Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Home

People keep welcoming me back to the “real world.”  How funny that saying is— like the place I’ve been the last seven weeks is a fantasy or play world, not real.  I can attest to the fact that the ground was hard and the hills were high, the food was fattening and the wine was intoxicating, and the people were very, very real.  Never-the-less, I am happy to be back in my “normal,” space.  Coming back to work feels good, my bed feels good, and watching Bodhi jump around and not leave my side feels incredibly good.  But I have every intention of not letting the normalcy set in.  I assume this will be easy to begin with, seeing as in two days it will be Thanksgiving and in one month it will be Christmas, then New Years, and then January.  It’s more time off and the feelings of the festivities make the daily not so mundane.  Not that day to day is mundane, but I’m sure you have an idea of what I mean.  It’s easy to get into a rhythm that is more about convenience than exploration.  I realize that this rhythm is difficult not to fall into and isn’t entirely bad, but I do know that having Europe to look forward to kept me kind of held up in the months leading up to the date on my plane ticket.  I looked toward that on days I struggled, I looked toward that when work got difficult, and I looked toward that when I was bored or unsatisfied or whatever.  But now I am back, and life will go on hopefully with a new presence of mind to appreciate the home I yearned for while I was gone. 

As soon as we got home, we rode our dirt bikes to a piece of land that's for sale not far from away in Murphys.  The spot overlooks the valley below and different vantage points show you different things.  It’s beautiful.  The trees are yellow and orange and red.  The ground is wet and soft with rain, and the property has two outdoor bathtubs, side by side, like they were waiting for two people to sink down holding hands into a life saturated by nature.  There is no house on the property, but there are the bathtubs, a Jacuzzi powered by firewood, and an outhouse.  There is room for the Huggy Hut and there is plenty of room for tents.  It’s hard not to imagine a place like this in my future- seeing kids running around barefoot, climbing up to swing out on rope swings into close by swimming holes, or campfires and marshmallows and friends and family and the tinkle of kids laughing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m ready for kids, not by a long shot.  But in places like this, it’s easy to see that future stretched out ahead of me.  I’m excited to be home, and be back to normal.  And I’m excited to live life with the same curiosity and reverence as I did when I was abroad, because quite frankly, there is so much here to discover.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Finite

I finish The Flamethrowers as I am flying across the Bay of Biscay, hurtling toward home and normalcy with a mix of anticipation, sadness, and so much excitement.  It's a fitting end to a trip, finishing something so emotionally drawing as that book, but equally as emotionally inspiring. I'm not writing a book review, and won't labor that point, but to set the scene I'm a bit tritefully contemplative (tritefully isn't a word, but should be. It's the frightful feeling of sounding or being trite, but with full awareness of the fact.)  

Seven weeks.  About half of which has been traveling alone. For those who are not aware, purposely because I didn't want to worry anyone, I split from Nick and Ericka on and off but bumped up against them rather frequently, as our itinerary was planned on the same map. It wasn't a conflict of interest, clash of personality, or a mellowdramatic confrontation that distanced me, it was simply that being a group of three wasn't the most ideal traveling situation and I wasn't about to compromise my experiences for comfort in numbers.  Let me tell you, the loneliest I felt on this trip was while traveling with a couple. It's nothing against them, I adore both of then individually and equally, it's just a simple fact.  The "third wheel" is a very real thing, and turned out to be a powerful persuader to strike out alone. But even traveling solo, it was extremely rare when I felt alone. Hostels are a hotspot for meeting people, and rarley did I feel lonely- you can meet people everywhere you go as long as you're open to meeting people. And I find that good people find good people- call it law of physics... Or something like that. 

But now I am headed home and have never been more excited but I am also a bit sad. More excited that I can describe to see Wes at the airport, but equally nostalgic of that fact that seven weeks ago I was packing to backpack and explore the massively and imaginatively looming Europe.  I don't think I have to spell it out- it's sad to be ending this trip.  But it's equally as happy to be coming home. Home. Thank god for home. 

Lisbon, Lisboa, was the perfect place to land for my final three nights.  I always wish for more time, but I think that lack of time in each place has forced me to dive in with all I have- all my energy, attention, brain power and social skills, to walk away feeling like I even nibbled on the periphery of a place.  Traveling like this, two nights here or three nights there, forces you to be present- you can't afford to waste time because it's so limited.  Well, until I got to rainy Lisbon. Don't get me wrong, I explored and went to a Fado show, I tried Ginja and codfish (not together), I walked over 10 miles in a single day to Monsanto park- "the lungs of the city" and the place apparently no one knows where is located.  But I also enjoyed the hostel and didn't feel guilty for napping away an afternoon. I slept in and stayed out late. I vacationed. And it felt amazing. 


I walked all over the city. I really am suprised how much ground you can cover on foot when you decide that's how you'll travel.  This especially colorful skate park caught my eye.


As did this amazing piece on the side of an apartment building. One of my favorite things about walking around a city is how close you can get to all the street art. 


I wandered for a few hours through is massive park.  I went up and down hills, along creeks and muddy walkways, and found these colorful little guys on the way.


I picnicked at a table overlooking the city, but only took a photo of the food, not the view :)


I've become kind of addicted to marinated green olives, I absolutely love them. While I was sitting here, a young-ish girl in bright orange spandex came running up the hill after a scruffy dog, who made a b-line for the food. He was a super friendly little guy, and soon after Millie (the girls name, not the dog) and I were chatting like we'd known one another all along. She is a student from Germany but lives and studies in Lisbon. She offered to take me to the Metro and was just as sweet as can be.  Like I said, good people find good people. 

That night I joined my hostel for a night time walk through the oldest part of Lisbon, the Alfama, and went to a Fado show. Much like Flamenco in Spain, Fado is the folk music specific to Portugal- a mix of Spanish guitar, a mandolin and a deep voiced, passionate singer, either male or female. It was quite the night, although I was exceptionally tired. 

I finished the night by riding the historical trollys through the city, trollys that run 24 hours a day and only cost about €3 total, from one side of the city to the other, and back again.  It was my second to last night, and experiencing the city alone on the trolly was a beautiful feeling. 


The next night was dinner in the hostel, with all the portugese sausage, wine, olives and cheese you could eat. It was an impressive spread.


I feel like this has gotten too long, but I'll wrap it up with my final outing in Portugal- the flea market behind the monastery.  People were hawking everything from shoes and jewlery to furntiure and car parts.



I especially enjoyed watching these two
old men argue about the paper. And then argue with anyone who walked up. I wish I had tried my luck...

Just up from the monestary was a small chapel on a hill, overlooking the entire city. 


It was the perfect way to end my trip, sipping coffee overlooking Lisboa. It's been a whirl wind, and I can't believe it's coming to a close.  Thank you all for the support, and I can't wait to see you!  My final ciao from Heathrow (and hopefully the last photo of me with chipped front teeth!)













Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lisboa

Even in the rain, I like this city.  It's been raining since I arrived, more or less.  There is something romantic about the rain and how it casts everything in an unfamiliar light.  I have mentioned before how it seems to make colors brighter, the wet sheen covering everything magnifies the blues and greens and reds of the trees and the black and white tiles of the sidewalks.  It makes the city seem newer and fresher and more welcoming to the visitor.  It also makes for a great excuse to spend some time sprawled out on one of the community room couches, sunk deep and buried in pillows reading The Flamethrowers, my latest novel conquest. 


I have completed 8 books since I've been traveling, this being my 9th.  It's amazing how they just keep ending. Each one comes to a close almost as a surprise- I never have the kind of time at home, or more accurately I never make that kind of time at home to finish that many books.  They've become like traveling companions.  Isn't it funny how that can happen?  Each story, the characters and sometimes even the plot, are intimately woven into my experience here.  Arriving physically and imaginatively in a new place has been punctuated by what's happening in whatever book is the current book.  Granted, the first few books I chose specifically because they are either about the region or set in the region I was venturing toward.  And one of my incredibly sweet and generous co-workers gifted me another book that is about personal journeys and what they mean or have the potential to mean.  These books lay the land out mentally in my mind before I set foot in each place, and almost narrate moments as I move along.  I imagined Hemingway walking through the streets in Ronda and entering the famous bull fighting ring, building a certain amount of anticipation and expectation inside of me.  Or I memorized the dish described by Mayes that she loved in Provence and matched her descriptions of the crowded, hot and teeming Rivera with quieter experience we had on the street in Cannes.  I wondered about my motivations in taking this trip, other than simple wanderlust (ha, is it ever simple?) and tried to imagine it as the beginning of one of Guillebeau's quests,  something that I would complete over my life time- this desire to explore our expansive planet.  I could go on, but I hate to bore you (if you've made it this far...).  What I'm getting at is books have been the most reliable and comforting companion, now and probably when I first fell in love with reading.  I can only hope to keep up this momentum when I come home.

When my train arrived yesterday, it was raining.  I made my way to the hostel and immediately fell in love with the space.  I don't know why so many of these places call up memories of Berkeley, but this hostel definitely has a Berkeley type of feel.  Shag carpets in the computer rooms, walls painted in rich colors, and couches and carpets and bean bags everywhere and books, chalkboards and chandeliers lining the walls and adorning the ceilings.  It's a beautiful spot, and the perfect place to land before making my departure.  



(This is where I'm currently lying :) 

After checking in, I braved the rain in interest of finding food and spent the afternoon holed up in a little cafe across from the Cathedral, satiated with an avocado burger, mint tea, and The Flamethrowers.  There is something so indulgent feeling about sitting in a cafe, alone besides the other cafe sitters, watching it rain and enjoying the shelter and food and jazz. It was warm and I was happy.  And there I remained for most of the afternoon as it continued to pour outside.

(Inside the Cathedral, it was as cold as it looks)

Finally succumbing to the draw of a new city, I released the cafe table I had been holding for over two hours and I splashed my way out into the streets.  I explored along the waterfront, dodging the people who wield their umbrellas like blind rabbits, hopping to avoid puddles while wacking you in the face with the metal pointy parts that precariously stick out.  That was enough to make me tired, so I returned to my cozy hostel and enjoyed an evening of free sangria and multi-lingual hand-gesticulating company. As a group we decided to head out together to a district call Barrio Alto, and spent the night dancing between bars and different live music venues.  I noticed one of the girls in our group, Heaven from South Korea,  bent over a notebook while we listened to a jazz band at a tiny little bar, and I thought it kind of strange.  To each their own.  But, in fact, she was sketching the scene!  It was so cool.  She said it's her way of capturing moments, and in a little under 30 minutes, this is what she had:

(This is an awful representation of why she drew. It is much better in person).

The group was fun, low key and easy going.  Together we made up a map of Germany, Denmark, South Korea, Italy and California.  We listened to American rock & roll, jazz and reggae and were back and tucked into bed by 2 am- my latest night out to date. It was a great night.


And the rain continues.  I stared at a map when I woke up this morning, and obliquely planned out my day- but then forgetting my map in my bed I ended up just kind of wandering along in the rain.  



Interestingly enough though, I kind of did the route I had planned and explored one of the large parks, happening upon three random chickens and a tree full of parrots:




It is the strangest thing to see parrots flying around here!  I noticed a few in Porto, but didn't realize they just fly around freely and wildly. So cool.


I'm headed out in a bit to meet up with Nick and Ericka for dinner.  Two more days and I'll be loading myself onto a plane- looking so forward to seeing everyone.  Ciao!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

OPorto!

I'm sitting here in my orange and lavender themed hostel with some techno something bumping in the background, sipping some cheap and delicious Portugese white wine and savoring some fresh and equally cheap chocolate cake, when it dawns on me- this time next week I'll be heading into the office.  The thought is fleeting enough for me to then realize I've scattered chocolate cake crumbs all over the table. Maybe it's from nodding my head to the Portugese techno that these brown little sweet morsels have scattered. Or maybe I'm just messy (answer B is the more likely one.)  I didn't think I'd feel this way- but I'm looking forward to work, to coming back. The narcissistic part of me indulgently wonders if it's so I can share all of my stories with anyone who will listen (a.k.a. the incredibly patient women trapped in the office with me), but I don't think that's it. I think one thing I've learned is that the experiences of travel are a highly personal thing. Sure, you all are gazing pretty deeply into my brain folds through this blog, but the experiences aren't what's communicated here- they're my own twists and turns of those experiences.  Obvious enough, right? But it's true- while I sincerely hope the people I love have enjoyed following along on this journey with me, my experiences are entirely mine. And try as I might, can't entirely be shared. Man, that's a pretty empowering thought, to own a trip like this. Anyways, I look forward to returning to work.

(That used to be chocolate cake. And do you see the orange and lavender? You should see my dorm room...)

I find myself and my writing getting off on these tangents quite frequently.  I blame the techno. Anyways, I'm in Porto and it´s been lovely.  Immediatley when I got off the train, Porto gently smacked me in the face with old world charm. It's one of those places that just feels historic, ancient, storied. Similar to how Big Trees State Park makes you feel, but with architecture and people instead of trees and squirrels. A sense of time passing in depths so beyond what's in my imaginative power. Granted, the two places are very different, Big Trees and Porto. But I'm saying the slap of humbleness is similar.  These places just make you feel small and young in nothing but an awe-inspiring way.  Quite simply, it's a romantic city. 

 
The red tiled roofs are legally mandated- as an UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is not allowed to alter or change it's appearance, nor are the residents allowed to physically alter the outside of their homes.  They may replace their leaky roofs, but it better be with red tiles. 


Sure makes for a charming panorama, though.  The best part of my day, as the best part of most days, was meeting a wonderful person who I then shared the rest of the day with. She is a lovely girl from Brazil, who is living as an expat in France.  She studied film and worked in movies in San Paolo for years, tired of the lifestyle, and is now renting an apartment in Tulouse.  She is so energetic, inquisitive and just lovely to be around that I asked her to join me for dinner later that night and we made it a date!  She talked to everyone we passed (easy, since she speaks Portugese) and by the end of the night we had shared life stories and a bottle of wine. I am so happy to now have friends spanning the globe.  I can't think of a better thing to bring home with me than these connections. 



(I just can't get enough of these red roofs, even if they have nothing to do with what I'm currently talking about...)

So, while Porto is great for meeting inspiring people from all over the world, it is also great for inspiring multi-million (probably billion) dollar book series. That's right folks, J.K. Rowling taught in Porto, and supposedly dreamed up Harry, Voldemort and the wizarding world right here. Even the wand shop is actually located in Porto (but the wizardly bastards don't let you take photos inside). 


They don't sell wands, they sell books. And it's the most beautiful book store I've  EVER seen. Trust me, I have a thing for bookstores, and this one is inspiring.  The interior is low lit with darkly varnished wood shelves and a red, optically confusing, beautifully crafted staircase that looks like it's in constant motion.  It's easy to imagine how Rowling could be spellbound by this place (pun absolutely intended). I sure was. 

You wouldn't believe all the wizards walking around too. It's a trip. People in black cloaks and snappy shoes EVERYWHERE.  So they're not really wizards (they'd like you to think) but are Portugal's equivalent of Greek life univeristy uniforms. Similar to sororities and fraternities, but they wear these matching uniforms that are identical to Hogwarts Slitherin uniforms. They even carry these weird wooden spoons around (wands, duh). The strangest part is that I'm not even kidding.  I swear, this really happens and you can come to Porto to see it. Or just Google it.  It's very strange.  But, to my extreme disappointment,
none of my photos of these little Hufflepuffs came out, so you will indeed have to resort to Google. It's probably some spell they cast to never show up in photos. Sigh.

So besides Harry Potter, which is my favorites aspect, Porto is also know for, wait for it...Port!  Although for accuracy sake I have to tell you, it's not actually made here in Porto but across or up the river.  And by across, I mean right across. 

See that town right over yonder? NOT Porto but where Port did in fact originate. I did my due, and this morning my new Brazilian friend and I spent our time tasting vintages, whites, reds and roses.  For those of you who don't know, Port is made with brandy, and is POTENT.  So we then walked (wabbled?) off our headaches along the waterfront of the town. Take a look at these old school boats, used for transporting the wines from the vineyards to the cellars.


After a lovely morning, I allowed myself some down time and have been relaxing (eating chocolate cake and drinking wine) ever since.  Tomorrow it's off to Lisbon, and onto the last city in my European tour.  Wow, it's been real.

Love you all. 




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sintra

Portugal has sucessfully and completely captured my heart. Well, it still shares quite a bit of it with Granada, lets be honest, but this place is super rad. Yep, super rad. It's tempting to let the photos speak for themselves, but when have you ever known me to give up the mic? Wes would certainly attest that it's not a likely occurrence. Anyways, back to Sintra. I have to admit I was skeptical. Portugal is different than Spain, and definitely different than France and Italy. Portugal is like those countries' wild half-sister that has been left to expand and breathe without the imposed limitations of grumpy parents.  It is less developed, has less people, is less concerned with appearances and all together simply feels more raw and flowing <for the record a. I can't find the parenthesis on this keyboard, and b. I don't know if any of that is actually true in real life. But that's certainly how it feels to me, who has the reins in this discussion>. Maybe it's the history that I've read about since I was a tot that gives Italy, France and Spain that air of other-worldly, high-class, old-school, untouchable otherness. Portugal doesn't have that. It's likely I feel this way because I knew nothing about the country when I came other than they obviously colonized Brazil, and maybe a few other countries.  Sad to say, I know. But well, actually I don't know. And I love this country for that.

Sintra- we arrived when it was raining last night and came into an incredibly warm embrace of class and elegance and an open bar {hallelujah}.  This hostel is the most beautiful place I've stayed, and I really mean that.  It's intimate from the moment you walk in and reminds me of the old homes in Berkeley with wooden floors, built-in white shelving, crown molding and floor to ceiling windows.  There is even a fireplace and candles on the dining table.  Oh yeah, and there is a dining table.  Did I mention the bar?  Yep, it feels like home.


While it was tempting to stay curled up in my warm, comfortable top-bunk bed this morning, coffee and the need to do two weeks worth of laundry aroused me to alertness.  And thank goodness it did- this town has so much to see and do.  Who would have thought.  We walked out into the {rainy} street and the air was wet and spoke of Fall.  While we've watched the colors change here and the temperatures go from nude beaches to alpine skiing, this morning I felt Thanksgiving looming around the corner for the first time {dibs on making Sangria as my dish!} and realized that means Grams birthday is also right around the corner.  So, let me take this moment to say Happy Birthday Grams!  You're as youthful and spry as if you were 40 years younger, and I am thankful everyday that you're not only my grandma but you're one of my best friends.  Thank you for being such a positive force in my life and I look forward to celebrating with you for many years to come.  I love you so incredibly much and can't wait to catch up when I'm home!


Okay, back to Sintra. Nick and Ericka, thankfully, talked me into exploring castles today.  I say talked me into because I have seen more churches and ancient structures than I ever thought I would see in a lifetime.  I wasn't super keen on more castles, but was thinking of getting back to the beach or browsing the historical district {a.k.a. shopping}.  But instead we spent the day exploring two places that easily could easily been figments of Walter Conan Doyle's imagination.  Really.  We've been to so many beautiful places on this trip it's hard to fathom or record, but this palace and this castle blew me away.  They were mysterious and almost mythical in their architecture and history, and they were easy to lose time in.  

First stop, the Quinta da Regaleira Palace and Garden...


Pretty surreal that this was a summer home.


The garden grounds have a number of grottos and underground tunnels.  Walking through them I felt like I was moving between The Goonies, Hocus Pocus, some Steven King novel, and Game of Thrones.  Surreal.


One of the underground tunnels spits you out here, in the "Courtyard of the Gods." 



Oh, that's just me in my tower ruling over my minions.



This "well" was built to symbolize movement from hell to heaven, the idea being to bring to life the imagery of Dante's Inferno. Underground tunnels lead to that circle on the bottom, and only vaguely make you think of ritual sacrifice or some twisted something...

These next few photos I just like.  The gardens I'm sure are home to elves and fairies. 


The Palace


That would be the Chapel- even though the history behind this place is entirely pagan.  And a bit creepy...

After the Palace, we walked up to the Castle of the Moors.  And by walked, I mean climbed.


Up there on top... Yep, that's where we went.

But the climb was absolutely worth it.  You're likely {hopefully} noticing a trend in this region-  the Moors settle the land, build these outstanding architectural marvels, and then are overthrown by Christians and sent "back" to Africa. Their engineering ability is spellbinding- Wes, you'd be enthralled. 


And the views!  So what if that was obviously the point.  This was a fortress, after all, and meant to be a look out for oncoming attackers and crusaders and such.  And I am grateful today that I can take in that view without the concern for attackers on the horizon.  Although the wind up there was definitely plotting to overthrow us. 


Sintra is green, lush and timeless feeling, and over there to the left would be the Atlantic. 


Once again, that's just me overlooking my minions down below.


Interesting that the fortress was very Great Wall of China-ish.  I wonder which came first. I bet you Google knows... Great Wall came 500 years earlier, but this fortress was still pretty damn old.  Circa 700-800 BC.  Mind-boggling.

And with that, I shall say ciao once again.  One more week, and I will be stateside with you, my friends.











Lagos and Life

I LOVE Portugal.  I really can't think of a better way to begin this post.  The people are incredibly friendly, the landscape is lush and even in the rain this place has a touch of magic to it. I realize that sounds cliche, but seriously. It's incredibly easy to picture the sirens of maritime lore and the faries from long ago tales.  Maybe it's the rain. Everything always seems more vivid and alive in the rain.  But it really is beautiful here.


We arrived in the coastal town of Lagos amid a downpour.  This town has a storied reputation- in the summer time I imagine it closely resembles Cancun. There are cheap hostels, cheap food, beautiful beaches and a surf shops selling familiar Roxy, Vans, and O'Neill gear on many a' corner.  I've heard whispers even comparing it to Costa Rica, although never having been there, Iunfortunatley  can't confirm.  It's a little surf town for sure, though. We based our stay at the Rising Cock hostel (not even kidding, everything in this country is rooster themed), and were greeted by "Moma," who made us crepes for breakfast and assured us that we had finally arrived home. Maybe it was the impression Moma made, but the people here are so warm and hospitable.


I went for a solo walk yesterday morning along the beach, and found a lovely little secluded cove.  It's not often you're left alone somewhere beautiful without responsibility or other priorities pulling at your sleeve.  Sitting alone, attempting to meditate but constantly getting too distracted by the sounds of the waves and seagulls, it donned on me how much I love the feeling of being somewhere new.  I've known this.  After a year or two in one place I always get ansy. My contentment goes out the window and I start looking at everyone else's grass, wondering if it's greener.  It rarely is. But I move along anyways. I reach for change anyways, and it's something I've learned to accept about myself. Contentment has been allusive.  It sounds sad, I know. But it's not. I realized that maybe it's not lack of contentment, or lack of happiness, or an insatiable wanderlust that keeps me from feeling okay all the time. I think I've been confusing lack of contentment with something else. 

If I've learned one thing through these 6 weeks I've been away, it's how much I love and care about the people in my life. I miss you all so damn much.  And I am really, truly content with the life I lead. I think the thing is that I have a youthful soul that craves discovery, excitement, novelty.  I don't think I'm an old soul, not at all.  I think I've been terrified of the words "settling down" for a long time, but I realize now that doesn't necessarily mean settling- not on life, not on love, not on work, not on anything. Making a life with someone and having roots isn't a bad thing, it's a blessing. I am so thrilled I get to come back to the man I love, and get to move in with him and our dogs. I am so thrilled I have a job that allows me to do me, and chase the life I want to build. And I am so thrilled I have a family and a best friend who have been so solid and so supportive throughout my meltdowns and constant changes in direction.  I
expect to never satiate my wanderlust, and I hope I never lose my yearning for change.  But I also recognize and appreciate the value in roots and in home.  It's not a lack of contentment I've felt, it's the inability to reconcile curiosity and wanderlust with wanting to build a life and have stability. I've finaly realized they don't have to be mutually exclusive, but can foster one another and make for the most beautiful life. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Seville and Ronda

Hola! I'll try to keep this one short (your welcome). We've arrived in Portugal from Seville and are on the last week and a half of our trip (wow!) Getting to Seville was an adventure. After arriving at the train station and learning the train we wanted to take was sold out, we opted for a different route that should have been straight forward. Three hours (or something like that) and however many train delays later we arrived in a tiny little town cast orange from street lights and fog, and had 2 hours to kill until our next train. Starving and cranky and tired, we set out to find food and beer. I am only mentioning this so I will never forget the first time I ate Spam. We walked into a bar filled with old Spanish men and ordered dinner. And when the chef walked out with a pink patty as big as the plate that looked like raw burger, I almost cried. Really.  They can't possibly eat raw meat? Nope, that would be a Spam patty, or something similar, that was a little bigger than the size of my head. Trying not to cry, all I could do was laugh. And I downed my beer.  Then I ate the Spam burger without thinking too much into it. And I survived. 

Seville was a bit of a let down. I feel almost heretical saying it, becuase it's supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities in Spain according to some very reliable friends who have spent time there.  Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, but time we got to  Seville I was exhausted, and still cranky, and probably a little sick from my raw or spam or god-knows-what burger, and then I took 3 walking tours back to back.  I knew I needed a down day, but being 24 and on a new continent with so much to see, people to meet, things to eat, I proceeded with the arrogance of youth to wear myself out and not even enjoy it. I got back to the hostel, called my Mom and texted my best friend, and told them both I missed them and wanted to come home. And they both told me I was just tired. Phew, I didn't suck at life!  I wasn't failing and I was still on an amazing adventure and what, I just needed to sleep? Who'd have thought. Thanks mom and Nat, for reminding me that it's okay to be human.  I, remarkably, did get some photos of Seville. 

(Plaza de Espana)

(Still the Plaza)

(And a cool tree- this one is for Wes!)

After going to bed early, I woke up refreshed and in much better spirits. I decided part of my down-heartedneas probably also had to do with being in cities for 5 weeks- I needed to escape to some green and open space, and fast. I got on a bus and made my way to Robda, which is a small town about 2 hours from Seville, but what felt like so much farther.


My heart was made happy, and my sense of self and adventure was successfully restored. It's amazing the effects nature can have on your body and mind.  The air and foliage and even the rain lifted my spirit, and I was reminded how important it is for me to get out in the open every now and again to stay sane. And Ronda was breathtaking.



Grandma asked me about the history of Ronda, and unfortunatley I didn't really find out when I was there. I just wandered and hiked and reminded myself to breathe. I'll look it up and tell you when I'm home, Grams! :)




Needless to say (becuase I kind of already said it) going out and exploring on my own that day was the best decision I could have made. I loved Ronda, and I am once again excited to be on my way. I miss Wes and my family and friends more than I can describe, but that makes it all the more sweet when I finally do get to see you all. 








About Me

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I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, ventured south along the California coast for a while, sailed through San Francisco Bay, and have landed back on the Central Coast.  This time I'm a little closer to our rivers and our summits, and a little farther from where I started.