Living Europe

Plant a Tree, Save the World & A Short Series of Solved Mystery Cases*

Mystery Case #1

Last Tuesday, we went to visit meme in Saint-Trivier and did some awesome work. I got to be the right-hand of Daniel, Yoyo’s dad, in planting a peach tree and shoveling some (lots of) gravel on meme’s backyard. I like doing physical work, and it was yet another good excuse to visit meme.

Since Fantastique and Bango were with us, I didn’t get to see Ismi, meme’s adopted cat, by the window. Il a un peur, she told me when I asked about Ismi’s whereabouts. “Murmur..murmur..murmur… les chiens… murmur… murmur… les chiens.” And as I understood, I won’t be seeing Ismi because the dogs were here, thus, il a un peur (he has fear) decoded, Ismi is scared of the dogs and won’t be showing up anytime soon. Dogs and cats situation, easy peasy, mystery case #1 solved!

Ismi behind the glass window. This cat is on fire!

Mystery Case #2

Despite all the odds, I’m happy to announce that my French speaking skills has gone from zero to barok level.

Pourquoi transferer l’arbre? I asked Daniel. Pas beaucoup d’espace parce que il y a la piscine à Montagnat? Me feeling especially determined and laughing at myself in my head for my persistent attempt at speaking French.

“Murmur… murmur… pa bien… murmur… de la terre… murmur… sable…murmur… piscine aussi… murmur...” I did see Daniel’s hand gestures while saying the words terre and sable (tila baga may sinasalat gesture in Filipino). So I figured the earth is grainy/sandy and not too ideal for the peach tree that’s why it was uprooted from the garden in Montagnat. The swimming pool being secondary, I’m just not sure if the tree with its growing roots would affect the pool or the other way around – the pool would hamper the roots of the tree’s growth. In any case, it should primarily be that the earth in Saint-Trivier serves the peach tree’s well-being better. Whew! Mystery case #2 solved!

For a moment, imagine your two eyeballs turning 360 degrees in its socket, respectively. That’s me when I’m trying to understand French, each time, no miss (walang mintis).

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The pretty lady that is our peach tree dressed in white! The cloth is really for the bark’s protection during our 45-minute drive.

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Up close.

After our morning coffee, I followed Daniel outside to plant the peach tree in meme’s garden. I like writing it’s a peach tree because I can easily imagine red peach fruits hanging by the tree’s branches. I like peaches, they’re soft, sweet, juicy, with hint of colors red outside and yellow in the inside.
Below are the very simple photo steps in saving the world, i.e. replanting a peach tree!
1. Dig it.
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Starring shovel a.k.a pala (in tagalog).

2. Be guided by a Jedi master.
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Luke… I am your mother…

3. Fertilize it.
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Pour fertilizer into the dug hole.

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Scatter in second fertilizer with your hands.

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And mix both fertilizers inside the hole using the shovel.

4. Add-in water and a bit of soil into the fertilizer mixture.
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The shovel is your tree-planting bestfriend, use it to mix the water with the fertilized soil.

5. Place tree at the center of the hole.
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Gently but firmly.

6. Fertilize some more.
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After putting the tree, put another batch of fertilizer together with the soil. Young trees need a lot of nourishment!

7. Completely cover with earth.
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Now that looks very familiar.

8. Water the newly (re)planted tree.
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Allow to settle and add a second round of water.

9. Put support for the young, fragile Peach tree.
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The strong winds could hurt this young Peach tree!

10. Stop and smell accomplishment. You just made this world a better place!
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11. The hardest and final step is to wait for these:

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A smooth peach variety also called nectarine in markets. Click to see photo source.

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Juicy! Click to see photo source.

Mystery Case #3

A day after, there was worry looming over Saint-Trivier because meme has not seen Ismi in two straight days. And just this evening, I’m happy to report that meme finally found Ismi. He got stranded with meme’s seedlings when he followed meme to the garden nursery. Elle est très content maintenant. Whew! Final and mystery case #3 solved!

Alors, ’til our next tongue-twisting, world-saving adventure. À bientôt!

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Moi waiting for my peach fruit!


So You Want To Be in Europe?

Paris, France. July 2013.

How to Get to Europe: A Sober Answer to a Very Tricky Question

When I’m asked how much it costs to travel in Europe, the first thing I say is that when I went back to the Philippines in May 2011, my Cathay Pacific ticket from Paris-Manila, Manila-Paris cost €600. Converted to Philippine peso – PhP32,238.06 is quite an affordable rate considering it’s Europe and the mere sound of it is very far. Like when I say I’m from the Philippines and a European would think I’m from a far, far away land.

Transportation is Key

Next, I would say it depends on the duration of the trip and how many countries one would want to visit. From where I (used to) live (Ghent, Belgium) for example, it only takes 51 minutes to reach Lille (France), 2 hours 16 minutes to be in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 2 hours 50 minutes to Paris (France), 2 hours 37 minutes to Cologne (Germany), and 3 hours 48 minutes to London (United Kingdom). My overnight bus trips from Manila to Bicol took longer, indeed. But it’s not only about the distance, it’s primarily about accessibility – the means of public transport and transport facilities.One can travel around Europe quite easily by car or by bus, faster by train, and fastest by airplane. Cars run up to 110-130 KPH speed limit on the highway (depending on the country), while some German highways are “speed-free” where you can go as fast as your car can. I just got started and easily I’d get carried away. It’s the same enthusiasm I hold when I tell Europeans about Philippines and our neighboring Asian countries. Both worlds are just so different and awesome in their own ways.

The Biggest Secret is to Book Ahead

At this point, I’d figure the question was originally intended for a small talk so I’d quickly conclude my litany by saying that a good trip from Manila to Europe via Paris or Amsterdam requires at least a pocket money of €1,000 (PhP53,730.10) to visit a minimum of 3 European countries (more cities/countries would logically mean more expenses) in two weeks, all senses inclusive – see, hear, taste, smell, feel Europe. Food, drinks and museum passes take a chunk of the budget here so backpackers should make it with around €600. Meanwhile, all the nitty gritty details you can read in my previous and future posts in the blog for free.This budget ONLY applies to a carefully-planned Eurotrip, wherein bookings are made at least 6 months before. There are also tons of tour packages one can avail of for a lesser price. If not, then forget it. But then again, why would you come to Europe and spend your hard-earned money on a dream trip without a plan, right?



Albufeira, Portugal. September 2012.

Albufeira, Portugal. September 2012.

Belem, Portugal. September 2012.

Lisbon, Portugal. September 2012.

Florence, Italy. November 2011.

Florence, Italy. November 2011.


Pisa, Italy. November 2011.

Lund, Sweden. September 2011.

Lund, Sweden. September 2011.

Carlsberg Museum @ Copenhagen, Denmark. September 2011.


Prague, Czech Republic. May 2011.

Budapest, Hungary. May 2011.

Budapest, Hungary. May 2011.

Budapest, Hungary. May 2011.

Budapest, Hungary. May 2011.

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, Netherlands. May 2011.

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, Netherlands. May 2011.

Paris, France. December 2010.

Paris, France. December 2010.


The Netherlands, September 2010.