond 10 floors. Some are even a hundred years old and more. This apartment I first stayed in is situated in a pretty quiet spot. The grannies were the neighbors. Everyone’s expected to speak in hush tones, not to make any noise. Hush.

the flower clock in the English Garden

Time can be such a drag for someone impatiently waiting. Time can be felt too short when one is having fun. Oh sorry, I digress. This must be the flower clock in Jardin Anglais (English Garden), symbolizing the prolific watch industry of Switzerland. Right in front of it are the high-end stores and one of which are for the watches. Rolex? Mont Blanc? Patek Philippe? Jaeger-LeCoultre? Hublot? Cartier? Franck Muller? Breitling? If you are a diehard, Geneva must be a watch haven for you.

Le Jet d'eau

The iconic symbol of Geneva is originally a simple security valve at an hydraulic factory and was moved to this area to make it a tourist attraction. You can dupe the kids by telling them (that) the Geneva lake does not dry up because the city is pumping up more water onto it.

Priceless.

Half slice of salami baguette, 6.00chf (270php).
Nice natural ice tea, 1.95chf (87.75php).
My very first surprise, priceless (or maybe it is worth 357.75php, just for a snack!).

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Genève

The St. Pierre Cathedral is the known church situated in the Old Town of Geneva. It is also popular as the adopted church of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation.

green belfry of the cathedral

Without me knowing that people before me knew about this interesting spot, this green belfry was such an eyecatcher I took a shot of it. Et voila!

around the Old Town

I could say that the Old Town is the most tourist-friendly spot in Geneva. There are other interesting sights (the cathedral is already one) like boutiques, cafés and restaurants that you can find as you pass by.

Brunswick monument

Genuflecting in front of this monument is not required, but you might feel a bit compelled. It is because Charles d’Este-Guelph, Duke of Brunswick lies here. Mind you, he is not quite an ordinary guy. This duke left Geneva with a tidy sum of money and one of the terms he asked for in return is to build “a mausoleum in an eminent and worthy location, executed according to the established concept by the finest artists of the time, without consideration of cost.” The monument is also an exact replica of the Scaligeri family tomb in Verona, Italy, work of the 14th century. As the cityfolks put it, this (vain) man owns Geneva.

Pont du Mont Blanc

Out of the four bridges in Geneva, this is the only bridge exclusive for road-traffic, and the quickest way heading to  Geneva from the expressway and back. That’s why this bridge is quite notorious for backlogs during rush hours.

United Nations Office of Geneva

J’ai été une étudiante when I first visited the United Nations in the heart of Europe. I look a year younger on these photos, don’t I? Oh, this monumental wood sculpture right behind me, another tourist attraction, is the Broken Chair, signifying the support for an international treaty on a ban on cluster bombs, which was signed in 2008.

Comité international de la Croix-Rouge

In English, it is The International Committee of the Red Cross. I just quickly passed by. I didn’t intend to donate blood. I heard there’s a museum inside, but it is temporarily closed for renovation until 2013 *sigh*.

Le musée Ariana

This very exquisite structure houses 20,000 ceramics and glass objects from 12 centuries.  Built in neo-classical and new baroque architectural style, this edifice was built only to house the private art collections of a tremendously rich man from Geneva. Named after his mother, this architectural beauty, along with his other real estates and assets, was eventually bequeathed to the city of Geneva.

white swan

They’re the ballerinas in Lac Léman.

quiche and tart

During my first few days of stay, I got addicted to quiches and tarts. These were my daily fix, apart from coffee.

a lamb kebab rice meal

My penchant for Middle Eastern food as well, there are many Arab restaurants in Geneva.

You-and-I moments

It was during those times when I still didn’t know how to order my kind of coffee in regular coffee shops yet. If I’d say café, they’d give me a strong-brewed espresso. Starbucks coffee in Geneva was my refuge until I found a solution to my supposedly petit problem. Café creme is long espresso; café noissette, espresso with a dash of cream ; and café au lait, coffee light with heated, frothed milk. At any rate, there’s also Nescafé Gold instant coffee at home to save the day. Or shout, cappuccino or café latte in an Italian-owned coffee shop and they’d understand.  D’accord!

my first pals in Geneva (another one, Pia, she's not on this photo though)

I first met them in my French class and we became friends since then. I only recognized Elena as Filipina. Bootsie looks like an Indian mestiza for me but when she started to speak I counted her as another. Well, Paola told everyone in the class that she is Americaine and for me she looks like a Latina who was brought up in the States. But Elena could smell Pinay blood from her and she’s not mistakened afterall. It takes a Pinay like Elena to know one, bravo!

Parc des Eaux-Vives

When I visited the park in Eaux-Vives, it made me realize that Geneva ain’t that bad at all.

Genève plage

The more I enjoyed the look of Geneva when Elena invited me for a very early breakfast by the lake on a Sunday. Here, for the first time, I began to appreciate the Swiss steamboat that passed by, and the lake itself. Elena’s such a very nice tour guide, and a true confidante as well.

Swiss steamboat

This steamboat travels along the lake end-to-end, from Geneva all the way to Montreux and back.

Le Parc des Bastions

Bastions Park is a former botanical garden and site of the first university in Geneva. You will also see the Reformation Wall commemorating four of the Protestant founders of the reformation.

I'm still loving it!

I must say, there’s Swiss quality in McDo. My favorite McChicken burger tastes way better here! They’ve got unlimited wifi, too. So when I was scrimping back then, I used to hang out more often here, together with middle school dudes and dudettes.

my very first classic Swiss experience

I cuddled with a big Saint Bernard stuff toy I’d like to bring back home, watched performers play with traditional Swiss music instruments like the alphorn, and relished cheese fondue and raclette. All in one at Hotel Edelweiss.

my first "formal" rendezvous

It’s my first teeny-bop birthday I attended in Geneva. Cute and fun.

moi at Les Automnales 2010

It is a yearly trade show at Geneva Palexpo featuring all products of Switzerland. This event occurs every November, which is quite timely for the early holiday shopping.

snow comes...Bootsie's take

It is my first experience of snow. I like the view but it’s the terrible freeze that I don’t like, especially when the snow starts to melt away.

....and spring goes. still from Bootsie.

I enjoy spring, next to summer.

10 Things I’m Loving Now – mad about madrid

Fui sobre agua edificada, mis muros de fuego son. Esta es mi insignia y blasón.
(On water I was built, my walls are made of fire. This is my ensign and escutcheon.)
– Motto of Madrid, Spain

From life’s simple stuff to grandiose pleasures, bring it on!

My first time to go out of Switzerland and visit another piece of Europe, the Madrid vacation has somewhat made me feel close to home. I couldn’t help but repeatedly say this many times during our stay, “Madrid is like Manila. Manila is Madrid…”.

Madrid’s architectural beauty reminds me of a “could-have-been-better” version of the present Manila, or the old heydays thereof. Castillian baroque, as they put it, stands out in most buildings, and we found this classic design in the area we had stayed, Plaza Mayor.  French and Italian influences are evident in some structures. I must admit, I am envious. I just wish that the old buildings in some parts in Manila, like in Intramuros, Quiapo or Avenida, could have been kept way better than what Madrid has done.

The Spanish people we met at the hotel, in the restaurants, at shops or at the streets, were all very nice and friendly. One time, when we were at the bullfight scene, this man in his 50s volunteered himself to take us some pictures, and upon knowing where we’re originally from, he jokingly said (in Spanish), “Ah, so you’re from the Philippines. You are Spanish! You must have spoken Spanish very well.” Apparently, un poco, seňor! His beaming smile and proud-sounding voice couldn’t stop me from assuming how we remind him (and the rest) of their grand empire many centuries back, and that we are the only country in Asia they once had. Talk about reminiscing the good (and the bad) old times with us, right? Well, this is another story to tell.

Madrid is really a captivating city that never sleeps. Well, most people would take short naps in the afternoons (a siesta), but come nighttime, almost everyone stays out and enjoys the nightlife pulsating with energy. Madrid is also a fashion capital of the country. There are so many trendy boutiques to shop at, and more outfits to choose from. Sorry Switzerland, but Madrid has induced me to the things I mostly craved for for quite some time. Nonetheless, Switzerland is still a different beauty.

Here are the top things I like in Madrid.

1. Bus tour around Madrid


This is a great way to see the city’s fantastic monuments and sights, allowing you to get a good overall view of Madrid, with the flexibility to hop-off the bus to further explore any attractions you particularly like.

And then you can hop-on again to continue your tour as the next bus comes round!

You can hop on and off the bus as many times as you like on either of the routes, or even start one route, and join another at one of the interconnecting stops.

The routes are: Modern Madrid and Historic Madrid.

Read more about the bus tour, click here.

NEXT: Los Museos – Reina Sofia y Prado

Galaera Diaries: Revisiting my Lakbayan Grade

Here is my map today…


My Lakbayan grade is C-!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

My map used to look like this two years back. Can you see the difference?

If only I visit Palawan, Ilocos, Batanes, Bicol, Bohol, Siquijor, other parts of Cebu, and some parts of Mindanao like Cagayan de Oro and Davao, my Lakbayan grade will get upgraded. Yes, I’m giving you folks a hint.