For the past 8 years of celebrating my birthday outside the country, I have never felt so excited as I was off to Rome this time. Going on a side trip to the city of Florence with my kids and friends hyped up the Europe trip even more. Although it was just a short trip, it was nothing but sweet.
Our private trip started with a warm welcome from our tour driver, Mang Rick, who happened to be a fellow Pinoy, too. We all thought renting a car was a wise decision since it was more comfortable and convenient. While going around the city, I found every angle so captivating and romantic. I felt like extending our stay in Florence because the scenic landscape was worth watching from day to night and we would love to see that again and again. And also, it was my kids’ first time in Florence and I would love for them to have the best time. After the day tour, Cecille and Annie, my travel buddies, persuaded me to go for a little fun shopping experience at the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) by the Arno River. I got myself a souvenir of white gold ring at a quaint jewelry shop. After that, we ate in a restaurant just by the river and appreciate Florence’s alluring Renaissance beauty at night.
The next day, we travelled to Pisa to visit the famous landmark- Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was a quick tour with my kids and as adventurous as they could be, they went up the tower to see city’s landscape attraction. I decided to stay downstairs and admire the beauty from the ground floor.
Our next stop is Venice. Imagine visiting a city built on water. It surely made us feel more thrilled! It was almost summertime (around May) when we visited and the weather was just nice to stroll around. We stayed at a hotel in Piazza San Marco. I have been in Venice for quite a number of times, but this is the first time we stayed in the piazza. Famous landmarks like Campanile, St. Mark’s Basilica, and Doge’s Palace to name a few were few steps away from where we were staying. Of course, we visited the Church of Gold (St. Mark’s Basilica) to give thanks and praise even if I rarely go to churches. Having coffee by the basilica instantly became a habit. First things first, I made a deal with my children that they can tour around the city by themselves, but they had to come back in our meeting place at a certain time. With the labyrinth alleyways and streets in Venice, my children got lost. Luckily, they were able to find their way to our meeting place few hours after the agreed time. When in Venice, be street smart and memorize the directions.
We crossed the Grand Canal riding a water taxi and experiencing local transport for the first time was fantastic. Upon arrival at the city, my friends sneaked out while we were sightseeing. Later on you will know why. We headed on to the Rialto Bridge overlooking the Grand Canal to appreciate the beauty of Venice for the last time before moving to another city.
The next day, we were off to Milan. Since Milan is known for its reputation of being a fashion district, my friends and I went shopping. Aside from that, we also bought new items to sell and items that were pre-ordered such as bags, perfumes, and accessories for Shopper’s Alley at Via Montenapoleone. After a tiring day of roaming around, we closed our day at one of the exclusive restaurants, 21 Terrace, overlooking Duomo in Milan and to spend my birthday eve as well. When the clock stroke 12, the church bell rang. My friends surprised me with a gift that they sneaked out for to buy in Venice. It was the sweetest birthday and perfect location to be at on my birthday.
The fun continued when we moved to Monaco. Being the playground of the rich and a parking lot of every luxury cars that you could think, we, too, felt like we were part of the lavishness and elegance. Even dining cost us a bit more than the usual. I remember drinking a coffee that cost almost $500. Even when the state shouted hedonism and wealth, we were able to witness the Monegasque’s compassion attitude and support for the late Princess Grace Kelly. After watching the changing of the guards at the palace, off we went to the train station to go to Paris.