The grateful soles

TRAVELLING soles cannot be denied.

2013 was another year of great adventure that took these soles across the globe to wander along unpaved roads, cobblestone streets, unbeaten paths and picturesque highways. The soles of this grateful soul were stomping with gratitude to the Universe for the opportunities to discover its creation. It’s for all of us and ready for the taking, all we have to do is say yes and take the step.

Last year, I got more than I wished for. Remember my vision board? Every year, I update it and add a couple of places I really want to visit, and I am glad to say that I made it to a few on the list -- Prague in the Czech Republic (listed in 2011), strolled Frogner Park in Oslo and see the first lady of Copenhagen -- the Little Mermaid, (both on my 2013 wish list). The unexpected pluses, which were not on my list but made it to, were nothing short of amazing.

Although Bangkok and Boracay are regular destinations, it is such a treat to see and experience new things. It was my first time to view Bangkok’s nightscape from a different point of view -- from two of the best rooftop bars in the city, the Red Sky of Centara Grand and The Speakeasy of Muse hotel. In Boracay, have you seen the two huge cement tablets of the Ten Commandments along the White Beach? And I thought I’ve seen everything along that stretch.

Just when I thought that there will be no long haul flights for me, my good friend Tenny A. offered to take me along on their family’s European sojourn. Another good friend, Des A., upon hearing the news, immediately planned an itinerary that will take me to another part of Europe.

It was good to revisit Paris and Rome. The familiar sites still gave me the first-timer’s thrill. I guess it will always be the same when you fall in love with these cities.

The spur of the moment side trip out of Rome was the first surprise. We drove to Florence and Pisa (I finally got to see the tower). A day is certainly not enough. I wished we could have stayed longer. Bucket listed Venice will have to be seen another day.

It was my first time in Madrid and it was not a sightseeing tour but a food trip and boy did I eat. I had the most amazing paellas in this city and got to taste the famous suckling pig of Restaurante Botin. Why am I not surprised that lechoneros are Pinoys? A must try in this place is the Gambas, it’s delicious!

Paris will always be charming for me, busier but still charming. It was more fun to explore more of the city with good friends this time.

Prague lists as one of my favorite cities. It is beautiful! The old town is oozing with culture and is navigable by foot, eating out is very affordable and the crystals in all its forms come a dime a dozen. I know for a fact that I will be back here.

Finally, I took Des’ offer to see the land of the Vikings after years of planning. I may have come at a time when the drop in temperature came too early in the season but it was a lovely visit still.

Here are the things I found out about Scandinavia: 1. Sorry but the Danish are not the happiest people in the planet (somehow even they can’t believe they are believed to be). The tourist counter at the airport, manned by (maybe) the very first locals you get to interact with, may spoil the entire image of the nation. A visit to the little mermaid might bring the smile back to your face like what fairy tales usually does for us; 2. Sweden must have the perfect human specimen in the planet, no wonder they make ideal vampire characters. The Swedes seem to be the most charming of the Viking race. And oh, the place is very picturesque, the meatballs are large and tasty, and shopping at H&M is cheaper; 3. Oslo is the most expensive city in Scandinavia; and 4. For me, summer is the best time to see these countries. I will be back.

I do know that 2014 holds more traveling for me. When and where it’s going to be, these grateful soles will be ready. I do want to see the rest of the places on my vision board, and the Sakura in Kyoto seems to be calling me the loudest.

I am grateful that I am living a dream. Thank you Universe. Thank you Tenny and Des, Nico, Noemi and

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