It’s never been the volume of destinations but the random experiences, the priceless learning about the world and myself, the few strangers I met who became my friends, the travel memories to cherish, and most importantly, the kind of person I’ve become after each trip.
Although in retrospect, I know my wanderlust has been extremely active this year. Thankfully, traveling has been teaching me to be more responsible and to remain grateful. It enables me to count blessings each day, and it kept me encouraged to be more positive, reminded me to be motivated, and be inspired to continue my journey.
365 days of 2016 may have passed and looking back, I’ve enriched myself not financially, but with travel tales that I’m sure, I’d retell my child and grandchildren in the near future.
Before I prepare my list of destinations for 2017, here’s a quick rundown of my unforgettable memories and personal impressions of the 38 cities in 14 countries that I’ve been to in 2016.
1. PARIS, FRANCE.
It has been a lifelong dream to set foot in Paris and gladly, it happened this year. The Eiffel Tower and the cool winter breeze. The River Seine and her elaborately handsome bridges. Mona Lisa in Louvre, The Opera, Montmartre, Sacre-Couer, Notre Dame and Place-Saint Michel.
Paris is Paris regardless.
The City of Lights is absolutely lovely, in spite and despite of.
And so for a few days while I was there, I heard myself saying,
Merci beaucoup, Je t’aime , Bonsoir and Bonjour!
Je vois la vie en rose!
2. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC.
The tourist in me came to see the Old Town Square, the Astronomical Clock and the Charles Bridge. It turned out that Prague is more than meets the eye. Czech Republic’s capital city is a fusion of heritage sites, ornately decorated churches, contemporary and traditional architecture, plus a tasteful gastronomic delights.
It was absolutely love at first sight.
3. VIENNA, AUSTRIA.
How could I forget the day when I arrived in Vienna train station, dragging my right foot while trying to keep balance, because of a painful and swollen sprained right ankle that I accidentally sustained from a fall while alighting from the train?
Unexpectedly, a pharmacy near my hostel was my first itinerary in Austria’s famous metropolis. I forced myself to go to buy a stretchable bandage, applied a figure of eight, and took strong analgesic per orem.
What’s my impression of Vienna? Pretty yet expensive.
I could’ve succumbed to my physical disability that day however, I opted not to, rather I relied on my will power to take care of myself even amidst unforeseen challenges. At the end of it all, I’m proud I was able to go to a few places that somehow define Vienna, Austria.
4. BRATISLAVA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC.
A 5-Euro and 45 minute bus ride took my feet from Vienna to Bratislava. It was the day when I ate breakfast in Austria, dined lunch in Slovakia and had dinner in Hungary!
Even though I only spent roughly 5 hours in Bratislava, I believe I had a pleasant introduction to its Old Town that appeared to me to look like Vienna, however less busy and more quiet.
5. BUDAPEST, HUNGARY.
The districts of Buda and Pest in between River Danube caught me by surprise! With no great expectations and admittedly, with less knowledge about Hungary’s capital city, I spent my last 3 days and 2 nights in Budapest with neither a travel guide book nor definite itineraries at hand. I let things happen spontaneously, and I didn’t regret that I failed to go to other must-visit places within the city.
Budapest looks picturesque in almost every corner and it deserves to be visited more than once in a lifetime.
6. VALLETTA, MALTA.
I couldn’t fathom how one of the tiniest countries in the world be so beautiful even without trying. Beauty may be subjective, and in my point of view, a place is beautiful when it has fascinating history, relevant heritage sites, and when it’s populated with warm and friendly people who could offer local cuisine at its best!
Within the Maltese archipelago at the heart of Mediterranean Sea, Valletta stands out effortlessly! The location is more than strategic that as per history, it became a favourite city to conquer by neighbouring forces. Malta’s capital city is more than her fortified walls, her century-old churches that appear impressively stunning with murals and gold, and to be honest, my fascination with Valletta goes beyond the flavourful gelato and their traditional rabbit stew.
It may be one of the underrated countries within the Schengen territory. It may be so small, but who needs a huge chunk of place where culture and identity are a rarity ?
Valletta has become one of my top personal favourites.
Have you been?
7. GOZO, MALTA.
Arriving in Citadel, in the island of Gozo just before twilight sets in, couldn’t be more appropriate! A short and uphill stroll after I disembark from the ferry that I took from the mainland of Malta, took my senses to a great vantage point to admire the sight of the day’s last sun rays over the northern Maltese skyline. It appeared so dramatic and inviting to set the mood for more discoveries.
8. BLUE LAGOON, COMINO ISLAND, MALTA.
If you’re planning to (re)visit Malta, I suggest do not ever miss going to the Blue Lagoon in Comino Island.
One word : PARADISE!
9. ZEBBUG, MALTA.
My travel date to Malta coincided with Catholics’ Holy Week celebration. Although, I do not reckon myself as religious as others, I did not miss the traditional Maltese processions in Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
I availed of the package a day before the half day tour, from a friendly kiosk along the promenade of Sliema Bay near the ferry station going to Valletta. For less than 20 Euros, the Good Friday tour package included a guaranteed front seat where the theatrical and lavish religious procession was held, plus a return transport to Sliema.
10. RABAT, MALTA.
For someone like me who’s currently living in a busy, urban and a very cosmopolitan place, a stroll within the quiet alleys of Rabat in Malta was such a welcome experience.
Rabat is located right across, Mdina, the former capital city of Malta.
11. MARSAXLOKK, MALTA.
In spite of almost 2 hour bus ride to Marsaxlokk from Sliema with bus transfer in Valletta, the trips were all worth it!
This Maltese traditional fishing port and harbour where wooden Maltese boats called, Luzzu are docked, provides crisp Mediterranean Sea breeze, relaxed atmosphere, freshest seafood dishes savoured in al fresco dining.
You never go to Malta and miss going to Marsaxlokk. It’s synonymous to a committing a crime. I kid you not.
12. MDINA, MALTA.
Former Malta’s capital city, Mdina’s heritage has been kept within its walls. To this date, it’s surprising to know that it functions as a residential area for locals, at the same time, keeping everything intact as it’s declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The imposing facade of Mdina, former capital of Malta.
13. POPEYE’S VILLAGE, MILLIEHA, ANCHOR BAY, MALTA.
When the movie that starred the late Robbin Williams as Popeye, the sailor man, was filmed in location in the poetic shores of Anchor Bay, the set was never removed, and it has been there as one of a kind themed park.
Meeting the cast in full costumes, participating in their activities, taking a complimentary 10 – 15 minute boat ride along Anchor Bay that’s included in the ticket rates, are a few things one could enjoy. It may be a touristy place but it guarantees fun to those kids and kids at heart!
14. SAINT JULIAN’S, MALTA.
Bars, restaurants, hotels, churches, and a wide stretch of beautiful promenade where strolling in the late afternoon is a must-do, partially define Saint Julian’s. It’s one of the busiest parts of Maltese archipelago.
15. SLIEMA, MALTA.
Thankfully, my chosen hostel for 9 days in Malta was located in Sliema. It’s a stone’s throw away from the bus stop, restaurants, grocery or mini-mart, and the promenade that starts from Saint Julian’s.
16. SENGLEA, THE THREE CITIES, MALTA.
The so called, The Three Cities in Malta are composed of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. These fortified cities, rich in history are best seen on foot and from the Grand Harbour via boat or ferry.
After I watched the Good Friday procession at Zebbug, I also booked half-day tour package of watching the Easter Sunday procession from the same tour operator in Sliema Bay. We were transported to Senglea, the city with the oldest image of the Risen Christ in Malta, via a double decker tourist bus. It was worth my time seeing how locals practice their faith, and observe their tradition.
Thankful to celebrate Easter Sunday this year at Senglea!
17. AGRA, INDIA.
In my opinion, seeing the Taj Mahal even once in a lifetime is a must. It would not be included as 1 of the New 7 Wonders of the World for nothing. It’s a good feeling inside to see something built out of love.
Taj Mahal is a sight to behold.
18. JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN, INDIA.
Doing the Golden Triangle trip in India is expected from most tourists including myself. And no one must skip taking a good glimpse at Hawa Mahal or the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, when you’re in India!
Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds in the Pink City of Jaipur.
19. NEW DELHI, INDIA.
20. ROMA, ITALY.
I had a love-hate relationship with Rome when I was there this year. I love her architecture and all her picturesque places. I adore her charm that comes from century-old structures, heritage sites and museums. I admire her accessibility and being tourist-friendly.
21. VATICAN CITY, VATICAN.
It does not require one to be a Catholic or at least, religious to visit the Vatican. Having the world’s largest museum with enormous collections of visual arts in all forms, with seat of Christianity and all her teachings, being the smallest country in the world, the Vatican City must be in every traveler’s bucket list.
Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican.
22. NAPOLI, ITALY.
Napoli also surprised me. In spite of negative articles written and published online, despite the questionable security and cleanliness this city was known for, it never bothered me to visit the southern gate of Italy. You’ll never know it, unless you find it for yourself.
Being the birthplace of Pizza Margherita and the entry to Italian coastline villages and islets, with countless cathedrals and chapels at almost every corner, and everything comes at a cheaper rates, Napoli deserves the spotlight that the other Italian cities have been receiving.
23. POSITANO, SALERNO, ITALY.
While my home-base in Southern Italy for 4 days was a hostel in Napoli, I devoted 1 day and took the Metro and the local train to Sorrento, and headed further south to Positano.
The vibrant and colourful coastline village that greeted me following crazy zigzag and uphill bus ride, was enough reason to spend a day or two in this part of Italy. The view was fantastic! It’s breathtaking to say the least!
The church of Santa Maria Assunta & the coastline village of Positano!
24. SORRENTO, NAPOLI, ITALY.
Sorrento’s a warm and welcoming town. Although it was summer during my visit, and the streets were flocked by tourists, I found it still more quiet and laid back compared to other Italian cities.
Sorrento’s alluring beaches, her flavourful and freshly made gelato, her attractive souvenir shops, and the relaxing vibe and soothing sea breeze are like magnetic forces to reckon with.
Photo taken by a handheld camera and not a drone.
25. ISOLA DI PROCIDA, NAPOLI, ITALY.
A 45-minute-ferry ride from the port of Napoli that costs 15 Euros took me with my Italian friends to the island of Procida. There are mini-buses that ply within the island, or you may simply walk around to explore Procida’s island charm.
After my friends went for a dip in the sea, we spent the rest of our afternoon in the Marina with the view of the colourful community, over freshly baked Margherita and ice-cold cola. I’d consider revisiting Procida and the rest of Napoli!
One of the most beautiful islands I’ve been to.
26. RIOMAGGIORE, CINQUE TERRE, ITALY.
From Napoli, I took the regional train and went up north to La Spezia. Following a few train transfers and almost a day of train rides, upon reaching La Spezia, I immediately purchased train ticket that came with free wifi access to Italy’s most famous coastline villages.
Literally means, Five Lands, Cinque Terre is composed of 5 colorful coastal villages that are collectively listed as Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Located in the region of Liguria, Cinque Terre are comprised of Riomaggiore that served as my home-base in Cinque Terre for 2 nights, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
Best thing to do while in Riomaggiore? Forget all worries, watch and savor the sunset!
27. MANAROLA, CINQUE TERRE, ITALY.
I took the train for a little less than 2 minutes from Riomaggiore to Manarola, then, I challenged my lungs and feet to an uphill hike up to the vantage point where the panoramic view’s simply beautiful!
Manarola used to be in my bucket list and I felt achieving something grand after I enjoyed my simple breakfast of a sliced local bread with raisin and a bottled water with a priceless sweeping view of the ocean!
28. VERNAZZA, CINQUE TERRE, ITALY.
Vernazza is equally gorgeous as the other coastline villages in Cinque Terre. Those giant waves in the afternoon, the many gelato stores, pizzeria and coffee shops, those modest and unpretentious clotheslines and Italian windows are a few of the reasons why Vernazza is sensational!
Unfortunately, I passed up going to the last 2 of 5 villages in Cinque Terre. At least, it’s an added reasons for me to go back to Cinque Terre and visit Corniglia and Monterosso.
29. FIRENZE, ITALY.
Florence is undoubtedly charming! The incredible architecture of Duomo di Firenze, the terracotta coloured tiled rooftops, the amazing view of the entire Tuscany’s capital, from Piazza Michelangelo particularly during early morning and just before dusk, the countless piazzas, museums, galleries, sculptures and replicas, the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio and all her celebrated bridges, are all awe-inspiring!
30. VENEZIA, ITALY.
Venice, like Paris and Florence, was a dream! It’s one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world! No appropriate single superlative could ever describe and do her justice!
No matter how much I tell you about Venezia, the reality is a countless times more lovely and splendid! You have to experience Venice for yourself even once in a lifetime.
This traffic congestion appeared picturesque to me.
31. MILANO, ITALY.
Milan deserves a visit longer than an overnight stay. It was unfortunate for me to have limited time in Milano compared to number of days I spent in other Italian cities. Nevertheless, I’m thankful for the chance to have a glimpse of the city atop the terraces of Duomo di Milano! And I’m even more grateful for the opportunity to savour another cone of gelato, and to sample an authentic Italian food for dinner.
Incredibly amazing, Duomo di Milano.
32. MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES.
Manila is home despite and in spite of.
Whether traffic jam became more horrendous than before, or local news became more alarming, my Filipino heart still belongs to Manila no matter where my feet take me around the globe.
Home is home regardless.
33. ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.
Having been a resident of UAE for almost 3 years now, I enjoy visiting Abu Dhabi every now and then. The stunning Emirati skyline, the relaxing corniche, the cosmopolitan vibe of the shopping malls and groceries, the enigmatic grandeur of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the fascinating local and international cuisines and other tourist spots therein, are just a few reasons to go to Abu Dhabi!
Fantastic Abu Dhabi skyline.
34. DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.
Although my heart rests in Manila, Dubai is my home at present.
I love Dubai for being so promising, for being so inspiring, and for offering new discoveries and opportunities to be better.
From the expansive and vast desert to her tallest skyscrapers, there’s no stopping for Dubai being one of the most future-forward cities in the world!
A visit to Dubai’s never complete without enjoying Dubai Desert Safari.
35. ARCTIC CIRCLE, ROVANIEMI, LAPLAND, FINLAND.
Meeting the original and one and only Santa Claus and his reindeers, sending postcards (and mails) directly from Official Santa Claus Post Office, crossing the Arctic Circle on foot, driving a snowmobile, riding the reindeer sledge, and petting icy coloured-eyed huskies, chasing Aurora Borealis and watching several falling stars; experiencing shorter days and longer nights, and literally, having White Christmas don’t happen to me every year!
I could not put into single word or even a few phrases, all my gratitude for visiting this part of Finland! Kiitos to everyone who supported me during my visit!
That line marks the site of Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland.
36. HELSINKI, FINLAND.
Helsinki is a modern city and, she has her uniquely beautiful appeal. Her accessibility that allows you to move around via trams, buses, taxi cabs and ferries, her charming winter atmosphere that stimulates the Christmas joy and bliss, the skyline that’s also inviting, and to top it all, the hospitality, the warmth and friendliness of Finnish people are a few reasons to recommend Helsinki to be added to your bucket list!
Awesome skyline of Helsinki, Finland.
37. TALLINN, ESTONIA.
I’m a huge fan of old towns and heritage sites. And upon learning Tallinn has a plenty of sights to offer, I grabbed the opportunity to visit Estonia during my first Nordic trip. From Helsinki, I took an affordable and comfortable 2-hour-ferry trip to Tallinn. I had wonderful time exploring her Old Town that’s dressed up for the occasion with Christmas markets, and I did not pass the chance to see her at dawn and to visit the Seaplane Harbour Museum!
Old Town Tallinn before the crack of dawn.
38. RIGA, LATVIA.
From Tallinn, I took the early morning trip to Latvia’s capital city, Riga. The bus ride took 4 hours and before I knew it, I was having brunch at Latvia’s metropolis. Riga’s Old Town according to locals whom I talked to, is quite small and can be explored on foot from a few hours or less. I found it bigger than the other Old Town I’ve visited. Probably because, Riga’s building and other structures seemed taller, or there’s a pretty interesting mix and fusion of the old and the new.
Despite my visit falls on a Monday, when most museums and churches are closed, in spite of the fact that it drizzled all day – that added to the challenge of traveling during winter, I could honestly say that I also enjoyed my 9-hour-do-it-yourself-tour of Latvia, and wished it won’t be the last!
The Statue of Roland in Town Square, Riga, Latvia.
THANK YOU, 2016!
Saying THANK YOU, GOD isn’t enough for everything that has happened to me in 2016. I should pay it forward whenever opportunity comes.
More than traveling to those destinations that I got to tick off from my bucket list, I am extremely grateful to all people who made my year more memorable and meaningful!
Thank you to everyone who follows this blog, and to those who also follow my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts!
Follow our adventures in 2017 on Instagram via :
This blog post is my entry to PTB BLOG CARNIVAL 2016.
Read all our entries here (after January 1, 2017) : http://www.pinoyadventurista.com/2017/01/ptb-blog-carnival-2016
Maligayang Pasko po at Manigong Bagong Taon sa ating lahat!