Barcelona Christmas

 

 

Excactly a year ago,  I was in Barcelona filming DAPHNE Diaries for Lifestyle Network. You can watch some of the videos here.

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities for the simple reasons that it is so walkable and things are on a human scale. You won’t see massive architecture – well, except for the La Sagrada Familia. The city is multilayered – you see great architecture from different periods. And the food is not expensive and very accessible.

I had the most significant December 8th last year. It may have been coincidental that we were at the Our Lady of Montserrat Monastery exactly on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I must have been really meant to be there.

But this story is about Christmas in Barcelona. We were lucky that when we were there, they had Christmas markets in the city. Our guide told us that the seasonal night markets only took place for a few days in December – around this time! I particularly liked the one just out side La Sagrada Familia. It had pretty clay sculpted miniatures.

 

 

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Our hotel was just off of La Rambla.

 

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It’s a must for every tourist. So yes there are a lot of souvenir stalls if you’re into that. I just liked walking up and down it.

 

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This is how the Catalans do Christmas nativity scenes. This was set up in the square outside the town hall. It had a rustic Roman theme.

 

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The little diorama had elements of rustic life when the Catalan region was still part of the Roman empire  — farming, traveling by boat and donkey, details of a Roman home. There is Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus by the waterfront. It isn’t your typical Holy Night scene.

 

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There’s an aqueduct. And look further. There’s a figure of a man who appears to be squatting.

 

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He is what is known as a Caganer – a figure of a defacating person. This has been part of Catalan tradition for two centuries now. Nowadays, Caganers come in all forms – Sponge Bob, Queen Elizabeth, David Beckham. I had to get one for myself! In Catalan culture, kids take turns looking for the hidden caganer.

 

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Just outside La Sagrada Familia, there happened to be a lovely Christmas night market.

 

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It was very rustic and crafty. There were no commercial products, no brands, no fakes from China. They had artisans and farmers from the region selling traditional Catalan Christmas goodies.

 

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Pine trees

 

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It is also part of their tradition to give pine bouquets as gifts.

 

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Our guide Fabio gave me a pine bouquet.

 

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These are Christmas logs known as Caga Tios. And just like the caganer, the cage tios also defacate. When the tail end of the log opens, out flows lots of candies for children.

 

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She is the artisan who made the miniature Catalan nativity (belen) that I bought. Top row shows traditional caganer in the white shirt and red hat, and beside it are soccer players in caganer form.

 

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Each little diorama element is made of terracotta clay. You can customize your nativity scene. All are inspired by a Roman village.

 

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More figurines for the nativity scene.

 

PC091622More contemporary caganer doing the poopie act. These caganers are placed in the nativity scene, usually behind the cottage where baby Jesus was born. Never in front, that would be disrespectful. Usually kids make it a game to find the caganer every day.

 

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Cartoon caganers. I found out that all this fascination with pooping is really part of Catalan tradition. It is believed that defacation is the greatest equalizer. It is something everybody does whether rich or poor.

 

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The holy family in miniature.

 

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My growing collection of Christmas nativity. I bought a the smallest sets.

 

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And just to give you an idea of how small my lovely nativity scene is.

 

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My gift to self – Antoni Gaudi as a caganer.

 

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Mr Gaudi and his La Sagrada Familia

 

I’m not a fan of souvenirs. But I had to make an exception for these caganers because they tell such an interesting story of Catalan culture. And how adorable is the Sagrada Familia in clay pottery?!

 

 

Gaudi’s Barcelona

 

 

BARC GAUDI TILE

 

Have you been seeing DAPHNE Diaries on the Lifestyle Network? It is a set of short segments on my Barcelona trip airing randomly across the channel. I will post them on my YouTube channel soon.

In the meantime, I made my own DAPHNE Diaries. By “my own” I mean, I photographed and shot everything, wrote, voiced over, presented, edited on iMovie and posted on You Tube. For the two on-cam spiels (in La Sagrada Familia and Sant Felip Neri, I got some help from my official DOP, Carlo Lina). So for my YouTube channel, I’m back to being a one-woman show. Haha. Just like how I started on TV with “Video Postcards”. Big hug to those who remember that.

I hope you like this. I’m working on more. So please may I ask you a favour. Please show me some love by “liking” and subscribing to it in YouTube as well as sharing and reposting the video. It’s a labour of love.

 

 

 

Barcelona churches

 

 

Barc Faith Tile

 

My trip to Barcelona was one of my lovely surprises in 2014. I had a big year of travelling for work – Bali, Taiwan, Silicon Valley – and didn’t really expect more. But in December, DAPHNE Diaries in Barcelona happened. This was the initiative of Lifestyle Network, supported by Samsung Digital Home Appliances, which I had been a long-time brand ambassador for. It is my first collaboration with a TV network as a blogger (I have been a presenter and producer before).

The days leading up to our trip, Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) was brewing near the Philippines. Reports said it would be another deadly storm. I was scared. I didn’t want to leave my family knowing that the storm could potentially directly hit Metro Manila. But I couldn’t bail out of the trip. A lot of prayers were said before, during and after. I believe a miracle happened. Typhoon Hagupit got weaker as it hit land.

I share this little anecdote because I really believe in the power of prayers. Ok the typhoon weakening may not have been due to divine intervention, but I have been blessed with a few real miracles already. I also think that everything happens for a reason. While I was full of anxiety as our plane took off before the storm hit, I was a picture of calmness on our first full day in Barcelona. The travel agent “coincidentally” planned our Montserrat visit on December 8th, the Feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, not knowing that I have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary.

My DAPHNE Diaries will give small portraits of the city of Barcelona – food, museums, urban life. I didn’t actually mean to do a whole story on churches in my blog. But as I was reviewing my photos, I found I had more than enough to piece this blog entry together. Don’t worry, I don’t get preachy. This is an architecture and design story… with a little history.

 

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The morning of December 8th, 2014, our car brought us to Montserrat. You can take the train or cable car to go up the mountain. Our car brought us right up to the monastery.

 

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Montserrat actually means “saw (serrated, like the common handsaw) mountain” in Catalan. Source.

 

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The mountain tops look so surreal with its many peaks, some look like silos.

 

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The monastery began in 1025 as the Hermitage of Santa Maria, the Mother of Christ. It became a very well known shrine in the Christian world. In the early 1800’s, most of the monastery was destroyed during the Napoleonic wars. The church and monastery we see now is a result of rebuilding.

 

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The short walk to Santa Maria de Montserrat. This is a good tip. Try getting there no later than 9am. Trust me, the crowds get thick.

 

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The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of Saint James). Montserrat is part of the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela.

 

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There are some restaurants, a hotel and a museum in Montserrat. But we only went there for the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat itself and went back to explore the city.

 

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The medallion in the centre of the atrium has an inscription around that reads, “Only those baptized and born in the water like fish can understand the meaning of the fish of the Eucharist.” I had to wait 10 minutes for a group of tourists to get off the circle before I could get my chance. This exact spot is believed to be very powerful.

 

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The basilica has a neo-Plateresque design (a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance) and was rebuilt in 1900. During the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, the French destroyed most of the abbey.

 

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We went along the right aisle past the altar to see the statue of the Virgin called “La Moreneta.”

 

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There is a giant clam converted into a holy water font — a gift of the the Filipino people to the abbey. (La Sagrada Familia also has one.)

 

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The La Moreneta or the Black Madonna is a 12th or 13th century Romanesque statue housed in this alcove behind the main altar. It usually is filled with pilgrims and tourists. The normal wait is over one hour. Our guide, Fabio Bugna, anticipated the crowd, that being December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a national holiday in Spain. We arrived at the abbey around 9am. As you can see, we had the alcove all to ourselves.

 

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There were no crowds. It was calm, solemn, and peaceful. I was so moved by the experience.

 

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And there she is. The Black Madonna. The statue is made of carved wood from the 12th century Romanesque period. It appears black because the varnish on the statue has oxidized from the effect of candle and lamp smoke. The Virgin has a ball in her hand, which sticks out of the glass compartment. I held it as long as I could until I shed a tear. I had enough time to say the Hail Mary.

 

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After my close encounter with the Black Madonna, I turned to the small oval chapel below the altar. It had a full view of the Black Madonna from behind.

 

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Again, the room was practically empty. Here, I was able to pray longer.

 

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And I lit candles for my friends and family.

 

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That morning in Montserrat was really magical. After my prayers at the altar, we even heard the Montserrat Boys Choir sing. They usually sing in the afternoons. But that morning of December 8th, they had a special performance. Nothing in life is a coincidence. I was meant to be there.

 

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Another church in the old town of Barcelona, Santa Maria del Mar.

 

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Santa Maria del Mar’s interior shows incredible Catalan Gothic architecture.

 

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The vaulted ceiling of Santa Maria del Mar.

 

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Santa Maria del Mar, 14th century.

 

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Santa Maria del Mar is beautiful despite and because of its austerity.

 

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Whether you are religious or not, Santa Maria del Mar is worth a visit even just for its architectural merit. It is a pure example of Catalan Gothic.

 

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I was so taken by this beautiful image of the Virgin Mary at Santa Maria del Mar.

 

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Santa Maria Del Mar is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors.

 

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Of course, no visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s 133 year-old work-in-progress masterpiece. It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since its beginning in 1882, the church has been built purely from donations. I will save an entire post and video blog on La Sagrada Familia.

 

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Not many people highlight the chapel at the crypt of La Sagrada Familia. It was built by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1882. By the end of 1883, Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to take over the project, where he worked on his modernist masterpiece for over forty years.

 

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One can have a glimpse of the neo-Gothic chapel underneath the apse.

 

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A view of the apse above can be seen from the crypt’s highest arches.

 

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In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the yet-unfinished La Sagrada Familia as a minor basilica, a place of worship.

 

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Antoni Gaudi is buried in the crypt of La Sagrada Familia.

 

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Our walks in Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) led us to many sacred sites. I couldn’t stop being in awe. (My chukka boots have been getting a lot of FB and IG love. It is a two year old Cole Haan.)

 

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The church of San Felip Neri is in a quaint square with a fountain and some buildings dating back to the Renaissance time. Its facade shows shrapnel from a bomb thrown by Franco’s forces during the Civil War, killing 42 people, mostly kids.

 

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A definite must-see is the Barcelona Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia, established in the 15th century. Couldn’t help but pose for a touristy shot in front of the Gothic facade.

 

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The cathedral’s cloister houses 13 geese at the Well of the Geese. This represents the age of Santa Eulalia when she was killed by the Romans.

 

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So much beauty in this 14th century cloister courtyard.

 

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The cloister of Barcelona Cathedral.

 

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While the cloister courtyard is charming, the interior of Santa Eulalia is majestic.

 

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The entrance to the crypt is right in front of the altar, at the centre of the church.

 

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Here at the crypt, you will see the tomb of Santa Eulalia of Barcelona, a young girl who died as a martyr during the Roman period when she refused to dismiss Jesus as the Son of God.

 

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Back up, I explored the different chapels surrounding the nave.

 

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There are 28 chapels flanking the nave of Santa Eulalia, all illuminated by beautiful stained-glass windows.

 

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As we walked around the Gothic Quarter, I found these little charming places of worship, such as the small cappella in Placeta d’En Marcús.

 

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Little chapel at Placeta d’En Marcús had a Romanesque figure of Our Lady in an outdoor niche.

 

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We chanced upon La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs, though the caretaker was closing up.

 

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This pretty image of Our Lady at La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs caught my attention. I just love the pop of her blue veil against all that gold. So pretty.

 

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One doesn’t have to be particularly religious to appreciate these churches.

 

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We were lucky that during the time of our visit, there was a 2-week Christmas market outside the Barcelona Cathedral and La Sagrada Famlia. I had lost sleep over these miniature hand sculpted terracotta Nativity figurines I saw at the market, so we went back another night.

 

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The little terracotta figurines wasn’t all about the Holy Family and Three Kings. The local artisans sculpted Catalan villagers and village scenes.

 

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I bought a miniature stable and nativity scene. The clay pottery was made by this woman. I asked her to give me her name and she wrote it on the brown bag packaging. But sadly, we were careless when we unpacked and I lost her name.

 

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There is our miniature Catalan nativity scene. I also bought a smaller matchbox nativity.

 

For my blog on Barcelona food and restaurants, click here.

 

 

Barcelona food

 

 

BARC FEAST TILE

 

Last December, just before the Christmas rush, I travelled to Barcelona with a 2-person team from Lifestyle Network. It was a surprise bonus from being Samsung Digital Home’s brand ambassador at the time. We filmed some interstitials called “DAPHNE Diaries” that will soon air in Lifestyle Network. I have quite a few stories about this trip that I’ll be sharing in future entries.

Barcelona is one of those cities you can just lose yourself at while wandering through its streets. There are the must-see sites for visitors, those listed in all travel guides. But the true beauty of Barcelona is in what you discover while walking around. This is what happened to us in terms of food. We had a couple of pre-planned dining spots, but we left a lot of our meals to whatever came our way, wherever we were. Hope you like my list.

 

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Our hotel Hotel Silken was located just off of La Rambla, the main tree-lined promenade with kiosks that sell newspapers, flowers and souvenirs. We were within walking distance from La Boqueria and other great spots.

 

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When in Barcelona, must have churros at any random xurreria. Found this stall while walking around Placa de la Sagrada Familia, outside the church.

 

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Thank you for our guide, Fabio Bugna, for showing us some his favourite spots in his beautiful city.

 

 

FEAST - EUSKAL

 

We arrived in Barcelona on an afternoon flight and found ourselves famished by 5pm, too early for dinner. Euskal Taverna was a random discovery on our way to the Picasso Museum. They had a pintxos bar! Pintxos (or pinchos)  are little snacks served in bars common in the Basque country. They are like tapas, but pintxos are spiked with a skewer or toothpick on a piece of bread. They are served and billed individually. You may either order them or just pick them up in a buffet setting. You are then charged for each pintxos based on the number of toothpicks on your plate.

 

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Euskal Etxea Taverna

 

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The pintxos are presented over the bar. You just get what you want. This is what I love about Spanish dining. It’s so casual and social.

 

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For my first meal in Barcelona… of course, jamon iberico and tortilla de patata.

 

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Euskal has over 80 varieties of pintxos, depending on what is available and what’s fresh.

 

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Happy tummies. Our producer Dianne Sibal and director/videographer Carlo Lina.

EUSKAL TAVERNA, Placeta de Montcada, 1-3_08003. Tel +34 933102185

 

 

FEAST LA BOQUERIA

 

I can just imagine living in Barcelona and having La Boqueria market right there. I’d be picking up fresh food every single day. There would be very little cooking done, just tossing of all the fresh ingredients in hot olive oil and everything would taste so good. This is a place that is frequented by locals and tourists.

La Boqueria’s full name is Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. The earliest record of La Boqueria dates back to 1217. It went through many names and changes. It wasn’t til 1826 that the market was legally recognised. The construction of the permanent market structure started in 1840 under the direction of the architect Mas Vilà. The metal roof from the 1914 fish market still exists today. .

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My happy place in Barcelona.

 

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Seafood

 

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Fresh catch

 

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Being touristy in the market.

 

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Then I found what I was looking for.

 

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Acorn-fed Jamon Iberico. This one’s from Salamanca. The ones I bought were from Jabugo.

 

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I was so happy just tasting all the different legs!

 

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Seriously. This is my joy. I could never give up eating jamon.

 

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There’s my baby. I bought a big chunk of this and had it sliced and vacuum packed. Bellotas means acorn. This Iberian pig ate only acorns. It came from a farm in Jabugo. The ham was aged for 5 years. That’s the story of my jamon.

 

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My precious jamon iberico 5 jotas. I still have one pack in my fridge. Hmmm.

LA BOQUERIA, La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona. Telephone +34 933 18 2584.

 

 

FEAST -ELQUIM

 

One of my unforgettable meals was in this amazing market stall at La Boqueria. El Quim does not take reservations. We took our chances and got there in the morning before the lunch rush started. El Quim started in 1987 with a three-metre long bar and just five stools. It now is one of the most famous eating spots in La Boqueria.

El Quim specializes in fried eggs, hence the egg emblem on the chefs’ jackets. They also have sandwiches, seafood and basically whatever fresh comes in to the market that day.

 

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You won’t miss El Quim when you are at La Boqueria. It has a choice spot in the middle of the market with a 16-metre wrap around counter and 18 stools.

 

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Chef Quim and his fellow chefs in the open kitchen.

 

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A must!!! Two fried eggs with baby squid. Yes fried eggs. The best I’ve ever had!!!

 

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Totally simple but oh so good – fried artichoke with a drizzle of sea salt.

 

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With a glass of cava, early morning.

 

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With the gracious and famous chef Quim.

EL QUIM DE LA BOQUERIA, Stalls 584-585-606-607-608-609, La Boqueria Market, Rambles. Telephone 93 301 98 10

 

 

FEAST ESCRIBA 5

 

Escriba is a pastry and chocolate shop with a lot of history and awards. We visited its second shop situated along La Rambla. The main confectionery showroom is at Gran Via. This shop along La Rambla was formerly Casa Figueras, makers of pasta and semolina. The corner shop shows beautiful Art Nouveau decor, with the founding date 1820, laid out in mosaic. The shop was refurbished in 1902 by stage designer Ros Guell who supervised some of the best craftsmen in the Art Nouveau movement.

 

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Escriba’s pretty art nouveau facade.

 

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The original corner mark of the building.

 

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Beautiful chocolate shop.

 

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We zeroed in on the xuixo, the sweet pastry beside the croissants.

 

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Creations of Chef Antoni Escriba, which have been winning awards since the 1950s.

 

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An image of the Virgin Mary guards the main shop.

 

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Dianne, Carlo and I with our xuixo purchase.

 

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If you don’t have time to sit and have coffee and sweets at Escriba, just drop by and get some xuixo, a pastry filled with crema catalana that is deep fried and covered with crystallized sugar. It was so good, I had to snap this selfie while walking down La Rambla with some crema in the corner of my mouth! Oops.

ESCRIBA, Rambla de les Flors 83, 08001. Telephone 93 301 6027

 

 

Feast formatgeria

 

One of the most charming places we went to was Formatgeria La Seu in Barri Gotic. This was highly recommended by our guide, Fabio. Formatgeria La Seu, a lovely cheese shop, is run by Katherine McLaughlin who personally picks the variety of cheeses from all over rural Spain. Her passion has brought her to some of the best cheese farms in Spain. At Formatgeria La Seu, you are guaranteed carefully selected cheeses, presented in optimum conditions.

We sat at the tasting room in the back, where we sampled a couple of palettes of cheese and a glass of vermouth.

 

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A lovely cheese shop in the narrow streets of Barri Gotic.

 

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The cheese at Formatgeria La Seu are stored and displayed in a temperature and humidity controlled cool-room, which one can enter, to view and sample.

 

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The tasting room at the back still has equipment for churning butter as this was one of the first butter-making factories in Barcelona.

 

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It was a very cold morning. This is Fabio and me trying to warm up with a glass of vermouth. It took me a while to peel off my trench coat.

 

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Vermouth was having something of a revival in Spain. It was an old-fashioned aperitif that was eventually replaced by beer or wine. But now, it is again in vogue in the Barcelona brunch set. People drink vermouth straight up before a meal or on Sundays after mass. Some say, vermouth’s resurgence has to do with the poor state of the economy. Vermouth has 15% alcohol by volume, offering the best value for your euro. The vermouth at Formatgeria La Seu was homemade, sourced though Katherine’s exploration of rural farms in the region.

 

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Each cheese in our palette came with a story about the farmer, the farm, the region. I was amazed.

 

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The backroom was kept as close to authentic as possible, with the old tiles and dairy-churning equipment.

 

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Wine and vermouth decanters in every shape.

 

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We really enjoyed this stop. I could have stayed longer. I’ll definitely be back. This is so Patrick’s thing.

FORMATGERIA LA SEU, Carrer Dagueria,16,08002, Barcelona. Telephone 93 412 65 48

 

 

FEAST - NACIONAL

In one of our walks home to our hotel, we stumbled upon El Nacional. At the time, it was just newly opened. El Nacional is located in a huge warehouse-like structure that dates back to 1889, the height of the industrial revolution in Barcelona. It used to house a cafe, a theatre, a fabric dye factory, a car dealer’s shop before the Spanish Civil War. Then it became a garage.

The building of El Nacional has now been converted into this beautiful dining hot spot with six different food specializations that reflect various recipes from the around the Iberian Peninsula. Loved the interiors!!! We didn’t get to try anything here, so feel free to let me know in the comments section how the food was. I just wanted to show photos of the stunning space.

 

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Narrow path that leads to El Nacional

 

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The cocktail bar.

 

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The oyster bar.

 

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La Llotja, specializing in fresh seafood.

 

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There is a mini seafood market where diners can choose their catch of the day and request for it to be cooked.

EL NACIONAL, Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis 08007. Telephone +(34) 93 518 5053.

 

 

FEAST - STOP MOS

Stop & Mos was  random find while shopping at the Mercat dels Encants, one of the oldest markets in Europe, dating back to the fourteenth century. After going through stalls of peddlers in the antique market (I will share with you my finds later), we went up to the mezzanine and looked for a place to eat.

Stop & Mos is one of those market stalls that caters to people on the go. Their logo says “natural take away food.” So this is not your typical fast food joint. We found a picnic table and seats, where we ate our food in take out containers outdoors. It was December and it was cold. Everything we ordered was so good.

 

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Mercat dels Encants.

 

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There was a fantastic view of Torre Agbar from the market.

 

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Me and Fabio ordering our tapas and pintxos.

 

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The chef himself was taking our order while preparing our food.

 

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We had tortilla, tapas, croquettas, sardines and these amazing fried peppers. I could have eaten the whole dish.

 

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Layers of aubergine with goat cheese, tomatoes and olive oil.

 

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And my favourite Spanish comfort food, tortilla de patatas.

STOP & MOS, Castillejos 158, Fira Bellcaire Mercat dels encants, Barcelona.

 

 

feast casa 1

 

Casa de Tapas is an interesting concept restaurant that put together award-winning, Michelin-starred dishes from other Barcelona restaurants and chefs, all under one roof. It’s like being able to have a sampler of all the best dishes at one time. This was our only scheduled meal in Barcelona where we actually had reservations. Excellent.

 

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We started with bruschetta using fresh tomatoes and garlic and a bottle of award-winning olive oil from Tickets.

 

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Casa de Tapes staff demonstrated how to rub fresh garlic and tomato on toasted bread. Then we drizzled extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper on our toasts. Delicious.

 

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Salad with burrata.

 

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Steamed tomatoes. So simple yet so out of this world amazing. What’s in their potatoes in Barcelona?

 

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Beef stew that just fell off the bone.

 

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Dani Garcia’s Burguerbull, with two Michelin stars. Oxtail burger, beef, arugula, havarti, cheese and Dani’s magical mayonnaise.

 

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Chocolate cake

 

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Russian roulette chocolate by Escriba. One of these chocolates is filled with pepper. Dianne was the lucky one.

 

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A memorable farewell dinner with new friends Fabio, Dianne and Carlo.

CASA DE TAPAS CANOTA, Calle Lleida 7, Barcelona. Telephone +(34) 93 3259171.

 

 

My 2015

 

 

Happy new year.

I am back to writing. But in a very slow way. I started this post over two weeks ago. And now January is almost over.

I felt nostalgic. The last time I did this was 2012. And then social media happened. I got distracted. I didn’t do a retrospective of 2013 or 2014.

So because of the lack of stories from 2015, I spent time and dug up photos and stories about the year that was. I’m including moments big and small, random and deliberate, work and personal, travel and home. That was the year I met a member of the British royal family and a Prime Minister. I went up the Himalayas and down under in New Zealand. And we squeezed in a one month stay in Toronto. After writing, I realized that for a year that was totally unplanned, I had done so much. I put my trust in God completely. That was the year I just allowed Him to surprise me. And the blessings just came. Grateful.

Here goes… this is going to be a long one.

 

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We started 2015 in our favourite beach.

 

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We’ve been coming here for ten years.

 

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I remember when Stella was so tiny and we still had to carry her through the sand bar.

 

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Early morning walk while Patrick biked.

 

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During the second week of 2015, Pope Francis visited the Philippines. I sat in the rain for 5 hours with my cousins and waited to have a glimpse of Pope Francis. It was exhilarating. And experience I will never forget.

 

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The Launch of DAPHNE & National Book Store stationery line happened on the third week of January. I am ever so grateful for the trust that Xandra Ramos Padilla has for my brand. This was a dream come true.

 

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Thank you National Book Store!

 

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These pouches sold out real fast. This is the daisy (Margarita) print. I just love seeing my products together… in my home.

 

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For the DAPHNE® & NBS products we took inspiration from my daughters’ names – the rose, the lily and the daisy. Isabel Gatuslao worked on the prints for me. We also had a hummingbird print that coincidently represents my dad – a helicopter pilot.

 

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The launch was extra special because it was the first time I brought my daughters to any of my official events. And my parents were also in town then.

 

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January also gave us theatre. Stella and I were invited to watch Beauty and The Beast at the CCP by Globe Business. In photo is Globe’s President and CEO, Ernest Cu.

 

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Stella enjoyed her night at the theatre. Thank you to Ron Gonzales for the invite. (She is still upset that I didn’t bring her to Wicked. She was too small then.)

 

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I got a couple of nights away at Shangrila Boracay with the MAC Cosmetics team. They introduced their Spring Summer 2015 collection.

 

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I swear, we were in Boracay for work.

 

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Not a bad way to do real work. Read my report here.

 

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In February, Sophia joined a Lego competition in the mall. She was with my parents; we were not with her. She won first prize and came home with so many Lego sets! I’m doubly proud when the kids do things on their own initiative, with out mommy or daddy pushing them. Yay Sophia!

 

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In the beginning of February, I hosted the official grand opening gala of the City of Dreams. I had been booked for this project half a year in ahead. And I was so amazed that it finally actually happened. I had the honour of saying “The doors of City of Dreams Manila are now open!” I don’t have official photos though. Haha.

 

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Backstage at City of Dreams gala with one of my favourite makeup artists Ria Aquino.

 

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I shared the stage with Ne-Yo and Kelly Rowland. (I introduced them on stage).

 

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The very next day after City of Dreams launch, Patrick and I were on a plane to Bangkok to start our journey through Bhutan. Our one night in Bangkok was fun! I had never explored Bangkok before. I was always there for work.

 

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We did touristy things like ride the tuktuk and ferry boat. We went to Jim Thompson’s house, ate street food, took photos of pink taxis. We just stayed for one night and flew to Bhutan the next morning.

 

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Touchdown Bhutan! It was the most exciting plane landing. If the view wasn’t spectacular, I would have flipped out. It was like a scene right out of Indiana Jones. Maneouvering through the Himalayan mountains with the view of Mt Everest out the window, and suddenly a short landing strip.

 

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