Archive for April, 2017


Lest You Forget, Martin


I was 33 when I first visited Europe. You’re slightly less than half of that. You’re so blessed, Martin. And I know you’d never forget this wonderful adventure. Thanks to FB and IG, your souvenirs are forever stored in cyberspace. 






A pity we can be together for only a week in Madrid. But I knew you’d have a heck of an adventure with your aunts after Madrid.  Bilbao’s Guggenheim is an architectural marvel.  I bet your first Renfe train ride was, by itself, a magical journey. Dripping with excitement, you must have found that stone, glass and titanium creation of Frank Gehry a dream. Almost magical! 





I do not wish for you to remember San Sebastián simply for its food. I know. It does register as a superb food porn place. Can’t blame you. But just be reminded of its magnificent Basque architecture, breathtaking seascape, and of course, remember how you worked up a sweat climbing Mount Urgull. Thank Tita Shelly for packing a racion of La Viña cheesecake to “reward” you! And yes, Barcelona rocks, doesn’t it? Gaudi has truly weaved magic to this Catalan city. By this time, your tastebuds have become more discerning. Pulpo, Navajas, Orejas, Foie Gras, Chickpeas, Chistorra, Jabugo, Tarta de Quezo. Yum!






Zaragosa is where you found time to pray in thanksgiving for all your blessings. And more. Paris beckons. And there’s still so much of Madrid to explore. You may remember so much more. Your mind and your tastebuds will remind you. But best of all, cherish the happy memories in your heart. Memories of how much love and care you received. Snapshots of how so well-loved and blessed you are. 


It was a clear, sunny morning for walking. But a rainy afternoon. We made good. Set out early enough, had a good lunch in the area near the Museum, and got promptly back in the car, heading home, when it started raining. 





Too bad the Museum was closed when we visited. But it was quite a sight , both from a distance and from its porch. Housed in a former cable station building, you can view the La Perouse Monument and the coast from the Museum porch.  This commanding view is a fitting tribute to  the French explorer Comte de Lapérouse who allegedly arrived in Botany Bay in 1787-1788 before his expedition mysteriously vanished. The Atlas of the Voyage of La Perouse is housed in this Museum.  Right outside of this Museum area, you can spot a row of restaurants and cafe bars including Danny’s where many chose to lunch on its famous fish and chips. 




We first rounded up the tower and crossed the bridge before a piccolo break and the walk along the coast. Being ANZAC DAY, there were many who had the same idea as ours. Young families with strollers, a group of scuba divers, a pair doing their pre-nuptial pictorial in the rocky coast, some fishermen-hobbyists, a crowd of tourists, hikers and a few nudists in a quiet corner of the beach. (Oooops…. )





There is a sign that 4 people have died in this rocky coast, a prompt reminder never to turn your back against the waters. Then again, I thought of the peril of bringing young children to play among the rocks.  But this morning, the water was calm and unthreatening. Still….. I thought the water must be cold for swimming but you’d never know that watching how these folks take to water. 





These Australians are extremely lucky to be blessed with such a natural landscape and seascape.  I can only envy those with easy access to the beach, maybe sharing lunch with seagulls, playing beach ball by the shore, and to a few (nudies), having a complete and even body tan! Congwong Bay Beach, Little Congwong Beach, and the beach at Frenchman’s Bay —– these swimming areas in Botany Bay are only 14 kilometers southeast of the Sydney CBD.  






A delight to walk around this area. Lots of activities going on, fine sand, a Museum (!), a nudist corner (!!), rock formations, pockets of scuba diving and fishing spots, an old bridge, a row of cafe bars and dining options. Your day’s complete! 








You can’t leave Donostia-San Sebastián without promising to be back. No, you’d actually be swearing and checking your calendar to mark off dates for your repeat txikiteo! How I love this Basque city and its txikiteo or Pintxo bar crawl. So lively, so crowded, so full of energy and if you don’t watch it, so full of calories. 






San Sebastián’s skyline, its coast, its Basque architecture, the mountains looking like bookends to the equally lovely playas, the many Pintxo bars and restaurante. How can you not be so enthralled by its magnificent beauty? You come here to swim, surf or just bake in the sun, toes digging into the sand. At night, you get ready to do the txikiteo and enjoy the gildas and pintxos and cheesecake and txakoli! Life is good in Donostia-San Sebastián. 






Whenever I’m asked which Pintxo bars to check out here, the following come top of mind: La Cuchara de San Telmo, La Viña (cheesecake, baby!), La Cepa (Jamon Jabugo), Bar Zeruko, Casa Urola, Atari Gastroteka, Borda Berri, all in Parte Vieja. All just a few steps apart. Plus Bar Azkena in Mercado La Bretxa.  There are more. But heading back, I had this list like it’s a mission. 😉










Last time, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment.  Plus a night in Pension Larrea right in Parte Vieja — so perfect for txikiteo nights when you take pub crawls real seriously! This time, I tried a very modern and hip hostel (they have private ensuite too) which I thought is very cool. My latest discovery here is A Room In The City. It actually costs more than a room right in Parte Vieja but it is more quiet here. Plus it is very near Buen Pastor Cathedral (which runs straight into Yglesia de Santa Maria in Old Town) and has a pretty neat sun deck and spacious dining hall and lounge. Next visit, I’d likely book here again. Perhaps spend more time in the deck or lounge. 




Check this out: http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/a-room-in-the-city-san-sebastian


Well …… it’s a 7 hour layover and we’re enjoying the food, drinks and huge shower room (my favorite corner here) of Al Dhabi Lounge in Abu Dhabi while waiting for our connecting flight to Manila. Still, it’s a seriously long wait and what better thing to do? BLOG ! Yes, before those memories fade. 


Palacio Cristal in Parque de Retiro


Travels have a way of emptying one’s mind of day-to-day concerns. Perhaps to make room for our fond memories. There is that giddy anticipation over new places, flavors and experiences. I delight in the novelty, discovery as well as in the rediscovery of past delights. Cameras make great memory-keepers but our minds play out varied reactions  with each discovery and replay of happy thoughts. Priceless. When I was growing up “alone” (busy parents, older sisters in college), I learned to read a lot and write down my thoughts. I completed many diaries and even named them. Dear Betty. Dear Jane. Dear Henry. Dear Kevin. Whenever I feel seriously sad, I write. Whenever I feel happy, I write more. Life is a celebration. And it’s worth writing about. If only to remind me of the many things to be grateful for.  No handwritten diaries this time. Thank God for blogsites where I can store my journals in cyberspace while drinking my cortado!


Mi favorito, Cafe Cortado!




Mi hermana. Mi sobrina. Mi nieto. Mi amigos y amigas. All together in dear Madrid, which is home for 6 years to my dear sobrina. I have visited yearly for at least a month to nearly 3 months. Left alone in our Madrid crib in times past, I’ve learned to appreciate Madrid’s many quaint alleys, tiny squares, specialty museums, roadside taperias, and many off-the-beaten paths. No tocar (don’t touch) rule in mercados doesn’t apply in my favorite fruit and vegetable stall. There, this “suki” can enjoy touching the zucchini, potatoes, carrots, spinach, asparagus, naranja, mushrooms, etc. The vendor simply hands me a bowl or basket to fill with my chosen greens and fruits. And the cheese store where I get to taste slices of different quezos — “para probar” (to try). Or ask the fish vendor to clean the fish I buy. Mercado visits are no obligations here, they’re actually delightful adventures. And walking without maps, missing turns and getting lost? There’s always a cafe bar or Iglesia to relax in, meditate, or simply sit out and while away the time. If you chance upon a wedding in the church, it’s your good luck. Cheap thrills! 


Parroquia de San Jeronimo. Behind Museo Del Prado.


And so our Spanish Holiday with sidetrips to Lourdes and Saint John Pied de Port in France is over. Temps rise as our plane lands in Manila. Our hair still a tad limp and wet from the shower we took in the lounge. Our bellies still full from the buffet spread. Our hearts warm with the precious bonding moments. Our minds filled with happy memories. Our leg muscles reminding us we’re no longer spring chickens. And our pockets dry and burned out. Tee Hee. 😉 It would likely take a week to recover our energy to prep for another flight Down Under. From the last dregs of winter to early spring to the intense summer heat of Manila before we catch the onset of Autumn in Sydney. Phew! 


Nap Time En Parque Retiro 😴

Adios, España. Hasta luego.


I’m nearing the end of my holiday. Just one more week. Had my sister and grandnephew with me with some friends visiting. I’ve posted blogs on my other sites to chronicle what kept us busy. Here goes. 





Madrid

Madrid is home. Have shown friends around and some a 2nd time. Always a pleasure. Each time, I can’t help pointing out some of our local heroes’ favorite haunts. Patriotic and curious? Maybe. 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2017/03/13/lento-como-los-caracoles/

(Updated)

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2015/04/30/platea-madrid/ 





Pamplona

Friends know me well enough as a big fan of Rizal, Luna and …. Hemingway. Don’t ask me why. I just find something seriously intriguing about each of them. 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/the-sun-also-rises-in-pamplona/

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/murallas-de-pamplona/

http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/restaurant-irunazarra






San Sebastián

You can’t leave San Sebastián without swearing you’d be back again. The coast, the mountains, the shore, the food!!!

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/beyond-gildas-pintxos-en-donostia-san-sebastian/

http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/segunda-vez-en-bar-zeruko

http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/la-vina-cheesecake-is

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2017/04/12/san-sebastian-lures-me-back/

http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/a-room-in-the-city-san-sebastian




Alcala de Henares

When touring Madrid, there’s that nagging idea of hopping on a train to be away from the city center yet still find the art, culture and character of Iberia. Here’s one just under an hour by local train. Only €6.80 yda y vuelta. 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/goofing-with-cervantes/