Sunday, March 26, 2017

Travel Diary: Tbilisi, Georgia

2014 was the year of the horse, and I claimed it as my year as soon as it started.  I knew in my heart many wonderful things were in store for me, and it didn’t disappoint.  I have received so many blessing last year that I could only but dream of.  God has been so very generous to me and my family, and I cannot be happier.

After waiting for many years of getting back on the road again, finally, I was able to make good trips in 2014.  The first one was a trip with my BFF to Tbilisi in Georgia which kick-started my travels for the year.  And you might say “Tbilisi what?!?!!”  I know, I know, it sounds like a place in the middle of nowhere but believe me, it is a lovely capital of a country that sits nicely in the Caucasus region of Eurasia.  Georgia used to be part of Russia until they decided to break away (several times!) and gained independence in 1991.  Their history is colorful you should hear it from the words of their locals.

This trip was actually a super belated birthday present from my bestie for my 35th birthday last year.  We just never got around to planning it because of work schedule but finally, we were able to push through with the plans last summer.  My ultimatum was we had to make the trip before I turn 36, and so we set the dates in stone – first week of June.  Yes, the nerve of me to make demands, haha!!  Dear husband was okay for me to travel without him because really, who says no to a free trip?!?!!  Bestie booked the air tickets and hotel while I chose which tours to take.  Our stay was for 4 days, and it was really glorious!

We flew via Fly Dubai, the budget sister airline of Emirates and checked in at Terminal 2.  Our flight was after midnight and was just about 3.5 hours long.  The plane wasn’t full so we were able to sleep and stretch our legs with the free rows towards the back part of the plane. We landed at about 5:00 am, and bought our visas upon arrival.  Passing through the immigration was a breeze and only took us less than 10 minutes.  Although the airport transfer we booked didn’t arrive, we managed to get to our hotel by hailing a cab.  We had to bargain with the cab driver though because the initial price they quoted us was ridiculously expensive.  Good thing we knew about the tariff so we avoided getting ripped off.

We got to Hotel Elesa just before 6:00 am but since our room wasn’t available yet, we decided to leave our luggage first and get ourselves some breakfast to kill time.  Luckily, our hotel is right smack in the middle of the old town so everything was reachable by foot.  We took advantage of the quiet roads to take photos and explore the nearby orthodox churches that presented a lot of Byzantine and neo-classical influences.

Our hotel is a small, bed and breakfast type of family-owned accommodation.  Apart from location, the service is just impeccable.  We booked the standard room with balcony that has a view of the Kura River and Cathedral of Saint George.  Every night, Beth and I would sit in the balcony and drink Georgian wine to wind down.  Breakfast was served in the attic which has a homey kitchen. The old lady of the house made sure we were full before we leave for our day's adventure.

our quaint hotel is right behind a monastery

Day 1 was spent checking out the Old Town and the Rustaveli Boulevard.  It is amazing how Tbilisi is accepting of religious diversity.  Proof of that is the existence of a mosque, a synagogue, an Armenian Orthodox and Georgian Orthodox Churches within 500 meters from each other.

beautiful morning in Tbilisi's Old Town

the 4th century fortress, Narikala just behind our hotel
lovely view of the Old Town
Sameba Cathedral (Holy Trinity Cathedral) on a peaceful Sunday morning
BFF with the cable car station in the background
Bridge of Peace, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Kura River
Norashen Holy Mother of God Church built in the 15th century
The Great Synagogue
we had our late lunch at Entree, just a few meters from our temporary home
Meanwhile, Day 2 was the most exciting part of the trip where we explored the Eastern side of Georgia and tried their local wine.  We also met a couple of locals who made their traditional bread.

Day 3 was a trip up the Northern Region.  The mountains were beautiful and serene.  I had a moment with nature and felt God talk to me.  Really, the place is that peaceful.

Day 4 was spent exploring more of the Old Town surrounding our hotel.  We also took the funicular to go up the Mtatsminda Park which overlooked the capital. We also went to see Kartvlis Deda up close and took the cable car.

So grateful for the chance to travel again, and hopefully, this is not the last for me and bestie.