Lake Bled in watercolor

My watercolor project for May took me back to one of the loveliest places I’ve seen this year: Lake Bled in Slovenia.

Painting the lady in red stretched me; this landscape seemed easy in comparison. I enjoyed learning how to take artistic license with color: looking for hints of color and amplifying them in order to turn a memory from cloudy gray to fresh and vivid.

Question: do you watermark your photos? I’m considering doing that, though it seems like a lot of work. I thought I could start with the watercolors and see how it goes. This experiment with watermarking has made me realize that I haven’t signed or dated any of my watercolors in the past year. Ooopsy.

Also, I’m wondering if I should start painting a travel series. I experimented with animals and fashion because I got bored with landscapes for a while, but I’ve since realized a travel series wouldn’t necessarily have to be all landscapes. Which of my travels should I paint next?

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Koper on the coast

After the Grand Prix in Maribor, we traveled with the Glee Club for the rest of their time in Slovenia. This meant formally inducting our husbands into the Maleta (Suitcase) Club, a grueling task that they both met head on (wagas na pag-ibig ito!)…


getting to ride the tour bus, sit up front a.k.a. “First Class”, and hear daily announcements being read out from an iPad (oh, how times have changed)…
—and one of the best parts: getting to visit places that we normally would not go ourselves. One such place was the tiny town of Klanec, nestled among gorgeous green hills, where we spent two nights in a Franciscan monastery…
… and the harbor town of Koper on the Adriatic Sea, wedged between Italy and Croatia.

While the kids rehearsed for their evening concert…

… we were left free to explore this pretty little town.
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Breathtaking Bled

Apart from the center of Maribor, I didn’t see much of Slovenia when I was there 12 years ago. Now, without rehearsals or performances on the agenda, I was thrilled to have the chance to find out what I had missed—starting with a day trip to Slovenia’s famous Lake Bled.

The bus to Bled leaves hourly from the Ljubljana central station, and the trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes. Once we got there, we decided to take the 5km stroll all the way around the lake, which, according to various travel guides, takes an hour to complete.

Any European estimate for walking time always needs to be multiplied by 2.5 for Pinoys. We walk slowly, have short legs, and like to take pictures. Faced with a fairy-tale lake that looks gorgeous from just about every angle, you can bet we took pictures. Lots of them.

Even the most Amsterdam-like of weather (cold, cloudy and raining) can’t do much to diminish the serene beauty of Lake Bled.

The tiny island in the center of the lake houses the Church of the Assumption. The way to get there is via a traditional rowboat called a pletna, but we didn’t see any boatmen plying their trade that day.

I always have to tip my hat to cleanliness in a tourist area. In Bled, the lake and its surroundings are pristine. Look at that water!

I am not the biggest fan of walking, but the entire circuit around the lake was thoroughly enjoyable, especially with friends. Mimi and I were glad that the boys got along very well together.

One of the best things about traveling with another couple?


Having someone to take each other’s couple photos in romantic locations like this. No more sticking your arm out for sad self-portraits!


I’d love to be here in the summertime, although I’m sure it’s swamped. We got a small preview of what summer would look like at Lake Bled when the sun finally broke through the clouds in the late afternoon. Simply beautiful.
When the clouds lifted, just like the curtains in a theater, to reveal the snowy Alps, we all just stopped and stared. Behind those mountains, by the way, is Austria.


The Alps made a perfect, majestic backdrop to Bled Castle, Slovenia’s oldest castle, perched on a hilltop. It was one of those fantastic sights that hardly looked real, like the clouds themselves were trickling down from the sky. But it was definitely real—and I’m happy to have seen it myself in Bled.
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European Grand Prix for Choral Singing

After our Sunday morning stroll in (mostly deserted) Maribor, Mimi, Pete, Marlon and I ran into the Glee Club right outside Union Hall, where they were due for their soundcheck.
After hugs were exchanged and manic shrieks faded away, we went into the holding room with them for last-minute instructions from Ma’am Malou, prayers and a huddle. I really have to give it to Ma’am, she was the picture of calm and purpose—exactly what a big group needed at a time like this.

It felt so strange to know what they were all feeling, but not actually be part of it—to be outside the circle looking in.

Then it was time for their 15-minute rehearsal, the only time choirs actually get to step inside the hall they compete in. Since the full repertoire is 25 minutes, the soundcheck was just about enough time to check the acoustics against a portion of each piece, and also if everyone can hear each other. I’ve been in halls where the audience enjoys a fantastic sound but you can’t hear yourself at all, let alone the people next to you, and it’s always a freaky feeling.

To me, they sounded amazing. Sparkling, fresh, warm, pino, with heart. And it’s not just because I used to sing in this choir, okay. I think I’ve heard enough choirs to know.

Lunch followed at a park nearby. We got a chance to catch up with darling Leo, who was also with the Glee Club when we competed in the European Grand Prix in 2001. I can’t believe he now has two Grand Prix competitions under his belt.

Then, back to Union Hall to claim our tickets and wait for the competition to begin. The event had been sold out for weeks. Slovenes love their choral music!

We got the nosebleed seats in the very last row, but asked to be moved. In hindsight, we should have just stayed here so we could see what the judges were writing down!

The organizers very kindly moved us to the upper left of the hall, where we unfurled our handy-dandy Philippine flag and got ready to cheer for our Glee Club. Can you say groupies?

Then the competition began.

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Maribor on my mind

It’s not an exaggeration to say we traveled from one end of Slovenia to the other during our four days there. After landing in Ljubljana, we rode a train northeast to Maribor for the Glee Club’s competition, after which we took a bus to Koper on the southeast coast, right next to Italy and Croatia.

map via Wikipedia

The train ride from Ljubljana to Maribor took about two hours. Slovenia is not very big and there’s not a lot of distance to cover, but the train runs about as fast as those shopping mall kiddie trains. But that’s nothing to take issue with, because the route shows off Slovenia’s idyllic green landscape to stunning advantage.

Slovenia is a ridiculously gorgeous country. Marlon and I were tired after our early departure, but didn’t dare nap. Not with the constant stream of gorgeousness outside: farmhouses, streams, cattle grazing freely…

… hills covered in green, meadows carpeted in flowers, trees in bloom.

After months of gray in Amsterdam, I could finally believe it was spring.

A stroll around Maribor, after the jump!

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