Monday, June 3, 2013

Madrid and Toledo

i wanted to visit Madrid first of all, to see a friend from Singapore who was having a grand European tour. it was so nice to see her again after a long time. we had such fun catching up, soaking in the sights and sampling the gastronomic Castillian delights.

my teeny tiny but clean and lovely hotel room, a few meters off Gran Via
first night we saw each other, we met at the oldest Tapas Bar in Madrid called, Stop Madrid. it was recommended by my french guidebook. the place was just a few steps away from Gran Via metro station, along Calle Hortaleza. i didn't expect to find a lot of people there as it was a weeknight, but it was quite packed. and it seemed like they were mostly locals, which is a good sign.

selection of tapas and some bread and manchego cheese

we were not eating for two, in case you were wondering about the quantity of food on the table. you should be able to tell since there is a third wine glass sitting on the table, as seen in one of the pics above. ;)

the next day, i joined my friend and her buddies on a day tour of Toledo. it's an ancient fortified city 20 minutes by train from Madrid Atocha RENFE station.

arriving at the Toledo train station, i could not help but marvel at the interesting architecture. the train station was lovely outside and inside.

the Toledo train station

inside the Toledo train station

from the train station, you could either take the bus that will get you to the town proper in less than 10 minutes, or you can take in more of the scenery on the way there by walking, which was what we preferred.

on the way to Ayuntamiento de Toledo (Toledo city proper)

lovely row of apartments

the walls of Toledo

The bucolic surroundings reminded me so much of the French countryside.
the entrance

this Romanesque architecture of one of the churches in Toledo reminded me so much of the Basilica de St Sernin in Toulouse

what is quite unique about Toledo is that you can find traces of Arabic influence in the architecture as it was once occupied by these people.

arabic influence in the arches of doorways

we stopped for a snack before heading to the famous cathedral.

it's not really a breakfast or a lunch menu, there's probably no English word for it

i noticed that there were so many young students on a field trip. and they were mostly from France. it was quite a lovely sunny day in Toledo, the walk around the city and hiking up towards the cathedral was really nice.

that guy behind me is not sleeping on the floor, he's trying to mimic the position of my photographer while taking this pic :)

lovely details of the altar

some guy in a turban painted on one of the ceiling arches

all silver and gold and three times my height... this cathedral is so rich

ancient bible gifted by France to Toledo... how generous!

we spent quite a lot of time inside this cathedral. i guess it was the highlight of the trip. as i have spent a lot of time here in France already, touring around really old churches, i didn't find this cathedral so special anymore. although, i would say it is quite unique for its arabic influence in the architecture. and it also shows how rich the Catholic church is with all the gold and silver artifacts found in one of the vestibules.

for lunch, we went to this place called El Brocal Taberna. this one was recommended by Trip Advisor, researched by moi.

lunching at El Brocal (recommended by Trip Advisor)

i super loved this simple salad with cheese and nuts and balsamic vinegar that has almost no acidity and quite sweet

we were seated next to this lovely window

the Spanish people seem to like being late in everything, including meal times. we had lunch at 4PM. and dinner at 10PM.

back in Madrid, we chose this place to dine in, which claims that it is the OLDEST restaurant in the world as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. quite a huge claim. especially when you consider that the word restaurant is french and not spanish.

something that is hanging off the corner and looking very weird, i wonder what it is called

my favorite ham and melons, wintermelon daw to sabi ng mga kasama ko

apparently, they specialize on lechon de leche, which they call cochinillo

i was not able to take a lot of pictures around Madrid, especially since my last day in Madrid was spent inside the museums.

i took this pic because it was on the cover of my french guidebook :) this is what you see when you get off Banco de Espana metro station
i first went to Prado Museum and lost track of time admiring the works of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Goya, et al. i especially adored Las Meninas and Goya's Black Paintings (Pinturas Negras). although, having seen Picasso's version of Las Meninas at the Picasso museum in Barcelona, i would say that i prefer Picasso's version to the original. it was still quite magnificent, though. and i regret to say that i was too lazy to take pictures at this time, so i just borrowed some pics from other web sites.

Prado Museum (image from
 from Prado museum, i hurried towards Reina Sofia museum by foot. i didn't realize how far away it was. when i got there, i only had time to admire Picasso's Guernica and a few of Miro's works. i regret to say that i wasn't able to see the temporary exhibit on Dali's works.

Reina Sofia Museum (image from

but then when i got to the airport, i found out my flight would be delayed for an hour. i took Iberia Airlines, btw. they have this teeny tiny Canadian planes flying from Toulouse to Madrid and vice-versa. it was a bit too small for comfort. my bag didn't fit in the cabin. i had to squeeze it below the seat in front of me. it barely fit in there too.

since i didn't have time to buy pasalubong around Madrid, i stopped by some shop to get some charcuterie and sweets. they were quite expensive.

apparently, pata negra is made from pig that is fed with acorn

the sweets were not so good, but the pata negra was worth every cent.

a view of the icy peaks of the Pyrenees from atop, welcoming me back to Toulouse

i really enjoyed every bit of my trip in Madrid. It has somehow shown me a glimpse of my roots from learning more about Jose Rizal, to finding more and more Filipino words rooted in Spanish, to some old habits that die hard like being late for everything and having a siesta, etc.

even the flight back to Toulouse, despite being an hour delayed was worth it, with the magnificent view of the Pyrenees from atop, welcoming me back to France.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jose Rizal in Madrid

Please do not use my photos without permission (even the watermarked ones). If you wish to avail of my non-watermarked images, you may contact me for a copy. See my Contact page for details.

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. :)