This trip was to be the strongest motivation for me while I was working on 118, a drama that took 9 months to complete. I was going through all sorts of holiday destinations and Spain stood out from all the other choices laid out before me.
I never really had any real breaks all these while, all these years. It’s amazing how I actually went through drama after drama (sometimes back to back) without any real breaks for years. It was only last year, that I managed to fight for a 3 months period of rest. I found it essential to my entire being, and so, I made sure to find time this year especially after a long running series that seemed to go on forever.
I landed in Madrid and the very first place I found myself in was the El Retiro Park. It’s beautiful and the expanse of it just made me wish Singapore had parks like that as well. I felt like I would be able to spend the entire day there, just walking through from one end to the other. And I believe, I would visit the park everyday (if I could).
I travelled quite a fair bit around Spain. Covered so many places (to the extent that it takes some time to figure out exactly where those photos were taken). I love taking photos, though it’s something I don’t get to do much of in Singapore. In any case, as you will see, I visited quite a few cathedrals.
Gothic Cathedrals, interesting. What’s more interesting, is how a building can take centuries to build and until today, remains incomplete. Looking at the architecture, perhaps I can see why. It’s so intricate, all the details from floor to ceiling (I find myself always very absorbed looking at the ceiling) is something that will take forever to accomplish. What’s more interesting is how different styles merge into one another through the years, you literally see the process and progress of time welded together into the building.
Barcelona. The funny thing is, when I told my friends I was going to Spain, they all warned me about pickpockets, especially in Barcelona. It also seemed as though none of them escaped the treacherous fate of being pickpocketed. Some friends lost their phone, some their money, some their entire bag. I was lucky to have been let off in Barcelona, in every sense of the word. It rained so heavily that day as though Barcelona felt the terrorist attack coming 2 days later. And the pickpockets only came for me on my last day, when I was back in Madrid.
The story goes as such.. I had the morning free before flying back to Singapore. So I walked around the streets of Madrid, grabbing breakfast and a coffee and doing my last minute shopping. Since it was the final day, I had my passport in my bag, my SGD wallet, my Euros wallet (yes, I have 2). Anyway, I felt a tug from behind, turned around and saw this woman still in the midst of unzipping my bag, hands in mid-air. I asked “What do you think you’re doing?”, and a mini staring game ensued. She then turned around and strolled slowly back into the crowd. My bag was opened but nothing was lost.
I chucked a scarf in last minute, thinking I may be cold on the flight, so that conveniently covered everything there was in my bag. So she didn’t have easy access to anything in the bag, and had to open it wider. So I guess this is a good tip, use a scarf and cover your belongings? The other thing I hear ever so often is if you have a backpack, carry it in front especially in crowded places. If you have a sling bag, make sure it’s in front with your hand over it. Never put anything in your back pocket. I have been assured the pickpockets aren’t violent, so as long as they know you have an eye on your belongings, most likely, they wouldn’t target you. Oh, and sometimes they work in a group, so don’t get distracted if someone starts a conversation with you, you may have lost something already. Lastly, you will never be able to tell who the pickpockets are, the woman who tried to steal something from me dressed completely like a tourist.
So, back to Barcelona. I went to the Las Ramblas Boqueria Market and had lovely seafood. I love the variety of food available there. And since it was still raining, I headed to a cafe where fairies and gnomes hide, El Bosc de les Fades. There is a nice little bookstore in there as well. After that, I went for more food, and I spotted a shop that sold nothing but quiche.
There’s another story to this as well. So as I exited the Quiche shop, food in hand, a lady comes up to me and my friend and told us that 3 guys have been following us for awhile us, warning us to be careful of our belongings. She later went back to her shop just opposite the lane. Thinking back, I did find a guy very weird, entering every store I entered, even when I went into a ladies’ shoe shop, he came in looking at ladies’ shoes too. Locals are nice, I guess they do hate it when pickpockets cause so much hurt to just the ring of the word, Barcelona.
I loved San Sebastian. Kinda like Pintxos heaven, and a place where I had the best Sangria. In any case, I was introduced to Kalimotxo, a mix of red wine and coke, and it tasted pretty good. I’m not alcoholic, in case you’re wondering, but since I’m on a holiday, and I don’t have to drive, why not try what the locals have?
Speaking of the Arts, I do find it amazing that talent is everywhere. They set up their space, start painting, singing, and playing their guitar, and just like that, they share their passion with anyone who walks by. Some musicians even have their own CDs for sale. It’s definitely not easy, but then again, pursuing dreams have never been easy to begin with anyway. But with them around, the streets seem slightly more vibrant, sweet music fills the air, and there’s a certain kind of energy you feel as you pass by.
Performers ought to be respected, so much hard work is put into their craft, so much that we take for granted.
The Rock of Gibraltar. Somehow, it lists on the top of my favourite places. There’s just something about it. How it stayed independent, how it still retained its distinct character, and how it was strong within itself to fight all oppression.
This place where I stand, I literally had to fight the wind to get any photo taken. Here, I had the biggest Fish and Chips of my life (head over to my Instagram to find out). I also went into a cave with dancing lights, free and happy.
I actually loved Valencia as well, something I didn’t expect. The City of Arts and Sciences. The almost futuristic buildings are something to behold. To have someone with the creativity to envision something like this, making home to artists for them to showcase their sculptures, their art, their exhibitions, this entire project deserves respect.
This sculpture is my favourite piece there. The thing that I love about Art, is that there is so much room for personal interpretation. There’s so much story to it. And there’s always a certain aspect of an artistic piece that resonates with you in a very special way.
Art speaks where words are unable to explain.
Just so you know, I travelled with Trafalgar this time round. I like it that I get to travel with people from all parts of the world. I like it that I can just be myself, without having to entertain too many questions about my job. I like it that the travel itinerary is pretty flexible, I can choose to join in the optionals or go off roaming on my own. I like it that they bring me to quaint little places like this Olive Farm that hosted dinner in their very own private estate. I like it that they don’t bring me to overly touristy places. I like it that the Tour Director knows Spain so well, he can advise me on what to do, where to go, when I choose to have my free time instead.
Many other moments to share, till my next blog post.. =)