Category: Europe



Last of the big 3 in Madrid: Prado, Reina Sofia and now Thyssen-Bornemizsa. There are varied opinions on which is the best. I observed the older ones prefer the more academic, traditional, classical Renaissance art while the younger generation prefer the more modern, contemporary art. In Thyssen-Bornemizsa, one gets a good blend of both. I saved it for last for this reason, and because I thought my energy level would have dwindled by the nth museum and Thyssen has a very good, decent cafe where I can chill.

On a freezing afternoon, it was the perfect thing to do. No way you’d find us in some park or strolling the streets of Madrid. There were even days it slightly snowed in Madrid and the breeze just give our bones the chill. So another museum visit won’t hurt. Besides, my nieta just couldn’t have enough of it. (There’s another small, even obscure museo she wants to visit which I haven’t in the many trips I’ve made to Madrid. Well, we’ll see. )

Thankfully, there were no lines. No crowd. Most everyone must be chillin’ on bed. Hmm, the mere thought makes me want to go under a warm blanket, in a heated room. That should be comforting. Anyway, there’s this business of viewing the TB collection. And this, I must say. Thyssen I find as the most visitor-friendly museum here. Well-curated, with long benches to sit on in nearly every hall. I also think it’s difficult to “lose” someone here because the visit is so guided that one goes from hall to hall in a very orderly manner. Many times, I sat it out while nieta moved from here to there. When it was time to meet up, it was easy to find each other.

What I love about museum visits is that no matter how many times you go, you’d always find something new. Not exactly a new artwork, but more of how an old, even familiar piece can affect you. Is it one’s mood at that moment? Have we “changed” without us noticing it? Hard to explain. But there were art pieces there I found truly interesting after some visits.

As for my nieta, she was happy she can take photographs unlike in Prado. In Reina Sofia, photography is allowed but not for Picasso’s Guernika and some other major pieces. She wants to look them up more intimately and perhaps, even reproduce them. Picasso did the same. So did many others. So, why not?


I’ve always known there would be many museums to visit with my nieta. But more visits to one museum? It happened. She asked to go back to Museo Reina Sofia. She felt the same way with Pompidou Center but our time in Paris was limited. Not so in Madrid. There was time.

I could feel the excitement within the glass elevator we took to start from the upper levels and taking our sweet time down to the lower levels. She grabbed a map of the museum while I paid for the audio guides. She lingered longer over the Dali pieces. My fav too but I prefer the more sober Dali artworks. My nieta likes the ones bordering on surrealism. And there’s Miró, Magritte, Picasso, and 2 new favorites : Angeles Santos, whose Un Mundo she painted when she was only 18! And Juan Gris.

Apo (grandchild) was in Cloud 9. She had 4 hours to spend. That was the first thing she checked : closing time. It is a pattern: 4 hours in each museum. I should remember to wear more comfortable shoes next time. The lovely thing about Museo Reina Sofia is that she can take photos of many art pieces except for the obra maestras like Guernika by Picasso and some other celebrated works of the same artist and Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Truly, Spain reigned supreme in both Rennaissance and contemporary art.

Out in the streets of Madrid, she follows my lead as we navigated from Sol to Calle Mayor to Gran Via. Here within the Museo, she took the lead and shepherded me from hall to hall, and then back to the same halls where she found her favorites. She appreciated how her idols’ art evolved in style, approach and boldness in both message, form and hues. She fell in love with Dali’s works without loving the artist’s character. 🙄 Well…. Dali is Dali with all his eccentricities.

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By the time she was ready to turn in her audio guide, she shifted her interest to the museum’s tienda. She can’t leave without buying a Dali book and more souvenirs. Another happy day for mi nieta. 💕💕💕


We were too lazy to plan where next to go. Giving in to instant and impromptu day trip plans, we woke up early one morning and decided we’d have a cochinillo lunch in Meson de Candido in Segovia. Hopped on the metro, off at Chamartin Station, straight into the Venta de Billetes to buy our ida y vuelta tickets for Segovia. We planned on staying at least 8 hours to enjoy the old town – the aquaduct, the Alcazar, Catedral, Museos, the cordero or cochinillo and a few, choice pastelerias. All in freezing -2C weather. But it snowed the night before in Segovia and the station is blanketed in snow. The man from Cercanias said the train will take us there but there’s no way we can reach the town proper from the isolated estacion because no buses nor taxis are available to ferry us out of the train station. Boo!

(Here are photos sourced from the Net on Segovia situation. Same snow situation in Avila, btw)

And so we hurried back — just as it also started to snow in Chamartin Station — to the ticket office to return our day tickets and claim a refund. Another time, perhaps. But we’re all bundled up for a day out and have no wish to be home early! Entonces, we returned to the ticket counter and bought tickets for the next train headed for….. Alcala de Henares. The hometown of Miguel de Cervantes, of Don Quixote fame. It is also home to a university founded by Cisneros. Cardinal, Regent and close adviser to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabela of Castile.

We took the Cercanias slow train and reached Alcala in under an hour. Still freezing at 3C, we only managed to visit a church, Cervantes’ Home, Plaza Cervantes with the ayuntamiento, the Universidad and the quaint, cobblestoned streets of Alcala de Henares. Oh yes, a little bit of “stork-watching” too. Told my sobrina and nieta that these storks seem to have “regal addresses” as they’ve taken up residences in many of the tall spires around this UNESCO Heritage Site.

Man of La Mancha. Don Quixote. And his squire Sancho Panza. We’ve met twice before and we meet a third time more. Their life-size bronze statues guard Cervantes’ home, now a Museo. Casa Natal de Cervantes is right along the town’s cobblestoned, columns-lined Calle Mayor. Just off the Plaza Cervantes which locals have spruced up for the Christmas Season.

The first time I visited Alcala, I was all by myself. I knew I’d be back with family and friends. I was particularly amused by the “stork community” and earlier blogged about it. Just click on this link. But certainly, this town’s claim to fame lies in its old University and this celebrated man of literature. As for me, I’m happy enough to walk its streets, checking out those old columns, antique doors, gates, and (don’t laugh now) water spouts.

Btw, we were lucky to have changed our train tickets from Segovia to Alcala. The cochinillo place was blanketed in inches of snow, trapping many along the roads. Looks winter-nice in photos, but glad to be spared the ordeal of having to wait to be rescued. God is good!

https://www.thespainreport.com/articles/1290-180107094243-spanish-army-called-out-to-help-rescue-thousands-trapped-overnight-in-snow-west-of-madrid

Museu Picasso (Barcelona)


We didn’t even have to discuss it. But the lines, the crowds, the noise, got to us. Gaudi had many fans, judging by the crowd that stood in line for Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo. There was an area in Parc Güell where we nearly had the spot all to ourselves. But not for long. As for the rest of Gaudi’s masterpieces, one simply co-exists with the rest of adoring fans. My nieta and I wanted some quiet time. Ciutat Vella is charming but the La Rambla y Barri Gotic areas are littered with camera-toting humans. A few more meters away and we settled in La Ribera. Still teeming with a vibrant vibe, but less touristy. We liked it better here, including El Born area.

My nieta had Museu Picasso in her bucket list but we failed to buy tickets online. We missed the one in Paris so we just had to check this one out. The line for the museum was tolerable, thank God. Housed in 5 of La Ribera’s centuries-old medieval palaces, we were eager to get in and view Picasso’s earlier works. I have to confess I enjoyed the collection better in San Francisco’s MOMA, but I guess we needed to understand that the collection should be appreciated from another perspective. As I said, these are the master’s earlier works and one traces how his art evolved from the traditional and academic to modernist and contemporary. Imagine his works at age 14. So young, yet his brush strokes spoke of his genius and artistry.

Although born in Malaga, Picasso chose to have this museum in Barcelona presumably because he likely feels more connected to this Catalan city. His good friend Jaume Sabartés had quite an extensive collection of his paintings, prints and drawings but Picasso himself added, albeit donated, much of the museum’s extensive collection. More donations were acquired — from Picasso’s widow, friends, other art collectors and various art galleries. Although the major works on exhibit included early Picasso works like the First Communion and Science and Charity, I am more intrigued by the artist’s portraits of himself and beloved father as well as his 58 “versions” of Velasquez’ Las Meninas.

I am a big fan of Diego Velasquez. His Las Meninas is prominently displayed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Pablo Picasso must be a big fan too. But why the 58 versions? What was he thinking? He donated his “recreation” of this major artwork when his good friend Sabartes died in 1968. And this is a quote from Picasso himself:

If someone wants to copy Las Meninas, entirely in good faith, for example, upon reaching a certain point and if that one was me, I would say..what if you put them a little more to the right or left? I’ll try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez. The test would surely bring me to modify or change the light because of having changed the position of a character. So, little by little, that would be a detestable Meninas for a traditional painter, but would be my Meninas.

— Picasso

Frankly, I still don’t get it. I mean, 58 versions kind of smack of an obsession, IMHO. The pieces jump out in vivid colors, unlike the original piece. But Picasso surely made them “his own” in that “distorted, cubist style” so prevalent in his art. Quite prolific, this artist. Well, he did live to a ripe, full age with not an ounce of passion lost through his many (20,000!) works in an astonishing range of style. Maybe it pays to keep inspired? For sure, he had several muses but I’m not going into that. 🙄

Indeed, Pablo Picasso is one significant artist of the 20th century. He started off being trained by his own father, copying many major artworks, and later inventing and reinventing his art. The world became better. He left us with many creations. As well as notable quotes. Quite a man, this Picasso!

“The very act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

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It was her first time in Paris. My nieta is traveling with me to Europe and Paris is at the top of her list. For many many reasons. The iconic Tour Eiffel, Sainte-Chapelle, the Louvre, Montmartre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Champ Elysees, Madeleine, Pompidou Center, Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, to name a few. And of course, there’s Versailles. I wanted to also bring her to Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens in Giverny but the impressionist painter’s estate is closed for the winter. Boooo! 😩

A quick sketch, but many short brush strokes on a really tiny piece of paper the size of a postcard. This art work is her first expression so soon after landing here. So little time in Paris, but we made do.

The very grand, iconic Louvre Museum impressed her so that she kept going back to the same art pieces across the huge museum. I settled on a bench by the staircase and let her shuttle here and there for the 4 hours we stayed! From Louvre, we went to another museé – the Centre Georges Pompidou. Here is a collection of many of the world’s best modern and contemporary art works and nieta is deliriously happy. Dalí, Matisse, Basquiat, Mondrian, Raysse and a few more.

Basquiat

Mercifully, the line was very short in Centre Pompidou towards early evening and the museum closed real late for nieta to do an unrushed, leisurely review. More than that, her youthful “face value” earned her free admission (under 26, student) even if we didn’t present any document like her passport. The young man at the counter who asked how old she is simply said “I believe you”. Then he looked at her abuela, and charged me 14 euros. 👵👵👵 Rounding up the works of Jean Michel Basquiat, she recalled the portrait she painted of this free spirit whose works she found again when we visited Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum. This young lady is in Cloud 9!

She’s been using the ink and watercolor she brought for this trip. But a day before Christmas, she bought art materials and a sketchpad so I bet she’d keep herself busy the next few days. More so, after a trip to Barcelona where we’d stay in a hotel a short distance from Picasso Museum. That, and all that Gaudi and Miro madness. I can’t wait. Too bad there’s no time to visit Dali’s Museum outside of the ciudad. Meanwhile, she’s done a few more art pieces. Taking inspiration from the gardens of Chateau de Versailles, she painted away. (But not happy with her Versailles work). Unable to forget the taste of the best tarta de quezo from San Sebastian, she painted the facade of La Viña. (We made 3 trips here — those cheese cakes are to die for!). And then some more. My young artist has never had formal art lessons but she’s been painting from the heart. I sense her art is still evolving and an artist-friend suggested to let it evolve without any “influence” from art mentors. The way it’s going, I am truly amused that she’s been experimenting with different medium and stoking her passion with stuff that interests her. Like dogs. (She loves painting those furry balls!) Portraits of celebrities. A germ, a seed of something that tugged in her heart of hearts. An experience she recalls. Really, I can hardly wait.

Txikiteo Con Mi Nieta


Finally! On our first night here, we only tried Atari Gastroteka right across Yglesia de Santa Maria in Parte Vieja. It was a leisurely meal without the tourist crowd, with wait staff not too busy to chat you up. Txikiteo can wait till tomorrow, I thought. For our first night, let it not be rushed and frenzied. Just one relaxing meal ordering the same stuff we enjoyed here the last time.

We’ve always known the Pulpo and Foie Gras here are tops but we discovered its salmon and beef cheeks too. My nieta was introduced to Ribera del Duero though she also took a swig at my Rioja. Our butts got stuck here as we were seated outside across the Yglesia at 7Celsius with a friendly waitress checking on us from time to time. The Txikiteo can wait, I repeat. For now, we savoured the peace and quiet, along with the good food and bebidas.

On our 2nd night we were ready for our txikiteo. But it so happened the whole of San Sebastian was celebrating Santo Tomas Fair and transformed the entire city into a farmers’ market. Locals donned farmers’ and peasants’ attires. I was tempted to buy an outfit but my Oriental looks would give me away. Any txikiteo idea was promptly dashed as we could hardly move across Parte Vieja. Crowd was so thick, everyone’s in high spirits (literally and figuratively) and so many drunks have dropped and broken their copas. No war freaks, just too drunk to stand steady and hold their glasses. Ergo, glass shards all over. We did the next best thing. La Viña is famous for its tarta de quezo but they do have a fine dining restaurante inside. More pulpo for us, plus jamon jabugo paired with txakoli. Perfect! Txikiteo can wait.

And so the txikiteo finally gets started on Day 3. First off, Borda Berri for bacalao al pilpil and orejas de cerdo. Next, Bar Etxeberria. That’s lunch. Kutixik para llevar so we can nib on jamon while walking around the Playas. For dinner, Bar Zeruko for La Hoguera, mushrooms and tuna. Next stop was La Cuchara de San Telmo for its cochinillo and oysters. Dessert was in Casa Urola for that torrijas to die for. You can say we took our txikiteo real seriously. After all, we were “deprived” of this famous pub crawl the last 2 days. No regrets though as we’ve discovered the relative quiet of a sit-down dinner and good txakoli in its stead.

My nieta swears she loves txakoli and ribera del duero. By the 6th copa, we have started calling ourselves “Luningning” and “Liwayway”, just for fun. The 2 wait staff flirting with each other we promptly named Mateo and Juana. Don’t ask why. The Lola (grandma) and Nieta (granddaughter) are simply enjoying their txikiteo. Salut!

PostScript: On the day we were leaving San Sebastian, we decided to have almuerzo (lunch) in Parte Vieja, hoping some of our favorite pintxo bars are already open. They weren’t. But we enjoyed our pintxos, cafe, desserts in 2 bars which now make up our list of new favorites. Casa Alcalde where I enjoyed my txistorra and pimientos de padron (as a first meal) while nieta had her mushrooms, kebab and iberico topped with a quail egg. Bar Sport has good reviews but never tried it before because it was always crowded. Not this time. Sangria with cheese cake? Why not? Nieta liked the tarta de quezo better here so we made sure we dropped in on La Viña again just to compare. 🙄

A Day At The Museum(s)


The Louvre. Our young artist can’t miss this. Both the Louvre and the Pompidou Center. It’s been on her list, but I made sure she likewise didn’t miss Sainte-Chapelle, which is a good walk from our Paris crib. I guessed right. She swooned over this royal chapel’s stained glass windows. Her keen interest showed when she grabbed some literature and started reading on the Biblical stories expressed in the lovely stained glass collection. In her words, “if I have any expectation of how heaven looks, it’s this”.

From Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame, we went to Louvre where we spent the next 4 hours. Yes, 4 hours! After 2.5 hours, I found a stone bench by the staircase where apo left me to see her Mona Lisa a 2nd time. Then, a 3rd time. Moving from one hall to the next, negotiating the staircases and standing most of the time took its toll on poor moí. But not this young lady who had so much energy she even retraced her steps to view her “favorites” a second time before it was time for us to leave.

Too tired to step out for lunch, we settled for our quiche, ham and salad lunch in the Carrousel du Louvre. It was definitely NOT our best meal but it’s 4pm and we’re hungry. We also paid too much for a mediocre meal. Without going out of the Louvre complex, we then took the metro towards Center Pompidou. Oh, we did search for Jef Aérosol’s Chut — that famous, iconic street art mural near the Center. A few minutes of appreciation and we were in line to enter Center Pompidou. The young lady with me was dripping with excitement.

Going up to the 5th floor to view the Center’s Modern Art collections, we stepped out to a balcony pathway where Tour Eiffel stood in full view, illuminated. Good view but if you have altitude issues, it’s not a brilliant (pun intended) idea. But Matisse was waiting for my young artist. And Picasso. And Joan Miro. Dali. Basquiat. Warhol. Clearly, she prefers modern art more than the classics. Excited to see their works after reading up on them, she swooned and said “this is the best place ever”. How can I argue with that? Clearly, she finds modern & contemporary art more exciting. She does count many favorites though among the classics.

Once more, I settled on a (more comfortable) chair here while she happily bounced between and among the collections. She likes Matisse but found a new favorite. Jean Michel Basquiat. Yup, that’s Andy Warhol’s good friend and Madonna’s ex who died of heroin overdose in 1988 at the young age of 27 when both were at the cusp of growing fame. The relationship ended badly, where Bacquiat demanded the return of all the paintings he gave Madonna and painted them all black. A pity because one of his art pieces fetched £85.4 million 29 years since his death — the highest-ever paid in an auction for an American work. Below is his work, and the Basquiat portrait was done by my young artist. So with the last 2 artworks shown here.

Four hours in Louvre. Another four in Center Pompidou. Now, I can imagine how she’d react when I bring her to Madrid’s Museo de Reina Sofia, or to Barcelona to view Gaudi’s works. You know what? I’m getting excited myself!

(More works done by “apo” below)

Taking Paris Frame By Frame


I couldn’t wait to show our young artist around Paris. The City of Lights (and Love) lives up to its name and more so this December. Air’s crisp and cold. Sky’s cloudy and threatening to pour. My young adult is looking for Santa’s Villages and Art Booths while her grandma is on the lookout for a vin chaud (hot wine). Temps dip, it grows cold, wet and even icy, it can be dark and gloomy but our spirits soar with Christmas glee.

With only 4 days and 3 nights here, with early sundowns, we need to plan well. But this is Paris! The bohemian in us would rather walk aimlessly, linger where it feels warm and inspiring, and just go where the heart takes us. But I can’t let my first-time Paris visitor miss the iconic landmarks. And so, the “mandatory tour” begins: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Moulin Rouge, Champ Elysees, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Tuileries, Montmartre, Madeleine, Place de Concorde, Sainte-Chapelle.

The sun set early the day we arrived. As soon as we dropped our bags in the Saint Germain des Pres apartment we’ve booked, we set off for the Montmartre area. Moulin Rouge in illuminated version can’t be missed as soon as you step out of the Blanche Metro Station. From here, we could have walked to Place du Tertre but took the Metro back to Anvers to find a dinner place before the anticipated 10pm mass in Sacre Coeur. Le Consulat was our first choice but they only offered drinks as their kitchen closed early. Our 2nd choice turned out to be perfect for us hungry souls. Le Bonne Franquette is on the same cobble-stoned street, likewise old as the other centuries-old buildings in this old part of Paris. We imagined Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir et al enjoying their meals here. History aside, we actually enjoyed our dinner of french onion soup and pave de boeuf in Le Bonne Franquette. Oh sure, the vintage charm helped too.

Must be the freezing weather (0-3 Celsius) but Place du Tertre was stripped of the easels and actual/live paintings that fascinated me years back when I visited. I was eager to show her this art scene in the Butte Montmartre. Though a tad disappointed, excitement grew as she spotted a gallery of Dalí paintings. I hope the tiny, winding streets of Montmartre will inspire her to paint those quaint, centuries-old cafes and structures, images of which one finds in many postcards in France. So charming!

Versailles Palace was in our itinerary on our 2nd day in Paris. The chateau, the fountains, the gardens, the “fake” hamlet, the art pieces are way too much for my first-time visitor. The young artist was totally charmed. If it weren’t for her eagerness to see Tour Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe in daylight, we could have stayed in Versailles longer. And so we trooped back to the city for a couple more iconic landmarks plus a stroll through Champ Elysees towards Place Concorde. Yes, a long walk but we had a lovely break for a mussel dinner at Leon de Bruxelles. Still as crowded ss I remember it but we were early and easily found a table.

Tomorrow, we should be joining the lines for Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame and the Louvre. There may be time for Pompidou Center as my young artist has expressed her preference for modern art. Wish we can likewise throw in Musee d’ Orsay and Musee du Rodin, but I’m not hopeful. Lastly, I chose this apartment because of its proximity to Jardin du Luxembourg and the bohemian neighborhood of Saint German des Pres, but we have not even visited the gardens yet! Oh Paris. There’s so much to see and we have so limited time. But perhaps it’s best that way so our young artist’s heart continues to long for this city of lights and “finish the job”. I suspect though she’d be back, no way ever will the job get finished. Such is the allure of Paris. ❤️


Easily, you’d tick off: 




But there are smaller-sized, more manageable museums like: 


Museo Lazaro Galdiano

The museo housed in the Galdiano Mansion is actually where the childless Lazaro Galdiano lived with his Argentinian wife, Paula Florido. Along with the estate given over to the Government is Señor Galdiano’s impressive collection of paintings, sculpture and other works of art. This one generous intellectual obviously collected without regard for cost.

Sorolla Museum

This is the house where the great Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla lived with his lovely wife and muse Clotilde. This is where he painted in his spacious, lovely studio. Imagine the great painter here with his wife and 3 lovely children. And the gardens!



Museo Cerralbo

If you are in the area visiting Plaza de España and Templo de Debod, it’s a good pitstop (from the cold or all that sun) before proceeding towards Calle Bailén to view the Palacio Real or Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. 

Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida

The mortal remains of Goya lie in this original 18th century Neo-classical church, while worship was transferred to the adjacent sister church. Both churches are tiny, with floors shaped like a Greek cross.

Monasteries de las Descalzas Reales

In this Convento, I have this feeling that the wealthy families of the barefoot royals donated what’s “BEST” from their own collections and treasures. I can only imagine them saying goodbye to a daughter or a sister and parting with a treasured work of art to keep the novice nun “company” and provide a source of joy.


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A fellow blogger once asked how many countries I have visited. A friend once “humble-bragged” by advising I should start planning to cover all 7 continents to “round up my travels”.  Unfortunately, I don’t keep count. Why do they, I wonder? Nor does it matter to me what others think I missed or should have done. I go where it pleases.  And beyond the sights, my memorable experiences are always characterized by the people I interacted with. That includes the people I traveled with. I have the good fortune of traveling with many, varied circles of friends outside of family. The foodies, the sightseers, the adventurers, the history buffs, the art and culture vultures, the hikers, as well as those who just long for some R & R. Not stuck with any single group, I relish the company of each. That includes a peculiar group I’d call the “losers” — people who don’t care getting LOST, seeing the ”mishap’ as another opportunity to explore! 






In Bhutan, I found a very admirable tour and hiking guide. My friend Beth and I “adopted” Sonam whom we referred to as our godson. We are still in touch, thanks to Facebook. We were updated with Sonam’s adventures from a young man to bridesgroom to young father, moving from Bhutan to Australia. I credit Sonam for making it possible for me to hike up to Taktshang Monastery aka Tiger’s Nest. The hike is quite dramatic considering you see the site high up in the mountain from the base where pilgrims and tourists commence the hike or horseback ride for the first 1 hour. I chose the latter to conserve my energy for the hike and met Tring, the old man whose horse is likewise called Tring. Don’t ask why. Meanwhile, I left my friend Beth with our driver who grew years older (again, don’t ask me why 🙄) accompanying my friend up to the Halfway Station. Tashi Delek!





Still on Bhutan, I have to say I’ve been so impressed with how kind and caring their people are. Whenever I stopped for oxygen breaks, there were locals eyeing me as if asking if I need some help. They’d only stop staring and got on with whatever they were doing when I smiled to reassure them I’m still alive 😊 Also, I never found a race so detached from material wealth as these Bhutanese. Sure there were poor people around, but I never once felt that money mattered most to them. I sure hope that didn’t change over the years since I’ve been there. 






Because I run a blog site, one of my followers learned I was staying in Madrid for nearly 3 months back in 2013. He messaged to invite me to a good Cocido de Madrileño lunch plus an afternoon tour of the city’s hidden gems. The best tour I ever had! Under the tourist radar sites included trespassing on strangers’ apartments to view better preserved medieval walls of Madrid. Well not exactly trespassing — Marco actually knocked on strangers’ apartment doors to view the walls from their porches!  And these locals were most accommodating. 




Because I made many solo trips in and around Spain, I met a lot of new friends and interacted with many locals. Before getting off a bus, I’d ask the driver which is the best way to reach the Plaza Mayor. Invariably, the bus driver will advise me he’d be back on that dropoff by a certain time for my ride back. Better than riding a cab! On that New Year’s Eve I was in Madrid, I jumped up and down with the locals,shared drinks with them, and even hugged them as the clock struck 12. My niece and them locals were family 😘




In Mongolia, my friends and I had a chance to visit a ger, eat an authentic lunch, and observe how a typical Mongolian family lead a nomadic lifestyle. I parted with my locally-crafted necklace to give to the “lady of the ger” who cooked and served us some dumplings and tea right inside the ger. We didn’t sleep in a ger. I don’t think I could unless one goes to the gers put up for tourists with modern conveniences 😜 






In Hanoi, I found children playing “sipa” which literally translates to kick. It’s a native game in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries. I joined those kids for a game in my wedged sandals while carrying my bag. Beat that! Then in India, I strayed from our travel group and found ourselves in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple where they were preparing to feed a long line of devotees. The volunteer cooks looked tired but friendly. And locally? I remember spotting a fellow blogger in a Masskara festival in Bacolod City. I approached Enrico and here’s our photo before the parade started! Listen to the drum roll… 




For more photos and details, just click on the links/highlighted headings. 

For more blogs celebrating life, check out : 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/

http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/

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