June 28, 2018

COUNTING SHEEP IN PASSO GIAO

During our exploration of the Italian Dolomites, we stopped for the night in Passo Giao and stayed in one rustic hotel which was located right by the side of the two-lane winding road. The Giao Pass is a high mountain pass with a rocky peak called Nuvolau (2,574 m) which has quite a large pastureland at its foot. Next morning, while having coffee on the balcony admiring the view of the mountain range, I saw this big herd of sheep – a thousand or so – heading up the hill. So I got the camera and rushed outside to catch them feeding on the grass on the slopes. It was…

June 24, 2018

MONACO: C’EST LA MAGNIFIQUE!

Hemmed in by mountains on one side and the sea on the other side, this small Principality that is only 2 sq. km. has thrived well and prospered in what has become a playground for the rich. Just look at all the multimillion-dollar yachts berthed in the harbor! Even its architecture has a florid display of decorative elements ranging from colorful turrets in the balcony to sinuous caryatids, blending into a picturesque fantasy of luxury that is a throwback to the 19th century Belle Epoque (Beautiful Era). We spent half a day here as part of the tour package from our cruise ship which docked in nearby Cannes. There was…

June 21, 2018

LITTLE LIECHTENSTEIN

On the 6-hour drive from Fussen, Germany to Zermatt, Switzerland, we passed thru this small Principality that’s the 4th smallest country in Europe (after the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino). It is only 160 sq. km. with a population of 37,000 people and has an alpine topography with rocky peaks and forested valleys. We crossed the Rhine at the German border and found ourselves inside Liechtenstein and in a few minutes, in Vaduz, the capital whose city center was made up of a main street with some shops and building offices. Further down were a couple of Museums and the cathedral. We had a brief pitstop to load gas and…

June 19, 2018

THE THREE PYRAMIDS IN GIZA

Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. This triumvirate has stood still for what seems to be since time immemorial on the Giza Necropolis a few kilometers outside present-day Cairo. Still as magnificent and mysterious as when they were first built some 4,500 years ago, they are a sight to behold. The largest one, Khufu (Cheops), built in 2560 BC stands at 146 meters tall and was for some 3,500 years the tallest structure on earth. The second one, Khafre (Chephren) is smaller at 136 meters but looks taller because it is slightly elevated and has part of its smooth casing still intact at the tip. The more modest one in size, Menkaure…

June 17, 2018

THE GREAT WALL

Everyone knows the Great Wall of China but not everyone is aware about its length. There are many differing accounts because it is built from different materials – some are trenches and some are just earthen mounds though majority of it (about 6,250 kms.) is in brick and mortar. As per the latest survey, the Wall runs through 8,850 kms. and many parts of them are slowly being pilfered to be used for local building material. Although started in 202 BC by the first Chinese Emperor, little of that remains and the one we see today was rebuilt and enhanced in the 13th-16th centuries by different dynasties to keep the…

June 16, 2018

PAGUDPUD ON MY MIND

561 kilometersa north of Manila lies this picturesque town right at the tip of Luzon where the waves of the West Philippine Sea crash with wild abandon on its beaches. It was an overnight trip by bus that we took which arrived quite late in the morning that’s why when we got to our hotel, we immediately hired a tricycle to take us to the famous Bangui windmills. For two days we went around visiting other famous tourist sights which were all amazing and Instagrammable! The roads were very well paved and there was greenery everywhere with so many ricefields as far as the eye could see. Our driver, who…

June 16, 2018

AN EPIC MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE

When it was built for Norwegian Cruise Line in 2010, the Norwegian Epic was the third largest ship in the world. The specs alone are impressive: 329 meters long, 61 meters height, 155,800 tons, 22 knots, 1,738 crew and 4,100 passengers. For all intents and purposes it was a floating small town. Crammed into its 19 decks were 20 restaurants, sports facilities, outdoor movie theater, spa, casino and swimming pool. We boarded the Epic in Barcelona for a 7-day Mediterranean cruise that took us to Naples, Rome, Livorno, Cannes and Palma de Mallorca. It was a great time specially the optional shore excursions that took us to Florence, Cinque Terre,…

June 16, 2018

HIKING AROUND HOOKER VALLEY

This is one of the numerous hiking trails that meander around Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand located in the South Island. It is quite easy to follow beginning from the Visitor’s Center going thru open grassland that later on becomes rocky terrain with large boulders dotting the 5 km. route. It crosses Hooker River via a long steel bridge whose waters come from the melting Mueller glacier. The sides of the mountains get closer and you can see moraine walls – rocks and sediment deposited by glaciers during their retreat across the land. We crossed two more foot bridges before the wind started to pick up making…

June 16, 2018

BELLAGIO: THE CROWN JEWEL OF LAKE COMO

Jutting out of a promontory into Lake Como, this place is considered by many to be the most beautiful town in Italy. You will soon agree once you see the quaint scenery around you – the ubiquitous cobblestone streets, the narrow alleys full of surprises and picturesque houses as well as the grand villas around. You have to walk uphill immediately behind the narrow waterfront in order get to the top of the town center where most of the action is. Quite tiring but you will be rewarded with beautiful views of the lake. Besides, you can always stop for a cone of gelato or a cup of espresso and…

June 15, 2018

ZION NATIONAL PARK SCENIC DRIVE

This 86-km. scenic drive takes a long time to traverse because the views are stupendous that you want to stop more often to admire each scene and take pictures. Every curve and every dip in the road is Instagram-worthy! It took us almost 3 hours to drive from end-to-end starting from the entrance at the intersection of Highway 9 and Interstate 15, where you pay a toll, all the way to Mt. Carmel junction. From the Visitor Center and Museum, it winds its way past many Zion landmarks such as rocky mesas, geographical rock formations and soaring sheer cliffs. There is a mile-long tunnel that you will pass thru and…