Category Archives: Travel

Summertime in Israel

I was scared.

And I never get scared. Well, at least not traveling.

But, like always, I was excited. It was something different, a road less traveled by my family.

We landed in Tel Aviv and the first thing I thought was how loud everything was. Even though it’s a bustling city with a lot of noisy cars, cool restaurants, and sightseeing, the best part of Tel Aviv is the old city, Jaffa.

It’s an art district with yellowing tunnels and alleyways, all twisting and winding. It’s the kind of city you want to get lost in. How cool though, these artists get to work in a 4,000 year old city, tourists like me coming into their galleries and splurging on gifts to take back home.

On our tour we saw the Floating Orange Tree of artist Ran Morin. As the title suggests it is literally a live orange tree suspended by cables. Its modernity gets lost within the antiquated walls of Jaffa.

Sometime later, we took a day to see Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. It was smotheringly hot, so we tip-toed around in the gardens from one shady tree to the next. The gardens started at the top behind the Temple and elevated down gradually, as if they were going to slowly slide down the mountain and into the Mediterranean Sea.

Before coming to one of the spiritual capitals of the world, and despite my grandmother’s protests, we swam the Dead Sea, which is completely deserving of the name. It looked like Mars on earth. Like a hallucination from a desert mind. We only stayed a couple hours because the 90+ degree water doesn’t go well with the 100+ degree heat. And one thing I thought I’d never do: walk on salt. Literally, the bottom of the sea was condensed NaCl because the water is just too salty.

But I’m just glad I didn’t get in my eyes.

Then finally we made it to the Golden City of Jerusalem. There we saw the conflicts of the Israeli territories: the second you saw the fences, you know where the territories lay. But despite ongoing conflict, there is something very raw about Jerusalem. In a city of so much belief, a reflectiveness sets over everyone. I thought about what mattered to me and what I believed in. I wrote it all down and gave it away forever in a prayer to the Wailing Wall.

/sa/

P.S. New editing technique, which I learned from the amazing photographer/person, Helena.

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Mallorca day five & six: Camp de Mar

Camp de Mar is a lovely beach here on Mallorca, and I’m feeling lazy so I’ll give a pro’s and con’s list. Everyone likes a good pro’s and con’s list.

Pro’s:

  • The water is amazing, and that’s kind of the most important thing, right? As the Russian sayings go–it is like swimming in steamed milk.
  • There is a tiny bridge that separates the beaches in half that leads to a casual cafe on its own island. They serve the best seafood paella. Food with a gorgeous view of the beach.
  • There are tons of close hotels nearby if you really love Camp de Mar, although we didn’t stay at them sadly.

Con’s:

  • There are just crowds upon crowds of people, but obviously for good reason–a great beach.
  • Apparently, the fish bite, and it’s a little pestering to have to keep swimming or risk being a little chew toy for some guppies.
  • If you are completely pale like me, there will be some issues with shade. They have tons of straw umbrellas, and stuff for sale but, again, it’s crowded and the umbrellas are fairly small so I had to move around a lot with the sun.

It was an adventure worth having–a beautiful beach every Mallorcan tourist should try out for some sun, food, and Mediterranean water.

/sa/

Mallorca day three: una conversación

To every English speaker in the non-English speaking world: Thank you. Today was the first day this chica, who’s taken four years of Spanish, actually had a conversation with someone in Spanish.

It’s a freefall. I know how melodramatic that sounds, but anyone who has had to learn to speak a different language will agree with me.

It’s talking alien talk.

It’s listening. No, like really listening to someone.

It’s baking a cake blindfolded.

My first conversation here went with the lady giving me a manicure. I gained the courage to tell her that I speak un poco Spanish, and she said she’d practice with me. She asked me about the weather in California, sports, my family, and I, in return asked about the Catalonian accent, her home, the island. It was a slow conversation, but it was.

So now that I feel like I’ve jumped over a mountain that I’ve probably made out of a molehill, I want to offer my advice to those too afraid to speak a new language: just speak. But to someone nice, at least the first time, then it gets easier. Those laughs (at your grammatical errors) and blank stares (at your straight up made up words) you can take with less personal offense.

“You know what? I’m trying here, waiter, okay? Please stop laughing because I said I was swim in California instead of I was born in California. Gracias.

/sa/

Mallorca day two: frozen cappuccino

Coffee is liquid energy. But when it’s high thirties C here in Mallorca, no one’s really craving a piping hot mocha. Lucky for the world, there’s a cold version of liquid energy. I’m pretty old fashioned and prefer my caffeinated beverages boiling from the pot.

However, today I discovered a typical European coffee cafe called Cappuccino: metal chairs surrounding small round tables, waiters running around in bow-ties in the middle of the afternoon, and a menu that consists of anything from coffee to mimosas to sushi–all with a view of the Palma Cathedral.

I perused the menu with contempt–everything was being served hot, like the afternoon weather–until I found the right page: cold coffee. They had a few options but I went with the “frozen cappuccino.” It was a thick cappuccino goo, topped with whipped cream and chocolate, which I drank, erhm, slurped all to the snazzy tunes that were oozing out of the speakers. I’m currently listening to their music now actually here.

Have I linked to their website enough yet? I’m probably still jetlagged and delirious and could use another round of frozen caps right about now. Or sleep. Good night all.

/sa/

NOTE ADDED: Through my adventures here, I discovered Cappuccino is sprinkled on Mallorca like sugar–almost at every port and street. Safe to say I have eaten at this cafe in too many locations on the island to count.

Mallorca day one: ¿habla español?

Four years of Spanish and no one would know–I’ve landed myself in a villa in Mallorca, Spain and am too scared to even say gracias to the Spanglish waiters. Oops.

The goal: Blog everyday I’m here till the fifteenth when I leave for home. This is the first time I will be actually traveling since I’ve had this blog, and I’m both excited and terrified to attempt to work everyday on something I haven’t even been able to work on every week.

Well here it goes…

Is it always like this? You have these grandiose plans of speaking impeccable monologues to every local you meet, then you get there and simple hello’s and thank you’s never leave your lips. It’s quite awkward, really, when your mother, who hates the Spanish language, speaks more of it than you.

We were ordering pans of paella today from a woman who spoke English probably worse than I spoke Spanish. My mother and her were both very confused, and I stood there completely quiet. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of the words–no, my mind was formulating (near) perfect sentences–I just couldn’t gather the courage to. And I hope I’ll gather up some courage in the next week to at least say hola a few times.

/sa/

The mini-Rome’s

We were in Barcelona and I was in love with the 20th century and truly insane designs of Gaudí. But there was something about the city that was a little too…new. It wasn’t like the rest of Europe, a million years old. Thankful, we were taking a direct flight to the antiquated architecture capitals of the world: Florence, Rome, Venice–in other words, Italy.

However, my brother, contrary as he always is, suggested to my mother that the three of us rent a car and drive along the coast of France to get to the gelato and gold markets of Florence. So without a single ounce of planning we boarded our Volkswagen and headed into France. What we found, the cities we discovered were perhaps better than any Rome or Florence–they were micro-Rome’s and micro-Florence’s.

And there were millions of them.

Every tiny city we stopped in had its very own centuries-old castle or cathedral or museum, like our first city Narbonne, which with a population of 50,000 had the 800-year-old Narbonne Cathedral (a French national monument). We stayed the night in Narbonne and I laughed out loud (well, not at the time) when our room had a bidet but no toilet. How french. At least our room had a view of the Cathedral. We sipped our morning cappuccinos next to its yellowing walls.

Our next stop was Béziers, France where we visited my favorite Béziers Cathedral. We met an old man who described his travels up and down France and gave us our next destinations: Uzès, Pont du Gard, and Avignon. We felt engulfed in a different world. It’s the feeling you see a little kids get when they step into Disneyland–hey, it’s the feeling I get when I step into Disneyland. Southern France is the Disneyland of coastal road trips.

Each of the destinations we stopped at, from the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard to the gothic city of Avignon, had so much French and, annoyingly enough, Italian history. I distinctly remember us seeing a sign for a château that shined in the distance off the freeway, but driving by it because “we’ll be seeing enough of those.” And we did.

In our last stop, we drove the inch-wide streets of Avignon, literally scraping the mirrors of our rented car against its walls. We found the beautiful La Mirande hotel in Avignon. Although we didn’t get to stay there, it is my dream to come back to the boutique hotel.

Then we finally said ciao to Firenze!

/sa/