Sunday, July 31, 2011

Abusive oldies

I will bash some senior citizens in my blog today.

While I know that sooner or later some of us will turn 60 or senior some time in our lives, I cannot stand the fact that there are senior citizens that are abusive of their being "senior citizen" status.

On my flight back from Milan, my stop over was at DOHA, Qatar. The DOHA airport transports passengers from the airport to the plane by bus (or a BMW if you're flying on first class). When we were boarding for Manila, I had about 8 senior citizens on the business class flight with me. While we boarded the bus to the plane, there was a lady (about 60 or so) with me with her more senior husband who boarded with hoards of goods they bought from the Duty Free at DOHA. I could not help but overhear (alright, so I was eavesdropping) when Granny began befriending a Filipino who sat beside her on the bus. She made small talk and then as we approached the bus, told the guy that they were carrying heavy stuff and that she was too weak to carry all that they bought. She began ranting about how heavy the bottles were and then asked if he would be kind enough to help her carry it on the plane because we had to climb the stairs.

When the guy said, "of course", she thanked him and said that it was the Filipino spirit of helping others that was appreciated. (In the back of my mind, I told myself, it was also the Filipino spirit of being abusive that made my skin creep with disgust at the outcome of the conversation. For God's sake, they shouldn't have bought so much liquor and then have to put some pathetic fool into carrying the load for them. Anyway...)

When the bus came to a halt at our plane, the driver announced that we had to wait for another 15 minutes inside the bus because the plane wasn't done being prepared for the flight yet. Sorry for the inconvenience. Another elderly couple approached the first two elderly couple and lo and behold they knew each other. In the middle of the conversation, the first elderly couple put the OFW Pinoy on the sideline and the elderly men started talking about their love for tennis and their back hand and how frequently they played tennis!!!! Shit! These elderly were in better shape than the poor OFW Pinoy who seemed to be grinning ear to ear listening to them rant about the Zobels and the Jalandonis and whoever they decided to name-drop. (Alright, so I was eavesdropping big time - sue me! It just confirmed my thoughts on the abusive elderly!)

To cut the long story short, the pathetic Pinoy OFW was kind enough to carry the duty free shopping the first elderly woman had deviously asked him to bring for her.

The whole flight was smooth (although some of the electrical devices on the Qatar Airlines flight were not working much for being Skytrax Airline of the Year).

When we landed at NAIA, the second elderly couple had a wheelchair waiting for them when the gate of the plane opened!!! Sanamagan!!! The elderly woman (about 65 or so) was perkier than I was and was carrying her own bag and had climbed the stairs to the plane at DOHA and was up and about in the plane during the whole flight. What happened during the flight?!?!?! Susmaryosep! Was the flight on a flat-bed business class terrible?

Guess what?

At NAIA, there's a lane that's for the disabled and those on wheel-chair. When you use this priority lane, there is NO QUEUE and they assist you by holding your belongings and carry your bags for you. Golly gee wow!! No wonder these elderlies use all the devious ways to get ahead.

I blog about this because being an elderly has some privileges attached to it. Let me correct that. There are some things that are provided for, in order to make life more comfortable for the senior citizen. But there is a thin line delineating its being abused.

Being afforded privileges is somehow prone to abuse. But when it is the elderly that abuse this, that's a different story altogether.

If you're a senior citizen reading my blog - read well. Your existence in this world for over 60 years does not give you the right to abuse the privilege that is afforded you. People get what they deserve and being treated appropriately is done because of respect and not because you've reached a certain age and find a way to get away with being abusive of certain privileges. It is after all a privilege and not a RIGHT!

Sometimes, one can't help but recall the saying...Masamang damo, matagal mamatay!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Milan - of shopping paraside and home to our OFWs!

After my Greek holiday, it was time to do what I love to do best - shop till I drop.

The EasyJet flight from Santorini to Milan, Italy was a 2 1/2 hrs and we landed at the Malpensa Airport on time. EasyJet is a budget airline. But for the 89euros I paid for, inclusive of 1 baggage check-in (20Kg) and Speedy Boarding (both of which you had to pay separately), the fare was a reasonable one. They board all the "speedy boarders" first on a separate bus (and there were like 10 of us only). When you get inside the plane, it's a free for all seating arrangement, which wasn't too bad at all. And like Cebu Pacific (low budget airlines), everything - from food to water - had to bought.

EasyJet lands at the Malpensa Airport Terminal 2. There's nothing in Terminal 2 though. If you needed to get a ride to the Central Station in Milan, you'd need to go by bus. If you wanted to take the train, you'd still have to take a bus ride to Terminal 1 (about 10 minutes away) then take the train to the Cardona Station in Central Milan. Or you can go by cab - which is about 60 km away from the airport to the hotel - on a fixed rate of 90euros (one way). It seemed kind of difficult to be lugging those luggages up the bus, down the subway, up the subway, down the train, and into the street just to get from point A to point B. And since, I'm not in an Amazing Race contest, I just took the cab.

Camperio House Suites and Apartments was home for the next few days. Camperio used to be a former convent but has recently undergone renovations to being both a hotel and a residential area. The Deluxe Suite was homey and comfy. It had the luxuries of a 5 star hotel and of course, since space in European hotels is really small, the suites at Camperio was sprawling by European standards.

Location of Camperio Suites is excellent as it is not found on the via Dante (which is the main road of all the hotels and shops on Duomo), but is very close to the shops and all the major attractions of Milan proper.

It was a stone's throw away from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, D&G, Versace, Emporio Armani not to mention the middle and lower end stores H&M, Zara, Mango, etc. Literally a shopaholic's nightmare. Coming in the summer season was the perfect time to shop, with most of the shops (except the high end ones) on 50-70% discount!

On C. So. Vitt Emanuele, one will find the LaRinascente (the equivalent of our Rustan's in the Philippines), a 7 floor edifice that not only houses the most exclusive brands but also the most expensive chocolates in the world - Amedei!

Fronting the LaRinascente is the fabulous Duomo. The intricate design of the Duomo - from the delicate carvings and sculptures on the steel doors to the exterior and interior of the building will hold you (as it did me) in amazement.

The main objective of the side trip to Milan was to shop...till I drop and shopped till I dropped I did. It was not a surprise that there were quite a few Asians in the various shops. But the Italians were extra nice to us, considering that we were on a buying spree.

On my way home from the stores, I noticed a flock of Filipinos walking and chatting the night away. You could tell that they were Filipinos because they were speaking Tagalog. I was telling my partner that you could feel their loneliness in a far away land like Italy. The other day, when we arrived, we noticed two Pinays tugging a bag in the middle of the road. I could not tell if they were coming or going, but it was clear that they were domestic helpers lugging their only possessions in Milan. I mention them in my blog today, not because I look down upon them. Rather, I salute them because I can feel their loneliness and weariness amidst the pompous edifices and rich heritage of Milan. In the midst of plenty, are our Filipinos who trek the road more traveled by many of our countrymen in search of greener pastures for their families. The sacrifices they make, and the dreams they pursue.

Somehow, this vacation has been educational, relaxing, and a learning experience. Perhaps, sometime in the future, we will see many of our countrymen not have to leave the Philippines in search of a better future, but in search of a grand vacation.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Greek Vacation (Santorini - Dreams Luxury Suites Hotel and Fira)

When you wake up to a scenery that overlooks the caldera, with breakfast ready for you at your balcony at 930AM, and a warm jacuzzi bath fizzling at your back, you know you've had a taste of heaven on earth.

The Dreams Luxury Suites at Imerovigli, Santorini was home for 6 days.

When we make choices for our stays in various places, we usually look at recommendations on the internet. TripAdvsior is the most frequently googled source. I use, which has only the best boutique and luxury hotels in the planet. When you combine resources, you've always got to make sure that you read the reviews well and NOT just look at the pictures on the website. Pictures, after all can be deceiving and while something may crop up as picture perfect, you may end up in some place that would be a nightmare for the next few days!

To describe my stay in a few paragraphs would not do justice to how beautiful and breathtaking the place is. From the managers Artemis and Fatima, to the butler George and the chambermaid Maria - these were the people who made this a truly memorable vacation.

Free from the spoils of civilization, and the hubris of the hectic urban life, Dreams Luxury Suites was absolutely divinely spoiling.

The second to the last night was dinner at Assyrtico Wine Restaurant on Fira (the capital of Santorini). It's located right beside Koukoumavlos Restaurant. While Koukoumavlos may have more class in terms of ambience, Assyrtico wins hands down with the taste in all the dishes - from the Calamari appetizer with caviar to the main course of seafood taggliatelle and the final touch of panacotta with tomato cherry.

While I'm blogging this final entry on my Greek vacation, I'm looking out the patio of my room - watching the ships dock to port, the volcano right beneath my suite - I am spending Sunday trying to embrace the luxury of Santorini.

Someday, I will be back to luxuriate in this opulence and enjoy a slice of heaven on earth, even temporarily.

Tomorrow, I leave for my next adventure - Milan, Italy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Greek Vacation (Santorini - Perivolos and Oia)

What is there to do in an island surrounded by the sea? Go to the beach of course!

Amazing water, cosmopolitan shops, the "elite" people of the island. Black sand and crystal clear waters. Perivolos was the pitstop for the day in Santorini. It was a short 20 mins drive along winding roads from Imverovigli to Perivolos.

Anemos bar (situated in a yard of an old tomato factor) was where we stayed for the afternoon. Drinks were brought into the cabana as well as lunch was served in a beach basket.

Of course, the huts were not free as you needed to pay 9euros on top of the meals and drinks. But there was a service button right on the hut which had the waiters literally at your beck and call.

Unlike the powdery white sands of Boracay, the pebbled black sand at the beach in Perivolos was unimpressive. I mean, sure I am after all in Santorini. But the Philippines can compete with any of the best beaches in the world that I've been too and if we were to scale it from 0-10, with 10 as the best beaches, I probably would give Boracay an 8 and Perivolos a 5.

With that said, it was time to get back to the hotel and take a quick dip in jacuzzi, finish my book and well laze again in the sundeck with a glass of champagne.

After the laze at the jacuzzi, it was off to dinner in Oia. Oia is one of the more picturesque villages build on the rim of the cliff side which takes you all the way to a village of 79 churches. Directly below Oia is Ammoudi, the quaint fishing village I had lunch at the yesterday.

Oia is considered the cultural heart of the island as it plays host to a cultural center and art galleries as well as the most beautiful resorts in the island right at the caldera. Oia is practically the highest peak at the north of the island and thus has the best sunset view in all of Santorini. Many of the walk ways are not made of pebble stones but of marble!

Food tripping, I needed to have dinner at 1800 Restaurant situated at the heart of Oia. Distinctly reviewed and highly recommended by the New York Times, you can see for yourself why gourmet dining at 1800 was worth the 100euros just for one!

From aperitif to dessert, Greek dining was at its best and what better place than in Santorini, watching the sunset and enjoying the meal, to cap the day.

(Too bad I couldn't drink because I was driving. This would have been perfect with a glass of red wine.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Greek Vacation (Santorini - Ammoudi)

Santorini is a small island with many interesting villages.

How to go around in Santorini which is 35 kilometers from the north tip Oia to the south tip Akrotiri can be achieved either by bus, taxi or rent a car. With 10euros worth of gas, the rented Nissan Micra should be able to make going around the island far easier and relaxing. And while the locals complain and warn against foreigners who drink and drive and prefer to be adventurous driving motorcycles or mopeds, I told the car rental that I am Filipino. If you can drive in Manila, you can drive anywhere in the world!

On the farthest end to the north side is Ammoudi, a fishing village at the bottom of Oia.

Lunch was at Katina. The New York Time highly recommends the place and nothing gets more authentic than having the most freshly caught seafood served on your platter. With Greek Salad, Visanto wines, and 1 Kg of fresh Lobster, who could go wrong with this place?

On the way back from Ammoudi, we made a short stop in Imerovigli to get some dessert.

Who cares about the poundage I will gain in the next few days? If you're in heaven in a wonderful island like Santorini, you've got to make the most of it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Greek Vacation (Santorini-Imerovigli)

At the break of dawn, I was headed off to the port of Piraeus in Athens where I needed to board the Superfast ship on my way to Santorini.

There were 2 options on going to the island - take the plane or take the boat. The plane was a 50 minute ride, but you still had to be at the airport 2 hrs before the flight. The one way flight was considerably also more expensive (about 150 euros). The fast ferry took about 4 1/2 hrs (with one stop at Ios Island). Aside from the longer travel time, the pros on taking the ferry was to appreciate the islands on your way to Santorini. It was also much cheaper at 58 euros on economy class, one way.

The ferry made a brief stop at Ios, which looked like a sleepy fishing island.

Final destination was Santorini Island.

Santorini is divided into various cities within the city. The major areas are Fira-Firostefina-Imerovigli-Oia. Fira, is the capital of Santorini. It is also where the major nightlife, night spots, and anything that requires a life form to be present. It's a very touristy and noisy area - somewhat similar to the marketplace around Boracay.

The driver had dropped us off at Dreams Luxury Suites, where it will be home to me for the next 6 days. Dreams Luxury Suites has won hands down several of the awards of the most luxury hotel on the planet (for a reason I am about to find out). The Nefeli Suite has its own kitchenette, jacuzzi, champagne breakfast, a dedicated laptop, wireless internet, separate sala from the bedroom, butler service, TV, DVD, iPod dock, champagne and fresh fruits on arrival, Korres Bath essentials and vanity kit, espresso coffee maker and it's own sun deck. There are only 4 suites at this hotel, with the Nefeli Suite being the least pricey.

Overlooking each of the suites, is the caldera.

According to our hostess, the island of Santorini was born out of lava during the eruption in 1660 BC. The middle part of the volcano sank into the sea, leading to what is now known as Santorini. The massive rock formation surrounding the caldera was actually from the lava over the past several centuries.

So after getting here from Athens, this island will be a respite for the next few days and hopefully a restful one. Tonight I rest! Tomorrow, I conquer Santorini!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Greek Vacation (Athens Day 2)

It was sweltering outside at 96 degrees fahrenheit.

From the 8th floor Rooftop Garden of the Grande Bretagne Hotel, the perfect view of the Parthenon could be seen. Buffet breakfast was great. I mean, unlike many European breakfasts, this was not simply bagels and yoghurt but fresh fruits, cold cuts and hot meals and excellent Greek desserts.

After breakfast and filling up with enough water in my system to hopefully last this Greek Summer Heat, it was one train ride from Syntagma Station (under our hotel, thank God) to the Acropolis Station. [It's a good idea to take the subway because the subway system in itself had a historical story of Greece with matching sculptures and paintings and other artsy stuff).

The Acropolis Station has many quaint boutiques and restaurants right when you get off the landing. Because of the heat, I was practically thirsty at every stop. It was a good thing to grab a bottle of water at the nearest newsstand.

The trek up the Acropolis was no joke. In the heat, it was like doing a cardio exercise in a dilapidated gym in Manila. I think I lost all the poundage I gained during breakfast. But the view from above and the Parthenon was one thing I would never be able to do all over again.

All the suntan with SPF 50++ had melted all over. But if only to appreciate closely the history of Greek mythology, one needed to make that trip up close and personal.