07 March 2010

Okay, so it's final--I'm really going to Europe!

The first leg of the trip is really all about business. I'm participating in the annual fundraising forum organized by UNICEF Geneva. This five-day forum promises to be really exciting; there's a whole slew of sessions that I want to cover but sadly enough, I can't divide myself into three (because there are 3 breakout sessions running simultaneously in the morning and in the afternoon).

I was also asked by Geneva to make a 10-minute presentation on the Philippine team's best practices on new media advocacy and fundraising, using social media and other online strategies. Gulp.

Am a little queasy about the thought of presenting to a large mix of colleagues coming from all parts of the world. Regional forums in Bangkok were my comfort zone; this is a different scene altogether. I sure hope that Philippines isn't the only one asked to present in this session. We're doing good in this new media/digital engagement area but there are other country offices like Malaysia and National Committees like the US and UK that are doing so very well in digital engagement.

Anyway, on to the personal stuff. Here's the plan for Europe. I had to construct a 14-page itinerary (yes, you read that right--14 pages) using Microsoft Excel to make a blow-by-blow, by-the-hour account of what I'm going to do, where I'm going, how I'm getting there, and how all this will cost me. It's still a running plan in the sense that I still have to include one more museum trip somewhere in the already jam-packed agenda plus a few more city sidetrips. I have a feeling I'd only be able to finalize the itinerary the night before I leave.

I managed to ask the office for an extra week off after the forum in Madrid. It only makes sense, in spite of the costs involved, to tour other places while I'm in Europe. Fixing my 14-day itinerary has been a fun but colossal undertaking. I had to book 3 plane flights, 3 hotels, 1 train ride, 4 airport shuttle transfers and a bunch of museums and tours.

I AM MAJORLY EXCITED. Here are the sites I'm going to:

MADRID (March 14-21)
*The forum runs from Monday afternoon (the 15th) to Friday (the 19th), so I still have enough time to go around Madrid.

The Royal Palace
The Prado Museum
The Reina Sofia Museum
Templo de Debod
Gran Via
Puerto de Alcala
Madrid Cathedral and other churches
Plaza Mayor, La Puerta del Sol and other plazas
tapas bars (of course!)

The only thing missing here is a bull fight. Am still trying to see how I can fit THAT in.

ROME & FLORENCE (March 21-24)
*I wish I had enough time (and money!) to go around Italy more. There is so much to see! I struggled a lot, fixing this part of my trip, and I had to ensure that I was going to maximize my time in seeing all the sights on my priority list.

In Rome:
Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum
Vatican City (St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the rest of the Vatican Museums)
Piazza Navona
Piazza di Spagna
Trevi Fountain

If I have more time, will try and visit Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto.

In Florence:
Uffizi Gallery
Galleria dell Accademia
the Duomo
Duomo Museum
Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River
Piazza Signoria
Palazzo Vecchio

Note to self: Do not forget to eat gelato and sample the fresh local cuisine.

PARIS (March 24-27)
Notre Dame & Ile de la Cite
Saint Chapelle
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees
special group tour on Ernest Hemingway's Paris (his old haunts in the Latin Quarter), plus places where George Orwell lived and where James Joyce wrote 'Ulysses' --> whee, this tour excites me so much!
St. Germain-des-Pres and Saint Sulpice (NO, I am not going to do some crappy Da Vinci Code tour)
The Louvre
Musee d' Orsay
Montmartre & the Sacre Couer
The Marais
side day trip to Versailles

*If I have more time, will try to visit the Paris Opera House and more of the Medieval Paris district.

Ten minutes before publishing this post, I had just booked a museum ticket to see Michaelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. Hooray!