The Christmas Season is here…

Tomorrow will be the first day of the last month of the year, December! We have been quarantined for eight months and still counting. Even if we are allowed to go out and about, the staple to our outfit is the mask and in our country including the face shield! Sometimes I passed by the airport and saw an airplane taking off and I wonder where it is off to. Does it have a lot of passengers or just a few? Is it safe? Will they be quarantined when they arrived at their destinations? This came into my mind while driving and looking at the airplane. I missed traveling! I missed packing and planning for a trip. I missed the chaos of traveling with the family.

With countries in Europe back on lock down due to the rising covid cases, thoughts and plans of traveling anytime soon is only a dream. We are even hesitant to travel domestically. It’s the first time in many years that we won’t be traveling during the Christmas holidays. Is it good? The answer is yes it is! Although traveling in a different place is a sort of bonding moments with my family because of our busy schedules. This year we bonded by everyone staying at home.

Christmas will not be the same this year. We are not allowed to have a mass gathering so no family reunions with relatives. No company parties. No Christmas get together or meet ups with friends to exchange gifts. Instead, we will celebrate with only our immediate family. This is the year that we all stayed home. A once in a lifetime event. The year the world is healed by halting the movements of mankind. We can see a bluer sky!

Our Christmas tree is up now. And as a souvenir for this year, I bought this cute ornament online as a remembrance of the year that was. The year we wore a mask!

I am greeting everyone advance Merry Christmas! May you all enjoy the holidays wherever you are. Stay safe!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Halloween in Quarantine…

Halloween is definitely cancelled this year in our side of the planet. Trick or treat activities are nil due to covid. But is it really a reason to skip it and decorate for Christmas as early as September? I love halloween and skipping it is definitely a no! I like decorating the house during this time. However it’s sad that we won’t be seeing kids in costumes in our annual halloween neighborhood event. The event was moved online. The organizers are dropping off treats to those who posted their photos in costume. It’s also sad that not a lot of kids participated.

Anyway, covid itself is a scary enough event. So I guess some people just want to skip halloween and go straight to Christmas or in some parts Thanksgiving Day. Wherever you are in this world, I just want to say stay safe and healthy!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Traveling to Gardening…

I recently cancelled the last booking that I have left in my travel calendar which is in December to Barcelona, Spain. Sad but must accept that there is no way we can have an international travel anytime soon. I was so looking forward to spending the Christmas holidays in Barcelona and Madrid with my family. I was daydreaming of eating paella, tapas and drinking vino or sangria in the dead of winter. I want to take a stroll in the streets of Madrid and stop at a quaint cafe to eat churros with hot chocolate. I want to go inside the supermarket and spend a lot of time browsing all the goodies that I can buy and bring back home with me. Yes, my first stop in every country that I visit is probably a big supermarket or grocery store. It’s disappointing but what can we do? Airlines have limited flights and I am thankful to Singapore Airlines for giving us an option to refund our tickets. We will surely book again and travel with them when it is safe to do so and restrictions are lifted. And of course, when a vaccine is available.

I am not the only one disappointed we can’t travel to Europe. The whole family is. But it’s too difficult to push through even if we can travel. The uncertainty of being quarantined at the destination country is one factor. We also don’t know if the tourist sites are open. There are no Real Madrid football games that fans can attend at the moment. So it’s not going to be a lot of fun for some members of the family. Going inside the stadium and watching a football match was in the itinerary. Well, Spain can wait for us. It won’t go away and hopefully there will be plenty of time in the future to explore it.

Since traveling or moving around is restricted plus majority are working from home, there’s a lot of free time now for most people. What do you do with your new found time? Have you tried something new? As they say, one can have a lot of money but not enough time. With more time and nothing better to do aside from watching netflix and korean dramas (let’s talk about that some other time), I started to look closely at my backyard. Yes, the plant craze got me. Blame it on social media like Instagram and Facebook. The celebrities did not help when they post their plant collection because it made me want to acquire what they have. Just kidding! I could not afford the plants that they have. But, I have really found solace in gardening. I always have plants “strategically” placed around our house but not that many and only a few resides inside the house. That however changed especially when the lockdown or quarantine is extended month after month.

I have plants given to me by family, friends and neighbours. I must say I took good care of them. I have to admit I buy plants like a crazy plant lady too. It is costly right now because of the demand so I just bought those that I can afford. The exotic plants are way out of my league and I cannot bear to shell out thousands for a monstera deliciosa plant. People are either buying from the garden center because they are collecting plants or they are buying because they want to be resellers. The latter is the cause of the price increase because some people buy an exorbitant price for a plant that is aesthetic in a pot. I guess entrepreneurs made money because there are now a lot of online sites to purchase plants as well as pots. Some would rather buy online and have the plants delivered to them. They just have to manage their expectations because the photo can be a far cry from the actual plant.

My personal favorite is the snake plant or for some they call it Espada. I liked it because it can help clean the air around the house and very easy to take care of. You can leave it for days without watering and they won’t die on you. I have it inside the house for ages. Way before the ongoing plant craze. It’s the only plant inside the house until the pandemic happened. Now it’s no longer lonely as some Philodendron, Golden Pothos, Alocasia, Monstera Adansonii and Zz plant keeps it company.

Snake Plants

I like Caladium and Calathea or Prayer Plant as well. I collected some of their varieties. They are all outside though because I noticed that they like it better in the patio. They are thriving really well and giving me a sprout or two of new leaves. Since I don’t shop clothes now because I work from home, I buy plants instead. I have utmost respect for true blue gardeners. It’s not an easy job or hobby. You have to be patient with your plants. Some plants I consider them diva! You have to really understand them and since they don’t talk, you have to guess or observe what they want or what works for them. Do they like less water, more water, more light or shade? The list goes on and on. I read on plant care but most of the time I do it my own way. Experimenting is exciting.

Pink Caladium

I’ll probably write more about gardening in lieu of travel stories in the next few posts. I should document my gardening journey. It would be an interesting read for when I look back at the crazy year 2020! I could even extend my stories to my foray in the kitchen and cooking skills plus weight management. Ha!ha!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Quarantine Hobby…

What are your coping mechanism with a prolonged stay at home directive? Most of us still have movement restrictions. We aren’t able to go out as much as we like. And even if we are allowed to go out, most of us are still afraid to do so with the covid-19 virus still out and about. During this pandemic we found ways to cope. I did experience cabin fever so I went out of the house and just drive around! Sometimes without leaving the car. Just go on a joyride to see the outside world and then drive-thru at the nearest McDonald’s.

During the first few weeks of the pandemic, my activity was cleaning the house. Arranging things and trying to have a Marie Kondo moment. Then after that, it was learning how to cook and actually liking it. Yes, I don’t know how to cook but was able to learn how while on quarantine. I got good feedback for my Baked Salmon, Sushi Bake, Chorizo Pasta and BBQ Ribs. I guess this pandemic is not so bad. Forced to stay at home. Boredom kicked in and boom! You find something worthwhile to do that your family will appreciate. Ha!ha!

After the kitchen stint the next one was looking at the garden. This by far is the most expensive hobby that anyone can have during this pandemic. It’s addicting but nope, I am not yet that crazy to buy an expensive Monstera Deliciosa. But, I did revamp our garden which cost a lot of money. Plus I bought plants, pots and plant racks! I am a certified “Plantita” now because not only do I go straight to my plants to water, talk and check on them but I also know how to repot and plant! Slowly, I can feel my “green thumb” sprouting as well. I never imagined myself actually doing the gardening. We have a gardener that comes every month to tend the garden. Usually, I just watch him cut the grass and repot some plants.

I am not sure if this is because I am getting older. But, I enjoy gardening now. Not only me but my circle of friends as well. We chat and video call each other to discuss our plants! No more discussions on the new fashion, bags or shoes but instead we are excited to share our new “babies”! We collect varieties of Calathea, Caladium, Monstera, Philodendron etc. And mind you, plants are getting expensive everyday. The demand is so high and supply is already low.

My kids were shaking their heads every time I arrived home with new plants. Some plants were given to me by neighbors though but some are bought at the nearby garden center. I know I should stop buying plants. But it’s so hard especially if there’s a pretty one that caught my eye. My usual defense is to say that we are helping revive the economy by buying and spending our money. Ha!ha!

Having plants at home is therapeutic though. It’s like a happy pill. A new leaf sprouting is an eye candy and can make the day a little brighter than yesterday. What about you? What are your new quarantine hobby? I hope you find one that is interesting, totally new and out of character!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Travel Fears…

I was supposed to be vacationing in Taipei, Taiwan on the last week of July 2020 with family but of course it also got cancelled due to the pandemic. It is still difficult to travel with so many restrictions and quarantine measures put in place both in my home and destination country. Like me, I guess most people are dreaming of a time we can all go gallivanting again. Those who love to travel are probably itching to pack their bags and go to places known or unknown. But unfortunately we are all stuck in our homes watching travel documentaries on cable tv, netflix or our own travel videos.

I often wonder how we will travel in the future. Of course, the mask will probably be a staple especially during airplane rides and probably while waiting in the airport. Will we still feel comfortable without a mask? This Covid-19 virus brought about fear of the unknown to the nth level. Even if we get our vaccine shot, we will probably still be paranoid that we can get another unknown virus if we don’t practice safety measures like wearing a mask, hand sanitizing and social distancing.

It is normal to have travel fears especially during this uncertain times. I just hope that we can all overcome our fears when this pandemic is over and start to travel again. We do need to revive the travel industry! So many people were affected most especially in the aviation and tourism sector. Pristine beaches with clear blue skies are waiting for us. I should really plan a trip to Boracay Island or El Nido, Palawan soon. I want to sip Piña Colada while staring at the blue sea.

Daydreaming until that time we can all have a semblance of normalcy in our lives.

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

When in Italy…

With no idea when we can go back to traveling, let me reminisce some moments from a few years back. I never did get around to writing about my trip to Italy in June 2017 because I got lazy! It was a nice ten day holiday with Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa and Cinque Terre in the itinerary. One of the lessons from that trip was to give ample time for a lay over as you will never know if your flight gets delayed. Or if two flights will be compressed into one at a later time than the original one that you have booked. We almost didn’t make the Cathay Pacific connection to Rome in Hong Kong. We were sprinting to the gate as the plane door was about to close. It was embarrassing to see people looking at you inside the plane and probably thinking that we caused the delay. I can imagine the flight attendant announcing they were still waiting for missing passengers. Ha!ha!

Our first stop was Rome and we went straight to Vatican to get our tickets for the Pentecost Sunday Mass that Pope Francis will preside. That was one of the highlights of our trip. It was memorable because we heard mass that he presided, was blessed by him and saw him up close and personal. However, on the way out and while walking one of my companions was pickpocketed. We were warned about the rampant pickpocketing in major Italian cities but we were caught by surprise that it actually happened just outside St. Peter’s Square and right after the Holy Mass. We were too complacent and let our guards down. So remember that when in Rome especially The Vatican area, you should always remember that not everyone is pious. It was our second day in Italy and we immediately experienced something horrible. We felt that we weren’t safe as tourists. Coupled that with a high alert level due to the threat of bombings, we were really worried. Military men were in major tourist attractions and the security level was really intense at that time. But, the pickpockets were still rampant.

We decided to stay in Florence as our base. We had friends there and the place we rented was in the heart of the city. It’s near the Duomo di Firenze with lots of cafes, shops and walking distance to the grocery, Mercato Centrale and train station. The accommodation itself is cheap at only €50 per day for a two bedroom apartment. I can say that I will go back to Italy for the food and the vino! I have great memories of what I ate there. The black truffle pasta, fiorentina steak, pizza, gelato, espresso or cappucino are reasons to go back to Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Back at home, we eat commercial pasta but I realized that freshly made pasta is the best. I should probably learn how to make it. As if!

We normally explore on our own but for a trip to Pisa and Cinque Terre we decided to join a tour. The guide was a young and jolly guy who spoke fluent english. We had a great time although the tour that we joined was for young adults which was fast paced. It was reasonable at about €100 per person. It included the train fares already and lunch. I’m glad we took that tour. Pisa is a nice place to include in an itinerary because when you’re nearby why miss the chance to see and have a photo with the leaning tower as your background, right? Of course, we were also doing what most tourists did while there. Have a photo taken pushing the tower or leaning on it. Ha!ha!

If you get a chance, you have to visit Cinque Terre. We were only able to visit three villages which was Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza. They were nice picturesque places. There’s a store in Vernazza that probably sells the best gelato in Italy and a cafe that sells the best pesto lasagna I have ever tasted. The tour lasted the whole day. We left Florence at seven in the morning and arrived back at around nine in the evening. Travel time to and from Cinque Terre is about 2.5 hrs or more. If you opt to go on a tour that is not by bus or private car, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. There’s a lot of walking and chasing trains!

We also went for a day trip to Venice. Another city worth visiting before the sea engulf it. Don’t forget to eat seafood while there aside from your other favorite italian food. It’s also a city wherein you have to be wary of pickpockets especially at the Piazza San Marco where majority of the tourists are. I guess in most major Italian cities, you have to be on guard. Make sure your bags are in front of you. Even the locals will warn you to mind your belongings.

I want to write some more of our escapades including shopping but I guess I will reserve it for next time. I hope you readers will continue to stay safe and healthy. In the meantime wear your mask, wash your hands and drink your vitamins to protect yourselves from the coronavirus.

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

The New Normal…

Many changes to one’s normal life happened in the last few months. And not only in my country but the whole world. Most of us were quarantined. We were afraid of an enemy that we cannot see. We became paranoid about getting sick and dying because of a virus. No one is judging anyone of their fears. Everyone were affected one way or another. I am thankful everyone in the family are currently healthy. We had a couple of scary moments thinking one of them got the virus. Luckily, it wasn’t covid although still a respiratory problem.

Metro Manila where I live will be lifting the hard lockdown and will move to what they call GCQ or General Community Quarantine on the first of June. Doing so will help our country’s economy recover by opening businesses. There are still so many restrictions but at least a lot of people can now go back to work with the availability of mass transportation. Air travel is allowed with major airports opening. However, international destinations inbound and outbound are still limited. I guess no one really wants to travel and be quarantined at their destination as well as at home upon arrival from a business or leisure trip. Two weeks ago I cancelled our Taipei trip in July. My companions and I are too scared to travel and be quarantined in our destination or when we come back from traveling. I am collecting travel funds, travel vouchers nowadays! When you buy promo fares, you’ll end up with that. Well, for the airlines that I chose to fly for the cancelled trips. Ha!ha! Anyway, I really hope that when October comes, the virus is nowhere to be seen. Otherwise, another travel cancellation and this time to Europe will happen.

I read that the new normal in traveling will entail going to the airport earlier because aside from the usual security check, there will also be a health check. Online check in is required. Lines will probably be long since we have to follow social distancing protocols. That we need to wear a mask is a given. It is mandated by the government. Failure to wear a mask in public will incur a hefty fine and you might even end up in jail. We will know more about this in the coming days when airports finally open and we get news of the flow.

I am thankful though that during the quarantine I was able to reconnect with old friends and made new friends albeit online. With nowhere to go and our busy lives suddenly slowing down, we have time to actually catch up with one another. Some people became busy harnessing their baking and cooking abilities and turning it into a small business. While I become busy drooling over the yummy food they were selling and then always end up buying them!

I think I will miss being on a total lockdown. I dread going back to the traffic and pollution. I somehow liked the stillness of the street. I enjoyed the supply run where the roads are so eerily quiet

I hope tomorrow when we start to go out from our home again we will remember that the virus is still out there. It’s not eradicated yet. There’s still no available vaccine. The “new normal” will be us making sure we protect ourselves as well as protecting others. So, don’t forget to wear your mask and to bring along a small alcohol or hand sanitizer wherever you go!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Quarantine Life…

It’s been more than a month since we were placed on community quarantine and it’s been extended twice. We are now in what they call “Season 3” of the ECQ or Enhanced Community Quarantine in our country. The government preferred to call it as quarantine instead of lockdown. Each country have different names for it. Singapore have their Circuit Breaker and Malaysia have the MCO or Movement Control Order. But basically it’s all the same. Limiting the movements of people to contain the coronavirus. It’s a drastic measure but a necessary one to avoid a surge in people getting sick that can overwhelm the health system of the country. We all saw what happened to Italy.

I wonder how people cope with their quarantine life. I am lucky because I am still able to work from home. I still have a job and a salary as the company I worked for is considered an essential industry. But I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky. There are so many companies that were impacted and one of them is the travel industry. I read of airlines suffering due to low demand and it took a toll on these companies. Some employees were requested to go on unpaid leave. Some were let go. It’s very sad but that’s just how it is. Traveling is not essential. We can always reschedule or cancel travel plans. After all, the places we want to visit will not go away. It will wait for us even if we decide to do it years after this pandemic is over.

I have travel plans in July and December that are not yet changed, rebooked or cancelled. I am still waiting for a miracle. That this pandemic will be over soon. That we can all start living normal lives. That a cure will be discovered tomorrow. That a vaccine will not take a year or more to develop but instead will be available soon. These are wishful thinking. For now, we have to deal with our “new normal”. Refraining from going to crowded places where we cannot practice physical distancing. Wearing of face mask as part of the OOTD. Hand washing and sanitizing every chance that we get. At the moment, being paranoid and overly cautious is okay. As they say, it is better to be safe and healthy than sorry.

The one thing that this pandemic brought to us though is the chance to let mother earth heal. Because we stopped moving around, we saw reports of reduced pollution in cosmopolitan cities around the world. Clear blue skies, clean rivers and sea. Most of all, families get to spend time together. For some a rare occurrence. We have a lot of time so we communicate more with each other. Out of boredom for some but for others it’s a chance to reconnect with friends and families you don’t get to talk to due to a busy life.

Wherever you are. No matter the condition you are in. Remember that this too shall pass.

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Travel Woes…

Travel plans changed in a blink of an eye. We were supposed to go to Hanoi this weekend to watch the Vietnam Formula 1 Grand Prix inaugural race. We were excited and booked our tickets late last year. We also planned to visit Ho Chi Minh while in the country. Hitting two cities with this trip. However, all that changed in the last month or so. Due to an unseen enemy called corona virus, a lockdown to contain the spread of the virus was issued in most countries including my own.

It’s no joke to cancel a trip! It’s a good thing that the airline sent a notice that we have an option to put the value of our tickets from the Philippines to Vietnam and back to a travel fund which we can use in the future. It’s one less thing to worry and I appreciate at http://www.cebupacificair.com with this initiative. Hotel booking cancellation was also a breeze because it was done via http://www.booking.com and all were with free cancellation. Now the hardest part was the domestic flight cancellation or rebooking for our Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh flight via Vietnam Airlines. It took a long time for their customer service to reply and attend to my email inquiry. I can understand though as the volume of rebooking, flight cancellations must be gigantic. Add in the language barrier and you have another problem. Anyway, the feedback was that the value of our air ticket cannot be refunded but we can rebook once for a fee of about $25. However, since we cannot think of another travel date due to the unknown F1 schedule the airline tickets are gone and we will lost money. I’ll charge it to the Covid-19 experience!

As for the F1 tickets, it is currently on hold as we still plan to watch it in the future. The organizer was quick to respond to the ticket inquiry and options were also given. Hopefully, we can survive this pandemic and lives will return to normal the soonest possible time. For now, we live in our new “normal”. Social distancing, working from home, home cooked meals, limited movements and spending quality time with our immediate family. This pandemic has made us view the world in another way. Made us realize the importance of the essentials and non-essentials things in life.

Do take care, readers! Life is short. Let’s still enjoy it while on quarantine or isolation.

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Memories of the Alhambra…

Last Autumn I traveled to Spain with my college friends and one of the places we visited was the La Alhambra in Granada which is a Unesco World Heritage site. It did not disappoint. A must see and must visit place. Not only for it’s history which you can look up in Wikipedia as I do not want to bore you with details and will allow you to learn about it on your own. But because it’s a truly beautiful place and you can get caught up with the past. Imagining yourself living in that fortress in ancient times.

It is recommended to book tickets in advance due to the high number of tourists visiting the place. You can book and buy tickets at http://www.tickets.alhambra-patronato.es and it cost a total of €14.85 including tax at that time. Note that the access time to enter the Nasrid Palaces cannot be changed. You will be given 30 minutes additional time to enter the premises but do not waste time as it’s about a 10 minute walk from the fortress entrance to the palace entrance. Example is if the time to enter is at 2 PM, you will still be able to go inside at 2:30 PM. After that, you can’t anymore and even if you beg, they still won’t let you in. They limit the number of people entering the palace at a given time. Which is understandable in order to protect it. Review your ticket and take note of the fine print. We almost didn’t make it that’s why I’m writing about the importance of being on time. Ha!ha!

I have always wanted to visit the Alhambra and I don’t know why I wanted to. Maybe from reading books, watching movies? But I literally insisted that we should include Granada in our itinerary even if for an overnight stay only. It was easy to include as it’s in the same region or province where we mostly stayed (our base during the Spain trip was Seville in the Andalusia region which I will write about in another post).

From Seville, you can either take the train or the bus. We decided with the bus as we were not sure if the train tracks to Granada is already fixed. There were reports that we have to change to a bus midpoint or something if we take the train. Our round trip bus fare amounted to €44.72 including tax and preferred seats for a regular and supra economy tickets. We had to pay those seats as some of us gets nauseous when traveling by bus. 😁 We were a group of nine people traveling together. You can book bus tickets at http://www.alsa.com and I recommend booking in advance so you can get deals or cheaper tickets compared to buying it near the travel date. And choose Supra Economy instead of the regular one for a better bus travel experience.🤣 The bus ride will take 3 hours and it will leave on the dot so don’t be late. Also note that from the bus station you have to take a taxi to/fro the city center. Taxis are aplenty in Spain and they are affordable.

Food in Granada is cheaper than in other cities we’ve visited. The chipirones fritos in the restaurant outside the Alhambra was so delicious that we had to order another serving! One recommended place was La Botilleria in Calle Vallera. They have good food, drinks and serving is value for money! They had their own version of the sangria called Vargás and it did not disappoint. And for the price of €2.50, you can imagine how many glasses we had. 🤭

Another recommended place is the pizzeria, cafe and churros place named Desi. And when in Spain, you have to try eating all the churros that you can buy and eat! They do have different versions of it there.

And if you are a Roman Catholic then you might be interested to drop by the Catedral de Granada. It’s a beautiful church worth visiting. There’s a €5 entrance fee or donation for the upkeep of the church though. But it will be all worth it to see the inside of this stunning cathedral.

Lastly, the shopping! Yes, I do think it’s cheaper in Granada as well. I bought a €12 cute souvenir lamp there but in Seville it’s €20! I think we bought a lot of souvenirs (Medina Spanish fans, trinkets etc.) in Granada more than any place we’ve been to. 😁 Check out El Corte Ingles and don’t forget to check out the grocery section. I never fail to visit it whenever I go to a new place. So many things to buy but limited time and limited baggage allowance to bring all the goodies home. However, you can never go wrong with a bottle of Rioja wine, Manchego cheese, Spanish Sardines, Jamon Iberico and sweets that you can only find in España!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo