Cinque Terre: Sunset cocktails in Vernazza

Vernazza Cinque Terre

How do I like to celebrate my arrival at a major bucket list destination? With a drink, of course! I spent my first evening in the Cinque Terre enjoying an Italian aperitivo (an early evening, after-work drink) with the best view of the charming village of Vernazza.

Vernazza Cinque Terre sunset swim

I didn’t get to explore Vernazza, but if I’d had more time I would have loved to go swimming at the marina.

Vernazza Cinque Terre sunbathing

Unlike Riomaggiore’s options of rocky beach or cliff diving, the marina at Vernazza has a dedicated swimming area where one can climb safely into the water via ladders fixed to the rocks, or by walking down a concrete ramp. The latter is also a great spot for sunbathing.

So, back to that sunset cocktail.

Head to the cliffside bar Nessun Dorma, which is near the marina of Manarola, and follow the seaside path to the end of the point called Punto Bonfiglio. From here, take the stairs leading up to Nessun Dorma—and to this stunning sunset view.

Vernazza Cinque Terre golden buildings at sunset

At Nessun Dorma I had an honest-to-goodness “pinch me” moment as the sunset lit up the entire cliffside, bathing the houses of Vernazza in its golden glow. It looked absolutely unreal.

Vernazza Cinque Terre sunset view

Golden sunsets like these (and those palm trees!) remind me so much of home. Maybe many of us travel to find something different, something completely other, but after eight years of living in the otherness I can’t help but search for a piece of home wherever I go.

I tucked this memory among my collection of memorable sunsets: SantoriniBudapest, El Nido, Prague, and of course, Boracay…

Vernazza Cinque Terre twilight

… and watched the lights of Vernazza twinkle to life in the blue twilight.

Mille grazie to the all-knowing Bianca of Italian Fix for leading us to this gorgeous sunset view!

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El Nido: Sunset at Corong-Corong beach

While island-hopping is *the* thing to do in El Nido, Palawan, it isn’t the only thing to do.

Taking a break between island-hopping days (because, you know, it’s such a tough job!), Marlon and I hired a tricycle to explore El Nido by land. Tricycles in El Nido are serious, hefty, all-terrain metal workhorses, and it’s easy to get one in town. Prices vary depending on your chosen destination; we managed to negotiate a full-day road trip to two beaches for Php 1,300.

Most island-hopping tours depart from the main waterfront of El Nido, but ours took off from Corong-Corong beach, a few kilometers south of town proper.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido low tide

When we returned to Corong-Corong at the end of the tour, this brief glimpse of the beach at sundown made me curious about coming back for another look.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido bancas at sunset

With a determined grumble, our diesel-powered chariot charged up the steep, winding road from El Nido town towards Corong-Corong beach.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido sunset

At the top of the hill, this view opened up and a tiny squeal of delight escaped me, prompting our driver to pull over to the side of the road. “Picture muna, ma’am?” he said with a chuckle.

Corong-Corong beach El Nido

He pointed out our destination: Las Cabanas, a secluded resort at the southernmost tip of Corong-Corong beach.

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Cheers to the New Year!

To love, laughter, food, friends, discovery, adventure, surprise, wanderlust, change, forgiveness, opportunity, choice, commitment, and all the things that made 2013 worth it. May they reappear in new, surprising and amazing forms in the coming year.

Let’s drink to that!

Sunset margaritas El Nido

Frozen margaritas on the beach at sunset are always a good way to end any trip. It exactly how Marlon and I ended our adults-only trip since Tala was born, the details (and gorgeous pictures) of which I will most definitely share with you when we return to normalcy.

With my wishes for an amazing 2014, I raise a sunset margarita to all of you. Cheers to the New Year!

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Short days, early sunsets

I’m not terribly excited about winter. When we first moved here, I often wished we could just stay here the whole winter and travel around Europe instead of flying home to Manila. Two winters later, I know I need those three weeks in the sun just to cut winter in half and make it more bearable.

But making things just bearable isn’t enough. So I’m challenging myself to find things to embrace, even enjoy, about winter. One of them comes on the flip side of winter’s long, dark nights. And that is an early sunset. This time of year, sunset comes at the time of day when I’m usually out and about: taking Tala out for a walk, commuting home from Dutch class, or running errands.

Amsterdam’s short days may be depressing, but this time of year, its sunsets are almost always beautiful. These pictures were taken during the golden hour, between 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon.

Amsterdam black bike

North of the equator, the golden hour is a full hour, not the few fleeting minutes it is back home. Here, there’s no mad rush to take beautiful photos. Nobody rushes in this city anyway—people in shops and cafes always tell me “rustig, rustig,” or ” slow down, slow down.” That’s this laid-back city for you.

So I take a few minutes to enjoy this soft golden light as I walk through Amsterdam’s streets…

Amsterdam sunset bridge detail

crossing some of its 1,200 bridges…

Amsterdam winter sunset Westerkerk Singel

before finally making my way home for another long winter night.

By the way, on the left side of this photo you can see the hooks on top of each apartment building. That’s how people move furniture into their houses here, by hoisting them up with ropes and through the window. Another Amsterdam quirk.

Amsterdam winter sunset street lamp

This last photo was at 4:30 p.m., too early for the street lights to come on. One of my neighbors greeted me “Good afternoon!” at this time and I felt so disoriented, I answered “Good evening!”

I know the days are only going to get shorter, so I’ll just enjoy these lovely early sunsets as they come. In the meantime, I hope you find something beautiful to embrace too, whatever you’re facing this weekend. Have a good one and see you next week!

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7 great places to catch the sunset in Santorini

In Santorini, life revolves around the sunset. Visitors to this stunning island plan their days around the precious minutes when the sun sinks into the sea. During golden hour in Santorini, “I do’s” are said, roofs climbed, wine glasses clinked, hands squeezed a little bit tighter, and tens of thousands of camera shutters clicked in furious sync.

What makes the Santorini sunset so magical? Combine the drama of being perched on a tiny white village atop volcanic cliffs with the vastness of the Aegean Sea. Add the liquid gold of Greek sunlight and the mirror-calm waters of one of the world’s most famous calderas—the stillness is purely visual of course, there’s an active volcano down there!—and you have all the makings of an unforgettable experience.

As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat—and as I discovered, there’s more than one place to enjoy an amazing sunset in Santorini.

1) The village of Oia.

Anyone who’s been to Santorini will tell you not to miss the sunset in Oia. “It’s the most famous sunset in Europe!” a local resident declared to me with pride. This picturesque village at Santorini’s northern tip gives a view of the whole caldera, showing off the island’s crescent shape from one end to another.

Santorini sunset-Oia wide shot

Oia’s whitewashed houses are its most distinctive feature. The cliffside is studded with them, reflecting the changing hues of the sunset—a palette that cycles from warm gold to rosy pink to dusky blue.

Santorini sunset-Oia crop

Be warned: to say Oia is crowded at sunset is an understatement. People will hunt for their spot hours before the sunset and camp out in the blazing sun to protect it. Fortunately, pretty much any place in Oia offers a good vantage point for a spectacular sunset, whether it’s poolside at a hotel or perched on a random wall.

Santorini sunset-Oia crowds

But there are a couple of sweet spots in Oia worth checking out, such as…

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