Friday, August 30, 2013

The House of Shells

Our summer car trip was a phenomenal experience, it felt so different from car trips I have taken back home. I have traveled from one state to another in the USA, and although the experience was equally remarkable, there was something exhilarating about traveling across Spain. It is simple to explain in one word: architecture. 

The second city we stopped at on our cross country trip was Salamanca. You MUST visit this city if you have cultural and historical inclinations in your travels. Salamanca is a city that enchants visitors with its buildings designed in the Romanesque, Gothic and Plateresque styles. There are many intricate and ornate facades of buildings in the old quarter requiring paused visits. Spending one day to visit Salamanca is fine, but if you prefer to delve into the rich history of this city, two days would be better.

La Casa de las Conchas is a queer building with more than 300 shells adorning the outside of the building. The shells allude to the Order of Santiago and the Way of the  St. James Pilgrimage. The former five hundred year-old mansion now houses a library you can visit, allowing visitors to walk the perimeter of the interior patio.

Fins Ara

The mansion was built by Rodrigo Arias de Maldonado, a knight of the Order of Santiago de Compostela.

A water well adding to the prestige and functionality of the mansion in its day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

They Said Yes

Our cross country road trip was motivated by two people making a vow to be bound to one another by love and law. Ana, a remarkable friend of mine from Portugal, surprised shocked Daddy Cool and I last year when she handed  us an invitation to her wedding. ¿Eh, que? A little background on Ana is needed here.

It is my pleasure to have as a friend a woman who has a strong personality, a free spirit, and a beautiful smile that draws you in. She is a multi-talented individual with interests ranging from the academic (two masters and working on a PhD) to the super creative. Ana crochets, knits, and sews shoes and other wonderful items for little munchkins on Etsy. She is a hippie-chic lady and her now-husband-past-partner for the last 10 years from England have a Portuguese-English-Catalan daughter who is a mini-Ana. That's enough on Ana. What I wanted to underscore here is that Ana repeatedly told us, "I don't believe in marriage. I will never get married." No criticism here for changing your mind in favor of marriage. I had little wells in my eyes when they shared their experiences and love for each at the altar by sealing their bond with two yeses. The journey of life is seeing people transform positively from one belief to another. So that being said, Ana's wedding was very Ana. 

It was romantic, intimate, rustic, and most importantly, a very relaxed wedding ceremony and party in a small village called Perre, on the fringes of Viana do Castelo. I so regret not taking my DSLR camera to photograph the country and hippie essence of the wedding decor and grounds at Quinta Bento Novo. It felt very dreamy and tranquil, which is uncommon in weddings. I instead captured moments as best as I could with the foggy camera  lens on my phone--I think there was a smeared fingerprint on the lens . 

I wish Ana, Matt and Lily a lifelong journey of unmeasurable happiness and love. 

Felicitats Parella! 

Photo courtesy due to Marisa Henriques. Great shot of the couple, thank you!

Matt's mum knit these hearts.

Hay stacks covered in tulle for guests to sit on, have a chat and sip a cool drink.

This fluffy coffee filter party sphere was also crafted by Matt's ingenious mum.

Groom waiting for his bride to make her entrance. p.s. Matt said his vows in perfect Portuguese.

Lily, Ana, and Papa Fonseca.

We sang this song once the ceremony was over. 

Daddy Cool, Ana, and Noia. We didn't dress as guapos as we intended. We were waiting for a tow truck to come pick up our broken down car. Doesn't Ana look like she could be a forest goddess?

Me with guest Andrea Kumbalia, who came from far away to attend the wedding of our great friend Ana.

A most unforgettable casament i estiu!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


We finally arrived to Vitoria-Gasteiz in the early afternoon of our cross-country car trip. Vitoria is a scenic and contemporary city with so much civic and infrastructure order that you come to doubt if indeed you are in Spain. The city itself is not very big or cosmopolitan like Madrid or Barcelona, nor does it need to be. It has culture, excellent food, and good public transportation. There is plenty to see in one day with the added  bonus of low-cost-free tourism (e.i. young drunkards from abroad), pick pockets, or heavy traffic. 

If you are pressed for time you can easily visit the old and new part of the town in one day. Like many Spanish cities, it has a Plaza Mayor with restaurants and terraces to enjoy tapas and drinks. For me, the most pleasureable part of the day was eating huevos con chistorra and a few glasses of txakoli (a light, dry and slightly sparkling white wine) at a small tapas bar called Las 3 BBB. I tried for my very first time elvers, young eels, with scrambled eggs--which to my surprise I enjoyed. The city had an abandoned feel with the locals out of town on holidays for this month of August, but for travelers on the go, it was a welcomed sensation.


p.s. to find out more about the murals go here.

Basque and Spanish

Mural on the side of a building. The city offers workshops on how to create murals.

Parque de la Florida

The Lehendakari lives here, a.k.a. the governor of the Basque Country.
I want to live here.

Plaza Mayor, Vitoria-Gasteiz

Typical windows in the northern part of Spain. Too cold to have balconies.

Part of the sign to Las 3 BBB tapas bar.

11th Century wall.