El Dorado (Golden)

To write this article about an international memory while being locked here in the Netherlands almost 3 years after this trip and while the Covid-19 restrictions are in place makes me restless and helpless (insert dramatic emoji here… but seriously). On one hand, I think the lockdowns have eventually pushed me to resume into blogging but on the other hand, it gave me so much time to browse into older photos and just makes me realize how badly I want to roam around the World again. At the time of this writing, the last international travel I did was through Spain and Andorra in August 2020. It actually comes full circle to resume writing about the places I visited by starting off with Spain.

I went to Barcelona in summer 2018 to attend the concert to support Latin superstar Shakira’s 2016 album, El Dorado. It was a perfect opportunity for me to finally meet one of the musical icons which have shaped my teenage and 20s years with the compositions which she made that mirrored a number of my life experiences. I always thought of going at least to one of my favorite artist’s concerts and here I was, being able to realize that one artist at a time with Shaki. Also, it was a great opportunity to revisit Barcelona. I’ve been realizing this a lot of times and I must have said this to a lot of people and maybe even wrote about this somewhere in my blog, but Barcelona was my favorite city since the 2000s until 2018 (and it could still be as of this writing, though I have not thought so deeply about this question recently). And just like committing myself to visit at least one concert of my favorite artists, I also committed to visiting Barcelona annually one way or another.

One of the things I loved about the place is its gastronomy. It’s like that always going back to your hometown – you just have a list of cravings you wanna satisfy. In this case, I had a list of taking a small box of churros con chocolate as well as taking a diner and finishing it off with crema catalana (crema cremada or burned cream, which is identical to crème brûlée but has a burnt caramel top). Of course, wouldn’t you wanna take a bite of one of these while parading through the Las Ramblas? haha, I did! And oh, it always feels so awesome! It’s like just parading through my hometown street.

Finally, it was time to watch the concert at the Palau Sant Jordi. The familiar architecture starting from the impressive roundabout where the Plaça d’Espanya, towards the columns of the Fira up to the Font Magica de Barcelona and further up the site where most of the ceremonies of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics was held; the familiar sound of people speaking both Castellano and Catalan; the seemingly familiar spirit of togetherness and youthfulness; and finally, the familiar background music running through Shakira’s catalog. Almost 3 years later, writing this blog and reminiscing everything during that weekend feels so fresh and vivid in my mind. Starting her intro with “Estoy Aquí” (“I Am Here”) and through 20 more numbers later to the finale “Bicicleta” (“Bicycle”), it was a night full of magic – running down memorable moments of my early years in one night; channeling my inner Latino; and lip-synching my way whether through some of the outrageous choruses of “Whenever, Wherever”, “Chantaje” (“Blackmail”), and “La Tortura” (“The Torture”) or through the serenading lyrics of “Tú” (“You”), “Amarillo” (“Yellow”), or “Nada” (“Nothing”).

Finally, Shakira ended her tour with of course, nothing short than the legendary soundtrack of the World Cup in which Spain won its first football cup in 2010 – “Waka Waka”. Sung interchangeably in both Spanish and English, singing the whole song through with new-found friends. By the way, I went to the concert on my own as I usually just wanna get lost with only myself as a witness but eventually, I left the Palau with a handful of young professionals who we will forever cherish the moments captured in our phones. It was an awesome night, that even in a place where you went on your own, as long as you have the people’s soul, you will be one with them. They just grabbed me in, welcoming me into their circle while we lip-synched through the song while we all took selfie videos to remember that night.

In the end, the night lived up to the whole spirit of Barcelona – the memories, the magic, the food, revisiting the place – it will always be golden… el dorado para siempre!

Cíes – the Tropics of the European Atlantic

At last, summer has arrived! Having lived most of my life in a tropical country, I never got so excited for my first travel to an island in a long time. I’m sure that I’m fond of summer and going to the beach (sometimes), but with Mediterranean waters still cooler than the beaches we had in the Philippines, I have come to terms into going to the beach less frequently than before. Perhaps it was being exposed to the colder seasons for long which eventually drove me to plan for my first summer getaway this year. Shall I go and take a pill once again in Ibiza? Will I revisit the historical forts and turquoise waters on the coves of Menorca? Is it a cool idea to relax while listening to the sound of waves smashing on the coastal rocks of Sardinia? Shall I spend a weekend of paradise on any of the Greek islands? Well, I decided to go a little off-path – I chose to spend quality time in the Cíes islands.

The islands are located southwest off the coast of the Spanish region of Galicia. Although planning a trip there requires more planning than usual (i.e. application of permits from the Galician council, reserving slots to ride the ferries from Pontevedra province and back, travel time), it’s a fulfilling getaway especially for travelers like me who take it up one more notch to enjoy biodiversity and mini-trekking all while enjoying time in the beach. The islands are considered a national park due to its isolated location and because it houses arguably the largest colony of seagulls in the world. Due to this status, entry to the islands are highly regulated and this meant a less crowded, relaxing and peaceful atmosphere for me and my compañero.

Towards the western sections of the 2 main islands, Monteagudo and do Faro, we managed to do a relaxed pace of hiking to 2 ends – towards the lighthouse of Cíes and to the Alto de Principe (Prince’s Peak) on the other end. What consumed most of our time was us just chatting all the way to the peaks that we even didn’t recognize that we already spent a lot of energy as well as performing documentation on the magnificent views, wildlife and trippy poses we did along the way. This was certainly the reason why we ended up running, excessively sweating and panting all the way to the port to catch our trip back to Vigo. Jaja.

And finally, a getaway to the islands would not be complete without time spent on the beach. The sandbar connecting the islands of Monteagudo and do Faro stretches for several kilometers and are one, if not the most beautiful beaches that I ever went to. With fine golden and soft sands extending towards the dark blue Atlantic waters, one manages to see stretches of turquoise water from the shore until the shade of blue water turns darker further to the sea. The sandbar is curved inwards to the 2 islands, thereby naturally protecting it from the Atlantic currents. Although the water was still cold even if it’s already June (at least it was very cold to me), we managed to enjoy our chilly dip while we bask under the heat of the sun. It was reminiscent of those times when I used to go to the beaches when I lived in Cebu. My place was just a 5 minute drive to the coast and it was always a pleasant time to spend at least a day inside a cottage and spending time with family and friends while eating and swimming in the warm waters.

I would definitely want to go back to those islands and perhaps spend a longer time to just chill and relax – just like how it used to be in the tropics.

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