TAAL VOLCANO Day Tour with kids

Taal Volcano which is in Talisay, Batangas is visible from Tagaytay that is few minutes away from my town. We always take this route going to Mendez or up north. Unless we want to avoid the traffic and take the Indang road. But I have never been there so it was a good opportunity to take the girls and their little cousins for a little day tour.

IMPORTANT THINGS I HAVE LEARNED

1.Only six people are allowed in the boat. We ended up taking two boats.

2.Negotiate the price. Though every operator have fixed their price we were able to lower down the cost of our 2 boats.

Once in the Tourist Reception Center, students who have their IDs do not need to pay the fee. Only one of my nieces has her number memorized.

3.Bring a towel and some extra clothes. There might be some strong waves and though they provide a tarp to keep you dry it would not be the case all time. I was worried for the children but immediately lighten up because getting wet became part of the adventure and we had fun. Just leave your stuff in the car.

Once you get back to your car after the tour and you’re soaking wet, you’ll be thankful to have some dry clothes going back home. Specially, when you and your family decided to eat in Jollibee.

4. Good walking shoes. It would get dusty and slippery at times, so to avoid slipping and falling down you need one.

5. Hike. There were horses for rent but it was more interesting to walk and enjoy the view. The girls ran,sang and chided each other all the way to the top. There might be few occasions of frustrations of not being able to ride a horse. But seeing its state with the guide and the client riding together (most of the time), I was glad we just hiked, besides during some stops we were able to chat with some tourists.

It was a lovely, sunny day.

contemplating the view

6. Bring your own water/drinks. Because the cost of everything usually tripled and when you have 5 children with you, wow, that would hurt the budget.

Though some slid and ended on their bottom, we came down safe and sound. It was a fun a day which culminated of course in Jolibee, where else?

On nems, motorbike and birthday in Hanoi

The drive from the hotel to Haneda airport is less than 20 minutes and before 6h30 we were queuing for check-in. At exactly 6h30 the staff of ANA  had their little ceremony before opening the counter and then the check-in started. The staff in general were really nice and helpful.

We arrived in Hanoi on the 8th of November after 6 hours or so flight from Tokyo. Exiting the airport, I  saw right away the man holding the sign with my husband’s name on it. Our hotel has sent someone to pick us up from the airport.

The hotel is located at the old quarter, where every nook and corner has shops and restaurant. The alley to our hotel is lined with vendors where everything looks so delicious.

It was rare that I take pictures of what we eat and when I wanted to, my phone would be no where in sight. Hence, no picture of the first lunch of Karen which was evidently, a plate of nems.


A Vietnamese story

We became Vietnam dish lovers because of my friend, Jenna. A Vietnamese -American who is married to Tony, an Italian-Swiss. Both are in Geneva and we are their absent quasi neighbor for some weeks now. They moved into our neighborhood. Yey! Anyway, she introduced us to Pho and nems.

Her mom, who visited them, some years ago, taught me how to prepare summer rolls and its peanut sauce. And up to this day, I am so grateful to her for sharing that knowledge.

This is Us

After Japan, my husband and I decided to take it really easy. And as Karen’s birthday approach, we let her decide what to do. So, no boats or anymore bus for the time being. Just nems, mangoes and dim sum.Great!

I have never seen so many motorbikes in my life. The street here is filled with them and parked in front of of restos and shops. Crossing the street with my girls, was not an easy task.

We arrived the week when there was a festival called #INSPIREme Festival 2018. Everyday, there was a program and live music.

After two nights in this hotel, we booked another one in the french quarter.

We were able to watch the the water puppet show and bought our tickets the day before to avoid long queuing. Yet, there was a tourist group before us and the line was in state of complete disorder and confusion. Hats off to the cashier.

Our eldest daughter, Karen turned 11 (11.11.18) while here in Hanoi. We went to a restaurant for her bday dinner and later have the cake at the apartment.

She didn’t want to blow the cake in the resto and preferred to have it quiet with only her family .

As we prepared her cake, she got a WhatsApp call from her friends. I was really glad and thankful to Alessia, the mother of her friend, Diana,who initiated the call. Karen was able to talk to her other two friends as well. That made her day.

On our way to the airport, amidst the passing vehicles this wall captured my interest.

This long wall could take your mind away from the traffic for a few minutes and that’s a good thing.

Our flight for Bangkok was at 10h35. We were glad for the chance to visit Hanoi and would have wanted to stay longer, to be able to explore more. See you again, Hanoi!

Bolivia with the kids: Copacabana to Cochabamba by bus

sunset in Copacabana,Bolivia

Puno to Copacabana

We have stayed one night in Puno and in the morning our host has organized a tour of floating islands for our family for 100 soles.  Our guide fetched us around 9h and continued collecting 4 more groups of tourist. The tour lasted until after midday. My eldest daughter, Karen, has written about it in here.  The tour lasted up till after midday.

24.09.18  Our bus for Copacabana was at 14h. Was not able to have lunch but bought some snack for the trip. I was hoping to mail our Peru postcards but there was no mailbox in the bus terminal and the woman who sold us the tickets did not want to take the postcards saying that it would cost her 7 soles to get to town. My lesson learned : to note the address of the recipient before buying the postcard, once stamped, mail it/drop in the buzón before leaving the place/country we are visiting.

After paying the terminal fee, we went to board our bus. The driver gave    forms to sign for our exit from Peru and  entry to Bolivia.

After passing the Peruvian border, we were led to the Bolivian border control where we presented the signed form (filled up everything while the bus was moving!). Photos were taken and passports stamped. Afterwards, half of the form was given back to each of us.

We arrived in Copacabana at 18h30 and entered a café called Café Bistrot Copacabana to get some hot drinks and check our hotel reservation. Unfortunately, our reservation was not approved (we did this while in Puno) and the lady of the café tried to find us a room. We found out that the passengers of the bus we took could have a discount in a hotel nearby. We seized the opportunity. At the night of our arrival, we met a french family(with 2 boys), who is on a 7-month tour. Our children played card games and we had dinner together. The children had a tour of pedal boat in the lake  the following afternoon.

¬†Our view of the lake is beautiful but we cannot give the same praise to the staff of the hotel and I will not dwell on that issue here. In the course of our 2 day stay, husband resumed with the girls’ lesson. We also shopped for more warm clothes and walked around the town. During the search for stamps,¬† I found out that there was no post office in Copacabana.

early morning in Copacabana

27.09.18 We left Copacabana and headed for La Paz at 7h. I bought some empanada and brownies  the afternoon before our departure in the bakery  called Pit Stop in Ave.16 de Julio. There were also water and some fruits. We are definitely ready for our bus ride.

At around 8h15 we arrived in San Pedro. Paid 2 Bol/person for a ferry ride¬† of 10 mins to San Pablo de Tiquina. We took our personal belongings with us and left the baggage in the bus. While waiting for the bus being ferried, Carlo had¬† coffee while we used the ba√Īo. Tip: always have spare change for toilet use. The¬† driver blew the horn to call out the passengers back to the bus. By 8h45, we were on the road again.

La Paz

We arrived in La Paz ciudad not after 3.5 hours as I was told when buying our tickets but after almost 5 hrs. By 11h30, we were slowly exiting  El Alto. The traffic was awful.

My youngest daughter got sick on our second day here. While she stayed in bed, my husband and my eldest, Karen, took the cable car to see La Paz from above.

29.09.18 Be wary of the traffic when going to the bus terminal. It’s better to be early. Our bus for Cochabamba was at 10h30 but left 15 mins after because two passengers did not show up on time. Arriving at El Alto by 11h20, the bus picked up more passengers.

ticket for  Cochabamba: Bs.25.-/person (semi cama)


The Bolivian valleys are beautiful. Once passing Patacamaya, something caught my eyes. Plastic bags in the air being carried by the wind. In one setting, there was a man standing in his field, flock of sheeps and plastic bags around. This breaks my heart.

At 18h, our bus suddenly stopped for some repair. Smoke was coming out from underneath. After 10 mins we were ready to drive again. There was still 2h30 hours before we reach Cochabamba.

Cochabamba

It was already dark when we arrived and found our room in calle Colombia. Being Sunday the next day, almost all the lavanderias were closed. I found one in calle Anecito Arce. My youngest was still sick  and it was at this time that we decided to skip Torotoro National Park and go to Sucre instead ahead of our schedule. So aside from grocery shopping, eating out and doing our laundry,the whole family had a lazy Sunday. And being lazy means catching up on my book reading. Hopefully I can have it exchange in Sucre.

01.10.18 Monday morning, we let the children sleep while my husband went out to buy some fruits and mail my long overdue Peru postcards. Our surrounding is more animated. It was after breakfast that we went to the bus terminal to get our bus tickets for 20h30 bus for Sucre.¬† As I finish this post, the three are taking a walk and then we’re off to a 9-10 bus ride tonight.

And yes, Erin, who lost weight, is back to her old self after 3 days of being sick. ‚̧



Exploring Ecuador with kids part 1

Quito experience

Panama to Ecuador : From Rio Hato,we took the bus for Albrook terminal. Once in there, we found out that we first needed to buy a bus pass called rapid pass from a machine, charge it  (sufficiently, so as not to get off again while the rest of the family are seated) and then we could board the bus which will take us to our hotel.

For our last night in Panama, we treated ourselves to a hotel near the airport. We were to leave at 5h05 the next day (23.08.18) for Ecuador.

Our shuttle was ready at 2h30. The alarm from my husband’s phone did not wake us up, thankfully, my Mama’s Messenger call did.

Airport surprises: We didn‚Äôt realize that both our swiss knives were in our backpacks and Erin‚Äôs scissors from her Lola was also in hers . All went into the bin. Carlo‚Äôs collection of lighters were also confiscated. It took us a while to get over the grief of losing these objects.¬† Nevertheless, this is a good lesson on double checking one‚Äôs backpack before going to the airport and of course on giving up things we valued most. Guessed, we’ve gotten used to taking the buses.

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one from Bogota airport

 Quito

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parque del arbolito

Arrived here by 10h, took the bus from the airport to Rio Coca, then one to Casa de la Cultura to get to L’auberge Inn. Glad that our laundry could be taken care off. We also explored some attractions as well as parts of the city.

Mitad del Mundo

Mitad

My daughter, Erin, has written something about her experience in here as a part of her french lesson with my husband.

20180824_141347To get here, we took a bus in Mariscal which lasted for almost an hour. It was almost full and we were able to get two seats 20 minutes before we arrive at our destination.

 Centro Historico

It was a Saturday when we visited and the town was bustling with activities, the streets were full of people ūüėČ but as fate would have it, no adults has cellphone to take pics and our effort to repair our camera the day before didn’t bear any fruit. Yet, the best part of not having to take pictures was that we were able to enjoy exploring the site without interruption. We particularly like the Museo de Ciudad, it was more than what we have expected.

There was also El Panecillo where a monument of La Virgen de El Panecillo majestically stands. We took a taxi from the main road to get there.

I just decided to come back the next day to¬† take photos and have my “me time” while my husband and the girls continue with their lesson.

Me time

This was not in a spa. Not even a quiet time in a caf√©. I don’t think, the old town is the place for that. With all the music playing and public performances here and there, I just could not¬† ignore my surrounding. Nevertheless, walking and soaking in the colors and movement of Centro Historico was a kind of meditation.

Took the trolley bus(E3) from Eugenio Espejo stop and continue until Marin Central.  Walked up to the Calle de Sn.Augustin. Sunday morning was less hectic but would get more animated  later in the day.

I managed to visit one museum,  which I find really interesting. The Casa Museo Maria Augusta Urrutia. Taking picture is not allowed and unfortunately the postcards for sale were not that good.

Mariscal District

Walked and taxied around looking for a Nikon service center to no avail. Fortunately, there were lots of places for batidos and jugo.

 

Also discovered a bookstore, prices were unlike in¬† “Renfile” but we found Harry Potter for Erin and Frankie by Jean Ur for Ate K.

This is part 1 and more to come, because one post for Ecuador is not enough. Thanks for stopping by.

Sabbatical year

Our adventure has started. First stop is Lisbon, Portugal.

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Bom dia! Early morning in Sacavém

The dream

My husband talked about wanting a Sabbatical Year for a long time. I was skeptical at first. How can we do it? Leaving our home for a year with two young daughters in tow. Yes, we have travelled a lot, using any possible mode of transportation but 12 months — away from Verjus, our family and friends? How about my potager and my job ?

The how

January 2018-we started to organize our trip and to facilitate this I emailed 3 travel agencies in Geneva and only STA responded, thanks to Marina. The girls’ school directress was also given notice.

In the months that followed and the inevitable departure  looming, my girls and I have started sorting their toys and clothes out. Packed, recycled or trashed. Sold small stuff as well thru Facebook and my favorite Bourse aux vêtements in Grand-Lancy. Visa and accomodations were readied. Visited doctors, consulted and had our vaccination.

One of the important questions was what to pack for our travel that would not exceed the alloted weight that each adult could carry. With my¬† SIL’s help,we have managed to have 19¬† & 17 kgs each for adults using this and this¬† and the girls’ luggage at 10kgs¬† which they can pull/carry easily when using the public transport. Each one of us has a backpack not exceeding 7 kgs as a carry-on.

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Lisbon Ocenarium

We are grateful to the others who have preceded us. Their blogs about family travel  gave us useful insights and coupling it with our travel experiences made us believe that our family are equipped for this adventure. However, nearing our departure, our family has suffered the loss of Lola. We are so fortunate to travel with her for so many years.

As we begin this trip, we hope you can follow us. Please do not hesitate to share your insights and suggestions for this family of 4. We are learning and will continue learning in this great adventure.