Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Chasing the Day

Lifestyle

For as long as I can remember I have always been a ball of nervous energy trying new activities in order to direct it into some other form.  It has translated into translated into my acting, dancing, singing, but most importantly to the various exercise regimens I have experimented with.  I used to swear to never enter a gym and couldn’t understand why anyone could enjoy the pain of running that strains the faces of early morning joggers.  However, once I reached college full of new stressors I realized that I needed to find new ways of releasing this nervous energy that built up behind my “never”- saying habit.  I soon found that through different activities of yoga, pilates, spinning, capoeira, barre, and running.  I became one of those crazy deportistas, or gym rats, that I thought I could never be. 

image (2)

In reality, though, I had never felt better.  My anxiety dropped and I felt more in my body than ever.  I created a schedule and was comfortable.  But moving across the world took me out of that comfort ability – in every way possible.

You’re given leeway on vacation to pause your daily exercise routine and allow yourself eat everything and all you want because you are on vacation.  But imagine being on vacation for 4 months…

Thus far it has been somewhat of a challenge bringing my once calculated regimen to Europe, but in my new experiments I have fallen in love with running!  Getting off the elliptical and racing through the Brussels’s gardens, Barcelona’s streets, Bordeaux’s rivers, and now Madrid’s parks I have found a new regimen to not only de-stress but really experience the city.  To wake up with sun and other early birds who enjoy that same adrenaline rush before facing a long day, racing past workers and their path to their daily grind, the niños on their way to school, the homeless who slept outside of the panaderias that are just beginning to open and sell their first fresh batches, the dog walkers, taxi drivers, jovenes just returning home from the discotecas now that the subway has re-opened, breathing in the various sights, sounds, and smells of each region.

image (3)

This exercise no longer seems strenuous and uninviting but rather a sense of knowledge, understanding: concocimiento.  A grounding and release that doesn’t take me out of my day as yet another chore to fulfill, but an incorporation of me into each new life.

“Final” Destination?

Lifestyle, Madrid, Spain, Travel

It’s hard to believe that I’m about to reach my final destination (for the next four months at least) and that summer is coming to a close!  It feels just like yesterday prepping all my pre-departure plans in NYC before my first destination in Florence.  Now I’m about to hop on my Vueling plane from Bordeaux to reach my new home in Madrid attending NYU’s campus; taking a break from theater and focusing on my minor in Social and Cultural Analysis in addition to achieving my goal of finally becoming fluent in Spanish!

 

Of course, this is not a complete goodbye to my travels.  I plan on taking trips throughout the country to fully immerse myself in Spanish culture during the fall term which I plan to update on the blog.  But throughout these extensive weeks and months of traveling I’ve really learned how to create and maintain a lifestyle when constantly on the road, in the air, jumping from home to hostel to hotel and apartment.  My hopes are to focus this “travel diary” on developing culture and lifestyle when adapting to any sort of new land or home.

Teaching my French cousin how to bake the best chocolate chip cookies was a sweet memory from home and indulgence for both of us.

Teaching my French cousin how to bake the best chocolate chip cookies was a sweet memory from home and indulgence for both of us.

In the past three months of traveling what I’ve learned thus far:

  • Don’t fear exhibiting the “American stereotype” engaging with locals; just read the room, adapt, and be friendly! And maybe just don’t talk to loud or yell in public settings with your American accent…
  • Keep your eyes up and be aware of surroundings and create local landmarks for yourself. Not only to prevent from yourself getting lost but to enjoy the beautiful new world around you!
  • Walking is a leisurely, enjoyable activity. You’re not in New York so slow down.
  • You can always pack less.
  • Budget your money buy shopping at markets for food and drink rather than always going out. It’s healthier, cheaper, and fun to picnic!  Also it is legal in multiple European countries to drink openly in public.
  • Maintain somewhat of a regular eating, sleeping, and exercise routine. It can be difficult when you plan long day excursions of museums, galleries, monuments, daytrips, etc. or experiencing the long lasting nightlife but trust me your body will thank you for the fuel needed to do all these things!
  • You can never “do it all” so highlight a couple things you want to do or see and let everything else play out by chance.
  • Walking, biking, running or even taking a bus ride is the best way to get to see and become familiar with the sights.
  • Time schedules are more of a “suggestion” in a lot of countries. So be patient.
  • Patience. Patience.
  • Living and traveling with someone else reveals true colors very quickly.
  • Layers. Layers.
  • You would think that weekends are the best time to explore and shop but Fridays-Mondays in most cities and countries are closed. Most shops close for 3 hour lunches as well.  And August is a dead month.  Almost everything is closed except impacted touristy areas.
  • Try not to carry too much with you and always keep your hand on your bag.
  • Public restrooms aren’t free so get ready to pay about €,50 to relieve yourself.
  • Tap water, table bread, tipping, and good service aren’t really a thing.
  • Eating is a leisurely event! Enjoy a 3 hour lunch or dinner.  It will help you engage with the people around you as well as digest your food properly.
  • If you don’t drink coffee, you will probably start to religiously now.

 

Yes it gets lonely and yes you get homesick.  But by developing a piece of home to carry with you it gets easier and I hope to expand on this further in my next blogs about moving into my apartment in Madrid and becoming a Spanish student!

 

Making time for pizza and "Mrs. Doubtfire" night put me at ease in my home away from home.

Making time for pizza and “Mrs. Doubtfire” night put me at ease in my home away from home.

VIVA ESPANA!

Paloma

 

076

Finding the Romance

France, Paris, Romance

In one of the most romantic cities, if not most romantic country, in the world let’s face it; it’s hard not to be reminded of that missing romance in your life.  Whether it be the couples French kissing on the grassy banks of the Luxembourg gardens, the runaway cottages on Marie Antoinette’s estate, the love locks chained upon the bridges crossing the Seine River this “romance” is a constant reminder, search, and even allure.  What exactly are we hunting for?  Someone?  Some place?  Something?  And why do we want it so badly?

076

The dramatized theatricality of the beauty of wine tasting and long train rides shared with our significant other somehow convinces us of the importance and memorability of an experience.  As if the romance has the power to fulfill a special uniqueness that any “ordinary” experience with any other “ordinary” person lacks.  But do you always need some “significant other” to share it with and can’t you find your own romance for yourself? Each person’s “romance” is subjective no doubt.  My trip to Paris would be described best as romantic in my memorable unique experiences rather than that of intimate, passionate love one tends to think when idealizing this Romance Capital.

057

Getting caught in the rain without an umbrella on the first day

The everlasting bipolar climate disorder of the city: one minute grey skies, the next minute clear blue

Incredible vistas from Notre Dame and Sacre Couer

Fois gras, mustards, and preserves packaged in their sweet little tins

Picnicking any chance it wasn’t raining

Impromptu salsa dancing along the Seine

Underground cave jazz dives

099

You don’t always need a romantic partner to discover your own internal romance with the city around you.

Ciao,

Paloma

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Buscando Para Ti

France, Long Distance, Paris

Withstanding long distance from the Romance Capital of the World

New destination: Paris, France

lux

A midnight in Paris

Staring at the same moon

As you

From thousands of miles away.

That moment when the city falls in love

With you

As much

As you

Have fallen in love

With it.

Lizzie Maguire serenaded to me

That “This is what dreams are made of”.

But, ten years later do you believe in

Taking a Roman Holiday

And spontaneously meeting the love of your life

In some local bistro or café?

Some call it serendipity.

Can we trust to put our heart out there

Or can it only exist in our dreams and fantasies?

But Home is where my heart is.

It cannot disappear the moment I enter a dream.

In fact

It only stains my inside

This dream is just an escape

Where we hope to

Eat

Pray

Love

But in reality are pining over

The love

That cannot eat, pray, and love with us.

The heartache grows with each

Walk in the park

Glass of pinot noir

Saccharine sax

And late phone call from a lonely nightstand.

Reminders. Desires.

Vicky and Cristina couldn’t do it in Barcelona.

But perhaps I can in Madrid.

My dreams aren’t fantasy

They are my reality.

Reality

That bites, kicks, screams

But burns its never-ending flame of passion

To the complexity of its embers.

Ciao,

Paloma

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

My Girl

Bordeaux, Lifestyle

In the midst of searching for my independence I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders when my generous families and friends offered to take care and host me in their homes throughout the past couple weeks.  Their hospitality motivated me to reciprocate their faithfulness. I am currently staying with a new family in Bordeaux, run by my older “cousin” Carlyn and her husband Tomas, and thought they are “taking care” of me I have found my own contribution by taking care of their wild girls Mia (8) and Gabrielle (5) who never seem to run out of energy despite the sugar crashes they should be experiencing after eating too many madeleines.

image (6)

In the fun and joy of playing restaurant, mommy, school, animals, beach and in all the other heightened imagined worlds of the girls I have gained a huge respect.  Respect for the energy required to keep up with these little monkeys, the necessary love and care to ensure safety, patience and deep breathing in order to withstand tantrums, and selflessness to put their happiness first. 

image (7)

I am ever so grateful for the amount of work these families have put in for me now experiencing the work it takes to do the same for my little girls.  Indeed playing dress up, doing gymnastics in the park, and cleaning up their messes gets tiring but their excitement and admiration for the tender love and care I give overrides the stress of my responsibility to them making it all the worthwhile.

image (5)

 

Ciao,

Paloma

photo 1 (2)

Accion de Gracias

Barcelona, Food, Lifestyle

Peanut butter.  A simple staple from the United States that I have been experiencing withdrawals over for the past couple months seeing how it is a delicacy throughout Europe and especially Spain.  I have changing my dietary habits according to the dishes my Spanish family would prepare (melocotón in moscatel, fuet, llom, rabbit: items that I had either never heard of or dreamed of eating) as well as the local market’s produce, opening my already large palate and discovering delicacies for my own self.  But when I finally unearthed crunchy organic peanut butter with sea salt (unfortunately for an unreasonable price compared to my Trader Joe’s brand) in an international market I excitedly brought it home to introduce this strange spread to my padres nuevos in hopes that they would love it as much as I would!

photo 1 (2)

I laid out on the table bananas, bread, jams, marmalades, and chocolate; all the best pairings with PB.  They were hesitant, but after dipping the sweets into the spread they had fallen into PB love and proceeded to eat au natural as well! 

photo 3

I’ve always found food to be a powerful sharing mechanism, but may have taken for granted the power that lies in “customary, home” foods.  Bringing my beloved American peanut butter to a Spanish Barcelona family was an exhilarating exchange of ritual; after welcoming me into their culture they willingly entered mine.  It reminded me a little of El Día de Acción de Gracias AKA Thanksgiving (excluding the exploitation and imperialism thereafter of course) in the ability to come together under the common love of food and the joy of sharing with a newfound family that I have been so incredibly fortunate and blessed to be adopted into. 

 photo 2 (2)

In return they surprised me with my Mexican Salsa, Guacamole, and tortilla chips! Though they will never be as good as my dad’s 

As heartbroken as I am to leave Catalán, I am quite excited for the adventures ahead in my next destination: Bordeaux, France.

 

Ciao,

Paloma

image (4)

Horario Diario

Barcelona, Lifestyle, Spain

Lately I have found myself reminiscing about late night rehearsals and strict studio schedules in New York or my morning walks with my dog, April, hoping to ground myself in the memories of home.  “Home”; an incredibly circumstantial location and connotation.  Home as of now has been a constant transit (bus, train, plane, boat, foot) where I lose myself amongst the movement and bleed into my various destinations without any firm establishment.

My stay in Barcelona has consisted of me living in two different homes with two separate families and learning to adapt to new people and customs arranging my life within their home.  My second family, the Valls, have been a blessing by restoring my ease within a new land by welcoming me into their lives and every day schedules.

El Horario                                                                                   

Morning begins with a run to wake me up followed by a tranquilo desayuno: water, coffee, fruit y pan con tomate discussing various plans for the day in Spanish.

image (4)

Afterwards, Ignacio Valls and I pasean con 6 year old golden retriever Praga before the heat reaches its peak.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

During the afternoon we ditch the heat and go to the local pool or beach to swim.  Once the water runs us dry we head back home where we cook up lunch, usually una mescla of seafood and vegetables.

image

Post food coma and siesta, Mercedes and I either head to the city center, relax, or begin preparing yet another smorgasbord to be eaten late in the night followed by drinks and a well-deserved sleep.

No longer had feeling rushed to see and do everything, a little routine was all I needed to create a new home within the Valls home.  I usually connote schedule with a full day of various (usually stressful) activities, however, this rather calm routine changed my perception. Though the Valls schedule is nowhere equivalent to my customs back in the States, the sheer act of slathering tomato all over my morning toast grounded me, de-stressing my fatigued traveler’s body.  As I continue my travels I hope to discover more rituals that I can hold on as little tokens reminding myself that it possible to find myself within Europe, a new destination, and my body.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ciao,

Paloma

image (3)

La Vida Catalunya

Barcelona, Lifestyle, Spain

For the past five days you could say I took a break from my typical touristy travels through various cities and countries and settled down in the pueblo San Vicenç dels Horts, just 25 minutes outside of Barcelona’s city center.  I had the fortune of staying with my friend, Aida Bausa, and her family in their casita living within the flow of their typical lives.  Aida participated in a foreign exchange program last summer in my hometown of La Crescenta, CA and so this past week I was able to get a taste of what a homestay feels like; stepping out of the role of tourist and trying to integrate within the culture.

image

I didn’t expect it to be easy and I was in fact correct.  Though I speak some Spanish, in Barcelona the people speak Catalán, a Spanish dialect consisting of different words, phrases, and spellings.  I can get by using my Mexican influenced Spanish I for sure as hell can’t speak any English for no one understands nor speaks it. 

I like to pride my lifestyle as a mix of New York’s ambition and Los Angeles’ relaxation, but my hybrid American drive doesn’t mesh with Catalunya’s long days either.  Given a regular day, I typically wake up by the latest 9 A.M. followed by a morning run, and after a full day of school, work, or travel I typically knock out around 11 P.M.  It was difficult adjusting to the new routine of waking up at 11, eating a leisurely lunch at 3, and finally starting the day around 6 P.M. and ending it around 2 or 3 A.M. Days seem to melt into one another especially with the Catalán sun burning down my back from 7 A.M. until 10 P.M.

image (1)

 

Despite the culture shock I had prepping myself for; I was amused and delighted to find though the apparent culture and language barrier segregates myself from the Catalans , our daily lives are as similar as any other.  They just start theirs later. Ditching the suburban heat for the air conditioned mall is an all-day event in itself.  Birthdays are a week-long fiesta starting with a casual dinner the night before, lunch the next day, cena the night of, fiestote farrote at the discoteca, roof top drinks the next day, and any other excursions to the mall, zoo, park, pool that could count as a celebration.  Lazy summer days are passed by sleeping in front of the television, getting up only to go to the bathroom and eat.  Walking the dog is a family event.  Gossiping over boys, girls, celebrities, clothes, and weight fulfills a week-long conversation.  Abuela arrives for lunch, dinner, and whenever else she can.

We all have or had this life at some point and it is a comforting reminder that la vida isn’t just tapas and vino; those are just luxurious garnishes to our everyday experience.

image (2)

 

Ciao,

Paloma

005

The Land of Chocolate, Waffles, and Fries

Brussels, Food

When determining what to write for my posts each time I experience an event, city, or country I realized my immediate go-to was food. Food plays a huge part in my life; eating it is a hobby in itself! Eating a particular culture’s food allows me not only to get acclimated within my new temporary home but also gives me a great excuse to indulge and spend money. I had to separate my travels in Brussels by activity and food because I felt that 1) it would be way too long if I tried to cram the entirety of my experience into one post and 2) that the Belgian delicacies of chocolate, waffles, and fries deserved their own post.

Chocolate

021
According the premier chocolate makers the best Belgian chocolate is made with at least 30% cacao, however, many Belgian chocolates include possibly up to 70%! I taste tested about 17 chocolate shops around Brussels in search of “the best” creations.

Pierre Marcolini: Pioneer of modern chocolatiering! Their chocolate shop looks like a jewelry store and the prices parallel one as well! The chocolate and presentation was impeccable. Also known for their macaroons I purchased a speculoos macaroon which was to die for. I hope they can cater my wedding someday.

007

Passion Chocolate: They know and love to admit that they are one of the best. They are correct! Best milk chocolate I’ve ever tasted and I am a dark chocolate girl.

Jean Galler: Gives out tons of free samples and very reasonable pricing compared to the higher up chocolatiers. What struck me the most was their creation of “strawberry yogurt chocolate” which was delicious!

Elisabeth: Most reasonably priced and best flavors of pralines! I usually prefer just simple chocolate bars and squares but Elisabeth won my heart with their green tea, Early Grey, raspberry, and rose flavored pralines.

023

 

Waffles

011

Maison Dandoy: I had to research this one because I didn’t want to buy just any Belgian waffle off a street vendor and I wanted to see if it would be better than Le Pain Quotidien’s (which are so damn good). And TripAdvisor was correct! Maison Dandoy serves both Belgian (rectangular and crispy) and Liege Waffles (almost oval shaped and fluffier infused with sugar crystals) for about €5 with additional toppings of whip cream, ice cream, fruit, chocolate, you name it! The most decadent waffle I have ever had and I bet it would taste just as great plain.

032 033 031

Fries

003

Frit Flagey: Though I’m not the biggest frit fan, I wanted Brussels to change my perspective convincing out of In-N-Out’s Animal Style Fries. In-N-Out will always be close to my heart but this little fry stand in Place Flagey won a new spot in my heart with its triple fried potatoes with their perfect ratio of crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside for only €2.

008

Little Gem: Lastly if you ever plan to go to Belgium indulge in all the Speculoos you can: cookies, truffles, chocolate, ice cream, butter, anything speculoos flavored! Speculoos is a type of cookie with a similar flavoring to graham cracker but better. It tastes like a Christmas party in your mouth and I swear I can eat the spread out of the jar like peanut butter. In America I have only found speculoos spread sold in two places: Le Pain Quotidien and Trader Joe’s where it’s known as Cookie Butter. In Brussels it was as easy to find as Nutella and was only €1.5! Stock up if you can!

Now is time to say au revoir to fried, sugary goodness and hola to tapas and paella!
Next destination: Barcelona, Spain

Ciao,
Paloma

 

 

064

Bring it Bruxelles

Brussels

In all the premonitions I had about my Europe travels never did I expect I would end up in Brussels, Belgium. Having worked at the restaurant/bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien over the past year the only Belgian facts I knew about the country were restaurant related history and the food. I don’t speak a word of French, however, my friends Kat and Hudson from my Commedia program encouraged me to tag along with them on their travels to Brussels convincing me of the beauty that is Belgium. Boy were they right!

The architecture reminds me of Holland in its quaint Dutch village aesthetic that makes you feel welcome on any street.  I visited and ate at the original LPQ location and felt right at home.

001

Brussels also incorporates a great modern twist with intricate comic strip art graffiti and futuristic titanium balls of the Atomium! This structure was constructed for the 1958 World Fair held in Brussels inspired by the structure of an atom (obviously). It was designed for people to walk in amongst the particles, exploring the different sections, and getting to see an amazing view from the top ball. The high speed elevator to take you from the bottom of the atom to the top was the first elevator constructed in all of Europe at the time. Today each ball contains historical exhibitions as well as modern art. The current expo, Out of Control, is a variety of light installations exploring the inevitable advent of technology overtaking as a virus through light show performances.

039 041 044

Another must-see monument in Brussels is the Manneken Pis; a small bronze naked boy urinating into a fountain below. There are many legends surrounding the identity of the boy and the mannequin has apparently been stolen several times. Today he lives near the Grand Place and is costumed frequently especially on holidays. He was naked when we saw him, though, and was much smaller than I expected in every way…

012

 

What is even more amusing is seeing the different variations of the little boy peeing various stores and artists create. Below is the local’s Manneken Pis dog version.

020

 

My time in Brussels wouldn’t be a true Belgian experience without indulging in all its treats, particularly Belgian beer. We went to SkyScanner’s recommendation, Moeder Lambic, for a beer sampling and though I am not the biggest beer fan I did discover a couple favorites from the darker ales!

066

 

The Aderladus on the far left was by far the best with a dark, mild, cinnamon taste.

Bring it Brussels!

Ciao, Paloma