an awakening.

Spanish countryside, Summer 2017

I’m in love

with a world of sandy

mountains, minimal greenery

somewhere near the ocean;

a place where clay rooftops

and olive trees look like

magic in the sun;

where men wear 5 o’clock

shadows all day, smile rarely,

and make you feel as though

all else has disappeared

when they look into your eyes:

this place where humor and

light-heartedness blend with

dark undertones to create

a color unknown,

    one that cannot be just one color…

how to define it? and why should I?

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I have looked, peeked

into this estranged world

that suddenly is beloved

though I do not know it,

my heart wonders at its

    ruby red and citrus,

    its warm bread and bitter espresso;

this place where couples kiss and

fall asleep in tangled messes,

where heartbreaking indifference intermingles with

romanced onlookers looking at something

through thick glass,

    noses pressed, mouths dropped: they are surprised

when someone looks back,

piercing them with a strange sensation

                                             of awakening...

 

 

The art of cooking authentic paella - Valencia, Spain

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Twenty-five minutes outside of Valencia, there is a white farmhouse.

Just outside of its walls are olive trees, rosemary bushes and rice fields.

 Inside is a chef named Rafa, who has opened up this charming home to teach the world (literally, people from all over the world) the true definition of Paella and how to make it.

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If I ever doubted that cooking is an art, I do not anymore; for making the perfect paella is a skill few possess. That's why Rafa told us that there is a designated paella chef in each Spanish family, and there is no taking turns when cooking the dish. 

Rafa provided expert guidance through the process of making the paella, but ultimately made it a hands on experience. One thing he noted right off the bat is that legit paella does not have any seafood.  It's chicken, duck or rabbit only! 

It was so fun to cook and eat with a diverse group of people - we had the Londoners, Texans and Australians who all joined us in the kitchen.  

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Rafa said we were lucky to have come when we did. While the paella simmered, he told us we would enjoy the local tomatoes, which only grew during specific months. 

They were delicious, beautiful, and huge.

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Back to cooking we went, full from the bread, cheese, meats, tomatoes, and wine (Rafa and his awesome assistants will never leave your glass empty :))

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After your first bite of paella, it is proper etiquette to exclaim how delicious the paella is. Let me just say, it was not difficult to be effusive.  

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Hannah's expression captured everyone's excitement. 

...and because we needed more food, Rafa served us his homemade cake paired with fresh watermelon and a digestif after we had our fill of paella. 

We had a contented, sleepy car ride back to the Valencian train station (Maria, one of Rafa's friendly helpers, dropped us off) to continue our adventure in Spain.


Growing with each adventure - Spain

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It has been six years since I've travelled internationally, and longer still since I've taken a vacation that has lasted anywhere near a week. For these reasons, and many more, I was ecstatic to plan a trip to Spain with my dear friend Hannah - and Spain did not disappoint.

It is beautiful; it is mysterious; it is unexpected; it is delicious; it is warm. 

I went into this trip being pretty tightly wound. It's been an insanely busy summer. But over the week, I watched myself unwind walking cobblestone streets and sitting in coffee shops eating warm pastries.  The pace in Spain is considerably slower and I enjoyed embracing the Spanish siesta as much as possible! I also had the chance to meet new people from around the world and was reminded, once again, how much I enjoy being in cross cultural groups of people.

But traveling is a humbling business. More often than not, it seems to point out all of the areas where I am lacking: my lacking directional sense, my lacking Spanish (despite studying it for years), my lacking presence in a moment, my lacking patience with plans gone awry. The list is truly endless.

I would be remiss without pointing out that I've come back from Spain with as many thoughts to unpack as clothes. 

And this is really why I think everyone should travel. It's an amazing way to learn so much about yourself and other people. It's an amazing way to grow.

Below are moments captured in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona. I've included links and recommendations for experiences that were especially awesome.

Madrid (photo by Hannah Williams)

Madrid (photo by Hannah Williams)

The hat madrid

I highly recommend staying at the Hat if you're planning a trip to Madrid. The rooms are spacious and clean (we stayed in a 10-person mixed dorm) and the staff are friendly and helpful. There are fun activities available if you need something to do and the actual location of the hostel is super convenient. 

Ruda Cafe, Madrid

Ruda Cafe, Madrid

Ruda Café (Madrid)

Just like a caffeine dependent New Yorker, the first thing I needed to find was a good cup of cold brew. Coffee drinks are not as common in Europe (more espresso based), so Hannah introduced me to third wave coffee (a movement to produce high quality coffee around the world). Our Google search took us to Ruda. Sufficed to say, Hannah and I spent every morning there while in Madrid. 

Churros with chocolate at  Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid 

Churros with chocolate at  Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid 

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Royal Palace of Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Street flowers, Madrid

Tartan Rooftop (Madrid)

If you're looking for a tasty meal and sweeping views of the city, look no further than Tartan Roof. Make a reservation!  

We got used to ducking out of rain (captured in Madrid)

We got used to ducking out of rain (captured in Madrid)

Bluebell Coffee Co., Valencia

Bluebell Coffee Co., Valencia

Bluebell Coffee Co. (Valencia)

Bluebell is a picturesque café (verging on a restaurant) with a equal mix of non-Spaniards and Spaniards. They bottle their own coffee (shown below) and their baked goods were delicious, which got Hannah and I up every morning :)

L'Oceanogràfic (Valencia)

Hannah and I found a fun indoor activity at one of the largest aquariums in Europe! We saw dolphins, sharks, penguins and a variety of other fun sea characters here. 

Mi Paella in El Huerto, Valencia

Mi Paella in El Huerto, Valencia

Mi Paella En El Huerto (Authentic paella cooking class in Valencia)

I have to highlight the awesome experience we had with the people at Mi Paella. We were picked up at our AirBnB and taken to a small pueblo outside of Valencia where paella was originally birthed. There we learned from a chef how to cook authentic paella while drinking wine and scanning the awesome Spanish countryside. 

The finished product at Mi Paella En El Huerto

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona

Gothic Quarter (Barcelona)

The Gothic quarter in Barcelona is a romantic look into the rich history that goes back to the Roman Empire. No, really, you can see the underground ruins at the Barcelona City History Museum. If you're not into museums, simply walking around will give you a look at stunning architecture. There are also cute shops and cafes everywhere. 

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Plaza Mayor (Last night in Madrid)

Since our flight departed from Madrid, we trained back for a final night in the city. We ate tapas and drank sangria at an outdoor café in Plaza Mayor. It was the perfect way to end our trip.

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La Mallorquina (Madrid)

I don't care how touristy this was. I fell in love with the Pepito de Crema (not pictured above...that was also delicious though). You must grab a pastry from here - there will be no regrets!

Life, lately

Life has been going at mach ten these days. I like it, but my introversion has been telling me to stop and smell the flowers (alone) and take stock of the lovely things in my life. 

Rooftops are a thing in the City during the Summer. New Yorkers love to soak in warm weather while they can, and after being here for a couple of winters, I totally get why.

Had the pleasure of attending two showings at the Tribeca Film Festival. These are the moments when I realize how special it is to live in New York. 

Definitely have been eating food that I shouldn't be...but YOLO?

Weddings! This is a picture from my brothers' wedding. Sufficed to say, it was beautiful from beginning to end. 

Coffee, always. 

I've set a goal to do something nice for myself every day. While I've been pretty inconsistent, I finally (after many months of thinking about it) bought myself flowers. 

The Met! I finally went recently after two years of living here. It's shameful, I know. My experience was magical, as expected. 

The view from my apartment's roof. Astoria sunsets are unbeatable.