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La Gota de Leche

 

Skipping Manila? I know …. the sun and sand beckons in the beaches of Boracay. There’s serious diving in Palawan. You long to breathe the mountain air in Baguio and Benguet,  or simply go completely rustic in the northermost part of the country in Batanes. Or maybe you want to try your surfboards in Siargao or even check out the tarsiers and chocolate hills in Bohol.  For many, it’s the heritage sites in Vigan and Laoag in the Ilocos region, where one is transported in time to a colonial era.  The air is cleaner, less crowded, people likely less busy and thus friendlier, and board and lodging even cheaper in the islands south of Manila and the provinces north of Manila.

 

La Gota de Leche

And Then There’s Manila…..

 

I can’t blame you.  Manila is so congested, dirty in many parts of the city, and traffic is so bad.  I live in the better part of  Metro Manila not too far from the shopping malls and fancy restaurants  lining the streets of Makati.  I hardly venture out of Makati. In fact, it has been ages since I last got to the center of Manila where one finds Rizal  Park,  Intramuros with its city walls and Fort Santiago.  Whenever I have foreign visitors who have a day or a whole afternoon to spend in Manila, I would invariably bring them to Intramuros and Fort Santiago, and simply point out Rizal  Park as we pass this park along the way.  These 3 are the likely top tourist attractions in the city, but I’d say only because not too many write or talk about the other interesting historic sites in the metropolis.

 

 

No, it is not a secret.  We have heard of some of these places, even watched documentaries on television about them.  But perhaps not often  enough. Nor enough.  Many history books hardly talk about them too.  And as soon as we hear the heritage sites are in Quiapo,  many of us would either lose interest or feel not too brave to walk the streets there.   Sad but true.  And I am ashamed to admit it.

 

Quiapo Church

 

 

 

QUIAPO is best known for the Quiapo Church, the official “residence” of the Black Nazarene. Around the Church, one finds many hawkers selling religious articles side by side vendors selling “anting-anting” (charms, herbs, amulets, voodoo items) . Crossing the plaza towards the Church, one would likely meet “traders” who would not too subtly whisper the  dollar-peso exchange rate for those interested to change their precious dollars to Philippine pesos.  Mixing with the crowd are likely predators on the lookout for “innocent victims”.   You find them too in the streets of Madrid, Paris, Prague and Rome.  The bag snatchers and thieves.  Sadly, these characters kept many like me from visiting this place more often.

 

All That Chaos Towards A Center of Spirituality!

Garden View from Inside La Gota de Leche

La Gota de Leche

 

Amidst all the chaos, it is a pleasant surprise to find this corner of elegance.  A kind of class that soothes the nerves.   Like some oasis which quenches the thirst for some degree of tranquility.  

 

Literally means “drop of milk”.  This place was inaugurated in 1907 by then Governor-General, later US President William Howard Taft.  Designed by Arcadio and Juan Arellano, fathers of Philippine architecture, inspired by the Hospital of the Innocents, an orphanage in Florence designed by Brunelleschi, a renowned  Italian Renaissance architect.  As if to indicate what this structure stands for, there are decorative reliefs on pediments with images of infants.

 

Established as a clinic to address malnutrition concerns among the indigents, it was run  by the La Proteccion de la Infancia, Inc. This outreach organization was founded by philanthropist Teodoro R. Yangco in 1907. Records show the construction was completed in 1917 so that makes this building nearly a hundred years old.  You can say this organization was the country’s very first NGO or non-government organization.  A charity project dedicated to infants and young children, its operations involved the distribution of milk to indigent children. It further evolved to champion women’s rights as it also houses the “Kababaihan Laban sa Karahasan Foundation” (literally “Women Against Violence”). The charity organization exists to this day, and must take credits for the restoration of this building in 2002-2003, for which it was awarded the 2003 Heritage Award of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation.

 

Located in 859 Sergio Loyola Street (parallel to Morayta Street), La Gota de Leche is very near the University of the East.  It almost sticks out like a sore thumb in the University Belt, in Sampaloc to be precise, in an  area hemmed in by sidewalk vendors, dilapidated buildings and smelly trash bins. But La Gota stands proud like an old contessa, with its cross-vaulted arcaded loggias, front garden and a non-functional water fountain.

Bahay Nakpil

Bahay Nakpil

 

Bahay means house.  This is the house of the Nakpils and Bautistas, built in 1914 Truth is the house should be called Bahay Nakpil-Bautista. Besides being a century-old house , its distinction lies in its being home to some of our heroes of the 1896 revolution.  Located in A. Bautista Street, just off Ramon Hidalgo Street,  the 2 Philippine flags and a marker in front of the house are the only tell-tale signs that it is a house of distinction.  Right beside it is another house, even older, which seems ready to collapse anytime. Both are of the “bahay na bato” architecture which literally means “house made of stone”, though structure is really that of an upper storey made of wood built over a stone foundation.  Typical of the bahay na bato, architect Arcadio Arellano incorporated Viennese Secession motifs into the making of the house. Oddly, the style was adopted after the family received a gift of Secessionist furniture such that the design of the house worked around the furniture motifs.

 

Street Scene @Bahay Nakpil

 

The house is owned and built by Dr. Ariston Bautista, a noted propagandist during the Philippine Revolution .  His wife was Petrona Nakpil, whose brother, Julio Nakpil, composed the secret society Katipunan’s patriotic hymns.  Katipunan was founded by Andres Bonifacio, who is married to Gregoria de Jesus.  Inside, there is a marker citing that this has also been home to Gregoria de Jesus, widow of working class hero Andres Bonifacio, who then married Julio Nakpil.  Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was also the place where the family operated its Plateria Nakpil which crafted many jewelry pieces highly prized by Manila’s elite at the time. As distinguised Quiapo families,  the house witnessed many social gatherings and concerts aside from being home to national heroes and artists. View full article »

My 2018 Travel Wishlist


I have drawn up my bucket list back in 2013 and has since struck off a few from the list. Problem is, for every country ticked off, there’s 2 more to add. So yes, it is a growing list. Wanderlust. Why fight it? Well, for one — my travel fund is fast depleting while the list keeps growing. I am also starting to feel my age 😢 though I strive to shake off any such anxiety. Keeping in mind to travel safely, comfortably but not necessarily luxuriously I need to plan my trips more wisely. And resist visiting the same favorite destinations —God help me! 🙏🏻

Like an old truck seeking new directions, I am very happy with the places I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve shared with family and friends. Finally, I managed to travel to Peru, India, Halong Bay (Vietnam), Myanmar & Finland since the list was drawn. I have also managed to do not one but 2 caminos — the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, as well as from Viterbo (Italy) to the Vatican City. Plus the challenging first 24kms of the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port. Not bad for an old hag 😜

Yet the unchecked list remains. Galapagos. Northern Lights. The many lovely countries now comprising the former Yugoslavia. Hungary. Iguassu Falls. Canadian Rockies. New Zealand. Exotic Sri Lanka. Tibet. Other South American and African countries. Not to mention the list of domestic destinations waiting to be struck off! And perhaps another (longer) camino.

Photos from the Net

This March, Sri Lanka is it. Come April-May, my childhood friend and grandnephew should be free to travel with me. Destination yet unknown. Before my Schengen visa expires this year, I may as well do another trip to Europe. And in October-November, another trip to Sydney to visit family and meet up with friends who’d hop from Sydney to Kiwi land. I am very, very tempted to join them for the New Zealand leg too but we’ll see. This wanderlust is making me rethink my retirement. Not in the sense that I want to go back to work but more in terms of seeking other funding sources. (How????) In the same vein, I seriously need to plot my travel calendar within my travel fund in the next 5 years. Age is creeping in, and the “bolder, more adventurous, more energy-demanding trips” seek precedence over the more leisurely, relaxing, boketto-mode travels which can be dealt with once I (sadly) turn septuagenarian! 😫 — by which time, I plan to run a blog series on “Easy Travels for Seniors”. Wish me luck, I need it. 😘🙄🤪

The Joy In My Heart


Once, I waxed poetic

Nothing grand, nowhere epic

Wordsmith, surely I am not

Just speaking from the heart.

Every morn I ponder

Thinking aloud, still sober

What countless blessings You gave

So much more than I deserve.

It’s this joy in my heart

The cheer in that sacred part

Such a gift, so precious

Stuck in my subconscious.

Not everything is on fleek

God lets happen even if you’re meek

Your gift of cheer I seek

To live life’s joys at its peak.

(Photo taken more than 30 years ago)

Baguio Today


Many moons ago, our family would make the 6-7 hour long roadtrip from Manila to the country’s summer capital. Baguio: the city of pines. Those were the days when Baguio was cleaner, less crowded and the pine trees everywhere. It’s a shorter drive these days, but that feeling of “being in Baguio” seems restricted to areas around Camp John Hay, Baguio Country Club and the Mansion House. The Baguio you find today is no longer teeming with the scent of pine trees. And it’s a completely new Camp John Hay with its lovely Manor House and several new cottages and shops.

For this trip, we stayed at the century-old Baguio Country Club — still looking nearly like the grand dame it was many years ago. The old fireplace is still where it was then, and you can still take home those raisin and banana breads we’ve come to love. Over breakfast at the Verandah, I reminisced about the time when I’d wake up real early to tee off for a round of golf while other early risers watch me as they waited for their morning brew. I tried to join the earliest flight of golfers then to avoid being watched! Now, I sit and watch them while sipping my coffee and waiting for my eggs to be done. 😊☕️🥚🍽🥐🍳

In the many trips I’ve been here, I have only gone as far as the gated front of The Mansion House. We had the privilege of getting inside the Presidential Summer House this time. And sit/pose around the conference table. (Thanks, Meloy). I even stood at the rostrum as if addressing an audience 🙄

We did the touristy thing as we showed our US-based friends around. Apart from Camp John Hay and Mansion House, we dropped in at the Cathedral, Mines View Park, Burnham Park, dined at Rose Bowl at its new location. Some of them last visited Baguio 35 years ago so it was truly a nostalgic trip. A big plus was the Opening Ceremony for the Panagbenga Flower Fest!

I’ve never attended Baguio’s Flower Festival. Frankly, I don’t remember it as a child so I assumed it’s a recently-organized annual festivity. Other “new attractions” are the colorful houses in La Trinidad Valley and the well-curated Bencab Museum. I’m awed by the blooms from Baguio, and pleasantly surprised they now grow persimmons too! I love this fruit (along with Sagada oranges, lychees and longans) that I can’t even remember how much I paid for them!

The Museum and its garden is now a must-visit destination. I noticed they have rearranged and added more items. Nice. My balikbayan friends thought this museum is a great additional attraction in Baguio. I only wish they improve the museum guide’s spiel — I’m sure every Bencab artwork is laden with substance and meaning I’d be so curious about. Lunch was in Bencab’s Cafe Sabel, where we enjoyed every item on the menu from Strawberry Shake to pancit chopseuy to spicy tuyo pasta.

Our trip timed perfectly not only with the festival blooms display but also with the super blood blue moon. We craned our necks for a good half hour at the roofdeck of Baguio Country Club at 12 degree celsius just to watch this lunar spectacle. How I wish I brought a proper camera. The iPhone just won’t do for those zoomed photos. But good enough for those Baguio flowers!

In my next visit, I hope to see more colorful Trinidad Valley houses, more locally-grown fruits (cherries?), maybe watch the Panagbenga parade and eat more at Bencab’s Cafe Sabel. Who knows? I may even pick up the sport again!

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Busy Since I Retired


I kid you not.

My self-imposed retirement began in early 2001. I quit to have a life. And it’s been a life of adventures and nurtured relationships since.

I love to travel. And I travel with different sets and circles of friends. No better way to bond than enjoying their company 24/7. I’m one who easily gets along with most anyone on a trip. Perhaps because I’m in my elements when traveling. But I do realize it’s better to travel solo than putting up with bad company. I’m also hell-bent when I wish to be someplace and no one’s going with me. Guess it all started when I was a child standing in line to enjoy rollercoaster rides. I don’t do that now. Not because I’m afraid but more because I’m cautious not to break a brittle bone. I go visit family and friends whenever I can. I have always maintained that life is too short to waste it. As years pass, I appreciate more and more the value of relationship. I am happy I nurtured many since childhood.

2001:

USA Roadtrip

Beijing + HK

2002:

Spain + Portugal

Lourdes, Paris

2003:

USA East/West Coast

London

Roadtrip from Paris thru Tours,

Bordeaux, Lourdes, Provence,

Barcelona, back to Paris

2004:

St. Petersburg+Moscow, Russia

Switzerland

Provence+Paris

2005:

USA

2006:

Singapore

Europe

2007:

Alaskan Cruise

Vancouver+Victoria, Canada

Seattle+San Francisco+LA

2008:

HK/Macau

Taipei

2009:

Turkey & Greece

Indonesia

HK New Year

Shanghai

2010:

Siem Reap

Shanghai

2011:

Bhutan

Shanghai

2012:

South Africa+Zambia

Spain

2013:

Australia

Spain

Mongolia

Korea

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

2014:

Australia

Hanoi/Halong Bay, Vietnam

India

2015:

Myanmar

Spain

Berlin, Germany

Scandinavian Cruise

Bangkok, Thailand

Morocco+Spain

2016:

Italy

Tokyo

Sydney+Gold Coast, Australia

Japan

Bangkok, Thailand

2017:

Spain

Sydney+Tasmania

Miami/SFO/Vegas/Utah

Peru

Fukoaka

Spain

Paris, France

2018: (Planned, as of this writing)

Sri Lanka (March 8-15)

Malaysia (April)

Sydney (Oct )

Easily, 50 international trips since 2001. I’ve also covered much ground back home. I’ve been busy. Traveled with family and different sets of friends. Oh yes, I have no shortage of travel buddies. Outside of family, there are my camino buddies, foodie group, college buddies, travel blogger-friends, former work colleagues, dormmates, childhood friends, etc. My friends would always ask which trips rank among my Top 10. And I’m always stumped for choice. How do you choose from among so many trips you’ve enjoyed and wish to repeat? But this I say, the more memorable ones are those where I learned the most, interacted with locals the most, or simply where “something clicked” to change my outlook in life. Not exactly an epiphany; just a simple discovery or realization from a meaningful experience.

Abuela Con Nieta


Traveled with my nieta over the holidays — her first time in Europe. We based ourselves in Madrid but made 3 night trips to Paris, Barcelona and San Sebastian. Paris was at the top of her list but she ended up loving San Sebastian best and Barcelona second best. I wasn’t surprised.

She loves visits to the art galleries and spent lotsa time there. And I mean lotsa time! San Sebastian has no museos in the league of Louvre nor Prado, but she digs the vibe in this Basque city so much that I’m convinced she can live there.

Traveling as abuela y nieta, our pair must have invited some attention. Or at least we were marked. Or perhaps SHE was marked. More than once, I was asked “Donde esta la chica?” She’d always find a vacant seat on the train where she can more comfortably sit, or stray away from me while we’re in line. She’d get free admission to some museos when the man at the window would ask if she’s a student. No student ID nor passport copy, but she gets in free or at a discount while her abuela pays the regular rate. She’s out of her teens now but still acts like a child like when I couldn’t get a decent shot of her without her tongue sticking out or her crinkling her nose.

Our vacation lasted a full month. She’d tease we didn’t quarrel as much as expected and laugh. I was happy to show her around, much that museos and art galleries were coming out of my ears. She discovered she’s a good dishwasher and that she easily forgets things. I discovered I can appreciate street and urban art too. We share food preferences and love bubblies. She likewise shops like me — quick, decisive and wise. Ahem.

I am certain “art appreciation” was the highlight of this trip. I have seen how she spent for art materials and art books, more than she spent for those fashion stuff. For sure, she has set her sights on a return trip knowing how she has enjoyed this holiday.

While in Madrid, she found time to meet with her friends now studying there. It was amusing to see her playing tour guide cum photographer. Their photos speak volumes on how much they enjoyed each other’s company, sticking tongues and all 😜 She loves Spain. And judging by how she’s been painting lately, mi nieta is inspired. 💕👩🏻‍🎨🎨

Travels with #aponimamu:(Just click on the link)

Around Paris

Louvre and Centre Pompidou

Bohemian Paris

Touchdown, San Sebastian

Txikiteo in San Sebastian

The Playas of San Sebastian

Traveling Paintbrush of Anna

Museo Guggenheim (Bilbao)

Museu Picasso (Barcelona)

Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)

Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa (Madrid)

Gaudi and Ciutat Vella

To Montserrat and Back

A Pleasant Moorish Surprise

Not Segovia, But Alcala de Henares

Street Art In Spain

Some Musings and Ramblings:

Abuela Con Nieta

Happy Thoughts for Anna P


If I were traveling solo, I’d likely NOT pay much attention. But my nieta drew me closer to urban art. In my book, they are pure and simple graffiti. Except of course for the open air sculptures in brass or bronze. Not so, says my artist-nieta. So I looked closer. Yeah, there’s an element of “intimacy” in such a public art expression. A connection of sorts. Some make sense, others don’t. Like this piece in Barcelona near Parc Güell. A pair of eyes to “guard” the shop. A closer scrutiny reveals they’re Albert Einstein’s eyes. Or this piece in Zaragosa near the Mercado Central, just a few meters from the Plaza del Pilar. Shop for the bad kids? Hmmm. And it was Christmastime when we found this.

There is an area called La Tabacalera in Madrid. A venue for self-expression but we failed to visit the area as it rained, snowed or hailed the last few days of our Madrid stay. That would have been interesting. But walking home, we weren’t deprived of Madrid’s rebel spirit and creative permissiveness. The shops either sported these graffiti, or someone sneaked in to express himself while no one’s looking.

Atocha Station has some interesting artworks on display just outside the station’s Arrivals area. And there’s Tupperware — a hipster bar frequented by young locals. The bar’s front displays some artwork that changes from time to time.

In San Sebastian and Zaragosa, we found many walls, doors, defaced with graffiti. Like spray-painted Swastikas, Hitler images, or just plain messages.

I can imagine shadowy characters sneaking in with their stencils and spray paint cans, finishing the job in a few minutes lest they get caught. Mind you, my nieta was having all these crazy ideas herself to a point she had a stencil ready and a can of spray paint. Yay! Time to go home.

To Montserrat & Back


Home of the Black Madonna. Just an hour’s journey via R5 from Placa de Espanya Station in Barcelona heading towards Manresa. One must decide before the train ride whether to ride the “connecting” cable car or funicular Cremallera up to the monastery. If you’ve decided to take the cable car, you need to get off the R5 train at the Aeri de Montserrat. If you are taking the funicular, you get off at the next station, the Monistrol de Montserrat. Slightly longer but cheaper. Combined tickets (train+cable car OR train+Cremallera) can be purchased at Placa de Espanya.

Either way, the ride guarantees stunning views. Montserrat literally translates to “serrated mountains”. The train weaves through the mountains as it climbs, and the cable car or cremallera gives an even more panoramic view as the short ride transports you right on Monastery grounds. The Black Madonna sits inside and at the top of the altar inside the basilica. We waited in line with other pilgrims for half an hour to go up and touch the Black Madonna. We also heard mass where Gregorian chants were sung by a boys’ choir from the monastery’s boarding school. On Saturdays, the chants are sung by the monks. We came on a Friday and the singing was heavenly!

Either before or after the visit to the basilica, you can linger around to appreciate the stunning beauty of Montserrat. Or light a candle and say more prayers. We did both. But we couldn’t stay longer outdoors because it was friggin’ cold! We could even hardly go past the beautiful square & courtyard of the Monastery, because of the freezing weather. Then and there, I ditched plans to check out the footpaths and hiking trails. Not even a funicular ride to reach higher grounds or to check St. Michael’s Cross or Santa Cova could lure me to engage in any adventure. Besides, it’s way past our feeding time 😩

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And so we’ve decided to have our adventure inside the Hotel Abat Cisneros Montserrat instead. The hotel is right beside the Monastery. Other lunch options include the Cafeteria which I’ve tried twice before. Nothing fancy. But a peek into the hotel’s dining area and a browse-through of its Menu convinced us that we’re ready for a proper meal. Lamb for the nieta and pulpo for the señora abuela. And a small bottle of vino blanco between us. Purrrrrfect!

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Bohemian Paris


Paris. Left Bank. Saint Germain des Prés. Once the artistic and literary center of Paris. Tempting to think Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sartre along with Picasso, Monét and Renoir. I have always stayed in a hotel on the right bank in previous visits. This time around, I booked this apartment near the Jardin du Luxembourg just a stone’s throw from the Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés. I can’t wait to show Anna Patricia this very bohemian side of Paris. Maybe do some people-watching while having cafe au lait or chocolate chaud and an almond croissant in Les Deux Magots. If only the sun will come out 🌞 In winter, le soleil is almost absent. Any chance there are sunny spells or even just a hint of those glorious sunshine rays, expect the Parisians to be out in droves!

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But Paris in 4 days is just all too brief. Make that even 3 days since we arrived after sundown on Day 1. I can only reminisce time spent in that famous cafe that has since acquired a reputation as a tourist destination. We instead had our pastries and cafe au lait elsewhere and spent more time in Montmartre area which is another bohemian paradise. But still……

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Thinking back, many moons ago, when crepe, quiche and macaron were unfamiliar to my tastebuds, I have realized how much I have truly missed. The inviting aroma wafting from a french bakery only proves Peter Mayle’s

love for almost everything French. Yeah, i know, we’ve lost him only recently. Made me go through my stack of books, eager to re-read A Year In Provence only to remember someone borrowed my Peter Mayle books and never returned them! (Well, you know who you are 🙄)

It’s a dirtier Paris I came to now. The metro stations looked sad and neglected. Some back streets teeming with trash and where we felt unsafe. With few hours of daylight, we strolled past 5pm trying to beat sunset while taking in as much sights on early winter nights. Heard Saturday 10pm anticipated mass in Sacre Coeur but ditched plans to roam around Place Du Tertre as crowds have thinned and ambulant artists gone for the winter night. This is Paris on winter nights. The crowds thin as night sets in and temps dip. Less time to stroll around in daylight. So I’d suggest you do the Museums at night instead. Centre Georges Pompidou is open till 9pm daily and Louvre till 10pm, 2 days of the week: Wednesdays and Fridays. Musee d’Orsay is open till 9:45pm on Thursdays. So there. Hit the other sights during the day, then museums before a late dinner before calling it a night. And yeah, don’t rush Paris like we did. Stay longer than 4 days 😊

Gaudi and Ciutat Vella


My nieta said she can live here. She had her entire face nearly pressed on the window as we trained into Barcelona Sants Station, then hopped on the metro for Liceu Station in La Rambla. A short walk to our hotel….. and La Boqueria. We knew we won’t grow hungry in this part of town.

It was reassuring to find many policemen and patrol cars every so many meters in this part of town. We felt safe walking out of our hotel right into La Rambla. We made trips to La Boqueria for breakfast and lunch, only to find that the resto beside our hotel serves very good paella negra. I kid you not. Just don’t order the sangria which is exhorbitantly priced! We were happy with our meal till we asked for “la cuenta”. And so we justified that bill by saying we got a good discount from Museu Picasso, viewed/stepped on a Joan Miró artwork for free, and discovered the pleasure of strolling past Barri Gotic and enjoying La Ribera and El Born. Swell.

La Rambla is a strip that joins Placa Catalunya at one end with La Rambla del Mar on the other end. If you care for fountains and doves or need to get on a hop on/ hop off sightseeing bus, walk towards Placa Catalunya. If you want the sea breeze and errr, more doves, proceed towards the waters. Along the strip itself, you have La Boqueria, Liceu Theatre, and Palau Güell Museum on one side and on the other side, Barri Gotic which includes the Placa Real, and Barcelona Cathedral.

Farther on, you reach the La Ribera and the less touristy El Born neighborhood. Still part of the charming Ciutat Vella, without the hordes of tourists. Having spent time in this area, enjoying quiet dinners, one is inclined to think 80% of the tourists are either in Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, La Rambla, La Boqueria, Casa Batllo or La Pedrera.

After all, Barcelona is largely all about Gaudi. Many on every tourist’s list are creations of Antoni Gaudi. No one takes the blame here — the man’s a genius! My nieta can’t have enough of him.

From The Archives:

So Much To Thank Gaudi For


It’s a nursery rhyme I find myself humming each time I come visiting Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Sure, most people would visit to view what’s on exhibit inside the museo, while others would be quite content just viewing Guggenheim’s magnificent architectural wonder made of titanium, glass and limestone. In a sense, one can say the most significant work of art in this museo is the modern and contemporary style of the edifice itself. Designed by Frank Gehry, completed in 1997, hailed as a 20th century masterpiece. And indeed, it is! But much that I find the glass and titanium masterpiece awesome, I am particularly lured by this giant spider sculpture!

The day and time we visited, there was even some sort of a “fogging machine” around the edifice making the entire complex looking even more dramatic. Yet even without it, there is already enough drama in Guggenheim Museum with the giant spider, giant puppy topiary and the majestic red bridge. No camera whore nor aspiring photographer could miss these iconic landmarks. Unfortunately, Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” looks forlorn without the blooms. Made of stainless steel, this work of art is typically festooned with the most colorful flowers. Not in winter though. From the comforts of a sushi restaurant across the street where we nourished ourselves (a girl’s got to eat!), we viewed Koons’ giant terrier sculpture from the floor to ceiling glass window. Sad. It lost its magic from its spring version (shown here for comparison).

The not so itsy-bitsy spider by Louise Bourgeois makes up for the pup’s slack. On the other side of Gehry’s creation is this 9 meter-tall bronze, marble and stainless steel sculpture. It even has a name – Maman. If you stand underneath the giant spider, you’d find a sac of marble eggs embedded on its stomach. The artist designed it as such to honor her weaver-mom and to project the protective nature of mothers.

Lastly, let’s not forget the red bridge and row of buildings just across the river. No cam whore can possibly do wrong taking shots of these sights. But please do take the time to pause and appreciate this entire composition of works of art outside the confines of the Museo. After a few snapshots, breathe in all this beauty. I’m attached to the giant spider sculpture perhaps because the artist meant it as a tribute to his mom. Yeah. I’m a sucker for such stories.

Btw, no photography is allowed inside the Museum. Hmmm, so this explains all these exterior shots. I sneaked in a few shots though. Mi apologia.