Tag Archives: culture

I longed for a warm scarf…

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times” – Asian Proverb

Day 2 started with homemade mimosas and extreme bewilderment as to why it was so ridiculously cold. [Read Day 1] I longed for a warm scarf and a cozy jacket. So what do I do? I purchase the fluffiest scarf I could find at Walgreens. Once I had my fluffy warm scarf, I was ready to tackle on the adventures that awaited us.

Our first stop was the Painted Ladies. We decided that it would be ideal to walk there since it was approximately only a 15 to 20min walk from where we were staying in Nob Hill. During our walk, I was just in awe by the beauty that surrounded us. There was something about the architecture in San Francisco that gave the city a modern vintage look.

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On our way we passed Japantown. Apparently, the Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest of the three remaining Japantown’s in the U.S. which, all happen to be in California. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore Japantown, but it was nice to learn of its existence.

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When we finally arrived to the Painted Ladies we were confused. For some odd reason we thought that the Painted Ladies was the location of the Full House (the sitcom) house. However, it’s not! The Painted Ladies is actually one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco. Right in front of the Painted Ladies is Alamo Square Park where people usually sit on its hill and enjoy the view of the beautiful colorful houses. Unfortunately, the hill was fenced up and tourists had to take their beauty shots from across the street.

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The infamous Chinatown was our next stop. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the second-largest Asian community in North America. Chinatown was filled with an abundance of culture and history. There were stories being told all over the streets through the form of art.

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By this point we were starving and wanted some food. We go on the look for some authentic Chinese food but, instead end up having Sushi at Sushi Taka, a Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi burritos and rice bowls. The irony, we skip Japantown to eat in Chinatown and end up getting Japanese food. Sushi Taka was a small spot in the corner of Kearny street and was only take-out. The line was long but we waited because that only meant that it would be worth it. All three of us order the Sushi burrito and decide to eat at the park in Portsmouth Square, known as the heart of Chinatown.

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The square was filled with pigeons, adorable Asian elderly locals, kids and your few random scattering civilians/tourists. Everything was so serene. We sat by the kid’s playground. As soon as Steph took a bite of her Sushi burrito, she saw a new world and stated that it was the best thing she has ever had. In the midst of Steph’s revelation, an elderly man decides to feed the pigeons right by where we were sitting. The pigeons flocked towards us, and as the man grinned with happiness we fled to a new bench fearing the pigeons and their hungry eyes.

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Apart from the awesome Sushi burrito, the best part of Chinatown was the dance group composed of older Asian women. It was the cutest thing ever! They were performing traditional cultural dances. If I knew what they were doing I would of joined in the dancing festivities.

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Off we go to find a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Beforehand, I do some quick research and read that there was a nice view of the Bridge in Presidio Park. Therefore, we tell our Lyft driver to take us to the park. After our awkward drive, we find ourselves in the middle of a huge hill with no idea where to go. So what do we do? No, we don’t climb the insane hill as shown above instead, like good tourists, we ask a local girl walking her dog. She points us towards Inspiration Point.

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Inspiration Point was truly inspirational; just breathtaking. From the point you can see Angel Island, Alcatraz, the Palace of Fine Arts and the East Bay.

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I am absolutely obsessed with scenic views because there is so much power in them. They hold dreams, inspirations, love, hope; they hold stories of success, failures, sacrifices, beginnings and ends. All we simply have to do is get lost in them and we are sure to discover something valuable. 

Inspiration Point and all its beauty did not have a view of the Golden Gate so our search continued. After waiting for our lost Uber driver for about a half hour, we made it to the Marina District.

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The Marina District houses the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck and the design reflects the impression of a Roman ruin. It was stunning to look at. There’s always so much meaning behind historical buildings. I always find it interesting.

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As we started walking towards Crissy Field we came across baby ducklings! Yes, it was an exciting point in our trip! We don’t see baby ducklings everyday.

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Finally! We found our view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was perfect. However, in the midst of all the perfection was the strong cold wind blowing so fiercely that my scarf didn’t feel as warm as it did in the morning. There I was again longing for a warm scarf. I sat down as the cold winds caressed my face and took the opportunity to call home. It was nice to feel home close to me as I viewed a historical landmark.

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I looked at the Bay with gratitude and thought of how perfect the moment was. I was truly and genuinely happy.

To be Continue…

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Cali, the West Coast, why not?

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

I finally did it! After years of dreaming, I finally made my way to California. All I simply needed was my dream and two friend’s with the same vision.

My friend Stephany proposed the idea to me. At first, I was hesitant because I was focused on all the problems I had going on at the moment but, after a few exchange of words Steph convinced me to take a week off work. “Cali, the West Coast, why not?”
Then we reeled in our friend Damaris who was down for the cause as soon as the idea was presented to her. Soon after we were ready to start planning our trip to Los Angeles, California. In the midst of planning, Damaris had a genius idea; why limit ourselves to Los Angeles? Why not visit San Francisco too? Next thing you know using Expedia we booked an affordable flight to San Francisco and an overnight Greyhound from San Fran to LA.

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Early on Tuesday, May 24th we were at the San Francisco International Airport trying to decide how we were going to get to our Airbnb. After weighting our options, we decided to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit,) the train. We would then get off at the stop closest to our destination in Nob Hill, the area in San Francisco where we were staying, and from there take a Lyft. The BART was definitely an experience. For starters we had no idea how to figure out the ticket machine! If it wasn’t for the local lady who kindly assisted us we would of held up the line for quite awhile. Also, traveling on a train with six suitcases (two per girl) is not as easy as it sounds. No, we didn’t overpack, we were carrying sheets and pillows for our trip to LA…I’ll explain that at a later time. When we got off at our stop Steph and Damaris struggled getting their suitcases up the stairs. It was quite hilarious because an older woman, who was struggling just as bad as Steph, offered to help her with her luggage. The lesson here is that you are never too old to be a good Samaritan. Once we all finally made it up the stairs it hit us… we were in San Francisco, California. We were in the middle of a super busy street, we couldn’t find our Lyft and it seemed that even when we did, the driver wouldn’t have a spot to load our suitcases. Luckily, our driver finds us, she looks at us and our six suitcases like we were crazy, we loaded our stuff, get cursed at by an old man driving, reminding us that we were “not in New York City,” and just like that we were off to Nob Hill.

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We have been traveling since 5Am EST and arrived to our Airbnb around 12pm PDT. We gained three extra hours and we were tired but, more than ready to venture out into the streets of San Francisco. Our first task was to find and ride a San Francisco Cable Car.

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After walking up and down a few steep hills and after waiting what seemed like forever, we finally made it into a cable car! The destination was Fisherman’s Wharf. We paid $7 for a 2min ride down a hill. I didn’t really get to enjoy the ride because it was super crowded and the lady that charged us was extremely rude (don’t work with people if you don’t like people.) However, in the end I did get the experience so it was all worth it.

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When we arrived to Fisherman’s Wharf it seemed as if it got colder and the winds became stronger. It seemed crowded but not too crowded and, the streets were clean. It was a peaceful late afternoon down at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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As we walked and looked for some food, we came across some beautiful street art by a sweet Peruvian man. We loved his work so much we each bought something! He even gave us a discount!

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We stopped to eat at Capurro’s Restaurant where they had a delicious lunch special (half a crab sandwich with a side of clam chowder soup and fries.) 

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We enjoyed our tasty beers and laughed a lot. Everything seemed perfect and it felt like we had so much time left in our day. We walked Fisherman’s Wharf and came across a lot of boats, shops (Steph got her self a San Fran hoodie) and a lot of chain restaurants we were used to seeing back home. Steph and Damaris even made a new friend.

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As we walked closer to the shore of the San Francisco Bay, we saw Ghirardelli Square from a far.

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At this point it was freezing and the wind was uncontrollable. The Bay looked like an abyss filled with unknown secrets and stories. We admired it for as long as we could and then decided to head up the hill towards Lombard Street, where San Francisco’s famous crooked street resides.

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On our 2min cable car ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf we passed Lombard Street so we figured the walk up wouldn’t be so bad.

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Wow, were we wrong! We had the most intense workout. We walked one steep hill after another. Anyone who decides to visit San Francisco, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a daily workout.

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The crooked street housed a beautiful scenic view of the Bay Area. It was absolutely breathtaking. This is just one of the many views in San Francisco that leave you at a lost of words. After admiring what Lombard Street had to offer it was time to head back to our Airbnb. We walked so much and up so many hills, that by the time we got back we literally couldn’t feel our legs.

Just when I thought we were calling it a day, Steph and Damaris start craving Crêpes. So out we go around the block to Crêpes ooh La La. It’s a small place and nothing flashy but wow are the Crêpes amazing! The French man was also super adorable. He had a conversation with Damaris in French and I loved every second of it… as per usual.

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I had the strawberry, banana and Nutella Crêpe. It was worth every single penny! While we were there we had an unfortunate encounter with a drug addict. This was the start of a social issue we slowly started realizing in the San Francisco area. Soon after, it was time to call it a night. We head back, put on our PJ’s and collapse.

We survived our first day in California. 

Differences & Culture Plus A Wedding

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides” – David Viscott

Santi(Located at the old airport)

Earlier this month one of my best friends got married to the love of her life. I took a plane to Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago,) Dominican Republic and watched my friend say I do with so much joy and happiness in her eyes. After 11 years of friendship; after all the wondering as to who would get married first, we saw how terribly wrong we were in thinking I would be the first to walk down the isle in anything other than a bridesmaid dress!

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Though I am of Dominican descent (from Santa Bárbara de Samaná) I actually haven’t been to the Dominican Republic since I was probably six or seven years old. Needless to say, that as soon as I stepped foot on Dominican ground I experienced serious culture shock.

I could go into this rant about culture and identity; what it felt like to be classified as Dominican-American or how it felt to not be considered Dominican at all but, simply American. However, at the end of the day I know who I am and what I am. So why focus on that?

Instead, I’ll focus on everything that left me in awe like the streets and it’s colors, the liveliness, the heat (love hot weather,) the poverty, the music (that I enjoy so much,) the simplicity, the crazy driving (You won’t ever catch me driving over there!) but most importantly the WEDDING!

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The streets amazed me. There was so much liveliness, it was a raw image of simplicity. Its beauty magnified with the happiness of the people that inhabited the surroundings.

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The driving was insane! I think I would suffer from anxiety if I had to drive over there. For starters I hate driving in narrow streets! I think I suffer from claustrophobia when I’m driving because I cringe whenever I drive in super tight streets. So lets imagine me driving in a bunch of narrow streets with close to no traffic lights and huge cars (oh I also hate driving big cars) I would cry! But this is what I appreciate about traveling, coming in contact with all the differences you find in the midst of all that is going on around you. Ultimately, it is what gives your trip meaning and gives you long lasting memories.

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I was only in Santiago for the weekend (Thursday-Sunday.) Therefore, I wasn’t able to explore as much as I wanted too. However, I was able to accompany Mayra (the bride) and her now husband on their pre-wedding photo-shoot which, allowed me to visit a few areas and discover some beautiful locations.

We visited three spots where the amazing photographer was able to capture amazing pictures of the couple:

1. Monumento A Los Heroes De La Restauracion (Monument to the Heroes of the Resurrection)
2. Fortaleza San Luis (St.Luis Fortress)

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3. Antiguo Aeropuerto (Old airport)

After the photo-shoot while driving back I was able to witness the poverty in the city. It’s always shocking to see so much poverty; it really makes you appreciate everything you have. People visit these tropical islands and sometimes forget that in the midst of such beauty there is a deep sadness and need within.

After the pre-wedding activities and getting to know the city a little better finally, came the day of the wedding. Everyone was super excited for the big day! We had the best make-up artist in the city turn us into celebrities and our hair came out absolutely perfect! I felt gorgeous but most importantly, Mayra looked absolutely stunning!!

The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was spectacular. It’s always breathtaking to see a love story unfold and bloom. From beginning to end the night was magical filled with lots and lots of dancing and laughter; of course can’t forget the Presidente (Dominican beer) lots of that too…the entire weekend actually!

I almost even missed la hora loca (the crazy hour) because of a quick bathroom break! Definitely one of the funnest parts of the wedding. There we celebrated the infamous carnival (Dominican style of course) with los Diablo Cojuelo. It was super cool because she had a photographer taking Polaroid pictures to pass to people as souvenirs (yes, I took one.) It fills my heart with joy that my best friend got the day she deserved and I only wish her many more blessings to come.

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Thank you Mayra for being a great friend and for the trust you enlisted in me to help make your day one for you to always remember. I couldn’t be more proud of you and I am happy to continue to be a part of your life!

Me Enamore… pero de Sevilla

“Me enamore de Sevilla, España.” I am convinced that out of all the cities I have visited, during my study abroad experience, Sevilla has been my favorite (Vienna was second.) I fell in love with absolutely everything, the food, the music, the atmosphere, the language and accent, the people, the architecture…the culture in general consumed you to the point where leaving made you sad.

Off to Sevilla, Spain

I went to Sevilla to meet up with some friends and enjoy my birthday weekend. It turned out to be a greater experience than I expected. I didn’t think I would fall in love with the city. I stayed in a single room in Hostal Florida. It was great! The room was clean, nicely organized, and had a TV. I was satisfied! I payed about 48 Euros for 2 nights. I only slept on the bed one night because Sunday my flight was at 7:45am and we stayed out till 4am partying and celebrating. It was my last time taking Ryanair to travel in Europe. Going back home was the worse experience. There was so much turbulence! I hate turbulence. I was running on no sleep just a 1.5 hour nap, and we took about 5 tequila shots to celebrate our experience that night! It was definitely worth it though.

One of my many Tapas

We ate tapas the entire time I was there. They were so delicious that every time they were placed in front of us we ate them quickly. Ordering a couple would equal to a full meal and all at a really good price! Everything I ate was less than 6 Euros! I loved chorizo it tasted delicious! I kinda wish I had more. I even orederd a tapa of Jamón ibérico “cured meat.” That was interesting. Tasted good though.

Live Flamenco

I was able to see live Flamenco! It was absolutely beautiful! The lyrics just took my breath away and the rhythm was just hypnotizing. There was so much soul in the music I could of listened to it all night! Truly an amazing experience!

la Torre del Oro

On our way to Calle Betis, a street a tad similar to Delirium here in Brussels but just more open and not so narrow, we stopped by the Guadalquivir river. It had an amazing view! Gorgeous just absolutely breathtaking! We also passed by la Torre del Oro. It seriously reminded me of Rapunzel. I always pictured her dropping her hair down from a tower similar to la Torre del Oro. The bars in Calle Betis were more spacious than the bars in Delirium and you were able to dance if you wanted.

Guadalquivir river

The cathedral was absolutely HUGE! It is so big you couldn’t take a picture of the entire thing unless you were taking pictures up from the sky. We had 1 Euro beers in front of la Iglesia de El Salvador. That was different. I never seen something like it! The place was packed! Full of people drinking in front of the church. Afterwards, we went inside the church with beer in our system… no big deal. The details inside the church were absolutely impressive. There were so many intricate details everywhere! It was a lot to take in.

Inside la Iglesia de El Salvador

We met so many interesting people! We had so many cheap drinks! 1.50 Euro shots! Absolutely unbelievable! My friend even got me a Birthday shot! I was so happy! Exactly what I needed to finally feel 21!

Best hot dog ever!

There was also this hot dog stand outside this club we went too. Seriously, best selling strategy ever. That was the best hot dog I have ever tasted in my life!!!! I don’t think I will ever taste something like it again!

Sevilla was absolutely amazing! I need to return!

Birthday Shot!

Time to be Grateful

Happy Birthday to me!

It was really hard being away from home on my 21st Birthday and Thanksgiving. I decided to look on the bright side and take it as an opportunity to just appreciate the many things I have. As I start the 21st first year of my life I have many blessings: my family,  friends, another year of life, and the opportunity to study in Europe. It’s important to be positive during the hard times.

Birthday Cake

It was remembering all the things I have to be grateful for that  really helped me have a good Birthday. I had to write a paper but I did it with a smile on my face. The sun shined bright on a city that’s usually gloomy, wet, and cold. My host sister baked me a delicious marble cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me in French! We toasted to my 21st year and I took my first ‘legal’ drink (according to USA law.) Afterwards my roommate and I went out with some friends to have a couple of drinks at Delirium. I had a light Busch beer. I couldn’t believe the alcohol percentage in that beer. o_O It did its job though. It was the perfect way to end a “beginning of the week birthday.”

Thanksgiving Dinner

There is no Thanksgiving in Europe because it’s an American holiday. So my roommate and I decided to bring Thanksgiving to Europe. We cooked a small dinner for our host family. We cooked things that would be traditional for our Thanksgiving meals. Thank goodness I had some saźon left over. It was all a success! Thanksgiving is about being grateful and sharing that with others and that’s exactly what I did.   

 

Oh Budapest: The Sites (Part 3)

Big Bus tours took us all over Budapest. At a quick glance we saw Parliament and the Grand Palace. We were also able to see some of Budapest famous bridges. Never did I pay attention to the history of bridges but the bridges in Budapest definitely caught my attention.

The Liberty Bridge was the first bridge to be reconstructed after WWII.

Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge caught my attention the most because of the legend behind it. According to legend, János Marschalkó, the sculptor of the stone lions at the end of the bridge, threw himself in the river during the bridge’s opening ceremony because a spectator mentioned that the lions had no tongues. However, the lions do have tongues you just can’t really see them unless you are at a certain angle. Marschalkó, also lived for many years.

Underworld opening scene building

The Elisabeth Bridge was named after “Sissi”, Elisabeth Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary wife of  Franz Joseph I of Austria.

During the bus tour I also learned some fun facts! Harry Houdini is from Budapest. I also passed the building where Vampire Selene, Kate Beckinsale from the movie Underworld, jumps off in the opening scenes. I absolutely love that movie! I was so excited I took a couple of pictures.

Dohány Street Synagogue

We also visited the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe, and the second largest in the world. The synagogue can seat 3,000 people however, it is not used during the winter because the building is too big for heating. I found it interesting that the synagogue has some architectural Christian aspects because it was built by a Christian architect. This makes it a modern synagogue, which is why next to it a more traditional synagogue was built for more old-fashioned jews. I found this very interesting.

cemetery

In the backyard of the synagogue there is a cemetery where over 2,000 people that were killed in the Jewish ghetto during the winter of 1944-45 are buried. There was an horrific breathtaking picture that the tour guide showed us of all the bodies on the floor before being buried. A very sad image.

The Weeping Willow

In the back of the synegogue stands the Weeping Willow tree a holocaust memorial. On the leaves of the tree the names of Hungarian jews killed during the holocaust are inscribed.

It was very interesting learning some history about Hungarian jews.

Snack Shops

Marinara Chicken Pita Wrap for lunch! 🙂

What comes to mind when you hear the word snack?

Well I think of chips, candy, chocolates, pastries, even fruits if I’m feeling healthy. You know the type of things you would usually find in a corner store in the States.

If you go to a snack shop in Belgium don’t expect to find that! There will most likely be “frites” Belgian fries, pita wraps, food, and a ton of incredients to have someone make you your own sub! That’s a snack in Belgium! I have a feeling that a snack to them is what we consider lunch! Talk about a culture difference! 

My internship boss invited all the interns out for lunch today.

Snack Libonais

She wanted  to thank us for putting in so much hard work for the Art Fair coming up next week. (Check out the website for Accessible Art Fair it’s pretty cool!) She took us to Snack Libonais a very chill snack shop with seating in the back. She ordered Marinara Chicken Pita wraps for all four of us with “Frites!” It was absolutely delicious! This place might be a problem for me in the near future! 🙂

Well as they say here “Bon Appetite”