Cinque Terre

Posted on June 30, 2015

Ah Cinque Terre… (pronounced tʃinkwe ˈtɛrːe in Italian) but whatever, this beautiful rugged coast was the saving grace of our almost disastrous Milan Trip.

The picturesque Cinque Terre is consist of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Originally we wanted to stay for a few days but was told by friends that a day tour would suffice.  I wished we stayed at least overnight though,  I would have loved to explore all the villages on foot. We only managed to explore Monterosso Al Mare and Vernazza due to our limited time.

Emma and I we’re up early to meet our guide in Milan. We were running on one hour sleep and badly needed some fuel to kick start the day and for the long drive ahead so Italian coffee had to be in place. You know what they say, when in Rome… I mean Milan.

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Our first stop was the delightful village of Portovenere located on the Ligurian Coast in the province of La Spezia.  It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Cinque Terre.

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After our short stop at Portovenere, we boarded a boat to reach the coastal villages, wedged into rugged cliffs by the Mediterranean sea. Here we met and befriended a lovely young woman who’s aptly named, Barbie.  She was also doing the same tour and was traveling alone and clicked with us straight away. Unfortunately our tour did not include exploring Riomaggiore village so we could only admire it from afar. How very sad.

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I don’t remember our boat stopping at other villages, but we were finally allowed to dock at Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the Cinque Terre’s ‘five lands’.

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We were given a few hours to explore the village but not before having lunch with the whole group.  Our guide took us to this restaurant where I had the most amazing seafood dish, very rustic and fresh, just how I like it.

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I love this picture I took of Emma. The smile says it all. IMG_6099 IMG_6118

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That infamous rock of Monterosso al MareIMG_6137 IMG_6145 IMG_6146 IMG_6155 IMG_6157 IMG_6158

After exploring Monterosso, we were instructed to meet our guide and the rest of the group to board a train to Vernazza, another of the Cinque Terre’s beautiful villages.

Vernazza was struck by massive flooding and mudslide in 2011 that left the town buried in over 4 metres of mud and debris.  The damaged caused a lot of money (over 100 million euro) but luckily for us, it was restored a few months later with a lot of hard work and help from people from all over the world.

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With it’s colourful, painted homes clinging to impossible cliffs, flanking a quaint harbour, Vernazza was worth preserving.  It’s by far my favourite. Oh and did i mention that they have the best gelateria (ice-cream parlor) in the world? I know it’s a sweeping declaration but if you know me, a self-proclaimed Ice cream monster, I can say with all honesty, that the gelato I had in Vernazza, was to die for.

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So after an hour or so exploring the lined cobbled street of Vernazza and taking lots and lots of shameless pictures in the scorching heat, it was time for us to rejoin our group for another scenic train ride to the town of La Spezia.  Back on our coach to head back to Milan, ending our day trip.

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In the famous words of  Douglas MacArthur, “I came through and I shall return”.  I vow to return to Cinque Terre one day and explore the rest of the villages… and for another cup of gelato too.

Much love,

Geri

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Kalbarri

Posted on June 13, 2015

Two weeks ago, my friend Anne asked if I wanted to join their long weekend road trip to Kalbarri and I thought, hmmm why not, I haven’t got anything planned and I needed to get away because I was going through some personal issues (i.e. mending a broken heart) and a road trip would be (is always) a perfect distraction.

Actually I’ve been to Kalbarri before, in the summer of 2011.  I remember the temperature reaching 47 degrees celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) and even for someone who grew up in a tropical country, I still struggled.

There are places/sites that once you’ve visited, you can literally cross off your list and be happy to never EVER go back. Kalbarri is obviously not one of those places.  To quote my friend Chris, those famous Tumbalooga sandstone rocks have been around for 450 million years.  That’s a bloody long time, and those rocks command respect.

In the two times I visited Kalbarri, I went with two amazing groups of people and on each trips made amazing memories. As the cliche goes, it’s not always the destination, it’s the journey and it’s the people you’re with too.

Kalbarri is a 6 hour drive from Perth but there are plenty of super cool places that you can stop and check on the way, to break the long trip. There’s the Pinnacles, Lancelin and Jurien Bay to name a few. Did all three stops on my first Kalbarri trip but only did two on the last one.

Our first stop was Lancelin.  Lancelin and it’s famous white sand dunes. I’ll try and do a lot of fun things in high heels. I rarely shock my friends anymore, so me wearing cowboy boots on sand dunes is pretty normal.image-4

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image-7 Our next stop was Jurien Bay, we stopped at the park to prepare and cook our lunch.  In Australia it’s all about barbecue, and when you throw in Filipino’s and Brazilian’s on the mix, then expect to find some interesting food on the grill. Like chicken heart on sticks for instance, good for the soul. IMG_6917 image-7 copy

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We arrived in Kalbarri just in time to catch the sunset.

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IMG_6991 I like living on the edge, much to the horror of my girl friends (sorry Mom).image-8 image-9 IMG_7053

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The one thing I HATE (with feelings) and a lot of people who’ve been to Kalbarri will agree, are the flies. Bloody flies, you cannot escape them.  image-14

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IMG_7141 Last day in Kalbarri and making the most of it!IMG_7181 Thankful to these peeps for adopting me for the long weekend. image-16

On our way back to Perth in search of The Pink Lake, we found it but just couldn’t find a way to get to it.IMG_7193

The Pink Lake would have to be another post my friends.IMG_7196

Until the next road trip.

Love and light,

Geri

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Istanbul

Posted on June 5, 2015

I find it quite hard to write about Istanbul because it was where I reached breaking point from months of non stop travel. When you’re so tired and your mind just can’t keep up with your body, the littlest thing can easily set you off and poor Emma copped it big time.  It takes a lot for me to ‘lose it’ but when I do, I can be a total biatch with a capital B. I’m like the Ice Queen incarnate.

Combine continuous jet lag, fatigue/exhaustion, stress, lack of sleep and not eating on time and you get mean scary Geri. The quote ‘I’m sorry for all the things I said when I was hungry’ comes to mind. Emma was going through the same thing and we we’re basically feeding that almost delirious state of mind off each other and venting our frustrations towards each other.

Our trip to Istanbul pretty much got off to a rocky start.  Having only slept for 3 hours to catch a very early morning flight, to then have a delayed connecting flight and not have our tour people pick us up at the airport on time, was just what we needed. Then came this Kuwait national who was getting picked up by the same hotel transfer service at the airport. At first he seemed friendly, he asked if he could have his picture taken with me and that was fine. He then asked if he could take me out to dinner, and started asking which hotel I’m staying.  Apparently he wants to have me picked up from my hotel because he will organise a trip with me to the islands, etc.  Emma and the two local guys couldn’t believe he would be so forward to ask me out in front of them and they were laughing so hard.  It provided some kind of humour but it was escalating to creepy territory pretty quickly. I was politely saying ‘No’ but he was like the type of person that won’t take no for an answer, so you can just imagine my relief when I found out we were riding in separate cars.

Being certified FOMO’s (Fear Of Missing Out), we thought it was a great idea to do back to back tours, but back to back tours only ever work if the tours you’re doing are highly organised. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the tours we did in Istanbul, they were just all over the place. For instance, they’ll give us a schedule of what we’re doing on that day and they’ll totally change it in the afternoon and swap it with activities scheduled the following day, and you’re left wondering what’s going on because you thought you’re visiting a mosque and you find yourself at grand bazaar but you don’t want to be stressed so you just try and go with the flow anyway. Luckily, the sites we visited made up for it.

Mindblowing details on this mosaic found in Chora Museum, a beautiful legacy of the Byzantine era.  This almost feels like cross stitching back in the days (on acid).  One word, dedication.

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Our Moroccan scarves came in handy when going inside the many beautiful Mosques found in Istanbul. Here in the popular Blue Mosque.

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At first glance this looks like colourful plates on top of each other but you’re actually looking at the beautiful ceiling of the Blue Mosque.

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Part of our tour was visiting this luxurious carpet store ‘Matis’.  We were offered this yummy apple tea upon arrival. Each time they lay a new carpet my heart would skip a bit.  The more amazing the design, the more expensive it gets.

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The owner of the carpet store was kind enough to invite me to check out their rooftop office that offers panoramic views of the historic city. image copy 5

A visit to Istanbul is not complete without getting lost inside the Grand Bazaar. 

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Another mosque, another selfie.  Here in Rustem Pasha Mosque, considered as one of their most beautiful mosques (they have about 3000), the pictures don’t do it justice.  

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This was the entrance to Topkapi Palace.  Disneyland must have drawn inspiration from it.

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And what’s my trip without my door picture? 

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Morning views from one of the first hotels we stayed in Istanbul, Megara Palace Hotel in the old city.

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If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’d know that I love seafood dishes so I have extremely enjoyed the seafood dishes I tried in Turkey.  Like this fish that was cooked in brick oven, it had eggplants, tomatoes,  some parsley, mint leaves and lemon which I ordered at Rumist Cafe and Art Bistro. image-4 copy 2

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During Ramadan, we decided to have lunch at this place located in the Sultanahmet area (out of the many others) called Divane Cafe and Restaurant.  The servers were uber friendly and the food, well, divine.  They invited us to come back after 9pm because that is when they can eat again. They told us it’s almost torture on their part serving food the whole day to tourists like us but they do it because of their faith.  I get why it’s almost like a personal victory for them each night, and why they say they celebrate it like a big party, with music and all.  If I was deprived of food the whole day, (provided I haven’t gone mad yet) the next food I see/eat would be like the most amazing food ever.

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Emma joked that I should make a collage of all the guys that asked to have their picture taken with me. A selfie never hurt anybody.

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I was never a fan of Turkish delights until I tasted the real thing in the famous Spice Market (a.k.a. Egyptian Bazaar).  All the flavours you can possibly think of, they have it.  And all the possible pick up lines from Turkish guys, they’ll throw your way too.

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Passed by one of the longest and one of the most luxurious yachts in the world, the Savarona, while on the Bosphorus cruise. image copy 4

I liked the idea that we were cruising on international waters to see both the Europe and Asia coastline of Turkey.

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Shoutout to the guys at Shadow Cafe Bar Restaurant, for giving us free desserts, shisha, drinks and for playing awesome music. One of the waiters gave me a rose that he made out of a tissue paper (bless him).  Turkish guys are total charmers to tourists, but we couldn’t take the free drinks because we were too tired from all the tours we were doing during the day.

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Leaving Istanbul for a few days, we made our way to Canakkale.  Our first stop was Troy.  Funny story, I thought Troy is found in Greece, lol.  Anyway, in the ancient city of Troy, you’ll find not just one, but two gigantic Trojan horses.  The one found in the town centre is the one silly tourists like me can touch and climb, while the other horse was the one they used in the movie and is displayed in the city centre.

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Inside the Trojan horse, it was quite high up and comfy inside.

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Thousands of years ago, the infamous Trojan war happened here, on the western gate of Troy VII.  I was reminded just how much I love studying history before.  The amazing architectures that lasted centuries which also survived many natural disasters, make these people visionaries because they were so ahead of their time. Buried underneath are cities on top of cities still waiting to be discovered by archaeologists.  So excited to what they’ll find next.

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If I lived in this era, I would be hanging a lot here, the Odeon or the singing place, because reason one, I love to sing and reason two, I can’t live without music.  The Odeon is said to be built in the Roman Troy era.

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The things I do that usually embarrass Emma.

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And the ‘piece de resistance’ the Trojan horse used in the movie Troy.  I already checked, Brad Pitt wasn’t there lol.  The horse is displayed near the port of Canakkale city centre and yes, it is pretty awesome and no you can’t climb or touch it.

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After visiting Troy, our next stop was ANZAC cove in Gallipoli.  One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Turkey was to visit the ANZAC memorial.  It’s a pilgrimage for Australians and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to pay my respects to those who have fallen, personally, on it’s 99th year.  It was an emotional day but one that I will never forget. image-7 copy

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ANZAC Cove, then and now.

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Doing a tour is a great way to learn the country’s history or if you want to check a lot of places in a short period of time, but I prefer exploring the city on my own and it’s the same for Emma too. Anyway, after our crazy back to back tours we stayed in this beautiful hotel in Beyoglu called Art Nouveau Galata Hotel, owned by our friend Meftun and is situated beside Galata Tower.  Beyoglu is just across the bridge from the Old city.

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Doing some writing and enjoying my tea in the balcony of our hotel.

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Beyoglu is a hip place, I would say, its New York equivalent would be Brooklyn.

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I remember walking into a shop and the store owner offered us Turkish coffee (which I am not a fan) and then proceeded to read our fortune.  Never a doll moment.  The store owner Murat, looked like Weird Al at first glance.  Just as cheeky but more fabulous.

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After almost a week in Istanbul, Emma and I had our first legit Turkish Kebab and it was not what we expected, but it had lots of chilli’s so am happy. image-6 copy 10

We couldn’t buy plates so we went bonkers buying pillow cases.

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On our last night in Istanbul, our friend Meftun took us to dinner at this seafood restaurant located in the bay area and there were a lot of cats lounging around.  Got attached to one particular cat because it didn’t want to leave me, just wanted to sleep in my lap and be loved. Aw.image-5 copy

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Meftun also gave us a quick city night tour which was the perfect way to end our Istanbul trip. Almost kind of bittersweet that it wasn’t until our last few days that we started to really enjoy and appreciate the city.  I guess I will just have to come back again soon. Until my next visit Istanbul. Tesekkurler Love and light, Geri

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Machu Piccu (Part 2)

Posted on March 31, 2015

IMG_5479 Before I continue with my Machu Piccu odd-ventures, let me just clarify that I never considered myself a serious trekker. Sure I’d go hiking with friends from time to time, but it was never Machu Piccu levels. There were no camping involved and did not take days to finish.  I don’t know if it was sheer ignorance or arrogance on my part, but I never really thought I’d ever have any problems or accidents while doing the Inca Trail.  I’ve always been the type that would do things first, then worry or deal with the consequences later. So Day 1 of Inca Trail, something did happen.  Three hours on the trek (which was supposed to be the easiest), I lost my footing and slipped and twisted my ankle.  I blame the walking sticks (just because I didn’t know how to use them properly). The first thing I said to our tour leader was, ‘Please don’t send me home’.  Anyway, they put a bandage around my right ankle and gave me ibuprofen tablets and continued the trek but with one of the tour guides walking slowly/closely with me. To add insult to (my) injury, it rained.  It effing rained. I was cold and limping and in pain. Thank goodness I bought wet proof hiking boots.

Not my most glamorous outfit but have always wanted to rock a yellow plastic trench coat yay!

IMG_5022I managed to finish day 1 but when I finally took my shoes off, my right foot looked really bad.  Our tour guides advised me to decide the following morning if I want to continue the trek or not.  It was the first time i’ve ever hurt myself like that so I was seriously worried. The worst part was I could not inform my parents because we had no signal up in the mountains and I didn’t want to tell them anyway.  I was also worried that I will never be able to wear high heels again. Girl problems. IMG_5206 IMG_5207 My option was to continue and risk aggravating my foot, or go back while I still can.  I was lucky that one of the girls in my group Joan, is a nurse, and she gave me a much stronger painkiller and basically gave me the lowdown on what’s ahead since it’s her third time doing the Inca trail.  She said that Day 2 of the Inca trail is the hardest (all uphill) and if something happens I would need to be carried by a porter because there won’t be any mules or donkeys for me to hire since we’re like way up the mountains already, my other option is to rent a mule first thing in the morning and go back to Ollaytantambo, rest for one day, then take the train to Machu Piccu and join my group on the last day. Joan said that I’d at least get to have a shower and look fresh when I reach Machu Piccu, if I decide the latter route. (But, but, but…). Anyway, they all said that I should decide the following day and just call it a day, sleep and rest, but I was too distraught.  I was crying to one of the tour guides that was looking after me, not because of the pain, but the thought that I was gonna miss out on the trek and cheat my way to Machu Piccu.  I basically cried myself to sleep that night, almost resigned to the idea that I will be going back in the morning but when I woke up the following day, my foot was not as sore and the swellings gone down and in my true rebel self, decided to continue all the way.  It was borderline fearless/brave and stupid/crazy decision, but I’m so glad I did because it was one of the most AMAZEBALL trek ever.

Everytime I get tired and feel like my foot is going to give up on me, I just turn around and look at the amazing view behind me and tell myself, ‘look how far you’ve come?’ and then I’m okay again.

photoedit It was definitely a personal victory for me to conquer Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,776 feet above sea level with a twisted ankle.  It was super challenging especially with the high altitude and uneven steps which were also very steep.  It took me forever to reach it but it felt so good and rewarding when I finally did.  I probably will never do this trail again but ya never know. IMG_5147 I was greeted by our adorable G Adventure porters when I reached Dead Woman’s Pass.  These hardworking guys are so inspiring. They carry 30 kilos on their back up the mountain to our campsites everyday in a short period of time and not even wearing the right shoes.  They are the nicest people and always have a smile on their faces.  I only carry 5 kilos backpack and I feel like am dying.  Because I was injured, I had more time and opportunity to get to know them.  That was my silver lining. IMG_5142 Normally it takes around 6-8 hours to do Day 2, but because of my injury, it took me 11 hours to reach our campsite.  I usually get a big round of applause from my group and the porters as well when they finally see me hahaha.  Because I was such a slow-mo, I had to start my trek an hour earlier before my group to get a head start (didn’t help anyway), but it also meant that I was on my feet the whole day. No rest for the wicked. Oh and excuse my crazy unruly natural hair.  In fairness though, they’re much neater when it’s in colder area, in the tropics, it goes really big and wild. unnamed You know how when you we’re little, you were told that Santa was real and he was not? Well they said that Day 3 of Inca Trail was going to be a breeze and it was a big FAT LIE.  I thought that it was just as hard (if not harder than Day 2) but I  have to say it was definitely more scenic.  We visited more Inca Site Ruins and we passed through some parts of the Amazon Jungle. Mosquito repellents we’re the spray of choice.

Sayaqmarka (Inca Ruins)

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I missed one Inca Site though because I had to go use a short cut to reach the campsite around the same time as my group and had one of the assistant Chefs to come with me (by day 3, our group had more accidents that we were literally running out of Tour Guides to look after everyone). Our Tour CEO was concerned that if I don’t finish early, it would be very hard and dangerous to navigate in the dark. Normally I would be like, ‘but I don’t want to miss one Inca Site like a biatch’ but after what I’ve gone through, missing one Inca Site was not such a big deal anymore.  I was just so grateful to be there, to still be walking and breathing in spite of.

My little yellow tent :-)

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But can’t complain when you get this bad ass view as backdrop.

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Getting to know our wonderful G Adventures porters. Adore them.

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We had the best chef in the tour, how he was able to make a cake without an oven beats me.

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And Day 4 of the Inca Trail finally came.  We all had to wake up early, as in 3AM kind of early on the day to make sure that our group will be first to reach the Sun Gate. By 5.30AM there was a long line of other groups from other tours already all wanting to get clearance to go ahead. Our group I believe was the second group to get the clearance so waking up that early paid off. Passport in hand, I was super ready.  Although my walking pace was much better (I ditched the walking sticks) I was still pretty slow. It didn’t take that long before I lost my group, I think I walked pretty much on my own for a few hours but with each step I was getting more and more excited. I was getting closer and closer to seeing Machu Piccu and I had to stop every now and then not only to rest or to catch my breath, but also to stop myself from hyperventilating from too much excitement.

The happiness I felt when I re-joined my group at the Sun Gate, and my first glimpse of Machu Piccu.

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The pose that stopped traffic.  Thankful to the tourist that stopped other tourists behind him from passing through while I was having this photo taken

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My group had a few calamities on the trek but what’s important was we all made it to Machu Piccu in one piece.  Machu Piccu was breathtaking for sure but as cliche as this may sound, it was the journey and the people that made it extraspecial.

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Celebrated conquering Machu Piccu with a big cup of coke and Doritos.    

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Another day, another stamp, done.

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No electricity, no shower, no makeup, no internet, no clean toilet, no comfy bed and no high heels for 4 straight days… How did I survive? I have to say that hiking with a  twisted ankle was definitely one of the toughest, hardest and roughest thing I’ve ever done.  Most of the time it was adrenalin rush that’s getting me through, but it was definitely worth it, eyebags, and all.

Thank you Machu Piccu for one hell of an experience I will never forget.

Much love, Geri

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Machu Piccu (Part 1)

Posted on February 11, 2015

Machu Piccu has been on the top of my bucket list for years now and when I was planning my world trip, I knew I had to include it somehow.  The trip almost didn’t happen because Emma, my beautiful perennial travel buddy, told me she’s not going and I knew my parents will freak out if they find out I was traveling to South America on my own but I knew in my heart I was ready so I went ahead and booked everything anyway.

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It was my first time to go to South America and everything was new to me yet somehow a lot of things also felt familiar. I guess it was the Spanish heritage/influence growing up in the Philippines. In Lima (the capital of Peru), I had no problem blending in,  unlike when I visit Asian countries for example, I always get asked where I’m from, over there almost everyone just assumed I’m Peruvian or Latina except for when I start talking in my broken Spanish.

I opted to stay in Lima two days prior to flying to Cusco to do a cooking class.  It’s common knowledge among friends and family that I love cooking so I was extremely excited to learn some famous Peruvian dishes, sadly I haven’t had a chance to recreate all the dishes I’ve learned since I got back because I couldn’t find some of the ingredients that we used. The cooking class involved going to the mercado or the market where my tour guide introduced me to the fresh produce that they often use to cook their food. The market was called Mercado Numero Uno de Surquillo.

photo 1-2This purple corn is taking my love of corn to the next level, they make a super refreshing drink out of these, which they call ‘Chicha Morada’. 

photo 2 IMG_4625 I was also showed a variety of super hot chilli’s. I remember my tour guide warning me that their chilli’s will make me cry, and I was like, meh!  I didn’t tell him I love chilli’s. This particular chilli in this jar though is said to be the hottest.  Found only in the Amazon jungle, they call it, penis of the monkey.  I swear I’m not making this shit up. IMG_4626 After visiting the market, we drove to the scenic Chorrillos, a famous seaside district of Lima, where I met the chef of Sirena Restobar that was going to teach me two Peruvian dishes and a cocktail drink.  The first dish he taught me was ‘causa rellena’, a potato dish.  Peru apparently has over 3000 types of potatoes so it’s no wonder they have gazillion potato dishes as well.photo 2-2 IMG_4701 The second dish was my favourite, ceviche con leche de tigre (milk of the tiger).  For a moment, I really thought we were going to use tiger milk but to my relief, it was just how they called the sauce. The combination/contrast of all the flavours complimented each other and the flavours were like dancing inside my mouth. IMG_4700 And then it was time for me to learn their national cocktail drink, Pisco Sour.  Pisco sour is so easy to drink because it’s so refreshing but  best to limit to drinking 2 glasses at a time, trust me, due to its alcohol content (70%) you won’t really feel what hit you after. The best part was I got to enjoy my very own pisco sour in front of Lima’s famous surfing beach, Playa La Herradura. Salud! photo-5The following day, I flew to the quaint and historic region of Cusco. Basically to reach Machu Piccu, you have to fly from Lima to Cusco. Most tourists that embark on hiking Machu Piccu stay in Cusco for a few days to climatise.  Upon touchdown, I was greeted by this amazing view at 11 thousand feet and I of course was enamorado. IMG_4734 I ended up doing another cooking lesson in Cusco just because doing one cooking lesson is not enough.  The same set up as the cooking class in Lima, my guide also took me to their local market as well.  My guide in Cusco was more outgoing, he made me try some exotic fruits but was quick to stop me from eating street foods because he was worried I will get sick. I normally get sick but it’s never stopped me from trying before. For some reason I decided to be a good girl that day. IMG_4754 IMG_4820 Turned out my guide was also my cooking teacher and he made me cook ‘Lomo Saltado’ using alpaca meat.  I’ve never cooked alpaca meat before and it was my first time eating it too and although it was very tender and tasty, I didn’t enjoy it as much, because I was feeling guilty the whole time.  I will most likely use a different meat if/when I recreate this dish later on. IMG_4824 On the way back to my hotel, I met a descendant of an Inca and my tour guide said that I was lucky because he apparently blessed me. Yay. IMG_4805 IMG_4825 The following day, I joined a whole bunch of adventurers (mostly British) to start the Machu Piccu adventure. I booked my tour via G Adventures and this company is just fantastic.  I’ve done a lot of tours from different parts of the world and can easily say G Adventures is one of the best. Our first stop was Saqsaywaman, the neighbouring town of Cusco.  Our tour CEO took us to this uphill spot that was overlooking the whole of Cusco, the most important city for the Inca’s. IMG_4835 Our next stop was visiting this little village called Cacacollo.  It was definitely one of the highlights for me. I loved the idea that part of the money I paid for the tour goes to the livelihood initiatives of this village.  I truly admire this project of G Adventures. Over the years they helped provide better living conditions for the people and sustainable jobs especially for the women. IMG_4848 This lovely lady made me wear her traditional hat.  Apparently if you are single, you flip it up and you flip it down if you are married. IMG_4845 I knew I was right to feel guilty cooking/eating alpaca meat. They are like the cutest thing in the world. I would never eat or cook them again. IMG_4860 IMG_5052

So humbled to be surrounded by these beautiful Quechuan women while drinking their coca tea.

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We also visited Pisac, located in the Sacred Valley.  It was a glimpse of what was in-store for us hiking wise. Those Inca’s were truly ahead of their time. photo-5 copy IMG_5100

Sacred Valley is also famous for their delicacy, ‘cuy’ which is basically roasted guinea pig. As a foodie I had to try, at least once :-(

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We reached the historic town of Ollaytantambo in the evening.  It served us the starting point for our four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail. It was also the last place where we could use our mobile phones and the last place where we could have a shower.

A typical house in Ollaytantambo.

IMG_4945  We visited one of the local houses and I was surprised to see so many guinea pigs inside.

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Inside the house was also a strange altar, with skulls, dead animals, sculpted human shaped organs, and rosaries and saints. Most Peruvians apparently still practice the old religion and the new religion (Catholicism) at the same time. IMG_4951  We were up early the following day to start Day 1 of our Inca Trail. To say we were excited, would be a big understatement.

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And my great big Machu Piccu adventure begins…

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Santorini

Posted on November 28, 2014

Yassou!

If there was a contest for the most photogenic destination from my recent travels, the winner will undoubtedly be, Santorini.

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It’s like every camera whores dream destination because there’s always  a postcard perfect photo opportunity waiting to be captured.  I could write an entire nobela gibbering about the multicoloured cliffs soaring over 300 meters from the caldera, the low-lying cubical houses made of whitewashed local stones that glimmer in the sun, the golden sunset that create the most enchanting backdrop, the nicest most accommodating people and the food oh my effing gawd, the food. Anyway, I won’t bore you. I will say, however, that Santorini, is one of the most enchanting, fun, elegant, beautiful, paradise in the world.

Golden Star hotel was our home in Santorini.  Can’t recommend this place enough.  We get magical blue nights for our balcony views at night… 

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and just as magical during day time

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 The very first meal I had in Santorini was at Taverna El Greco, where I had the biggest calamari and the guy serving us gave us free glasses of red wine. Yay.

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Emma and I decided to try the fish pedi for the first time and we were screaming and laughing the whole time.

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 My first glimpse of the Nea Kameni volcano.  This was basically an ordinary-everyday sight here in Santorini. Unreal.

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White on white.  The “No white on labor day rule” does not apply in this place obviously.

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 Almost dressed in white (almost)

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Having my ‘Not all those who wander are lost’ moment here.

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Fellow tourists braving the wind and fog to capture Santorini’s golden sunset.

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Not even the fog, can rain on the Sun’s parade.

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I got my now almost perma tan while galavanting around Europe in the summer.  It was extremely hot to wander around town centre during the day so we usually just end up staying in our room watching cable or swim in the pool.   IMG_6596

I love seafood and I was on seafood heaven in Santorini.  We’ve tried a couple of restaurants around town but our favourite would have to be Pelican  Kinttos.  I was totally obsessed with their mussel dish that I ordered a second serving.

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And then after eating breakfast or lunch at Pelican Kinttos, we’d go to the adjacent crepe place for dessert.  Their crepes were almost as good as the ones in Paris.

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We try and burn the calories by walking till our feet hurt

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My trip is not complete without my now infamous “door pic

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Aside from the extreme heat, the only other thing I didn’t like about Santorini was the crazy winds.  One time we were planning to walk to Oia and we had to turn around because we’re literally getting blown away.  Got more wind effect than I wanted.

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Imagine if you have sleep walking issues and you live on these cliffs?

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I didn’t make it to Brazil to watch the FIFA World Cup, but being in Europe was the next best thing.  Our dinner highlights involved watching the games at restaurants. Of course we were backing the Aussie team so when the Australian Socceroos scored against the Netherlands I was like screaming inside Dionysos restaurant. The yellow donkey beer made me do it. Loll

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A crazy thing happened on our way to Oia.  Rented a rather old quad bike to explore the island but didn’t bother to use a map so ended up driving on the narrowest, most cliffy, zigzaggy road in Santorini.  It was pretty cruisey, until I realised I had been driving on the wrong side of the road.  The worst part was when I forgot to take off the handle bar and I couldn’t steer properly and couldn’t turn properly, so Emma who’s super tiny, had to push the bike a few times (bless her).  We definitely provided a few laughs among passerby that day, but we’re too busy laughing at ourselves as well.  Definitely one for the travel books.

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Never appreciated power steering until I drove this on an uphill, winding road.

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Suffice to say, we made it to Oia in one piece :-)

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I would happily drive that rusty quad-bike again just to see this view.

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The lengths I’d go to take a good shot eh? Slippery when wet lol.

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 One of my favourite shots in Oia, trying to work with the wind. Werk it.

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Making sure I was having my Greek food fix before we leave. IMG_7038

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On our last day in Santorini, Emma and I decided to check out Red Beach which was located in the prehistoric town of Akrotiri.  I didn’t know it will involved some kind of hiking to reach it.

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Made E for Effort going down the cliffs to check out Red Beach in super high heels and in scorching heat.

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Oh Santorini, you’re just too beautiful. You gave me so many magical memories that I would not swap for all the Chanel in the world. Please take me back!

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Love and light,

Geri

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Portugal

Posted on September 9, 2014

I had been meaning to blog about Portugal for a while now, but travel got in the way and I didn’t want to rush writing about it. So after 3 months, I finally got my shit together, got most of the pictures sorted somehow and now feeling very excited to write about one of my most favourite countries in the whole wide world (I know, about bloody time I do).

Last June I got a chance to visit Portugal again. I never thought it’s possible to fall in love with the same place twice but it happened. I think it’s because I got to explore the other side of the country and I got to learn more about its culture, its people and its history and while I only managed to see Lisbon on my first visit, I was fortunate enough to see the south of Portugal this time around and it was beyond beautiful.

If I were to describe Portugal in three words I would say: unassuming, unpretentious and underrated.

Unassuming because it’s beautiful but not loud. Unpretentious because it doesn’t try or flaunt so hard. And underrated because it’s surprisingly still not in many peoples’ radar.

A part of me wants to keep it that way– it’s like when you stumble upon a treasure cove and you don’t want to tell anyone because you’re afraid they’re going to come and take all the treasure away from you or ruin everything in the process so you try your very best to keep it a secret. On the other hand, you’re so freaking enchanted and in love with the place, you want to tell the whole world about it. Lol.

But for the love of travel, I’m obviously doing the latter route, I love this country way too much to not possibly tell people how much I love it, even if it’s just through words and pictures.  Mind you, I don’t use the best camera in the world nor am I a professional photographer (or my friends for the matter), but I am hoping that the pictures I have chosen to share will help you understand, why I feel this way.

For this trip, we stayed with my very good friend Helio and his beautiful wife Isabel who were generous enough to offer accommodation for both myself and Emma. They live in this quaint lil town called Cabrela and right across their house is this beautiful church, which I never got to see inside :-(IMG_2490

They prepared some tapas to welcome us but Helio insisted that we try their famous ‘Bifanas’ first. Bifanas is basically a pork sandwich. A very popular Portuguese snack that originated from Vendas Novas, where Cabrela is located. I’m not a big fan of sandwiches, but bifanas was the bomb.  It’s so simple and sinful and definitely tasty. Must try.

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Helio, Isabel and their friend Quina prepared a little feast to welcome us.

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Homemade tapas, sangrias and some local wines made for one very tipsy Geri. I apparently made a scene at their town event, but no details will be posted about that incident, ever.  Anyway, I love these two to bits.

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The following morning, Helio and Isabel took us on an epic road trip in the southern areas of Portugal, starting with Porto Covo, located in Sines.

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After Morocco, I have become totally obsessed with doors.

IMG_5390 Portugal is well known for their love of sardines. I happen to love it too.IMG_5419

 No filter required.IMG_5421Then we were off to another praia or beach. The next stop was Praia do Odeceixe located in the nature park of Southwest Alentejo.  Note, if you are reading the words in Spanish accent, you are reading them wrong.

IMG_5444 2Then we checked out Helio’s favourite beach. Helio studied Botany in uni so aside from the historical facts about Portugal, we also got some crash course on the scientific names of the flourishing native flora and fauna’s of Portugal.

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 At the most south-western point of Europe, Cabo de Sao Vicente, Portugal

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Igreja De Nossa Senhora da Graca

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Extreme fishing for those who are afraid of heights. Lol.

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In Praia da Batata, locally known as the “town beach” which is just walking distance from Lagos town centre.IMG_2578

A few meters from the town beach is Praia do Camilo or Camilo Beach.  Camilo beach is stunning, and if you’re feeling energetic or not too lazy, you can make it down the steps and be awed by the amazing rock formations and cliffs.

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My favourite Portuguese couple (my family), Helio and Isabel.  They prepared the most amazeball and jam-packed itinerary for us, I was so impressed.  I suggested that they should start their own private tour company because they’re so knowledgable and so passionate about Portugal. Luckily, my persuasion skills worked because a few weeks after we left they’ve decided to go ahead with the idea.  I’m so excited for them and I really hope they’ll push through. Here’s hoping…
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A short drive from Camilo Beach is my other favourite beach, Ponta da Piedade.

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Ponta da Piedade. No words.

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A trip to Portugal is not complete without trying their other staple food, cod fish.  May the cod be with you.

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Our family picture on top of Monchique, one of the highest points in the south of Portugal, overlooking the region of Algarve.  We had to climb a hill of rocks to get on top and going against crazy strong winds, we were freezing.  We only took a few pictures and we’re like, we’re outta here.

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The following day, Helio and Isabel took us to the historic town of Evora where they both went to university.  Evora is such a quaint city which reminded me of a medina in Morocco.  It also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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In front of Santa Maria cathedral, which is massive as you can see from this door picture. IMG_5755

Paintbrushed clouds in beautiful EvoraIMG_2606Taking a picture within a picture.

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Then we drove to one of my favourite castles, Monte da Abadia, Evoramonte.  I like how the castle got these little bow sculptures all around it. Like a fairytale.

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Beside the castle is a cemetery.

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Portugal’s mini version of the Stonehenge ^-^
IMG_2678And you know all the walking makes me extra hungry (any excuse to try the many yummy Portuguese desserts/pastries).

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My love affair with gold fields started in Portugal too.
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Waiting for the sun to set on top of my other favourite castle Monsaraz. It’s amazing how from the top of the tower,  you can see parts of Spain already.  IMG_2691

Pastel colour sunsets, the picture doesn’t give it justice.IMG_2728

Our last sunset in Portugal and it was magical till the very end.IMG_5882This country is just so special beyond words. I wish I had gazillion dollars so I can buy a place and live there :-) maybe one day. For now, I’ll be holding on to these beautiful memories with a big smile on my face.

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Vejo vocês em breve Portugal. Eu te amo.

Love,

Geri

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