Monthly Archives: June 2012


I’ve always been more of an adventure seeker. I beg my parents each year to go try something new like elephant riding in Thailand or hiking to a cloud-covered Machu Pucchu in Peru. But every Spring Break, my parents limit my adventure to a new area or island in the Caribbean. I’ve been to my share of turquoise-shaded waters–Antigua, Mexico, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Saint Barthélemy–and I don’t really see the pleasure in waking up each day at noon and being handed a piña colada while I fry up on the beach.

That’s why I find the little pockets of adventure in the tropics so exhilarating: finding a few orange starfish while I swam with my mom in Antigua, driving on the roller-coaster roads in Saint Barthélemy, visiting the Chichen Itza pyramids in Mexico, or seeing this scarlet macaw walking around our hotel in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Okay, so it was the hotel’s bird but still. Her name was Esmeralda, and she was a feisty bird who snuck into the women’s bathrooms a lot.

Even though I do enjoy a good tan and a cocktail, I live in Southern California. I have enough daily dose of paradise everyday. I guess I’m just spoiled in that way, so those of you outside the Mediterranean zones, don’t listen to a word I say, because I say bring on the seven A.M. guided tours, the humid weather, the insurance signatures, all those flying shots, bring on the mosquitos.



A Crimean quirk

It wouldn’t be Ukraine without the strays.

Unlike your typical American neighborhood, there aren’t really things like animal shelters to house the street kitties and puppies in Ukraine or even Russia. It may seem sad to some, but to me it is my culture–they walk around, mewing, and occasionally one kid will take them in as a pet or feed them a few pieces of barbecue. Occasionally, when I see a cat in the states with that same street look, uneven fur, and fast trot, I remember my summers visiting Ukraine. I remember seeing similar cats fleet from us as my mother and I approach the old lady who sells the best damn white peaches in the whole world. Nothing tastes better than a Crimean peach. Nothing tastes more of summer days.

Ukraine is Ukraine. It is filled with its faulty imperfections, from the screeching elevator in our apartment building my brothers would always trap me in to the country’s endless search for a clean public bathroom anywhere. And some might view the strays as another health-hazardous imperfection of the country I am from, but I see these tough kitties as another Crimean (and Ukrainian) quirk, like fresh-fried Kambala fish or the sound of waves crashing on a rocky Yalta shore. So while suburban America might have bikes and toys in the streets, we have cats and dogs, and I wouldn’t change that.


Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona

Lo siento Paris and Rome, but my love is with the gothic streets of Barcelona, Spain. Of course the Cataluña seafood and my love of Spanish helped, but I think there is one reason why I fell in love with this odd, odd city: Antoni Gaudí.

If you ever visit Barcelona, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of Gaudí. He is present on corner street buildings and enormous Cathedrals alike because he built them–but I wouldn’t use the word built so much as dreamed up.

The very first day we left our ultra trendy hotel to visit Casa Milà, or La Pedrera. Honestly, from the street, La Pedrera doesn’t look much more odd than any other building lining the streets of the city, but my family and I knew because from our hotel balcony we could just make out the strange columns and curvy railings that sat on top of the roof of the building. When we finally climbed up there, we had entered an unmoving desert storm: The day was hot and sweaty and everything Gaudí built on this terrace was a rusty orange–I could feel my pale skin soaking up a sunburn off every surface, while envying the architect students who sat in the shade, sketching.

Casa Batlló is one of the two houses, along with La Pedrera, that we visited. It is a tall building with an inside that reminded me of the ocean, covered in either shattered rainbow tiles or huge blue ones. If you come into the center of the building and looked up, you could see the bright sky and sun above, just like if you looked up from the Mediterranean Sea that lines the Spanish coast. This house also had a rooftop, one a little less tan I’ll admit.

Right before we visited the monumental Sagrada Família, we stopped by Güell Parc, a beautiful Gaudí park with street vendors, a view overlooking Barcelona, and ceramic lizards. It’s a far hike upward without a taxi but so worth it. On our way there we stopped by a little shop of souvenirs where I got a canvas bag with a hand-painted watercolor on it that I still use.

But back to Sagrada Família. The unfinished Cathedral stands one hundred and seven meters tall–and they aren’t even finished building it. Still according to Gaudí’s plans, construction goes on to this day, unfortunately detracting from the view. It sits quite Eiffel tower-esquely in a grassy field all by itself. However, the building is so intricate, plastered with ornamental details, it doesn’t really need any company. Coming up closer to it, we saw that there was no square-foot of plain old wall. I cannot wait to see it finished, so see you soon Barcelona, mi amor!


Benedict and beaches

FOOD photography at Jeannine’s in Montecito, California.

I love this place, first and foremost, for its amazing desserts and second for its . . . lobster benedict. Basically, if you are obsessed with delicious food like me, this is the place to go for brunch before a sunny day on Southern California beaches.

This is a disgustingly small post but I’m tired and it’s finals week and the bottom line is everyone should go to Jeannine’s.


On the road

On my way up to SF in the middle of nowhere is this barn house.

We drove in as a pitstop for some strawberries, while taking a road trip up to the Bay to participate in NaNoWriMo‘s “Night of Writing Dangerously” event in 2010! This program is great, by the way, if you’re a super big nerd like I am and love that camaraderie that comes with doing something crazy like writing a 50,000 word novel in a month.

Anyway, back to this peace place. We had been driving all day and had yet to stop for some sammies so I was getting pretty grumpy despite being with my two fellow creative writers. However, when I saw this little off-highway gem, it brightened me up a bit: the sky was murky, the grass was yellowing, and both were surrounding the decaying and green barn house. Maybe it was finally getting fresh air into my brain, but my camera conscience kicked into action and I hollered, “ZOE! Give me your sign peace necklace!”

She, being the hipster that she is, had those funny gloves without the fingers on, which I think gives the photo a little bit of a punky feeling. No? Just me? Well, in any case, it’s one of my favorite photos, one of my favorite memories, and one of my favorite (only?) road trips.