Recent Posts

Mexico’s micheladas. Because obviously.

Mexico’s micheladas. Because obviously.

Beer, lime juice, salt, peppers, and spices. If you think that sounds delicious, read on. If you don’t, read on anyway . . . and get yourself to the best Mexican bar you can find to try a michelada. I’m obsessed with these tasty drinks […]

Tips for planning the perfect vacation

Tips for planning the perfect vacation

There’s no such thing as a perfect getaway, but there is still a pressure that accompanies your vacation. While planning your next escape, keep these things in mind. You will arrive prepared and ready for whatever your idea of “perfect” is! 1. Decide what kind […]

Contemplating life amongst death: a claustrophobic freakout, and perspective, in Paris’ catacombs

Contemplating life amongst death: a claustrophobic freakout, and perspective, in Paris’ catacombs

The Paris catacombs are 200 miles of small underground tunnels filled with the bones of 6 million people. If you’re claustrophobic, as I am, then this is quite literally a nightmare to visit. And yet, if you’re a bit of a curious weirdo, like I am, then there is little you can do to avoid the appeal.

I survived, obviously. But barely. Descending the 19-meter spiral staircase, you reach a point where you ask yourself if the journey into the depths will ever end. It’s a little too long . . . a few too many disconcerting steps down into a giant underground graveyard. This is where the panic/internal declension began: a little flutter in the stomach, mixed with confusion about how long you can possibly continue down these steps without becoming dizzy. And, if you’re like me, this is mixed with a little curiosity: who made these steps? Were they in really good shape? I mean, they’d have to be in good shape. Right? And probably Vitamin D deficient. (Turns out these were old mining tunnels.)

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I thought I’d feel better when we reached the actual catacombs, but I was wrong. The spiral staircase ends .  .  . only to be replaced with what seems like miles and miles of tunnels so small, a person slightly taller than me would have to seriously worry about injuring his or her head. This is where the claustrophobia began to sink in, and that little flutter in my stomach became legitimate heart palpitations and shortness of breath. “This is a test of my character. This is a test of my character” I repeated to myself over and over. Also, a test of my sanity. I barely passed.

The catacombs themselves are incredible. I have a sick fascination with cemeteries already, and was a little too excited to see the mummy museum in Guanajuato (or any mummy, for that matter) so it comes as no surprise that I was fascinated by the overwhelming quantity of human remains. Heart palpitations slowly receded. Interest took over. The slow, eerie dripping of water from the tunnel ceiling was almost calming. Amid the bones of 6 million people, you’re faced with the bitter reality of our mortality: the most real thing we, as humans, can grasp. Claustrophobia became a concept of the mind, and an inferior concern when looking upon my fate. Not to sound too down, or anything.

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And, of course (because this is the way life works) as we are leaving the near-empty catacombs, we snap what is one of my favorite photos of us during our time in Paris. A photo of a happily married couple during their vacation in Paris? A perfect contrast to the location in which the photo was shot. Such is life, and its irony.

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Paris Catacombs
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France
+33 1 43 22 47 63
http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/
Fizzy wine: the 4-1-1 on the cause of off-putting bubbles

Fizzy wine: the 4-1-1 on the cause of off-putting bubbles

Bubbles are great. Champagne. Cava. Fizzy water. Ocean spray. Baths. The giant bubbles kids chase in parks. Baby raspberries. Even the word bubble? Adorable. But sometimes, bubbles can be so very, very bad in wine. But fizz in wine can sometimes be very, very bad. […]

An ode to the murals of Buenos Aires

An ode to the murals of Buenos Aires

Ok, not an ode, per se: this isn’t exactly a lyrical stanza, but it does celebrate one of the things that sparked my love of photography and of things gritty, “real,” and beautiful in their imperfection and decay. Buenos Aires is the perfect place for […]

But what’s it REALLY like to visit Thailand?

But what’s it REALLY like to visit Thailand?

If you’ve been there, you’ve clicked on this link to see if my depiction of Thailand represents your experience there. If you haven’t been, perhaps you’re curious.

I hope you’re curious. I hope you want to visit Thailand. Because if you’ve clicked on this link; if you’re thinking of visiting Thailand, then you probably have an adventurous spirit . . . and you’ve been bitten by the Thailand bug. Trust me, you need to go. There are the obvious tips: cash is king, bring lots of mosquito repellent, don’t overpack, avoid suspicious characters . . . you get the idea. The following doesn’t include tips, but rather what to expect on your trip to Thailand:

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1. You’re going to get ripped off

Like, a lot. You stick out like a sore thumb. You have “tourist” stamped all over you, and you’re in the land where business savvy residents have been trained to spot you. You’re going to haggle, all day, every day. You’re going to pay too much for basically everything.

But you’re still going to pay next to nothing. So you can’t bring yourself to care too much.

2. You’re going to get tired of touts

Because at one point, you’re just going to want to walk down the street and not be hassled. Remember that this is not native to Thailand: I get the same from the hostesses in the Gaslamp District of San Diego; I couldn’t go three feet in Bali without getting haggled; I avoid certain beaches in Barcelona because I simply don’t feel like hearing “mojita-cerverza-beer” repeatedly. It’s just part of the experience.

3. You might get sick

Hey, I didn’t. That’s awesome. But everyone else I know did. My poor husband did, and the story isn’t pretty.

Come prepared with every gastrointestinal medicine you can think of.

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Yep. I’ll eat that. Don’t care if it’s from a roadstand vendor. Maybe that makes it even better?

That being said, eat the street food. All of it. Without regrets . . . until you have regrets, anyway.

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Everything. I wanted to eat everything.

 

4. You’ll feel like a foreigner, in the best way possible

Isn’t this one of the reasons you came? To feel transported to another world; to another time? It’s awesome. Embrace it.

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Maybe if I were just a little shorter, I’d blend right in . . .
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A breakfast where you know the names of maaaaybe two of the fruits = an awesome breakfast, indeed.

5. You’ll magically get from A to B and have no idea what happened

Routes? Maps? Scheduled train and bus pick-ups? Not in Thailand. But they take care of you. You follow someone from the ticket counter who shouts at you to “sit here” and “do this,” you do . . . and you somehow make it to where you wanted to go. It’s an incredible, mysterious system.

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Tuk tuk? You’re going on the tuk tuk!

6. More people speak English than you’d imagine

I’m the first one to say “learn some basics of the native language” before visiting a new locale. But in Thailand, it’s incredible: more people speak English than you’d expect. You’re going to be OK. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the basic phrases: make sure to learn the sà-wàt-dee and kòp kun, and make sure that you understand that there are different pronunciations for males and females.

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Loved this guy. 🙂

Or . . . you’ll be cruising through Koh Lanta, in the middle of nowhere, and your motorcycle will stop working, and you’ll magically find a guy who will point you to a shack, where a guy will come out, fix your bike while his adorable kids pull out chairs for you and bring you Coca Colas, and you’ll close the transaction with him writing numbers in the dirt with a stick before you’re on your way. That, my friends, is the beauty of humanity.

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What service! He was so cute.
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No language needed. 🙂

7. You’ll bond with other travelers

You are all, metaphorically (or literally, if you’re on a snorkeling tour) in the same boat. You’ll create bonds with other travelers that you know will probably never extend beyond this little moment in time, but that’s what makes it all the more special.

8. You’ll need an up-to-date travel book

Things change quickly in Southeast Asia . . . too quickly for this sentimental, “never change” writer. Make sure that your travel guide has been recently published so that you get the most up-to-date information.

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9. Your clothes will come here to die.

Between the heat, the traffic of Bangkok, and the dirt of the country, your clothes will take a beating. You can get them washed for a fair price, but beware: they will dry your clothes until they’re children sized. Proceed with caution.

10. You’ll want to take home all the dogs.

Oh wait, that’s just me. Well, maybe me and every other girl . . .

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That one time we had a castle to ourselves: visiting Carcassonne in the off-season

That one time we had a castle to ourselves: visiting Carcassonne in the off-season

One of the highlights of living in Barcelona is our proximity to France. To this Californian (who spent many a Thanksgiving driving nine hours from SD to home) a three-hour drive through beautiful Catalunya is a tiny jaunt, and the time is filled with “oohs” […]

An obsession with cemeteries, and a trip to London’s Highgate

An obsession with cemeteries, and a trip to London’s Highgate

“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs; Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth, Let’s choose executors and talk of wills” ― William Shakespeare, Richard II I love cemeteries. Perhaps it’s morbid, but perhaps I’m […]

Thinking of traveling? GO.

Thinking of traveling? GO.

I’m a cautious person. I plan things. I plan everything. I’m scared of things. Actually . . . I’m scared of everything. Failing. Heights. Bees. People hating me. Bees. God, I am so afraid of bees. But more than anything, I fear change. So when my fiancee suggested that we spend the first year of our married life traveling, it’s a bit of a shocker that I, without hesitation, said “yes.”

Or maybe it’s not so surprising. As I now know, wanting to see the world doesn’t mean you don’t like your world. It just means you’re curious. We weren’t searching for something we lacked; in fact, we had all the reasons to stay put. We were madly in love, had good jobs, a beautiful home in a wonderful urban neighborhood, the cutest dog anyone could ask for, and an incredible network of friends and family. We didn’t want to “escape”: we wanted to experience. And experience we did.

In our first year of marriage, we went from Kauai, Hawaii to Bangkok to Sukhothai to Chiang Mai to Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi to Singapore to Seminyak to Ubud to Ahmed to Candidasa to Osaka to Kauai and back to San Diego. And then we were in Buenos Aires . . . and then to Rome, Umbria, Florence, Liguria, Montepulciano, Provence, and Bologna. We hiked to secret waterfalls and secret beaches and secret caves. We snorkeled with turtles and the most gorgeous tropical fish. We learned to make Thai curries. We wandered markets and tried fruits we had never seen (and didn’t know how to eat). We tried every bit of street food we could find room for in our stomachs. We drank beers with people we would never see again: people from all over the world, and sometimes, who didn’t speak the same language as us. We saw beautiful, majestic, inspiring, and humbling temples and churches.

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Cooking class in Chiang Mai, with awesome aprons. 🙂
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Sunset in Seminyak, Bali. Ahhh, honeymoon.
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Wandering around Liguria and the Cinque Terre.
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Buenos Aires was a blur!
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A bike trip through Sukhothai, and a stop to take photos among these beautiful ruins.

We walked through a poppy field in Italy during the spring, with medieval hill-towns in the background. We tasted wine with the Andes as a backdrop. We saw monuments, works of art, and buildings that indeed lived up to every bit of hype. We chanced upon festivals in Italian villages where everyone was dressed in character and we felt transported back in time; we accidentally discovered a wine and cheese festival in Tuscany (and another in Umbria) that left us full, happy, and absolutely speechless. (“Seriously . . . what just happened??”) We took horse-drawn carriage rides through vineyards; we hiked through miles of grapevines just to get to a town where someone was happy to serve us his specialty, and just as happy to drive us back home, chatting all the way in Italian. We rode elephants. We rode bikes through ancient Thai cities. We pet tigers. We walked through magical butterfly parks and swam through schools of tropical fish. WE ATE THE BEST CHEESE. We were serenaded by cheesy Italian singers in cheesy Italian restaurants that didn’t seem nearly so cheesy after a few negronis. We walked through Roman ruins and pretended we were traveling back in time; we ate Argentine asados that would make us think twice about every steak we’d have thereafter.

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Unexpected wine festival in Montefioralle, Italy.
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Florence at night.
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Getting lost in our day trips from Florence. If you have to get lost, it’s nice to have it be in vineyards!
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Beautiful Southern Italy.
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The Royal Palace in Bangkok.
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Exploring beautiful Umbria.
Chiang Mai. <3
Chiang Mai. <3

It was a whirlwind, and made all the more special by the fact that we had our little Italian Greyhound, Bella, with us. We were a little family, exploring what Southeast Asia, South America, France, and Italy had to offer. We soaked in every meal, experience, and encounter.

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She was proud to be with “her people.”
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Making friends while she runs around Circus Maximus.
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She had fun running through little creeks in the Valle de Chiana.
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She’s such a good little traveler! And the trains in Europe are so dog-friendly.
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Tuckered out in Tuscany.
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She may or may not have had a lot of proscuitto.
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Hanging out in Buenos Aires.
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Running through Italian vineyards.
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Learning to appreciate street art in Argentina.

 

Family photo in Genova!

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We could have been working on our careers . . . but in the jobs we currently have, we have actually benefited from our travels. In fact, the majority of my writing jobs stemmed from Sedimentality, which was born while we were on our one-year honeymoon. I could have been in grad school . . . but that could also wait. It did, and in the end, it didn’t make any difference what year was embossed on my diploma.

What did matter was the time we spent together, because–and as cliche as it sounds–we are forever aware of the fleeting nature of life and of the concept of carpe diem. Seize the day . . . we have done so, as irresponsible as it sounded to the “planner” inside me. And we didn’t just benefit from it: we thrived.

If you are thinking of traveling: go. Just go. The dream house can wait. The new car can wait. Life, however, will not.

The dilemma of a travel writer: a random rant on my chosen hobby and on Achebe’s “Africa Is People”

The dilemma of a travel writer: a random rant on my chosen hobby and on Achebe’s “Africa Is People”

I’m a California native living in Barcelona and studying African writers. Weird, I know. On the surface, this sounds like the most massive identity crisis of culture and career . . . but what can I say? I followed the path that seemed right, and […]