TGIF #53: Something About Europe

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It’s Friday again. It’s been a while i haven’t been blogging on Fridays. So, it’s Thank God. It’s Five-Day time!

When i was a little girl, I have a complete set of Walt Disney encyclopedia at home, and i was fascinated by the beautiful photos of places and buildings in different parts of the world. I always wonder if i can see these places for real. Was it possible?
I guess, we all do have our dreams to travel; to go “beyond the fence” and explore.

Fortunately, i was swept away here in Europe way back 1994. Italy, to be exact. Born and lived in the Philippines for around 22 years, obviously almost half of my life is now here in Italy.
But, of course, that didn’t stop me from dreaming. I love conquering new countries, cities and places. Too many bucket list. But, i’m taking it one day at a time.

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I still dream of travelling to USA. But Europe’s great, i need to explore it first. I have been loving Europe for the last 18 years! A lot of my friends tell me, “i want to see Europe. i want to see Italy, i want to go up the Eiffel Tower”..etc. etc. Yet i never ask them “Why?”

That’s the basic question to ask. Why do you want to go to Europe?
I’m not an expert about travelling at all, but i guess i can share some tips or hints based on what i know, what i see, and what i have experienced.

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Reason No. 1: Learning History

If you have kids, it’s a plus to visit Europe, exposing them to art, history, old buildings and places. But, even if you don’t have kids, you will find yourself be fascinated by the grandiose monuments, church and buildings’ architectures, as well as European culture. Take Italy for instance. Rome has been the ancient city of civilization. Who didn’t study world history about Romulus and his twin brother Remus? See the Vatican City. Think about how Venice was built. Be curious of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting in Milan. Florence, where you can see the most beautiful masterpieces of the greatest artists.
Ibiza in Spain, the most picturesque party island in Europe. The powerful Buckingham Palace in England.
See how tall the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Wonder of Mona Lisa’s smile at Louvre Museum.
The charming old squares of the known cities: Prague, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Bruges, Tallinn, Krakow, Nice or Rome.
There are lot to see and learn for sure.

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Reason No. 2: European Cuisine

Despite the fact that there a lot of McDonald’s food chain, European cuisine can never be outweighed by them. Everything they cook is crazy delicious and as much as possible, healthy. pizza, spaghetti, Parmesan cheese, Greek potatoes, prosciutto, lasagna, white Swiss sausages, crepes, waffles, etc. If you lived in Europe, you’d sit around drinking espresso all day too. The coffee is phenomenal. Though i’m not a coffee drinker, i came to the point that i’d already loved cappuccino. A lot of european says, Italy got the best gelato (ice cream). I can attest to that. Not to talk about the red and white wines, fantastic!

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Reason No. 3: Outdoor Fun

Europeans love whiling away the day at outdoor cafés. On the sidewalks of Athens, Marseilles, Milan, and Barcelona you can see caffeterias side by side. Europeans love to walk, wander and just hang around the city.
For Europeans—far more sensitive to subtlety and nuance—those 90 minutes are the most sacred and profound of the week. I’m talking about soccer. Almost everybody loves that game in Europe. I’m not familiar with that ball game when i first set foot in Europe. Now i’m a big fan especially during the World Cup, cheering for Italy.
Reason No. 4: Foreign Language

Almost around the world, the word “Ciao”, “Au Revoir”, “Bon Appetit”, “Bedankt”, etc. are commonly used, mixing with the english or other languages. You will always love the sound of Italian, French & Portuguese. They’re sweet and romantic. German and Russian were a bit difficult to learn and pronounced. Of course, every foreign language is difficult. I speak Italian so personally, i can tell Italian is not that hard to learn. It’s a mix of Latin, English and Spanish. If you have watched the movie, Eat, Pray and Love, you would notice the Italian gestures. Italians wave their hands most of the time when speaking. It’s an expression. You don’t need a word if you know what it means.

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Reason No. 5: Fashion

You will always think of Europe when you talk about fashion. Milan, London, Paris, Barcelona, Moscow, etc. All this stunning models on catwalks, were almost from Europe. When you think of famous brands; Armani, Gucci, Prada, Ferragamo, Versace, etc, almost all Italian! Rich Asians, Americans, Australians, come to Europe just to shop around. Celebrities bought villas and houses in every parts of Europe as escape from their busy lives.

Ok, so i bought a house too. Could i be…..? Hahahaha!
Forget about it, im not rich and i’m not famous. I’m just an ordinary Pinay who happened to live here in Milan.

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Just a piece of advice, Europe is inundated with stampedes of tourists during warmer months, especially during July-August, so expect the fully-booked hotels, crowded museums and restaurants. If you’re not in a hurry for summer sale, visit Europe by September or early October, the weather is a bit cool. Nicer to roam around with boots and light coats. No sweating around and bagging the stomach with cold water and ice cream.

So, enjoy the trip!

ARRIVEDERCI!

Jardin Exotique (Monaco, France)

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It was actually my second travel to Monaco. I was with my relatives, without the hub and kids about two years ago.

Yet, it was my first time here at The Exotic Garden of Monaco.

If you have only a day in Monaco, i would definitely recommend a trip up on the hill for this visit. A bit gasp for breath, yet worth the walk. From the main city, you just have to take a 10-minute bus ride going up. The ticket costs 2 euro back and forth. The entrance ticket includes visits to the Exotic Garden, the Observatory Cave and the Prehistoric Anthropology Museum. Not bad. 3-in-1.
Adults: €7. 20
Children (6-18 years’ old): €3.80
Students (with card, under 30 yrs old): €3.80
Senior (+ 65 yrs old): €5.50

The Exotic Garden of Monaco is open all year except for the 19 November (Fête Nationale) and 25 December.

January:  9.00 – 17.00
February to April: 9.00 – 18.00
May to September: 9.00 – 19.00
October: 9.00 – 18.00
November to December: 9.00 – 17.00

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The Exotic Garden of Monaco has managed to stay unique in its genre since it opened to the public in 1933. It brings together a wide variety of plants known as ‘succulents’ in outstanding open-air surroundings.

Succulent plants are ones that have adapted to dry climates in various ways, the most spectacular being the possession of a hypertrophied organ (leaf or stem) to stock water reserves.   Cacti (or cactus) make up the most representative family of this group.  They stand out by their absence of leaves, replaced by thorns.The plants acclimatized in this garden come from various far-away dry zones (hence the term ‘exotic’): the South-West of the United-States; Mexico; Central and South America for cacti and agaves; South Africa; Eastern Arabia and theArabian Peninsula for the other succulents.  In spite of their extravagant shapes, they are plants in their own right, regularly producing flowers in order to reproduce.

The flowering period is spread over practically the whole year depending on the place of origin of each species: winter for Aloes and African Crassula, spring and summer for most cacti.  Contrary to a widely held view, only a small number of cacti flower at night.  A great many produce big, colourful, diurnal flowers.
Excerpts from http://www.jardin-exotique.mc/en/presentation-du-jardin-exotique/

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It was one of the amazing gardens i have ever seen. Gigantic succulents around, and to think that the whole garden is built vertically on the hill. You just can spend your time, never minding to get lost in the beautiful walkways admiring the beautiful landscape, with huge cactus growing out of the giant rocks. There are plenty of steps and bridges, so if you have feet or leg problems, it’s not advisable. Wearing heels is a big NO, if you want to curse yourself for wearing one while stepping up and down of the many stairs.

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The garden isn’t that big though, but bear in mind while taking pictures, always look behind you. you wouldn’t want to go home pretty bruised with those big iron needle-like cactus plants. They’re dangerous to get contacted with.

Anyway, what’s another worth to see is the stunning views of the city, the Italian Riviera, which was the main harbour of Monaco, the Old Town and the neighbourhood of Fontvielle. I finally surrendered saying…”OMG, parang postcard”…i just smile, take photos and never stop wondering silently.

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We really did enjoy as well as my kids. Zendra keeps on looking down and uttering, “Wow…che bella Mamma!” (so beautiful)

Actually, this trip is a treat by my mom-in-law for her birthday. A belated celebration. She rarely come with us when we travel, because of her stay-in job. My brother-in-law as well, he never come with us. Me sariling business/lakad. So i guess, it’s a memorable day for all of us. Kahit papa’no complete dito.

I wouldn’t mind coming here again in the future. I will continue to be amazed for sure.

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Near the bottom of the garden, there is the access gate to the extraordinary Observatory Grotto, which is well worth the visit.

I braved the 600 steps (300 down then 300 to get back up). Will share you about it on the coming blogs.

Thanks for cactusing with me! =)

Jardin Exotique (Monaco, France)