Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jose Rizal in Madrid

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As promised, I went to visit the historical places in Madrid that has to do with Jose Rizal. Before going there, I have printed this useful file that you can get from the web site of the Philippine Embassy in Madrid.

I tried to contact the historian Jaime Marco, the author of this document to know more about it. He was quite friendly and willing to meet and tour me around. Unfortunately, he's only available during the weekend, and my trip schedule fell on weekdays.

I was able to see most of the places in the list in such a short time because they were mostly located close to each other.

It's nice to have a Metro Station in Madrid named after the Philippines
First off, I went to Avenida de las Islas de Filipinas to see Jose Rizal's statue. This statue is just like the one that we have in Luneta (Rizal Park) in the Philippines, only smaller.

This metro station is found right at the beginning of the Avenida de las Islas de Filipinas

It is quietly located outside the city center, far away from the tourist sites. You will find it just at the beginning of the Avenida de Filipinas, about 500 meters away. Jose Rizal's Monument is right at the corner of Calle Santander.

The exact replica of the monument found in Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, only smaller

Seeing it made me feel as if I was back at Luneta Park again. It is the exact copy, except that this replica is a bit smaller and there were no guards on either side of the statue. On one side of the monument, you will find his famous poem, Mi Ultimo Adios (Last Farewell) in the original Spanish version and the Filipino translation on the other side.

I was blessed with a really warm sunny weather in Madrid.

Passersby were staring at me while I took lots of pictures of the monument from every angle :D

From Avenida de las Islas de Filipinas, I took the Metro towards Sol station. I had to make two transfers, I think. Exiting the Sol Metro Station brings you to Puerta del Sol. From there, you walk towards Calle San Jeronimo, and there you will find the streets that lead to Jose Rizal's old apartment, and the places that he used to frequent with Juan Luna and all his other friends.

Hotel Ingles at C/ Echegaray

Walking the streets of Calle Echegaray leads to Hotel Ingles, where the Filipino community in Madrid celebrated their most important events, according to the Philippine Embassy's document.

Viva Madrid bar and restaurant, frequented by Rizal back in the day

I was hesitating to go inside Viva Madrid. there didn't seem to be a lot of people as it is still early evening, and it was a weekday. This area is lined with a lot of nice restaurants and bars actually. It's not so far away from where I was staying.

It looks really nice and cozy inside

I went farther down towards Calle del Prado to see Ateneo de Madrid, where Rizal studied English.

Ateneo de Madrid

Still farther down towards Calle Atocha, I went to see where used to be the publication office of La Solidaridad, the first ever Filipino newspaper.

C/ Atocha 43, used to be the La Solidaridad publication office

I found out that it is now a tapas bar undergoing reconstruction inside. Not a very pretty site, but I was still so much in awe and felt really privileged to have seen and visited the place.

Not a very pretty sight nowadays

It felt so surreal to me, walking around the areas in Madrid where Rizal had walked a century before. it made me feel like I was transported back in time. It was more than marvelous.

Have a marvelous weekend, marvelous people! :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


(please refrain from using my pictures without my permission)

even before living in France, i have always wanted to visit Rocamadour. i have first read about it in a book called, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong. and the way the author described how wonderful a place it is made me put it in my list of must-visits.

on the way to the Tourism Office to get a map

the tourist train for the old and lazy... definitely not for us! it's quite nice on the pictures, though.

when i was still studying french, there was a tour then available to students, conducted by Alliance Francaise de Toulouse over the weekend, going to Rocamadour by bus. i couldn't go because i was four months pregnant at the time, and i knew it will be tough for me to climb and walk around the area.

religious pilgrims singing Ave Maria while marching down the street

absolutely amazing

 and so, i did not miss this other opportunity that presented itself just recently. i went with a few friends over the weekend, driving all the way from Toulouse. it was quite a short drive from here. you just have to marvel at this ancient architecture. everything was so beautiful. every corner, every turn is a marvel.

beautiful stairs, beautiful archways, beautiful sculptures, etc.

on the grand balustrade of one of the corners of the church
we were praying that it wouldn't rain. fortunately, there was only a bit of drizzle that lasted for a few short minutes. and then it was alternately sunny and cloudy all throughout the day.

Rocamadour is a lot, lot better than what pictures show you. and it has a lot of history to tell. no wonder, it is a UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage Site.

this winding path that leads to the Rempart de Rocamadour (the castle at the topmost area) reminds me of the path that leads to the cross of Mt. Samat in my home province.

this castle perched on top of the rocky village offers a spectacular birds-eye view of the surroundings

the place is a little bit touristic, making the souvenir shop and restaurant prices a bit higher than their worth. i wanted to buy this tender nougat at some candy shop that specializes in it, but it was too pricey for me for just a small bar of nougat. it was heaven, though, when you feel it melting in your mouth. sorry, forgot to take a picture.

there was a fee of 2 euros for the visit

the clock was chiming as i climbed these steps

beautiful view from high above the castle's tower... those who say "it's lonely at the top" have NEVER been to the top! ;)
but if you have this view to offer, the extra bit price is worth it. for lunch, we headed off to a charming little restaurant that offers a nice terasse with the view of the greens.

at the lovely terasse of Chez Anne Marie

the confit de canard was a bit too fatty and huge for me

after lunch, we headed to the opposite part of the village, towards the Hospitalet and the Grotto.

les beaux coqeulicots de printemps

one of the charming stone houses around the village

upon arrival at the Grotto, we found out that there is a schedule for entry and that the visit is guided, and lasts for 45 minutes. and it was strictly prohibited to take pictures and touch anything inside.  unfortunately, the guide does not speak English. we were given handouts in English, though. and during moments when she was not speaking at the rate of 186,000 words per second, i was able to understand and get the gist of what she is saying. although, i felt that we should have paid less because of the language issue.

it was prohibited to take pictures inside the Grotto

visiting this grotto made me think how lame it looked compared to Sagada in the Philippines, even though i have never been there. it made me wish Sagada was as well-protected and appreciated as this grotto.

we ended the tour at this corner where you have the best view of the village:

a wonderful view of the whole village

i had a wonderful time in a wonderful place with wonderful people. :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How to cook aiguillette de canard

the South of France is famous for its duck. i was not so much a duck person when i was living in Asia. especially since we never usually eat duck in the Philippines. but here, i have learned to appreciate it much, much more than before.

this week, since my husband was on a week-long business trip, i was left to my own devices in the kitchen. and so, having no choice, i decided to try my hand at cooking aiguillette de canard in the same way that my husband cooks them, but with a little bit of my own personal touch.

it's actually very simple, you just buy it as it is from the supermarket, like this:

aiguillette is the sides of the duck, cut into strips

before throwing it on a non-stick pan, i like to grease it a bit with vegetable oil (i use colza oil, btw). and then just cook it on medium heat until the sides start to brown. and then you can turn it over.

put the stove on medium heat so it doesn't burn, even with just a few amount of oil.

now my husband, being french, likes it really soft and a bit bloody when you cut it. as for me, i am not yet really used to the sight of blood in food. i only tolerate it when eating at fancy restaurants, but not at home, especially if i'm the one who's cooking. so i try to cut the thickest part of the meat to see if there is no more blood oozing out. that's when i know it's done.

now for the side dish, my husband likes to use fried potatoes. i like to vary it a bit by mixing it with some carrots. and he likes to fry them with the oil from duck confit (confit de canard). if you haven't tried confit de canard, you my friend, are missing a lot, lot, lot in your life.

frying the thin slices of carrots and potatoes with duck fat from a can of confit de canard

now you can buy this duck confit either in a can or in a glass jar. i personally don't really know how to cook a duck confit. but i do know confit means to cook for a long time over low fire until it's all tender and nice. anyway, we save the fat in the duck confit can for future potato-frying, because the potatoes really taste a lot, lot better when fried in duck fat. i know it's not very healthy. but you don't eat this food every day.

some garlic bits to add flavor

when they are starting to brown, i sprinkle a generous amount of these garlic bits (Ail semoule). or you can fry them together with minced garlic. i prefer this one because they seem to be tastier. i even use them to marinate my adobo for a more garlicky taste, which i really love.

when the garlic bits start to brown, it's all ready to serve on the plate. i put a generous amount on the plate of this peppered mayonnaise, which i'm addicted to:

i am addicted to this sauce that goes well with duck, beef and pork

and don't forget the wine pairing. this Bordeaux red wine from my friend's vineyard goes perfectly well with duck:

perfect red wine pairing for aiguillette de canard

and here you have everything on the plate, ready to eat:

et voila! ca y'est, c'est fait! :)

sorry, i'm not very good with the plating yet.

also, whenever i cook something, i do the steamed version for my baby, which all go into the blender:

steamed version of aiguillette de canard for my baby's lunch

my baby is one-year old by the way. although, i think you can start giving meat to babies starting at 8 months of age. although to be sure, consult your pediatrician first.

bon appetit! :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

French fashion, selon moi

While reading a favorite fashion blog, I've come across this article about French fashion and style.

The first thing I've noticed while watching TV and observing the celebrities here in France is how they put on make-up. It's like there's nothing on their face. They don't put too much garish colors. They tend to just sculpt or highlight the features, not colorize them, which, come to think of it, really makes sense.

Juliette Binoche's easy, classy and elegant hairstyle and make-up

But then, the way they put on eye shadows, eyeliner and heavy mascara even during the day is a little bit over the top for me. Too much drama for daytime.

As for the wardrobe, they stick to the classics. Classic colors -- beige, blacks, neutrals and then they just glam it up with accessories. "They really know how to put together an outfit", as what KC Concepcion (Filipina actress who studied in France for two years) said in one interview.

Audrey Hepburn is not French but her manner of dressing and overall fashion sense is more French than American to me. It's probably why she was chosen to be an image model for Chanel. (image from

The French tend to steer clear of loud colors and prints. They don't like to look messy. They like to keep it simple, classy and clean. I know somebody French who likes to make fun of English people for their love of floral prints. He says English people have no sense of fashion. I find it a bit true, especially when I see the queen wearing weird-looking clothes all the time that resemble something from the haberdashery than haute couture.

I used to like floral patterns in clothes and everything. A friend even once told me that I always dress like I'm going to church. But now, I find floral prints too lola-ish (grandmother-ish) because it's what the grandmothers (esp the ones in the countryside) in France like to have in their furniture, wall paper, beddings, etc., except maybe for the rich and posh lolas who remain fashionable despite their age. Come to think of it, it's the only country I know where the old people are so fashionable.

Catherine Deneuve, posh french Lola... in fairness, ang ganda pa rin nya kahit lola na.

While the word posh may have a positive connotation in certain cultures, contrarily, when French people say this word, they usually mean overly luxurious, possibly pretentious and bling-bling. Being posh is something negative to them because they usually never like to show off or brag about how much money they have. While in some countries like the US, the Philippines, etc, where being rich is gauged by how much money you spend, here in France and most rich European countries, being rich is gauged by how much money you save.

While i like some of the aspects of this wardrobe, like the studs and the colorful clogs, putting together an outfit like this, which obviously screams for attention will be a total no-no here in France where subtlety is the key. People will look at you like you're some freak from the circus. (image from Sorry, Laureen.

But what I don't really get is why people here like to dress in the same color as the season. Like during winter, they would dress in dark drab colors and accessories, the same color as the gloomy skies and the leafless, flowerless, seemingly dead plants around. As for me, when the weather is looking drab, I like to dress more colorfully because it cheers me up.

I guess they dress in the same color as the surroundings because they are too afraid to stand out or to look too loud?

I would take the simple, clean, classy, easy elegance of French fashion and style any time, but the one thing I cannot keep away from is the vibrance and freshness of colors because life without them would be just plain boring.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New York, New York ( Part III )

Our last day in New York was spent in museums. There are too many museums in New York. We wanted to visit them all, but we decided to be reasonable and settled for The American Museum of Natural History because hubby wanted to see the dinosaurs. And The Guggenheim for me, because I want to visit all the Guggenheim museums in the world, except maybe the one in Abu Dhabi (which is still under construction) because there's nothing else of interest for me to see there aside from the museum.

Hubby wanted to see the dinosaurs. so, together with all the kids, we headed off and queued in the surprisingly long line of visitors. There were buses of kids on field trips and parents with lots of kids in tow. It was a nightmare.

You can say what you want to say but i don't really believe in dinosaurs. i think they're an invention of an overactive imagination. That, and I am always a NON-believer of anything that will make the annoyingly faithful believer get annoyed... including my husband. :) I have quite a long list of things I don't believe in and it gets longer every year.

qu'est-ce-que c'est que ca? :D

It was quite fun being surrounded by these ancient bones. But as I was not so interested in them, I didn't bother to check if they were REAL bones or just plaster casts.

What I loved best about the museum was the science stuff. We went inside a spherical auditorium suspended in the middle of one of the museum's wings to watch and listen to Liam Neeson narrate the Big Bang Theory... yeah, I don't believe in the big bang theory either. LOL. But Liam Neeson's voice is so nakakakilig. lalang...

To go The Guggenheim, we had to cross Central Park. It looked so gloomy in there as our last day in New York was a bit snowy and rainy. Before heading straight off to The Guggenheim, we decided to grab some lunch at a fastfood called The Shake Shack, which apparently has the best milkshake in all of NY. I'm not so fond of creamy shakes. I prefer them fruity, not milky.

Victoria's Secret at Upper East Side

Right across was a Victoria's Secret boutique. We went in and we were glad to find that they have some items on sale. So I did some more shopping.

The Guggenheim Museum

Inside the Guggenheim was an exhibit of Japanese art called Gutai. The building was not as impressive as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, but I found the temporary exhibit and the permanent collection a lot better.

I'd love to make holes and run through walls of thin papers too, and call it art

I love these plastic tubes filled with colored liquid in the middle that hung criss-crossing at the center of the building.

these tubes with colorful liquid give a festive feel all over the museum

I'm not a big fan of contemporary art, but I found the Gutai collection quite tolerable (translation: not too annoying). And there were also some permanent exhibits of Picasso, Van Gogh, and some famous french artists' impressionistic paintings, which I love.

I love the feel of this museum a lot

It was not so tiring to walk around the Guggenheim despite being five storeys high. It's not really that huge and it's quite fun to walk down/up in a spiral as opposed to climbing up/down stair cases. Unlike the other museums like the Met or MoMa, we wouldn't have had enough time to see all the exhibits in half a day.

I had fun with this card-dispensing box. my husband got a lame card which says, Thank you for being a friend, and i got the cool one with the doodles.

our Gutai cards from the random dispenser

There was a wall by the entrance where you're free to doodle. fun!

ay, ang bata...

it was also surprising to find some exhibit from Asia, and even one from the Philippines. there was a painting from Norberto Roldan of Roxas City. unfortunately, taking pictures was not allowed in this portion of the building.

After the Guggenheim, we went to Union Square area to buy some books at Strand Book Store. I read about this book store on the internet. It's quite famous for selling special edition books. I got Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, one of my childhood books, to read to my baby. It was a special 50th Anniversary Edition. And also a book of short stories by Haruki Murakami. I'm reading this in preparation for the heavy volumes of 1Q84.

Strand Book Store, the building is being renovated, unfortunately

Then we had some coffee at a café called, Pret-à-manger (again in french?) right across. I had a really nice spot by the window where I can enjoy my coffee and snack while people watching.

My Strand books loot -- Where the Wild Things Are for my baby, and a Collection of short stories by Murakami

On the way back to the hotel, we passed by these:

the flat iron building

some building with french architecture, with the Empire State in the background

And that about concludes my NYC trip. thanks for reading, shiny happy people! keep glowing! :)