It has been another exciting year for me.
I started off by getting what would make a Filipino's life in the UK much easier - a permanent UK residence visa (or what we call in the UK as indefinite leave to remain). Mind you, being a keen traveler and having a Philippine passport are not the best of combinations, because half of your life seem to be going to embassies applying for visas so you can travel! So acquiring a permanent UK residency is like saving yourself a quarter of your embassy trips (if not more)!
The first quarter of the year was what I would call a lull in my travels as I had to remain in the UK to wait for my UK visa renewal. After what seemed to be an endless wait due to my exasperation of not being able to travel out of the UK, I finally got my passport back and was over the moon when I saw the stamp on my passport... an indefinite leave to remain! Hurrah!
I celebrated my new residence status by going home to the Philippines in May. It was a splendid visit albeit being short. Had a lovely time with my family in Baguio and a sunny holiday in Boracay with Dave. In this Bora trip, it was Dave who suggested we stay in Diniwid, which is the quiet and very idyllic part of Boracay, away from the loud disco music and screaming videoke bars of the long beach.
Went back to London feeling refreshed and ready to go back to work. But of course, the summer holidays in the UK were just starting, but due to June and July being our peak months at work, I had to be around London. Which wasn't that bad at all, because this year, summer in London was fantastic!
Went to see Wimbledon for the first time and saw Andy Rodick in Court 2 and saw a few exciting matches in the smaller courts. Even got the chance to watch Andy Murray from "the Hill" along with the rest of British spectators cheering for Murray.
With summer at its best and music festivals happening all over the country, Dave and I took the opportunity to spend a camping weekend in Kent for the Hop Farm Music Festival. Saw the Fratellis, Paul Weller, Doves, Editors, etc.
In late July, we went to Belgium to see one of my best friends - Dada! The last time Dave, Dada and I were all together in one country was probably 6 years ago in the Philippines! It was indeed a good time to catch up. And of course spent a great deal of time enjoying Belgian beers and eating mussels! Jan was very sweet to drive us around Brussels and drove us to Bruges. Also met up with my friend Angelo who showed us around Ghent. We even had a taste of the Ghent music festival as it was happening when we went to visit the city.
In September, Dave and I did a local touristy trip by going for a cycling weekend at Shakespeare Country - Stratford-Upon-Avon. Went around the historical houses including Ann Hathaway's House, Shakespeare's birthplace, Nash's house and Hall's Croft. Our second day was spent cycling some 30-mile distance towards the town of Ilmington bordering the Cotswolds where a wide variety of berries along our cycling paths were a constant attraction along with the different cottage houses and tudor houses that were lining the villages we cycled through.
In October, had week long holiday in the beautiful Cyprus. Discovered the most amazing Cypriot food in Kouppas Stone Tavern in Neo Chorio, swam in the Blue Flag awarded beaches of the country, played chess in the most stunning locations, crossed the border in Nicosia towards the Turkish part of the country, enjoyed sipping Cypriot coffee whilst waiting for the sun to come down. Ahhh would go back there!
Finally, in December, I took the Christmas holidays off, first time after having worked the last two Christmases. For the 12-day break I got, I spent two days in Paris (courtesy of my friend Dominique who went through all the lenghty process of sending me an invite to support my tourist visa to France! I told you, being a Filipino who wants to travel is not that easy). Domi lives right next to the Eiffel tower so that after the dinner she cooked for Dave and I, she made us all jump out of our seats, put on our boots and made us run to go see the Eiffel. We got there just in time when the flickering lights covered the tower and then followed by a show of various flashing lights within the tower.
On this Paris visit, I had to make sure I would get inside The Louvre (which I missed the first time I visited) and of course saw Monalisa and the famous Venus de Milo.
On my second day in Paris, woke up to see the city covered in snow! It was then another day for Dave and I to visit museums and we chose to see Musee d' Orsay.
Our trip to Paris had to be extended by another 2 days as we got stranded due to the extreme weather condition. This eventually shortened our week-long holiday in Gran Canarias. As a result, we ran out of flights for Canarias so I booked tickets to fly to Tenerife. With the holiday cut short, it wasn't as enjoyable as I had expected it to be. I also got disappointed to see layers and layers of apartment blocks covering the island. I had immediately thought of the environmental implication of tourism due to the overwhelming hotels and apartments I saw in the island.
Flew in to Manchester on Christmas eve and spent a lovely Christmas with Dave's family. I enjoyed it so much that I almost didn't want to board the train back to London. It didn't help that Dave was staying behind in Manchester for a few more days whilst I headed back to London on my own.
I shall now post this blog before the year is over. 2009 has been another great year indeed and I hope that 2010 will even be better! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!