Category: Travel



Yes, I’m talking about St. Scholastica’s College standing on a 3.5 hectare-block hemmed in by 4 streets: Leon Guinto, Pablo Ocampo (formerly Vito Cruz), Singalong and Estrada. This college in Malate was established in 1906 and predates the neighbor campus of De La Salle University. Run by Benedictine sisters, St. Scho moved from a modest residential house in Tondo to San Marcelino (where Adamson University sits now) until it finally moved to its present Malate site in 1911. Of note is the fact that this college founded by German nuns pioneered formal music education and established a Conservatory of Music only a year after it was founded. At the time we visited, we were lucky to listen in on a pair of Music students practicing a Kundiman classic, “Pobreng Alindahaw”.  Check out the YouTube link below.

Photo Credit: Old Manila Walks



https://youtu.be/1T1fYBeYjdw


Art Deco adorns the campus chapel, the jewel-box theater, corridors, reliefs and many nooks and crannies. Despite the heat and humidity, we were enthralled by the Art Deco elements around us. Though ravaged by World War II, the post-war (from 1946) reconstruction of the school buildings was pursued and completed within a decade. Thanks to Ivan (Man Dy) who conducted the Manila Moderne Art Deco Walking Tour, we were educated and adequately guided to spot these oft-ignored details: the lines, zigzags, geometric patterns in all Deco-inspired heritage! 




Art Deco here is not all colonial-American as I earlier understood.  The architecture and style found in this campus lent itself to Bavarian influences as the chapel photo above shows. Another style is evident in the concert hall, aptly named St. Cecilia’s Hall. St. Cecilia is the patron Saint of musicians. And guess who was the architect of this premier concert venue of its time? No less than Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna who built the concert hall in the Egyptian Art Deco style. 





No wonder then that the National Historical Commission declared St. Cecilia’s Hall as  a National Cultural Landmark. Notwithstanding that bigger concert halls and performing arts venues now exist, this iconic theatre hall was clearly the forerunner of the Cultural Center of the Philippines as many notable musical artists had their recitals and concerts here. 






The Deco style manifests in the college’s courtyard, grand staircases, wrought-iron grills, ceiling art, sleek lines, arches, and geometric shapes adorning walls and columns. Such inspiration for its many outstanding alumnae which counts one President (Cory Aquino), 2 beauty world titlists (Gloria Diaz and Aurora Pijuan), and the first woman Supreme Court Justice (Cecilia Muñoz-Palma). 






We often forget that many of our universities and colleges are hidden cultural gems, having withstood the test of time. Though many were bombed out in the last war, thankfully their reconstruction restored many of the architectural elements prevailing at the time. After this walking tour, I am now inclined to visit as many campuses within and outside Manila. Yes. Before some idiot think of demolishing old buildings which have been part of our history. 





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… 




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I have just read an article about how one shouldn’t miss out on this underrated place just a short 2 hour drive out of the more popular destination of Sevilla in Andalusia.  I wholeheartedly agree. There are many, many destinations around Spain worth a detour beyond the triumvirate of Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla. This blog hopes to help those visiting Spain to include a few must-see’s into their Spanish Itinerary. 




When in Andalusia:


Ronda


Sevilla & Cordoba


When in Madrid:


Cuenca


Alcala de Henares


Aranjuez
Chinchon


When in Vasco and Galicia:


San Sebastián


Getaria


Finesterre & Muxia


Pamplona


Santiago de Compostela


And There’s More:


Valencia


Burgos
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Tassie. Short from Tasmania. Have not done enough research and planning on this trip but everything worked out well. You can say we went nearly on an impulse! Having agreed we should meet in Hobart and finally visit this island south of Mainland Australia, we promptly went to task: flight and hotel bookings ✔️, day trip bookings ✔️ to Bruny Island ✔️and Port Arthur ✔️ with sidetrips to colonial Richmond ✔️, and arranging to meet up with friends who kindly took us up Mounts Wellington ✔️ and Nelson ✔️.  Day 1 wasn’t bad at all. My friend waited for me at Hobart Airport and we took the Airport Shuttle together to our hotel. Round trip airport transfers at Au$35 per person for a nearly 1 hour ride. Taxi ride should be just half an hour but the Airporter delivers passengers to their hotels’ doorsteps, and that’s just fine. Weather forecast was good for the day we arrived and the next 2 days, so we didn’t waste time. Explored Battery Point  starting from Kelly’s Steps and walked in this lovely neighborhood past the brick warehouses in Salamanca. The walking notes I hurriedly downloaded proved to be so accurate that navigating around Hobart’s Waterfront area and neighborhood was a breeze. Just a pity that sunsets come real early this time of the year and the sea breeze can be so chilly that one easily yearns the comforts of a warm bed in the hotel room. Besides, Days 2 and 3 are early-morning calls for the Bruny Island and Port Arthur booked tours. 





Day 4. A glimpse of what’s in store at the Salamanca Market involved a quick grocery-shopping adventure for the much-talked about Tasmanian cheese, salmon pâté and Tasmanian apples, and a mid-afternoon indulgence at Daci & Daci Bakery. Prices don’t come cheap but we enjoyed everything we popped into our greedy mouths. We certainly looked forward to the Saturday Salamanca Market despite the early afternoon shower forecast that weekend.  Luckily, the rain came rather late. In fact, it came AFTER our Market visit and the drive up to Mount Wellington and Mount Nelson. But chilly, it certainly was. The lookouts gave a 360 degree view but only if you can brave the fierce winds. I took off my eyeglasses, worried they’d be blown away! Only put it back on when we reached Signal Hill in Mount Nelson where there was this lovely Brasserie where my friends Ren and Drew treated us for coffee and desserts.  (Thanks!)



​​





Day 5. For sure, a rainy Saturday and Sunday afternoon could only mean a couple of hours warming up in a pub, or walking around a Museum. Or hearing Sunday Mass in St. Mary’s. Or finding the oldest hotel in Australia. As claimed. Or yet another cafe or restaurant. Of the latter, there are many choices. You won’t run out of options here especially in the Waterfront area where one can indulge in seafood delicacies like Tassie salmon, oysters, trout, trevally, or even wallaby? I feel guilty to admit I actually enjoyed my wallaby burrito. 😱 Please don’t judge me. At night, we only ventured a block or so from our hotel to try Asian specialty restos like Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indian or Chinese. Well, the lady from the Tropics needed her rice to keep her warm (?!?). Not too far away is Elizabeth Mall where you can find more dining and pub options. And shopping. 









If you ask me, it’s hard to say which is the trip highlight. The food trip in Bruny Island, the open-air museum in Port Arthur, the colonial heritage town of Richmond, the leisurely strolls around the Waterfront and Battery Point, or the lookout points up in the mountains. I’d venture to say though that the Saturday Salamanca Market underwhelmed me but for that wallaby burrito episode. If you’re willing to miss it, you can book another day trip on that Saturday. Better still, move to another hotel further north in the Launceston area to visit Wineglass Bay, Cradle Mountain and Cataract Gorge. Having missed these Northern spots, I have good reason to head back. Right?  Tasmania reminds me of Batanes Island north of Mainland Philippines. Still part of the island republic but so vastly different.  Repeat visits always justified. 😊







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Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf


There are Scenic walks. And there are Scenic walks. 😀

Sydney, or for that matter, Australia, is teeming with hiking trails, coastal walks, mountain hikes, river walks, harbour side paths, etc. Blessed by Nature. Winters are mild. Spring brings forth many magnificent blooms. Autumn is awesome, and summers are well, hot. How lucky to be an OZ to enjoy these beauties.  Oi Oi Oi!








Spit Bridge was up the time we got there. A motorboat was passing and we had to wait till the lift span was down to cross it. Then we went under it and passed many yachts moored safely by the waters and “lonely benches” looking out to the northern beaches. It was tempting to stop, rest and just stare. I can only imagine how much a piece of Waterfront house fetches here. Gee, those dogs being walked by their masters are darn lucky! 









Nine kilometers sound easy. I wasn’t daunted. But there were a number of boardwalks rising to meet staircases and then downhill footpaths — some narrow and good only for lone hikers — to get back to the beach. I bet summer hikers have their swimsuits on, hiking these trails, ready in an instant to take dips in the beaches. This is ze life! 








Everything is so well-marked, so hiker-friendly. Boardwalks have these lookouts every so often where one is able to view passing ferry boats amidst a beautiful seascape. It was pleasant weather the day we hiked, and autumn leaves litter the ground we walked on. We even saw a wild turkey and many great-looking birds I cannot name.  Birdwatchers would be delighted to do this Scenic Manly Walk. 








We met many joggers and hikers and dog walkers. Nearer the Wharf, there were kids walking with moms and dads and hobby fishermen.  By hike’s end, we rewarded ourselves with a big gourmet burger and premium hot dogs,  then took the ferry back to Circular Quay where we took the train home. On the ferry, we traced the path we took. Awesomeness! 







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If there’s one single thing I’d remember from my Salamanca Market experience here in Hobart, it would have to be that I ate a wallaby. Yes, one of those cute-sy animals that look like mini or baby kangaroos. Pacha Mama did it so well, I swear I’d love to have another go if only there’s another Saturday to try it.  You see, Salamanca Market happens only on Saturdays here so unless you have a big belly room, you can’t possibly try all the foodstuff available here in one morning!






Pacha Mama also sells hot chocolate with cinnamon, chili and coconut cream that’s hard to resist. Perfect with your wallaby burrito. Then there’s the veggie (leeks, mushrooms, onions, beet) and pulled beef (PINO) empanadas too from another stall .  Both pastry pockets are good, and went well with the pebre sauce. I would have wanted to also try the Tasmanian seafood paella with all those scallops, trevally, squid and mussels looking sooo fresh. Yay!






For takeaways, one may shop for Tasmanian honey, wine, chocolates. All foodstuff. The clothing and other fashion stuff i found underwhelming, though I got a pair of earrings with local gems. 😜 I fancied the hand painted scarves and handcrafted wood earrings which look really nice but quite pricey. 






Wool, anyone? I wouldn’t have need for them back home so I skipped that. But I sure found some really funny hats, and wondered who’d wear them. Kinda bohemian while a few are  outright quirky. I wouldn’t be caught wearing any. 






I did enjoy how they advertised their producé. Tasmanian apples picked 8 pm last night? Wines sold deliberately young? I love the sense of pride attached to these local products. It’s like bringing home a part of Tasmanian pride with you. 




 

And so we ended the morning trying out stuff in this market, having a good laugh over the strange head gear, listening to really good music from street buskers,  and sitting right there in the park literally watching autumn leaves fall. Swell ❤️







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I’ve been advised NOT to miss Port Arthur when visiting Tasmania. In fact, you can say I was strongly advised to make this trip to Port Arthur to know Australia better. Now, I’m NOT a big fan of jailhouses, penal settlements and con history, but Australia’s convict heritage is truly one for the books. In a manner of speaking, it is AUSTRALIA. 





There are over 30 buildings, ruins and restored houses spread over land some 96 kilometers southeast of Hobart.  It is Australia’s Alcatraz. Except that the convicts who settled here were non-Australians, many shipped all the way from Great Britain. Yup, them European convicts settled here in Port Arthur and pretty much “built” this former timber camp. Some of those who came were adolescents, even as young as 9 years old. What can a 9 year old do so wrong that’s deserving of this punishment away from his home? Quite a number of these law-breakers got truly harsh punishment for what may today be regarded as trivial offenses like stealing bread. As repeat offenders, they were classed as the hardest of British criminals. Here in Port Arthur, these convicts did hard physical labor. Escape is far-fetched but not impossible. But any escape attempts were punished with lashes. That is, assuming you survived the dog line in Eaglehawk Neck which connects Tasman Peninsula with Mainland Tasmania. Yet, that is nothing compared with the “silent punishment system” where they were put in solitude within a Separate Prison, and told to keep quiet. Hooded, without light and sound, many grew insane. Spirits broken. 







The preserved buildings here include the Commandant’s Cottage in the best part of the area. Overlooking the calm waters, the cottage stands in stark contrast to the Penitentiary and the Separate Prison.  For a while, it was turned into a hotel and there are reminders of such “modernity” in some corners of the former Hotel Port Arthur.








Other cottages and buildings include the Asylum, Catholic Church, Parsonage, the Medical Officer’s Cottage, the Chaplain’s House, the Accountant’s House, the Hospital, and let’s not forget the lovely gardens and jetty. The “ruins” in my book is a top attraction more than the “preserved” buildings.  There’s something about those walls, bare, roofless  and all, begging to tell some story.  The Penitentiary’s bars and brick walls. How many convicts have touched those, remembering a life they couldn’t get back to anymore?  How many have looked out from those windows, hanging on to every memory of a past life? 






This open-air museum needs a minimum of 4 hours to explore. It’s really an easy stroll but the place being so packed with dark history begs some really serious attention. And I’m not even talking about  the not-too-long-ago  Port Arthur massacre. (I leave you to Google that other dark history). No, you can’t miss this. Tons of negative vibes, I know, which typically drive me away. But this is Australia’s convict history.  So much to learn. So much to feel sad about. So much cruelty. 







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Richmond is only half an hour drive east of Hobart. Our guide Tassie Mark dropped us off along the main road to walk around this old Australian colonial town. We ticked off Australia’s oldest bridge, oldest Catholic Church, oldest jailhouse and wandered around the many charming Georgian buildings and cottages. If there was time, we would have lingered on the banks of the river cum picnic grounds. 







If you have a car, it would have been lovely to stay in the many B & B’s here, stepping out for brekkie in the neighborhood bakeries and just driving into Hobart’s CBD then back for the night. Less crowd. More nostalgic. Quiet. But that is not to say Hobart isn’t. Just a matter of preference. The historic bridge is very charming. Both under and above. We tried the river walk and actually met up with the rest of our tiny tour group near Australia’s oldest Catholic Church a tad late. Sorry. 





Richmond is a very popular destination for its colonial architecture and convict heritage. There is valid reason why the Richmond bridge is its most photographed landmark. Made of sandstone in 1823, built by convict labor, it is almost magical to walk under it along the riverbank. Fortunately or unfortunately, this historic town was “bypassed” with the construction of the Sorrell Causeway in 1827.  Frozen in time? Well, it seems it has remained so the last 100 years or so before it was rediscovered and gained prominence as a day destination out of Hobart. The serene ambiance adds to the charm and time’s not wasted just meandering around this colonial village. 





 

The Richmond Arms Hotel, the old courthouse, the oldest Gaol in the country, Saint Luke’s Church, the smell wafting from the neighborhood bakeries, the quaint antique and souvenir shops. If you have time, snap up some deli and pastries and lay out a picnic mat by the banks of the Coal River while gazing up the Richmond Bridge with the church spire peeping above the old historic bridge.







 

We passed Richmond on our way to Port Arthur. A good “aperitif” to a day well-spent. We were in luck joining this tiny group of only 10 pax with Tassie Mark behind the wheels rattling off historical trivia, opinions and Tassie jokes! We liked Richmond. And the coffee and quiche in this bakery is great. Trust me! 






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Initially, I booked the Wilderness Cruise in Bruny Island. Later changed our booking for the Bruny Traveller Package with Pennicott  Journeys. It’s really a choice between a wild cruising adventure and a Tasmanian Gastronomic Experience. Care to guess why we’ve had a change of heart? I’ve seen them seals in a seal colony near Cape Town. Also, them penguins. So I’m good without those. But Tasmanian salmon, cheese, wine, malt whiskey, chocolate? Can’t miss those. All made in (why do all signs say MADE ON?)  Bruny Island. 



Nick’s Bruny Island Cheese Company



We started early with a 7:30 am hotel pick up. Just 10 of us like-minded foodies and wine and cheese enthusiasts. The brief ferry ride to Bruny Island was blessed with good weather. Temps at low 12 to a high 18C. So pleasant. Our guide and driver Tim was a talking and driving machine. His strong OZ accent was understood by all (mostly Aussies from Adelaide) but me who struggled 😭. No worries though, as Tim was such a wholesome, funny guide guy and he made sure I got more (like chocolate squares) than the others. 😊 



Meet Tim of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys


Our Travel Group


Getting Ready for the Oysters in Great Bay


We stopped for cheese and beer, then oysters (Oh, brother ), honey tasting, blueberry muffin and hot chocolate, before a proper lunch and wine tasting.  Then, more chocolates and a choice between Tasmania’s excellent single malt whiskeys and gin. Between these food stops,  we climbed up “The Neck” to view 2 bodies of water, a beach area, a Berry farm populated with wallabies, including albino wallabies. 


Get Shucked!


Blueberry Muffin With A View


Tasmanian Honey


By mid-afternoon, we nearly shied away from the gin and whiskey. Those enzymes were still busy digesting our lunch of salmon and lamb — while I’m looking at a plate of pork sausages ordered by someone next to me. Tsk Tsk. I ordered another glass of Pinot Noir to keep me from drooling over those sausages, until my travel buddy and I switched plates so each of us get to taste the salmon and the lamb. Lunch over and back to the whiskey and gin, I’m glad I didn’t refuse to try these Tasmanian goodies. By day’s end, everyone in our group looked happy. 



Salmon at Bernice and Richard’s Bruny Island Premium Wines


Lamb paired with Polenta & Tasmanian Apple Cider


Pork Sausages with Pinot Noir?


Bruny Island House of Whiskey


Till next time, Bruny Island!


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