Tag Archive: Europe


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.


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. 💕💕💕

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.


My introduction of Donostia-San Sebastian kicked off with a ride on the txu txu train. From Playa de la Zurriola to Playa de la Concha to Playa de Ondarreta. Nieta enjoyed the txu txu petit train ride. But she would have gotten off if she could to dig her toes on the beach and feel the sand under her soles. Too cold for that, but her love for the beach drew her back here every single day of our stay in San Seb.

And so we walked the whole stretch of the concha (shell) shape of the beach one afternoon. Done this before but my nieta grew tired walking more than 5 kms and nearly gave up. We broke our trip with a dessert of chocolate y tarta de manzanas in Hotel Ezeiza near the funiculare to Mount Igueldo. Refreshed, energized, she walked all the way to the end.

Having painted San Sebastian with all its peculiar details like the statues and sculptures along the shore, she just had to walk it to appreciate it. 🏖⛱🚶🏻‍♀️ Especially the Peine del Viento which are the 3 iconic pieces of steel firmly anchored to the rocks. In English, they translate to “wind combs” and Eduardo Chillida couldn’t have named his sculpture better. His best work, they say.

Towards late afternoon, the air is chilly and the winds grew fiercer. Nieta took shots of the peine way too many times, each time inching nearer the edge. I couldn’t watch her! Told her she’d give me a heart attack and lose her dear abuela if she doesn’t stop. She did, with a lot of teasing and ribbing on how I’m so easily scared. The nerve!

Thankfully, we went back to watching this young artist make beach art. Amazing falls short to describe this genius. Aaaaah, art takes many forms here in Donostia. Either in its architecture, food art served on a plate, etched on the sand, painted on the door or wall, or anchored on the rocks. Well done, San Sebastian!


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. 🙄


We came for the food and the seascape. And more. The city of San Sebastian — or Donostia in Basque — is lovely any time of the year. It’s my 3rd visit in 2 years. First with my friends. Second time with my sister and niece. (Another niece and grandnephew followed) And this time, with my grandniece. The same nieta who has been dreaming of San Sebastian since she painted it on a wall in Bar Pintxos in BGC. Yes, she did the mural based on a photo of San Sebastian’s skyline and seascape. A black and white mural. Now, she’s seeing it all come to life just by being here.

We couldn’t have timed it better. Initially, we thought it was just a simple festivity. After all, it is nearly Christmas so there’s no big deal about the Christmas Market booths lining the Urumea River near the TerminiBus. But we found more stalls, booths and tents near Buen Pastor Church and observed that many locals were dressed in Basque outfits. Turned out one of Donostia’s unique Basque festivals was being celebrated on December 21. The winter solstice is celebrated as Santo Tomas Fair, where the entire city is littered with food and Basque handicraft stalls. Locals dress like rural farmers or peasants and most stalls sell txistorra, that very famous local cured sausage paired with txakoli, a typical Basque white wine or sidra (cider). Of course, there’s also pulpo to be had which I just can’t miss. That, plus the jamon jabugo.

By 11 pm the entire Parte Vieja looked like there were processions going off each corner. The peasant – dressed locals complete with aprons and berets were all milling around the bars it’s nearly impossible to do a txikiteo or pub crawl. Besides, many have had a drink too many and dropped their glasses or bottles. We took care not to step on glass shards, and dodged drunk locals who can barely walk straight. It was NOISY! But fun.

Thankfully, we found an open restaurant for a proper sit-down dinner. Txikiteo can wait till tomorrow. La Viña Restaurante may be most famous for their tarta de quezo or cheese cake (the best!) but they likewise serve good, decent dinners. By the time we finished ours and walked out of Parte Vieja, the locals were still busy downing their txakolis and sidras. But the streets outside of the old part of town were nearly deserted. We enjoyed our walk through the streets bedecked with Christmas lights and decor. Sans the crowd.

(Excuse the nocturnal iPhone shots)

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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