Tag Archives: Travel

Going Back to Spain

I’m finally back into a groove with my writing.  I know where I want to add scenes, I’m living in my story.  I see everything so differently than when I began.  If I could start over, my writing would be better.  I’m not patient enough to start over, so hopefully this will be good enough.

This afternoon I’m expanding a scene in Barcelona.  It’s evening, my female protagonist is exploring the city with a new friend.  In order to write, I first needed to crawl back into my own memories of Spain.  Part of the reason that I chose to send my characters on journeys was so that I could have their adventures with them.  I want this to feel authentic, so I need to remember.

To help me go back, I pulled out my old photo album from my summer spent studying abroad in Spain seven years ago.  A lot has changed since then.  My boyfriend is now my husband.  We both look older.  The photographs were taken with film, the color and clarity is disappointing, (especially after scanning).  Instead of blogging, I wrote my family weekly emails, which are stapled together in the back of my album:

“Alex and I have reached our last stop together and it is going to be very hard to say goodbye… Paris was beautiful and the people were much friendlier than we expected… Madrid really comes alive at night and Alex and I enjoyed a three hour goodbye dinner in La Plaza Mayor.”

“I made it safely to Burgos and have a nice little room with a bathroom all to myself… It is strange being entirely alone in a foreign country.”

“At home when I go out with friends we leave around 9:30, here things do not get going until 2:00 in the morning and people stay out until it is light out… Spaniards actually do dance moves as opposed to standing around kind of moving, and everyone sings along to songs in the bars.  ‘La Camisa Negra’ is still stuck in my head…  The city is so alive at night and all kinds of people are out, young and old.”

“I thought it was funny today when we were walking and I found a flyer for where to buy pimps and hoes garb, a theme that sadly the clubs must have decided sells well to American college students.”

“Last night we took an evening bus back to Burgos from Barcelona.  The Northern Spanish countryside at dusk was incredible.  As it got dark we even saw lightning storms.”

That summer changed my life.  Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Paris, Madrid, Burgos, Barcelona, Bilbao, Salamanca.  I learned to travel alone.  I made new friends and confirmed my love for travel, (until that point it was all in my head).  I have been back to Europe twice since then, but nothing will ever compare to that first long adventure.  Fortunately, I can always go back with words, pictures, and “La Camisa Negra.”

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Anticipation Junkie

Four more days of school, then seven weeks of glorious summer.

If I haven’t made myself annoyingly clear, I’m an anticipation junkie.  Half the thrill for me is envisioning the future.  Life moves so quickly.  The real thing is over before you know it, but if you look forward to it first, it lasts longer.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

So, in an effort to stretch out my summer before it even starts, here is what I’m looking forward to most:

1. Road trip to Olympia with my teacher lady friends! (Hello Portland, dirty bars, roller derby, beautiful coastline, our special version of Flat Stanley, and a raucous good time… Sometimes I wonder if people really know what elementary school teachers are like in their off hours… I didn’t!)

The fourth/fifth grade team dressed up like Viola Swamp to scare the children, told you we’re fun 😉

2.  Kauai.  Think the complete opposite of above road trip.  Peace, quiet, sunshine, beach.

See, I already have the crucial supplies ready!

3.  Mt. Shasta, CA.  Time with my mom, sitting under the pines, swimming in the lake, snacks at the Goat Tavern, hot springs soaking in Ashland, OR.

See Mom, I am excited to come visit you!

4.  WRITING.  As much as I’m excited for all of the trips above, I might be even more excited for the time to write.  I’m ready to do my final polishing of my book (AGAIN) and submit to 31 agents in 31 days in July.  WOOT.

Only a little more work left before I can submit! No thanks to Simon…

5.  General summerness.  Time with my dog, husband, family, friends.  Impromptu road trips to Napa for yummy Ad Hoc lunch, San Francisco Giants games, the Pelican Inn and Muir Beach.  Days spent floating in my dad’s pool, lazing about at teacher pool parties, thrifting, reading and sleeping.

More time with these guys!

Okay, just one more, because he’s so stinkin’ cute.  Clearly, I’m obsessed.  Watch out when I have kids…

See, now I’m excited, and summer hasn’t even officially started.  Thank you anticipation, I don’t care what people say about the present, you’re pretty cool too.

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Portland: Mecca of the Hybrid Hipster

Last night Alex declared to me that he is a hipster.  He is out of the proverbial closet.  Pipe smoking, road-bike riding, hipster.  Apparently, this video confirmed it for him, even though I was pretty sure that his love for Portland, Berkeley, and messenger bags gave him away years ago.

Actually, we’re a new breed of hipsters.  True hipsters might call us posers, but I think we’re just a hybrid of the hipster and the yuppie.  I’m not ashamed.  I like organic food, shit yogis say, and, of course, Portland, (as well as yuppie things like homeownership and a regular paycheck!).

So, when a coworker/friend asked me if I wanted to spend 26 hours stuffed in a Prius on a road trip to Olympia for her roller derby bout that would include a night in our beloved Portland, how could I say no?  (And, seriously, how could this scenario get anymore hipster?)

Yes, I know, true hipsters do not admit their hipster identity under any circumstance.  That’s why I’m the hybrid version.

Here’s my top 10 hybrid hipster reasons that I love Portland:

1.  Dirty bars, (even if I want to exit the dirty bars at midnight 😉
2.  Revamped industrial districts
3.  Foodie food
4.  Voodoo donuts, (standing in line for anything makes it that much cooler, okay, not really, but I still like weird donuts!)
5.  Microbreweries galore
6.  Green everything, (trees, hillsides, environmental consciousness, bicycles…)
7.  Proximity to the Oregon coast, Columbia Gorge
8.  Dogs welcome EVERYWHERE
9.  Alabama Street & NW 23rd, (two neighborhoods that make me miss Berkeley… hello gourmet food trucks with picnic seating areas!)
10.  Isn’t Portland where young people go to retire?

Voodoo Donuts in the middle of the night here I come!
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Travel Bug.

Growing up, I was obsessed with travel.  Scrapbooks full of travel magazine cutouts.  Subscriptions to Conde Nast and Budget Traveler.  A constant barrage of pleas to my parents to take me somewhere, anywhere, everywhere.

In college, I got close to living my dream.  I submitted a dorky audition video to a Travel Channel show.  To my amazement, I was invited to audition in LA.  I didn’t get picked.  Instead, I was interrogated by a panel of producers about my boyfriend situation.  Apparently having one wasn’t very desirable for “reality television.”  Oh well.  I would not have traded my boyfriend for the gig.  He’s now my husband.

Today, I am still obsessed with travel, but in a more subdued way.  The characters in my book travel for me.  Of course, I’d love to take their places, but my priorities have shifted.  Gone are the days when I would spend every last dollar in my savings account to run off on some adventure, or at least gone for now.

Instead, one trip at a time, as I work my way through an always changing list.  This YouTube video reminded me of how I once purchased $5k in film equipment in hopes of becoming a travel filmmaker.  I admire these guys for actually making it work.  It’s important not to let dreams die.

Here’s my top 10 dream travel list:

1.  Missoula, MT (Home to my aunt/uncle, scary grizzly bears, yummy beer, and beautiful wilderness)
2.  Gothenburg, Sweden (Home to my lovely cousin, her family, and midsummer)
3.  New York, NY (Still never been, want to see my cousin dance for the New York City Ballet, and live out Anthony Bourdain’s Layover food itinerary)
4.  Barcelona, Spain (My favorite city in Europe, Alex hasn’t been, I want to relive its Gothic streets, Mediterranean beaches, and vibrant markets)
5.  Tokyo, Japan (I still have a Lost in Translation fantasy of this city, I want to wander from Karaoke bar to Karaoke bar in the middle of the night)
6.  Buenos Aires, Argentina (From Evita to Las Madres de La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires is darkly mysterious and reputed to be the Paris of Latin America)
7.  Paris, France (Yes, I’ve been, but a good deal of my book occurs here and I’ve been following the blog of a young family that moved to Paris, which is exactly the sort of thing that deeply inspires me)
8.  Maui, (Okay, I know I’m going to Kauai this summer and have been to Maui before, but I really want to take Alex on the road to Hana and to Mama’s Fish House)
9.  Dalmatian Coast, Croatia, (Google image it for instant explanation)
10.  Prague, Czech Republic (Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of my all-time favorite books, takes place in Prague, MUST GO.)

What’s your list?

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Anticipation is a funny piece of happiness.
Lately, when I am feeling the most stressed in my classroom, I’ve just closed my eyes and reminded myself that summer is just two months away.  For the briefest second, I allow my thoughts to slip off to everything that summer holds.  Pool parties, warm evenings, time to write.  I remind myself that I get to go to Kauai, too.  Then I smile, and I’m fine again.
Anticipation is pretty wonderful.
I remember being a kid and marking my happiness by what I had to look forward to.  It was always a letdown when my short-windowed calendar ran out of good stuff in the foreseeable future.  Thankfully, that’s the coolest part of being an adult– I can always find something to add to my calendar, even if it’s just making time to go out with friends or planning a weekend escape.
We’re pushed to believe that anticipation is not as valuable as being present in the moment, but if it makes us happy, what difference does it make?  Can’t we find happiness in the moment by thinking about the future?  Our large frontal lobes exist for a reason.  We’re planners by nature.  According to one study, we actually derive great happiness from planning a trip, (eight weeks worth!).

As such, I think it is okay to revel in the excitement of what is to come.  Why not take pleasure in this simple act?

Tonight, I’m letting myself savor the thought of a warm Hawaiian beach, a cold Piña Colada, and the soft sand between my toes.

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Exiting a coffee shop in Carmel, Alex turned and said to me, “Maybe old men just know what’s up!”

Even though we were younger than many of our traveling counterparts in Carmel, we did not mind one bit.  We just decided that older people must have a better sense for what is good in life, (and Carmel is so good that we actually want to move there!).

Here is what won us over:

1.  Carmel is a dog lover’s dream.  Dogs in the hotel room, no problem.  Dogs off least at the beach– great!  Dogs welcomed in restaurants and stores, of course!

2.  Pristine white-sand beach.  Need I say more?

3.  Everything is just so darn cute.  Cute town, cute restaurants, cute houses.  Cute.

If you’re headed that direction anytime soon, here were some things that we loved on our trip, (I’m a big fan of passing along travel ideas because, if you’re anything like me, word-of-mouth suggestions go a long way in curing indecisiveness!).


Monte Verde Inn:  We ended up at the Monte Verde Inn because it had solid reviews and was reasonable at just $99/night during the off-season, (now!).

We were highly satisfied with it at that price– cute decor, private patio (unit 9), breakfast delivered in a basket daily, five blocks to beach, great restaurants around the corner, dog-friendly.  The only downsides were the small size of the room and the comfort of the bed, but at the price the pros far outweighed the cons. We’d happily return:

Small, but cozy, AND dog-friendly! 🙂
Everything is newly updated!
Morning breakfast basket on private patio… Simon wanted in on this!
Shared patio with live music/wine tasting on the weekends


Casanova:  Walking distance from our hotel, delicious Italian fare with beautiful patio.  Atmosphere and food live up to the price.  Great house wine and vegetarian ravioli!

I’m a sucker for twinkly lights, good food, yummy wine, and my husband!

Mon Chay:  I was skeptical about vegetarian Vietnamese food in Carmel, but this was amazing!  Possibly my favorite Vietnamese restaurant of all time!  Located directly off of Highway 1, it is a five minute drive from the village in a cute shopping center full of twinkly lights, (did I mention that I like twinkly lights?!).  The food was fresh, healthy, affordable, and delicious!

Wonton soup!
Vietnamese Chow Fun
Loved the big Buddha statue!
Parker Lusseau Pastries & Cafe:  Located only ten minutes from the aquarium, this bakery was a real find.  Delicious sandwiches and incredible desserts!  Friendly owner and staff to boot.  If I were getting married in the Monterrey area, I’d want my cake from here!
YUM! (I’d tell you what this was, but it was too fancy to remember the details… just yum!)
Does not look like much, but one of the best vegetarian sandwiches of my life.  Perfect bread.
Cute little outside spot to let the dog stretch his legs!


Carmel Beach:  No leashes required, friendly dogs, friendly people, gorgeous water, white sand… Alex and I ran with the dog each morning on the beach, definitely the highlight of our trip!

Carmel Village:  So many cool little details hidden throughout the village.  It is worth spending time just wandering around looking for the public art!
Diggidy Dog:  Clearly, we are fanatical about our dog.  This pet store is one of our all-time favorites, with a huge selection of toys and treats to spoil your mutt!
Simon lucked out with a dog-friendly sausage and donut!

Aspirational House Hunting:  Alex and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the village, looking at the houses for sale.  When an older couple asked if we were house-hunting, we happily replied that we were aspirational house hunting!  So many cool places to daydream about… Now we just need five to ten million dollars to spend…

One of our favorites!

Monterey Bay Aquarium:  Last, but not least, Alex and I hit up the aquarium in Monterrey.  So cool.  My favorite was the gigantic octopus, (I never knew that octopus were so intelligent or affectionate!).  Absolutely worth a visit.

A live feeding of fish and sharks
I love watching the jelly fish!

Next time you visit the area, send your tips my way!  We plan to be back, many, many times.  In fact, you might just have to visit us here someday…  Hopefully it will happen before we get old, but even if we have to wait to live here, it will be worth it.

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Mother Russia & Foreign Markets

According to Google Analytics, I have a steady stream of traffic from Russia on this blog.  I wonder who my mysterious Russian viewers are?  Are they real people or some sort of electronic webpage crawlers based out of Russia?  I’m very intrigued.  Clearly, the nerdy international relations major in me is still alive and well.

Alex and I actually went to a Russian market with friends this weekend.  Well, a Russian and Korean market.  Quite the combination!  If you’ve never been to a foreign market before, go!  They’re a nerdy international relations major’s dream!

Whether they’re here or abroad, I love visiting foreign markets.  They’re always stocked with really unusual items that I find fascinating.  Among the most interesting finds this time were vodka hidden in a babushka doll and hula hoops with “massaging” spikes, (they weren’t really spikes, just felt that way when I tried it out, to Alex’s amusement, in the middle of the store!).  Not to mention all of the scary variations of meat, (head cheese or whole eels anyone?).  I always find these stores reminiscent of watching an episode of Bizarre Foods or Anthony Bourdain… An instant and cheap adventure!

I actually have a not-so-secret obsession with foreign markets, as well as babushka dolls, so this outing was an unexpected thrill!  (And, way more accessible than actually going to Russia or Korea!)


ADHD side note of the night…  This Portlandia clip hits a little too close to home.  What shall I try next oh-great creative occupational wizard?  (Documentary maker, tried that, wedding videographer, tried that too, writer, sure!  Who knows, maybe making my own jewelry is next!)


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Sometimes I wish I could put life on pause and truly soak up the good moments.

We just got back from our little escape and even though I tried to savor every moment, it all still slipped by too quickly.  This blog is beginning to feel more and more like a time capsule where I can capture the good memories for safe keeping.
We stayed at the cutest little cabin up in the redwoods in Cazadero.  The location was gorgeous, beneath towering thousand year-old trees, adjacent to a beautiful clear creek, only 25 minutes from the crashing surf in Jenner.  One of the highlights for me, was sitting underneath the stars, staring up at the nearly-full moon through the sky-high redwoods.  We also discovered the quirky little town of Guerneville, full of good food, locally crafted beer, and an unusually high concentration of gay men, (whose overheard stories undoubtedly added to our entertainment).
The little bed and breakfast cottages where we stayed, (Elim Grove: http://www.elimgrove.com/), were run by a lovely young family who also owns a bakery on site.  Our cottage was decorated with carefully picked vintage items that all came together perfectly.  Sometimes “old decor” is a dissuading factor for me, but this was not old because it had been sitting there for decades, it was old because it was stylishly selected to all fit together beautifully in a modern way.  If you’re inspired to go, we recommend the Creekside Cottage or the Paradise Grove Cottage, as they offer the most privacy.  We hope to return soon!

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