Other Grandeur Travelers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Casa Batlló: Getting Lost in Gaudi's Mind (Barcelona Series I)

"Those who look for the laws of nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator" - Antoni Gaudi 

Last time an artist's work spoke to me was during Alexander's Mcqueen's Savage Beauty Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Since then, it has occurred to me that in this world, there are a few gifted people with the kind of passion that can throw their lives into massive success and spiraling chaos (Think: Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Van Gogh). The passion I'm talking about finds a unique path and when you surrender to it, you may find yourself in a world that can border either on euphoria or depression. It's like a bipolar disorder with an on and off switch button.

In Barcelona, I found that Gaudi truly belonged to this group of individuals whose passionate works continued and will continue to resonate and inspire everyone around the world. Antoni Gaudi's love for nature, religion, design and Catalonia led to the creation of unparalleled architectural marvels in Barcelona. The most popular of his creations and the main draw of Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, a Cathedral that never ceases to astound and shock the senses. Since Sagrada Familia usually steals the spotlight, I'd like to write more about Gaudi's other works that equally deserve attention.

Let me start with the iconic Casa Batllo, one of Gaudi's exceptional masterpieces along Passeig de Gracia. It is part of Manzana de la Discordia (Block/Apple of Discord), a series of renowned buildings in this part of town. Casa Batllo is surreal architecture at its best, displaying elements of modernist Barcelona that will be impossible to find anywhere else in the world. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Truth About Stonehenge

Everyone loves a good mystery. Mystery arouses curiosity and that draws us to the truth, or maybe a bit closer to it. There are some mysteries, however, that effortlessly manage to become a mystery forever. Stonehenge remains one. Somewhere in the Salisbury plain, huge monolithic stones have silently stood for ages, taunting the mind of any person who has seen them. Stonehenge has succeeded in becoming a worldwide enigma and precisely therein lies its magic.

I had seen images of Stonehenge as early as grade school. I believed that aliens built this monument, considering my mind was filled with bizarre images of crop circles and extraterrestrial forms. My ten-year old mind couldn't have known better. Or maybe I did.

The truth is, no one is exactly certain about the real purpose of these prehistoric stones. It is beyond the grasp of human knowledge. Stonehenge has generated many speculations/theories but suffice it to say that not one of them can be right or wrong. Stonehenge has been said to be:

1) Place of Sacrifice/Religious Site. Many researchers arguably believe Stonehenge was a site of religious and worship that time. They were able to find big bones here and they could have been offerings to the gods. No human skulls were in sight. Thank God.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lake Como's La Dolce Vita

October, 2011. The dilemma in deciding where the next destination will be is a critical point for any traveler. Each destination essentially sets the mood and pace for the succeeding trips. Places have their pros and cons but more often than not, it all boils down to a) Time and b) Money. In  our case, the former was considerably pressing.

It was a toss-up between Venice and Lake Como. I had been to Venice once but I wanted to take my  dear sister there to give her a taste of the real Venetian experience. The Venetian hotels in Macau, Las Vegas, and Mckinley most certainly don't count.

Coming from Milan, however, Venice did not present itself as a practical choice. I was hankering for a new place to visit in Italy that did not require too much travel time. The allure of visiting a new place  had a heavier weight. Having one day to spare for this trip, Lake Como's 

(Originally, the plan was to visit Venice after Paris but we got a bad case of poisoning in the City of Love. It was not the most pleasant thing in the world to experience. Venice was immediately out of the question. We found ourselves in Switzerland after that. Full Story Later).

I was pleased that our eco-friendly hotel, Starhotels ECHO, was right across from Stazione Centrale.  Our hotel's location made it convenient for us to book our train tickets from Milan to Como S.G. I've made a mental note since then that accommodations should always be near the bus or train station whenever I travel.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

There's Something About Bath

Like an elusive dream, I have been frantically chasing the sun throughout our trip in the United Kingdom. It has the effortless power to ease my occasional melancholic mood. One fine day, we planned a trip to Bath in Somerset and the sun paid us a surprise visit. It turned out to be glorious. 
The one-hour train ride from Cardiff, Wales to Bath made this trip comfortable for all of us. Bath seemed ideal since its size was not daunting for any traveler. (My advice for any day trip: If there are at least three of you traveling on a train, you can go directly to the train station to get the group ticket. You'll save some quid if you do that)

The first thing I noticed as soon as we got out of the train station was Bath's well preserved 18th century architecture. The white to cream colored limestones were immaculate. Expect anything the Romans built to be impressive and ambitious. 
The color of the limestones illuminates the city. Bath's stunning Georgian Architecture is feminine and even romantic. There's a hint of Parisian flair to it (Or maybe that's just me). Back in 1987, Bath was declared as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
It won't be difficult to navigate this small city because there are dozens of signs pointing you to the main attractions. If you get lost, that old means you REALLY have a bad sense of direction! 
During ancient times, Bath's name was Aquae Sulis (waters of Sulis). The bath complex was founded as early as 75 AD by the Romans. This would be England's only naturally occurring hot spring that was enjoyed mostly by the upper class during the old days. You can't leave Bath withoutt seeing this structure.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Discovering Cambridge's Charms and Secrets by Punting

Before coming to the United Kingdom, I threw all my expectations and plans up in the air. If there was one thing I was certain about, it was the predictably unpredictable British weather. Its daftness has the power to make me unusually lazy. Photography can also be a bit of a challenge.

For those of you who don't know, I've been going around UK for almost 2 weeks now (More than a month in Schengen states though). It's not exactly the cheapest place for a vacation for any Filipino but that's the price you pay for experiencing life in UK. Paying in pounds can be a pain. So far, I've seen most of London and Cardiff but Ill be writing about them separately. Bath was also a lovely place to visit. This post, however, will solely be about Cambridge, a famous university town in United Kingdom. Im fairly sure most of you have heard about the prestigious University of Cambridge. If not, OUR question for you would naturally be: Where have you been hiding all this time?

I figured Cambridge might be an interesting place to blog about. Aside from the University of Cambridge, you ask: What else is there in Cambridge? When we went there, we found out that the best way to see and learn about Cambridge's history is by leisurely punting along the river Cam. Yes, punting. This town has a unique waterscape that can be best enjoyed riding Cambridge's most famous form of transportation.

A punt is basically Cambridge's own version of a gondola.  It is a flat bottomed wooden boat with no keel and it is propelled by the chauffeur by means of a long pole. During the Edwardian times, these punts served as pleasure crafts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No Shame in Barcelona (Sin Verguenza).

Warning: For mature readers only. 

Whether it's a crazy or funny one, a travel story actually comes when you least expect it.  It's always nice to go home with a unique story to share with your family or friends. Regular travel means boring trip.

During our trip in Barcelona, the weather was better than we expected. Coming from a tropical country with exceptionally beautiful beaches, we missed the sun's rays hitting our skin. We were longing for it's warmth and familiarity. What we were craving for though was the beach more than anything else. I wanted to see a sea of people wanting to get that perfect tan. Fortunately, Barcelona is one of those few major cities that has a beach. Not bad, I say.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Marcia Adams: Tuscan Countryside Dining in Tagaytay

I had to break the monotony and routine of my life lately. If there's one thing I've learned throughout my blogging "career", the power of taking breaks show not be underestimated. The urge to constantly try something different is unyielding. We need it to save our sanity in times when we feel like we are about to lose ourselves. (I've been busy studying for something really important. I shouldn't even be blogging but here I am.)

Marcia Adams Restaurant in Tagaytay made that happen.

Marcia Adams is relatively a new restaurant in Tagaytay. It started to receive "buzz" last year through the best marketing strategy - "Word of Mouth". It has everything a restaurant needs to be a culinary destination - exquisite food, beautiful views and ambience, and most importantly, accommodating hosts. Marcia and her husband Neil know how to make their guests feel more welcome after a busy day.

This small restaurant captures the essence and feel of life in the Italian countryside.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Perks and Perils of Solo Travel

More than a week ago, I decided to go on a weekend trip to Taipei for my first solo travel of the year. This has become my tradition since this blog has been up and running. Traveling alone basically jumpstarts my adventures every year.

What makes solo travel appealing though? Have you done it? Or, have you thought of doing it? Here are some of the reasons why you should try it at least once or twice in your life.


1) You have nothing to worry about except yourself. Two words: Flexibility and Spontaneity. I am stating the obvious but people forget how advantageous this can be. The best thing about traveling solo is the fact that you really own your time. No chains. No shackles. No real commitment. You follow your schedule and no one else's. Sometimes, when you travel with other people, you don't share the same interests and that makes planning the itinerary more difficult. A common ground needs to be reached. In the end, you can no longer do the things you want to do or see the places you want to see.

Go wherever you want.

2) You would do things you wouldn't normally do. When you travel solo, there's a sense of freedom that permits you to go beyond your comfort zone. An urge to be experimental opens up. (Stretch your Imagination. Go Wild). During my visit in Taipei, I got to try the hot springs in my birthday suit (I'll have a separate post for this later). I probably would have not thought about this if I had been with family or (guy) friends. It might be awkward seeing them in their naked glory. Yikes.