Wednesday, August 26, 2009

not your usual travel journal - PART 6

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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June 2, 2009 "Madrid and Salamanca in Pictures"

A major financial hub of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is like New York - complete with the overpopulation (it's the third most populated in the EU), the restaurants that never close, the ethnic diversity, and the gentrification. Of all the first-world cities I have visited, I am most likely to survive here. The pace of this urban jungle is very me -- very fast and very impatient. Everything is within walking distance or just one Euro away (the metro is cheaper here than in Paris). The language is very similar to Filipino, and even if you didn't take Espanol 1 in the University of the Philippines seriously, you will still be able to get directions and order food....or at least yell, "Ayudame!!!"

While it is not as artsy-fartsy as Barcelona, Madrid enjoys close proximity to the Salamanca area, where you will find Avila and Segovia. Having studied in an exclusive all-girls high school whose patron saint hailed from Avila, the day trip was quite meaningful to me.

I'm too lazy to narrate everything that transpired in the week that we were there, so I'll just post photos and short captions.

This is the view from our room at night. We stayed in the mid-priced Hotel Regente, which is strategically located along the upscale Gran Via, giving us the best of high-and-low/luxurious-and-affordable experience. Right across is a ZARA store, which is apparently very cheap in Spain. I don't shop in Zara, which I consider to be a "middle" brand. I like things either very cheap or very expensive. Prada or Greenhills tiangge. You know what I mean.

The very next day we found ourselves in Salamanca, which is about an hour and half from Madrid. This is the Segovia Cathedral.

Another well-preserved chapel in Segovia.

The Segovia Aqueduct.

Within the walls. We had lunch with the Dutch lady on the right (in orange). She speaks very good English and is very well educated. She knows so much about the Philippines. She is also apparently very cultured. She says she owns a house in Malaga (Spain). EU citizens can buy property freely. We also had lunch with an Australian nurse, who said that this trip to Spain was her great escape. We later ran into her near a museum in Madrid. She was always a bit drunk and a lot of fun :)

This is a real castle. It served as an inspiration for many Disney recreations.

The walled city.

I couldn't take a lot of pictures inside St. Theresa's chapel, but I managed to sneak in a few.

I love these balconies. So simple and honest.

Quaint little souvenir shop in Avila.

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Back in Madrid, we did a lot of walking, eating, sitting around in parks, museum visits, and basically just soaking in the vibrant city rhythm.

This is the cafe where I started this journal. I sat here on our last full day in Madrid, while MSP roamed the streets figuring out how else we can maximize our stay. We later decided to try our luck in buying tickets to the bull fight.

We frequented TAPAS bars around the city. Beer + tapas = heaven. And it's a cheap way to eat, too.

The market is VERY CLEAN, like the rest of the city.

Locals love to eat outside.

More locals, just being themselves. Madrid is very unpretentious. It really IS clean. Even the non-touristy places are extremely well-kept.

In the afternoons, we stop for churros con chocolate - the REAL thing. Suddenly, Dome's churros taste... substandard.

We had to buy bull fight tickets semi-illegally :) We overpaid by 16 euros each, but got relatively good seats, considering how jampacked the stadium was. We were seated in the shaded side. No need for a hat.

The stadium from the back row. This was an hour before the bull fight. The place was just starting to fill up. By the time the show started, you could hardly move. People were sitting on my feet (for real).

A beautiful nightmare.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

lemonade - the movie

What happens when recession forces creative people out of their jobs? How creative can they get in their own lives?

Watch this trailer:


Sunday, August 09, 2009

b/millionaires who don't look the part

"Mark Zuckerberg's appearance is every bit the geek. He wears a zippered brown sweatshirt, baggy khakis pants and Adidas sandals. He walked into the room eating a bowl of cereal from a paper bowl with a plastic spoon. He still resides in a rented apartment, with a two chairs, a table and a mattress on the floor. Mark walks or rides a bicycle to the office every day." Source

Mark is the founder of Facebook, and though there is still controversy on whether he really is a billionaire (at least on paper) or not, there's no doubt that he is rich (even if reports state that Facebook has not met revenue targets and that Mark really owns only 30% of the company now).

And yet, he is so simple - almost a geek-hippie. Incredible.

Mark Zuckerberg Lives Like a Hobo

Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

welcome to plan B


My condominium unit was featured on the popular decorating website, Apartment Therapy!


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Have you ever met people who dislike traveling and cannot seem to go out on a whim because they are worried about who will look after their house? I have. And I NEVER, EVER want to be like them.

So, this is how I live - in a spartan, 322-sqft, no-fuss, low-maintenance, lock-and-leave condominium unit with white walls, exposed beams, and a 12-foot -high ceiling. Welcome to the bunker.

Now that the glass dividers are finally up, it's less chaotic when MSP, whose official title is "Episodic Overnight Guest and Eater of The Cereals," stays over. And when I am alone, I can section off the bedroom, crank up the air conditioner, and freeze at 16 degrees celcius in a matter of minutes.

Living gracefully in a small space can be challenging, but I try. Luxe linens and good coffee makes it much easier.

Now that I'm older, I realize that big homes aren't for me. Paring life down to the essentials results to a certain freedom unavailable to a person who lives in a bigger house but is saddled with more stuff to maintain, more corners to clean, and a bigger mortgage to pay. By living in a condo, I get access to the luxuries of a huge house - like a pool, a gym, and a garden - without the stress of maintaining them.

In this bunker, I worry less, and I live better. I am also forced to go out, jog, get a tan, read in the garden, and even stare at the pool (as I can't swim). And during rainy holidays like today, I can retreat to my books, to the internet, to my fluffy bed, or to the trashy reality shows that I so love. I can enjoy the visual silence of my white walls.

Living here also makes economic sense. It's a home that is conducive to building wealth. It also enables financing of the one luxury I cannot give up - travel. It frees up money that would otherwise go to mortgage fees, maintenance, and real estate taxes. And because this bunker is low-maintenance, it does not eat up energy that could otherwise be spent on more important things.

So, this is how I choose live. Some people call it "bare," but I call it "light."

Like any other place, this is a temporary home. But if I have to live here for a few more years - even if MSP becomes a mainstay - it should be enough.

(Until I get bored, which happens quite often.)

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

i know i shouldn't have.....

....but it's 100% cashmere, and it was on sale (practially given away). I'm allowed some indulgences.

Okay. Back to simple living.