Europe


Florence, Italy: Why Tourists Like Me Love This City

It was my brother Raffy’s first time to visit Europe, so we made a deal to extend our Euro family vacation in Florence. Like any bargain hunter, we opted to try good old AirBnB for our accommodations. After reading through pages and pages of apartment options, we picked a spacious loft right smack in the middle of Firenze’s tourist area. Just outside our place was Il Porcellino (Italian for “boar”). Found near the entrance of Mercato Nuovo, tourists rub the boar’s snout for a return trip to Florence, just like throwing a coin in Rome’s Trevi Fountain. My wife and I snubbed the boar and went straight for the leather bags sold in the market.

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Because of AirBNB we were able to save approximately Php165,000 on accommodation fees during our recent trip to Barcelona. Since it was peak season in the city due to the annual Mobile World Congress, hotels hiked up their rates as much as 3x. The average price per night at hotels was at a whopping 400 euros (Php20,000).

To those who don’t know what AirBNB is, it’s a site that allows home and apartment owners to rent out their homes (either full or just a part) to people who wanna feel and live like a local while they’re on vacation. It’s not just the competitive rates that makes booking on AirBNB appealing, it’s also that you can get full apartments instead of a small and cramped hotel rooms. For roughly Php3,500/night we got a full 1BR apartment with a huge terrace that offered a spectacular view. We had the whole place to ourselves!

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The last time we rode on Emirates Business Class we were on their Boeing 777-300 plane. The experience was amazing and we made it a point to always try to go for Emirates Business Class if we had long haul flights. In our recent trip to Barcelona we booked Business again but we were in for a bigger treat! Apparently Emirates upgraded some of their planes to the new Airbus 380 and the business class experience on this bad boy is just epic. Super well worth the price of admission!

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Lobster? Check. Tiger Prawns? Check. Clams? Check. Squid? Check. Add to that a variety of fish and you have the epic seafood platter being offered by El Rey De La Gamba in Barcelona, Spain. These seafood platters are so insanely good and huge that Aquaman would probably have an issue with the owner of the restaurant serving them. I mean seriously, take a look at it. It looks bigger than the body of my wife in the photo below!

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When I was in college, one of my favorite classes was Philosophy and one of the first lessons that they teach you is the “sense of wonder”. As Plato puts it, wonder is the feeling of a philosopher. It’s a deep and natural emotional state of longing, marvel, and awe.

After working in the corporate and business world in a cramped, polluted, fast-paced, and bustling city for a decade, my sense of wonder has almost flatlined. The responsibilities of the “real world” and the desire to be in control has really made me think very small. Over the years I’ve put more value in worldly things; the stuff that we can see and count like money, property, and material belongings.

A recent trip to Barcelona though tore down the walls of that box that I’ve put myself in and reminded me of how small I am in this world. It’s not to say that I’m downplaying what I’ve done in life, but I realized how vast and spectacularly unknown the world is to me. This place we went to reignited my sense of marvel and wonder as I walked around with my jaw wide open. The beauty, majesty, and serenity was supernatural and spiritual.

This place is Montserrat, a Benedictine Monastery situated in a jagged mountain range in Barcelona, Spain. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to and it has permanently given me a deep sense of longing to see the rest of the world.

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