que vaya bien, barcelona

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Local Time: 12:42 a.m.
Departure to California: 4:45 a.m.
Current status: jittery and nervous and sad

Seven months later, I didn’t think this moment would actually arrive. I didn’t conceptualize what it might feel like, I didn’t realize I’d truly have to leave this city, didn’t think I wouldn’t know when I might exit the US again. Didn’t think the prospect of returning to LA would make me nervous, didn’t think I’d be this human I’m mostly proud to be, didn’t think, didn’t think, didn’t think…

Didn’t believe I would actually feel this loss, didn’t know what leaving a geographic location might mean. Didn’t expect my privilege to grow to such heights, didn’t expect my beliefs to be so challenged. Didn’t expect to fall in love with so many people, didn’t know the definition of home to change.

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Didn’t expect to look so far and wide for my future, didn’t expect to feel a world citizen. Didn’t know what I’d learn from whom, didn’t expect great beauty at each turn. Didn’t think I would truly struggle, didn’t realize whom I’d miss. Didn’t know what I do not need to live, didn’t know what I wanted from life.

This life journey is just beginning, I know I need to remember that. Life and beauty and excitement exist at geographic home as well, I just have to search. But this unsettled urge, this desire to wander has been instilled – I just have to shed a few baggage kilos, and I’ll be back.


I have been incredibly, incredibly indebted to a lot of things/people in the last seven, and especially four, months.

  • the parentals, for support/funds/not freaking out (too much) when I said “i’m in Paris” and then didn’t answer the phone for 5 days
  • USC – I haven’t always loved it for the same reasons, but it is the beginning and end and reason for this place that I am
  • HUMANS. Couldn’t have climbed 6 flights of stairs with my suitcase without hostel friends, couldn’t have dealt with crazy landladies without apartment friends, couldn’t have made it out of the house without roommates, couldn’t have smiled at coffee without friendly cashiers, etc.

This isn’t the end of Alimentarily. In fact, I hope for it to be just the beginning – I have a million things to digress about a couple of places (Prague, Morocco, Paris, Girona, to name a few) that I was too harried to recount before now. I hope what I have to say about them is still interesting though not quite as timely (a few hundred apologies to my past and future journalism instructors). And then, digressions about wherever I happen to be in the coming days/weeks/months/on

In the mean time, nos vemos pronto California.

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where exactly to eat for a weekend in Madrid

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There is nothing more special and lovely than a few too few days, eating far too many churros, and laughing just enough bellyful. The squad and I spent a whole 3 days in Madrid this past week, and ate our way through the city, leaving just a few hours to consume the culture and drink in the harried, important air.

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Madrid’s capital-ness was self-evident: the grandiose buildings, the meandering streets that followed a non-grid drawn by a toddler, the way the light on the street sparkled post rain, the jungle planted mid-train station. Just quite everything was larger than life AND death, and old and busy and dirty and beautiful – I felt like a truer-than-true tourist.

Staying in the midst of the town, we almost overdid our budget by buying a 2 day train pass for a whole 7 euros and never using it: instead we worked off a bit of our Madrid calorie layer by walking. everywhere. Which is refreshingly the primary mode of transport everywhere I have been in this land ~ no workout, no problem. (some problem. shhh conscience) I brought one pair of true close toed shoes to Spain, and these boots were not really made for walking, so of course I’ve used them to walk/hike/run for a plane quite a few times in the past two months.

But I digress, FOOD recs coming up.

Pre Madrid, I avoided all semblance of homework for any “classes” I’m taking here on my “semester” abroad, and instead fell into the internet vortex, accidentally only earmarking eateries. oops? If we had eaten all the places I had pegged, I would still be in Madrid, having not fit through the plane doors, but alas we could only eat a few meals a day. In addition to some *bomb* microwave popcorn with freshly ground pepper, to be consumed only if sitting on the floor of a hostel, here are the winners ~

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Friday eats:

Ojala – Urth Cafe, meet Spain, and add a basement full of sand to sip a landlocked beer on the beach. My inner basic was doing cartwheels as I ordered an arugula salad with my brunch eggs, right after they served me orange juice with a stripy straw. If your eyes are done rolling to the ceiling, you could kindly rest them upon the best toast I’ve had since coming here. We came straight from the airport, because that’s how priorities work.

Mercado de San Miguel – Post a 5 hour nap (oops) we salimos de la marcha to the classier, prettier, less crazy little sister of Barcelona’s Boqueria – soft lighting and a warm conversational buzz set the perfect romantic date for 4. The concept: you order a tapa or two and a copa around the market, until you can’t walk anymore. (or something like that?) We had the creamiest burrata in the entire world, a bite size bitty of decent paella, a coupla leggy copas of Rioja Crianza for 3 euros (learned from my trip to Logroño, am I cultured yet??) , and blue cheese mushroom pizza to share. Avoid the quiche, have the froyo (thanks Aradybaby for the reco). Those are both mandatory requests. I was too distracted by the bright white spreadable lightly savory cheese to take any pictures.

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Saturday eats:

Chocolatería San Gines – Need I say anything more? Honestly. Churros con chocolate. Churros with dippable drinking melted chocolate. They’ve been doing it since 1894, they’ve had a little practice – we went twice. That is all you need to know. Thanks to a course taught at our school about Spanish culture for the reco.

Subiendo Al Sur – Found in the blogosphere. Love/hate the fact that that word has become a regular part of my vernacular, but I’m accepting it as a piece of my being. Run by two brothers and a (son? nephew?) – everything is fair trade, etc. etc. Yet another home for LA baby bitches vacationing in Europe, but also wildly affordable and adorable. We were the only ones in the restaurant at 8 pm, and it was absolutely twinkly. What to get: A sweetish marinara sauced vegetable lasagna, or the most flavorful ceviche in the entire world. Or both.

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Sunday eats:

Circo – Don’t stop til you get enough. Day 3, and we obviously hadn’t gotten enough ~ after a late night *cough* early morning burning up the floor of the kapital, we awoke in time for an afternoon brunch. Unfortunately, my googling skills failed us with their accidental success – famous ‘La Bicicleta’ was full. So I hung my head in the back of the line til for about 3 minutes til squad walked into this absolute GEM. Let me paint this picture for you ~ Are you ready? I’m not sure you’re ready. Ok now perhaps?

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12.50 euro. A choice of drinks to begin; we all opted for orange juice, because #healthiswealth and #nextdayhydration. A bulging basket of bread and olive oil for a table full of loud, hungry girls. A choice between four entrees, of which I can remember two: Salmon on a savory pancake, or eggs benedict with sausage. Freshly fried, thick cut potato slices. Side salad. A ‘tasting plate’ of dessert which really consists of three full sized slices: an apple pie, a brownie a la mode, and a cheesecake, or a choice for creamy Greek yogurt topped with muesli. And a coffee in case you’re still a bit peckish.

We sat around for 3 hours, formulated the idea for a 6 way business plan, talked about life futures, and extolled the oh-my-gosh-ness of the potatoes.

La Rue – A good 6 or 8 hours after that marathon brunch, we found this lil guy to just tie up the tiny stomach pits that had made themselves heard, for some crepes. Order the one with chicken, brie, and onions, and the chicken salad, and the blackberry tea. And then order again, once they forget about you because you had the misfortune of sitting in the back.

Also, we saw the Prado, the grandest post-office I’ve ever seen, a chill-giving sign welcoming refugees to Spain, Museo Nacional de Reina Sofia, and JUST missed Parque del Retiro – it was raining and churros round 2 called. We came, we saw, we cultured. Thanks Madrid!

San Joan de Gaztelugatxe

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Say that five times fast, because I sure can’t. Middle school spelling bee champion my butt, I will never be able to spell that without search engine aid, but when I’m telling my Joey Tribbiani-esque pick-up story of hiking along the coast of northern Spain I can say I went *there* and point (but with appropriate smarm).

Some moments from my recent existence:

  • Huevos con foie, also known as the life changing tapa. A measuring cup filled with foie and cheese and mushrooms, topped with a quail egg over easy, served with bread. Melty, gooey, savory: unthinkable animal parts and indescribable flavor.
  • Reanalyzing capitalism in a classroom full of students from around the world, all with personal anecdotes of their country’s system. A Finnish girl raising her hand to say she is paid by her government whilst on her semester abroad. America-centric views told around the world.
  • Falling accidentally asleep atop a grassy knoll in utopian Bilbao under the afternoon sun, because my feet hurt just a tad and I wanted to rest my head for just a bit.
  • A three hour conversation covering most controversial topics perched outside an obnoxiously boho-chic cafe, consuming a sexy spiced carrot cake and a cafe con leche.
  • Playing a game of pool in an actual pool hall.
  • Winning a game of pool in an actual pool hall.
  • There aren’t a lot of days when my needs and wants are under satisfied. It is a new kind of privilege, that which I have never before experienced, or really know what to do with. I fully recognize how unsustainable this way of life is, and how often I use the word “I”.

    So I’ll stop for now, and leave with you some images after the break of San Joan de Gaztelugatxe (and its confusing Euskeran spelling), an old lady contemplating life, and a shoutout to the world for being so darn beautiful.

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    #blessed

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    You saw this one coming.
    You knew that I, who have an overwhelming need to use obnoxious vocabulary in everyday life and say the word beautiful (emphasis on the beauuooooo) far too often, would leave you with a mushy/corny/cheesy (all the weirdly textured adjectives) post about how blessed I currently feel by the potentially (non)existant higher power that there may or may not be.

    You might not have expected that this comes after a period of slight strife. I feel like Shalaka outside of the US struggles even more than Shalaka inside the US, which is saying a lot. Tending to the harried side of things, its far too easy to get wound up in my stressed mind, running around, sweating it, etc. And its been a tech whirlwind of a week: the quintissential my-iPhone-got-stolen story, followed by the not so common story of my laptop going kaputz. Apple deserted me! Technology only brings evil! I thought about ditching it all and becoming a hermit.

    But some Lianne La Havas telling my I’m ‘Unstoppable’, some roommate support, some angry group running, and some deep breaths later, I did the epiphany thing.

    I feel so lucky to be seeing this world. I am so privileged to not worry too much about comfort and security.
    I feel so lucky to have people at home that give me perspective.
    I feel so lucky to constantly be surrounded by smart/funny women.
    I feel so lucky to have feet that can carry me through the beauty of this place.

    You might even say, I feel hashtag blessed.

    (Shoutout to all the ladies that came and made me become my mom-the-hostess this one eve. To many more!)

    A joyous September 11

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    Oxymoronic? Just plain moronic? Just what exactly are you talking about Shalaka?

    Granted, Sept 11 has always been known as a grave day in my conscious, conscientious memory. I remember where I was, etc etc etc, and I recognize it as the catalyst for a million ripples in the world’s salty pond.

    BUT. In places of the world where America ISN’T the center of attention, (woah wait what? Take deep breaths, stay with me here) – September 11 carries very different, albeit still weighty, meaning. Here in Catalonya, it is the day that commemorates a tragic military loss in 1714 in which the independent Catalonya lost its’ autonomy. September 11 is now known as the National Day of Catalonya, and since about 2010, it has also come to represent an increasingly emphatic demand for independence for the state. The Catalan people and their (very well spoken) president are organizing, speaking, singing, and rallying for an independence that Spain is not even close to accepting. Come September 26, 2015, they will perform a faux referendum vote, and if it passes, they *say* they are going to declare independence. My very well spoken Spanish professor says that absolutely nobody can actually predict what is going to occur.

    Blah blah history geography politics, if any current college students are reading this, you might be zoning out. At first, that’s what I thought as well. It was like Labor Day at home – a day that I’m still kind of unsure what it celebrates, but no school!

    But then we stepped onto the streets of this throbbing, varied city on this important day.

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    I saw kids running around with Catalan flags strung across their backs;
    Heard an orchestra swell to a crescendo in support on the Calle Meridiana so crowded with bodies and babies and strollers that it was impossible to pass through;
    Watched the event organizer stride back and forth across the stage calling to the crowd that gathered;
    craned my neck to try and see the press table as they frantically relayed the unfolding history back to their outlet;
    And witnessed the crowd thrusting flags and banners into the air in a resounding roar, seemingly at random, chanting “In-Inda-Indapendencia”.

    And it felt important. The day and the spirit and the joy felt momentous.

    The Catalan people may not have a lot of political backing to their proposal. Catalonya is a money-producing state for economically depressed Spain. Spain holds veto power in the European Union, virtually blocking any potential attempt to enter as an independent country. There are other cultural groups who want to separate that Spain does NOT want to encourage, including Basque terrorists. (All information I have gathered from speaking to different people/reading some basic news/learning from my Spanish prof. – not by any means a certainty)

    But standing on the streets, watching the Catalonian castells (human towers) rise 5 stories high, clapping to the joyful music, it feels like their heart might overpower. And there’s a little girl running down the street from the cafe in which I sit, in bright Catalan red and yellow, to (maybe) prove it.

    Barça – a preview

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    This is a sitting city.

    This is a chatting city; a sipping and a nibbling sort of city.

    Here, you find the corner shop and the coffee shop and you never order your drink plastic-ly “para llevar” because if you do you are a tourist and an inconvenience and in a western rush (guilty). Instead, you sit, and you chat, and you sip, and you nibble.

    You use porcelain cups and steel forks, the clink of conversation mingling into the weekday midnight. You stroll, never stalk. You lazily hang out the windowsill, you have a siesta and fiesta when you just so feel like it. You dance in the street with your children on a summer evening, surrounded by pre-teens; you wear Neymar like its your “apellido” given at birth.

    You celebrate the little and the big, you chant in-inde-independéncia but in a sing-song sort of way while you have a plaza-party on a Saturday.

    Yes, its a painted picture; a fair facade of my two weeks exposure, so I promise, revisions are forthcoming.

    P.S. – These pictures were all taken around 6 p.m. within a 3 minute walk from my current flat, in Vila De Gracia in Barcelona

    P.P.S. – Is this my diary or my 5th grade pen pal? YOU GUYS ARE BOTH – Thank you so much to those of you reading this, and especially those of you that tell me (even white-lying) that you enjoy reading this. Its an inspiration and a motivation and all the -ation things! Party hat emojis for you all! Be back soon with more detailish things.