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Spain

the power of photography is to crystallize in time moments you never want to forget.

happy moments. =)

i miss you kaykayla. =)

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a smorgasbord of colors, details and shapes

alhambra was the last stop for our spain trip. what made it really special for me was that it was just me and my sister’s family – meaning I got to play with kaykayla for a much bigger proportion of time, which was awesome stuff. and honestly, you can’t go to spain without visiting alhambra. it’s simply magnificent and so unique – a veritable gem created from a mish-mash of so many unique and talented cultures and inhabited in the lands in the past.

alhambra is also special in one sense — from afar, one doesn’t really understand the beauty and intelligence of the place. the brilliance is literally contained within, and does not elude any hint as to what is within from its simple exterior. the splendour and beauty is very inward, intended for the therapeutic pleasure of the inhabitants (and hence the most beautiful places were the courtyards) instead of for the bypasses. and what a refreshing idea this is – not to flaunt one’s wealth but to cultivate an inner beauty.

hi everyone, i’m kayla! today, i’m your guide to alhambra!

 ya know, i rarely have a chance to snap people in my shots, so I really treasure having this cute littler gem of a model to be in my photos and interact with the surroundings. furthermore, the fact is that alhambra, to me, is a really difficult place to take pictures, because firstly, the devil is in the details and you really need to be there to absorb the magnificence of the place – my photos only capture albeit a smidgen of this splendor. and secondly, alhambra is filled with tourist, making dramatic, non-touristy shots difficult.

the combination of intricate carvings and beautifully colored tilings create a unique space

i am in awe.

this shot took me forever to take — i was aiming for a completely empty passageway to look out into one of the iconic courtyards of alhambra. but alas, the crowds just kept coming and it took me like a full 5mins of waiting at the door to snap something that looked a little more meaningful.

kayla looking out at the windows on the upper floors. the entire place gives off an understated elegance and luxury, as though one is in the cool, shade premises of a luxury spa resort.

more motifs.

i took kayla to knock on one of the wooden doors and try to get in. =)

a mixture of architectures – this came much later, as though the later christian spanish kings were trying to claim alhambra for their own.

the sun sets of beautiful alhambra

segovia’s a beautiful place that’s an hour away from madrid, and is pretty well known for a few things — an ancient roman aqueduct, a beautiful alcazar (fort/castle) and well.. for suckling pig. the suckling pig is like the dish of the town, with practically every restaurant serving the pigs (poor pigs), making it really difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

so first up, the roman aqueduct — yet another testament as to how amazing the romans were in the past, and kind of a sad reminder as to how much rome needs to work to catch up on their former glory. its one thing to remember the past, but it is another to really get yourself together and move forward.

aside from the main attractions, segovia is a really pretty, picturesque countryside town filled with beautiful churches but yet not completed gutted out with tourists. its really quite charming to be honest.

lunch was.. suckling pig of course! my thoughts on the dish? just alright to be honest.. the meat was tender and the skin was a crispy piece of pleasure but the amount of oil within the plate made me cringe and honestly, i just don’t see why its so acclaimed. maybe its because we chinese have a suckling pig dish as well that is pretty darn good – which sets humongous standards for other versions.

i love this shot, taken within the alcazar and has the silhouette of both my sisters.

this should be what my sisters were looking at… and what a view. the inhaibtants of the alcazar must have really had it good.. imagine having high tea and glancing out at such a gorgeous countryside view.

beautiful stained glass windows

view of segovia from the alcazar tower – it somewhat reminds me of minas tirith from lord of the things what with that spectacular cathedral structure

madrid city center’s landmarks don’t leave much of an impression of me, particularly because I was pretty enamoured with the interesting shops and districts around the area, and that the typical governmental landmarks kinda  look similar after awhile. and in my memory, the day that we did city center sightseeing was incredibly cold and windy and so we spent most of time huddled in cosy cafes and bookstores sipping coffee.

at the train station

beautiful buildings, beautiful skyline

haha to be honest, i remember the food much more – from churros with hot chocolate, to delicious tapas, to calamari bocadillas. spain was a surprising place for culinary adventures particularly because i didn’t know what to expect.

ahh, the great outdoors [spanish countryside shot from inside train going to madrid]

ya know, growing up as a singaporean boy and having liked impressionist art since young, I always gawped at the beautiful landscape paintings of say, monet or matisse and the likes, thinking how beautiful the sceneries were and exclaiming just how masterful these painters were at creating such dreamlike images.

well… not to take anything away from these painters, but after travelling round the european countryside, you pretty much realise they had nature’s best as their master to inspire them. i mean, the landscape of the spanish countryside was nothing short of breathtaking.

but I digress. this post is about the food we had in barcelona before heading off to madrid. and boy.. the fact that i still salivate on the thought of two of the meat dishes i had in barcelona (and the trip was like more than a month ago) is a strong testament of how good the food is.

grilled pork on mashed potatoes | murmuri

i sometimes judge my food based on just how reluctant I am to share my food with my dining companions, and this dish scored top marks for the fact that I was fully contented to wolf down the entire dish by myself silently, had no one asked for a slice of it. the smell of the pork and the perfect, absolutely juicy and tasty meat enhanced by the nuanced sweet sauce drizzled on top made for an utterly unforgettable dish. honestly i was beaming from ear to ear eating this dish.

and well, the rest of murmuri’s offers were slightly gimmicky, with attempts at asian-spanish fusion that sometimes didn’t work too well. but the pork dish was really perfect. =) the restaurant is located within a boutique hotel of the same name, and exudes a certain air of classiness and elegance. service was attentive and perfect and because we came during lunch and had the lunch set, we had a three course meal, complete with wine for just 20euros per pax. and that’s a serious steal considering the level of the quality of the food.

but if we thought that was good…

exhibit 2: golden pepita (toasted bread with beef, foie gras and fried eggs) | la pepita

this is the shit man. i googled pepita, assuming it to be some sort of bread dish but it terms out to be a spanish culinary term for pumpkin seeds. wierd. but this “bread” pepita dish seriously pulls out all the stops. topped with a succulent meat which is perfectly seared and then topped with generous, utterly sinful but mouthwatering foie gras and paired with a perfectly fried egg (ie. the egg yolk bursts and flows out adding even more flavor to the dish). you know, i once commented that anything with foie gras tastes good, just like anything with truffles tastes good. but boy, i never knew that foie gras that is perfectly done, warm and slightly melted due to the heat from the beef could taste so good.

if i rated murmuri’s pork on a “will not share with others” level, this dish ranks as “people will insist on getting a bite” level. and by insist, i mean employing every form of tactic ranging from zombie-like ravenous attacks to puss-in-boots pity looks. guard your golden pepita well, my friend.

oh, in case you’re wondering, la pepita serves awesome tapas as well. come for lunch (once again), and you avoid the crowds and have the devoted attention of the chef. perfect!

murmuri | rambla catalunya 104 | 08008 barcelona, spain

la pepita | c/corsega 343 |08037 barcelona, spain

entering the madcap, psychedelic world of Gaudi’s mind.

the foul weather continued throughout our stay in Barcelona, so we headed indoors to the most fantastic, magickal world created by Gaudi. He was like the Tim Burton of his time, imaging up the most spectacular and interesting architecture and decorations. But what makes him even better is that his design wasn’t just for show – it worked in a very scientific way as well to ensure proper ventilation, to relax the mind and to follow ergonomic principles. his muse? nature itself.

honestly, one can’t visit Casa Battlo and not feel that they had a glimpse of the workings of a genius’ mind.

the exterieur – people have called casa battlo the ‘house of bones’ because of this curious facade

the interieur – through the staircase glass panels that give the impression of water

the rooftop – curious chimneys

the sun sets on another magickal day at casa batlow. (and yeah note the foul weather) lol

the mountain top experience.

i realised i didn’t take too many shots in barcelona, especially at montserrat, because the weather was seriously foul – a mixture of cloudy smog and drizzly rain that completely smothered out the sun and prevented shots that would otherwise have showcased the full magnificence of the mountains.

the other reason why i wasn’t bothered with shots?

i was having too much fun playing with my niece. =)

but here goes anyways.

view from atop the mountains – you get up either via cable car or train. i recommend the cable car, because at moments you do feel as those the cable car is gonna wham straight into the mountain range. coolio.

the courtyard  of Santa Maria de Montserrat, a beautiful Benedictine abbey which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary. it’s a really beautiful courtyard that astounds one when you chance upon it.

part of the reason is also the floor. this was particularly difficult for me to capture entirely.

and yeah.. with most mountain top places, there is a sense of serenity and tranquility that pervades the trails.

sorry, just had to include my niece. =)