Madrid Por 5 Semanas

This post is WAY delayed, considering the fact that I’ve been in Madrid for about 3 weeks now. I always tell myself that I’ll write regularly, but it’s hard when you have want to do anything and everything in Madrid. I arrived here a couple days before my program to get a feel for the city and settle in.

It might seem stupid, but I remember coming to Madrid for a couple days with my family during our Europe trip years ago, and for some reason Madrid stuck with me. I don’t know if it’s because we stayed here for a decent amount of time (3 days was a long time for us, since we were literally in a new city every couple days), or if it’s because I genuinely liked it (Although I would like to hope for the latter). Regardless, I decided that I wanted to apply to a program here, and now I’m here.

I don’t think words suffice how personal and amazing my stay has been so far, but I guess it’s worth a shot. I’ve never traveled alone before, nor lived in another country before. I didn’t know anyone and I’ve never lived in a “Residency” type setting, so I was a bit wracked thinking about how much I wasn’t used to the “lifestyle.” 3 weeks in, I can confidently say that I’m completely accustomed to it and that it’s only feeling more and more like home. I was actually afraid I wasn’t going to be able to “make friends,” but I’ve come to realize that it takes a certain type of person to join these programs–therefore, you are bound to make great friends with people in your study abroad programs because you all already have one thing in common.

I am currently living in the Chamberí district in Madrid. It’s actually an ideal spot (I was afraid that our Residency would be far from the city, but it ended up being in a prime location). A picture outside the residency:

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I’m already dreading the fact that I will eventually have to go back home to the States. Maybe that’s why I’m writing–my obsession with recording times like these is starting to creep up.

Some words on being abroad:

1) TRAVEL NOW. It really bugs me when people tell me that they want to study abroad or travel abroad but they “don’t have the money.” I was under that exact impression probably a year before I came here. I think that statement is true to a certain extent. I think when most people say that, what they really mean is that they would rather spend their money on other things than traveling. Or that they would rather save for other things. It seems like a big chunk of money, but if you’re smart enough, work hard enough, and want it enough, it will happen. Also, if you’re young and you have the option, WHY NOT? If you’re not going to do it now, then you probably never will.

2) Don’t be (that) afraid of the language barriers. When I first got here, I was so nervous because I felt like my Spanish sucked (Still does). But you’ll be surprised how much you’ll pick up within even just a couple days. There was a point in time while being here when I really thought I was not improving at all. But then I’d surprise myself when I’d be drunkenly talking to locals at bars (who were nice enough and patient with me) or when I’d start picking up one things I overhear. Don’t be discouraged.. just keep faking it until it becomes a reality.

3) Don’t neglect your home city. It’s honestly such a stressful thing when trying to figure out where/when you want to travel when in Europe. I’m always feeling conflicted trying to figure out if I want to stay in Madrid to explore the city (there’s a lot to explore), or if I want to travel somewhere else in Spain (It’s easy to get around within your home country with the abundance of trains, buses, flights..), or if I want to travel to another country in Europe (Everything is just so close that it’s tempting to travel to other countries during weekends). Everything is accessible and affordable.  Regardless, you should spend as much time as you can exploring in the city your studying in. It’s always nice being able to know the ins and outs of a city, at least to me. I like getting to know the place i live. So far, I’ve been staggering my traveling during the weekends, and have been limiting it to just Spain. It’s good to travel before and after your program as well.

P.S I apologize if some of my writing doesn’t make sense or if there is awkward phrasing. Being in between language can sort of confuse my brain.

Signing out from a cute cafe near my place, called Lolina. XO.

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Trip to Portugal

(June 24-28)

After my trip to Paris, a friend and I flew to Portugal and stayed in Porto (Portugal’s 2nd largest city, right next to Lisbon) for a couple days. It was eerily quiet the first day we arrived–such a contrast to Paris since the streets are always busy with people. But we also found out that they day before was a huge festival when the entire city celebrates (São João Festival), so everyone was pretty much hungover.

It was a nice change of scenery and pace going from Paris to Porto. Porto was generally very quiet while we stayed there (I wasn’t sure if it was because we were there during the week days or if it usually is that quiet), but regardless, it was a lot more “relaxed” compared to Paris or other big European cities I’ve traveled to. There wasn’t a huge population of tourists everywhere, which was actually nice.

We took a train out to Aveiro, Portugal for a day trip. It was a lovely, small city not far from Porto, apparently dubbed the “Portuguese Venice” (But it’s a better idea not to think of it that way, since it’s very different from my mental images and experience in Venice). Aveiro was even more quiet than Porto and a pretty fun place to explore. We rented some bikes are pretty much biked around the whole city. We attempted to bike to a beach near the city, but it was way too complicated…Because we were sort of desperate to find a beach, we ended up stopping at and walking through Granja on the way back to Porto.

Even though I’m the type of person to thrive and feed off of big cities, I still loved Porto. I actually enjoyed its slow pace.

If there’s one thing I wish I did more of in Porto, it would be the wine tours. We only went to one at Taylor. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the Port wine, I don’t see anything bad about having more wine…

Some things to consider when traveling:

1) Don’t compare or rank the cities you travel to. Every once in a while someone will ask me what my “favorite” city is, and I always hate answering it. I don’t choose favorites. I think every city and every place has things I like about it and certain things that didn’t work for me, but I feel I like all the cities in different ways, if that makes ANY sense at all. I think it’s best NOT to have great expectations about the cities you travel to or to have a model of comparison, otherwise you will be disappointed in one way or the other. It’s the same concept as comparing your Home country/city to a place abroad. You just can’t. Always keep an open perspective.

2) Don’t be afraid to stay at hostels. It was my first time staying at a hostel in Portugal. I was a little bit skeptical (refer to the movie Hostel), not only because of the movie, but because I usually hate roommates and like privacy. I think staying at Dixo’s Hostel was actually what made my trip. Staying at hostels means you get to meet like-minded people from other places. They also usually have a lot of information for travelers and activities like pub crawls, guided tours, etc. They also have kitchens that are available for use (some hostels even serve small breakfasts). I honestly don’t even know why people use hotels to travel. I think it’s the most boring thing you can do when traveling.

3) Get over being homesick. I think by the time I was in Portugal, I started to feel a little bit homesick for friends and family and rice (I know that’s not necessarily “American,” but I consider it a comfort food at home) and being able to walk around naked in my room, and all those things I didn’t have in a city away form home. But dwelling on how much you miss things at home can ruin a trip and generally your mental state. Meet new people, make new friends, and go out and have fun, have a drink, write…do whatever to get over it.

Paris: Part 2.

I stayed in Paris for about a week, and I still feel like I didn’t have enough time to see everything I wanted to. Granted, I still was able to do most of the “touristy” things, while still relaxing and exploring neighborhoods off the charts. While the first part of my stay was near the Canal Saint Martin area, my the latter part of my stay was in Belleville. Belleville was a bit grittier, but nonetheless charming. The place we stayed at I feel like was the quintessential vintage Parisian apartment, and it wasn’t located too far off from the major sites. Whenever I travel, I always enjoy staying in areas like Belleville, that have a relatively central location without being heavily touristic. Often times, you can find undiscovered restaurants, bakeries, bars, and stores that are pretty cool. I think one of my favorite things I did while in Paris was having a long, relaxing picnic with some friends at the Eiffel tower. You can’t go wrong with bread, cheese, wine, good company, and one of the most monumental views ever.

The 4th day I was there, I did the typical tourist walk around Ile de la Cité. I visited the Notre Dame (I only went in the bottom floor, but I wish I was able to somehow get an entire tour of the Notre Dame. I’m intrigued with Gothic.), visited Shakespeare & Co. (A must for every English major. I thought it was cool that the first bookstore was a meeting place for people like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald), walked along the Seine River, visited the Louvre, saw Saint Chapelle & Le Conciergerie (Where Marie Antionette was imprisoned before she was sentenced to the guillotine), and visited the Musée d’ Orsay which houses French art of the 1800s and early 1900s (including famous paintings of Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc). There’s so much to see in the city that it is a bit overwhelming at times, but I think it’s definitely worth it to see all these sights.

Luckily, we were in Paris during La Fête de la Musique. Basically, from my understanding, it’s a city-wide music festival–kind of like SXSW–where there are concerts, shows, DJ sets, and street performers everywhere. The whole city is pretty much out drinking all night just enjoying themselves. Coming from the US, I’m not used to everyone being out so late at night. It’s probably one of my favorite things about cities like Paris since I’m such a night person.

Here are some other things I did/saw while in the city:

-La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre. If you are willing to journey up those steps, I think it’s worth it. You get a great view of the city, and the church is noteworthy.

-Moulin Rouge. I honestly haven’t seen Moulin Rouge, but we figured we would stop by and see it. I think it would be much more exciting to actually watch a show there, rather than take pictures of it.

Eiffel Tower at night. HIGHLY recommend. Apparently every hour at night, the Tower lights up for a couple minutes. Sometimes, locals will put on their own fireworks. It’s disgustingly romantic. But it’s also fun just sitting there at night with a couple friends and some wine.

-Shopping. It’s a bit overwhelming shopping in Paris, perhaps because of Paris is the “quintessential” location for all *fashionistas.* I enjoyed looking through Printemps and Galeries LaFayette (An equivalent to US’ Macy’s, Nordstroms, Bloomies, etc.), but there were way too many people shopping. I feel like if I had enough time, I would be able to visit more gems like Colette.

Les Puces de Saint -Ouen and the surrounding markets. If you’re into antique shopping or looking at antiques, I would recommend going. It’s more of a great window-shopping experience. It was fun for me mainly seeing the antiques here because I’m not used to seeing such antiques. I mean, sure, I have the Alameda Flea Market, Paris obviously will have way older and interesting items to see.

I still don’t think my week in Paris was enough time to see everything the city has (obviously impossible), but I still enjoyed staying longer. The first time I came here years ago, we skimmed through Paris (as with a bunch of major European cities) and all the touristy spots without really getting a feel for the city. I always think it’s a good idea to spend as much time as you can in a city instead of spreading yourself thin when traveling. But that’s only my opinion.

Paris: Jour Número Une ou Duex

Despite the fact my exhaustion and 3 hour delayed flight, i couldn’t be any happier to arrive in Paris. I was a bit nervous because since my flight was delayed, I’d have to trek out to my friend’s apartment alone. Keep in mind, I haven’t really traveled alone, and the last time I was in Europe, I had my whole family with me. AND I usually have a terrible sense of direction. I only got lost briefly (the fact that street signs are on buildings threw me off), and I ended up just fine. Lugging around a huge bag and backpack was not fun, but just seeing the beautiful streets of Paris made up for it–the stone streets, the antiquity, french signs, the people….it’s charming in every single way. I spent most of the day walking around the neighborhood with my friend (she lives in the Republique area), and we had lunch at the Canal Saint Martin. She introduced me to the cafe culture, and I instantly fell in love. Parisians value their free time and spend hours having meals. The waiter never gives you your check unless it is asked for. This is something that was unusual for me, since I’m so accustomed to the rushed 30-minute lunch time. We also visited Pére Lachaise Cemetery, which contains many famous graves. Ended the day with a typical Parisian dinner.

The second day was my first day exploring completely alone. It may not be a huge deal, but when you’re in a foreign country, everything can seem scary and intimidating. Not being familiar with the public transportation, the language, customs, and areas, not having a working phone, not knowing a single person can be discouraging. It can be nerve-wracking just ordering a meal. But careful planning and awareness can get you far. I ended up exploring the Place de la République, having lunch there, then trekking out to Centre Pompidou to check out the permanent collection of modern art. It was amazing seeing the works of the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Duchamp. I didn’t get to see any of the temporary collections, and I was a bit too tired to, since it took me about 2-3 hours to check out the permanent collection.

Here are some things I learned:

1) Learn the language. And don’t be afraid to use it, no matter how terrible you think you sound.

2) The Metro is amazing. It’s so straight-forward. Despite not knowing French, I feel more comfortable using the Paris metro than the NYC metro. I forgot how great public transportation is in Europe.

3) Everything in Paris is in smaller portions. America is truly the land of excess.

4) Pay attention to social queues. Observe what is around you and act accordingly.

5) Don’t be afraid to travel alone. It teaches you a lot about yourself and forces you to use your smarts… or test them. I’ve learned that I underestimate my sense of direction.

6) If you’re terrible with maps, note your surroundings. I found myself remembering certain things because of the placement of stores, restaurants and through mental images, rather than street signs.

7) I forget how popular and AMAZING Kebabs are in Europe.

8) Do your research. Learn as much as you can about the city. I’ve been asking my friend (who has been living in Paris for 6+ months) things about the culture, language, customs, people, etc.

9) Tourist-y stuff is fun, but try to spend time just living like you are a Parisian.

 

XOXO

Interview with Jessica Clavin of Bleached

From BARE Magazine’s blog

Last November, I saw Bleached play in San Francisco with the Japandroids at the Fillmore. They were the openers of the show, but after watching the Japandroids play one song, I was a bit confused as to why Bleached was the opening act for a band with such a different sound. Needless to say, I left the concert early. But the show converted me into a loyal Bleached fan, and I yearned for them to release more songs. Luckily for me, they recently released “Ride Your Heart,” and it’s exactly what I expected—catchy riffs, punk-inspired sounds, and girly lyrics of heartbreak and boys.  I saw them again this month at the Independent with Ex Cops, and they played the majority of their new album. I think it’s safe to say that “Ride Your Heart” will be one of my summer albums on repeat. 564936_347493595298250_120345780_n

As Bleached finished up their U.S tour, I got the chance to catch up with Jessica Clavin. While she mentions David Bowie and LA bands as Bleached’s musical inspirations, she talks about their first headlining tour, Chloë Sevigny, and her favorite places to shop:

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 It looks like you guys are wrapping up your tour. How’s that going?

Jessica Clavin: It’s going pretty good. I think we’re all kind of excited to go home and then we get like a week home and then we’re going to go to Europe. It was a really fun tour. We had a couple crazy drives. There was this one drive recently it was from Medulla to Seattle, and we had to be in Seattle at 11 am to play live on the radio. So, basically after our show at like 1 in the morning we did like an eight-hour drive and then did the 11 am radio show.

 Woah, that’s crazy.

JC: So that’s one of those little intense drives. But there were maybe like…2 or 3 of those kind of drives.

 Is this your first time headlining?

JC: Yea, actually it is. We’ve done U.S tours before but we were either with other bands going back and forth. But this is definitely our first headliner.

 I remember you guys came here with the Japandroids a couple months ago in San Francisco, and I totally left after you guys performed. Did you guys like SF?

JC: Oh, yea, totally. We love San Francisco. Our bass player actually lives in San Francisco. It’s always really fun. I really like that venue we played at.

The Fillmore?

JC: Yea, that’s right. The Fillmore.

What are your favorite places so far from touring?

JC: We had a lot of fun in Oxford, Mississippi . We played at this place called Dude Ranch…that’s always a really fun place. On this tour, I think we had a lot of fun in New Orleans. We played in this little pub – there wasn’t really any stage or anything, and it ended up being one of the most fun shows.

What places are you going to be touring in Europe?

JC: We leave for Europe in May. I think we’re going to be there for like a month. We’re flying into Germany, probably France, UK, Belgium. I don’t know if we’re going to Italy… I went to Italy once with another band, and it was really awesome.

Have you guys ever thought about playing in Berkeley? I feel like it would be a perfect crowd.

JC: I wouldn’t be surprised if we have.  Now, that I think about it, I feel like we have. But, yea, that would be really fun. And it’s so close. We could go for like a weekend.

I feel like you guys have gotten a lot of press in the fashion world. Is that something you guys wanted or did it come naturally?

JC: It definitely is something we wanted. Jen actually took some fashion classes and was going to do that after the first band broke up and like try other things. I kept playing music and Jen was going into the fashion world…

chloe-sevigny-nyfw-bleached-161173399How did to feel to be a part of Chloë Sevigny’s fashion show, and how did that come about?

JC: It was pretty awesome. We were really excited.  It was kind of cool that Chloe asked us. It was really fun to be a part of that. She’s really awesome.

The clothes were amazing. I felt like it went perfect with your guys’ attitude and music, you know?

JC: Yea, totally.

Do you guys prefer thrifting and vintage shopping? What are your favorite places to shop?

JC: In my neighborhood there’s a bunch of cool little vintage clothing stores with stuff out of the closet, and I love just walking down the street and go looking for like a jean jacket or maybe some cool boots or something. And Jen’s kind of the same way but she likes other things (Aside: Jen, are you awake?). I can’t remember her favorite places to go shopping. Acne? That’s what she likes.

We also even when we go to big cities we’ll go into like and H&M and buy some new clothes there for the road.

So you kind of mix it up?

JC: Yea, exactly.

Where do you guys get your inspiration for your style? Is it music or where does it come from?

JC: It’s definitely like music and the image bands have. Like…I thought it was really cool certain bands when you see like the music and the fashion. We grew up kind of picking out records from the way people even looked sometimes when the Internet wasn’t fully in our house. So we would go to like record stores, and be like “Oh, this band looks really cool,” and then bring it home and listen to it, and it ended up being like [our] favorite band, and [we’d] want to like dress like them.

I can totally see the kind of ‘90s influence. I don’t know if you guys like Clueless, but I can definitely see that style, but a little punkier.

Yes, definitely, definitely that!

Here are some of my favorite tracks from the album:

Looking forward to catching them at the Jubilee Music and Arts Festival in Los Angeles this summer!

Less than 1 month.

This summer, I will be attending a study abroad program (through UC Berkeley) in Madrid, Spain.  I always told myself when I first went to Madrid at the baby age of 16, that I would come back to visit. I always told myself that I had to study abroad in Madrid. I applied this year, got accepted, so now I will be living my DREAM. Initially, I was planning just to attend the program without doing any outside traveling. I didn’t know anyone who would be willing to go, and I didn’t want to be alone. I was a bit afraid to be somewhere so far away for such a long period of time. However, after re-thinking it, I realized how stupid I would be to NOT do more traveling. Instead of waiting for a friend to go with me or depending on someone to go so I can tag along with them, I had a “fuck it” moment, and just decided to plan everything on my on terms. After endless hours of planning and researching flights, cities, and prices, getting advice from people who have studied abroad/traveled to Europe for long periods, talking with friend and family who are currently in Europe, I planned the skeleton of my itinerary. I was completely overwhelmed, but I was determined to do it. Everything actually ended up falling into place.

I’m pretty excited to revisit places, visit new locations, and experience this all at the age I’m at now. The last time I traveled to Europe, I was with family. We stayed for a month and traveled to London, Paris, Monaco, Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Milan, Zurich, and London (Most of our stay was in Vienna, Austria). The trip was exhausting and stressful, but it was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I expect my summer trip to be nothing short of these things. It actually might be more stressful since I’ll pretty much be on my own. BUT I am currently in the process of researching as much as a I can about every place I’m at, so I’ll prepared as much as possible (fingers crossed). Regardless, I’m kind of mentally preparing myself to get lost (a lot) in foreign places.

Here are the cities I for sure will be visiting:

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(From top to bottom) Barcelona, Spain. Segovia, Spain. Ibiza, Spain. Morocco. Toledo, Spain. Paris, France. Porto, Portugal.

This was the skeleton of the itinerary I had planned. Since my program will be in Madrid, I will obviously spend most of my time there, but I am eager to travel to other places besides the ones I listed. There’s way to many options to travel to though, so it’s kind of overwhelming. I’m pretty much always looking at the map of Europe trying to figure out where I should go.

I wanted to write about my travels after I came across the idea not too long ago. An organization that I applied with for a scholarship asked me if I was interested in writing on their blog about my trip. It sounded like a good idea, but then I realized that I could just do it on my own and on my own time without censorship or someone editing what I write.

P.S. If anyone has tips or suggestions about traveling, feel free to let me know. I am all ears (or eyes, in this case).

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So I’ve been just been using this thing

So I’ve been just been using this thing to write after I stopped writing using my other account (www.danielandjamie.wordpress.com). I was kinda just using for myself to record things and create a travelogue for my trips. This summer, I will be traveling abroad in Europe for the second time. I plan to go to as many places as possible. I’m going to use this as my travel diaries, among other things, hopefully. And hopefully I can keep consistent…

Graduation

The day has officially come. I can’t believe two years have passed already. And I can’t believe it’s been one year since I’ve been living in Oakland. Last Saturday, I graduated from UC Berkeley (with a BA in English Literature). If I were my 16 year old self thinking about now, I would have never thought I’d be here. Cal was my “reach” school. You know–the school that was your top pick but you knew you probably wouldn’t get in, so you had to apply to other schools just in case. I remember when I first got here, I was sort of freaking out because I was afraid it would be too hard for me. Well, it was hard, but I survived, along with keeping up with multiple jobs and internships. It’s been a truly humbling experience being here, learning with the top English department in the nation and being surrounded by a bunch of smarty pants and such. And now, everyone keeps asking me what “are you going to do next.” Man, I wish every single person who asked me that question heard the speech Mary Roach gave at the ceremony. 1) She was hilarious and 2) She said everything just right. In a nutshell, she told us to not worry, live life, travel a lot, work hard, and be happy. (I’m also studying abroad in Madrid, Spain and traveling around Europe in the Summer). I think everyone gets caught up in the “right” path. I’m not going to lie, I have my random bouts of stress, but all-in-all, I know everything will end up the way it should.

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