30 November 2012

Hidden Hills Word of the Day - Final Week of Giveaway

Here is the word of the day for the Hidden Hills Getaway Giveaway's last week of promotion - Feb. 11 to 15, 2013:


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26 November 2012

Review - Hotel De La Tour Eiffel

Photos of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel, Paris

This photo of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel is courtesy of TripAdvisor 

Hotel De La Tour Eiffel (17, rue de l' Exposition, 75007 Paris, France) is a quaint 2-star property in the heart of Paris. It is located within walking distance from Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Invalides and Ecole Militaire. It is in the expensive 7th Arrondissement in Paris and is near metro stations for easy access to the other places of interest around Paris' city proper.

We stayed in this property from Sept. 2-4, 2006. We booked a standard triple bedroom for Euro 109/night inclusive of taxes without breakfast.  

What I like:
The friendly staff who were willing to converse in English to provide us tips on how to go around the city on foot and by metro.

Its location is superb! You traverse certain streets and next thing you know it, you're standing at the foot of Eiffel Tower or walk further down you'll see Trocadero and if you walk either to the side of Eiffel, you'll see Ecole Militaire.

There are plenty of groceries and restaurants nearby so you can buy your necessities or have a bite of the Parisian gourmet.

What I don't like:
Photos of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel, Paris
This photo of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel is courtesy of TripAdvisor 

For a triple bedroom, I expected to see at least 3 single beds or 1 double and 1 single. We were provided 1 queen-sized bed and a folding bed for the 3rd person. My daughter took the folding bed since she was still small then and the bed could carry her weight.

The room is small for the 3 of us. There was barely a space left to place our 2 big luggages. There was a small cabinet near the door so we took advantage of the space inside and placed one luggage in an upright position just so we could move around the room.

With a small room comes a small a bathroom. 

Photos of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel, Paris
This photo of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The stair is a bit small and dimly lit.

Photos of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel, Paris
This photo of Hotel de la Tour Eiffel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

My recommendation:
Aside from the little nuisances, we were still satisfied with our stay there for the fact that it was in a quiet area but near major attractions.

I recommend this to couples but not to families with kids or teens unless you are booking another room in the property. Otherwise, you may consider another bigger hotel. However, you get what you paid for and I think it's a reasonable amount for a 2-star property in the heart of the City of Lights.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any pictures of the hotel nor the room we got.  The photos in this review are taken from Tripadvisor and credit goes to the photos' owners. 

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23 November 2012

Hidden Hills Giveaway Word Of The Day

Here are the secret words for Palawan's Hidden Hills Getaway Giveaway.

Jan. 15 - PALAWAN
       16 - HIDDEN HILLS
       17 - PRIVATE
       18 - VILLA
       19 - RESORT

Click here for the word for Jan. 21 to 25

Click here for the word for Jan. 26 to 31

Click here for the word for Feb. 1 to 5

Click here for the word for Feb. 6 to 10

Click here for the word for Feb. 11 to 15

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18 November 2012

Palawan's Hidden Hills Getaway Giveaway Blogger Sign-Up!


The owner of Hidden Hills Private Resort in the lush province of beautiful Puerto Princesa in Palawan is happy to give 2 nights/3 days free accommodation for 2 persons to ONE LUCKY WINNER!

The Travel Bug is happy to host the Palawan's Hidden Hills Getaway Giveaway which is scheduled to run from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, 2013. This is open WORLD WIDE!

This fabulous getaway event will surely increase your stats. So, come and join this fantastic getaway giveaway by signing up.

Here are the important info about the giveaway:

Only 1 winner will be chosen for the Palawan's Hidden Hills Getaway Giveaway and the offer is valid for one year upon winning.

2 nights/3 days accommodation with basic freebies granted by the sponsor.

Below are the specific freebies included in the prize.

  • Accommodations : Exclusive use of the entire property

  • Welcome Drinks
Welcome Pack / Fruit Basket

  • Daily Freshly Picked Flowers From the Garden Free

  • Unlimited Coffee or Tea
Mineral Drinking Water

  • Eat-All-U-Can Fruits & Veggies in season whatever grows in the farm FREE!!!


  • Cutleries & beddings / towels/ flip-flops / rain boots / beach mats provided for use

  • ONE BOTTLE OF WINE (Seasonal Welcome Compliments)

  • Cleaning services (daily)

  • Cooking Assistance 

NOT INCLUDED: Transport. The winner will shoulder his/her plane/boat/land fare and if required, visa formalities will have to be the sole responsibility of the winner.

Great prize! And there is more!

Blogger opportunity for this event: 

There is an automatic free link for every blogger who signs up and a paid option for additional links for the price of $2 each link. Please add an extra 0.80 cents if your option of payment is for "services."

I am also looking for bloggers who can host a page for $12. 

This will be a great way to improve your traffic stat as your blog page will be the landing site for follows and likes group of either Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

This hosting page is limited only. So sign up now. I will contact the ones who made the cut and will request payment once you've been notified that you're confirmed to host a page.  Please add an extra 0.80 cents if your option of payment is for "services."

Please click here for the sign-up and announcement form: https://docs.google.com/a/riablahgs.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGpRb1RPT1B4TGVVLTNfdm05UFF6VFE6MQ

Please click here for the announcement HTML for your referrals if you want to post a pre-made announcement like this:

And lastly, as a sign of appreciation, The Travel Bug will give a $25 prize to the top referrer for the Blogger sign-up before the giveaway goes live. 

So, what are you waiting for. Sign up now and take part in this fantastic getaway!

The HTML and rafflecopter code will be emailed once the sign-up is closed. Thanks!!

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14 November 2012

Seasonal Flooding in Venice

Venice is one of the places I have listed in my bucket list of places to see in my lifetime. We were already in Milan last 2008 but didn't have the chance to visit the lovely Venice because of time constraints. However, after learning about the seasonal flooding in Venice, it's best to check the weather and the tides there if you are planning to visit the city.

Venice is a small city in the northern part of Italy in the Veneto region.  The city is regularly threatened by flood due to high tides during early autumn and spring and this is a yearly occurrence. So, if you are planning a trip to this grandiose city in the lagoon, make sure that you plan your trip not around the seasonal flooding. It is cumbersome to stroll the beautiful and historical places in Venice if you have to traverse in flood. October and November are usually the acqua alta or high tide months where flooding occurs.

Here are some pictures of flooded streets in Venice taken on 11 November 2012.

Photo credit: Luigi Constantini AP/yahoo.com

Photo credit: Luigi Constantini AP/yahoo.com

This picture was taken on 27 October, 2012. Tourists had to walk on platforms to avoid the flood waters which rose to 50 inches above normal level.

Photo credit: Stringer/Italy/Reuters/yahoo.com

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11 November 2012

Best Places To Spend The Winter Holidays

We cannot deny it but winter has finally come a bit early this year.  The holiday season is a peak season for travel too. My family and I booked our tickets 6 months ago and back then, seats were already getting full for Manila-bound flights. We will be spending the Christmas and New Year holidays back home. How about you? Have you planned any holidays this winter time? If not, here are some places you may consider and you can always count on lastminute.com for those spur of the moment bookings for hotel and flights.

Here are some great places to visit during the winter holidays.


Photo credit: ndia-tvc.org

Yes, Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth! At least for me and my family it is. Where else can you spend the holidays beaming with glee and excitement? Only in any of the Disneyland parks around the world. They always have annual Christmas and Winter holiday themes, parades and activities during the Yuletide season. So, soak in the holiday feeling in the magical kingdom of Disney.


Photo credit: phototravels.net

Visit the outdoor Christkindlmarkts at night and enjoy the various Christmas crafts they sell which double as great gifts for family and friends and Christmas tree ornaments.

Enjoy the Vienna Choir Boys who render beautiful Christmas songs for the public every Sunday at night. Aside from the beautiful music, you can eat tasty finger foods and drink Vienna's famous spiced mulled wine or gluhwein.


Photo credit: electronics.tradetang.com

Being a Roman Catholic, it has always been my dream to attend the Christmas Eve Mass, officiated by the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican. This is still in my dream list and one day, we will fulfill this dream.

You can enjoy your cold Christmas time in lovely Rome as well and experience the Italian celebration of the holidays.  The famous Baroque square in Rome named Piazza Navona is converted into a Christmas market where you will find various kinds of toys, Italian sweets, Nativity scenes and other Christmas ornaments.

You can go further North of Italy if you want to enjoy skiing like places in Bormio and Cervinia.


Photo credit: fjordtravel.no

If you like to visit a place where the possibility of seeing the northern lights is a high probability, then head on to Tromso, Norway.  There will be limited hotels but you can check yourself in at Clarion Hotel Bryggen near the Harbor.


Photo credit: pictsel.com

A visit to the Big Apple on Christmas season also tops the charts of most travelers. You can visit the big Tree in the Rockefeller Center and also enjoy the ice-skating rink in the same vicinity. Enjoy shopping at nearby big department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue for last minute shopping and you may even score further discounts offered for the holiday season.


Photo credit: articlepublisher.org

When the other side of the world is experiencing cold, winter season, Down Under Australia is welcoming summer. So, if you want to get away from the drab, cold weather and soak in the cool breeze of Australian summer, then get on that flight and head on to Australia.

Spend Christmas in the beach along the famous Bondi Beach in Sydney and enjoy the frolic under the sun.


Photo credit: lonelyplanet.com

The Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt is a well-known open Christmas market. The famous Christmas market welcomes millions of visitors yearly with a giant carved wooden Ferris wheel. The stalls sell all handmade nativity ornaments and other Christmas decorations. Not only that, even adults will enjoy this place as they can eat plenty of sticky buns and finger foods while the young ones can spend the day at the Toy Museum.


Photo credit: blog.otel.com

There's no place like home and even more enticing during the holiday season. Metropolitan Manila's famous thoroughfares are well-lit with Christmas lights and decors. Most big malls house gigantic Christmas trees adorned with pretty decorations. Christmas revelers will not miss the Misa de Gallo and a bite of the tasty bibingka and puto-bumbong right after the early morning mass. Children go caroling and ask for aguinaldo from their neighbors, family members and godparents.

No matter where your dream takes you, enjoy the spirit of the holiday season and remember, the reason for the season is Him. Happy Holidays!

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08 November 2012

An Experience With Hurricane Sandy - Part 3

We drove around town on 31 October to check the nearby areas in Brooklyn and Queens especially the ones battered by the water surge. Some of the areas didn't have power and the gas stations were closed. We had to look for an open gas station to fill up my cousin's distant relative's SUV. It took us half an hour to find an open gas station and thankfully, the line was just about to pile.

We headed to Roosevelt and on our way, we saw plenty of small boats washed in the middle of the parking lot of nearby commercial places.  The sidewalk were lined with fallen trees and debris from the storm. Sand and mud were on the side and even on the middle of the main thoroughfare. The water level was still high 2 days after Hurricane Sandy battered NYC and nearby states.

See that mound? That's sand near the highway going to Roosevelt. It was hard to snap pictures of other areas because we were moving.

Some of the bus operations resumed on the 29th in a limited scale. So, every passing bus we see are filled to the brim.  The subway opened on 31 Oct. in some parts of NYC but not Lower Manhattan due to the flood. Given the current situation around us, we were still left with uncertainties on when we could actually fly out of NYC.

We emailed our bosses about the situation as early as 28 of October because as soon as the flights were cancelled and the closure of airports and mass transit were declared, we knew for sure that we were going to wait the Hurricane out until everything became stable. That would be days!

So, as soon as the airports opened last 31 October, we booked our tickets with Delta Airlines from NYC to SFO. It was going to be a long flight from the East to the West but if it was the only way to get out of NYC then we were left with no choice but to do just that.

We left Brooklyn on 1 November around 4 a.m. The early drive to JFK Airport was a bit eerie. Some open gas stations have long queue of cars waiting to get their supply. JFK Airport was already open and we were glad to see many aircraft on the ground which was a complete contrast of the previous day when we drove around JFK Airport just to check. We only saw one Korean Air Cargo liner parked but no other aircraft was in sight last 31 Oct.

Our ordeal was not yet over. We were holding staff tickets so better pray that we get on board. Otherwise, we would have to wait for the next flight or the flight after that which would make us miss our flight back from SFO to DXB. We were already told in the counter that the flight was over-sold. I told the agent we didn't mind waiting. We would try our luck. So we waited until 6:00 a.m. and checked the board. Blessings of all blessings! We got cleared from the stand-by list so we are definitely flying out of NYC that day.

It was a 6-hours flight from NYC-SFO. I didn't even bother checking the snacks served. I just wanted to sleep and relax and pray that when we get to SFO, we would get a chance to board the SFO-DXB bound Emirates flight. Again, we were holding staff tickets so priority-wise we have the lowest.

We arrived in SFO around 10:05 a.m. few minutes ahead of time. We went to the international terminal as soon as we cleared our bags from the carousel. Everything was a blur from the time we got to the international terminal to the time we waited for our names to be called. Initially, there was a payload so we begged the kind Emirates Airline airport supervisor to request the payload to be lifted because there were available seats. We told him our situation and they knew that some staff stranded in NYC were flying to SFO to get back to Dubai. We were one of them. God is really good because he made some calls and next thing we knew, he told all the standby staff that we were all through in the flight.

Reaching for our  boarding pass was probably the cherry on top of the icing for our long and wearisome journey. I just didn't expect that my much awaited vacation would turn out like this. We were just glad that we were going home. I thought I would never say this but I kind of miss Dubai!

And finally, we arrived on 2 November in hot and humid Dubai but I won't complain about the weather anymore. Whatever weather we have here is fine by me!

So happy to see a patch of blue sky after the storm on the 30th of Oct.

The whole NYC trip we had recently is one in my greatest experience. I grew up in a place where typhoons and other natural calamities are regular occurrence but nothing prepares me in experiencing one of the worst storm/hurricane to hit the East Coast. At the same time, I am very happy that we are all safe and there is no damage to account for. However, the fear and uncertainties brought about by this experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

So, are we going back to NYC? Definitely! It's still my favorite go-to place. But, not soon. And next time, we will check the weather forecast around NYC, the nearby states and countries just to be sure.

Thank God we are home.

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07 November 2012

An Experience With Hurricane Sandy - Part 2

My cousin's place in Brooklyn was several blocks away from the waterfront. However, my cousin who has been in NY for the last 20+ years has never experienced worry and panic. This incoming hurricane was touted as the perfect storm, the one that would wreak havoc and casualties at its wake. True enough, a score of people in Haiti died because of Hurricane Sandy and the East Coast was bracing its tremendous and catastrophic impact on the highly populated NYC. We were already praying really hard that the communication lines and electrical supply would not be disrupted because it would be hard to keep tabs if we lose the power.

Some of my cousin's neighbors already evacuated the evening of 27th. They were probably scared and in search of higher grounds. The wind was furiously blowing. It was very cold with less rain but more of some serious wind punch. The sky was an ominous shade of dark gray even when it was only 6pm. And the streets were empty. My cousin had briefed us on the possibility of mandatory evacuation so we kept our luggages ready just in case we had to leave for higher grounds.

Projection of the travel path of Hurricane Sandy initially showed NYC as part of the entry of landfall. However, towards the end of the day and early morning of 28th, it had moved towards New Jersey's coastline. Gov. Cuomo. of NYC announced the suspension of all mass transit including buses on the 28th at exactly 7p.m.  My husband and daughter were still in Manhattan meeting with distant relatives and shopping for some stuff to bring home, not wary of the looming danger of the approaching hurricane.  Thank goodness they got home around 3 pm before the subway got congested. Another problem presented though, we were stuck in NYC! For how long, we really couldn't tell.

So, come 28 October evening around 8pm, with a gust of 80-mph (from 90-mph clocked earlier), Hurricane Sandy hit Atlantic City in New Jersey. The Frankenstorm whipped surge of water in the Jersey shores and other low-lying and near the water areas in NYC like Lower Manhattan, Battery Park, Long Island Sound.

In NYC, Lower Manhattan got inundated and subway stations were not spared prompting the disruption of electrical power lines in the area.  Some areas in Brooklyn experienced power outage too. Several blocks from my cousin's place were in the dark and I am very thankful that my cousin's block in the 65th St. were spared. Most grocery marts have empty shelves. We were lucky enough to salvage some bread and canned goods in the nearby Walgreens as it was still stocked with water, soda and other ready-to-eat food.

Aside from the storm, a fire broke-out in the neighborhood of Breezy Point in Queens, burning hundreds of properties down to the ground.  Most of the residents have already evacuated so the area turned out to be an empty, smoke-filled community.

Flights were cancelled for both international and domestic. La Guardia, JFK and Newark airports had been shut as runways became flooded. We were stuck in NYC because of Hurricane Sandy and I was not very happy about it.

The storm has passed. We checked out the neighborhood on 30 Oct. and thankful that aside from fallen trees, damaged cars and slight damage to properties; there were no casualties around the vicinity of my cousin's place. We saw part of the clear, blue sky peeping through the clouds on Tuesday morning. I am just happy that the hurdle through the Hurricane Sandy is over. However, people who lost their properties and probably even lost some of their loved ones in the hard-hit areas of New Jersey and other nearby states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy are still reeling up to this time.

(The pictures above were taken near by cousin's house in Brooklyn. We're glad it was just property damage and no report on lost life.)

--- to be continued ---

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06 November 2012

An Experience with Hurricane Sandy - Part 1

I have been traveling for a long time now. I have experienced getting bumped off, waiting on the boarding gate for a seat, sleeping in the airport with a child in tow in a far away land, getting denied boarding, and even missing a flight and having mishaps in hotel accommodations. I think I have experienced the common things most travelers experience in their travels once in their lives. However, nothing beats the experience you have with Mother Earth's fury. I am not exaggerating but I felt scared for our lives for the first time. This recent brush with Hurricane Sandy is something I will never, ever forget.

October 25th was our flight to NYC. As usual, no hiccups when we got there. I have been checking the weather forecast several days before we left Dubai so we would know what type of clothing to bring. I also heard of some weather disturbance in the Caribbean areas and little did I know that "that" particular "weather disturbance" was Hurricane Sandy in the making.

So, off we went to NYC. I told myself I deserved that weekend break because I had a month-long work-related stress to shake off my system. We were surprised how gloomy NYC was when we arrived on the 25th of October. We thought it was just because the Autumn season had set in. As soon as we arrived in my cousin's place in Brooklyn, I hit the snooze button and dozed. We went to Manhattan on the 26th to celebrate my cousin's birthday and check out stuff at nearby favorite hang-outs while nursing a terrible cough, colds and a recurring headache. I told myself, I had to at least make the most out of this short weekend getaway. I still didn't know there was a bigger problem to deal with in the coming days.

The news of Hurricane Sandy became very prominent on the 27th of October as it was also expected to collide with the wintry storm from the Western US. I only came to know about this when I heard some shop tellers in the nearby mart that they were being prepared for evacuation for the incoming hurricane. I was baffled and thought of the "weather disturbance" which recently brewed in the Caribbean areas. My cousin also confirmed about the incoming "monster" hurricane when the presiding priest in the mass told the congregation to take shelter on higher grounds and be careful because of the incoming hurricane - the hurricane that would soon be famously known as Sandy, the "perfect storm" or the "Frankenstorm."

I went home right away and turned the TV on. And most TV stations were talking about the big storm that was about to hit NYC the next day which was 28th of October. The projection puts New York in the path of destruction. It was expected to make landfall around the evening so everyone in the low-lying areas and near the waterways were requested to evacuate as a mandatory precaution. And as for us in Brooklyn where my cousin stayed, we have yet to find that out.

--- to be continued ---

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