Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Weekend in Bilbao

Bilbao is the capital of Biscaya in northernmost Spain, which is in the Basque Country. The Basque Country is a region consisting of areas in the north of Spain and the Southwest of France.


I have already been to some of the cities in the Basque region a couple of years ago the first time I visited France and Spain. I have visited San Sebastian, Spain for shopping, and St Jean de Luz, France to see the beach. I didn't have such a nice time back then because I was disappointed with the paella that we had for lunch, and the super-crowded beach that looked as if there was no beach at all, just bodies of people, in various stages of nudity, lying next to the ocean. Sorry to all the pervs, but I was too grumpy then to take a picture.

The famous puppy by American artist, Jeff Koons

The magnificent building of the Guggenheim Museum
Anyway, we went to Bilbao because we specifically wanted to see the famous Guggenheim Museum.  It is quite an impressive building that greets you upon entering the heart of the city via the Salve Bridge.
The Salve Bridge view from the Guggenheim

Inside the museum was a temporary exhibit by David Hockney.  His paintings were so vivid and colorful.  The bucolic sceneries in his pantings looked as if they were trying desperately to jump out of the frame. My husband says they looked as if they were painted by somebody who was high on drugs.

The museum features exhibits from David Hockney
Inside the Guggenheim
Tulips by Jeff Koons

We also went to Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum), which features an exhibit of Francisco de Goya's prints, depicting the horrors and atrocities of war, to which I would say that I still prefer to see the Japanese woodblock prints anytime. The collection inside was huge, though, compared to the Guggenheim. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao featuring prints by Goya

I was very impressed with the architecture. Most buildings are painted in the typical Basque colors of red green and blue. It's all so colorful. And cheerful.

Lovely Basque buildings
One of the lovely buildings at a roundabout close to our hotel


On the way to the Guggenheim, there was a park with lots of huge trees and fountains and interesting columns and pergolas of red bricks. In one corner there was a small piece of plaque commemorating the death of people who were victimized by terrorism. Apparently, these terrorists are a group of people who are fighting for the Basque country to be independent.

Last stop at Plaza Nueva, a rather ironic name for such a place with old-world neoclassical architecture,
located at the Old Quarter

We were quite surprised to find some good food too. Now we all know that Spain is famous for the Tapas. In Basque language (Euskara), which is one of the oldest languages in the world, it is called, pintxo. I didn't have such high hopes at first because I was previously disappointed with the food in Barcelona and San Sebastian. But this time, I was just so glad to be not disappointed at all.

Picture-perfect and mouth-wateringly delicious pintxos for lunch

I just love this Spanish white wine

Les jambons et les saucisses... can you imagine the smell inside this shop?

We were not just interested in the architecture and the museums, we were also interested in shopping!

Souvenirs at the Old Quarter
This area reminds me so much of St Jean de Luz

A lovely soaps and perfume shop at the Old Quarter
I had a marvelous time in Bilbao. The people are nice, it's not very touristy, the food is glorious, especially the seafood, which they call mariscos. And above all, the service in the restaurants and in the shops are excellent -- with that, you'll know you're not in France anymore.  :)


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

French cuisine neophyte

Since I have plenty of time in my hands, I have decided to take up a bit of cooking, mostly Filipino recipes.  I am proud to say that i have now mastered chicken adobo.  and was able to successfully accomplish lumpiang sariwa (fresh spring rolls) at the very first attempt. I was even able to serve it to real live guests, who appreciated it very much. I have this site to thank for, for all the easy-to-follow, honest-to-goodness authentic Filipino dishes.

My picture-perfect and mouth-wateringly palatable lumpiang sariwa;
I made the egg wrapper and the sweet sauce myself ;)

Recently, I have even tried baking, doing banana and carrot muffins.  I also do some breakfast stuff like pancakes and french toast, which they call pain perdu in french. It literally means, "lost bread".  that's because they make use of old (almost rotten) bread to make it, I guess.

My very first French recipe book; title translates to "The Great Salty Classics"

And now, I thought, it's high time I try my hand at some French recipes. And today, I was just in the mood for it. I purchased this recipe book a few days ago, while browsing a bookshop at my parents-in-law's area. I picked a really simple recipe of Champignons farcis (stuffed mushrooms) for a start, since it looked quite easy to me.


The main ingredients -- les champignons, les ciboulettes, pimentes d'espelette, biscottes;  I'm not so sure you can find mushrooms this big in Asia
Just before putting it in the oven
those are little nuggets of butter on top
Et voila -- the finished product !!! :)
I would say the result was quite successful for a beginner like myself.  I think I have a lot of beginner's luck in me, and quite good instinct when it comes to cooking.

Feel free to send me a message if you would like to have the recipe.

Bon appetit! :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Le Match Amical de Rugby

Since my husband is on a three-week holiday, we are visiting his parents for a few days. My father in-law took the opportunity to get us some rugby tickets for the Match amical between Mont de Marsan and Dax.

We did not expect it to be so crazy crowded since it was not a serious match. But we thought wrong.


Kids amid the crazy rugby crowd

Lolo wearing a T-shirt with print promoting Occitania

It was a really small stadium. And it was bursting at the seams with the heavy crowd. This stadium is actually even much smaller than the stadium in front of our apartment in Toulouse. Now, this stadium in front of our apartment is not the famous Stade E. Wallon where the world-famous Stade Toulousain rugby players who come from all over the world to practice.


Mont de Marsan stealing the ball from Dax

Rugby is a big sport in the South of France and in the Basque Region. It is not as famous as European Football (soccer, in the American lingo). But I most definitely prefer it over football because rugby players make the football players look like sissy little girls running around the field.


This is what is known as the scrum, where rugby players bash their heads against each other... crazy...


You end up with eerie-looking ears like this if you've been doing the scrum for years

We almost watched the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last year, my husband being a fan of rugby like most french southerners. But we purchased the tickets far, far ahead in advance, and by the time the start of the games arrived, we have already gotten married and moved to France.


No, this hairstyle is not a result of doing the scrum for years :D

And so this was my first time to see a live rugby match up-close. The first time I saw it on the internet, I thought it was so violent. And then after some time, I began to think it was quite funny and entertaining. All these big burly guys strangling and beating each other up in the field for a teeny-tiny ball. It's not at all uncommon for the players to get all bloody and heavily injured. This is why I say they make the football players look like sissy little girls in the field.


C'est un bordel des parties du corps humain !

This game kinda reminds me of all the ancient wars in European history.  All that blood and gore.  And I guess they miss it. And rugby is all they have left of it now.