Desiree Takes Europe

Bonjour!

I guess the first words I’m probably going to say to you is I’M SORRY because I owe you all an apology for not posting for months!!! (WHY DES?!)

As with other college students in their last year, I was swamped with TONS of schoolwork. I mean, I know college is stressful, but the past few months have tested my patience, mental and emotional state. Not to mention, we started working on our thesis, legit this time, and we also had to apply for internships. I was also doing some stuff for the student organization that I’m part of, whose members I already consider my second family. They also support my blog and ka-echosan all the way!

To put it simply, I had a lot on my plate and they were not food, much to my chagrin.

To give you guys a little update, I’ve already graduated from university last October 15! YAAS! So much has happened really. Hopefully, this means that I have more time to blog. Also, to make it clear, I am definitely not abandoning this blog! I’m back!!!!

I had so little time for myself that I haven’t had my eyebrows threaded and all. I literally had to squeeze my schedule so tight, I’m not kidding. My thesis defense was scheduled on the day of my flight and after the defense I ran like a cheetah to get home and pack!!! After packing, I had my eyebrows and nails done. OH DIBA PAK. GIRL ON THE GO ANG EKSENA.

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Fresh from thesis!

Anyhoo, can I just say how I’m so excited to share my trip to Europe with you guys! It was seriously the major thing that kept my head above water. I was like ‘Des, in a few weeks, these papers won’t be in your sight and the waft of croissants will greet you instead!

Oh, and beautiful European boys hehehe~

My mom’s original plan was to go to Iceland, but of course the favorite daughter’s wishes were granted hohoho. We planned to go this summer because it’s the only long vacation that I have and it aligned with my brother’s summer break.

Well then, let’s get right into this! Warning: THIS WILL BE A VERY LONG POST AS IT COVERS MY WHOLE TRIP IN EUROPE. Happy reading guys!

First stop:

LONDON

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London Eye and I (pun definitely intended)

After we arrived at around 1pm, we immediately went to Harrods using Uber.

The Uber in Europe is super great! There was no surge and the drivers were very fast to arrive.

A day of going to a fromagerie, charcuterie, teas, biscuits, and shopping!!! What’s not to love?? I also bought the famous TERRA truffle chips, and grabe!!! IT was so GOOD!!

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An emporium of teas

On the first (official) day, we visited the highlights of London such as the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, witnessed the changing of the guards, Westminster, St. Paul Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Street where we spent most of our time in Fortnum and Mason.

When you’re in Fortnum and Mason,you just want to take everything home, especially since all the boxes were colored in teal (my favorite color of all time). I was just floored! I wanted to twirl inside. I literally had to stop my mother from putting more stuff in the basket because our luggage might overweigh!

Fun fact: She brought an empty Rimova just for the goodies that she will buy. Moms, I swear. 

We stayed in South Kensington, it’s super near the big Sainsbury’s (my family sort of has a penchant for grocery shopping so this is a big factor).  What can I say, we find joy in these wastelands of food labels we can barely understand. I love our location, the Earl’s court station is just a few blocks away and there’s Nando’s and Wagamamas nearby, and Harrods is a just 5 minute drive using Uber.

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Nando’s

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One of their famous sauces oh, and more chicken

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The Big Ben

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The Iconic Palace Guards

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Very elaborative window displays at Fortnum and Mason. LOVE IT.

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It’s like the Tiffany & Co of pastries and teas! 

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I just wanted to take everything home. LOOK AT THE ASSORTMENT OF COLORS!

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Sitting pretty at the Trafalgar Square

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Trafalgar Square

We managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the Borough Market, which is such a food haven. I would really love to go back! There’s even a truffle kiosk!

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Eating some good ol’ fish and chips at the Borough Market!

On our second day, we went to Stonehenge, Oxford University, and Bicester Outlet. We bought our tickets to Stonehenge online since the available tours last for 3-5 hours, which IS A LOT OF TIME FOR SOMEONE WHO JUST WANTS TO SEE THE STONEHENGE. Plus, tickets are much much cheaper if you buy them on your own. Personally, I think there’s no need to book a tour since there are information signs everywhere and once you see the rock monuments, that’s literally it.

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They also have London’s famous telephone booths in Bicester Outlet

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Strolling at Oxford University with the bro

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He pulled a funny face mid-photo taking so this is genuine!

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Stonehenge (my theory is that they’re man-made and they’ve probably been restored already) 

Now, the THIRD DAY was reserved for HARRY POTTER. I was so thrilled when I bought the tickets online! THIS POTTERHEAD IS GOING TO HOGWARTS Y’ALL! I told my fam that THERE’S JUST NO WAY that we’re going to miss The Making of Harry Potter tour! I’m just so glad I have a family that is very supportive of my fangirling shenanigans~

So I put on my beret, my bow, my invisible robes (it’s a new product I invented), and went straight to Platform 9 3/4!

*cue the Harry Potter Theme Song and the fog*

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From start to finish, I was entranced and amazed by the intricacy of the props, the amount of effort poured into making the sets, and of course seeing them in front of me made it so surreal!

If you’re a Potterhead just like me, I 100% recommend that you join this tour! Everything will be so WICKED. You’ll see the majestic Great Hall (it took me like 10 minutes before I was able to properly process what I was seeing right before my eyes), the costumes (those worn in the Yule Ball and annoying Dolores Umbridge’s pink wardrobe for instance),  you’ll get to board Hogwarts Express, you’ll see all the important props (“LOOK, IT’S THE NIMBUS 2000!”), you’ll see the bedrooms, all the cauldrons, the ingredients to make potions, and SNAPE!

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 I almost cried when I entered the Great Hall. It was that majestic. 

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First day at Hogwarts!

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My house, Slytherin

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Yule Ball attires! Hermione looked so radiant! 

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Dolores Umbridge’s office. It’s so sickeningly pink.

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Ron and Harry’s beds

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Cauldrons in Potions class!

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Hagrid’s Hut and his dog Fang!

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I literally held my breath when I walked into this. Meetings of death eaters always send chills to my body. They’re also in the middle of executing someone. I’M OUTTA HERE.

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So you actually get to board Hogwarts Express and have a look at the compartments! Look at the details! Amazing!!!

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I got so emotional when I saw this. This was their last attire in the movie. 

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It’s suddenly bright and sunny again at Privet Drive! Unfortunately, there were no owls. 

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I thought this was big, but it’s actually so small!!! This is where they shot the trio friendship scenes haha

Another highlight as well is THE BUTTERBEER. All my life, I’ve been wanting to taste this drink and boy was I not disappointed! It’s like butter cream soda and the buttery froth is EVERYTHING!

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One of the tour’s highlights: BUTTERBEER! It’s so good!!! 

You also get to walk around Diagon Alley, and I must say this is also one of the highlights for me! There’s Gringotts, Ollivanders, Flourish & Blotts, & Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (I cried inside because Fred)!!!  I squealed everywhere!

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Diagon Alley!

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We ought not to mess with unicorn blood indeed

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Look at all the pranks I could pull with their items!

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The Ong family is ready to apparate! 

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Check this, they actually made a super huge model of Hogwarts! It’s so big and so detailed! They shot some of the scenes using this model.

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You actually get a chance to be inside Ollivanders and I kid you not, every box has a name. AGAIN, THE DETAILS. 

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I took the liberty of reaching for my own wand since Ollivander was not around

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J.K. Rowling’s message at the end of the tour. I got so teary eyed at “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. Always. 

At the end of tour, as with other tours, you’ll be led into a shop with all the Harry Potter goodies! I WANTED TO BUY EVERY SINGLE MERCHANDISE, but I had to restrain myself. In the end, I bought an Elder Wand, a pen, and Chocolate Frogs.

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LOOK AT THE PRICE OF LUCIUS MALFOY’S WAND. IT’S INSANE. 

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Look at all the sweet treats!!!

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I WANTED ONE SO BADLY. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use them tho…*sigh*

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Lol poor Ron always getting a sweater for Christmas

I went home as a happy Potterhead (but I’ll be back for next school year of course)!

All in all, it was magical.

AMSTERDAM

We joined the Canal Cruise tour and rode in a glass-topped boat to get a taste of Amsterdam. I was excited to see the traffic caused by bikes, and indeed bikes dominated the streets of Amsterdam (even their mayor bikes!). It was also surprising to see legit boat houses floating on the canals!  I also saw the bench used in “The Fault in our Stars”!

We toured the Red Light district, which Amsterdam is very famous for. It was still in the afternoon so the displays were closed, but I saw a few women. All I can say is that Amsterdam is  very liberated. I’m just relieved that these women are protected by the government despite their circumstances.

AND BOY IT SURE SMELLED LIKE NATURE IN AMSTERDAM. Mawiwindang ka teh.

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Amsterdam, the land of canals and bicycles

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Easy, Breezy, Beautiful

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On the canal cruise with mom

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Bike traffic!

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Capturing Amsterdam

GERMANY

Our visit to Germany was very quick. We rode a cruise and went around Rhineland to see picturesque villages, steep vineyards and medieval castles. We stopped by at this lovely town called Boppard for a quick lunch ( SAUSAGES FTW!).

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Lovely flowers!

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Very quaint town ❤

SWITZERLAND

We went around Lucerne to see some exquisite watches such as Rolex, which the city is very famous for and had some dessert and coffee.

I did not expect that the view in front of our hotel would take my breath away. It was just so beautiful as if it came straight out of a painting! It certainly makes you feel like there’s so much more beauty to see in this world.

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Breathtaking

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Dessert in Lucerne

ITALY 

Venice

We cruised along Venice’s Giudecca canal to St. Mark’s square. We also visited the Doge’s Palace where the Venetian rulers once lived and went to the glassblowing workshop of the famous Murano Glass.

I also got to taste the best gelato ever from a small stall I stumbled upon. It’s so fun getting lost in Venice. I definitely recommend it!

I must say, Venice is so beautiful, especially when you get to marvel St. Mark’s Square. I immediately fell in love with the city!

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I left my heart in Venice

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St. Mark’s Square

We also went to see the colored houses of Burano.

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Love the colors! 

The next day, we walked around to get lost in Venice again.

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Ain’t no rain’s gonna stop me lol 

Part of my bucket list was riding a legit gondola in Venice and I was so elated to finally being able to ride one! We also got serenaded by a lady as the guy next to her played his accordion.

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Will a special someone be right next to me when I come back kaya? Chos. 

Rome

In Rome aka the Eternal City, we went to visit the famous Trevi Fountain. There were so many people, I couldn’t get a proper picture!!!

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I shall return, Rome!

We also went to see the Pantheon, where I was brought to tears by an opera singer.

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The Pantheon

Then we walked around the stunning Piazza Navona and ate a very sumptuous Italian meal for early dinner.

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Piazza Navona

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Pizza, Pasta, and Tomato Soup! I loved my Aglio Olio!

We had a night walk and had the pleasure of witnessing this wonderful view.

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Vatican City

The next morning was a dream come true. I got to check everything off my bucket list. First we visited the glorious Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s famous frescoed ceiling. I didn’t get to take any pictures because it wasn’t allowed (confession: I Snapchatted the ceiling).

A local specialist then took us on a sightseeing tour starting with a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica where Pope Francis conducts his mass. I got to see the Pieta inside ANDDDD I got to walk through the Holy Door of Mercy, which only opens every Jubilee Year (December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016). It was such a healing spiritual experience.

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St. Peter’s Basilica

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The Pieta

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The Holy Door of Mercy

We passed by St. Peter’s Square where the public gathers to attend a mass conducted by Pope Francis.  We went to buy rosaries and I found a single teal rosary! I felt like it was really meant for me!

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St. Peter’s Square

Grabe, the Swiss Guards were so gwapo. 

Near the church, there is a small restaurant which serves what my dad calls “the best spaghetti in the world”.

We also went to the Vatican Museum, which is a must-see as well. The garden is amazing and the sculptures are so intricate.

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Vatican Museum

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The intricacy! 

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The garden

Then we went to the Colosseum. I thought there was an open field inside, but there were lots of mazes! It’s scary to think how the Gladiators fought back then.

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The Colosseum

Florence

We travelled north through the rolling hills of Umbria into Tuscany and the Renaissance city of Florence.  We enjoyed a spectacular view of Piazzale Michelangelo and visted the Piazza della Signoria, the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower. We hung around at Piazza Santa Croce. The Church of Santa Croce is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. One of the best things in our trip was that we got to visit new churches almost every day.

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Piazalle Michelangelo

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Church of Santa Croce

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at Piazza Santa Croce

We went to view the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There were so so many people!! I couldn’t take a cliché photo of knocking over the tower!

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Tuscany

We crossed the Veneto Plains via Bologna and drove over the Appenine Mountains. We made a stop at the Tuscan Hills for a lovely dinner at the Three Pines Restaurant of celebrity chef Libero.

The restaurant is famous for its blue champagne, which was so good that we bought one to take home!

Tuscany provides a very relaxing and homey ambience for dinner. It’s the perfect place to host a dinner. The prime rib was the highlight and we had the customary limoncello after dessert. Everyone was being serenaded and swayed by this very charming singer. It was a dinner full of laughter, good food, great stories, music, dancing, and singing. This was one of my best nights in Europe.

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Not sure if it was the blue champagne, but I was really bubbly and happy lol

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I loved the strawberry champagne as well!!!

FRANCE

Monaco, French Riviera 

From the Italian coast, we travelled to the French Riviera and enjoyed the amazing views of the harbour in Monaco, as well as the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. We also visited the Saint Nicholas Cathedral where the tombs of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier lie.

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Look at all those yachts! 

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STUNNING.

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Saint Nicholas Cathedral

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Grace Kelly’s tomb

Spent the rest of my time in Monaco eating crepes and banana split!

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Exploring the little nooks of Monaco

Monaco is so vibrant, stunning, and oh so rich! I would love to come back here!

Cannes, French Riviera

We then headed over to Cannes, shopped around and enjoyed the beach.

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Yes naman

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Chillin’

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence is a hidden gem that I’m so glad we stumbled upon. It’s one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera and boasts of modern and contemporary art galleries and museums.

Every nook is just so precious and the paintings are one of bests I’ve seen! It’s a very old, quaint, and artistic commune.

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Very medieval vibes

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Look at all the treasures inside!

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So cute

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I love this town so much

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Capping it off with a spectacular view of the town

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Viewed more art pieces and bought myself some sweets from La Cure Gourmande, one of the most prominent confectioners in Saint Paul de Vence

We stopped in Grasse,where we were given a tour of the Fragonard Perfume Factory. I loved their Belle Cherie scent so I bought one for myself. We also love their pastel colored, egg-shaped soaps.

After that we had a lovely lunch at Restaurant La Terrasse Turbie . The view was magnificent and the sky later turned into pink and purple, which was so beautiful. L’ambience was what would say in French  ‘très agréable‘.

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The bro is admiring the view 

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Pastel sky

We were served with escargot. I was so thrilled! It is so delicious, especially the sauce. I love dipping my bread on the excess sauce!

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Escargot

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Salad

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Beef Stew

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Cheese Plate

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Pastries

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Ice Cream and Fruits

Avignon, France 

Our visit to Avignon was really quick. We just went to view the renowned broken bridge and the Papal Palace. There were so many lavenders!

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Twinning with mom in Avignon~

Lyon

We then continued to Lyon, the third largest city in France. We had a very long walk around town and had a nice dinner. It rained cats and dogs though! For some reason, I didn’t have pictures. It was just really fun exploring the city.

Paris

We were supposed to see the Palace of Versailles, but it was a holiday and so the palace was closed. So we just headed straight to Paris! ~

OKAY. I was so excited to go to Paris and it was so fitting that it was the last leg of the tour. Save the best for last, they say!

You can probably tell that I am in love with Paris given that it’s the theme of my debut, and so the moment I arrived in Paris, I fell in love all over again. Every nook was beautiful. Paris is just so perfect!

It’s also because I’m studying French that I felt at ease around the city. I could understand most of what I saw and heard!

Because it was a holiday, every restaurant was closed and the only open establishment where I could get food was McDonald’s. Now, the cashier was VERY CUTE. He couldn’t speak English so I utilized my French skills. MY. GOSH. They had a lot going on in their McDonald’s. He asked me so many questions and I tried my best to answer them. They had like, 5 different sauces for their chicken nuggets! He was so nice and so patient. He really did his best to communicate with me and listened intently. AND HE WAS CUTE PA KAYA I ALMOST FORGOT MY FRENCH. PARISIAN BOYS STOP IT. ANO BA. Anyways, I managed to order everything correctly, phew. 

I thought Parisians would be so snooty, but they were really nice to me and even offered their help even though I didn’t ask. One guy offered his phone when I asked where the telephone booth was to call our hotel for a shuttle service. It has a direct line to the hotel and it’s free of charge, but he told me to use his phone to call the hotel instead so that I won’t have a hard time finding the booth.  I was so touched. It made me love Paris even more! Break the stereotype, Parisians are nice and caring people!

We then went to see the Arc de Triomphe and wait for it….LA TOUR EIFFEL. When I saw the tower, I fell in love again! Paris is indeed a romantic city, whether you’re with a partner or not.

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Arc de Triomphe 

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THERE SHE IS

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Look at her standing so prettily! 

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I’m back! #EiffelforDesireepart3?

I’m sorry Empire State Building..but the Eiffel Tower’s view is incomparable!

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We also went to see the famous Notre Dame and explored the Latin Quarter.

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Where’s the hunchback? 

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Love the details! 

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Inside Notre Dame

Notre Dame is such a beautiful church and the interior is such a special sight to behold. It is really a blessing to be able to visit magnificent churches in Europe. I felt like my trip was also a form of spiritual healing.

For the next day, we took the metro to see the Louvre. I wanted to laugh when I saw the Mona Lisa! It was so tiny! People were crowding so much that you would think it was something huge but it was so small!!! I couldn’t see it clearly because of its size.

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See what I’m talking about? LOL 

The Louvre was, as expected, very spectacular. It is so huge and it contained different art styles from different periods! What’s more is that they also have Angelina!

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Art appreciation time 😉

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May pinagdadaanan si kuya

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Keeping Up with The Ongs charaught

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Best. Hot. Choco. Ever.

We then went to shop at Champs-Élysées and Galeries Lafayette. I love their Sephora, it’s so big! That’s where I bought my Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons Palette~ We literally went to every Nike Store in Paris just so we can find the multicolor flyknit for my bro. Jeez, guys and their kicks.

Palace of Versailles

Now, I couldn’t go home without seeing THE Palace of Versailles and so we extended a day in Paris. It was so worth it! The rooms were so posh and dainty! There were so many rooms! AND THE GARDEN. PAK! KABAHAN NA ANG LAHAT NG GARDENS!

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Pak. Gate palang yan kabog na. 

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Syempre nagpose ang lola niyo

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With my favorite boys ❤

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My favorite part of the palace!

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The Little Princess

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It’s so fancy!

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Parang swimming pool na yung fountain

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It’s big enough for 3 debut celebrations lol 

The garden was so enormous. It will probably take a day to explore the whole area!

Afterwards, we rode the Eurostar back to London and stayed for a bit. We wanted to explore London a little more.  My brother couldn’t wait to watch Captain America and so we watched the movie at Westfield (the movie tickets were so expensive! All for the love of Marvel lmao) We also ate at the Five Guys there; everything was so delish! Sadly, this was the end of the trip.

If I had to pick my favorite city, it’d definitely be Paris. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but the city is just beautiful in every angle (plus cute french boys 😉 ). I also loved St. Paul de Vence! I would definitely go back to this quaint & artsy nook! Monaco was such a delight as well, I felt very relaxed. Venice also took my breath away and I had the best gelato! Nevertheless, I left a piece of my heart in every place we visited. Honestly, Europe is a very beautiful continent. There was nothing I didn’t love.

On another note, people were asking me for tips on how to save money while travelling in Europe. Here are some of the ways that I could think of to lessen the costs of travelling in Europe:

  1. Before your flight, buy tickets for attractions online instead of booking a tour package. It’s much cheaper if you buy tickets on your own with no tour included. A local expert’s knowledge is valuable and would make it much easier for you to navigate places, but if you want to save up, a little google research would suffice.
  2. Bring an eco bag and buy groceries in advance. Food and drinks in tourist spots are so expensive, even a bottle of water! Supermarkets like COOP sell their drinks for a cheap price. Usually, it’s less than or equivalent to 1 Euro. Stock up on water, soda, and snacks and bring them whenever you’re going somewhere. That way, you don’t have to buy super expensive food and drinks in tourist spots. Supermarkets also sell croissants, roast chicken, snacks and other food. Buy some and heat them up for breakfast or dinner instead of eating out. Only eat out at really great instagram-worthy restaurants, but if you just want something on your system, buy them from the grocery.
  3. Book an Airbnb instead of a hotel or stay in a budget hotel chain. A lot of people are catching up on how great Airbnb is. Room prices are relatively cheaper and you can use everthing in the whole apartment. Alternatively, many budget hotel chains offer decent rooms, so try to find one that is suitable to your liking. Also, stay away from the city centre. Book the suburb locations. In addition, it’s better to book during off-peak seasons, so you may want to plan your trip within these dates.
  4. Use local transport. I love using Uber. Don’t be lazy like me and take the train, rent a bike, or walk to burn the calories!
  5. Don’t use up your data or rent a pocket wifi. There’s free wifi everywhere! You’ll get to upload your super awesome shot in IG, don’t worry.
  6. Take advantage of free state run museums, student discounts, and free walking tours! State-run museums are often free in Europe. Some offer discounts for students. There are also days of the week when the entrance is free, so try to keep track of that. For instance, upon research, I found out that the Louvre offers free entrance every first Sunday of the month. Free guided tours are also available in Europe. They last around 1-2 hours with no fee, just tips. You can tip any amount equal or above 5 euros.

Another advice: don’t be afraid to ask people for directions, to try all the food you can, and to get lost! Go wherever your feet will take you and you will discover hidden gems along the way 🙂 Don’t hold back. If you want to try or see something, DO IT! You’ll never know when you can comeback to this breathtaking continent again. In a melting pot of rich cultures, breathtaking architecture and sceneries, beautiful art, exquisite goods, and delicious cuisines, there’s just so much to do!

Europe, je t’aime! Je vais revenir! 

Wow, this has been sitting in my drafts for so long. It took me quite some time to compile everything! That’s a wrap!

Sorry for the long read guys! I wanted to make sure I covered everything as a way of making up for my long hiatus.

How about you? What are your travel tips and adventures? Let me know by leaving a comment! I’m excited to hear about them!

Till the next adventure!

Love,

Des ❤

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