Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Airbnb Review - Barcelona


A lot of people have asked me for more details about the place we stayed at in Barcelona after I shared two photo collages in my Instagram and FB. So I thought of posting this review to paint you a better picture of how this Airbnb apartment looked like, or at least how we experienced it.  

If you haven't heard about Airbnb yet, it's a website where you can book unique apartments or houses on your holiday or vacation. It's a great alternative to the usual hotels and hostels in the big cities if you're looking for a more homey place. Now I wouldn't necessarily say this option is cheaper because there are cheaper hostels too if you look hard enough and if you weigh in other factors such as transportation and breakfast inclusion.

Because we moved from city to city with varying purpose, we didn't book with Airbnb for the entire duration of our trip. Our accommodations in Spain were a combination of Airbnb-Hotel-Hostel-Camp bookings. Again, it will all depend on the purpose and the level of relaxation or sight-seeing you plan to do on your holiday. In Granada for example, we wanted to just slow down and get comfy especially when the sun got too warm for sight-seeing. Since we saved a good bit from our Barcelona accommodation, we splurged in this lovely hotel. Meanwhile, Madrid was a mission trip so we spent most days/nights in the camp and another two nights in this hostel. Barcelona trip was all about sight-seeing practically until nighttime so an Airbnb booking suited us fine.

It was our first time to book with Airbnb and thankfully, the whole experience was memorable and pleasant for us.  If it were a que horror experience, I wouldn't bother at all to blog about it. I think the most important thing of all was that we got the value of what we paid for, if not even more.

So here are more photos (mostly from iP5 so forgive the quality) and info of this Pinterest-ing apartment.

First is the room. It's bright and super clean, the most important quality we look for in any place, not to mention dainty. :) Outside the glass door is a terrace which houses a number of tropical plants which made us feel presko and relaxed. You'll also experience the vibe of a Spanish neighbourhood when you lounge in the terrace.


Here's the living room and the hallway decorated with various paintings and artwork. The host's room is located beside that window to the left. The guest room is practically on the other end of the apartment. Your privacy shouldn't be a concern.


Our lovely host, Persita, prepared the most delicious Spanish breakfast. I think it's called torta patata, an omelet with potatoes inside. She also toasted bread with olive and tomato which I thought was a Spanish thing to do but we tried it anyway and it was delicious! She also brewed a great-tasting coffee every single morning. On top of this, she offered us bread, cheese, jams and juices. So the breakfast alone made our stay so sulit! We ate everything and we didn't go hungry until about later in the afternoon. :)


A snapshot of the kitchen:


On our third night in Barcelona, we decided to go home earlier than usual because we came from Costa Brava and were so exhausted. We ate dinner in the apartment (the pizza leftover from our lunch in Costa Brava) and our lovely hostess gave us sodas and melon and prepared the table in the veranda for us.


I think what we were most grateful for with our Airbnb experience was meeting Persita. She was a lovely and helpful hostess! Even with a broken English, she did everything she could to help us move about in Barcelona, sign language and all. She even lent us a map and scribbled our location and the bus numbers that we could catch to and from every tourist spot. I'd give her a 10 out of 10 for being the kindest hostess! And because we loved Persita, we gave her something to remember us: :)

Here are more info for you so you can weigh the pros and cons of this type of accommodation:

  • Cost: €45/night or €22.50/person for a private double room with a private bathroom
  • Breakfast inclusion: Surprisingly yes (I thought it wasn't)
  • Other amenities: Free use of washing machine (yes, free! our hostess even hung our clothes and folded them for us), free drinking water and sodas, use of towels, free map and city guide.
  • Distance to city centre: 15-20 minutes.
  • Transportation: Bus is the most convenient. It's only a 2-minute walk to the bus stop when you are going to the city centre. But you have to take note that in Spain, most streets are one-way. Going back to the apartment, you'll get off in an entirely different street and have to bear a 10-minute walk. Metro is another option which is 10 to 15 minutes walking distance.
  • There's an additional cleaning fee of €20 upon booking.
  • Wifi is free but slow.
  • Persita is not very conversant in English so you'll have to learn at least a broken Spanish so you can communicate. We utilised Google Translate to help us out. 
  • Persita owns a jovial and a cuddly cat named Simba (photo below). If you are not a cat-lover, this apartment may not be for you because this cat will be all over you each time you come back to the apartment. He also makes himself comfy in the bed, in the chair and even on your feet, perhaps to keep you company. 
  • Lastly with Airbnbs, owners/hosts are mostly in the apartment too during your stay. It didn't really bother us, but for others it may.


Well, that's about it. I hope I've given enough info and may you enjoy your travels, wherever it may be. :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Two Years, Calligraphy and Cheesyness


We've been out the whole day and I just have to do this quick post before this days ends to say that hey, Rolando+Laidel turns two today! Two years that I wouldn't trade for anything else in the world. The past two years weren't perfect, weren't all butterflies and fireflies, weren't at all easy but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'd rather do life with R with all its downs and rough edges than do it alone. 

Dear God, thank you for two amazing years of your grace and goodness over our marriage. Thank you for giving me the best person to be with in this journey called life. Thank you for writing our love story. Thank you for I know, the best is yet to come.


Yep, that is the best feeling, being with the one whom my soul loves. More of our anniversary special in later posts. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

10 Years Ago, Something Wonderful Happened

24 June 2010, a Thursday.  It was quite a big day for me, a series of firsts I was extremely nervous about---my first day on my first job---and the other first that only God knew about. 

The things I knew. At 8:30 AM in the busy corner of Ayala Avenue, I found myself grimacing in pain and sweating like crazy from walking too fast than I could. My toes were killing me but I could never be late on my first day of work. I'd run a mile in my 3-inch heels, have all the blisters in the world and swerve past hundreds of workers all rushing to get to their office if I had to. Luckily, I managed to get inside one of the skyscrapers in Makati CBD just in time and in one piece. I immediately took the lift to the 28th floor already dreading the crowd of topnotch CPAs in the training room. God, I hated introducing myself in front of a crowd. I hated public speaking. I hated trainings.

My first day on my first job basically passed by with me sitting down and staring down at my notes almost all the time. I was taken aback and everything and everyone in the room intimidated me especially the air of competitiveness that hovered in the room all day long. This was an unfamiliar ground, I didn't personally know anyone. There was no one from my former school whom I could sat and chat with. There was only me and all these brain heads I wasn't ready to be friends with yet. I guessed, I wasn't ready for the real working world but I knew I had to be brave. I reminded myself I worked so hard to get the license that this firm hired me for. I knew right then and there that this new chapter of my life wouldn't be easy. But I also knew, I asked for it.

These were the things that God knew. That I would call this skyscraper a work office for the next five precious years of my life. That I would be friends with those newbies, some of them I have kept in touch with to this very day.

That in that room of wide-eyed newbies, on that very same day, in that very same building, in the very same group that I would be joining in, was another soul whom God destined to be His best for me.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Life Through the iPhone

And just like that, half of June has gone by. It's now officially summer in Ireland and judging by the way the sun has been warming (and burning) us the past couple of days, I think we are in for another hot and lemony summer.  R has been nudging me to go out all day but this morning, I felt this aching need to string photos together, to memory-keep, to write my heart out because no matter how seemingly mundane my days and my actives are these days, I can't let this special month pass by without recording it. I'm staying put till I finish this post.

Life lately has been about new hobbies, summer reads, walk in the park, unanswered prayers and the need to be patient and lean on to God's timing and understanding.

These days too, I depend heavily on iPhone to capture random little things that make up the big picture. And if iPhone snaps are indication of life, this pretty much sumps up how the days of June rolled by:


Here are some more details:

1. CALLIGRAPHY-ing WORDS I HOLD ON TO

I love how Ecclesiastes 3 never fails to remind me of two things: there's a season for everything and  everything has been made beautiful in His time. It's been a struggle for me to hold on to this verse to be honest because waiting has taken far longer than I expected and everything I have prayed for is in a state of blur. But you know what? It's been a humbling experience so far. I've been learning that it's not all about me---my career, my bank account, my ambitions. It should be about God's grand master plan for my life. It should be about Him, really. If serving longer time in the waiting department is the only way God can get through me so He can break every pride that's carefully hiding in the crevices of my heart, so He can replace my worldly dreams with God-given dreams, so He can use my talents and extra time for His glory, so He can free me up of bad habits, so be it. I will wait for as long as God wants me to trusting that when His appointed time comes, it will be beautiful, it will be perfect, it will be the best.

Are you waiting too? Take heart and have hope. Remember He makes all things beautiful... in His time.


2. THIS BEAUTIFUL WALL ART

With equally beautiful words, this is Instagram and Blog-worthy.



3. CHARMED BY THIS BEAUTIES

I am, as always, charmed whenever I see these hanging baskets overflowing with flowers that I believe to be called petunias and surfinias scattered all over the city on summer time.


4. COUNTY NO. 7

We've ticked off our 7th county thus far---Carlow, Ireland. This is an outtake from our road trip. Have I told you we dream of setting foot to all 32 counties of Ireland? It will take years but hey, we'll get there, one county at a time!


5. WORDS OF PRAISE AND PRAYER

I have been encouraged by a lot of women I look up to the past couple of weeks. The encouragements came in different forms---a church-mate praying with me and sharing me her own testimony, a friend hugging me and asking how I've been, and leaders handing me out these little notes of praise and prayers. I feel loved and thought of and blessed really, just by their presence in my life.


6. GO OUTSIDE

Lastly, we've had random walks and mini picnics on weekends but the park a few steps from our house has been the easiest and the frequent target. Last Sunday, we were amazed by this burst of yellow and decided to lay our picnic blanket down to enjoy a fruit snack and a book of our own choice. Someone randomly decided to roll down a slope and we had one heck of a belly laugh. Ah this husband of mine, not many know how funny he can be.


***

How's your summer so far? Hope it's been awesome as it has been with ours. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading List - Book 5 to 8

In my attempt to read 30 books this year and in order to keep track of my progress, I have been capturing the books I read as soon as I'm done reading them. If you type the hashtag #laisreadinglist in Instagram, there you'll find the mini digital library I created especially for my reading hobby. Book No.1 to 4 here.

The past Spring time, I enjoyed reading outside and while in transit. I'm now on my Batch 2 and I'm happy to report that I have already exceeded the number of books I read in 2013 (only 7, shame on me!) Thanks to my season of waiting and joblessness, I've just beat the record. And thank God for books. With all this extra time, I'm close to losing my sanity without them.  

So here's my Spring read and a little bit of lame review:


Book No.5 - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce) - A timely read for me while we were in London. A story of set in England about a man who unexpectedly walked from the south to the north of England to find forgiveness and the courage to love again. This is a story to remind us that it's never too late for anything, practically anything. Very well written. I enjoyed reading the vivid description of English countryside and landscape too aside from journeying (and crying) with Harold. Just some of the many heart-tugging quotes from the book I would like to share with you:
"But maybe, it's what the world needs. A little sense, and a little more faith." 
"Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways."
And this one's my favorite:
"It was not a life, if lived without love."
Book No.6 - The Last Week of May (Roisin Meaney) - Set in Ireland and full to the brim of Irish humour and warmth, I found myself enjoying this love story weaved during one spring season in one small town in Ireland. Your teatime kind of a book---relaxed and easy and not lacking the kick of a happy ending. 

Book No.7 - The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) - Because I want to include some good old classics in my list and because it's Spring, I re-read this book from the beloved author who also wrote another equally beloved character of the Little Lord of Fauntleroy, a.k.a Cedric or Cedie. The Secret Garden is a story of childhood adventures, discovery, fears and innocence. It never fails to amaze me how children, no matter how sulky or contrary they have grown into, can easily change into someone beautiful if you just let them run around and have something to  nurture and take good care of. They are that bendable. Not my favorite children story of all time but will surely pass it on to my future kids someday, God willing. :)

Book No.8 - Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell) -  I read nothing but good reviews about this book so I purchased it in Kindle. I thought I'm over the high-school-love-story kind of books (because trust me, I read too many in High School) but apparently, I'm not. Give me weird and misfit but intelligent characters any time and I'll surely dive into it. Eleanor (a red-headed fat girl) and Park (a half Korean/half American) were caught up in a love story that defy being a misfit. Theirs is a love story that gave me that giddy clenchy feeling that felt new and warm and dangerous at the same time. There have been mixed reactions about the ending. But for me, it's as realistic as it could get with them being high school and young. On the other hand, it offered a tiny silver lining which made the book more endearing; it's up to you to take it from there.

I'm now on my Summer reading list and I can't wait to do another round up. Hope you're all having an awesome Summer! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Marlay and The Secret Garden

Travel Thursday Series

This was a story of sweet discovery. It was one Sunday afternoon in April 2014 when we learned about this little secret garden. R and I have been to Marlay once last summer but we never had a clue that this vast beautiful park with a stunning view of the Dublin Mountains held a little secret---The Regency Walled Garden. 


Well of course, it isn't really a secret. Had we only taken the time to visit the park's website we would have been well informed. But we couldn't be bothered so it's discovery was a sweet surprise. 

After our Ticknock walk, the call of a warm beverage led us to Marlay Demesne. A mere 10-minute drive down the mountain, we all agreed that it would be a lovely pitstop to cap off the day. The thick clouds and the strong winds changed their course when we were still on the mountaintop paving way for a gloriously sunny afternoon. No wonder all of South Dublin (the posh area I heard) seemed to converge there at the time---parking was full, the huge well-manicured lawn was dotted with visitors, the only cafe bore a long queue. 

Once we secured parking, we immediately freed up our bladders then proceeded to the cafe. While R queued for our orders, I wandered around the back noticing some people were coming in and out of the backdoor. After a few steps, I couldn't believe what I saw----a beautiful walled garden in full bloom. My sheer joy was like Marry Lennox's when she unlocked the secret garden. It was relatively small compared to the Botanic Gardens but it was so charming and so dainty in its own right. Since it was spring time, the flower beds displayed vibrant colours that only the temperature of spring could produce. A vintage fountain and orangery were set in the middle enhancing the garden's already charming state.

These are the first sights of the walled garden:


View from the other side:


Wouldn't you love to sit and talk a while in this?


In the adjacent kitchen garden, we found this charming plant archway. Aaaaah, anyone who's doing a prenup in Spring, have your photo taken in this exact sweet spot: (please ignore the crazy girl)


This is the cafe backdoor from which the garden will be so easily missed if you're not curious enough:


Now the view of the park:


Florals all over:


Now here's us carpe-dieming the day:


Weeks after that sweet discovery, I have journeyed back to Marlay more than once and sat in the park while I devoured a book or a hot chocolate.  The park is that beautiful. The garden so charming I had to take more photos of the pretty little things inside it. And I guessed, I just had to go back simply because I found a happy place. :)

***

Best way to get here: By car or Bus No.16
Best season: Spring or Summer
Best activity: Picnic, read, dog-walk, play football, exercise, buy from the weekend market, or just lie on your picnic blanket and dream.
Other option: Go to Ticknock and walk and have a blast with the stunning view of Dublin City.

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