PASSEIG DE GRACIA

Passeig de Gracia is the most expensive street in Barcelona and in Spain. This tree lined boulevard is home to the most luxurious retail brands, five-star hotels and Spain’s most iconic architectural landmarks. Anyone who visits Barcelona will at some point find themselves walking and shopping along this famous street. During my trip to Barcelona in 2016, I decided to book a hotel in this area as I wanted to be right in the heart of the action. American Express Platinum cardholders have access to Fine Hotels and Resorts with free room upgrades, breakfast, early check-in/late check-out and even hotel credits. The Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona had the best perks at that time so I booked a suite room with balcony, which provided me great views of the city. This 5-star hotel is right on Passeig de Gracia and is just a block away from Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Casa Batlló and a few minutes walk to the Gothic Quarter, La Sagrada Familia and another famous Barcelona street…the La Rambla. Below are some of the photos I took while walking around this famous street. Barcelona is such a gorgeous city rich in history, culture, arts and architecture, however, my visit was brief (4 days) as I was only there to catch my cruise across the Atlantic back to America after traveling around Italy for a few weeks. I fell in love with Barcelona and I plan to visit again in the future and see the places I missed during my previous trip. I will definitely still stay in a hotel around this neighborhood due to its proximity to everything great in Barcelona.

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PLUIE À PARIS

The city of Paris is unquestionably one of the most romantic places in the world. Its tree lined boulevards and ornate facades, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe as well as the River Seine and all of its bridges all add to the air of romanticism that constantly envelopes the city. Aside from these, one thing that also made me fall madly in love with Paris was when rain started falling on it. The city sparkles and gleam brightly when wet…so instead of escaping from the rain, I walked into it with my umbrella and camera embracing the sense of solitude that it provided me. The photographs in this post were taken on the days it rained while I was in Paris. The first two were taken at The Louvre, the third one was at my hotel’s neighborhood at Avenue Kléber while the last one was right outside of Musée D’Orsay. I also decided to present the photographs in black and white to create a timeless look in them. The title is simply a French translation of the words “Rain in Paris”, which I thought sounded more sexy in French.

PARC GÜELL

Going through my old travel photos I found these pictures I took around Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain. I thought I posted them ages ago but after reviewing previous blog posts I realized I have not. Parc Güell is a complex of gardens and architectural elements designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi and was constructed from 1900 to 1914. It was officially opened as a park in 1926 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. This major Barcelona attraction was originally built as a housing development but unfortunately the project did not take off prompting the developer, Eusebi Güell, to convert it into a park. This sprawling complex is also an architect’s dreamland as it is filled with symbols inspired by politics, religion and mythology. As for photography enthusiasts, this complex requires a lot of stamina and patience….stamina for all the walking and climbing involved and patience for the throngs of tourists posing at every nook and corner of this complex. My biggest regret was not bringing my DSLR camera as I used my iPhone 7Plus to take all these photos because the idea of walking and climbing with a 3-lb camera hanging around my neck was just petrifying. I also focused my shots on the various angles, colors, curves, lines, materials and symbols around the park in order to minimize capturing the tourists scattered all over. Of all the photographs I took my favorite is the one above with the multicolored tiles and the city of Barcelona sprawled all the way towards the ocean. I only wished the weather was better that day as the gray clouds created a gloomy mood despite the colorful tiles and eccentric architecture. Barcelona is such a beautiful city with a rich history and culture so if this amazing city is in your future travel itinerary don’t forget to include Parc Güell in your must visit list.

IN MEMORIAM

Today we commemorate that fateful day in 2001 when America was attacked by terrorists and the whole world turned a corner and was never the same again. I was still in the Philippines when 9/11 happened but I followed every moment of that day on television watching in horror as both towers crashed to the ground. Twelve years later I found myself in New York City standing at the very spot where it all happened fighting my emotions while remembering the events of that day. The memorial is such a somber place and is deeply sacred not only to every American but also to every citizen of this world who lost a loved one, a friend and a countryman. I’ve been to New York multiple times and everytime I visit I always drop by the memorial to pay my respects. The photograph above was taken last year when I brought my parents, who were visiting from the Philippines, to New York for the first time. Next month I will be in New York City and just like my previous trips will revisit the memorial to pay my respects…although this time not just as an immigrant but as a proud citizen of this great and beautiful country.

AMERICA’S DOWNTON ABBEY

The Biltmore Mansion near Asheville, North Carolina is the largest privately owned house in the United States. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, the estate remains under the ownership of his descendents to this day. A trip to Asheville won’t be complete without a visit to this expansive estate so as soon as my travel plans were confirmed I immediately booked my ticket for a visit. I took a self-guided tour of the house with an audio guide, which was a good soure of information about the Vanderbilt family as well as that of the construction and life inside the mansion. My exploration of the house took me not only to the family rooms, bedrooms, dining hall and offices but also to the kitchen, pantries and servants quarters. The entire place reminded me very much of the British series Downtown Abbey, which was about a noble family and their help during the Gilded Age. America may not be a monarchy but the Vanderbilts were the closest to royalty this country could ever have. Photography is allowed inside and outside the house but the photos I’m featuring on this post were all taken outside.

CITY OF BRIDGES

Aside from being referred to as the Steel City due to its formerly colossal steel industry, Pittsburgh is also nicknamed as the City of Bridges for the 446 that connects the city to its surrounding suburbs. As a tourist, these bridges made my life very convenient as it made the areas of interest across the river from downtown easily accessible. I took these photographs on my way to the Warhol Museum using my iPhone 7 Plus as the extra weight of a DSLR would just have made the walk unbearable. On some occasions, I prefer the iphone over my DSLR for photography as its Pano mode allows me to take wide-sweeping views just like the photos on this post. Thankfully, the bridge I had to cross to get to the museum was one of the prettier ones with a lemon yellow paint making it stand out against the concrete skyscrapers and rich blue sky.

PITTSBURGH: NIGHT AND DAY

Two weeks ago I went on a road trip driving through eight US states starting from South Florida to Savannah, Georgia followed by a few days in Asheville, North Carolina then through the Blue Ridge Parkway to Harrisonburg, Virginia then Uniontown, Pennsylvania before culminating in the City of Steel: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My ten-day trip took me to various terrains from the beaches of Florida, the valleys and mountains of the Carolinas and the rivers and forests of Pennsylvania. This was my first time in Pittsburgh and the city truly impressed me from the quality of the museums, variety of restaurants and the convenience of their public transportation allowing me to explore the city extensively. One of the highlights of my stay was dinner at the Altius Restaurant in Mount Washington where I got to enjoy a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh at the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. I took two photographs of the city one before sunset prior to stepping inside the restaurant and another after dinner when bright lights illuminated the city. I was torn between the two photographs so I decided to play with both by using the Pixelmator App on my iPad Pro to create a night and day effect for my post above.

THE CHICAGO HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE

A few years ago I found myself in Chicago, Illinois to attend a reunion with some of my former classmates from Physical Therapy school. It was my first time to the Windy City so I was keen on visiting and photographing every prominent landmark around the city. Fortunately, my former classmates organized tours that took us to almost every tourist spot in Chicago. One of them was a cruise on Lake Michigan, which took us far out into the lake to adore the magnificent Chicago skyline. During the sail away the cruise narrator pointed out this lighhouse at the end of the breakwaters, which was originally built to mark the mouth of the Chicago River until it was moved to it’s current location after the breakwaters were extended. I took multiple photos of the lighthouse but unfortunately immediately forgot about it after the trip. Four days ago I was going through my old travel photos and found this of the lighthouse. I also noticed how pretty this specific photo looked with the cirrostratus clouds in the background. What’s most interesting is that I discovered this photo exactly 6 years after it was taken in May 21, 2012…some would say it’s just pure coincidence but it could also mean fate just reminding me that my friends and I are up for another reunion.

THE LONG WALK

Today the whole world watched a fairytale unfold as American girl Meghan Markle married her prince charming, Henry Charles Albert David fondly called by everyone as Prince Harry who is a member of the British Royal family. The wedding was held at the St. George’s Chapel inside the compound of the Windsor Castle and was broadcasted live for the whole world to see. Watching the festivities on tv this morning brought back memories of my visit to Windsor three years ago. I was in London for vacation and booked a day tour to the royal compound where I got to explore and photograph Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the buildings so most of my photographs were just of the facades. While walking on the grounds in front of the castle, I saw an arch with an opening to a view of a long road extending all the way to the horizon. I took multiple photos of the arch not knowing what the road was for. Today my question was finally answered…Prince Harry and Meghan was carried down this road on a horse drawn carriage to greet thousands of well wishers. The road is called The Long Walk and it connects Windsor Castle to a park called Snow Hill. According to legend, King Henry VIII sat at Snow Hill to wait for news about the execution of his wife Queen Anne Boleyn. But today a new legend about this road has been made…it will now be known as the road where someone’s fairytale became a reality.

SWAN LAKE

When I think of swans the words that come to mind are elegance, grace and beauty. Swans are such beautiful and mystical creatures that they are oftentimes written as strong characters in poetry and literature. In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was concieved by the union of Queen Leda of Sparta and the god Zeus who disguised himself as a swan. Today I had the chance to photograph these beautiful creatures although it was quite a challenge as this one wasn’t very friendly. I have read stories of people getting attacked by swans so I kept my distance as I had no plans of becoming the next character in that story. Fortunately there was a bridge on the narrowest part of the lake so I was able to keep my distance while photographing this graceful creature. The photo above is my favorite as I managed to capture the water dropping off the swan’s beak after it dunked its head underwater. Below are two more photos that I like as well as the dark and murky water created a nice contrast to the white swan.

CASA MILÀ

A trip to Barcelona, Spain isn’t complete without visiting Casa Mila, which was the last residential building designed by the legendary architect, Antoni Gaudí. This modernist architectural wonder was built between 1906 and 1912 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The building is also known as La Pedrera, which means “The Stone Quarry” due to its unique rough-hewn appearance. Fortunately, this famous landmark is just a block away from The Majestic Hotel where I was staying making the visit very convenient. The building’s design is very unconventional due to it’s undulating facade and spectacular rooftop covered with skylights, chimneys and staircases that look like sculptures using materials such as glass, broken marble and lime. The photos above and below were taken at the roof terrace of the building featuring the unique sculpture-like structures that are truly out of this world. I decided to zoom into the structures to emphasize the curves, angles, shapes and surfaces in order to make it look less familiar. Just so you know, people still live in this building to this day.

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RED FIRE ENGINE

Yesterday was the culmination day of the photography workshop I’ve been attending for the past four Saturdays followed by an exhibit to showcase our work. A lot of my classmates used photos they took prior to attending the workshop but in my case, I decided to use a photo I took during one of the photo sessions. This photograph of the front of an old fire truck was taken inside the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum, which was one of the stops during our photo walks. Our teacher instructed us to explore around the museum and take photos of specific details such as lines, angles, curves and various shapes. I am not a big fan of this photo but my instructor liked this a lot that he suggested I submit this for the exhibit. He even shared this photo on his Facebook page which was truly very flattering. If you guys noticed, I also changed the watermark logo on my photos using my signature to give it a more personal touch. I felt the old logo was too boxy and looked too heavy aside from it taking up a lot of space. I am also including below a few more photos I took while inside the museum as well as photos taken during the exhibit yesterday.

Photos taken during the exhibit

THE VIEW

This is probably every billionaire’s dream view for an apartment in New York City, although unfortunately for them this view is already taken by the viewing deck of the 30 Rockefeller Center or more famously known as the Top of the Rock. The viewing deck provides visitors with stunning views of Manhattan covering every angle of the city and every major New York City landmark from the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and the Freedom Tower to the Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. The deck is always packed with tourists so this photo I took is a very rare moment as if I had the entire floor to myself. I also consider myself very fortunate to have been situated perfectly at the right spot as it allowed me to capture the Empire State Building right through the middle window. New York City is my ultimate favorite city and I try to visit it at least every year and whenever I’m in the Big Apple, the Top of the Rock is always part of the itinerary for my photography. I decided to process this photo in black and white in order to create a timeless and romantic mood to the photo. Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

VENICE…CITY OF CANALS

When I visited Venice, Italy I prayed so hard for my trip not to end that I would wake up really early in the morning and stay up late at night just to stretch each day. The city was just magical…from the architecture, to the rich history and culture and of course the canals, which are uniquely Venice, making this city one of the most visited in the world. During my stay, I went to watch a Vivaldi concert at a theater right beside St. Mark’s Square, hopped on a gondola that cruised around the city and took long walks along narrow alleyways and across bridges connecting the multitude of islands that make up this remarkable city. I also joined a tour of the St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace and visited the former home of American socialite Peggy Guggenheim, which is now a museum showcasing her extensive art collection. Harry’s Bar, which was right beside my hotel, was also visited to try their signature Bellini and to check out the favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few. The icing on the cake to my vacation was my suite at the luxurious Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia where my room had a view of the lagoon and my bathroom a view of the St. Mark’s bell tower. The hotel lived up to it’s five star reputation providing me with the famous Baglioni luxury and first class service. The photo above was taken in the front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum while below are photos taken at Harry’s Bar, Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia.

Harry’s Bar

Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Dining Room at Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

View from my hotel suite

Living area of my hotel suite

The luxurious bed in my hotel suite

CHICHÉN ITZÁ IN PHOTOS

Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has always been on my bucket list and my determination to see it was further reinforced when the archeological site was declared as one of the New7Wonders of the World. When I visited Cozumel in 2014 it was a choice between Chichén Itzá and Tulum, which was another archeological site located right beside the Caribbean Sea. Tulum was a shorter ride from Playa del Carmen making it the obvious choice for a visit at that time. However, during my return to Cozumel, Mexico two weeks ago, I decided to take the long trip to Chichén Itza to finally see the famous Maya city. Walking around the archeological site was truly an experience of a lifetime making the six hour trip (3 hours each way) worth it. The architecture was more impressive and the complex larger than Tulum. Below are the photos I took around the complex:

Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars

El Castillo/Temple of Kukulkan

Temple of the Warriors

El Castillo/ Temple of Kukulkan

Skull Platform

Platform of Eagles and Jaguars

Temple of the Jaguars

Temple of the Bearded Man

Top of the El Castillo

Skull Platform

Platform of Venus

HEART OF ROME

Friends of mine are currently touring Italy and browsing through their pictures brought back pleasant memories of my vacation to this exquisite country last year. I immediately revisited my photo bank of the trip and discovered a good number of photographs worth posting in this page. My trip brought me to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice before flying to Spain for the second half of my vacation. These places are rich in history and culture and my hundreds of photographs will never be able to give justice to the spectacular beauty I saw in person.  So the next series of photos on this site will feature photographs from my Italian trip beginning with the Colosseum right in the heart of Rome, which was recently cleaned up for a fresher look. This architectural wonder has become the city’s symbol and I captured it using my iPhone7 Plus in Pano mode in order to photograph the entire subject in a single shot.

PEGGY’S WINDOW

During my trip to Venice a few months ago, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to view her vast treasury of artwork ranging from Picasso and Metzinger to Dali and Brâncusi. The museum is a famous destination in Venice with its main entrance accessible through the Grand Canal. Peggy bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which is an 18th-century castle, in 1949 and started showing her art collection in 1951. While exploring the museum, I happened on this window with a great view of the canal but interestingly curtained by a patterned metal grill. I pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to photograph the outside view incorporating the patterned grill to create a layered effect on my photo. I thought it would be nice to capture Venice and the Grand Canal through Peggy’s window.

AYASOFYA

The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish), which means Holy Wisdom, is a grand piece of architecture that beautifully defines the Istanbul skyline. According to our tour guide, it was originally an Orthodox church which was turned into a mosque and eventually converted into a museum. It was truly a humbling experience to stand before this ancient wonder and be able to walk along its endless halls and explore its grand chambers.  Inside was generally empty except for a few relics and lighting fixtures, however, the walls and ceilings are covered with a spectacular array of religious artwork. It was fascinating to see Christian and Muslim symbols beautifully complementing each other. I think the world can learn from the walls of Ayasofya on how to coexist harmoniously despite our differences.  Sadly though, recent developments in Turkish politics may eventually lead to reviving this museum back into a mosque. I just hope the people of Istanbul decide to retain this as a symbol of secularism where people from all faiths can enjoy the beauty and wonder of this great human achievement both in construction and architecture.

MUSÉE D’ORSAY

The Musée D’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France showcasing the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. The building used to be a train station and is one of the most visited museums in Paris due to its large collection of works by painters like Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Inside the museum is a viewing deck where you can look down into the main gallery and that was where I took this photograph. I personally enjoyed viewing the works of Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh…perhaps because they’re the more famous ones…or maybe because I am just one art ignoramous. LOL!

ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS

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While exploring London’s Piccadilly area after an afternoon tea at the Browns Hotel and a little shopping at Fortnum & Mason, I noticed this interesting art exhibition featured in the middle of this huge courtyard. Apparently, I have stepped into the Royal Academy of Arts complex. The RA is an art institution focused on the creation, enjoyment and exhibition of visual arts. Unfortunately, I had a show (Miss Saigon) to catch so I decided not to get inside the museum. This photo is my sole reminder that I was once in the Royal Academy of Arts complex.

FREEDOM TOWER

Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower in Miami used to be the headquarters and printing facility for The Miami News. Decades later it was used to process, document and assist new refugees from Cuba. Today, this building is now a contemporary art museum.

QUEUE OF THE SHADOWS

La queue

In 1682, Versailles opened its doors to anyone wishing to visit the palace and view its extravagant splendour.  Lines of visitors were screened by guards who made sure that no one carried weapons. Visitors were also required to observe proper palace etiquette including wearing a hat and sword, which were available for rent. To this day, people continue to line up by the thousands to have a glimpse of this grand palace minus the need to rent a hat and sword. Instead, you pay an entry fee which comes with a free audio guide.  While standing in line, I noticed the shadows formed by the line of visitors queueing towards the entrance of the palace. I thought it was an interesting photo subject noting that times may have changed but the long line of masses eager to see Versailles remains the same.

LOUVRE MOMENTS

The best part about being in a museum is seeing a diverse array of people around you. While some are seriously scrutinizing the arwork, others are just busy posing left and right for their next profile picture. Below are a few photos I took of people who caught my eyes because of how they look or because of what they were doing. Aside from art watching…I was also busy people watching.image

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Guardians of the Art


This photo was taken inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was alone in the gallery and noticed how the crowd at the other side was flanked by these two mystical human-headed winged lions called the Lamassu! The Lamassu is an Assyrian protective deity often placed at the entrance of palaces and cities.

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