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my travel ABCs

17 Sep

Kaley tagged me in this travel survey, and after reading her responses I was excited to finish up my school work for the week and have the chance to unwind and get this post out! As some of my friends from Spain are heading back this week for a second year teaching as a North American Language Assistant, I’m experiencing some major symptoms of wanderlust, so this will temporarily fill the void. Here are my travel ABCs…

A: Age you went on your first international trip: I was young the first time I went to Mexico, but that doesn’t really count. I was 18, right after high school graduation when I first officially went abroad with about 40 kids from my class. We did the traditional first-time-to-Europe jaunt: London, Paris, Rouen, Normandy, Lucerne, Venice, Florence, Rome. This trip was great because it exposed me to travel and gave me the confidence to want to go back.

world cup 2006 in Rome.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: Ever since trying Portugal’s Super Bock when I went to Lisbon in March 2009, I’ve been obsessed with it. Not going to lie, it was probably a major part of my decision to go to Porto last December.

the obsession beginning in Cascais, near Lisbon.

...and continuing in Porto.

C: Cuisine (favorite): I love Spanish food, but my hand’s down favorite is Greek/Israeli/Turkish. Give me a kebab and some hummus and I’m a happy camper.

Destinations (favorite, least favorite, and why): It’s not surprise that my favorite destination is Barcelona. After studying abroad there my junior year, I’d argue that it’s more of a love affair than a mere obsession. My least favorite destination is probably Venice – it was SO touristy and crowded when I went that I probably wouldn’t go back.

my roommate in Barcelona and I. magic.


E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: This is a tough one because I have a few, namely because “wow” can be interpreted in many different ways. My trip to Morocco was wow-worthy because it was so different from everywhere else I’ve been. Conversely, the house music experience in Ibiza was also pretty awesome. On my first trip to Europe, though, we stumbled across the Rouen Cathedral which Monet painted upwards of 30 times, with his paintings projected onto them. It was so cool and such a lucky find.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Is this a joke? The metro.

compañeras del piso en madrid.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: Independence and feeling like the world is at my fingertips.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Hmm, it gets pretty hot in Southern California, but it was ridiculously hot last June in Madrid. Whoa nelly.

melting in madrid with my uncle casey.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Hmm, nowhere in Spain, that’s for sure – but that’s part of Spain’s charm I guess. The best service I’ve experienced has been in the United States – in random places like the bank, too.

J: Journey that took the longest: Hmm, how about the first time I moved to Spain? LAX to Dallas/Ft.Worth to London – Heathrow to Madrid, and then a 7 hour bus-ride after our orientation.  At least it was worth the hype.

K: Keepsake from your travels: I write fiendishly in my Moleskine notebooks I had in Barcelona and Madrid, and I also wear a ring everyday I bought in Barcelona.

L: Let-down sight (why and where): I just wasn’t that into the city of Valencia when I went last spring, although the Las Fallas festival was pretty fabulous. I’d also say Milan was pretty skip-able.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: Probably the second I stepped foot in the city of Barcelona and realized what an epic place it is. Or, more realistically, when I went to Portugal in March of 2009 and made friends at my hostel, felt blissed out in Cascais, and got lost and talked to locals and couldn’t wait to plan more trips.

becca and i biking in Cascais.

muito bom.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: This is a tough one, but honestly probably the Grand Californian at Disney’s California Adventure. Happy 18th Birthday, Kelsey, haha! OR the W in San Fransicso...Happy 22nd Birthday, Amanda…I have awesome friends.

O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: All of the blog classics – views, food, and funny sights/advertisements.

salmorejo in madrid.

fav holiday in my fav city.

view of san sebastian.

P: Passport stamps – how many and from where: Sad story, I lost my first passport. Well, as I learned this week in Property, it wasn’t so much lost as it was mislaid (Ryanair flight, Porto to MAD – FML). Since you don’t get stamps for EU countries, mine have all been pretty standard – USA, Spain, Canada – but I do have stamps from Frankfurt, Germany, Lichtenstein and Marrakech, Morocco!

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: Hmm. I’m sure I’ve sought out a lot of quirky things – but nothing too off the wall is jumping out at me. So instead, I’ll leave with you the most typical attraction my family has visited – the world’s very first Starbucks location at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

my dad's mecca.

R: Recommended sight, experience, or location: Eating at a restaurant that doesn’t have a menu in English and ordering the local speciality. and the local beer.

S: Splurge – something you have no trouble forking money over for while traveling: A nice meal out. While I normally travel pretty thriftily, on short trips I like to have at least one nice, sit-down, authentic meal.

Lyon, France.

Bilbao, Spain.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: I’m all about seeing the major sites – that’s a huge point of traveling! I took free walking tours in Berlin, Prague, and Munich. The most touristy thing I’ve ever done, though, was last summer when I traveled to Toronto (on business!) and took a double-decker bus tour by myself.

U: Unforgettable travel memory: My last night in Barcelona was amazing – my senora, Marta, took me out to her favorite pizza place in El Raval for pizzas and a few Estrella Damm beers, and then she walked me through the city to meet up with my friends for one last trip to La Ovella Negra. Then, a year and half later, I went back to Barcelona and met up with Marta at the bar her son owns to watch the Real Madrid/FC Barcelona game. Viva Barça!

V: Visas – how many where? I’ve just had two, and both were for Spain. The first one was a cinch to get for study abroad – thanks, ISA – but the second one, for my auxiliares program, was a huge pain.

W: Wine – best glass of wine while traveling and where? Hmm. I’m not a huge wine drinker (still feeling the effects from the worst resaca of my life that happened a year ago from too much red wine. Yes, I am indeed sorry for partying). I’d have to say the best wine I’ve had was probably from a winery in wine country itself: Sonoma County, California. Close second would be Catalunya’s cava.


cava in catalunya.

X: eXcellent view and from where: This is impossible to narrow down, so my favorites are Barcelona from Park Guell, Madrid’s Palacio Real from the Templo de Debod, and San Francisco from my room senior year:



SF from B-town.

Y: Years spent traveling? Well, really only 4 months Spain Pt. I, 9 months Spain Pt. II, and maybe a couple other months total of shorter trips? We’ll go with 1.5 years.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where? Essentially anywhere in Spain – streets, cafés, bars – but the atmosphere was always pretty intense at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu when I went to a few games last year!

Alright – now the fun part! I get to tag 5 people to complete the survey. Solid combo of real life friends, blog friends, and blogs I’ve recently started reading. I’m tagging these 5:

Anywhere There’s an Airport

Photographs by Tina

No Olives Please

Funky France

Pancakes and Postcards

So, do we differ wildly on any of these? Or do you agree with any of them? Pick a couple of your favorite letters and answer them in the comments section!



23 May

If you’ve been paying attention to international news or have a Twitter account, it’s likely you’ve noticed that something is going on in Spain that’s a little different from your run-of-the-mill siestas, churros-con-chocolate, and bull paraphanelia. For the last week, thousands of young protestors have flooded the Puerta del Sol (the main square in Madrid) to speak out against the government. On Friday night alone, there were an estimated 28,000 “indignants” in the square. They feel the system is failing them: the unemployment rate in Spain is at 21.3%, and it is much higher for those ages 15-24. The local elections were yesterday, and protestors wanted to make their voices heard in an attempt to push for change.

While it remains unclear what the long-term effects will be of the Spanish Revolution of 2011, named “15-M” because it began on the 15th of May, it is clear the protestors, and the feelings of bringing about change, are here to stay. (One example of this – protesters have planted a vegetable garden in the plaza).

As I commuted this morning, I grabbed a free issue of ADN and skimmed over the results of the election: the PP (Partido Popular) beat out the PSOE (Socialist Party) in a record defeat – clearly sending a message to President Zapatero that the status quo is failing many of Spain’s citizens. Interestingly, the region of Castilla – La Mancha fell to the PP, even though the PSOE had been in party ever since Franco was ousted. In one editorial I read, however, the author urged the PP to heed the warnings of the 15-M movement if they want to win national elections, and even Zapatero himself said he understood the frustration of the protestors. Worth noting that voter turnout rose from 63% to 66% this year, with 13 out of 17 municipalities holding local elections. Maybe the U.S. should follow Spain’s lead in this area and start holding elections on a non-work day?

I went to Sol a few times this weekend and was impressed by the energy and the creativity of those protesting – it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I joked that “this was just like Berkeley” – but Berkeley’s protests were usually short-lived and poorly planned…or just weird and un-hygenic (remember the tree sitters, anyone?)

While the events of 15-M waged on in Sol and spread to Spain’s other large cities, I was able to reflect on Spain and my time here. While I lament the lack of efficiency in the country and often say “Welcome to Spain…” anytime something weird or negative happens, this country’s culture and vibrancy is truly unlike any other, and it’s important to remember that this whole “democracy” thing is relatively new to Spain. It was mentioned to me this weekend that perhaps Spain’s way of life (siestas and fiestas) inhibits its residents from getting jobs and developing a work ethic. That rationale brings a little bit of merit to my job here, which is sort of cool, in that the English levels of the next generation will undoubtedly be higher due to the bilingual schools and the Auxiliar program. The rising rates of English will allow Spaniards to be more competitive in the international job market as well. While I don’t think I am saving the world by living and working in Madrid, it´s interesting to see how my job plays a role in the bigger picture.

an ad for Madrid´s bilingual program.

For more information about 15-M, check out this blog item from SF Gate and coverage of the elections from NYT.

mash-up twenty-ten.

30 Dec

I love a good mash-up. remix, or even a solid playlist. I feel like the best sort of ¨year in review¨ post should include the song or album that I associate with that month (if you can’t read any further, at least listen to this). That being said, here’s the mash-up of how 2010 went for me:

January – ¨Tik Tok¨ by Ke$ha I know, an utterly terrible (but undeniably infectious) song. I picked this song to sum up January for me because it is a solid ¨Vegas¨ anthem, and I went there twice in January. The first trip was the kick-off for 2010 and took some major convincing from my guy friends from high school, but it was an epic trip with lots of funny stories from 4-am run-ins outside of the hotel, being in the same club as Jay-Z, guidos, and countless inside jokes. Three weeks later I headed back to Sin City with my sorority and probably overdid the references to The Hangover and Ke$ha – we started the party in the Oakland airport and caused a scene because our flight was delayed 5 hours, stumbled upon an Estelle concert at Aria, and formed a wolfpack. My 22nd Birthday was also in January, and although we celebrated in San Francisco it was basically Vegas Part 3.


The wolfpack at the (not real) Caesar's Palace


February – What You Know About Little Secrets by The White Panda (Passion Pit vs. TI) Basically the only things I remember from February are going to class and Berkeley’s Bear’s Lair pub on Fridays for “Beat the Clock” like it was my job. My roommate at the time, Kathleen, introduced me to The White Panda and I particularly love this song for two reasons: 1. I love mash-ups and 2. I REALLY love Passion Pit.

my favorite place on campus (not a joke)

March – Alejandro by Lady Gaga March was punctuated by midterms, term papers, and the demise of my Toshiba laptop. Helloooo Macbook Pro. I can´t remember everything I did in March which probably means I spent a good amount of it doing really nerdy things, but some highlights include a trip to the Sonoma County wine country with some of my best friends, and a memorable trip to Orange County with my mom. I also did some cost-benefit analysis when a postion as an assistant at a local law office presented itself, but I ended up holding out until May when I would hear from the program through the Spanish government. Alejandro is the song for March because A. I like Lady Gaga  and B. Alejandro is an extremely Spanish name.

April – Bedrock  by Young Money The beginning of April was one of my most fun months of college – trips to the city for nights in the Marina, a Giants game, and a weekend at the W hotel for my friend Amanda’s birthday. I was obsessed with this song (cue some inside jokes here) during April, and found the line “I’m at the W/but I won’t meet you in the lobby” to be undeniably appropriate. It was in April that I had my final sorority events, my last college lecture (during which we analyzed a Lady Gaga video, Go Bears) and got to know the Berkeley bars as well as possible. I also wrote a paper psychoanalyzing the “wolfpack” scene from The Hangover and can still get a laugh out of some of the “arguments” I made.

May – Young Forever by Jay-Z f/ Mr. Hudson The carefree levity of April came to an abrupt end when, at the end of the month, one of my best friends lost her girlfriend, who I was just starting to get to know. Alysia’s tragic death, coupled with our college graduation was undoubtedly an emotional and hard time, and Jay-Z´s ¨Young Forever¨ is what I associate with it. Also in May, I moved home to my family’s house and began working as a Marketing Assistant at Lenmar Enterprises, Inc. I will always remember this month and get the occasional chill when this song comes on.





June – Cooler than Me by Mike Posner June was busy and fun – I adjusted to working full time for Lenmar, took day trips with my mom and Whitney to the Getty Museum and Malibu, respectively, and I spent a lot of time driving around the Conejo Valley singing along to this song. I spent portions of June stressing over Spain logistics (everything ended up working out, haha) and hanging out with friends from high school. I also added a second little job into the mix – doing some travel blogging and marketing for I Wish Gap Year. Finally, one of my favorite June memories was developing an obsession with Agoura Hills’ Ladyface Alehouse. I am literally anticipating tasting their IPA again next summer.

July – Brian Eno by MGMTThis song has yet to be a mainstream hit, but I’ve loved it since I first heard it in April when MGMT released their latest album, and I’ll always associate it with 2010. In July, my Dad and I spent a few days in NY and DC checking out law schools (for me) and working (for him). I also dealt with an insane bureaucratic mess that involved 3 trips to the Spanish Consulate on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles and a bunch of pointless background checks. The highlights of July included delicious Mexican food with various friends in LA and having almost all of my friends and family over for a bbq.

August – My Sick UncleThis mash-up symbolizes August for me because it blends the cool, summery, LA-vibe of the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack with the zany and creative antics of Lil Wayne. August was great: I went to a Real Madrid/LA Galaxy game with some of my best friends and spent the whole day tail-gating, spent a few days in Toronto on a business trip for Lenmar (!), went to the Oak Park Farmer’s Market as many weekends as I could, went wine tasting in Malibu with some friends, and squeezed in visits to the Hollywood Bowl and Westwood as well.


Toronto's CN Tower


September – We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool Not only was this song associated with Jersey Shore (my most guilty pleasure) but it was also all over Madrid when I arrived half-way through the month. I’d hear it in clubs, bars, and even at the gym. September was busy and fun – I ended one job, said goodbye to my friends with a party that was a little too fun, and moved to Madrid! I met my roommates, went to orientation, showed my friends AK and Andrea around the city, and started settling in.


back in action.


October – Stereo LoveThis song quickly became a Madrid mainstay and it was in October when I first heard it. In October, I started my job at Colegio Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, spent a day in Segovia, went to a bullfight and showed my friend Brian around the city, was a ladybug for Halloween, and planned some trips. Oh, and I wrote my law school personal statement and submitted some applications. All in all, a terrific month.

November – Girl Talk ¨All Day¨It’s as if Gregg Gillis (the genius behind “Girl Talk”) knew I used his music as a metaphor in my personal statement for law school, because half-way through the month he released his third album “All Day.” I could go on and on about him (and will if you want), but this song in particular is my very favorite off the new album, and it represents November perfectly. I finished law school apps completely, visited college friends in Lyon, France and checked out Córdoba in Andalucia, and spent my first Thanksgiving a fuera de los Estados Unidos. Oh, and Madrid got it’s first snowfall!

December – Don Omar – Danza Kuduro f/ Lucenzo I chose this song because it took me until December to make a concentrated effort to speak more Spanish – I started listening to some podcasts, read “El Mago de Oz” en espanol, and arranged to meet up with a Spanish speaker aka an “intercambio” once a week. All of these decisions have proven helpful, even if I feel like a buffoon on occasion. I traveled to Porto, Portugal at the beginning of the month, experienced the madness of Christmas in Madrid (both in the city center as well at my school), hit up Salamanca for a night, and celebrated Christmas with my roommates.


Sol at Christmas (the tree was designed by a Spanish designer I like, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada)


2010 was a great year, and I’m looking forward to the exciting excursions and experiences 2011 will bring. First up is celebrating NYE with my mom in Madrid and quick trips to Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Granada. Happy New Year from Madrid!

Travel Thursday: Berkeley, Calif.

13 May

Instead of studying for my last final, I thought I’d bring the writing back to my blog and mention some of the must-see things about Berkeley, (should you ever find yourselves there without me). I’ve tried to do a lot in the Bay Area during my 4 years here – but in terms of Berkeley in general, here are some of my musts:

* Run the Firetrail over-looking campus: It’s a tough climb but it has an amazing view of the Bay (and you don’t even have to go all the way to the top to get there). I remember an old OPHS classmate telling me about it when I came to check Cal out senior year, and it’s been something I’ve done all four years. Shout-out to my friend Hannes who has run it with me most recently for putting up with my out-of-shape pitiful attempt at running.
* Berkeley Rose Garden: another great place to run, but this time of year it’s totally worth it to take a camera and just enjoy the museum-like rose display, as well as a stunning view of the SF Bay. It’s on Berkeley’s Northside (helloooo grad students) on Euclid.
* Museums: If you’re down to embrace your inner nerd, check out the Lawrence Hall of Science. My aunt and uncle took my brother and I there when we were younger (somewhere there is a great picture of us playing on the double helix in front of the museum). Another not-so-hidden Berkeley gem is the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). Just today I went and studied on an exhibit that also serves as a study space (Thom Faulder’s BAMscape). I’ve been able to check out a few of their exhibits over these 4 years, and considering entry is always free for Cal students, it’s definitely worth stopping in.
*Stroll down College and Telegraph Aves. These Berkeley landmarks could not be more different. College’s super-cute shops (like the delectable and uber-creative ice cream at Ici) have provided me with an oft-needed escape from the parts of the city that are a little rougher around the edges. The fresh fruit and flower stands that appear in the afternoon have an element of European flair about them, and the families and Berkeley locals who flock here have always made me feel worlds away from blue books and office hours. Telegraph Ave., on the other hand, is what makes Berkeley, Berkeley. Lined with tie-dye T-shirt sellers and bums we all know and recognize (Hello girls, good morning! and Happy Happy Man, to name a couple) and delicious (though mildly-sketch) eateries like Blondie’s is a truly bustling part of Berkeley that must not be ignored.
*If you’re looking for a celebratory beer, my personal favorites are Bear’s Lair (which has been on-campus since 1962!) for Beat the Clock Friday Specials and Raleigh’s if you’re in the mood for a traditional college-bar type feel. To get the full college experience, a trek to Kip’s would be in order – but don’t go there before midnight and don’t start the night there. A Thursday ritual involves heading to Shattuck’s Triple Rock bar for some Monkey Head beer. I remember hearing my friend Annie (who is a year older than me) rave about Triple Rock a couple of years ago and being envious that she got to see our awesome GSI in a social setting. For real.
*Coffee: I guess if I come out of college only being addicted to this, I’ve won. Right? Numerous studies show a cup (or more) a day is good for you – and however one-sided these might be, I’m going with it. If you’ve stumbled upon my blog before, you know I love love love I-House’s coffee (some Alpha Chi’s have dubbed it “liquid crack”). Caffe Strada near campus is a popular spot, but they’re cash only and I’m frankly not as down. I’ve also enjoyed the on-campus cafe’s FSM (Free Speech Movement) as well as the occasional trek to San Francisco’s Ferry Building for some Blue Bottle coffee.

*Zachary’s: Literally the best pizza ever. I mean, I’ve never been to Chicago, but if the pizza there can rival this, I may have found my new favorite city. Thank you again to my aunt and uncle for taking me here when I was younger!
*Asian Ghetto: Probably not politically correct, but yes, Berkeley has an eatery on Southside affectionately known as the “Asian Ghetto.” Most of the food is of Asian origin (Korean, Thai, Japapense, Chinese) and the area is often frequented by “street performers” once the sun goes down. My favs here include Gypsy’s (decidedly non-Asian, but they make a mean calzone) and Thai Basil’s pad thai.
*Gourmet Ghetto: Basically the exact opposite of the Asian Ghetto. This is on Berkeley’s northside and is home to Alice Water’s Chez Panisse. More affordable must-eats include Cheeseboard (which serves one truly amazing pizza daily) and Cesar for some tapas or paella.
*Miscellaneous: Berkeley is probably under-rated for all of the amazing food it offers. In the past 4 years, I’ve had a variety of fabulous ethnic foods including Brazilian, Mediterranean, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican, etc.
Finally, as my time here is drawing to a close, I’ve been thinking about a few signs you’ve been in Berkeley for 4 years…
-You drop “hella” into conversation freely and effortlessly, and not for attention.
– You know that AnonCon and the naked run are inevitable Finals Week events.
– You know the difference between “the stacks” and “Sacks” and have studied at both places.
– You learned the Cal Drinking Song and correct people who sing it incorrectly (c’mon, it’s the ROTTERDAM Dutch).
-You’ve avoided election week at all costs – as well as the post-voting drama that inevitably comes with it .
– You’ve gotten units for things like wine tasting and watching episodes of The Simpson’s. Thank you, De-Cal program.
– You’ve learned about Marx in at least 3 classes. 5+ if you’re in L&S.
-Finally, you’ve learned a lot – both inside and outside the campus’ boundaries.
While Berkeley is a quintessential college town, it’s diverse offerings make it a popular stopping point for any visitor to the Bay Area. And for the past four years, I’ve been able to make it my home. 🙂

Exam tomorrow so how ’bout another quick post?

28 Apr

I’ll miss all of the Berkeley personalities – from Stoney and Happy Happy Man (where has he been the last few years?) to the “Fuck your iPod guy” and, of course, Yoshua:

Having the ability to take classes with famous professors about interesting topics like Cultural Psychology, The First Amendment and the Press, and Marketing – but also being able to take classes like “The Simpsons and Philosophy” and “Wine Tasting.” FOR UNITS:
Having my uncle Casey and Aunt Melinda a short drive away, seeing them regularly and doing fun things with them – from trying the best Catalan cuisine the Bay has to offer to wine-tasting in good ol’ Livermore: