Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia and Istanbul, Turkey Business Lounges

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I honestly think these two deserve their own post. Haha! So after more than a week of staying, working and going around Tbilisi, we headed back home. Since we were entitled to business class airfare in the organization I work for, we also get to enjoy the perk of staying at the business lounges. In Manila, business lounges – whatever the airline – is pathetic compared to those abroad.
 

Since Tbilisi International Airport is small, so is the business lounge but that doesn’t mean it has to be shabby (hello, listen up MIAA). The food was decent enough for a quick treat but the lounge itself was so comfortable with enough couches and tables. But the best part was that it looked like a painting gallery. The lounge was filled with different artworks, which were actually for sale. It made the whole place inviting and less horrific as you wait for your flight.

 

Yummy food on the plane from Tbilisi to Istanbul.

 

But upon arrival at the Istanbul business lounge (since Turkey was our transit stop), I was blown away! It was huge! It had everything you could possibly need for your transit to keep you occupied– a billiards table, a library, a mini cinema, wifi of course, luggage area, an entertainment and gaming area downstairs, and all the food and drinks you could want. They also have a shower area and sleeping quarters but this is limited only to those whose transits are 8 hours and more (which is understandable). I heard from the staff that there was a waiting list.

 

I decided to eat dinner at the lounge – Turkish ravioli, grilled veggies, baklava and local drinks – so that when I get to the plane, I’ll just sleep for the duration of the flight. Which I did. My colleague who sat beside me even noticed this and said that he had already seen a ton of movies and I was still sleeping. Haha. We also had the same flight as Piolo Pascual but that’s not relevant.

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Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 9 (Last day and going home already. Huhu)

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My last day in Tbilisi! Wah! While the others were lounging in the pool or going somewhere else, me and my friend decided to again spend the day out and about the city, at least till 2pm before our hotel check out. We walked along Shota Rustaveli (I will never get tired of this street) because I wanted to find the old lady who was selling magnets. I could buy magnets at the souvenir shops or even in the supermarket but I wanted to buy from the old lady, who had no official store, just a board along the street with her goods, just to help her out. My friend kept teasing me that the lady was gone but finally I saw her. My friend interpreted for me and after looking at the magnets, I chose one for only 3 gel.


We walked towards Freedom Square and decided to have a pit stop (agad?) at a local café. He had some coffee and pistachio ice cream (again) which was good, while I had a strawberry lemonade, which was more like a smoothie. He even clarified this with the staff since I was hoping the lemonade was like the one I tasted last night, or at the very least, was more liquid in form. After much discussion with the waitress, they just said that that was a lemonade. Oh well. At least my friend let me pay for this, all in all at 25 gel with tip.

 

After being recharged, we started walking again but this time, took a different turn going somewhere unknown. This wasn’t along the souvenir shops nor the cafes. It wasn’t the tourists’ street. We wanted an unknown street since this is where we felt like locals – just enjoying the view of the streets, the buildings and just having a relaxing (but of course tiring) walk.

 

We ended up on the other side of city and went directly to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Tbilisi, right along Shota Rustaveli, because I mentioned to him that I wanted to see the museum. Again, he insisted on paying for the museum entrance fee. The girls at the reception apologetically looked at me and said again, ‘He’s the man.’ I feel like I should be offended, like that’s a sexist comment implying a man should always pay for a woman’s food or whatever. Should I? Nah. Haha!  

 



The art was from the same artist. Not a fan of his simple works but I did like the huge sculptures, including one with a huge Van Gogh and a cock fight scene.

 

Afterwards, continued walking until we arrived at a street lined up with goods like paintings, horns made into cups, and other trinkets all for sale.

 

We then got to the fancy Mcdonald’s building, which I saw during my first day, and told him I wanted to check out the menu. We bought some very pretty drinks (watermelon and cherry flavor), a cherry sundae and large fries. I really liked my cherry drink since it was very refreshing (think Sprite with flavor) while the sundae and fries tasted exactly the same whichever Mcdonald’s you buy it from. He let me pay for this one – though he was the one who ordered – all for only 16 gel.

 

Cobblestones everywhere! Saw this smaller version of the Mother of Georgia, except it was holding a string of theater masks.

 

We walked around the side streets again, passed through a park (which had a dog park in it), saw some churches then since it was nearing 2pm, went back to the hotel.

 

Had so much fun during my “mini tour” with my friend. I was actually planning before on extending another day in Tbilisi but thankfully I was able to do all the must-do, must-see and must-eat during my whole ‘official’ stay. Plus, I don’t think I would have enjoyed going around by myself because of the language barrier so I’m really thankful I had a Russian speaker with me. He actually invited me to join him during his extended stay but since I only found out about it after I had purchased my tickets, it was a no-go for me. These “follow me to” inspired photos (if you follow that IG account) was his idea. Kinda summarizes how our adventure was – us dragging each other to walk around Tbilisi. Kyot.

 

By 3pm, me and my other colleague were on our way to the airport (paid 30 gel for the taxi). I already miss Georgia.

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 8 (Carrefour grocery, Tbilisi Mall, Aerial Tramway, Kartlis Deda, Metekhi Cathedral, Holy Trinity Cathedral)

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Today was a bit of a free day. Our meetings were over so most of our delegates would be leaving today. Though I didn’t set my alarm clock, still woke up early and headed for breakfast with the team.
 


Since the others had their own plans, I decided to use this time to go and find the bigger grocery store, Carrefour. Hotel told me it was walking distance so I was up for the challenge. It was hard to find! It was somewhere near Freedom Square but hidden behind the buildings. Kept on walking and saw the fanciest ATM ever, a panaderya aka bakery selling their local boat-shaped bread, and an old lady selling veggies. After asking around – and after checking out this small clothes store which had some ukay-ukay vibes – finally arrived at Carrefour, which had no sign. Haha!

 

This is a much better grocery store as there is more variety and more options – from chocolates to cheeses to sausages to toiletries.

 

I went around and just chose stuff that looked interesting, mostly chocolate bars (so cheap at 2.5 gel each) to coffee sachets and wafers (my colleagues wanted some) to of course, cheeses and sausages (ranging from 5-9 gel). My bags were so heavy that I took a taxi going back to the hotel (5 gel). It’s very easy to get a taxi in Tbilisi and good thing the driver understood me. For all my items, I only spent 43 gel (the additional 20 gel worth of items was from my officemate who asked me to buy stuff for her).

 

Back at the hotel, my colleague wanted to go to the Tbilisi mall because she needed new rubber shoes. So I accompanied her. Took a taxi (20 gel) since it was a bit far from our hotel, about 20-30 mins ride. Saw this very interesting jenga-like building. Once at the mall, we parted ways and I just walked around. Unlike Manila, the mall was deserted. Haha! There were only a few shops, some were international ones while others were local brands. I didn’t find anything interesting so I just stayed in a local coffee shop called Moka & More since I haven’t eaten lunch yet and was starving. I ordered their ham and cheese crepe, cinnamon and mint frappe and bottled water (total of 20 gel).

 

At around 4pm, my friend who will soon become my personal tour guide messaged me that his meeting was over and that we would meet up in about half hour. Met up with him at the big bike and thus started a day of adventure. We grabbed a taxi going to the Aerial Tramway located at Europe Square which would take us up the old fortress. Was greeted by this pretty tree structure.

 

My friend insisted on paying for everything so now I don’t know how much the expenses are. He kept on telling people either my lari was fake or that he should be the one paying since he is a man, all in Russian so I couldn’t argue with them. Haha! I think the cable car was around 2.5 gel roundtrip. I highly recommend it as it takes you across the Mtkvari river where you can see the whole of the city on the top of Sololaki.

 

At the top, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the city with the wind on your face. Don’t I look so happy in the second photo? It’s basically because the wind kept whipping my hair.

 

We walked a bit and found the Kartlis Deda, meaning Mother of Georgia. I couldn’t get a decent photo but we could see she was holding a sword (for protection) and a bowl of wine (for friendship).

 

There were some interesting plants surrounding the area, one of which was Juniper and another acorn-like tree.

 

On the other side, we saw a vast forest and right in the middle was a lone modern mansion. He teased me that that the man who lived there was someone I dated before and I retorted by saying I dumped him because of our toxic relationship. Haha!

 

On the other end was the old castle called Narikala Fortress. We couldn’t find the entrance going there (or we were too lazy) so we just took photos then went back down via cable car. More photos of the chocolate-colored river.

 


Once on ground level, we walked around the nearby Bridge of Peace and an old abandoned concert hall, per my friend. It was such a waste for the concert hall since it looked so pretty but he explained that there was a lack of investment so it was never used.

 

Went through the Bridge of Peace again and appreciated its design.

 

We went down a flight of stairs because I saw a pretty graffiti wall of butterfly wings. Walked forward and saw a rotunda with the Georgian and EU flags. See also my poging friend turned tour guide. It’s not obvious but just take my word for it. Hehe.

 

We then walked towards this old small cathedral called the Metekhi cathedral where the monument of King Vakhtang Gorgasali was also located.

 

We arrived just in time since the church was already closing up. Took a quick peek inside then visited the King as well.

 

We headed back down and just walked around the area, enjoying the views and the small streets. Everything to me was interesting!

 

We walked some more and headed towards the Sulfur Baths.

 

Further down, we saw a small bridge with locks, a souvenir store, restaurants and three men just sitting nearby, playing their instruments and singing. They didn’t even have a box or hat where you could ‘give’ money. I think it’s really because they just love their music. Amazing.

 

Gorgeous cave like walkway!


At the end is a small water fall. I cannot believe all of this is in the city center! A moment ago, we were in the middle of a busy street. Just a few steps more and you’re transported to this gorgeous raw nature-inspired place. Amazing.

 

Of course, cannot resist the obligatory ‘I love Tbilisi’ photo.

 

With much of our walking, I was so tired and thirsty that I practically begged my friend for a pit stop. He teased me that it was because I had short legs and that he was a better ‘walker’ because he’s long legged. I consider myself a great ‘walker’ but gosh, he was unstoppable! Finally, he let me buy a drink at a small store selling fresh pomegranate and orange juice. I’ve been meaning to buy the pomegranate juice since I’ve been seeing these small stalls scattered everywhere (just like the churchkela stalls). I chose pomegranate, he got the orange juice. I wasn’t able to finish my drink – it was a bit sour – so he finished it for me and paid for our drinks.

 

When we got tired, at around 800pm with still some sun out, we decided to have some dinner at Stelzen. I wanted to try the kachapuri again but this time in the more traditional boat shaped bread with an egg on top, which I’ve been seeing online. He ordered some pork kebab, chicken salad (which looked more like a viand; think ginataang manok), and more khinkali (gigantic dumplings). I only ate one piece of chicken salad, one piece of kebab then feasted on the kachapuri. I like the kachapuri with egg on it since the egg downplays the cheese a bit. He ordered some beer and ginger lemonade while I had the orange lemonade (so good!).

By the time we finished, it was already 930pm. Good thing we checked the time since I really wanted to see the Holy Trinity Cathedral at night. I’ve seen photos of it online and it was gorgeous. I wanted to pay for our dinner, I even had my 100 gel inside the check book already, but he again spoke to the waitress in Russian. The waitress turns to me and says to me in English, “He’s the man” and gives back my 100 gel. I kept arguing with him to let me pay for something so once our taxi going to the hill reached the cathedral, I quickly placed 5 gel on the driver’s hand and went out. My friend had no choice but to keep his change. Score! 

 

Upon seeing the cathedral, it looked so luminous and overpowering. It was washed in gorgeous light and made the perfect backdrop.

 

The cathedral was huge inside as it was outside. Every corner there was a different saint or artifact. I noticed a lot of Georgians kissing each of the paintings then making a sign of the cross. My friend said Georgians are very religious. Perhaps just like Filipinos. We walked a bit outside and as it was super windy, I started freezing so my friend lent me his hoodie. They have winter in Kyrgyzstan so he’s used to the cold, he explained. When the security told us to leave, we made our way back and got a cab, going downtown.  

 

Back at the center of the city, he really wanted to eat some ice cream so we went in one of those small local shops we always passed by which was always filled with people. We were lucky to snag a free table. I ordered some Nutella ice cream and café latte while he had an espresso and pistachio ice cream. Again, my money was worthless as he paid for our dessert. The ice cream was too rich and creamy for me (and didn’t taste anything like Nutella) so I gave the rest to him, which he willingly ate. I also didn’t finish my coffee and he kept teasing me I had a tiny stomach.

 

We then headed out and walked around different small side streets. He knew his way around since he had already been there. Even though we didn’t have a fixed destination and kind of just let our feet drag us wherever it wanted, our eyes just simply enjoyed the view while enjoying each other’s company. Passed by parks and buildings and even the Bridge of Peace (still gorgeous even at night) until finally at around midnight, we made our way back to the hotel.  


Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 7 (Bridge of Peace)

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Today was a bit more relaxed for the whole team as it was the last half day meeting. After the meeting was done and after a bit of post-event work, me and my teammates headed out. Finally, some fresh air! We walked along Shota Rustaveli again, taking our sweet time to take photos here and there. 


Passed by a street lined up with old books being sold by Georgians. So pretty!


We first visited our resident/ satellite office in the middle of Freedom Square (look at how blue the sky is!!) before heading to the street lined up with souvenir shops, restos, bars and cafes (sorry can’t remember the name). 


As usual, saw a lot of shops selling magnets (ranging from 1-5 Gel), mugs, bags and other souvenir items plus cheese and bread shops too.


There were also a lot of colorful churchkhela, their local candle-shaped delicacy made up of different nuts like walnut or hazelnut then covered by a honey-like candy, mixed with different fruit juices such as plum, peach and kiwi. Had so much fun taking photos of it because it looked so pretty. Of course, we bought some too (2-5 Gel each). 


There were also a lot of fresh fruits being sold by pretty old ladies. As I was taking a photo of the produce, the old lady suddenly gave me a bunch of small, round fruits. I tasted it and it was a bit sour. Haha! Wanted to take a photo with her but she made some gestures saying no, like she was too shy or something.


On one street, saw two guys selling paintings. They were so pretty. 


We walked ahead and got to this small church. I should’ve have worn a head scarf, made available outside, but only saw it while exiting. I will always enjoy looking at old churches.


Nearby was a garden and beyond that were more restaurants and cafes.


On the other end, we were able to find the Bridge of Peace! So happy because I really wanted to go to this bridge. I thought it was far from the hotel but so glad we stumbled upon it. It is as pretty in the morning as it is in night (which I visited again the next day). 



My colleagues (and even I) got tired from all the walking and from our earlier work that we decided to head back to the hotel via taxi (10 gel for 5 pax), but not before grabbing some freshly cooked shawarma and a cold Mirinda drink (8 gel). The shawarma was a welcome change from all the cheeses and bread and Georgian food. Hehe. Look at the size of it! And that’s only the small size. As I said, Georgians have so much gusto for food.


Back at the hotel, we decided to meet again in an hour to go out for… karaoke! Haha! My teammates really love karaoke. This would always be our first go-to for gimiks. Our local counterpart was able to reserve a table for us in a local karaoke bar called Isterika so at around 830pm, we started walking back to Freedom Square, where the souvenir lined street was. One of my colleagues would also be moving to another department so the karaoke was our way of celebrating. Had some stop overs here and there, kept on asking locals for the directions until finally, we reached the karaoke bar. Unlike karaoke places in Manila, this was open to all and did not have a private room. The girl DJ would go around the groups of people, hand over a paper where you write your name and song, then she introduces the singer and the chosen song. It was quite fun though I personally found it a bit loud. I also prefer my privacy when singing. Haha! Most of the other tables would sing Georgian songs while we of course, chose English songs. For the whole night, singing, dancing and drinking commenced. Our table was right beside the balcony, which gave me a place to get some air while looking down at the view.


One of my friends found the karaoke too loud so he transferred to another bar. As I said that I can’t stand too loud music, I later on joined him for a drink. Then of course, we went back to the karaoke where me and my colleagues left at around 2am. 

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 6 (Guramishvili’s Marani)

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Breakfast of champions: filled up with a ‘healthy’ meal for the first day of the “big” meeting. Haha!


After a whole day of meeting, the Georgia government hosted a dinner for all the delegates. The restaurant was called Guramishvili’s Marani located at Saguramo, Georgia, about 30-40 minutes away from the city center including a bit of traffic, since we left during rush hour. It was nice to get out of the hotel again and just enjoy the view of the country side.


Once we got there, we immediately went into the wine cellar where a Georgian staff explained the history of the place. I needed to do a bit of work so I wasn’t able to hear everything he said. I did, however, went back during dinner and snapped a few photos.


Look at all those wine!


One shot of mine made me feel like Wednesday Addams in a wine cellar. Haha. 


Dinner, to say the least, was over-the-top. Aside from the very nice and cozy ambiance, this photo shows what was laid down for us initially. 


I thought that this was already everything for dinner. I was so wrong. After stuffing our faces with bread, fish, pates, and other Georgian delicacies, then drowning the food with wine or compote, the waiters come back, give you a clean plate then put more new food on top of your table. Our table could barely contain all of the food that if you notice, the plates are all on top of each other already. Haha! Not to be impolite, I still tried a little of each plate but seriously, I was stuffed! Georgians really love to eat and drink, so much so that some of our delegates were tipsy and started to dance.


Me and my colleagues made a beeline to the exit, even before the night ended, and went back to the hotel to do some last minute meeting arrangements. 

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 4-5

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Today and the next 3 days would be the heaviest work days for us since it’s the start of the meeting proper. We’ll be arranging the meeting room, finalizing all the meeting materials such as the folders and seating arrangements for our delegates and of course, be a whole lot of busy on the meeting days itself. So after breakfast.. work mode on!
 


After working the whole Sunday morning till afternoon, me and my friend then went on a ‘break’ to get some fresh air and again, enjoy the beautiful scenery. I cannot get over how pretty their streets are.


During this time, she bought some facial cleanser at an organic shop in a tiny mall and then we bought some wine and their local alcoholic drink called ‘cha-cha.’ I don’t usually buy alcoholic drinks since I don’t really drink but my brother kept teasing me that I never give him anything from my past travels or if ever I did, it would always be expired (because we don’t really meet regularly). So what item – aside from textiles, magnets and mugs which I don’t like giving – doesn’t expire? Alcohol. Haha! 


After all the work was done for the day, my friend still wanted to walk around. I was a very willing tour guide. Haha! So off we went again to walk along Shota Rustaveli (I love this street). Before reaching the Freedom Square, we went through the underpass and saw a lady selling fresh fruits and cheese. I was sold on the fresh peaches! Bought a bunch as I always try to eat fresh peaches, just like in Sydney before. Not to mention that it was so cheap, about 2 gel per kilo! My friend also bought some fresh cherries (about 3 gel per kilo). 


We walked and walked until we reached the Freedom Square, which looked very different but just as beautiful at night. After circling the square (get it?), we headed back to the hotel to rest our tired feet. 




Monday was again so busy for us that the only time we actually went out was to buy take-out food at the nearby Smart grocery store – which was like 20 steps away from the hotel. With no English translations, we had to rely on asking the staff what the food was. I ended up buying some chicken burrito (which tasted like caldereta), fresh salad and a bottle of peach iced tea (all for 10 gel). 


Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 3 (Georgian National Opera Theater, Dine Hall)

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Today was a blur. Haha! All I know is we worked the whole day after breakfast. But not before I dragged some of my colleagues to see the big metal bicycle very near our hotel which overlooked the city as well as walk to the nearby fancy Mcdonald’s (which I’ll share again in my next posts). 


Lavenders were all around the street and yes, they smelled amazing.


We had breakfast outside of the restaurant, which was a great break from staying inside the hotel. Breathed in the fresh air, felt the warmth of the sun on our faces and had a wonderful view of the river. 


My colleague kept insisting we try the Georgian mineral water called Borjomi because it had numerous health benefits and was very popular but I really didn’t like it as it was bitter, think tonic water.


Went to work with our gorgeous view and funky pop art as inspiration.


We only went out of the hotel when we were able to secure seats to the Georgian National Opera Theater (59 gel each) starting at about 9pm! Ticket was so cheap! 


The scheduled performance was for the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra. I’m no fan but I’m so glad I was able to join. The inside of the opera was gorgeous!


But before that, since we arrived a bit early, we first had a light dinner in a cute café across the street called Dine Hall. One of our colleagues treated us (honestly, I haven’t paid a cent for my meals so far). 

I ordered some apple juice and baguettes with fresh tomato, mushroom and spinach for sharing while they ordered two pieces of pizzas, also for sharing, plus a bowl of ice cream. Everything was sooo good! Perfect to fill up our tummies before the performance.

At quarter to nine, we headed back to the opera house as people were starting to go in. An old Georgian lady approached a colleague of mine and upon my Uzbekistan colleagues’ interpretation, the lady wanted to sell her a bunch of flowers for 1 gel. My colleague couldn’t refuse so she ended up with a bouquet of purple flowers. There were also a lot of street performers scattered in the streets or in the underpass. Georgians love their music!

After the staff scanned our tickets and checked our bags, we made our way to the second floor balcony which was the PERFECT location, if you ask me. We were able to see the whole opera house and had a great view of the orchestra. My photos are nothing compared to the real deal.

Before long, the performance started first with a video presentation then with the orchestra. We were all mesmerized. For the next hour or so, all eyes and ears were on the performances.


During the 15 minute intermission, me and some of my colleagues grabbed the opportunity to look around the place, which had different rooms and cute nooks here and there. 

At the end of the performance, I absolutely loved how one elderly woman slowly went up the stage to give a bouquet of flowers to the female violinist. It just shows how much they appreciate their art and music. Bravo! After the amazing performance, we called it a day and headed back ‘home.’

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 2 (Shota Rustaveli, In the shadow of Metekhi)

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At about 7am, I woke up and got dressed. I planned to use this time – before work becomes unbearable – to see the surrounding area in the early morning. It was as gorgeous as it was at night, and this is only from the limited things I already saw the night before. I only walked back and forth Shota Rustaveli since I had to be back at the hotel for breakfast with my teammates. But during that short time, I was able to see a lot and with my trusty selfie stick with tripod, was able to capture a few ‘pwede na’ touristy photos. 


Just look at the crowded streets… not! So gorgeous! It was absolutely divine walking around. I think I only passed by 10 people in total for the hour long walk, which made it possible for me to take photos without being self-conscious.


My favorite shot would be of this museum. I was never able to visit it afterwards but I’ve become that kind of person who enjoys the outside architecture of a building more than seeing what’s inside, though of course, what’s inside is also good. 


Also passed by the distinct-looking opera house which looked a bit shabby for an opera/ production house but as they say, never judge a book by its cover. Will share on my next post how the inside of the opera house looked like. Spoiler alert: it was glorious.


Here and there were pretty walls, pretty gates, pretty buildings, pretty concrete. Pretty everything! Couldn’t stop snapping my camera! 


I also love the way Tbilisi Marriott looked like! So old Europe like! Too bad it wasn’t available for our meeting dates. 


I passed by a small church and though it was closed, saw a man outside praying. I love the ceiling and wall painting.


A colleague told me that there’s a nearby Carrefour supermarket, which had a lot of options and items, so I tried to search for it only to end up at some park and a line of stores. I even reached the famous Freedom Square just looking for the elusive supermarket.


Heading back to the hotel, I dropped by the nearby Smart supermarket and grabbed some items I thought were interesting. Saw some hug red chiles, fresh peaches (yey!) and even a liter sized beer! Heavy drinkers would find heaven here. 


Goods were pretty cheap, ranging from 2.5 Gel for chocolate bars. I still wanted to visit Carrefour so I didn’t buy a lot from here. I only spent about 32 gel for everything. 


Bought 3 biscuits (1 gel each), 3 chocolate bars (2.75 gel each), 2 packs of coffee (because the packaging was so quaint, I think 2 gel each), 2 boxes of wafer (2.5 gel each), 3 boxes of chocolate-covered plum, apricot and fig (4 gel each) and 3 packs of random chips (1.5 gel each).


Before heading back to the hotel, I walked by the other side of Shota Rustaveli and aside from the huge bicycle, saw some interesting graffiti and more pretty buildings.


Back at the hotel, I had breakfast with the team. As with most of my work trips, our strategy when it comes to eating is to have a heavy breakfast at the start of the day so that we’d still be full during lunch (so no need to go out and just simply work), then if time permits, have a quick dinner out. I was ecstatic with all the fresh salmon available! Just look at that pile! 


Seriously, I think I ate the salmon + cream cheese + lettuce + tomato in a croissant combo every single day. Haha! Fresh orange juice was also divine. I had it everyday for more Vitamin C and to combat bad bacteria.


After breakfast, one full day of work commenced until we realized it was already night. For today, since our big boss arrived from his flight, we decided to have dinner at this special restaurant called ‘In the Shadow of Metehki’ which boasted of good food, wonderful ambiance and amazing Georgian song and dance performances. Good thing one of my colleagues absolutely loves Georgia that she was our unofficial tour guide who made the arrangements beforehand. According to her, we got lucky since usually the restaurant is jam packed but they were able to get us a table for 6.


Getting there was a bit of an adventure since our driver got lost, even after my Russian speaking colleague explained the location to him beforehand. So when we got lost, we had to call our Russian speaking colleague (who was in the other car) and then she’d talk to the driver. After much discussion, we finally arrived at the restaurant. It was so pretty and was overloking the city! 



My colleague started ordering all the classic delicacies, similar to what we had last night since we wanted our boss to try all the best Georgian dishes. We had 3 different kinds of khachapuri (tarragon and two others), grilled trout (no photo again!), pates, fresh salad, grilled meat, beef stew and chicken in milk sauce. Food was great as always. Grateful too that our boss insisted on paying for our meal.


Once we were done ordering food and wine, at about 8pm, the staff suddenly broke out into a series of song and dance performances. First performers were dressed up as waiters, which was probably why they didn’t want to take our orders beforehand! Haha! They were all so good! 


As you can see in the photos, they had a very lively dancing, which was difficult to capture. So nice to see and hear Georgian dances and songs.


After a while, we headed back to the hotel without finishing all of the performances since it was already late and we needed to work tomorrow.

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 1 (Funicular)

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My local counterpart based in Georgia invited us to have dinner at the top of a hill, through the Funicular. 


The Funicular is a type of cable railway which brought us to the hilltop, where a ‘castle-like’ structure sits. Here, you can have a nice meal while overlooking the city. She brought a car so we were able to get there without getting lost. Behind the restaurant is a huge park with a playground for kids, though we didn’t go there anymore. 


To get to the top, you’ll need to ride the big cable car (2.5 Gel per way) or even take the stairs (which my boss later on did). 


Going up, you’ll already have a wonderful view of the city.


Once at the top, you’ll be welcomed by a super cool breeze (went there at around 7pm) and a gorgeous view of the city. Passed through the restaurant to go out to see the view.


The building looked so beautiful!


Since the sun sets at around 830pm in Georgia, we were still able to get a dozen or so nice photos and just stare at the view. My photos obviously do not do justice to the vastness and greatness of the Tbilisi view.


Tired from all our smiling for photo ops, we sat down for dinner. First thing the waiter hands over is a thick fleece blanket for each person, because it was really cold up there. Next, my colleague started ordering the best local dishes for the group – grilled trout (so good but not in photos), kachapuri (bread filled with so much cheese, so good too), khinkali (huge dumplings with broth inside, like Taiwan’s xiao long bao), fresh tomato and cucumber salad (their tomatoes are so juicy!), different kinds of pate’s, and for drinks, we ordered some peach and lemon flavored sparkling water and of course, we cannot forget the wine when in Georgia. 


Georgians are heavy drinkers and smokers due to their climate. With some fun company, great ambiance and yummy food, my first Georgian meal was so enjoyable.


We left at around 9pm, I think, so it was a bit dark but still, the view was nice.


Even the façade of the Furnicular at the bottom of the hill looked pretty at night. 


Back in Shota Rustaveli, me and some of my colleagues decided to go for a quick walk. The street was filled with gorgeous buildings. People were scarce so no bumping into strangers here. A few beggars were present but then again, they are everywhere in any part of the world. Took some shots of things I found interesting.


When we got tired – mind you, they had a four hour time difference in Manila being four hours behind – we went back to the hotel to get ready for the next day.

Vacationista: Tbilisi, Georgia Day 0

Standard

Me and the rest of the advance team’s flight was on a Wednesday night so I still went to work during the morning till lunch time. Stayed at the NAIA 3 Business Lounge until it was time for us to fly. I was pleasantly shocked by how nice Turkish Airlines’ (TK) Business Class was. The past Business Class flights I’ve been on were Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific but both were not as nice as TK’s. 


Leg room was huge, there was in-flight wifi, the seat converted to a bed was the most comfortable I’ve been on, they had a pseudo-candlelight dinner, an in-flight chef, lots of good entertainment choices and the restroom was spacious and even had real plants inside. The fake light and real plants are shallow additions, I know, but come on? Nice touches, right?


Food, both dinner and breakfast, is as good as airplane food can be. I did enjoy the fish, which I usually order when traveling since I don’t want to be bloated in the middle of the air. Tried the Turkish coffee which was so strong, I only took one sip. 


We had a one hour transit in Istanbul which wasn’t enough to actually do anything but wait, which was fine with me since I didn’t want to get too tired. Upon getting into the place, drinks and food again welcomed us. Haha! Loved the tiniest salt and pepper containers I’ve seen. Wanted to steal them (I didn’t though). 


After a series of movies and a good night’s rest, we were finally in Tbilisi, Georgia. Looking out the plane windows, Georgia had a lot of unoccupied land. I think they only have 4 million people in the country, same number as the people in Manila. Haha!


Saw two interesting things at the airport. First was a passenger who individually wrapped her handbags. Why she didn’t buy a luggage instead, I will never know. I then saw her being interviewed at customs, because well, small checked in bags can get suspicious. Outside, there was huge gold, snail-like building. Pretty. 


The moment I stepped foot outside the airport and breathed in the cool fresh air, I knew I was going to absolutely love my stay here, even though I would be in the midst of work stress and lots of meeting arrangements. For starters, the weather was sunny but the temperature was cool and nice. Such a great change from Manila’s harsh sun and humidity. The architecture of the buildings and the uniqueness of the stores were so beautiful to look at, very similar to European buildings (though some would think Georgia is part of Europe, most Georgians would still associate as Asians). There was little traffic and people were scarce. Later on I’d find out that goods and food were affordable and delish. If I could identify one negative thing about Tbilisi is that people smoked anywhere, including inside of cars, taxis and even in the mall. Other than this, I knew I was already falling for Tbilisi. 


We stayed at Radisson Blu Iveria because that was where our meetings would be held. It was the perfect location, right near Shota Rustaveli avenue which was lined up with gorgeous old buildings, museums, the opera house and tiny shops, cafes and restaurants. Hotel was close enough to walk to tourist spots such as the Old Tbilisi Town where most souvenir shops, clubs and bars were. Plus, it was right beside Smart supermarket, Dunkin Donuts and Wendy’s fast food as well as the Museum of Modern Arts and the famous big metal bicycle overlooking the city. In front was a majestic view of the mountains.


View from my rooms (rooms because I had my first room changed) was so pretty – the pool, the Mtkvari river, the streets. It helped me relax after a full day’s work for a week. 


Room was basic, which I loved. I mentioned before how I don’t enjoy staying in a humongous, too glamourous type of room, since it feels empty and un-homey. So I was glad this room was the standard, business room. I loved how they had a cushion lining up the windows (so you can stare outside while thinking about what in the world are you going to do with your life). I also find their characters interesting, very loopy, unlike Russian characters which are more triangular-ish, if that makes sense.


After settling in our rooms and still being full from all the plane food we ate, we went straight to work and only stopped for dinner. Will share in my next post what happened next.