A first-timer’s guide: Paris

“Aux Champs-Elysées, aux Champs-Elysées. Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit. Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées”

Now tell me who gets that giddy feeling whenever you hear that song. Ahh yes, Paris. The city of love, the coffee shop-filled streets and museums where maybe you’d have the slightest chance of meeting a fine young man with the same interests as yours. Paris does sound like a dream or an indie film. This city was not really one of my priorities or top places to go to before I die, but I was still very lucky to have visited Paris. It surprised me. Is it really how it’s portrayed in movies? How can you survive the city of wonder and art? What places can you go to? I will run you through how I managed to go around Paris.

1. Getting to Paris

You can get to Paris two ways, either via plane or the Eurostar. Most people take the Eurostar coming from London and arrive at Gare du Nord station. Usually,  people only do daytrips to Paris when they come from London. If you’ll be coming in by plane, Paris’ airport is Charles de Gaulle (CDG). Outside the airport and train station, you can find cabs and local metro trains and buses to reach your hotel or wherever you are planning to go.

2. Uber exists in Paris!

If you’re familiar with Uber and how to use it, I am glad to tell you that Uber exists in Paris. I was the only one really happy about this because cmon, you all know how convenient Uber is. They only use the credit card option though. If you’re more than four people riding an Uber please choose the van. Quite surprised with their Uber that I actually felt like a VIP. The cars were very clean and looked business-class, the drivers were quite nice and they were all wearing suits.

3. Where to Stay

When you’re in Paris, people would recommend actually living the Parisian life. We chose to get an AirBnb during our stay. When choosing your AirBnb, make sure the flat you choose is accessible to a metro station or if possible, walking-distance to some of the places you’re visiting. Also very important note, if you’re traveling with an elderly or you are bringing along huge luggages with you, please choose a flat with an elevator or at least located in the second floor. Most of the apartments in Paris do not have an elevator. Luckily, we found one with an elevator. It would also help if you’re near restaurants or groceries. We managed to cook our own breakfast everyday because there’s a grocery nearby, that’s if your Airbnb has a kitchen. There are also cheap hotels in Paris, but we wanted to experience the real parisian way of living as to why we resorted to getting an Airbnb.

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4. Plan ahead and download apps

Just like my tip from my London post. It would save you a lot of time by planning ahead and downloading apps. What do I mean by planning ahead? List down important addresses, places to go to and how to get there. List down the metro stations you will be going to so you won’t take up too much time asking ‘where is this’ and ‘where is that’. Download offline maps of Paris, it would be very useful. Maps are very important. If you can get a hold of them in tourist spots, please do. Here are some apps I downloaded that helped me:

Paris Metro & Paris App by Triposo

The Paris Metro app is very useful, it can plan your routes for you because sometimes you have to take two trains to get to your destination. The Paris app by Triposo is another helpful app most especially if you’re there on a budget. It lists down hotels nearby you could stay at, restaurants and attractions.

5. Transportation in Paris

Just like London, the city of Paris also has different modes of transportation. The easiest and most convenient way to go around is by using the paris metro. Riding the metro is quite easy, but first let me teach you how to get tickets. There are two kinds of ticket machines now, there’s the old one with the rollers used for navigation and the other one is touch-screen. The touch screen machine is easier because some of the old ones are not in english. Simply point to get tickets and you can choose the option of getting a single ticket, a carnet or a day pass. I would personally recommend getting a carnet. A carnet is a set of 10 tickets. It was much more convenient for us buying a carnet. It will indicate on the screen the amount of money to be paid. Oh and some machines don’t accept bills and some do, so better check it first before buying tickets. These tickets can also be used in buses.

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Now, riding the metro. Simply insert your ticket on the gate to enter the metro. Please keep your ticket because in some stations, you will need it to go out. Same concept as the London Tube, but the routes are determined by the name of both ends. For example, from La Tour Mabourg (Purple line) I want to go to Opéra, I will then take Line number 8 going to the direction of Créteil Pointe Du Lac (the right END of Line 8). On the fourth stop, I will go down to Opéra station and follow the Sortie sign which means the Exit. It’s really quite easy when you get the hang of it, you just need to know which side you’re going to. Also a warning, there are some gates that slam so hard when it closes so please be careful.

6. Be careful of pickpockets

This is like legit real when I say be careful. Even if you live somewhere where pickpocketing is quite normal and avoidable, don’t take this for granted. Pickpocketing and different kinds of modus-operandi are widespread in Paris. I personally have experienced an attempt when I was in the metro of Champs-Elysées. I was about to go through the gates when I heard my bagpack zipper open. I quickly glanced behind me and there was a couple dressed as tourists. I looked at him as he glanced away in embarrassment. He was using a brochure to hide his hand while he was opening my bag. They didn’t get on the train later on. Good thing nothing got taken and I heard it as soon as he opened it. There are also a lot more in the Eiffle Tower area. Sometimes people will approach you asking for donations for a charity. I experienced this and minutes later I saw her running with others when the police arrived. So basically, you really have to be mindful of your things in Paris and be alert. Since the number of tourists going in and out Paris are…. a lot, they have more guts to steal and they will do everything if you’re not observant.

7. Are people really rude?

I don’t know about others but my experience in interacting with Parisian people was quite okay. There is this connotation that people in Paris are rude. I have never experienced that on my stay in Paris. Heck, I even experienced being kicked off a table by a Swedish woman in Norway, but more on that next time. I noticed though, that Parisian people are always busy. Maybe that’s why people say that they’re “unapproachable” but to be honest, it is quite understandable. Everyone needs to make a living and I have observed that Parisian people are hard-working people. They take their jobs seriously and they don’t mess around. Well, there may be a few rude or lazy people you can encounter, but every country has one. Sometimes, there are rude tourists too. So when you interact with french people, try to ask nicely and don’t be scared. Always greet with a “Bonjour” and say “Merci beaucoup” and you’ll be good to go.

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Crepes near the Eiffle Tower. Please buy from this man they have really good crepes and i’ve tried a lot. This one is still the best.

8. Where to go

Eiffel Tower
Can’t say you’ve been to Paris without seeing the Eiffle Tower. Best time to go and take beautiful pictures is in the morning. Take some of your time to wake up early and go there about 7-9am and it will not be that crowded. Good thing our Airbnb is walking-distance away. You can get tickets to go up the tower. There’s a restaurant on the first level, Jules Verne by Alain Ducasse, but it may be quite expensive (Enderun represent!). There are also quaint cafes near the Eiffle tower so you can grab coffee and a croissant while fawning over the view.

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Notre Dame
I find Notre Dame magnificent since one of my favorite disney movies is the “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. You can buy tickets to go inside and go up to check the view and there are days when they have masses.

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Louvre Museum
The museum on its own is picture-worthy. I would love to chill outside and have a walk around where it’s less crowded. Once you get inside, be mindful of rowdy tourists. Minus the tourists, the inside is just as magnificent. When you get to the room with the Mona Lisa in it, you’ll be surprised and imagine that it was taken from an “expectations vs. reality” post. I managed to squeeze my way through the front and took a quick snap. Hey, just like concert moshpits ain’t it?

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Cruise on the River Seine
Nothing could be more romantic than cruising on the Seine river with your loved one. It screams Paris so much. There are cruises at night too and I believe it would be much more prettier especially if you see the Eiffle tower sparkling at night.

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Jardin du Palais Royal
If you’re a fan of pretty parks and want picturesque areas for your photos, Jardin du Palais Royal is for you. It was quite a bit of a challenge looking for the entrance though haha. It’s walking distance from the Louvre Museum. There are benches here and it’s a quiet place where you can just chill and let your surroundings sink-in.

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Arc de Triomphe
When you go to Champs Elysées,  no doubt you’d already see Arc de Triomph. Please be careful when taking your photos in the middle of the road with the Arc on the background. Please do it in respective spots and don’t just cross the road and pose. If you want to go up the Arc du Triomphe to get a view of Paris, that is also possible.

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Place de la Concorde
If any of you have seen “The Devil Wears Prada” movie, you might be familiar with Place de la Concorde where Anne Hathaway throws her phone in the fountain as she quits her A-list life. Place de la Concorde is also a beautiful area with monuments and cute cafes.

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Other places you can check out:
* Sacre Coeur- Gorgeous view up top and an alley of souvenir shops down below where you can bargain for a very cheap price.
* Palais Garnier-  An Opera house located in Rue Scribe. Marvelous architecture inside the opera house it will look like you stepped into the set of “The Phantom of the Opera”
* Paris Catacombs- If you are a fan of adventure and eerie places, this might spark your interest. Not for the claustrophobic though.
* Shopping at Champs-Elysées- A street filled with the world’s most popular brands. Be careful of pick pockets in this area.
* Spend a day at Palace of Versailles- Spend a whole day here because it is in the outskirts of Paris. A very beautiful garden and palace. Check their site for the fountain show schedule.

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9. Eat your heart out

Other than art and the Eiffle tower, Paris takes pride in their food. Having to go in a culinary school with the practices of the Alain Ducasse Group, I was most ecstatic to try actual french food because i’ve been studying it for years now. If you can shell out a bit of money and time, try eating at a fine-dining restaurant. An example would be Jules Verne on the Eiffle tower. Make sure you make reservations when eating at these restaurants. When you’re a “cheap-asian” like me, there are affordable cafes around the area that still provide good food. Don’t forget to buy crepes. There are a lot of them in Paris but sadly there was only one that I really loved. Try the famous French Onion Soup and the Croque Madame. I also did not forget to try a Truffle Cream Pasta and Risotto in Paris, and I did not expect that I was truly missing a lot. They were generous with the truffles and the cheese and take their food to the next level. If you’re really lucky, you’d find these gems in the streets of Paris that serve good food.

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All in all, Paris was beautiful. The architecture, the art and most especially the food. All of this are based on my experiences. If you’re planning to go to Paris, do not be scared to talk to people. At the very least you tried. Be careful of pickpockets too. Enjoy your time in Paris! Au revoir!

Paris Currency: € Euro
Cleanliness: ✮✮
Accessibility: 
Friendly People: ✮✮✮
Food: ✮✮✮✮

A first-timer’s guide: London

Visiting a country for the first time can get a little scary and I am very thankful for the little preparation I have done before the big adventure. I am a first-timer to London myself and I will share how I “winged” it in the British country if ever you’re going there for the first time as a tourist.

1. Flights and getting to London

Coming from the Philippines, you can imagine how far the UK is. I’m really not a fan of connecting flights, so we booked a direct flight instead. A direct flight from Manila to London Heathrow Airport will take about 14 hours. That’s if you can manage to stay inside a plane for 14 hours lol but do not fret! there are also connecting flights from Manila to London. Emirates has one I think but since we wanted to get there fast, we booked a direct flight with Philippine Airlines. Keep in mind though, when you book returning flights with the same airline, remember your point of entry. Our point of entry for our Eurotrip was in London, which means we go back to London for our flight back to the Philippines because we booked a returning ticket with the same airline. If ever you’ll be coming from another european country, there’s the option of taking the Eurostar train to London or going to London via Plane. If you’re taking a plane to London, you can choose British Airways or perhaps you’d like a more chill journey (but longer), then take the Eurostar. There are trains going in and out of London. Just make sure you have the right visa though.

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2. Where to stay

You have lots of options in London when it comes to lodging. You have three options. Hotels, Airbnb, Backpacker Hostels. Of course, when we say Hotel it’s not always cheap, but you get the luxury of staying in comfy beds, clean bathrooms, room service and sometimes free breakfast. I would most definitely recommend staying with Airbnb. Sometimes I could find flats/houses that are much cheaper than hotels and it has like a room or two, a common room and your own kitchen. If you’re rather adventurous and on a very tight budget, there are also Backpacker Hostels in London. You’ll surely meet new friends there. I did consider though, that our lodging should be in Central London and quite near train stations. So we got a hotel near Regent’s Park. Your life would be easier if you consider these things.

3. Plan ahead and download apps 

Thank god for the advancing technology right!? Believe me when I say your phone will be your bestfriend in another country. Before going to the UK, I have downloaded offline maps of London and apps for the tube (train). I also did my own research and written down notes on how to get from Point A to Point B. What station is nearest and where to go down. Trust me, Google Maps will help you. But if ever you don’t have data, make sure you have your offline map on your phone. If you are fond of another language, you can also download english translator apps. List down things you’re going to do, directions and addresses. You’ll be glad you did so. I used this offline map called Ulmon. It also has a London Tube map and recommendations for activities.


4. Transportation in London

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Getting around London is quite easy. There are cabs, buses and trains you can catch. The tube is London’s underground train system and it will be the most convenient way for you to go around. You need to use an Oyster card for both the tube and the buses. There is also the option of taking a taxi but it’s ~*expensive*~. Well, everything in London is expensive lol. So let me teach you how to use the London tube.

  • Buy an oyster card: Since it’s your first time, you might get intimidated by the self-automated machines. It’s rather easy to navigate. You can buy new oyster cards from there as well as paper tickets for a whole day use. Take note of the Zones when buying paper tickets. Most attractions are usually included in Zones 1 and 2. Don’t worry, you can ask questions and assistance, there are people there ready to help. Some stations have ticket offices too if you don’t like navigating through a machine.
  • Reloading your oyster card: On the ticket machines, there’s a spot there where you touch your card and it reads how much credit you have. If you want to top-up (add credit) you can simply choose that option. Choose the amount you want to add, slide in the coins/bills/credit card, and then touch your oyster card again to the reader to add the credit (It will indicate in the screen). Keep in mind that some machines only accepts coins and credit cards, some don’t accept bills.
  • Getting inside: Simply touch your oyster card on the reader so the gates will open. If ever you’re out of credit, it will not open up.
  • Knowing what train to ride: Here’s the London Underground Map
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    You will be guided by the colors of the line. Once you know what line/train you will be using, all that’s left to know is which train goes in that direction. It will be either north, south, east, west bound. Once you go inside, every train line has two different directions. Make sure you enter the right platform. You can also check the big maps there before entering a platform. I’m gonna give you an example on how to ride the train. From Warren Street Station, I want to go to Victoria Station.  If you can see, there are two train lines stopping in Warren Street Station. One is the Northern Line (Black line) and the other one is the Victoria Line (Light Blue line). I need to ride the Victoria Line (Light Blue line) going South bound to go to Victoria Station. I will then go to the right platform and wait for the train. Inside the train you could also see the stops so you are aware when you’re getting down. As you arrive to your destination, you can follow “Way Out” signs to exit the station. You will need your oyster card or tickets again to exit the station.
  • Buses: You can also use your oyster card on buses. Every bus stop has a timetable and a list of buses stopping at that area. That’s why it’s very helpful if you check what bus you’ll be riding before hand. Same procedure with touching your oyster card on the reader next to the driver. Though, some buses have readers on the other entrance at the back of the bus. If you have a paper ticket, kindly show it to the driver.

 

5. What to do in London

Harry Potter Studio
If you are a fan of the magical world of Harry Potter,  then this is the place for you. I was giddy when we went here. Seeing the set and the stuff they used for filming were there. It truly is a heaven for Harry Potter fans. You may purchase tickets there if you’re going on your own. If you’re coming from central london, I would recommend joining a tour. You can google tours that go to Harry Potter Studio. Great thing about tours is that transportation is included. You get to ride the bus together with other tourists and the guide would give out the tickets on-board. No more hassle of lining-up in the ticket office! If you’re planning to buy souvenirs from the studio, let me warn you that they’re rather expensive. Well, it’s Harry Potter.

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Portobello Market/Notting Hill
If you have a knick for antiques or just want to visit the site where they filmed “Notting Hill”, Portobello is an interesting place to be. You can also find cheap souvenirs there. When I say cheap, it’s like the “divisoria” type items that are sold £15 for 3 items and the like. If you want a food journey, Portobello Market has a wide selection of food stalls, cafés and restaurants. You can check out my Portobello Blog <– here

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Westminster/London Eye
Seeing Westminster will give you quite the London feel. You will find the Big Ben there and the Westminster Abbey, so don’t forget to take pictures, for it will be your one true proof of London hahaha. When you get to Westminster, you will already see the London Eye by the bridge. It’s quite a near walk if you want to get a closer look, or even ride the London Eye. There will be a long line though.

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Sherlock Holmes Museum
Cue Sherlock theme lol but if you are an ultimate fan of Sherlock, I know this will be on your go-to list. Just having your photo at the facade in Baker Street is already an achievement. They also have guided tours if you want to go up the apartment. You can purchase tickets inside the souvenir shop.

The London Beatles Store/Abbey Road 
That popular pedestrian lane would most definitely ring a bell to Beatles fans. Abbey road is just a walk away from The London Beatles store in Baker Street which just beside the Sherlock Museum. They can provide you with a map if you’d like to visit Abbey Road to get your picture taken while crossing. But please be mindful of the cars passing by, it’s still a normal street after all. Don’t make people wait.

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Windsor Castle
This place is quite far from Central London. I would also recommend getting a tour for this so you won’t have problems with transportation and tickets anymore. Sometimes you can even catch the queen in Windsor Castle! I’ve learned that whenever the flag is up, it means that the queen is there. It’s really a marvelous place with all the great structure. There are also guards in red uniform, marching around the area. Please respect them and don’t poke them or something, they’re doing their jobs in peace.

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Roman Baths
I would still recommend getting a tour for this. We got a packaged tour for Windsor, the Roman Baths and Stone Henge. Well,  that’s if you don’t mind going on and off a bus and feel like being rushed. The Roman Baths can get crowded and it’s quite hot in this area. Be careful of the slippery rocks though so you don’t slip. You’ll find many performers outside the baths which was more enjoyable for me. I’d rather chill outside next to the abbey though. It was already like being in Italy.

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Stone Henge
Well, what can I say. It’s a bunch of rocks in an open field lol but still it’s a piece of history though. Once you get to the entrance, you’ll get to ride a bus to the actual stonehenge. To be honest though, I was more fascinated by the vast open field around it. I wanted to roll over the fields and just lay there.

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6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS. People in London are rather nice. Well, most of them. They would be willing to help you out with anything. Just say thank you afterwards 🙂

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So yea, these are some of my experiences in The Great Britain. I hope I helped you somehow. London is a very clean city, so please follow the rules and don’t throw rubbish everywhere. Seat belts are very important! Even in taxis. Don’t forget to wear them. Enjoy your first ever UK trip! You will have loads of fun. If ever I forgot some more places to go to. Please comment them down below. Thanks!

Currency in the UK: £ GBP (Great British Pound)

 

A Walk In Portobello Market

I’ve just been so lucky to have the opportunity to visit London. If you ever visit the Great Britain, set aside some of your time to visit Portobello Market. People with the knack for vintage cameras, antique finds and other cool things, this is the place for you.

Portobello is quite famous because of the film, “Notting Hill” and yes you will find the bookshop there. The first photo is the place used in the film, but the actual bookshop is the one on the second photo.

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The road of Portobello is full of antique sellers and great finds. I actually wanted to buy stuff but my problem was putting them in my bag and bringing it along to three more countries before I go back home to Manila. So I just resorted into taking photos. There were hard-to-find vinyl records, second-hand clothing, paintings from local artists, vintage teacups and pots, vintage cameras and silverware.

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Portobello Market is not only known for antiques, you can also have a happy tummy trying out the food stalls in the area. I was quite giddy when I saw the fresh produce that they sell in Portobello. I wish we could have that in the Philippines too. The vegetables and fruits were top notch fresh. We bought strawberries before leaving and they were so good!

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So “Notting Hill” fans, if ever you’re in London don’t forget to visit Portobello, or even if you’re not a fan and you just want a cool place to buy (cheap) souvenirs and other trinkets, you should definitely go to Portobello!

A visit to the Deparo Dog Shelter

Before having my birthday, I was already planning on donating to a charity. I even considered those online sites where they let you donate your birthday to one of their charities but I just couldn’t find the one I was looking for. My birthday then had passed and I was given support by my family of my advocacy. I care deeply for dogs as to why I looked for dog pounds/shelters to donate to until I found out about the Deparo Shelter.

I joined facebook groups about Philippine Animal Welfare and learned that some rescued dogs were taken to the Deparo Shelter and thus, finding the shelter I would donate to.

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I bought 2 sacks (20kg each) of dog food, 5 food bowls, 2 Shampoos and 1 e-collar for the shelter (didn’t get to take a picture of it). We did have quite a hard time looking for the shelter. We were already going back and forth but thanks to Ms. Sonia for the help and Ate Linda for meeting us, we reached the place.

We were given a chance to visit the furbabies inside and I did not miss the opportunity of sharing my experience in meeting the doggies. As we were walking to the compound, we could already hear the dogs barking in excitement. I was guessing it’s not everyday they see visitors, and we were welcomed with wagging tails.

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This fella right here was the most jolly of them all

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Ate Linda was the caretaker of the shelter. She is taking care of 30 dogs as of now, and it was nice to know that most of them run freely around the area unlike dog pounds where the dogs are caged all the time. There were a few dogs caged too but these dogs are still adapting to the environment and we don’t want them fighting don’t we?

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This one below is “Scout”. He was found in the Scout area and was rescued all of his fur gone. I found out about him when one person reported his state. I also donated for his vetting and I am really glad the he is safe now.

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Scout

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I was told that this little baby right here was found near a drainage

It’s sad that there are people who abuse animals for fun also when people abandon their dogs just because they are already of no use to them. This is why people should learn about responsible pet ownership. Every dog in Deparo has their own story, all of these stories are quite heartbreaking.

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This poor thing right here was treated unfairly by people as to why she lost her right eye

The furbabies of Deparo are dogs that were rescued by Mr. Ronald De Castro. All of these babies are up for adoption and I encourage people to adopt instead of buying because of the growing number of strays in the country. Again, they are still capable of the same love as pets you get from shops.

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My short visit to Deparo was still a great experience. All of the people who helped these dogs deserve all the good things in this world. Thank you for building a shelter and giving them another chance in life. They would love it if you visit their furbabies too. If you are interested in adopting a dog please do not hesitate to check their group and contact them on facebook. They also accept donations whether be it monetary or in kind. Please help the dogs of Deparo find their forever homes.

DEPARO SHELTER PROJECT

Other Animal Welfare groups:

DAWG (Dogs Are Worth Gold)

PAWA (Philippine Animal Welfare Association)

Hope For The Strays PH

 

Thank you for having me! Until next time!

Lost Things We Can’t Replace

I’m currently reading Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto to kill time on this boring summer. Another thing I did to ‘kill time’ is to go rummaging through my parents’ old stuff. I found casette tapes such as Air Supply and The Carpenters, but I got giddy when I saw a Beatles tape. It was really dusty and I was afraid it won’t play anymore. I tried playing it and hallelujah it still works! but the quality of course wasn’t that good anymore. I also loaded my 2nd film to my Diana though i’m still looking for a place to get my last film printed.

I also rummaged through my stuff and found old (well not so old) photos. The first one (top left) was when I met wrestler Mick Foley, next is just a random baby picture and then the two at the bottom are shots from my film camera when WWE raw came to Manila.

I also stumbled upon my diaries and journals from 2nd grade til sophomore high school. I was laughing so hard at some of my entries, I got nostalgic after that. I promise to read them to you someday in a vlog. 

I’ve been hunting for good music for weeks and found Royal Teeth and General Ghost. They are A+ bands. I listened to Royal Teeth’s “Wild” and it is a perfect summer jam. I got to check out General Ghost’s If Then EP and immediately loved it.

 
[cr: Royal Teeth & General Ghost]

Check them out guys!


Title: “Wild”– Royal Teeth

This Song Saved My Life

What a great way to start off the year with Simple Plan’s concert. It’s the 2nd time that I’ve seen them. The first one was with New Found Glory. Me and Jackie got media coverage passes which also allowed me to use my SLR. That was my camera’s first actual battle. Singing to their songs, Jumping and taking pictures at the same time was hard. Good thing I was at the barricade on the left side and believe me my camera was really heavy but It was all worth it. I had fun. It was also my last concert on being 17 lol my birthday is next week omfg

Here are the shots I took. I’m kinda proud of them.

I gotta say that Simple Plan also played a big role in my life. Their songs helped me too. I love this band for trying to connect to their fans with their songs. The second time around, they still know how to put up an awesome concert.