funny shit frrrr….sunday.

I really really really wanted to say Friday again.. but it would have been a boldfaced lie. I think at this point there is nowhere in the world where it is actually Friday right now. And if there’s one thing I refuse to be.. its a liar. Anyways, enough about me. Scroll down. Laugh. Leave me a comment about how funny I am (or not). Happy Sunday!

IMG_5824This gem was found on the door of the women’s bathroom at the second hostel I stayed at in Lisbon, Portugal. It wasn’t until the second morning of my stay when my grumpy morning squinty eye face finally realized what was welcoming me to my first pee of the day.. In case I wasn’t sure what lady bits I needed in order to use the facilities, here was a lovely illustration to clear things up.

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I DONT GET IT. That is a lot of misdirected anger. I can’t imagine a situation in which unicorns would do something to deserve such a public call out.  Or maybe Unicorns is a person? Unicorns the person needs to stop giving unicorns the mythical beast such a bad name.

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Seems like a waste of the rest of the week, but I guess if you are going to announce it like this your Sundays are probably pretty busy. Is this like a ‘filling up the gas tank’ for the week to come, so to speak? (OMG SO MANY PUNS NOT INTENDED)

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I know there has been some dispute over Obama’s heritage, but I was not aware that he was also a supporter of British colonization in Africa, not to mention a restaurateur. WHAT ELSE ARE YOU HIDING FROM US OBAMA, IF THAT IS EVEN YOUR REAL NAME?
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If anyone knows a young strapping doctor named Robert Tessler, will you please let him know that his doppelgänger has a budding music career as well as a vested interest in dressing like Luke Wilson from “The Royal Tenenbaums”?

Many of you may know I have a strong affinity for all that is humorous in life, and I hope to keep these posts coming more (rather than less) regularly. As a totally unqualified medical professional, my prescription for your life is a dose of hilarity as often as possible. If you come across any photos you would like me to try and caption, send them my way! Tag me on Instagram @gbennett or email to bitesizepiece@gmail.com 

Get yo’ party on: Fiestas de La Mercè 2014

Just when I thought I had street festivals on lock, I ended up in Spain.

Partying here means so much more than just pre gaming shitty vodka and Sour Skittles with your friends and then stumbling out into the twilight wearing nothing but a miniskirt and a crop top in mid winter. (oh hey college!). Have you heard the word ‘fiesta’ before? Well, let me just tell you this isn’t a block party with some corn on the cob and a clown making balloon animals. It means the streets, parks and plazas are full of people and events for days and nights on end, food vendors scattered all throughout the city’s biggest park, and arts and crafts markets around every corner.  And most importantly, it means you might even get a mid-week day off work. Lets chat about the most recent Barcelona fiesta- Fiestas de la Mercè. La Mercè, as us ‘locals’ call it, is a celebration of the patron saint of Barcelona. For the record, there are two patron saints, and if you ever come visit me I’ll show you the other one and tell you the history behind why the other one doesn’t get a week long party to call her own(look Dad, I know things!)

just a stage with a cathedral backdrop, NBD

just a stage with a cathedral backdrop, NBD

And this fiesta is a big damn deal. The PDF program for festival events (spanning from September 19-24) took me literally 45 minutes to skim through on my computer. If I had read the whole thing in depth I might never have actually made it to any of the events. Basically, there were events ranging from food truck gatherings to beat box performances to fireworks in the middle of a crowded square (which actually seemed like a major fire hazard, but who am I to discuss safety regulations).

HOW IS THIS LEGAL

HOW IS THIS LEGAL

From Friday to the following Thursday, the city was alight with free concerts, exhibitions, food and wine tastings and performances. If I’ve only learned one thing since moving to Spain, its that it is very much a nighttime culture- good luck trying to find coffee at 7 am (my favorite coffee shop doesn’t even open until noon), and you might not sit down to dinner until 11 pm. La Mercè was, of course, no exception. On a Saturday night, for example, there were events scheduled to begin at 3 am… which makes it slightly more confusing why there was a fireworks display at 7 pm (still light out).. but who am I to question a fiesta schedule.

lights in Parc de la Ciutadella

lights in Parc de la Ciutadella

Parc de la Ciutadella, Gaudi-esque decor

Parc de la Ciutadella, Gaudi-esque decor

And this is no weak-ass, local singer-songwriter, unknown dude-on-a-soapbox schedule. La Mercè included performances by both local and international bands and artists- On Tuesday, a Seinabo Sey (Swedish singer) show was followed by NONONO (playing at 1 am on a Tuesday, mind you) and the Saturday night of La Mercè boasted a concert by the Klaxons (UK) and Mishima. On Sunday evening, I watched a performance by the Spanish national beatbox champion. Friday night, we stumbled upon a hip hop/soul/jazz show headlined by Baloji (Belgium) in the middle of one of the city’s central plazas.. all FOR FREE.

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some sort of choral flamenco jazz? not sure.

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Seinabo Sey

Just in case you were too tired to handle 5 days of non-stop fiesta, chances are you also got a lovely mid-week break from work! The Wednesday of La Mercè was actually a municipal holiday- which means grocery stores, banks, schools and offices all got a whole day to recover from the festivities of the previous week.

I have to say- I was a little unprepared for the energy it took to consume that much entertainment in that little time. Coupled with leading tours through the packed city center, the events of La Mercè were a lot to handle! That said, come next year, I’ll be ready and armed with a crate of Red Bull, folding chair, earplugs, some snacks and a clear schedule.

 

More life advice from someone completely unqualified to give it

YOU GUYS. Sometimes I just sit at my computer and stare at a blank WordPress draft for a while and have no clue what to write about. So usually then I just go look for recipes I’ll probably never make or pictures of puppies (awwwwww).

I’ve realized over the last year or so that writing for me is like working out- sometimes it seems like it would just be so much easier to just not do it, but when I actually get my lazy ass in gear I feel fucking amazing. Running, for example, is not actually one of my favorite things to do. I’m not one of those people thats like “I just can’t wait until my next run!” Honestly, sometimes I feel like a baby rhino trying to keep up with the pack while trying not to clench my jaw, swallow bugs or trip over my own feet. I keep doing it though, because I know afterwards I’m going to feel great physically and mentally (unless I do actually trip and eat it) and every so often I have those days where I just settle into a running groove and want to keep going. I explained that to someone recently, and all I got back was: “If you don’t like running, why don’t you just not do it anymore?” I think he missed the point.

It got me thinking though- why do I so strongly believe it is beneficial for us to do things we find uncomfortable? Do I have some sort of self destructive streak that I camouflage by pretending its just existential badassery? The fact of the matter is I really believe that in order to grow, to move forward in life, we need to force ourselves out of our comfort zones. (yes I know I’m like a goddam broken record with the comfort zone stuff… can you just believe me already?)

So, again.. how do we make that happen?

1. Know your weak points and learn to be OK with showing them:  it can often be stressful for me to reach out to people in my life to let them know I need something from them. It is actually out of my comfort zone to call a friend and tell them I would like to see them- I have a terrible habit of assuming that people will call/text me when they want to see me, and that if they don’t, they must not want to. I also am a procrastinator. A really bad one.. like, I meant to write this post 2 weeks ago.

2.  Find pride in proving yourself wrongsometimes there will just be a bunch of weirdos at that Meetup event.. and sometimes there are a bunch of awesome, likeminded people that you can’t wait to hang out with again! But you’ll never be able to prove to yourself that they’re out there unless you actually attend the event!

3. Remember that the thing you’re scared of is probably less scary than the actual fear: It took me almost a month to finally get up the guts to go take a Crossfit class in Barcelona. I’ve taken Crossfit before, and like to think I’m in pretty good shape, but was worried I might not be able to keep up with the class in Spanish, or that I’d forgotten the lifts. Once I got there, I remembered exactly why I used to love it so much. The fear of not being good at it anymore was a bunch of bullshit.. although I’ll be lucky if I can walk tomorrow.

4. Even if you think you might not like someone, try it anyways, just once: In college, I dated this guy that used to bribe me to try foods I thought I didn’t like. For example, he would take me to sushi if I tried mustard. In the end, I tried a lot of new things and I ate a lot of sushi. WIN.

5. Give people a chance: I get it, everyone is ‘busy.’ While you may think you’re too occupied with other things to take a few minutes to chat with someone, do it anyways. The other day, a 19 year old Greek kid who just moved to Spain made my day, even though at first I was inclined to ignore him  and what seemed like a bunch of annoying questions in favor of my computer. I didn’t, and I ended up walking away from the interaction feeling great- I helped put a huge smile on his face,he gave me some lovely compliments that I never expected, and I learned a little about Greek culture.

Sometimes I don’t always take my own advice, and in reading what I just wrote here I am realizing that there are a few actions I can take in order to improve my overall experience. Moving somewhere new is hard, but it is also a great opportunity to examine what it is I really am looking to get out of my time here (is that an existential ‘here’? I don’t know.). I think we all deserve to live really awesome lives, and it makes me sad when I hear complaints with no plan for actions towards resolving the issue. I get it, life isn’t easy, but the only person that can start the wheels moving on making it better is yourself.

**MIC DROP**

I can't take credit for finding this gem. Amy Poehler is a genius. If you hate this post, I won't tell you what amazing person to blame for sending this to me.

Amy Poehler is a genius.I can’t take credit for finding this gem. If you hate this post, I won’t tell you what amazing person to blame for sending this to me.

 

the epic settle of 2014

Bye San Francisco! I miss you!

Bye San Francisco! I miss you!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a pretty terrible planner. In fact, in the last 6 months, my departure from the states was the only thing that I actually planned ahead of time, and that was purely out of shame- after broadcasting my emigration from the states to everyone I know, I was going to look like a real idiot if I didn’t go through with it.

So naturally it is safe to assume that my recent move to Barcelona was a bit out of the blue as well. Here’s a little backstory- my first trip to Barcelona was back in 2011, a magical four-day stopover (on my way to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday in Mallorca) in which I spent days wandering the streets and nights feasting on tapas and vino. Then, I was lucky enough to stay with my friend Marta, a native Mallorquina who I met when the gods brought her to UC San Diego to study, surf and snowboard with us for a year.

this beautiful lady standing next to me is Marta

this beautiful lady standing next to me is Marta

A few weeks ago, in between mopping floors, making beds and cleaning bathrooms at my Workaway position in Portugal, I found myself glued to my computer, frantically scouring the webs for an apartment in Barcelona. After a couple of days of cleaning fumes and out of control hostel guests yelling until all hours of the morning, I think I subconsciously decided I had had enough of the impermanence of hostels for a while. In keeping with the theme of the last few months, the universe responded in the form of my good friend Marta. Being the badass that she is, she literally kicked out the two guys subletting her apartment for the summer so I could move in for the month of August. I know, I’m so not nice enough to deserve friends like that.

not to mention Sagrada Familia was a block away from Marta's apartment!

not to mention Sagrada Familia was a block away from Marta’s apartment!

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oh you know, just tagging along to ‘work’ with Marta

A month later, I have an apartment, a job (and a half), and actually have a couple of friends to call my own. I set an intention for every week I was here- the first week was to decide if I wanted to stay, the second, to find a job, 3rd, an apartment, and finally, last week, I intentionally set out to make some new friends.

not one of my new friends, unfortunately

not one of my new friends, unfortunately

So how’d that work out?  I just so happened to stumble into the home base of a company that runs gastronomic tours through Barcelona’s old city during my ‘work’ week. Somehow, I managed to charm them into giving me a tryout, and am now running 3 hour long tours in which I try super hard not to bore people to death. Mostly I succeed, and the promise of food every 30 minutes or so definitely helps.

Next, after visiting what seemed like 842 apartments, I found a cute little place with 2 other girls in the newer part of Barcelona, a district called “Eixample” (pronounced eye-shamp-lah). Again, with my winning smile and sometimes awkward Spanish, I managed to convince the girls to accept me as one of their own.. and THEYRE NEVER GETTING RID OF ME. Just kidding.. they might, eventually.

The friends part is slightly trickier, but definitely looking good- here’s a few tips on how you might force strangers to be your friend in a new city:

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new friends, old friends, and dead friends at the Fiestas de Gracia

1. Couchsurfing.org: Despite having recently gained infamy as ‘couchsexing.org’ (I may or may not have totally made that name up), Couchsurfing events actually seem to have great attendance with a mix of travelers, locals, expats and random unsuspecting people who are just trying to have a quiet drink in their local bar. So far I’ve been to 3 events, and although no new best friends on the horizon, its been an overall good experience.

2. Meetup.com: Good idea in theory, but the only time I’ve tried to attend an event, I couldn’t find the group and ended up making random friends with a completely unrelated group of people and stumbled back to my apartment at almost 4 am. I call that a successful evening, although the “meet-up’ portion may have ended up a bit misdirected.

3. Facebook: there are Facebook groups for everything these days. Want to run with fellow expats every week? Group for that. Do you enjoy painting your face and blowing bubbles in the park? They meet on Sunday mornings. Have a gerbil and want to teach it to fly a kite? There’s a group for that. Seriously though, Facebook is full of weirdos and there is a niche for all of them, even me.

Moral of the story- set an intention, don’t be a lazy-ass, and force yourself out of your comfort zone- in doing so, you may just find a whole new ‘comfy space’ to enjoy! Big changes are only scary if you are scared of them- you can only be disappointed if you have expectations to begin with!

 

 

 

funny shit friday

ok so I came up with this idea on a Saturday, am sitting down to write it on a Sunday, and, just because I like to be difficult, I’ll probably end up posting it on a Thursday. Just to keep everyone on their toes. With time differences and all, its Friday somewhere, right?

*also, ALLITERATION

Though my sense of humor is questionable at best (even in Spain I can’t keep from whispering “Es lo que dijo ella” under my breath and giggling to myself), I hope it is safe to assume that there are other oddballs out there that will get a kick out of this haphazard collection of things that have made me smile over the last few months.

Lets start in good old New York city, where shitty graffiti and legitimate street art compete in an ongoing turf war.. though 99.999% of the time, I vote for legit art, this apology note really did it for me.

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Clearly this person has major impulse control issues if they jump to the conclusion that the most appropriate place to pen an apology note is on a street lamp.. but nothing like a public display of repentance to really reel Netty back in. Is this our generations’ version of the ‘stand outside with a boombox’ apology? To be fair, spray paint is actually much easier to get ahold of than a boom box these days- as long as you are over 18 or accompanied by a parent.

Next, I spotted this gem in Liverpool.

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Most British humor is intentional, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that the proprietors of this business did not intend to name their store after the HIV virus.. in spanish. This was a big hit with my Galician host mom.

This play on words, on the other hand…IMG_5385Perfect example of dry British humor at its best. I wonder how many times this guy has been asked to off someone..

In Madrid, I found the entrance to what would potentially be my personal hell.

IMG_6143Whoever wrote “I love you” on this window.. I hope you die from hairball asphyxiation. Which is probably one of the offerings at Amsterdam’s finest caterotica clubs. This can go on my “never” list along with deep fried butter, eating bugs for protein, and bucket hats (IM LOOKING AT YOU KANYE WEST) .

While taking myself on a trial tour for the tour guide position I am trying out for this week (fingers crossed, this job would be awesome), I had to stop for a picture of this:

IMG_6375So I’m a little skeptical of this being an actual statement by the local government, but if it is.. you spelled graffiti wrong.

And this one… cause who doesn’t like a little guy on a littler bike?

 

 

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I’ll be back soon with a Barcelona update- looks like I might be staying for a while :)

 

San Sebastian, you win at food. and fun.

And I lose at blog post titles.

I'm not that great at selfies either #youcantwinemall

I’m not that great at selfies either #youcantwinemall

I can usually tell how much fun I’ve had in any location based on the number of photos I’ve taken- the less photos that I have to choose from when writing these posts, the more I enjoyed the location. This is definitely the case for San Sebastian. Over the course of 3 days, countless ‘pintxos’ and more glasses of wine than I care to remember, my collection of photos commemorating the eat and play-stravaganza is less than stellar. San Sebastian is the perfect destination for anyone that daydreams about getting fat, drunk and tan at the same time- days are spent lounging on the beach (albeit a bit more crowded than what I consider to be ideal, but when you’re that full of ham, who cares)

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streets of Casco Viejo (old town)

streets of Casco Viejo (old town)

In the last few years, San Sebastian has gained recognition as one of the world’s most highly regarded culinary destinations. After 3 days of stuffing my face there, there is no question as to why. The Basque Country, in general, is known for its ‘pintxos’, which are essentially 2-3 bite dishes, most of which are served atop a piece of bread. Example: thinly sliced cured ham drizzled with olive oil, served on a slice of toasted baguette, a skewer of 3 small shrimp, grilled and served over a piece of baguette, a mini hamburger served on the most adorable bun I’ve ever seen.

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‘blurry face’ is the next big thing in photography, didnt you know. Also note the anchovies on toast in the lower left corner.

Not only does this style of eating appeal to me because of my lack of attention span, almost non-existent patience level and pretty severe commitment issues, but also because I FREAKING LOVE MINIATURE THINGS. C’mon, why do you think mini cupcakes, miniature ponies and those tiny bottles of alcohol are so popular? They are just too damn cute.

So basically the way it works is, you walk walk up to the bar, pick out a pintxo (or 2 or 7) from an artfully arranged assortment spread along the counter. Instead of committing to an whole plate of food that you may tire of in a few bites, or to a restaurant who’s decor may not be up to par, you can literally go ‘pintxo-hopping’ (patent pending- thats a million dollar idea that everyone else already came up with first). Here’s an idea: first course, a glass of wine and a shared plate of 5-6 mussels. Second course, glass of wine and a couple of anchovies on toast. Third course, glass of wine and a mini slider (does the term slider already mean mini? these are even smaller) Fourth course… ok you get it. So by the end of the night, not only are you full, but you are also hammered. WIN.

this is what happens after a shit-ton of pintxos. you can't help it.. it just happens.

this is what happens after a shit-ton of pintxos. you can’t help it.. it just happens.

The most difficult part of the whole process is trying to figure out where to go- literally EVERY bar offers some type of pintxos, and for us newbies its pretty much impossible to pick one over the other. The couple of gems that we found and returned to multiple times over the course of a couple days were totally by accident- one, we stopped to ask a couple of women sitting on a bench for directions and ended up with a recommendation for “La Mejillonera,” and the other because we couldn’t pass up ‘one last pintxo’ of grilled baby squid with a balsamic reduction.. which ended up being the best kind of mouth explosion. (Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place, but its on Fermin Cableton street in the Casco Viejo of San Sebastian).

DEFINITELY GO HERE

DEFINITELY GO HERE

they have beers this big for less than 3 euro

that beer was literally bigger than my head. we measured

Heading to Spain anytime soon? Definitely budget some time for at least a couple days in San Sebastian. However, first probably sell a kidney or two, because it is one of the most expensive places I’ve traveled so far. I went from paying 15 euro a night for a private bathroom and pretty much empty 6 bed dorm in the center of Madrid to paying 30 euro a night for a room that was reminiscent of that scene in Zoolander- “What is this, a center for ants!? The building needs to be at least 3 times bigger than this!” With 6 people and their backpacks in the room, it was almost impossible to move around, and the bunk beds were so low that I hit my head sitting up in the morning (considering I’m like half the height of a normal person, thats pretty ridiculous). Food, although 100% worth it, also definitely added up- though you could fill up on a couple of pintxos of tortilla (spanish omelette) for 5euro or less, a wine-fueled pintxo party in your mouth will probably set you back anywhere from 20-30 euro. That said.. I’m going back ASAP.. as soon as I can find a sponsor for my marathon eating challenge.

so many calamari, so little time

so many calamari, so little time

Relucatantly, after 3 days, it was time to admit defeat. Not only was I thoroughly sick of having to drink wine with every meal, I was also starting to dream about vegetables. When kale starts appearing in your dreams, its time to eat a salad. Also, Barcelona, the city I’ve been lusting after since our brief affair in 2011, was calling. As was the promise of concerts, music festivals, friends, and a room all to myself.

before the (literal) storm. isn't she pretty?

before the (literal) storm. isn’t she pretty?

In my desperation to get to Barcelona, I think I got a little TOO excited, as I had found what I thought was an unbelievable last minute train ticket deal- 50 euro from San Sebastian to Barcelona (other prices I saw were all at least 80+). Well, turns out it wasn’t a cheap last minute ticket… because it was actually for a train leaving the following week. And as soon as I figured that out, it started pouring rain. Though it looked like the gods were shitting on me, the skies parted and I magically found a ride share from San Sebastian all the way to Barcelona, and ended up in Barcelona at the same time the train would have gotten me there!

also considering i am currently living (In Barcelona) next to this big guy, no wonder I was excited

also considering i am currently living (In Barcelona) next to this big guy, no wonder I was excited

 

 

consider this “fievel goes west 2: the portugal hitchhiking days”

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Cape St. Vincent

*** if you don’t get the reference, here ya go: Fievel Goes West IMDB

After leaving the hostel we were working at in Faro, it seemed like our choice of where to rest our heads at night got weirder and weirder. First, we stayed with our buddy Cosmos in Lagos, in what was basically a flat with a bunch of mismatched bunk beds shoved into each room, and a shower that for some inexplicable reason was built for 2 (literally, it had two brand new shower heads… he said it was to save water?). Our next stop, Sagres- further west in the Portuguese Algarve- appeared to have little to no hostel presence, so we decided to wing it- worst case scenario we sleep on the beach cuddled together, using our backpacks for pillows.

Cosmos palace

Cosmos palace

 

After hopping out of the ride that picked us up for the last leg to sleepy, very confusingly urban-planned Sagres, we spent approximately 4 minutes wandering around like idiots before a wrinkly peanut of a woman (approx. age.. 109) cycled up to us with an offer we couldn’t refuse. Ten minutes and a lot of broken Portuguese later, we were set up in the cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in the whole time I’ve been in Europe. 25 euro for a double bedroom, private bathroom, TV and wifi… inside this woman’s house.

Sagres hostel/house

Sagres hostel/house

Don’t take this the wrong way- there are NO complaints to be had here. All in all, it was not only a case of ‘right place at the right time,’ but this lady’s sense of entrepreneurship should inspire us all.

We dropped our bags off, repacked a backpack with the essentials (wine, cans of tuna, more wine) and headed out to catch what is deemed “possibly the best sunset you’ll ever see” (<- seriously we saw that on a sign.. way to hedge your bets, tour operators).

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the stupid facial expression is due to the carton of wine in my hand

St. Vincent is located about 6km outside of the town of Sagres, and is the western most point of the European continent. As we drove in earlier that day, the clouds started to close in on us, so we didn’t really know what (if anything) to expect of the sunset spectacular that we hoped to see. By the time we made it out there (only one carton of wine deep by then!) we still had an hour or so to spare, and with the cloud cover thickening by the minute it was hard to tell if we would end up seeing anything at all.

Apparently in a game of rock-paper-scissors, sun beats cloud…. most of the time. The sunset was maybe not ‘the best’ I’ve ever seen, but it was definitely worth the trek out there.

my version of Fievel Goes West (a classic tale of manifest destiny and the mouse that wouldn't give up)

my version of Fievel Goes West (a classic tale of manifest destiny and the mouse that wouldn’t give up)

 

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I totally get why people used to think the world was flat

Because we were on a ‘lets see the sun do stuff’ roll, the next morning we snuck out of our little house at the crack of dawn to check out the sunrise- thanks to a noisy and hungry mosquito in our bedroom both of us were up at 4 am. In the same sun vs. clouds game (except backwards), the sun lost bitterly to the heavy cloud cover. Literally, the sun never rose… we just sat on the beach for about half an hour, giving each other quizzical looks as the world around us became a lighter and lighter shade of grey. After a while we just shrugged and headed off in search of a decent cup of coffee.

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in the meantime, I opened my own Portuguese restaurant

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and we knitted bike and tree cozies.

That morning marked the last day my Australian friend and I stuck our thumbs to the wind together- in Odeceixe, we hugged each other goodbye, and I made my way to Lisbon (ok guys.. seriously don’t worry.. I only hitched like 20 km on my own and got free baked goods out of it!) to spend my last night in Portugal at an ACTUAL hostel- complete with too few bathrooms, plenty of dudes with dreads and guitars, and a great group of people to chat with before I hopped on a plane back to SPAIN!!!!

 

i got 99 problems and beaches are like 12 of them

Just when I thought I felt kind of ‘meh’ about portugal, I headed to the Algarve. For the first few days I was in Faro (the capital of the Algarve, I think its because of the airport), the ‘meh-ness’ continued to grow- with Faro pretty much what you see is what you get.. a city. Faro is touted as a great hub for exploring the surrounding areas- within the city there really isn’twhole lot in terms of nightlife, cultural events, scenery, or beach.. but if you are really into malls you could probably pass a couple lovely afternoons at the giant shopping center conveniently located right across the street from the prison (urban planning fail or win?).

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one that needed to see the ‘real’ Algarve. Teased with promises of sea caves and word class beaches, my fellow work-trade-er set up a tour for us with a friend of the hostel, and after a rough night in which I learned a valuable lesson about how vodka probably doesn’t belong in sangria, we packed into one of those ridiculously tiny European cars and headed to paradise.

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First we headed to Benegil- one of those places you drive up to and groan a bit inside due to the hordes of tourists and ridiculously overpriced restaurants- but then you arrive at your destination and you’re like.. oh nope, I totally get why everyone wants to come here. No hard feelings, fellow tourists, I also enjoy crystal clear water, soft sand, and amazing photo-ops. Turns out I’m not all that different from the guy wearing Tevas with socks and zip-off pants.

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if you look really closely you might be able to see boobs. I mean, its Europe.

This was when my hangover started to cower in fear.. nothing stops that day after feeling like jumping into super cold water. The main attraction here, apart from the amazing beach, is the sea caves (in the photo above they would be sort of down and to the left). After a few irresistible photo ops we ditched our cameras and clothes at the car and swam out to the cave.

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from above the cave

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I like to think I’m not that person.. but I TOTALLY am that person.

Although the trusty iPhone wasn’t hardy enough to brave the swim (at this point my phone case is literally about to disintegrate.. I don’t know if I can handle the trauma of choosing a new one), our friend/guide/chauffeur brought along a GoPro, so you can thank him for the following photos.

gopro algarve

I’m the one on the right that looks both naked and dead. I promise I am not either of those things.

goproalgarve2

yup, still dead.

This was one of those experiences where you literally feel like the world has stopped- after passing out on the little beach inside the cave for an indeterminate period of time, the swim back to the main beach was almost an out of body experience. The cold, clear water seemed more buoyant than normal as I leaned back, sun on my face and forgot about the rest of the world. I probably would have stayed like that for a lot longer, but unfortunately I am only human and humans need lunch.

Still in our bathing suits (cause fuck clothes), we headed to Praia da Marinha for a picnic and more photo ops. This beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in Europe, and in the top 100 in the world. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a beach connoisseur, but lets just say if this were a bottle of wine I probably couldn’t afford it.

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just before I slammed my head into the rock. see ya later brain cells.

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BAHAHAHA I have a rat tail. gross.

A few days later, we were fiending so hard for some more epic coastline that we headed west, signs out, thumbs in the air, and ended up in Lagos. Deemed the party capital of the Algarve, I came for the drunk Australians and beer bongs (<- that is a blatant lie, I would do no such thing). Though the allure of guys with sunburns and super short shorts wore off really quickly, I can’t say the same for the coastline. Also, Lagos is home to my new favorite person Cosmos … that guy just makes everything better.


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Tearfully,  left Cosmos (and his killer tattoos) for the western-most point of Europe.. Sagres!

sometimes traveling doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

Just a bit of dignity and some elbow grease.

Seriously though, gone are the days of overpriced hotel rooms and tours that make you sign over your first born child before you even leave your home country. I mean, all of those things still exist, and I know there are still subscribers to the world of “Europe on $200 a day,”  but I’ve found that the scrappier and cheaper it gets, the more fun I have.

nothing screams luxury like a blow up swimming pool

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wouldn’t you consider sleeping here over a hostel bunk bed?

This time, that meant delving into the world of hitchhiking and work trade-  yeah, I know, hitchhiking is dangerous, you never know who is going to pick you up, you might get kidnapped, stranded… I KNOW. However, I could also be robbed at gunpoint in the middle of San Francisco while minding my own business, or hit by a car while crossing the street in middle of nowhere, safe-as-hell Ojai… both of which have actually happened. (ok to be fair in the first instance the gun was fake, but still). The work trade portion of my adventures were actually probably more damaging to my health and safety than the hitchhiking was.. mostly due to a lack of sleep and lots of cleaning product fumes.

Anyways, you can all breathe easy (especially you, Grandma, I know your heart probably stopped for a second) because I made it to Spain and won’t be trying my luck in this country.. at least with hitchhiking and cleaning products. Everything else, I can’t make any promises.

 

Would I recommend using Workaway for someone who is looking to save a bit of money while still hanging out in a rad country? Hell yeah. Since my room and food was covered, the only money I spent was basically on watermelon and sangria ingredients. What would NOT recommend however, is going into the workaway experience without fully understanding the terms of your work trade. Lets just say I was not prepared for over night shifts or cleaning multiple bathrooms a day.

mad art skillz

mad art skillz

Hitchhiking, unlike Workaway, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to everyone looking to travel cheaply. If you don’t feel like standing on the side of the road for an undetermined period of time holding a sign or your thumb in the air, feel free to rule out this method of transportation. (or, you know, you’re in a country in which hitchhiking is illegal). For me (and my lovely Australian friend on whom we can pin this newfound addiction) it became a game- we would try to make eye contact with as many passing cars as possible, and for those that didn’t stop, try to figure out the weird hand signals that drivers would give us to indicate that they were not headed where we were trying to go (“Wait does that mean you’re staying here? you’re turning around? I don’t get it.”)

off we go

i swear im not high in this photo, i was just running on 3 hours of sleep.

I met a lot of interesting characters over the last couple of weeks- an older woman and her mother from Mozambique that drove us 20km out of their way while blasting 70’s tunes, a baker in the process of developing sweet potato, bean and nut based baked goods who raced me to 3 different bus stops before we found the right one, and the guy in the amazing VW van filled with baby wipes and toilet paper- to name just a few.

other favorite: THIS GUY.

other favorite: THIS GUY.

Though I’ll miss my new favorite game, word on the street is that hitchhiking in Spain isn’t quite as fun, so I’m planning on trying Bla Bla Car (a ride sharing weebsite) for my trip to Barcelona on Monday or Tuesday.

 

Portugal, where I almost got airlifted to safety

I haven’t been writing much lately, although I can’t say its for a lack of content. In the last 2 months I’ve spent time with family in Liverpool and London, reconnected with friends and (host) family in Spain, and made my way through Portugal. This post is coming to you from a short pause for a long breath in a sleepy city called Faro, the capital city of the Algarve in southern Portugal, not too far from the Spanish border. After doing the traditional hostel-hop through Porto, Lisbon and Sintra, I finally found a Workaway position at a fairly new hostel in downtown Faro.

Faro train station at sunset

Faro train station at sunset

For some reason, my creative juices just aren’t flowing these days- not sure if that’s due to the fact that I’ve spent the last 2 nights working overnight (1am-9am) shifts at the hostel, or if I’m just not doing the right things to stoke the fires. I think the issue is that I don’t want this to be the type of blog where I just say “hey, look at this thing I did” and then post idyllic pictures of landscapes and the occasional selfie. I want this blog to portray my brand- I see myself as a bit of an eccentric, slightly off the wall, majorly sarcastic, with a healthy dose of adventurous spirit and an air of “well, that sounded like a good idea at the time.” The things you read here should reflect that. Anyone can fly into Europe, take a few photos of old stuff, recap their meals, and tell you how many bleeding Christ paintings you can find in the Prado (fact: its WAY too many).

That said, this is probably never going to be a typical ‘travel’ blog. Yeah, I travel. And I blog. But unfortunately, my specific type of travel blogging is probably not going to be a great substitute for your handy dandy Lonely Planet.

So…. Spain. but mostly Portugal. (I promise I will time-blog-hop back to my time in Spain at some point!)

Portugal is effing gorgeous. After living in the states for so long, you forget how OLD stuff is. Europe is old as fuck, and the architecture, urban planning and art reflect that. To be slightly more specific, according to Wikipedia, Porto’s origins date back as far as the 4th century. So when America was founded in 1776, Porto was over a thousand years old.

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streets of Porto

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view of the Douro river

After an altogether too short couple of days in Porto, I rushed down to Lisbon to catch the Optimus Alive music festival. Lisbon is like many European capitals- a juxtaposition of the old and new, one overlapping with the other in often ridiculous ways. I can’t help but giggle a bit to myself when I find a Zara store tucked next to a thousand year old church (which has been plastered with ads for an upcoming DJ set), or when the nearest Metro stop is located underneath a statue of Dom Pedro IV (one of Portugal’s kings). Then, to time warp my brain a little more, I headed to Sintra, home of castles, parks and old stuff galore. Although Sintra seems to cater largely to sightseers, its one of the few super touristy places I’ve visited that I feel is truly worth it.

Quinta de la Regaleira, Sintra

Quinta de la Regaleira, Sintra

However, because we all know I can’t adhere to norms (and I hate spending money when I don’t have to), I decided to say eff the tourist buses, and head up to the Castelo de los Mouros (est. somewhere between the 8th and 9th century) which happens to be located on a giant cliff overlooking the town of Sintra. Now, the 6 km hike up to the castle wouldn’t be that big of a deal.. if I hadn’t decided to take my own ‘shortcut’ which consisted of literally climbing up the face of the mountain.

if you go to sintra, this is NOT the path to the castle. at least not the path of least resistance...

if you go to sintra, this is NOT the path to the castle. at least not the path of least resistance…

The climb up was actually pretty fun. I got to find out if TOMS really are decent hiking shoes (for the record, not so bad) and I got to put my out of practice rock climbing skills to the test. In the end, I made it to the ‘top’. I use quotation marks because the top of the climb unfortunately did not coincide with the location of my destination. It did, however, have amazing views of aforementioned destination.

soooo… this is awkward. anyone see a road I could borrow?

soooo… this is awkward. anyone see a road I could borrow?

My ‘pat yourself on the back for a job well done’ moment lasted about 10 minutes.. long enough to snap some epic photos, a couple terrible selfies, and take a few deep breaths before realizing I had no freakin’ clue how I was going to make it from the boulders I was perched on to the castle 200+ meters away. If everyone is supposed to have a moment in their lives in which they strongly believe they will have to be rescued by a helicopter and possibly the foreign version of a SWAT team, this was mine.

 

but dat view doe…

but dat view doe…

Anyways, crisis (and panic attack) was averted, and eventually I squirmed through the bushes and over (and under) the boulders to make it up to the Moorish Castle. Moral of the story: next time bring climbing shoes… and, uh… maybe don’t take shortcuts?

Three days in Sintra and I managed to get my fill of old stuff.. although if I could have convinced my hostel to let me stay and work there, I totally would have. That place was awesome. (Nice Way Sintra Palace, FYI)

And that brings me to Faro.. kind of like Porto’s less old, not as picturesque, more lacking in wine’s younger brother. Which will be another silly story for me to share, and for my grandma to read (cause lets be honest… everyone else just looks at the pictures).