In an earlier blog, I wrote about our day trip to Avila from Madrid. It was the week before Holy Week. And I ended up doing Avila 2 days in a row. But that’s another story.

 

 

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There are many ways to tour Avila. The Tourist Office has several itinerary choices for visitors. The more energetic may want to round up the walls and visit as many churches and museums. The lethargic, exercise-deprived may opt to train in and around the 11th century walls. The first time around, it was a walking trip for us. Avila has enough churches ⛪and old buildings 🏰within its “murallas” or walls to fill up a whole day. The 2nd time around — which is really just the day after — we didn’t miss the chance to ride the green train that weaves around and outside the walled city. A good idea, sparing us from the leg cramps of the day before.

 

 

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Typically, every tour starts in the San Vicente Basilica, 💒which is right at the mouth of The Murallas. The basilica is where the young Prince, son of Ferdinand and Isabela, remains buried. Very impressive. Just before entering, take time to appreciate the wood carvings on the doors and the statues guarding the admission area. I spotted 10 apostles and wondered. When asked, the guide didn’t know which of the apostles are missing. Also, every pilgrim here won’t miss a visit to the Museo de Santa Teresa. Although Avila has another patron saint (well before St. Therese was born and sainted), there are many museums and relics of St. Therese, along with all those stores selling “yemas” named in her honor. If you ask me, those “yemas” taste like pure yolks sprinkled with sugar. Too rich. 😖

 

 

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On our 2nd visit, we visited the Convent cum Monastery where St. Therese of Jesus was once the prioress. Coincidentally, this Monastery of Incarnation opened its doors on the very day of the saint’s baptism, though it was 20 years after when she entered the convent as a nun in 1535.

 

 

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Inside, we spotted the exact site where St. Therese met the child Jesus. The child Jesus allegedly appeared to the saint right by the main staircase of the Monastery. The story goes that the child asked the saint “Who are you?”, to which the saint answered “Teresa of Jesus”. Then she asked the child, “Who are you?” And the child answered “I am Jesus of Teresa”.

 

 

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In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited this convent. The chair on which he sat is encased in glass and put on exhibit here. There are many relics inside the Monastery, and the cell where St. Therese of Jesus lived is well-preserved.

 

 

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The Monastery’s gate is actually outside the walls. If you are riding a cab, be sure to be dropped off right by the gate. Easily, you can spend an hour or less here. A small tienda or souvenir shop can be found as you exit the same door you entered.


I do not pretend to be a connoisseur, nor am I saying I’ve tried all culinary delights around here. But I dare say that what I have found so far, I LIKE!

 

 

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A trip to Avila meant bringing home some boxes of those yemas and cookies irreverently called “Tetillas de Monja” . Lenten Season meant we should try that Lenten delicacy called “Torrijas” or “Torrejas” —- frankly a cross between a French Toast and a bread pudding.

 

 

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In Segovia, never miss a cochinillo meal at no less than Meson de Candido. They didn’t build a monument for Candido for nothing. It’s only a half hour AVE train ride from Madrid. The cochinillo, the cathedral and the Alcazar are good enough reasons for a day out to Segovia.

 

 

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Of course, one must try the authentic paellas here in España. We tried some when we sat and dined in Plaza Mayor, while watching the crowds in chilly weather. But the best was introduced to us by our foodie friends who brought us to this hole in the wall somewhere in Tres Peces, 20 near the Anton Martin metro station. It is called Ventorillo Murciano.

 

 

A trip to the Mercado de San Miguel is also a must-try. Have your cheese and croqueta fix here. Or grab a drink or two while savoring some boquerones, Jamon, langostinos or some other shellfish. We even found some Chicharon, which they call cucurucho!

 

 

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We checked out Casa Botin, that oldest running restaurant in the world, but there was a long line that Easter Sunday. No problem. The same foodie friends D and J introduced us to another Hemingway favorite haunt. Restaurante Salvador does not serve Botin’s suckling pig (besides, we had our cochinillo fix in Segovia) but it certainly serves the best Rabo de Toro. My friends said this is the same place where matadors hang out after a corrida. And one of them matadors had an affair with no less than Ava Gardner. Whether it was after or during her marriage to Frank Sinatra is debatable. But who cares if one is served bull’s tails for dinner?

 

 

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Now, if you’re on a tight budget…..you don’t have to do Mc Donald’s or KFC here. Do check out some local food chain. There is Museo del Jamon, and there is Paradiso del Jamon. Both serve €1 bocadillos (sandwiches) and some good ol’ Spanish delicacies from Quezo, Jamon, Callos, Albondigas, Tortilla, etc. You choose!

 

 

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But do save some euros for that churros con chocolate. If you go to the palenque (market), you can have your desayuno (breakfast) of cafe or chocolate WITH either churros or porras (like bicho bicho) for only €2. Cheaper than a Mc Do breakfast! Or you may want to line up for some freshly-baked breads and pastries (like Garnier’s) but it would be difficult to resist the pastries. At least ONCE, try the churros con chocolate ☕in either Chocolateria San Gines off Calle del Arenal near Puerta del Sol, OR Valor near Plaza Callao.

 

Buen Provecho!


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The main plaza or Plaza Mayor is just a few steps from Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Your best bet is to take the Metro and get off in Sol. To make things even more right, be sure to cross the street from Sol towards the Ayuntamiento or City Hall and stand firmly with your feet on that marker that says “Kilometro O”. A very touristy behavior, but who cares?

 

 

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To the right of the Ayuntamiento are 2 streets both ending in the Palacio Real and Almudena Cathedral area. The street on the right is Calle del Arenal where you would be tempted to drop by for churros con chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines. So take the road on the left instead. That’s Calle Mayor where you walk past Museo de Jamon ….. Oops.

 

 

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On your left side, watch out for an alley that leads to Plaza Mayor. I think this is Calle Felipe III. Take this alley and be sure to drop in on this small shop where you can check out your “apellido” and buy a keychain with your family heraldry or insignia or emblem….. I found mine, and my family name like many Filipinos has Spanish roots. Mine is a special clan of mercenary warriors noted for their bravery. Paid soldiers!

 

 

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Within the square you may want to visit the Tourist Information Center. You can pick up maps here and check out some guided tours. Many chose to do the “hop on, hop off” red tour bus for €20. If you’re not keen on walking and would just want to sightsee from your bus seat (it’s open on the 2nd level), then this is for you. Otherwise, take the unlimited tourist pass for €9.30 (1day) or €13 (3 days) which you can use taking the metro or bus and explore on your own. After all, the metro stops for the tourist sites are clearly marked and Madrid has a superb metro system.

 

 

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Again, you’d find many street artists — should I call them plaza artists? OR buskers?  — around the statues of King Philip III and the corners of the square. Many dining outlets too — mainly catering to the tourist crowd, I guess, judging by their patrons. You can have your paella and jamon fix in any of the tascas here. (Tascas mean “local gathering place”) Or you may simply have that sangria or cafe con leche with some tapas (appetizers) in any of the open-air bars and just people-watch. Buen provecho!

 

 

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Beyond Puerta del Sol, past Plaza Mayor, is this most charming mercado like no other. I wasn’t looking for it when I found it. And that was on my Day 2 in Madrid. Since then, I would always drop in whenever I’m in the area. Just love it here!

 

 

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Each time I drop in, the place is jampacked! Noisy, crowded, so lively, so Spanish! I don’t know how these Madrileños manage to gesture with their hands while holding a wine glass and a croqueta or Quezo on the other hand. And you know what I mean when I say “gesture with their hands” , or with their shoulders! Think only the Italians come close.

 

 

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No chairs, no stools. You and your friends around a cocktail table and drink, eat like there’s no tomorrow. Tried the paella, the croquetas, jamon and some Quezo Manchego. Next time, I’d try the yogurt. Saw a photo of Prince Charles and his dear Camilla trying out some favors in that stall.

 

 

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And all that seafood from fried boquerones and sardines to steamed and grilled oysters and squids. Plus don’t forget the chupitos, baby eels, and so much more — in tapas or racion sizes! Nom Nom Nom. This is my neighborhood. I feel happy just people-watching here. That, while munching, makes me forget to take more photos. But these would do, won’t they? I’m busy ☺

 

 

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Errr……lastly, go and have that drink. And I don’t mean just sangria.

 

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The first time I went to the Almudena Cathedral, I wasn’t expecting much. After all, Madrid allegedly pales in comparison with other major cities around Spain in terms of antiquity. In plain terms, it means Madrid’s sacred destinations are not that “OLD”.

 

 

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Dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena, the construction of the cathedral began in 1883 but was completed a century later in 1993. The name Almudena comes from Almudaina, Arabic for “wheat-store”, because there was one close by.

 

 

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The story goes that when the Muslims were about to conquer Madrid, the Madrileño Christians hid a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary behind a wall to spare it from being abused and profaned by the conquering Muslims. When King Alphonsus VI regained the city, the wall miraculously crumbled, revealing the statue of our Lady.

 

 

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What the Church may have lacked in terms of architectural credit and historical significance, this Neo-gothic edifice made up for with its Neo-Romanesque Crypt which houses a 16th century image of the Virgin of Almudena. Kind of creepy inside the crypt, helped along by the background music as one moves from altar to altar, crypt to crypt. As I walked OVER some graves of presumably distinguished Madrileños, adorned with potted plants and flowers, I couldn’t help wondering if this “real estate” is priced highest on a per square meter basis in this corner of the world. (Disculpe, for this irreverence)

 

 

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If you happen to be in the area of the Palacio Real, make sure to drop by the Cathedral, and then the Crypt. You can also buy some religious souvenirs on your way in or out, like what I got (that’s the photo of the 16th century painting of the Virgin of Almudena). Then before heading home or back to your hotel, you have the option to spend the rest of the day exploring the gardens around the Royal Palace or walk back to Puerta del Sol, passing the Opera. If you’re too tired, then take that metro ride from the Opera Metro Station.

 

 

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They do it for a living. I dare not say “begging artists” simply because they don’t. They offer their artistry, and one is encouraged to “donate” out of appreciation. Mind you, there is pride in their work too.

 

 

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Right in Puerta del Sol, you’d find lots of them buskers. In fact, you may be standing right next to one. They may appear like stone, marble or wooden statues…….until they start poking at each other, bow, or turn towards you.

 

 

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There was one busker I saw almost everyday, in various places. Once at Puerta del Sol. The next time in Plaza del Oriente near Palacio Real, the 3rd time as I was waiting for my metro ride!

 

 

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More than just song and dance numbers, some of these artists play mime, display motor skills with their skateboards or roller blades, make beautiful music with crystal glasses, dress up like Hollywood celebrities, strum their guitars or sing opera songs. You find them in plazas, theatre areas, parks, inside the metro stations, or even inside the trains !

 

 

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Then, of course, there are those who are not as creative……

 

 

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I have earlier blogged on my first desayuno (breakfast) of churros con chocolate here in Madrid. Where else, but in Chocolateria San Gines. There, I reminisced about my first taste of the churros con chocolate “to die for” back in 2002. I remember telling my nephew then that when I grow old, I would love to put up a coffee bar or Chocolateria like this where a corner table will be reserved for me….. much like the owner — an old man and his dog we met back then.

 

 

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When I blogged about getting lost tracing my steps back to Chocolateria San Gines, and actually learning (the hard but delicious way) how easy it could have been to find the place (just off Calle del Arenal, walking from Puerta del Sol), a couple of friends suggested I also try the churros con chocolate at Valor. I did. More than that, I also tried a boxful of Valor chocolates!

 

 

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After more than a couple of weeks setting up house here in Madrid, I finally found time to check out this other chocolate shop. I was surprised to find that it is so near Puerta del Sol. Well actually, much nearer Plaza Callao. A metro ride to Plaza Callao, walking towards Postigo de San Martin, it was delightful to find Chocolateria y Bomboneria Valor.

 

 

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So, what’s the verdict? Admittedly, Valor is “better located” as Chocolateria San Gines is actually in an alley behind the Iglesia San Gines. Surprisingly, I also met 3 Filipinas waiting on tables in Valor. Now, some say Valor’s interiors are better, especially as one can look out to a livelier street scene in this corner off Plaza Callao. True. But I do like the old charm of San Gines.

 

 

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The chocolate in Valor is mas sabroso. But I prefer the churros of San Gines! So if I were to choose between the 2, I would really rather get lost searching for Chocolateria San Gines. So there. ☕☕☕

 

 

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If you have been to Lourdes in France, you would be reminded of such Marian pilgrimage site when you visit Simala or Monastery of the Holy Eucharist in Southern Cebu. Run by Mongha ni Maria (Monks of Mary) who tend the gardens and built a mini-falls within the compound, the church has also since been a pilgrimage site.

 

 

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This church in Sibonga, Cebu drew crowds when the miraculous statue of Mama Mary shed tears of blood. Though not validated by the Church, this phenomenon drew many faithfuls to the site.

 

 

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I tweeted about this trip to Cebu and some tweeps advised me to go visit Simala on our way back to the city. It’s just slightly off the way and in between our Dalaguete and Carcar stopovers, but since we hired a van for the day, it worked out well. We felt good making this stopover. And there was even a Mass when we visited.

 

 

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Hard to believe a church of this size was built in this corner of the province. The story goes that funds were provided by faithfuls who were miraculously healed here. If you are a first-time visitor like we were, you’d be awed by the grandeur of this church. Not just in the exterior appearance with the curving staircase and footbridge wrapped around the church, but in the interiors as well. We waited till Mass was over before snapping these photos.

 

 

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So, next time you are in these parts of Southern Cebu, make time to do this pilgrimage. All you need to bring with you is your faith and perhaps, countless petitions for divine aid.


We didn’t plan on visiting Dalaguete. Much less visit it on its town fiesta which is celebrated every 9th and 10th of February. Yet there we were, witnesses to all that revelry in honor of its patron saint, San Guillermo de Aquitania.

 

 

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As with similar town fiestas, Utanon is the Dalaguetnons’ way of showing gratitude for all their blessings. Through dance and music, they celebrate the town’s good harvest as Dalaguete is Cebu’s vegetable basket much like Baguio is in Luzon. It is also alleged that Dalaguete is the Music Capital of the island. The name Dalaguete came from balete, a tree which grew abundantly in the town, and which in Cebuano, is called the dalakit. On the other hand, Utanon means vegetables in the local dialect.

 

 

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We caught sight of the bands and street marchers/dancers in front of San Guillermo Church. The festive colors of red, blue and green complemented the floats with “Hermana Mayors” gamely waving their hands as they were paraded around town. I have to say that the sight made for a very rural scene….. A village affair. I bet everyone knows everybody in this small town.

 

 

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We surmised that the religious procession in honor of San Guillermo is scheduled later in the day as local men were still busy decking the floats with flowers. We said a prayer inside this 18th century baroque church with its shell-shaped altar before heading out for one last glimpse of the church and its adjoining convent. Should you come and visit this church, take time to stare up to view one of the few masterpieces by Canuto Avila, a 19th century maestro who did religious murals for 20 or so churches and convents in the Visayas, including the ceiling of Cebu’s Santo Niño Church.

 

 

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Next time around though, we’d make time to do the trek to Osmena Peak. For now, it would just be a pit stop towards Carcar where more Chicharon awaits us ☺


This is not a travel blog. No travel advice here. Rather, this simply chronicles the steps we took and adventures we experienced while setting up house here in Madrid.

 

 

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As soon as we found the flat, we spent the past few days window shopping, canvassing and actually buying the stuff we need. Easy to get overwhelmed. So, we listed the “must- haves” and “nice to have” stuff.

 

 

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Where to sleep? We didn’t scrimp on the bed. A long day at the office demands a good bed to spend as much as 8 hours of relaxation. An extra mattress would double that, while keeping a spare for would-be guests without requiring storage space. The sofa easily converts into a bed at night. So that settles it. Nights would be a dream……

 

 

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Where to eat? This white dining table and 4 chairs should be adequate. Easy to scrub clean. There is that option to string some cushions too, if one wishes. The set matches a trolley cart which can serve many purposes.

 

 

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Now comes the starter set, along with the pots and pans. These should take care of the kitchen and dining areas. We can actually eat in!

 

 

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Now, the sad part. Laundry items! If only we can forget about this. How to keep our clothes clean, dry and pressed good to wear. 😦

 

 

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Alas, we can now deal with the “minor stuff” — items from the supermarket. From food stuff to toiletries. From pots and pans to detergent and fabric softeners. From bed linen to towels to blankets. Haaaaaaay 😦