MY TOP 3 MUST-SEE PLACES IN FRANCE

ENCHANTING PARIS

 

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Photo from: http://www.globaltraveler.com

A modern city hidden behind beautiful fronts and rich history, Paris is undeniably the top must-see places in France. Known as the City of Lights, a trip to this vibrant metropolis would bring an enthralling experience that will last an eternity to one’s memory.

One will be short for words to describe this magnificent city, but just visiting the place itself will take every visitor to the kind of adventure he wants to be part of. One can start immersing in the city’s iconic landmarks by taking a walk along Champ Elysees and be mesmerized by the golden glow cast upon by the rays of the sun kissing the old buildings that borders the Seine River. Afterwards, savor the staggering city panorama while crossing over the bridge and breathe that everyday air that will transform that very brief moment into a magical experience.

Get lost in the Louvre, the world’s best are museum and home to the famed Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Take a tour at Quasimodo’s home, the Notre Dame Cathedral and be amazed by the ornate cultural values and the opulent architecture and interesting shops that will take your breath away.

Take a dinner and fill yourself with gusto over a cornucopia of French cuisine and cap your night with an evening ascent and a nighttime kiss atop the Eiffel Tower amid the twinkling of million lights.

Worthy of its reputation as the Most Romantic City on Earth, Paris is a real ocean of enchanting wonders that will surely cast a romantic spell to every traveler.

 

SACRED LOURDES

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Photo from: http://opentravel.com

 Lourdes, France, a bustling Pyrenees village is also a must-see place in France which is known to be a sacred landmark best known for the famous sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This second most popular tourism city in France has been attracting millions of pilgrims from all over the world.

 

A pilgrim, seeking cure from all ills are primarily drawn to the cave where the sightings of the Virgin Mary occurred. The Romanesque-style cathedral built to watch over these caves, called the Basilica of the Rosary, is one of the largest in the world is an outstanding piece of architectural wonder. One will not fail to be awed by the excellent gothic fortified chateau of the Lourdes’ Castle and Pyrenean Museum, while scaling the massive winding ramp of the basilica.

 

For those traveler who has knack for adventure, Lourdes is a perfect destination as one can do numerous outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, mountain biking and more. One can also take a few-minute drive to the charming little spa village of Argeles-Gazost which also features a casino.

 

HISTORIC NIMES

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Photo from: http://opentravel.com

Although not a standard entry on the list of France’s top tourist attractions, Nimes is deserving of a spot. The town thought to be the link between the regions of Provence and Laguendoc, has been heavily influenced by Rome. Its main attraction, the Nimes Arena is a Roman amphitheatre, built around 70 AD, is looking identical to the majestic Collosseum in Rome.
Probably, the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world, Nimes Arena is gaining popularity as a tourist attraction as its featured interactive audio guide and some detailed exhibit really brings the experience to life giving an impression of what it would have been like to be a Roman spectator in the arena.
There are also several museums in the town including the Musee d’Art Comtemporain displaying Modern French and Western European Arts. One can also savor the town’s Roman influence through the Maison Caree, a stunning temple noted for its equal proportions and was used by Napoleon as the template for the Church of the Madeleine in Paris.
Apart from its historic significant, being a fantastic site for learning world history, Nimes has a vibrant nightlife with bars and clubs which party long into the night. It also has numerous restaurants serving delectable regional cuisines.

 

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The Amazing Britania!

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To experience the amazing gems that is Britania Islands, one has to travel a long way to San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. Consisting of an assemblage of of islets, sandbars and beautiful rock formations amid  crytal-clear waters and lined by a carpet of sand of varying textures and colors, these group of nature’s gem dotting the shores of Barangay Britania, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur is gaining popularity and has now been a popular inclusion to the itinerary of tourists who want to have  taste of the magnet of these nature’s wonder.

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The fishing village to which these islets are located is said to be originally called Alepanto.   Later, it was said to be renamed “Bretania” by San Agustin’s former mayor Eufemio Darunday because of the resemblance of this island and beach formation to that of Great Britain. Later, the spelling was changed to Britania.

 

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Last August…

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Magnificent Tinuy-an Falls!

Touted as the “Niagra of the Philippines”, Tinuy-an Falls is said to be the widest waterfall in the country with its three-levels of white water curtain cascading 95 feet wide and 55 meters high. It is also said that every morning, you can see a rainbow between 9:00 to 11:00 a.m..

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Located at Burboanan, Bislig, Surigao del Sur, Tinuy-an Falls is really a far ride from Davao City. My first romance with this magnificent waterfall dated back over two years ago, when a some of friends  from my previous workplace invited me for a road trip.  It was the first time for all four of us to travel in Surigao del Sur and the bits of information we had were taken from the quick search in the internet I did the night before, since I was informed of the trip only a few hours away from departure. It was already late at night when I realized that none of us know the exact way, and we are scheduled to leave Davao City by 4:00 a.m. of the following day. All we know is that Tinuy-an Falls in located in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.

 

Armed with a knack for adventure, we went on with our trip. All the while, we thought that to reach Surigao del Sur, we have to travel as far as Butuan City, where we could take a turn prior to reaching the city proper.

 

On our way, upon reaching Mawab area, we felt our stomachs already showing signs of hunger, so we decided that we will stop at the nearest roadside cafeteria, however we didn’t find a decent cafeteria that suits to our liking, until we reached San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. We saw the sign of the local food chain  Jollibee, so we decided to take our breakfast there. However, upon reaching rotunda at San Francisco proper, we missed our turn going to Jollibee as the road signs were somewhat vague, so we had to take a few more turns before finally navigating towards Jollibee. We were already feeling a little impatient driven by hunger, but luckily enough, it was during those few  turns around the rotunda when I saw the road sign TO BISLIG. 

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After making several inquiries, we found out that indeed, the supposed direction we are heading to is the wrong one. So, we headed to where the road sign say TO BISLIG. We practically had no idea where is Bislig and where is Tinuy-an Falls, which made our travel arduous at times. We had to make several quick stops to ask for directions until finally reaching our destination.

 

We all forgot about our struggles during the long travel when were greeted by such magnificent view. All of us could only agree that Tinuy-an Falls was all worth the travel. It was such an experience cooling ourselves in the refreshing waters of Tinuy-an Falls.

 

Someone recently warned me against taking a splunge in the waters of Tinuya-an Falls as possible run-off from the mining activities in Compostella Valley may have seeped through Tinuy-an’s water source. If this information is true, it would be very tragic to lose such magnificent gift of nature to yet again, another greedy human activities. I hoped that efforts will be made by authorities in the local and national government agencies to verify this information and possibly would do some mitigating measures to preserve this natural wonder.

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The Amazing Britania!

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To experience the amazing gems that is Britania Islands, one has to travel a long way to San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. Consisting of an assemblage of of islets, sandbars and beautiful rock formations amid  crytal-clear waters and lined by a carpet of sand of varying textures and colors, these group of nature’s gem dotting the shores of Barangay Britania, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur is gaining popularity and has now been a popular inclusion to the itinerary of tourists who want to have  taste of the magnet of these nature’s wonder.

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The fishing village to which these islets are located is said to be originally called Alepanto.   Later, it was said to be renamed “Bretania” by San Agustin’s former mayor Eufemio Darunday because of the resemblance of this island and beach formation to that of Great Britain. Later, the spelling was changed to Britania.

 

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Last August 17, 2013, together with a bunch of friends, went off from Davao City in order to experience the beauty of these islets. I have been bugging these friends for the longest time for this travel, but we somehow were unable to synchronize our schedules for the trip. But on that weekend, we somehow manage to sneak into our timetables this long-planned trip. It was a purposeful trip, other than the Britania experience because Elden, a friend of ours from Roxas City, Capiz,  came to experience Kadayawan Festival in Davao City and we found it timely to schedule the trip for him to also explore other beautiful tourist destinations in Mindanao, and also because this trip also served as a road test for the newly-acquired vehicle of our friends Joel and Charito, whom we fondly called Mommy and Daddy.

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Enjoying the picturesque “Naked Island”, which is technically a sandbar that stretches and shrinks in size depending on the tide. (Our resort manager told me that this sandbar actually vanished for a couple of days after Typhoon Pablo rummaged the area late in 2012)

 

 

So, after as taste of the merriment of  the Indak-indak sa Kadalanan all eleven of us took off at around 2:00 p.m.. With the exception of Roy and myself, all are travelling for the first time in Britania. This trip was the second time for Roy and my sixth.

With a quick stopover at Barangay New Sibonga in Nabunturan to have a taste of the famous “bibingka” and other delicacies, we reached our resort, the Mc Arthur’s place at around 8:00 p.m. amid the pouring rain. 

After settling in our room, we have a very delicious dinner consisting of Sweet and Spicy Lambay (blue crabs), Steamed Alimango (mud crabs) in Butter and Garlic, Kinilaw na Malasugue (Blue Marlin Ceviche) , Tinolang Imbao (mangrove clam) and a sampler of Steamed and Adobong Lambis (spider conch). It was truly a gastronomic delight that we feasted upon, and we capped the evening with our favorite rhum while trying out our singing prowess over a videoke machine.

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from left to right: Roy, Elden, Dion, Ms. Annie, JB, myself, Mommy Cha, Stefan, Daddy Bong, Archie and EQ (seated) taking  pose at a tattered structure at Hagonoy Islet

 

 

As it was still drizzling, we decided to retire early that night in preparation for a very early island tour we planned the next day. I woke up at around 4:00 o’clock in the morning and decided to explore the resort. Although it was my sixth time in Britania, it was my first time staying overnight at Mc Arthur’s place, as the other times, we stayed at another resort in Liangga, as most of the time, it was already late for travel, and instead we travel very early in the morning at Mc Arthur’s Place for the island tour.

I was greeted by the gush of a cold morning wind as I opened the door. It got me a little worried as the weather could be quite unpredictable and we might not be able to pursue with our planned island hopping if the wind would continue to be strong by sunrise.

I was quite surprise to see the resort staff already starting the day very early. Some are busy tidying up the bamboo cottages and some are about as busy in the kitchen. After a quick walk around the resort, I settled myself in one of the bamboo cottages and one of the resort staff came in with a pipping cup  of coffee, which was a really refreshing start on such a cold morning.

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Elden doing the “ballerina jump” at Hagonoy Islet

 

 

We thought that we had a good deal with the Barkada Room we got at Mc Arthur’s Place. The room consists of double-decked beds that can accommodate up to 14 persons and we are charged PhP 2,000.00 only. But I learned from the resort staff that the room accommodation also include  breakfast for all of us consisting of fried rice, fried egg, crispy danggit and a cup of coffee. Really, it was the best deal!

 

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Roy and Dion trying on their jumping skills as I took their pictures at the Naked Island

 

 

At around 6:00 a.m., we boarded our boat for the island hopping experience on Britania’s premier quartet islands: The Naked Island, Hagonoy Island, Boslon Island and Hiyor-Hiyoran Island, each having distinct character. Our boatman, Felix and his assistant expertly maneuvered our boat to these islands and have us awed and amazed by these beautiful creation of nature.  We had most of these islands to ourselves as we were the first group out for that day, so we had much time to marvel on the beauty of these islets and enjoy dipping in its crystal clear waters and listening to the wonderful music played by the waves hitting the the glistening shore. 

The island tour normally cost PhP 1,500.00, but the resort manager told me that we will be charged only PhP 1,300.00. 

As we went back to our resort, our lunch already await us on which we feasted upon, after which, we boarded our vehicles for our next destination: The Enchanted River of Hinatuan, which I will be writing about soon.

 

I am glad to learn that the local government of San Agustin took effort to preserve the pristine environment of these islets and did not allow private entities to have a claim over any of these islet. Overnight stays in the islets is also discourage to maintain the serenity and to avoid littering.

 

As I’ve said, it was already my sixth time in Britania, but the panoramic view of these almost-submerged beauties never fail to amaze me! More than the bragging rights and capturing photos for Facebook profiles, it was the serenity and raw beauty of the islets that captured me. It was as if I am captivated by a magical spell, that I am always drawn to go back over and over again. I promise to be back and again be enamored by amazing these beauties.

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…joyously jumping along the coast Hiyor-hiyoral Islet. A perfect way to cap the islet-hopping experience in these captivating beauties of  the Amazing Britania Group!