May 2006


Time was when be the term 'Filipinos' meant those Spaniards born in the Philippines.

Well, guess what? a century and half later, the word has mutated so today, it means someone who's a citizen of the Philippines or, depending who you talk too, could mean anything from a 'house servant' (for the Greeks) or in this case, a cookie in the Iberian Peninsula.

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I stil remember the ruckus these wickedly-sweet, chocolate-covered biscuits caused a few years ago when some politicians(?) raised the diplomatic alarm and threatened to flush out our three-century link with our old boss- Spain.

And all because of a cookie.

Today, these things are everywhere and not just in Spain but neighoring Portugal as well.

Spain's greatest culinary legacy?

Not quite. But I couldnt resist this photo of me and my (cookie) compatriot.

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Must have been that yummy Paella.

Or was it the lamb chops?

Whatever, Salamanca was truly a memorable experience from the culinary to the architecture. The whole city is a masterpiece.

We'll let the photos do the justification.

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First impressions last. The view from our hostel.

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On to the city's crowning glory, the 12th century Universidad. Spain's oldest and her version of Oxford and Harvard.

Loved the courtyard and the Plateresco facade!

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The Catedral Nueva. One of my favorites in Spain. Check out the stunning Plateresco facade! Best of all, entrance to the church was free!

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Looking up the dome.

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Looking down from a loft. Division in the middle is the choir space.
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Side-by-side. Salamanca prides itself as a city of two cathedrals: the Gothic, domed Nueva (new) at the background and the Romanesque Vieja (old) in the foreground.

Both exquisite!

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Climbing the old tower gives you this killer view of the city. And I did something really, really naughty on top of that…if you must know, drop me an email… ;op

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Casa de la Conchas or the House of Conchs. Didnt quite figure out the architecture of this one…

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My favorite shot of the city. And that Jesuit church's facade made my jaw drop… too bad it was closed. Dang!

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Another Plateresco masterpiece (in a city that's almost this entire style!)- the Dominican convent of San Esteban.

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The splendid baroque altarpiece inside San Esteban. It towered about 20 feet above me!

Galit sa Kahoy.

salamanca plaza mayor

And of course, how can we one visit Salmanca without loosing yourself around the Plaza Mayor, according to the Salamancans themselves, the most beautiful square in Spain.

I don't think I'll disagree.

Couldnt get a decent shot of it so had to borrow this one.

Thank you www.worldheritagesite.org for enriching my blog.

truly SOMETHING else. That's Salamanca!

Back to the original.

So, having been to place called Nueva Segovia years before, I thought I'd finally go full circle and check out the real thing.

The city of Segovia is famous for three things: its Alcazar (or fortress castle), its 2,000 year old Roman Aqueduct and – as expected- it's soaring gothic cathedral.

It's charming hill-top city, with most of what you would expect to see in a a place of such medieval vintage. We took a two-in-one day tour and combined it with yet another of Spain's iconic gems: the city of Avila.

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So let's take a stroll around around the cobbles…

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From a street-level point of view- the gothic cathedral of Segovia. Great location!

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A closer inspection of the main facade reveals it to be uhhhmmm…..drab.

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A shot from the side. Now, this is where all the lovely details come out- finials, gargoyles, arched windows, flying buttresses…the whole gothic shebang.

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Segovia streetscape. Like Toledo, the old city is one oversized museum piece. Not much activity except for the usual suspects: restaurants and souvenir shops, all to cater for the likes of us- tourists.

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Ah yes… another of Segovia's gems: the Alcazar. This is a shot of its handsome facade and it was taken almost lying down. The things you do for a shot…

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This 13th century millitary-castle is pure fairy-tail fantasy. So much so, in fact, that none other than Mr. Walt Disney himself thought it would be worthy enough to replicate when he opened Disneyland kistch in Southern California.

Never quite got it as perfectly.

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And the last of Segovia's highlights: its 2,000 year old Roman Aqueduct. Now this is masterpiece, imagine building an over-sized water-tube using stones with no mortar to hold them together! Now, that's ingeniuity!
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Now, funny thing is, for all its claim-to-fame this 2,950 meter long structure isn't even dated according to Roman sources at the time…hmmm,that's like the Chinese never mentioning the Great Wall in their record books(!)

Anyway, it is a magnificent pile of stone.

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Of course, for a city of 2,000 years, there is more to Segovia than these three structures. In between all that history and this 11th-century Romanesque church is a touch of the familiar…

If you think you need a break from everyday food fare- as I later found out after eating tapas, paella and patatas fritas for week- the closest thing to Pinoy comfort food is good old Comida China (Chinese cuisine).

No arroz caldo on the menu though. ;o)
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On to Avila and to it's most famous draw: its fortified 12th-century walls. Really, they look amazing from this view point but a closer inspection reveals how low (small?) they really are…

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Entering the city walls through the main city gate….

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a few twists and turns and on to Avila's granite-gothic cathedral.

Well, it is a gothic cathedral thats actually a part (glued?) to the city walls…

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Our final stop, the church of Santa Teresa de Avila. Built on the site of Santa Teresa's birthplace, this pretty baroque church houses a finger of this feisty 15th-century lady known for reforming the Carmelite order.

Charming places- these two cities. But more spectacular things to come…. ;o)

So it was time to move on and it was off to Toledo – center of the Spanish Catholic church and home of Mr. Domenikos Theotokopolous.

Domenikos Theoto…what??

That's El Greco the painter to you and me.

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But first, breakfast. Ensaimadas. Quite different from the cheesy melt-in-your mouth versions found at home.

I think I like our version better.

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Along the way, a Spanish icon.

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First glimse of Toledo. Walls look formidable.

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The seat of the Roman Catholic hierachy in Spain- Toledo Cathedral.

You can't miss them, great and small. In every Spanish city or town, the first thing that you'd most probablly stop by is its cathedral. This one's nice. And BIG. The interior's a riot too.

Unfortunately, no photographs inside.

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The Cross-dresser. Owning to it's history of occupation- the Romans, Jews, Moors and finally the Christians- one of most intriguing aspects of Spanish buildings is a lot them have been recycled, this one used to be a Jewish Sinagogue but was 'Catholicized'when the Jews were expelled and Spain became Christian.
Today, it a museum.

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The Synagogue with Moorish-style arches within.

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Street scene. For all it's fame and interesting sights, Toledo is very much a museum (read: dead). Apart from the tourist shops and restaurants, there doesnt seem to be any other activity within the old city. Still, being only 1 hour away from Madrid, it does make for an interesting town to explore, that is if you have the stamina to huff and puff up and down her higgelty pigglety hills.

"There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering, all the rest are mere games."

Really Mr. Ernest Hemingway?

Well, I decided to check it out and so off we went to Madrid's biggest bull ring…

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the Las Ventas.

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Initial fanfare. You have the whole cotourier of 'sportsmen' going in the arena. Take note of the peones (guys with pink socks and cape) and the picadores (guys in horses).
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The peones (all of them) taunts the bull with their pink cape. There partners-in-crime, the picadores also goads it and when the bull does, they jab its back with a spear.

Dont' worry about the horses, they are all have a padded armor. 

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Then comes the swashbuckling star of the show- the Matador himself (in red cape). He again taunts and plays around with the already week bull. Notice the banderillas or barb darts that the peones have jabbed before.

Makes the job of the matador really easy.

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Finally, he goes for the kill…

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And it's all over for the bull.

Somebody will be gorging on ox tapas(!) soon….
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A trail of blood…

In all, this game was repeated six times(by different matadors)  and six bulls were killed in a span of 2.5 hours.

So Mr. Hemingway, is this a sport? or Art? or Spectacle? Maybe to some.

I think it's a tragedy.

Different strokes for different folks.

Ok, after months of planning, saving up and years of dreaming,I finally arrived in Madrid where begins my month long journey to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Of course I AM excited!

Spain, after all, is one of the hottest destinations in the planet and being the sucker for (geeky?) historical things that I am, well, it had to the country of my choice for my first European escapade.

And besides, we did spend a good 333 years under her titulage.

Great job, Madre España, you have an ex-colonial returning to your arms.

And now, on to my first view of the city…

view from hostel espartero

…the one from my hostel.

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For a European capital, Madrid is very young city, it was only established in the 1500's by King Felipe II (of Filipinas fame!) and the cathedral above isnt even 50 years old!

Well, it was only finished in 1993, a good 114 years when it was first built in 1879…

Took too much siesta if you ask me. Anyway, at first, I thought the cathedral was remarkable but I ain't seen nothing yet…

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The Royal Palace across the cathedral.

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Inside, it was what you'd expect a European royal palace to be- gilt carvings, throne rooms, chandeliers, huge banquet halls but what was interesting amidst that opulence was this little detail above the main banquet hall. It reads Las Islas Filipinas. Cool. We are represented.

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The Gran Via- Madrid's version the Fifth Avenue and Orchard Road- glitzy shopping for the Euro-laden.

I loved the architecture of the place.
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Another shot of the Gran Via

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Uhhm. Fun time anyone? And this is something you'd never find in our part of the world…porn on airports and on the street!

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Parque Retiro. A charming park right in the heart of the city.
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K.S.P. or Kulang sa Papel. Everywhere in Spain, graffiti and lots of graffiti. Even the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was not spared.
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Well, here's something you don't see in Manila, 3D paintings on buildings in the city's old quarter. Very creative.

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Taking a peek inside one of the city's markets…check out this oversized chili! I wonder if its size is any indictiion of the punch it packs…

me thinks this chili is a sissy.

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Street show, Madrid-style. This fella thought it woud be cool to pose on a cloudy, windy day.

Well, the wind was blowing…

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the grandest post office Ive seen in my life…and it's in Madrid.