Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 3

A little note on hostel breakfasts: Yes, it’s nice when your hostel claims they can offer you free breakfast each morning, but know that because it’s included, it will probably consist of white bread and a pitiful selection of spreads. After reading my journal entry about that heavenly Irish Breakfast, I’d like to share how both of my Dublin and Barcelona hostel breakfasts compared to that one-of-a-kind feast.

My white bread pb&j had about 0.5% the soul of my last meal.

You’ve been warned.


Somewhere along the way between turning down a trip to the “must do” Guinness factory and excusing myself from a pricey ticket inside the “unmissable” Casa Mila, I realized that I have to travel for myself. Of course I’ll have to weather the disappointing looks when I tell people I didn’t do X and went shopping instead, but that’s how it goes. For some reason in Barcelona I got caught up in seeing all the academicky, artsy stuff and prioritizing that above pleasurable things like wandering around the El Born neighborhood. When it clicked that, to me, those activities held equal importance and that that was okay, I felt free. Like everyone says, you can’t travel somewhere with limited time and financial budget and do it all. You must believe you’ll be back or else you’ll go crazy. So that’s what I’m doing.

cliche travel photo shot

cliche travel photo shot. Choosing to explore the plentiful art, clothing, camera, and altogether fascinating shops in El Born instead of seeking out more Gaudi out of feelings of obligation

So, if we’re still talking about negative psychology of travel, I’ll mention that for the better half of my first day in Barcelona, I wasn’t completely happy because of all the pressure I felt to ENJOY. SO many people had told me I’d adore it, and while that’s a good thing, it’s also proof that the city is wonderful and if I don’t find that magic then I didn’t do it right and wasted all that money. Yeah, my head isn’t always the most cheerful place to be. But rest assured, I most certainly did find its magic. I think it first hit me at the Casa Ballto. Gaudi’s genius left me simply flabbergasted.

Hold your horses! We’ll get there in a moment.

I started off with a disappointing walking tour that I left in the middle of, preferring to seek out a cafe other than the affiliated one the company herds everyone into. Summoned some Spanish from the depths, which I thought it’d fallen into eternally, and ordered a sauteed zucchini tapa and fresca sandwich with tomato, brie, and avocado. Now, that type of sandwich doesn’t merit much interest off the bat. But what made it so special is that upon my first bite I thought of citrus and intensely fruity flavors: the tomato had obviously been grown in a more natural place and WOW were the results noticeable! Yes, the tomato actually tasted like a fruit!

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Went for a stroll along the Ramblas, a pretty paved walkway mostly for tourists and pickpockets. I guarded my purse like a mother hen. After going the exact wrong direction, I turned around and found my foodie destination: La Boqueria! A big organized market where the front shops cater to tourists and the back ones have chicken feet and pig snouts on display. You know where I made a beeline. (Also FYI the juices in the back were 1/3 the price of the front ones)

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Stopped by the whitewashed and striking contemporary art museum of Barcelona, MACBA. It was closed but still very lively with a gaggle of skaters taking advantage of the geometrical platforms around it.

DSCN1187Strolled down the street and found an art exhibit at the university. Wasn’t too into it but turned it into a fantastic nap-and-rally site! There were various installations all honoring/connected to a German writer named Sebald and one was a long movie with large portions of soothing classical music flowing through it. So, I plopped down in the movie theatre-like seat and enjoyed a very needed siesta.

Next stop: Casa Ballto. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING.

caught between wonder, happiness, and shock

Amazing.

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After gazing at the Casa Mila, I found a fun tapas place for dinner. Partook in some braised artichoke hearts, steak tartare, and calamari with a glass of Catalan cava. Called it a night and went home to prepare for my next huge day.

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

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enamored with tapas


Leave for home tomorrow! So I’ll probably post my last trip post in a couple days. So long, London!

What, you thought I was travelling by airplane? Of course not! TARDIS is the only way to go!

What, you thought I was travelling by airplane? Of course not! TARDIS is the only way to go!

Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 2

There’s no way I would say this unless I truly felt it: upon sighting four redheads simply on my way from departing the plane to passport control in the Dublin airport, I felt like I belonged in Ireland. No, I’m not Irish, even as the hair would suggest.

It didn’t hurt that the national color scheme is that which best matches my skin tone, too.

One of the coolest parts of being in Dublin was that I was present on the day that the groundbreaking same-sex marriage referendum passed. I heard the cheers and dove into the rampant rejoicing that was apparent among the people and many Dublin shops, who hosted creative decorations in their windows.

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After arriving around 4, I explored St Stephen’s Green, a centrally located park, and was surprised to find a garden tailored especially for the blind. There were plaques with braille and the plants were exceptionally textured, like bunnies’ ears. So cool and inclusive.

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Explored Trinity College, snacked on some mighty fine ice cream, and mostly walked around all evening. I’ve never seen so much drinking on the streets and general bacchanalia in my life. Combine the Irish affinity for drink and a huge political victory for a subjugated group and it’s hard to imagine any other celebration tactic, I suppose.

The next day at breakfast, I met a girl from Arizona named Cynthia who had been travelling around Europe for a couple months after attaining her GED. When she told me about her time in Cardiff, I seized the opportunity to bring up Doctor Who (many scenes were filmed there plus there’s a grand tour) and she delightedly pointed out that her shirt was all about! (Didn’t notice.) So after that great start, she decided to accompany me on a short stroll around Temple Bar before our walking tour. She escorted me to a rad alleyway with tons of art commemorating famous Irish stars and culture.

She was a superb friend for the day. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had such a wonderful yet extremely short-term friend before. Owing to the circumstances of “I’ll probably never see you again” and “I have no reason to be reserved”, we opened up to each other quite a bit, without much hesitation about divulging tender details about life. I can’t speak for her, but I didn’t feel any pressure to add the usual conversation helpers and other niceties that function to ensure a smooth, long-term friendship. I was completely myself and honest and it was amazing. She’s really different from me as well, saying that she didn’t have any friends and didn’t consider herself as “nice”. However, that’s not to say she didn’t have positive personality traits: we got along very easily, exchanged mutual respect, and simply had fun with one another. Travel is so great for super short-term bursts of honesty and fun.

Our walking tour was informative and hilarious. Then we dove into lunch at O’Neil’s Pub and chatted with a restaurant manager from Barcelona, a bubbly Russian named Xenia, and a chipper Niagara Falls-native. Beef and Guinness pie = YUM! Cynthia did that thing where she noticed I was zoning out (mental siesta after eating plus the conversation was waning) so she swooped in and facilitated the move to continue our day. A small gesture but to me it was a sign that she didn’t feel the need to be overly nice and accommodating to others, which I appreciated, and I felt a little taken care of. Maybe it’s hard to understand this via blog.

Lemme say this loud and clear: I LOVE IRISH STYLE.

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Super edited because this shows the lines of the dress more. Not a big fan of the necklace, although it is without a doubt fantastic, but the denim dress was just the coolest ever.

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Found a store with Irish designer clothes and vintage finds. Heaven!

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The vintage part of the shop!

Ended up with a new sweater! Next day I wore it and realized it had dried snot on the arm. Fantastic.

Short ode to the Irish breakfast: Oi. That’s all I can say. Imagine me gazing wistfully into space with the sweet thought of lovable toast greeting the luscious sausage in an embrace, the grilled tomato smiling approvingly and reaching out for its eggy neighbor. Irish Breakfast tea supervises dutifully and excels in creating a cohesively flavor-melding symphony.

breakfast for dinner is never a bad idea.

breakfast for dinner is never a bad idea.

Heard some soul-quenching folk music before joining a Literary Pub Crawl. The organizers reenacted various pieces of Irish literature at each stop, impersonating characters like Oscar Wilde and the players of Waiting for Godot. We were the youngest on this pub crawl and so were talked to by many older patrons like parents and young professionals. Everyone thought Cynthia and I were longtime friends! Altogether it was very fun, would definitely recommend. This is where I tried a half pint of Guinness and unfortunately loathed it. Also unfortunate was my pre-purchased ticket to the Guinness factory, which I didn’t feel like going to anymore. So, if you’ll be in Dublin anytime within the next year and want a free ticket, let me know!! It’s a student pass though.

I had until noon the next day to explore until I left to go to the airport. So I walked around from about 8-9:30 and popped into the Little Museum of Dublin. Was very sad to leave Dublin and plan on making a journey back to tour Ireland. I don’t know if I’ve connected with a destination as much as I did on the emerald isle. Everyone extended amazing warmth and friendliness. Makes me seriously wonder if I’m part Irish (any input, my so-called “family”???) 😉

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Love you, Dublin!

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Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 1

Remember that post where I fangirled about how you’re literally what you eat and if you eat an octopus, that renders you part Octopodiforme? Well, after marvelling through Dublin and dancing through Barcelona, I’ve come to report my current physiological makeup:

-Smidge of Guinness (NOT A FAN. Sorry world.)

-Pinch of Irish Breakfast (Final step of falling in love with Dublin.)

-Pint of bottled water (Barcelona’s water isn’t very good so everyone shuns the tap)

-Four cubic centimeters of pretty subpar churros and chocolate but it’s okay because that was enough to shower me with praise for greasy sweet chocolatey confections and when I meet them again someday, it’ll just be that much better.

-Scoop of tapas: Fried calamari ( ❤ and yes, that makes me part mollusk), steak tartare, tenderly braised artichoke, Iberian jamon…) As Molly from Spilled Milk might say, I believe tapas are akin in theory to “perfectly engineered food products” because they deliver optimal gustatory adventure, entertainment for your tastebuds, and variety. Everywhere else it seems we get one main plate of homogenous food with comparatively fewer flavors to transform a porcelain disc with edible stuff on it into a joyful experience. Tapas are about joy! and appreciating life! But more on that in my Barcelona post.)

If for some reason you can’t adequately create a mental image of my current appearance from that description, I suppose I’ll throw in some actual photos for you. I guess.

Speaking of, embarrassingly enough, a high proportion (in my standards) of my pictures are selfies. Because I didn’t have a travel companion to bug for snaps, I used a trick from Erica that lets you capture your background and your face in one convenient shot. Beware: This caused a few usually concealed second and third chins to come out and play. Perversely interested? Stay tuned.

Add the Barcelona Cathedral in the background and that’s pretty accurate.

All in all, I loved travelling alone. Often I’d happily lose myself in thought and introspection, which you all know is my cherished hobby. My days were incredibly spontaneous, loosely-structured, and without constant conversation that often demands a good load of energy from my introverted self (although have no doubt that I love spending time with friends!) One day I spent a good 20 minutes searching for a genuine tapas restaurant, whereas I’d probably have given in much sooner to mollify my companions’ empty stomachs and exhausted psyches. (How cool would it to be named Psyche?) Asking for a table for one was never uncomfortable, as I used the opportunity to thoroughly soak up my surroundings and have a think about my day, often journaling concurrently.Throughout the whole trip I was very happy and as I believe happy girls are the prettiest, I encountered some unexpected kindness that I attribute to my elevated attitude. Those stories will come.

And here’s a few preliminary photos to start off this whirlwind adventure!

First pic: Dublin hostel selfie

First pic: Dublin hostel selfie

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River Liffey

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2nd-to-last house is floral!

Headphones in/podcast on/life is good

Headphones in/podcast on/life is good

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Gaelic looks like a fairy tale tongue

Irish humor?

Irish humor?

Historic Irish Marriage Referendum Passed!

Historic Irish Marriage Referendum Passed!

un gato with no name but a passion for fashion

un gato with no name but a passion for fashion

BARCELONA you stunning city, you.

BARCELONA you stunning city, you.

So I roasted a pigeon

Yup.

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Just to be clear- I bought it! Didn’t swipe it off a fountain or anything, don’t worry.

It was not a winner. The recipe I followed undercooked the few meaty parts of it while leaving it with an overcooked-feeling texture. Poor bird: few appreciate it alive, and fewer on a dinner plate.


Just in time for my concluding trip to Ireland and Spain, I wrote an article for an online women’s magazine called She’s Poised about how to balance staying present while documenting a moment. This is a problem that my friends and I are often confronted with when travelling- how many pictures should I take, and how much time should I reserve for purely being in the moment?

What makes this website exceptional is the refreshing way its contributors deliver sophisticated yet relatable information about various topics from dressing for work to finding New York’s best egg cream to celebrating historically monumental women like my homegirl J Child (the video in this post is actually hilarious.) The icing on the cake is the warmth exuded by the articles’ titles: “How We ___” feels like a mother or aunt teaching you as compared to the condescending tone of “How to ___” that’s common elsewhere.

Here’s the link!

Thanks again to Lauren for reaching out and taking me through the process of brainstorming, editing, and finally publishing the post! While it’s pretty common these days for bloggers to make guest appearances on other blogs, it was a personal first and I feel honored.

The website is written by women, for women, which mirrors my beloved RookieMag’s by girls, for girls philosophy. I’d like to think that She’s Poised, BUST magazine, and some other materials will be my media-related stepping stones as I gradually age out of adolescence and wistfully leave behind websites and reading material that thrilled my teenage self a few years ago. I will always love and cheer for Tavi, but RookieMag is pretty much in my past now. Yes, it is sad. And just one of the things that has changed about me since I first embarrassed myself in that British Sainsbury’s and started growing into a different version of myself.

(But seriously, read Tavi’s Editor’s Letter about Forever. While she wrote it while on the cusp of adulthood, another transitional rite of passage, she says much about what I (wish I) could (so eloquently) write about this period of my life coming to an end, appreciating it, mourning it, archiving it, etc.)

Photocapture from Tavi’s genius post “How to Bitchface: Channel your inner Martha Stewart with this crafty DIY.”

My Vassar flatmate left yesterday 😦 Eleven days left…

Fifteen Days Left to Pretend I’m European

just for kicks

Nothing groundbreaking has been happening around here lately. However, if you enjoy “right place at the right time” stories, astonishingly talented dancers, and cheeky octopi, stay tuned.

On a recent trip to the Somerset House, a space that has various art exhibits, King’s College facilities, offices, and a lively fountain in the center, I meandered into an exhibit about war. While it wasn’t very moving in my experience, I did wander in just in time to sight the artist! She was ushering around two important-looking men. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with the pieces enough to ask her questions, but it was still a cool happening nonetheless! Maggi Hambling‘s work has been featured at some pretty you-know-you’ve-made-it places like the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, and the British Museum!

Next up is a visit to the theatre to see Billy Elliot. I went in with few expectations (little prior knowledge) and was absolutely WOWed. Jaw dropped like a piano on a splintering rope. The boy who portrayed Billy was phenomenal. The musical itself was a joy to watch, even with our necks craning from the cheap seats. We laughed, cried, and couldn’t get enough of the encore (anyone know what I mean?)

On the way there, Erica and I stumbled into a garden near Embankment and found a giant chess set!

DSCN1017 DSCN1018-001Today I took my third trip to the Borough Market in search of some slightly pricier, luxurious groceries to sustain me for my last full week in London. Splurged on some cacao nibs for this recipe and za’atar to liven up hummus and other dishes. To everyone else, a hut full of stacked spices might seem uninteresting, but it thrills me. It’s like a library of often underappreciated special touches that exist in a panoply of colors, smells, and shapes. The origins of each add a narrative aspect, and there are limitless experiments one can undertake in order to understand even one spice!

it's like a cavern of dry potions!

it’s like a cavern of dry potions!

I think I’m so drawn to markets because they seamlessly fuse biology and food, two of my favorite things. They’re an informal type of museum. Case in point: This phenome-mollusk.

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I spy a very photo-ready fish on the left.

Stay with me while I quickly freak out over the magic of octopi. Not only do they torpedo around in the water with eight arms and a pocket full of INK ready to blind predators, but we can eat them. We can actually incorporate them into US! How can you not go bananas when you realize that by heeding the phrase “you are what you eat”, by eating an octopus, you inherit some of its glory? I digress. Nay, as one very funny blogger said the other day, I digest.

Let’s have a jiffy of Octopus Appreciation.

 

 

 

a blanket octopus!

That’s about it for now. More studying (for this test, I’m doing a ton of intense thinking about the Anthropocene and naturecultures and multispecies ethnographies.. I go through cycles of soul-drenching inspiration and stupefying intimidation) and preparing for my trip to Ireland and Spain next Saturday (!) and seeing my aunt and uncle next week and getting excited to go home!

Spending time instead of money

When I arrived at my flat on that memorable January morning, I was taken aback by the fridge/freezer setup. In the kitchen stood a lumbering freezer and stowed safely away in each of our rooms squatted petite, cubic mini fridges. In retrospect, the amount of freezer:fridge room wasn’t that different than at home, but the location and size did make an impact. I wondered how I would shelter the cornucopia of veggies I bought each week in the small space. How would I optimize the comparatively vast freezer space?

For better or worse, I’ve adapted to a lifestyle with few shelf-stable products and mostly perishables. It makes me feel good but gosh does it take extra time. I’m happy to spend time instead of calories, but luckily cooking is a release for me, or else it’d feel like a chore.

So, a major difference in London living is that people here don’t usually go food shopping on one day. They go a couple days a week, just purchasing the items they need to get by for a few meals. This happens because (1) many don’t have cars to fill with grocery bags and (2) veggies perish rather quickly so it’s best to buy what you can use soon (maybe more reasons too.) At first I did the US thing of spending a pretty penny on one day and waiting a week for more food, but gradually eased into the other method. It’s nicer.

If you’d like to read more about this stark difference between the US and Europe, here’s a brief article from the LA Times. It’s amazing because it’s such a logical idea yet so many of us Americans don’t really realize it.

Ok, now for how to spend about $20/week on food that’s not pasta or lentils! This is one of my best tips for studying abroad or just anywhere you have access to this secret.

Ready?

Here it goes!

Highly discounted trials from grocery delivery companies.

I’ve signed up for three different programs from companies who offer steep discounts for first-time customers. And each delivered to my door! The trick is to make a note of when to cancel so as not to be charged an extra week or whatever when all you want is that first, extremely satisfyingly cheap offer week. And when you’re finished, go back and edit your phone number out of your account so customer service won’t call you 3x/day (looking at you, Abel & Cole.) A brief explanation of each:

1. Abel & Cole

This was an awesome deal, but not for the faint of cooking heart. It was a steep learning curve but I grew so much from it. Basically, I was part of a slightly corporate CSA for a month and received a whopping box of veggies that lasted me seven days. It cost about $12/week and let me start my London experience very healthily. However, being showered with so many perishables was a challenge- I usually cooked it all up in 1,2, or 3 days into different meals and froze most of it, reheating after long days of work. Sometimes it was a struggle to prevent things from rotting. And cooking all this up on one day for 4 hours might not be ideal for everyone. But you can space it out. And if you know anyone who belongs to a CSA, they’ll light up when telling you all the benefits of fresh, organic veggies that support local farmers. When I have a real place to live, a CSA is on my list.

2. Bonativo

I found this deal on LivingSocial. Bonativo is a high-end food delivery service and I picked exactly which items I wanted. I paid something like 18 pounds for 45 pounds’ worth of products (in dollars, about $30 for $78). It felt like a little pampering because I bought some fancy almonds, Cumberland sausages, a veg box, and oh-so-luxe salmon (among other things)! Def recommend this company, even for just one delivery. Oh, that’s the catch- you have to spend a certain amount to get free delivery (vs 7 pounds or something.) But overall, a good good deal.

3. HelloFresh

This company’s clientele includes people who are busy, lacking in cooking skills or confidence, or just want a few recipes’ ingredients directly delivered to them. It was my least favorite of the 3 programs because the dishes weren’t as packed with taste and nutrition as I like. While I followed the first recipe to a T, by the third I just used the ingredients for a different (made up on the spot) recipe altogether. However, for someone wishing to learn more about cooking, this structured service is helpful. And since you’re theoretically using 100% of your products, there’s minimal waste. Each recipe supposedly takes around 30 minutes (a bit of an underestimate, I found.) This cost for six meals was 15 pounds versus the typical 39 pounds ($23 vs $59).

And lastly, my true-blue (inexpensive) pantry staples: BEANZ and homemade bread!

Again, these are definitely a time investment but if you are waiting for your laundry or just doing work in the kitchen, boiling beans for 90 minutes or waiting for your bread to rise and bake aren’t so laborious. Beans are super nutritious (although don’t eat a whole can of them in one day, like I once did…) And with the bread, I made sure it was packed with flax, bee pollen, whole wheat flour, seeds, or something else to help counterbalance the cons of the carbs.

I’m sure you can tell I could talk about food all day but actually I’m off to make some bread! One last word of advice- check out those coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, as well as the impressive Amazon Local. All of these sites contain some money-saving gems for services or products that are all over the map.

Happy bargaining!

BREAKING NEWS: TEA EDITION

This night marks the first time I’ve ever made myself a real cup of tea with a real tea infuser and loose tea leaves!

IT WAS AMAZING.

TEA BAGS, PACK YOUR BAGS.

And now, let’s celebrate this MOMENTOUS moment with a photo montage! (Only half-joking though…)

HOLD UP, TEA. WHAT’S GOING ON

 

Flatmates Katie and Nicole sponsor this picture.

I’M HOME

spot-on

And finally, the crew who witnessed it all:

❤ Nicole and Katie