One lovely blog award!

I am simply delighted to have been nominated the One Lovely Blog Award, an award that truly connects all of the WordPress blog community. I was nominated by a blog I myself admire very much, celiabediliadesigns.

So here is the official list of things I have to do:

  1. Link back to the blog who nominated me (see above).
  2. Post the blog award image on my page:  Continue reading
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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/

Esmeralda

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.

/sa/

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.

/sa/

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!

/sa/

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.

/sa/