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.

IMG_5720

streets of Porto

IMG_5724

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).

Optimus Alive- also known as that one time I went to a music festival by myself.

So, remember a few months ago when I was still riding the Coachella high and spent hours researching music festivals all over Europe?* As luck would have it, I managed to actually make it to one! After a week in Galicia with my host family**, I took advantage of the fact that Portugal was literally across the bridge and headed down to Porto (heard of port wine? Thats where the name comes from) to see if the Portguese accent is really as hard to understand as I heard it was. Fact: It is.

IMG_5709

Porto

Anyway, the original ‘plan’ was to head to Porto, drink some wine, take some selfies and take in the gorgeous architecture for an indefinite period of time. That indefinite period ended up being a grand total of a day and a half, once I realized that A) Optimus Alive was in Lisbon this weekend B) tickets were only 53 euros each and C) the lineup was incredible. Surprisingly, no one else I’ve met seems to think that impulsively buying concert tickets is a good habit, so on Saturday I headed to the show by myself but pretty damn excited.

no big deal, just an epic statue in front of an epic building.

no big deal, just an epic statue in front of an epic building.

In a lot of ways, I knew what to expect- weird outfits, people with flags and stuff on sticks so their friends can find them, people digging through your bag, and long bathroom lines. In a pleasant turn of events, drinks were actually CHEAP (2.5 euro for a Strongbow), lines to get in flew by, the venue was easily accessible via public transportation, and they even gave you a handy hat to shield your face from the hot afternoon sun. I was a little confused about the timing of the whole thing, and would probably time my arrival for a couple hours later next time- doors to the event didn’t open until 5 pm (I couldn’t keep it in my pants, so I showed up at like 4:45), and the last show of the night ended a little past 4 am. I guess that’s Europe for ya.

don't worry, there were still crowds, i just did my best to stay out of them

don’t worry, there were still crowds, i just did my best to stay out of them

The biggest and absolute best surprise of the whole day was the fact that I was able to make it to the very FRONT of the stage for 5 out of the 6 artists I came to the show to see. Which in my book is pretty much unheard of unless you plan on camping out at the stage for an hour beforehand and don’t mind dealing with a lot of elbow throwing, pushing, and dirty looks.

i did still have to deal with a few "quacks"… get it?

i did still have to deal with a few “quacks”… get it?

If the opportunity knocks at your door anytime soon, please, I beg of you, go see these bands:

SOHN- British singer/songwriter/music producer. I like to think it sounds like updated electronic R&B, whereas other’s might describe it as ‘not-shitty’ James Blake-ish. Either way, his voice and the music he makes are both amazing.

IMG_5761

CHERUB- Nashville based electro-disco-funk duo. Unfortunately they dealt with some sound issues at the beginning, but managed to kill it- I pretty much lost it when they played a cover of Calvin Harris’s “Summer.” Oh and they are super nice (at least the half of the band I met)- one of the guys in the band came down to the crowd to watch Jungle- super friendly dude, which makes me like their music that much more, although I was a little disappointed when he wouldn’t agree to fire their current manager in order to hire me.

IMG_5769

JUNGLE- This was probably the biggest surprise of the whole day. Six white British guys were definitely not what I expected- Jungle is another group that is riding (or driving?) the disco-funk revival train, complete with the perfect amount of electronic influence. Also a giant plus that one of the singers knows how to rock a mean man-ponytail and leather jacket.

IMG_5782

PHANTOGRAM- I knew that Phantogram was going to be awesome, and they definitely lived up to the expectation. After the first couple of songs I stopped trying to figure out where one ended and the next one began- the rock/electro fusion was just too easy to dance to, and the singer might be my new fashion idol (if I didn’t dress like a dirty hobo most of the time).

IMG_5775

CHET FAKER- The only show of the night I wasn’t able to snake my way into the front for. I has planned to meet up with some new concert friends (new as in met them just before Cherub, so by then we had pretty much exchanged Social Security numbers***). Again, so surprised with how good he was live- similar to SOHN, he has an awesome voice and puts together some really interesting beats.

NICOLAS JAAR- I actually camped out for a bit to be able to watch this set from the front-ish, and then sneakily maneuvered my short self right in against the barrier. I knew that this set was going to be an experience, but I wasn’t sure what kind. Jaar managed to mind-fuck the whole tent with crazy jungle noises, voice changing microphone, and ten minute long songs that wound you up then knocked you over with intense, heart pounding beats. After 12 hours on my feet I think I would have keeled over if it wasn’t for the massive bass. My only complain is to the jackass that threw a plastic cup at his head during the encore- not sure why you would stay til after 4 am to watch him play if the plan is to ruin the end of the set. Good going, moron.

IMG_5789

 

Once the music shut down at 4:30 am, my one track mind switched from “I could listen to music forever!” to “I need to be horizontal with my eyes closed 15 minutes ago.”  The way home wasn’t quite as smooth as the way there- I may or may not have broken one of the ticket machines at the train station (it erupted in sirens after refusing to take my 10 euro note), and had to take a cab back to my hostel since it was too early for the local metro to start running for the day. Would I do it again though? Oh hell yes. And you’re all invited to join me.

*Also why has no one called me out on the use of ‘holy shitballs’ in a blog post?

**from my year abroad in Spain (2002-2003)

***reality check, I can’t even remember their names. So, if  you are 3 dudes from New York reading this, and you inducted a wolf cub into your wolf pack on Saturday and then promptly lost her, IM RIGHT HERE.

 

 

12 years later, back in Galicia

I think a “fuck you, wordpress” post is in order- it seems that every time I head to a new country, my blog rebels by deleting my first post from on the road. Either that, or all of my tech savvy was somehow lost in the air between Liverpool and Madrid. 

Well, no point crying over spilled milk. I still argue though that there is a point to crying over a lost blog post. I may have just written the funniest 637 words ever, but thanks to some internet issue (glitch in the Matrix, I’m sure) you will never be able to read them. 

Anyways, moving on from my your loss. Currently, I am in north western Spain, scene of the entire crime that was my sophomore year of high school. So far, I’ve only run into one old ‘friend’- after dinner (Spanish tortilla, chorizo and grilled calamari… I know, I’m drooling too) somehow conversation turned to driving- how difficult it is to get a driver’s license and if it warranted the hassle and money after all. One of the guys in the group of about 10 of us sitting around trying to digest, starts telling this story (translated from Gallego to English for the sake of simplicity and paraphrased because my memory sucks)-

“Well, a friend of mine from California told me that she got her driver’s license at 16. In America, they just let you get your license when you’re 16 years old- I know because thats what my American friend, Gillian told me.”

Wait, wait, wait… WHAT?! Who????

Oh yeah, that person he was referring to.. that was me. Boom. I’m so cool that 12 years later they’re still telling untrue stories about me. Fact is, I didn’t get my driver’s license ’til I was 18. 

Other than overhearing stories about my 15 year old self, I’ve been getting back into the hang of living my life in Spanish- not just the language, but the eating dinner at 10 pm, the siesta, kissing people on the cheek, drinking wine in bars picked from the vines next door, and the relaxed lifestyle. Off to celebrate Independence Day in a great way- churrasco, cider, countryside and a sunset later than my bedtime.

 

My (tentative and highly subject to change) future

Officially count this in the books as my first emigrated post. I am now a resident of the UK, with the bank account to prove it. Never mind that the bank account is currently completely empty, just the fact that I have it is a point of pride.

After leaving New York shrouded in clouds and heavy rain (apparently summer in NY is just like summer in the UK.. sometimes there’s a chance of rain all the time), Cole (the brother) and I made our way slowly across the Atlantic to the place of heritage- jolly old Liverpool. Now, Liverpool often gets a bad rap- it’s an industrial port city that up until recently (last 10 years or so) didn’t offer much by way of culture. In the last few years, however, things have really turned around. Great museums (all free!), beautiful parks, and a completely refurbished downtown area have turned Liverpool into a highly regarded tourist destination, although in a duel of wits, charm and overall good looks, London would (of course) win hands down. In a rap battle, London would still own it, especially on style and delivery, but to be fair no one would have any idea what Liverpool was saying in the first place.

So far it’s been a combination of solid family time (dotted with a few screaming matches here and there, but really thats just the way families are meant to communicate, right?), exploring, and reconnecting with old friends. Although I am having a great time, I did have a moment or two over the last week of  “what the hell am I doing?,” but I think that is to be expected, considering I have no idea of the next time I’ll see a lot of the places and people that have become precious to me over the last 27 years. However, I’m pretty damn excited to strengthen some bonds I already have on this side of the world as well as create a whole bunch of new ones!

So what’s on the agenda for the next few months?

I am generally pretty averse to doing a lot of planning, as I strongly believe that you never know whats around the next corner. Case in point- Buying a 1 month long round trip ticket to/from Colombia last December. Honestly, did I really think a month was going to be enough for me to get in all of the things I wanted to do, not to mention a ton of stuff I had no idea was even possible? 

That said, here’s whats on the horizon so far:

(The rest of) JUNE:

-Heading back to Liverpool to help my cousin Lindsey (Kosher Roast) and her friend Amy with what I have dubbed ‘an orthodox bachelor party.’ Which from what I understand is basically a luncheon. Either way, its been a while since I’ve worked a catered event, and I’m pretty excited to make some money, see how the event plays out, and eat some delicious food.

-Africa Oye! music festival in Liverpool- I’m learning that, like San Francisco, a lot of events during the summer are weather dependent. If its sunny, it’ll be a fantastic weekend. If not, I should probably buy myself a pair of wellies and a good umbrella. Maybe a poncho?

good look for me huh?

good look for me huh? 

-Another week- ish (potentially) in London. Hopefully, I’ll get some more good weather (its been mid 70s every day so far!).

 

JULY:

-As of right now, I am planning on spending all of July in Spain. First off, landing in Madrid to spend some time with Patricia, my host sister from the year I lived in Spain in 2002-2003. Its been almost 12 years since I’ve seen her and her family, and I am so excited to catch up with them! Patricia is finishing up a law degree in Madrid, and the plan is to head out to see the whole family by car in early July. They still live in O Rosal, the teeny town I spent my sophomore year of high school in! I imagine I will hang out with them until maybe mid July, then thats where it starts to get interesting. I might head to Barcelona for a Workaway position in a cafe doing some waitressing/kitchen work, or I might rent a car and explore some more of Spain, I could go to Benicassim festival near Barcelona, or who knows, maybe from Galicia I’ll head to Portugal and see what happens from there. Any recommendations?!?!

AUGUST:

-This is where it starts to get even more nebulous. I’ll lay out what I am considering so far. (Obviously subject to drastic or minor change.)

  • spend a week in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival 
  • stay in Spain and work in Barcelona
  • Find a place to stay in London for a month or two and find some sort of income source
  • Rent a car in the UK and drive up to Wales to visit some family friends, continue exploring UK by car.

Past that, I’ve got about a million ideas and zero desire to commit to anything. The idea of England in winter doesn’t sound that appealing, so chasing summer might become my fall/winter agenda.

I’ll leave you with this:

 

so far so good.. heres what I’ve picked up along the way

IMG_5216

Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn

I’m a big fan of learning stuff. For me, learning implies forward motion- collected energy coupled with information to help propel you into the future. And I’m not just talking about book-learnin’- the type of learning I’m interested in is all about experience, observation, and feedback. Well, in the last few weeks, my life has been an onslaught of ‘new’- and I don’t plan on stopping that anytime soon.

Here’s some tidbits from what I’ve picked up so far:

Lets start in Brooklyn.

IMG_5219

Like many big cities, New York has a fabulous array of galleries, museums and exhibitions to attend- I did check out the MoMA (tip: Friday afternoons- after 4:15- are FREE to the public. Yes, it is crowded as hell, totally worth it to save the $25 entrance fee)- but I found the best art on the streets.

IMG_5305

Bruce Lee, immortalized in Williamsburg

 

IMG_5240

Hypnotized by Biggie in Fort Green

I picked up some super helpful underground tips- not, like, how to find random password protected parties scented by Parliaments and old PBR, but literally underground. I’ve concluded that pretty much anything goes on the subway. Breakdancing? Hell yeah. Diaper changing? Yup, saw that one too.

Brooklyn also taught me a lot about how to be inconspicuous. If you really want to fit in, the key is iced coffee and awkwardly placed portrait tattoos. If I had a dollar for every kid in jorts with an iced latte and a thigh tattoo of some obscure musician’s face from the 60 I would have a lot of dollars (but not so many pounds! Damn you exchange rate.)

In Fort Greene, I learned that religion is just as subjective as you want it to be. Who needs church when you can go straight to the gods themselves?

IMG_5245

(*Bey and Jay are not MY gods, as I have not yet decided which member of pop culture royalty deserves my utmost devotion. Michelle, on the other hand, has spirituality on lock. Get it girl.)

I also learned a little about predicting the weather. Think San Francisco is difficult to dress for? Put every season into one day and you’ve got New York summer. Which is great if you love to cool off your sunburn with a rainstorm.

Moving on to Washington DC, where I learned that you can do ALL THE ACTIVITIES and still have time for naps in less than 36 hours. *(Thanks Jessie!)

I also found out where the preppiest people in the world live, and exactly what type of man I am not interested in. Since I never took the obligatory DC trip in elementary school, it took me 27 years to learn that he White House is, in fact, white. And quite the popular tourist destination. Luckily, the bars on the gate are spaced just right for a little arm to fit through to take this ‘no one at the White House but me’ photo.

IMG_5344

in real life, it is slightly larger than the tree in the foreground, I promise.

My last days in the US reminded me of the fun of exploring a new city, the comfort of seeing an old friend, and the excitement of not being altogether too sure of tomorrow. Though my confidence is often a little shaky, I honestly believe that wherever I go and whoever I meet, I’ll learn something. And as long as I have that, I’ll keep moving forward.

photo-6

 

 

 

blame it on genetics

I am so not trendy enough for New York. Especially now that everything I own fits into a suitcase, a carry on rollie bag, a travel backpack and a regular backpack. I mean, unless you consider dressing exactly like my little brother trendy, in which case I’m killing it. Apparently even though we live thousands of miles apart, genetics really plays a part in how well you can cuff a pair of jeans and sport a pair of sneakers.

 

thats it thats all my friends

thats it thats all my friends

Genetics are a funny thing- the idiosyncrasies we are often blind to in ourselves we see as faults in our siblings and parents.  Traits that seem adorable as a child lose their luster as we get older, and habits we learn from our parents benefit us in the long run, even if they seem like hindrances during our childhood.

I wonder sometimes, if I had been raised by an entirely different family what biological traits would still show up in my personality? Obviously, I would still be borderline child-size with terrible eye sight, but who would I be as a person? Would I still let my mind wander off and forget to pay attention the world around me? Would my daydreams be filled with white picket fences and kids instead of unknown oceans and desert adventures? Who knows, maybe with a different upbringing I would have ended up as a middle school teacher in the midwest, faithfully attending church every weekend with my seven kids.

My dad asked me yesterday if I thought that I got the travel bug from him. The funny thing is, when I was younger, all I wanted was to have a normal family that went on normal vacations and a summer that consisted of soccer and camping instead of flying 18 hours to dress in traditional temple gear to attend a wedding in Bali. The year I spent in Spain in high school was kicked off with me begging a family friend to pick me up from the airport in LA so I didn’t have to go.

(if you’re reading this and going, “WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS SPOILED BRAT” I really don’t hold it against you but honestly, as a kid you really just want to fit in. With the version of nature and nurture that I had, no such luck).

buncha weirdos at a graduation. how sweet is that tie-dye t shirt??

buncha weirdos at a graduation. how sweet is that tie-dye t shirt??

Now, at 27, all of the resistance is hilarious to me. The most exciting thing I can think of is the fact that I honestly can tell you what country I’ll be in a few months from now, or which method of transportation I might be using to reach my next destination. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up settling down in the city of my heritage.. good old Liverpool.

Is the travel bug something that was a non-negotiable genetic dictation from the start or is it something I developed somewhere on a sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok? My parents didn’t grow up traipsing all over the world, and my grandparents, although fairly well travelled, definitely didn’t have the adventurous spirit that I see in my dad and myself. Maybe its not an adventurous spirit at all- its that my dad and I are  both stubborn as hell, and the more something seems difficult, unknown or a little scary, the more pigheadedly we charge in that direction.

Ultimately, the people we share genes with will always be some of the ones we both admire the most and judge the most harshly . Recognizing myself in my family  is both a source of stress and comfort- and a driving force that keeps me moving towards the person I want to become. So, Dad, even with all of the trouble I give you, thanks for the travel bug, my curious mind, and my annoying habit of saying “what?” even though we all know I heard you the first time.

******Any NYC spots I can’t miss? I’ll be here til June 3!*****

 

 

 

can i just take a second to love on California?

view from Shelf Road in Ojai

view from Shelf Road in Ojai

You know when sometimes things just feel.. right? Ya know, like you’re in the right place at the right time and things just WORK? Thats kind of how I feel about this trip. It started off a little rocky- 6 am bedtime coupled with 11 am rental car pick up time was pretty much a recipe for me being a giant bitch all day Saturday. Luckily, I was by myself so the only person that suffered from my bad mood was me! After a miserable 6 hours driving down the 101, frantically scanning for In-N-Outs (only to give in and buy some beef jerky literally ONE exit before I spotted one), I cruised into Ojai and immediately breathed an orange-blossom scented sigh of relief. From then on- smooooooooooth sailing. Like, literally I’m going sailing today. And the heat wave is over- WIN.

(although unfortunately the heat is still on for the thousands of people affected by and fighting against the fires in North County.. fingers crossed for all of them!)

I may be biased, but California should really be one of the seven (or is it eight now?) Wonders of the World. I’ve lived here nearly my entire life and never get sick of the amazing coastline views and gorgeous mountains. I could do without some of the LA traffic and smog, but I guess you can’t really appreciate the beauty of paradise without checking out the toxic swamplands, right? Luckily LA traffic is now far behind me, and San Diego is just as gorgeous as ever.

Annalisa's killa whales (mural at the apartment pool)

Annalisa’s killa whales (mural at the apartment pool)

Saying goodbye see ya later still hasn’t really sunk in yet- California is my home and although I don’t really know if or when I’ll be back for good, it  will always be. Even after three years away from San Diego, I walk down to the beach near my old house and run into not one, but two old friends. My old yoga studio still seems to think I sell stretchy pants for a living, and I can still remember the back way to get from La Jolla to Pacific Beach. Ojai, where I grew up, is basically mini LA at this point- but running Shelf Road and wandering aimlessly through the farmers market with my dad will probably always be the same (why does he have to try ALL THE STRAWBERRIES?!) Apparently in some ways I don’t change much either- every San Diego visit I give my friends the same speech about how much I appreciate that they accept me with open arms like I had never left- seems like maybe I’m more predictable than I thought (but just as predictable as they know I am).

The point is though, certain parts of our lives can be constants- the people and places you love will probably always feel like home. So even if you leave, find comfort in knowing that if you give love, it will be returned.. and not to be cliche or whatever, but whoever said home is where the heart is had a really good point.

IMG_5118