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Finding the relics of St. Nick in Bari

While searching for the best base for travels in Puglia, I came across Bari, a major city bordering the Adriatic Sea with convenient train connections to Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni and Matera in Basilicata. I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to learn that Bari is a destination on its own, with its fortified old town, a Norman castle, a promenade by the sea, a bustling shopping and business district and a variety of restaurants. Bari has also been a pilgrimage destination since the 11th century when the relics of St. Nicholas were brought to Bari from Myra, an ancient Greek town in Lycia (now Antalya Province of Turkey). St. Nick was known for his generosity and gift giving. Sinterklaas or St. Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus. His feast day is celebrated on December 6th. 

Cobble stone passages with religious shrines on every corner greet visitors to the old town.


The narrow alleys of the old historic center are for motorbikes and walking to better appreciate the wrou…

When to go to Malumpati Cold Spring

There are so many exceptional beaches and swimming holes in and around Panay Island but I had never been to Malumpati Cold Spring in Antique. After checking out the attractions of Jawili in Aklan, we drove to Pandan which is a short distance from the border of Aklan province.
Everyone had the same idea as we did. Malumpati was insanely crowded. Summer break was well on its way and families were in the know where to cool down. Who can resist turquoise waters on a sweltering day?
I was naive to expect tranquil surroundings. I did find a little piece of heaven on the other side of the bridge that is enveloped by overgrown trees with hints of caves and my mind's idea of an idyllic day by the water. But it is not accessible to the public. Summer is not the best time to visit Malumpati nor weekends. I'll go back another day. Make that a weekday.

There's a minimal entrance fee to Malumpati Cold Spring. We paid 50 pesos for parking. There are people at the parking lot who say they…

Kiss my Turku

Nothing can truly describe the wonder of seeing the Art Chapel for the first time. I was at once drawn to the blinding light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as soon as I entered the chapel. But rather than walk up to the altar, I opted to sit awhile on one of the plain pine pews to slowly take it all in and savor the peace and beauty of my surroundings. I enjoyed precious few minutes of blissful contemplation (as I was the only visitor then) until a couple arrived and the missus asked me to remove my handbag from the bench so she could take a perfect photo of the Chapel. :( 

The architect, Matti Sanaksenaho, wanted to incorporate three symbols in his design. One of them is light, in this case, the idea of "the path from darkness to light". The visitor emerges from the shadows at the entrance and is led toward the light at the altar under exquisitely arched Finnish timber.

The model for the design of the Art Chapel was a block of wood inspired by a fish which the architect…

The Hidden Charms of Aklan

Aklan has many attractions that tourists miss when they head straightaway to Boracay from the Kalibo International Airport. Lambingan Beach is just a few minutes down the road from the airport and the perfect spot to celebrate the blue hour. Or meet locals frolicking on the beach.

Tinago Lake in Batan is aptly named. Tinago means hidden and this lake is well hidden except to those who seek off the grid paths. We met two other visitors when we were in Tinago. It was easy to appreciate the expanse of lake and sky and harness the #bluemind in tranquil surroundings.

I enjoy shopping for pottery in this village because the prices are reasonable and the stall owners are open to bargaining and will even give an extra planter or two if you purchase a lot of pottery. Bayangan means "potter's wheel" and Lezo is the pottery capital of Aklan.

St. Isidore the Farmer Church is right next to the pottery market. It has served the parish community since 1910.

The cool plunge pools at Jawili …

Alberobello - Trulli Unique

The main reason for my trip to Puglia in early January was to see the strange, cone-shaped roofs of trulli dwellings. There are over a thousand trulli in Alberobello and to my delight, I saw many rural trulli along the way to this Unesco World Heritage Site.

A trullo is built of dry stone which is an age old construction technique practiced in the Mediterranean region. It is an example of "vernacular" architecture, where materials are sourced locally and traditional building methods are used. The conical roof is made from limestone slabs and many are marked in white ash with religious or mythological symbols. A pinnacolo sits atop the cone, like a chess piece. This could be a cross or a ball or a disk or some other design and are supposed to ward off evil spirits.


It was interesting to see many doors hidden behind a mesh curtain.


The Church of Saint Anthony of Padua blends in with its surroundings.


Red and white cyclamen brighten the whitewashed walls of these trulli houses.


Here…