It’s an injustice really how, 6 months after, and I still have not written about that trip. The truth is, to this day, i still can’t believe i was actually there. See, while it was a trip I’ve been planning all my life, it was also a trip I never actually believed I could have. A month in Europe on my pay check is not only irresponsible, it should be criminal. But all the pieces easily found its way to its proper places without so much as a nudge – the visa that came on a silver platter, the loan that was offered without a payment deadline, the luggage that looked a little like Jennifer Lopez – the universe clearly wanted me to go.
So here, the blog about the month I will never ever forget.
Thank you Paris
For looking exactly as you do in postcards.
From that first night we picnicked in front of the Eiffel Tower, eating bread and drinking wine, you had me completely under your spell.
You said “Ets, look at my architecture. Now say hu-wow!.”
So I said hu- wow!
You said “Ets, eat my food. Say hu-wow!” So, I said hu-wow!
You said “Ets, My God have you seen the Louvre? Go there and say hu-wow!” So I went and said hu-wow!
Everything you showed me got a hu-wow! Cos really, how can the River seine, the Arc de triomphe, the gardens of Luxumburg and Versailles, the pomme de terre, the crepes, the macaroons and the rue mouffetard, deserve anything less than a HU WOW!
So it was a little surprising how, despite all the sweeping me off my feet, I didn’t feel a real connection with you. I remember having a conversation with the team about this that night in Marais. How we don't have a future cos I don’t think I can ever feel at home in you, Paris. Not that I didn’t want to because I so badly wanted to. But if we could have had a conversation about this, you would have said “its not you ets, its me.” And that would have been absolutely accurate.
You kept me out. You created this invisible wall around you that I couldn’t seem to penetrate. The discreet conversations of your beautiful people, the shut windows of your magnificent buildings made it clear that i was never really invited to participate in the discussion or that I was never meant to see past the surface of your architecture.
But never mind that. The tourist in me was more than blown away anyway. You were beautiful. You were delicious. You were breath taking. You were also a little dirty and we all had a nose full of booger every hour to prove that.
So while I may never understand you completely, know please that, of all the places I visited, I am most grateful for you. After all, you know, proposal.
Thank you Spain
I was hungry for you. I’ve been hungry for you for a long time. I, of course, am not quite as Spanish as i’d like to think I am but, from grades 1 to 4, I went to a Chinese school where I was more Spanish than everyone else combined. And believe me, you don’t want to be the ‘only Spanish person’ in a 4th grade class when the topic is the Spanish occupation in the Philippines because the trauma from that one class is enough to never make you forget that you are part Spanish.
My point simply is, I feel Spanish enough to hunger for you... my motherland. Hahaha.
And I have to say, you were quite the buffet.
Ibiza was nothing like I saw in my head. Cos I saw Boracay in my head. And Ibiza is as different from Boracay as a great dane is to a Chihuahua. Ibiza has roads. A whole lot of roads. Roads that go up a hill, roads that go down a cove, roads that go on for miles and miles. For short, roads that you cannot just traverse on a motorbike. It. Is. Huge. And pretty. That, it is too.
And that place where Ana and Monch got married, God was in such a good mood when he made that.
Barcelona was too much. Literally and otherwise. Sensory overload in every nook and cranny. The costumed actors frozen in a pose, the artists with their paintings and caricatures, the peddlers with their illegal goods, the noisy tourists who cannot seem to handle their liquor, and the occasional vagrant always on the lookout for a free smoke. They were everywhere. Along the chaotic street of las ramblas, in the narrow alleys that smelled a little of piss, scattered across the shore of the widest beach i’ve ever seen.
Everywhere there had everything. Everything was all around us.
I kept saying that I would have enjoyed Barcelona more had we not just come from Paris. And for the length of our stay there, all I did was compare the two cities. It was not as sophisticated, it was not as stunning, it was not this, it was not that. What I failed to appreciate then was that Barcelona was all too willing to give us what Paris did not. See, unlike Paris, Barcelona was quite eager to let us in. Everywhere, anytime, you could hear her saying “see me, hear me, feel me, eat me!” She was just waiting for us to participate. And to a certain extent, I did participate. But mostly, I compared.
So I am sorry, Barcelona. I was very unfair.
And now we come to my favorite. Sevilla.
My heart stopped beating several times while I was in Europe but the longest it stayed on pause was the first time I saw the cathedral in Sevilla.
We were walking for maybe 10 minutes, going from one beautifully lit street to another. Some were narrow roads with old buildings, some were wide lined with cafes and restaurants, but all of them beautifully lit with yellow lamp posts. We were on a narrow street when Corinne’s GPS app showed us that we were very near the cathedral. We thought surely the app was wrong because how can this narrow road with no sign of life lead to a...
... beautiful, amazing, grand cathedral bathed in yellow light with over a hundred birds flying above it.
It was a movie set. I think that was the mayors goal. Never mind urban planners and city engineers, the mayor hired cinematographers and set designers. I was hoping a little to find Tom Cruise walking around the plaza with the wind blowing in his hair. I did not of course.
That night is why Sevilla became my favorite.
The days after had added bonuses. A medieval fair complete with a jousting match, the Plaza Espana that was very vast and very empty, the Flamenco show starring Antonio Banderas and Snooky Serna, the children playing naked in the fountain, the neighbourhood restaurant managed by dignified old men -- all of it, a movie set I tell you.
We left Sevilla to go to Cantabria where we expected nothing. It was a courtesy really more than anything. Some of my favorite relatives live there and I personally was curious to see how they lived when they were not with us here in Manila. Now, i wonder why they ever come back to Manila at all.
Cantabria was beautiful. And cold. And beautiful. And huge. And beautiful.
The mountains, colored in every shade of green, was interrupted only by mountains, painted in charcoal. And always behind them was the sky in every hue of blue. Oh but wait, there was also the beach. Sure it was a beach too cold to swim in but a beach nonetheless.
We drove to Comillas, to San Vicente, to Potes, to Santillana del mar, and to Santander. I was lucky enough to be in the car with my tito who grew up there and who generously shared stories and memories of this place and that.
They also generously shared their lovely home with us. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality. They made sure we were fed, comfortable and warm. One of my favorite meals during the entire month was the breakfast we had in Treseno where Tito Serafin and Tita Belit served us curado cheese with bread and mayo. Simple joys = love.
After only three short days in Cantabria, we had to leave for Madrid with a heavy heart. But the fact is, it’s hard to keep a heavy heart when one’s travelling eh. So by the time we got to Madrid, despite the spastic GPS system that did not know its way around Madrid, we were happy to be there.
I loved everything about Madrid. It reminded me a lot of HongKong which, given how much i love HK, is always a good thing. Like Hongkong, the city was alive 24/7, there was cheap, good food all around (hello museo del jamon!), and Filipinos were everywhere.
The neighbourhood where we stayed, a block from gran via, was crowded with prostitutes of every skin color and accent. They offered sex to the boys and they offered sex to us girls too. I love how they are open to any type of business.
Because of Ana, we knew where to eat and where to go. We also knew what canned goods to buy to bring home. She was quite the hostess with the mostest. One of my favorite memories was that night we walked around town in the rain. My feet were soaked as my boots took on 20 gallons of rain water and I was c-c-co-cold. Brrrr. But even in the Philippines, I’ve always loved the rain and Madrid in the rain is prettier than Manila in the rain so I was sooo okay with that.
Thank you Universe!!!
For making this happen. May you never tire of showing me as much of you as I can get.
Next stop, the moon.