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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Immobilized by Choice + ELIOR visits!!!

I bet you’ve been there before- where you feel like, with choices overflowing every mind-tab you have open, you can’t fathom where to begin? Overwhelmed is a pretty accurate adjective. The situation isn’t inherently a bad thing- the feeling is, but the provocateurs aren’t always. Right now, I’m referencing two very important things: what I’m going to do with my summer, and what I’m going to do with my recent cornucopia-like food delivery. If you know me, you realize that these two decisions aren’t so different in weight.

Another reason for feeling paralysed by endless options is that I have a world-class city at my feet and a limited amount of time and moolah left. It’s certainly a great problem to have, but it’s still not without pressure and stress. I do hold myself to oftentimes unreasonably high expectations, but how could one not fear that dreaded moment when they’re 22, 42, or 82 and they felt regret about not spending their twenties/time abroad wisely enough? Honestly, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of squeezing out as much London as I can thus far, and probably will continue to. But a challenge coming up is prioritisation: where to spend the big bucks, what’s worth my time (markets > / = / < studying??), and how much more orange chocolate bars I’ll allow myself to buy because they’re unique to the UK and I need to build a dependence on them so I can go through even harder reverse-culture shock, obvs. (no, not this!!)

So with that, let me share some things I have on my April/May to-do list. These things are part of a 45-tab bookmark folder, fyi. In the tiny chance you live in London and are my friend, gimme a shout if ya wanna join in.

Exciting and overwhelming, in a positive way 🙂


Just took a slide test for my Museums class and finished my European Culture and Society paper, so that means that I am completely done with 2 of my 4 modules! Only 2 exams and one paper to write before I leave at May’s end or June’s beginning.

All in all, these classes were really great. Although the Museums one was 95% Americans, it was a privilege to “study” a different London museum each class- a total of 11. Also just a note that each museum was free. London is crawling with free museums- a gift. The Euro class was also well worth it, even though most students were freshmen. I got a much-needed dose of European history conveyed through major movements, not sticky details of war and piles of Georges and Marys (can’t distinguish them to save my life.) Learned about colonialism, feminism, the Russian Revolution, and many other eras through literature and film, which was really cool. This class was taught by a different professor each week, which also livened it up and only once was it boring! (structuralism, anyone?)


So, ELIOR came and visited!! We’re on Year 9 of friendship. So yeah, she is sort of my #1 and gosh, I could write odes and sonnets (already have, check those birthday cards yo) and endless interpretive dances about how much she means to me, which she knows, and I know, so let’s stop there and look at nutty pictures of us at a Tove Lo concert instead. LOVE YOU ELIOR!

Tove really did an awesome job, and her opening act, Urban Cone, offered some of those deeply satisfying beats and electronic soundscapes you can feel with your whole body.

Friendship year 3: Homecoming 2008 waddup!

We also walked around Notting Hill and Portobello Road, then ventured to Buckingham Palace for some classic awkward Eliophie pics so here’s a bunch of those too!

I might be attending a Pignic

Yes, you read that correctly. PIG-NIC! Let’s hope my odds of being picked aren’t slop or else I’ll try to make myself feel better by bacon all day and hogging the cookies.

And now for an extremely random picture that was inspired by my search for pig pictures and the realization that I’d recently snapped a sort of applicable photo to go along with an especially divine porker:

headwearqueens

don’t ask. just glam.

Shoutout to Cristina for all the pig mentions. Miss you, girl.


In other news…

So much has happened over the past week! Another reason why I really love living in London. I’m thinking that, until I get older and tired (perhaps 30), a city might be the best place for me to live. I’ve awakened a greedy, culture-hungry piece of myself that is generously assuaged by London’s never-ending stream of activities and goings-on. Like…

-The Columbia Road Flower Market! Located in the ever-hipster area of Shoreditch, this flower market was bursting with flowers, fun ditty shops, and people who near gridlocked the passageways. I wasn’t able to traverse the market through the middle path because I get too impatient with slow walkers I can’t circumnavigate, so my pictures aren’t full of florals but they’ll do.

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so spunky. can’t call them ugly because they’re just too proud of their over-denimnity (say that 5 times fast)

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Yellow!

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some fun singers at the market

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good one!

And speaking of Shoreditch, I was able to finally make a visit to the CAT CAFE!!!
(intentionally filling the next 5 scroll-down-blog-seconds filled with cats so y’all can freak out and know that this is a safe space. K GO!)

Lscry9s

Ok, now for the cat cafe pics!

I went with my friend Rebecca and we had a good time. I was sad to see most of the cats sleeping or laying around, seemingly empty of energy. When we left, a waitress took a laser pointer and that cat went to town. However, overall it was an experience shaped by the calmness of the music and animals, the obvious glee of all the cat-lovers present, and the hilarity of how worked-up everyone got as soon as a feline so much as moved their paw. It was absolutely a cat-lover’s sanctuary. (I’m not much of a cat lover but I can appreciate them as much as the next person with a soul and like for pretty furry things.)

and two of my favorites…

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Bubble wrap cat!!!

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the cat waited expectantly at the door, which read “Staff Only”. Once a waitress opened the door, the cat scurried in, proudly asserting its position as “staff”.


Finally, yesterday I went with my Museums of London class to the Tate Modern. My group analyzed an exhibit about dreams and poetry, which focused on surrealism as a jumping-off point. Super interesting. Before that, a trip to Borough Market, an indoor food playground (not actually. I wish), brought me to some delicious Dutch redcurrants for snacking and cheese for an upcoming frittata. A giggle-inducing picture ends the post, and a snap of the Globe theater for my Auntie J precedes it! Next post will feature my trip to Oxford (BEAUTIFUL) and other surprises!

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The Globe Theatre

love it.

love it.

Prague & Amsterdam: Part Three (last one!)

I’m going on a one-day trip to Venice Wednesday and wanna write a post about my mom’s lovely visit here this past weekend so I’m aiming to write about Amsterdam today, my mom tomorrow, and Venice after I get back after Thursday. Marathon blogging starts NOW!

So, Amsterdam. You are a cool city, for sure. Your government and social structure is very enviable, your insanely coordinated multitasking bikers impressive, and your canals a pretty sight. But compared to Prague, I’m sorry to inform you that according to a recent trio of travellers, you didn’t measure up. Why? Well, for one, your weather was dastardly and it felt like you wanted us out. Yes, you provided us with a one-of-a-kind tour guide replete with history and free cheese, but a surprising number of your residents made us feel unwelcome thanks to various rude and obnoxious interactions. It’s funny you say that you love us, because we didn’t really feel is too much. Maybe the winter wasn’t the right time to visit. I’d love to return to see your tulips blooming all over your country another time. Maybe then I’ll change my decision on you, but until then, Prague was much better.

Eh don't be so aloof then, Amsterdam!

Then don’t be so aloof, Amsterdam!

The night we arrived, we diligently (and arguably maddeningly) made a two day itinerary that covered tons of attractions: Museumplein (Van Gogh and Stedelijk (modern art) museums), the Albert Cuypmarket, Anne Frank House, flower market, sexmuseum (this is Amsterdam, home of the–>), Red Light District, Jordaan neighborhood, canal ride, walking tour… so much!!

The food: Pretty good. From what I saw, Amsterdam didn’t push as much of a uniquely regional cuisine than did Prague. I tried stroopwafel, a chocolate/caramel/cookie sort of concoction that was yummy and almost overdosed on gouda cheese. Expecting three euro to fetch me a sliver similar to that from London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy stilton I’d enjoyed previously, I was shocked when I was handed enough cheese to last a baguette-and-cheese tourist half a week!

If you’ve ever even heard of my existence, you probably know of my intense appreciation for food (consisting of both flavor and the biological side), so here is a market slideshow!

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As I said above, the weather wasn’t very nice. Worse than London, even. But the architecture aided our eyes, especially the curious sights of leaning buildings and tiny houses!

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MINISCULE house! Back in the day, owners were taxed according to how many windows they possessed, so this house is a cheeky response to the taxman.

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EVERYBODY BIKES! If I return, I’d like to take a cycling tour of the city.

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Such a hopeless houseboat romantic. Wouldn’t that be a good prompt for a movie?

DSC01450Our hostel was positively adequate. We were given beds, heat, safety, and a one-minute walk to Dam Square, the historic and current center of Amsterdam. There was one bathroom for eight people and no common room. I, the hotel booker, didn’t actually realize this until a week before we left but it was also situated in the Red Light District! Ha ha! Turns out this area is one of the safest places in the city because it’s so heavily policed. We strolled around one night, taking in the sight of women selling themselves in the windows. In the canal swum waterfowl that, as my friends said, must’ve wondered why our species was so obsessed with sex while they handled it without much fuss.

Can’t finish this post without a shoutout to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (a major part of this movie relates to Amsterdam)

(only click this link if you know the end because it’s is a SPOILER joke)

and now I can’t end without showing you all more from a great well of laughter: Remix and autotune videos!!! AAA SO GOOD k done. (jk never done with these)

The Anne Frank House was phenomenal.  This was the actual house where the family hid for two years, outfitted as a living museum. Absolutely incredible.

Here are some last photos:

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I met Darwin’s pet octopus

Yesterday, my Geographies of Nature class went on a field trip to the Natural History museum. I cannot say enough about the experience- I was overwhelmed with adoration and sheer joviality for everything natural history. I wore my Darwin earrings. I geeked out at EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. I sort of had the time of my life.

This is a good time to note that this post will contain some pictures of animals in jars and giant squids and all that good stuff. I’m sure if it’s too weird you can just look away and forget about it after a few seconds but, like my peer said after looking at a preserved animal in a jar, you may have thoughts similar to “Thank god I’m vegan” or “I’m now officially vegan”.

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Highlights:

-Meeting some of Darwin’s pets and original type specimens. These are the animals that are sometimes the first of a species that are found, or are the prototypical specimens against which organisms that are proposed species members are compared for identification. Could be wrong about some of that but I think that’s the gist of it.

-Surviving a close encounter with a GIANT SQUID

Length: about 17 feet long. Keep in mind that this was only a teenager giant squid!

Their eyes are as large as dinner plates and their brains are doughnut shaped. So when they eat, it first TRAVELS THROUGH THEIR BRAIN before getting to their stomach!! #Thisiswhy I love science.

Here’s a striking illustration that really shows off that eye:

-Meeting a new friend, Mo, who was a very fun museum companion for the day. I could tell we’d be friends after, looking at a crack on a big glass case containing a giant moa, he asked, “Do you think it tried to escape?”

the comedian himself

the comedian himself

Darwin fangirl pics:

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And just because you’ve made it this far, have a look at this. Just for laughs.


I also found a wonderland of maps and globes: Stanfords. My jaw dropped when I stepped in. It felt like a sanctuary. I suppose that my inability to buy everything I liked added to this magical effect because I appreciated just looking at it all and not feeling an urge to own it. Just being inside this sort of cartographic museum made me glow with happiness.

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I added a pigeon on the steps of the British Museum for fun. Went there with a class and it was cool. Didn’t see much because I focused on one room for a synopsis of curatorial techniques and the like. Saw the controversial Elgin/Parthenon Marbles.


Talking with my flatmate Joey last night, he saw my slim slice of Neal’s Yard Dairy stilton cheese on the counter and we got talking about (how we can never stop talking/thinking about) food. He told me his story of how after high school, he didn’t know what he wanted to do so he came to London and worked at the deli area of Selfridges. He was quickly promoted to work at the luxury foods counter (!) He said that for most of the day he’d be standing around but one customer might come and spend an hour with him, necessitating a near-encyclopedic knowledge of caviar, alcohol, and cheese. Then they’d drop a few thousand pounds on something they’d consume in a tenth of that time. What a story.


That’s a lot for now. Am going back to the Natural History Museum next week for my museums class and then again for my mammals and evolution class later this term! SCORE!

Also, when I was looking for pictures of the NHM, I stumbled upon the image below and then the link to Zarek’s dad’s webpage. Hi Zarek!

darwinning. Not for darwimps!