Vienna: The Capital of Classical

I pleasantly enjoyed my recent trip to Vienna despite the last minute changes in plan. I wasn’t prepared to come alone but I still decided to go because I don’t want the money that I’ve already spent for all the tickets to go down the drain. Besides, it is one of the cities in Europe that I have always wanted to see and I am so glad I did. Vienna has nothing to show the world but grandeur in its truest sense. I spent only three nights in this magnificent Austrian capital and I kept wanting more. I was able to do the essentials and that’s what’s important.

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2011 – The Year of Travel

Year 2011 treated me very well. It was indeed the year of travel. Come to think of it, I was home for only about a quarter of the entire year. So how did it end? Just how I imagined it… TRAVELING!

The recent holidays have been my most memorable ever. Aside from the fact that it was my first time to be away from family and friends back home, it was my first time to spend the season doing what I love the most. In a span of nine days, I have been in ten different cities. I met so many amazing people along the way, experienced a lot of different things and saw a bit more of what France’s neighboring countries have to offer. Here are just seven things I learned during my first backpacking experience in Europe:

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My very first Christmas away from Home

I am so concerned about getting homesick ever since I arrived here in France. More so that it’s the holiday season, I felt that it would really be hard for me to enjoy it considering that it’s the first time I am celebrating Christmas outside the Philippines aside from the fact that this is the longest I have been away from family and friends.

In an apartment inhabited by four different nationalities (2 French, Spanish, Slovenian and Filipino), I woke up this Christmas eve morning alone. Four eventually decided to spend it elsewhere and I decided that I wanted to stay in Paris. Luckily, my manager saved me from a potential homesickness attack when he invited me last Wednesday to spend the Christmas eve dinner with his entire family – “Noche Buena” French-style.

I have enjoyed myself seeing how they celebrate Christmas – with a very sumptuous meal course, various fine wines, sugary delights, lively conversations among family members, a unique gift-giving tradition where kids peer from the kitchen’s glass-paned door to see someone dressed up as Santa Claus place gifts below the Christmas tree in the living room (while he’s eating a carrot and drinking milk) and finally seeing everyone enjoy the gifts they got (I received one too!).

It was a big celebration as there were 22 family members and then me. I thought it would be kind of awkward at first but I was pleasantly surprised that everyone has been genuinely warm and accommodating. Indeed, it has been a memorable Christmas 2011! I may not have been with my real family this year but it was great experiencing it with a French family who knows how to celebrate it well.

Joyeux Noël

Only the big picture matters

Yesterday, I got to see the most recent big screen-craze in France with two of my classmates. Intouchables is my very first full-length film in French with absolutely no subtitles. Despite the fact that I didn’t understand more than 70% of the dialogues, the movie managed to keep me awake and more importantly entertained. This was a quite a feat because I don’t find it difficult to sleep while watching even bigger Hollywood releases let alone a movie in a language that I don’t fully speak and understand. Yes, I didn’t get the punchlines yet I laugh when people laugh not because I was just pretending not to look stupid (except possibly on two occasions). I was moved liked everyone else and at the end, I clapped to pay respect for such a wonderful piece of work. As I told my classmates in French, “La marque d’un bon film, la langue n’est pas une barrière” (The mark of a good film, language is not a barrier).

This was my realization after. Like so many things in life, we don’t really have to worry about all the details. You don’t need 100% of the information to understand things around you. Most of the time, the more we know about things or the more things we have, we become more paranoid, restless and discontented. It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to become unhappy. This movie reinforced that I only need my eyes to see, my ears to hear and my heart to feel what matters. Understanding the dialogue wasn’t that necessary. I have no doubt that it would have been even funnier if I knew what the punchlines meant. But how much difference would it make? Who knows? I was already happy and I only needed the essentials to feel that and that’s enough. Oftentimes, that’s how life is. The big picture is all that matters.

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P.S. This is not meant to be a review so I will not give you any information about the film. Last time I read, it will be released worldwide. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did. Lucky you, the version you’re going to see will be subtitled.