I created this blog back in 2010 with the hopes that you, my friend, would follow me as I (figuratively) sailed around the world. Now I hope to keep you entertained with silly anecdotes, whimsical stories, cutting analysis and random thoughts on the world, while traveling hither and thither. P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2022. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Vacaciones P. 3

Navajas, aka Razor Clams, aka delicious alien penises

The day before I left for Sevilla, Edward wanted to take me to his favorite beach so the two of us hopped in his car and drove an hour and a half through the Spanish country side to the little beachside town of Bolonia. Along the way we drove through sunflower fields, vineyards, cattle ranches, wind farms, solar farms (yay clean energy!!) and I’m sure we passed some really good surf spots, which I hope to explore more of some day. 

The beach at Bolonia is a long stretch of coastline just west of Gibraltar, so while it’s still the considered a part of the Strait of Gibraltar, the beach is on the Atlantic Ocean. Across the strait one can see the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and behind the beach itself are the ruins of the ancient Roman city Baelo Claudia, which you can read more about here: The ruins, like any classic Roman city, include an amphitheater that has the stunning backdrop of the turquoise-azure water of the Atlantic Ocean framed by the mountains of Africa in the distance. Like, what the fuck, Europe? How are you so damn cool?

After a swim in the crystal clear, chilly water, we went to lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach. Edward, being the foodie that he is, ordered us croquetas of cuttlefish, a plate of local clams cooked in butter and garlic, and navajas, which according to my other foodie friends are razor clams, but I had neither seen or heard of them before. 

If you’ve ever eaten a razor clam then you know that they look like alien penises (or what I imagine alien penises to look like). In spite of their strange appearance, the navajas were delicious and tender, not fishy or chewy in the slightest. The clams were so fresh that they had some sand still in them, but even sand tastes good with butter and garlic. I’m not the most adventurous eater, but this was one of the most remarkable and interesting meals I’ve ever had. 

After lunch we drove along the coast to Tarifa, which looked like a kite festival due to the number of kite surfers out in the water. Apparently this stretch of coast is a kite surfing mecca because it is always windy, and there were hundreds of people out there ripping. It made me want to learn how to kite surf. It also makes sense as to why there are so many wind farms in the area. 

In Tarifa we got a coffee by the port, and I tried to talk Edward into driving onto the ferry for a quick jaunt to Africa, but neither of us brought our passports and we had to get back to the familia. This part of the world is extraordinarily interesting - where two seas meet, two continents are mere kilometers apart, civilizations have risen and fallen… I mean seriously, Europe, how are you so fucking cool?

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Vacaciones II


Edward, if you ever happen to read this, know that I write this post with humor and the deepest gratitude for including me in your life, and tolerating me as a fixture in your kitchen for two weeks. 

As you may very well know, Europeans have a much greater tolerance for living in close quarters than Americans do. And if you know me, I pride myself on being able to live in close quarters, for throwing myself into the lions den and feasting on the raw flesh of the gazelle with the rest of them. Ok maybe not, but I’ve eaten so much meat recently that that now feels like a very apt reference. 

Edward, the patron saint of generosity, offered to host me as long as I liked while in Spain. This included sleeping on his very comfortable fold out couch in his living room in Madrid, and joining him, his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s visiting niece and nephew from the Dominican Republic, and his girlfriend’s visiting mother from France, at their beach house in Sanlúcar, Cadiz, Spain. Oh and Ipa the dog, can’t forget about her. 

Not one to pass up a free place to stay or an authentic, local experience, I accepted Edward’s offer with gratitude and enthusiasm. I don’t like to know what I’m getting myself into, so I didn’t ask questions about accommodations or logistics. As it turns out, I’m sleeping in a very comfortable twin bed that serves as a couch in the kitchen of his two bedroom beach house, in the midst of a charming fishing village, that also hosts some of the best restaurants in all of Spain. Edward’s niece and nephew are sleeping on the couches in the living room, and abuela and Edward and Ale occupy the upstairs bedrooms. Needless to say, it’s a full house. 

The thing about sleeping in someone’s kitchen is that you wake up when the first person wakes up (which gracias adios is usually me) and you don’t go to sleep until the last person goes to bed, which is usually about four hours past my normal bedtime. But hey, I’m just along for the ride. If we’re partying until 3 so be it, let me just grab a few shots of espresso real quick. 

In addition to not having much personal space, I’ve been humbled by Ale’s niece and nephew, who are 10 and 13 respectively. They speak French and Spanish perfectly, and although they tell me their English isn’t great, I’ve heard them speak and it is probably on par with my Spanish. The 13 year old is a rising star in the Dominican Republic surf scene and went to the junior world Championships in El Salvador this year, and the 10 year old is an absolute gorgeous firecracker of a human being who will give a lot of boys a run for their money in the coming years. I can’t help but assume they think, “what is this 34 year old weirdo doing staying on my uncle’s couch?” 

Which brings me to my next point. I can only live on someone’s couch for so long before I begin to feel like I’m constantly in the way. Edward would never tell me if he was sick of having me around, and in fact has told me many times I can stay as long as I want, but as my brother says, “it’s better to leave a day too soon than a day too late.” With that in mind, I booked 4 nights in Sevilla before I go to Barcelona. When I told Edward this, he said, “Great! We will meet you in Sevilla!” Which put a big smile on my face because I think that means he’s not sick of me. I can’t speak for the rest of them. Next stop, Sevilla. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Vacaciones Españoles

Comida del dia con la familia 

I would now like to share with you my first hand experience of what it is like to vacation with a Spaniard:

On a typical morning you will wake up at a decent hour, say between 10-11am. As the house stirs, someone makes coffee, someone else takes the dog out, the shutters are opened and the house slowly wakes up. After a cup of coffee (or two) there is generally a light breakfast of bread, ham and cheese. By now, it is around noon, which is a civilized time to start one’s day. 

As in the case of today, Edward, his nephew Ian and I went to the market in the “morning.” We are staying at Edward’s beach house in Sanlucar, which is a quaint fishing village on the mouth of the river Guadalquivir. An interesting note on Sanlucar, this is the village from which Colombus’ ships left for the Americas, and coincidentally the first port they returned to laden with stolen gold, so you can imagine the wealth this city once held. Now, it is a charming seaside town mostly supported by the fishing industry and Spanish tourism, which lures people with the outstanding cuisine and less than boiling temperatures. 

But I digress. Edward, Ian and I went to the market to buy all the seafood one could imagine for a paella. Then we bought vegetables, a paella pan and rice and voilà, we had paella. Just kidding. Edward then proceeded to boil a fish to make a broth to cook the rice in, because according to him no respectable paella is made with water. Then he made local clams cooked in an I.P.A beer, of which we ate half as an appetizer and the other half - I.P.A reduction included - went into the paella. He then cooked the giant pan on the roof top terrace while we drank beer and watched boats sail at Columbus’s river mouth while it cooked. 

The 6 of us ate the giant and delicious lunch around 3pm, and then we decided to go meet up with Ale’s friends at a surfing beach. After a quick coffee, we loaded up into the car and headed for the beach. To be fair, in Spain this is when you would typically take your siesta, but seeing as how we all slept for most of the morning, we decided to trek on. 

Playa Roche

The beach at Roche is a long, beautiful stretch of brownish-orange sand that meets the bright blue of the Atlantic Ocean. I felt the fresh breeze of salty relief just being near the ocean after a week landlocked. Even though the waves were small, sloppy and weak, I rented a board and we all took turns riding crappy waves, body surfing and splashing around. I could see the potential for good waves along the beach during the winter months, and put this particular stretch of coastline on the list of places to consider come October. In addition to potential waves, Playa Roche has a restaurant on the beach (of course) where we bought a few rounds of beers, because that is what one does on Spanish vacation. 

We left the beach as the sun set, around 9pm, and headed for home. Instead of hitting up one of the cheap and ridiculously delicious restaurants in the neighborhood, we decided to have a light dinner of fresh bread, cheeses, meats, olives, and of course, an excellent bottle of wine. After sharing stories in a few different languages and laughing a lot, everyone began to wind down, because after all by now it’s 2 or 3 in the morning. 

The next morning, people begin to stir around 10 or 11am, only to do some iteration of the Spanish vacation all over again. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Thoughts on Madrid

 Madrid is loud, noisy, (currently) hot and dirty. She is also rich in history and culture, open 24/7, and has an anything goes attitude. It isn’t the kind of city where one might say, well this could be anywhere. Madrid is unique and very much in your face about her strong personality. She makes no excuses or apologies about who she is or how she rolls. 

Don’t want to party until 6am like the rest of us? Fine, go home, but good luck sleeping. It’s too hot for you? Take a siesta. Have a cold beer under a cool mist in a cafe in the plaza (as I am doing at the moment). Hungry? Eat at one of the 10,000 restaurants, market stalls, or cafes in the city. Want to experience a thousand years of history? Walk the streets. Want to see some of the greatest art collections in the world? Visit the numerous museums. 

Madrid has something for everyone, even for a surf bum like me. I’ve walked the neighborhoods, visited the museums, eaten at restaurants (although I haven’t made a scratch in the surface of the culinary world), and partied in the streets. One thing I have not done much of is sleep. Between the jet lag, partying and living on a super busy street, sleep has been put on the back burner. Maybe it’s something in the water but I feel surprisingly great about it. Madrid has an infectious, frenetic energy that keeps even a surf bum up until the wee hours of the morning. 

A note on why Spaniards stay up so late (per Edward): apparently Franco was best buds with Hitler, and wanted Spaniards to be on the same schedule as Germany, so he made a rule that Spaniards eat dinner at 10pm. Because the sun currently sets around 9pm, eating at 10 and going to bed at 2 feels normal, but I could see it being tedious when the sun sets at 4pm in the winter. Plus, I’m not an admirer or follower of fascist fucks, but when in Rome… or Madrid in this case. I have not fact checked Edward’s story but will go with it until I hear otherwise. 

Additionally, Madrid is impressively tolerant, open and accepting. Maybe they’re making up for the fact that once upon a time they burned Jews and other heretics right here in the plaza where I’m writing this post, but there are rainbow and trans pride flags everywhere. Nobody looks twice at gay people holding hands or kissing on the streets. I’m not sure what Spain’s immigration policies are these days, but there are people of every color mixing and mingling, and nobody pays anyone else much attention. I find it all very refreshing. 

I don’t know if it is a uniquely Madrileño, Spanish or European thing, but people seem to care a lot less what other people think here. Skinheads and rastas mix with drag queens and dolled up party girls. People dress in all garb. I see short men with tall women (gasp!), women with shaved heads dating masculine men… these aren’t great examples but my point is that everybody lets their freak flag fly and everybody else is cool with it. Needless to say, I fit right in. As does everyone. 

So… I wrote this post in the Plaza Mayor while drinking a beer, as writers are apt to do, as I walked home I began to question my writing, as writers are apt to do. Was I imagining the all accepting culture? Was I just hanging in the “cool” part of town? Do I actually have a very superficial understanding of who Madrid is?! 

And then, on my way to the train station, I saw this sign in the window of a shop. It says, “Madrid is the refuge for black sheep.” It gave me goosebumps. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Art and Stuff

The plan of writing every day has not gone to plan. I envisioned that I would be making ample time for reading, writing, meditating, yoga, and all the things that have helped me become a more Zen person, but have you ever tried meditating in the middle of a city with a somewhat frantic energy 24/7? It’s not easy - unless you’re some sort of Dali Lama - but Madrid tends to be riding the Dalí horse, which is an absolutely terrible joke. Apologies. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not writing too much. Or am I? 

On Wednesday I walked down to the Palacio Nacional and took a tour of the opulent palace. It’s wild to think that citizens of a nation allowed their leaders to live such lavish lifestyles while they struggled to survive, but that’s a naive thought on so many levels, and really, has much changed? Granted, perhaps the gold gilded ceilings and marble busts of oneself have gone out of style, but no doubt immense power and access to nearly endless wealth gives one the justification to spend ridiculous amounts of money on stupid shit. 

I’ve pretty much been living on a diet of meat, cheese and other rich foods since I got here, and my body is feeling it, so on my way home from the Palacio I stopped at the mercado and bought a bunch of fruits and vegetables. Coming straight out of the palace and feeling like a foreign dignitary, I bought whatever I wanted and splurged on some delicious looking antipasti. In the end, it all cost me €9. Dios, I love this city. 

That night, Edward invited me to dinner with him and a few friends. I listened to their conversations intently and understood maybe 20-30% of what they said. At a break in the conversation, Edward would take a moment to slowly repeat and explain what they were talking about and give me a chance to voice my thoughts and opinions. It is a very humbling experience to have the vocabulary and language skills of a 4 year old at 34, but I hope it gives me patience and grace with people who are learning languages, and/or 4 year olds. 

Yesterday, I decided to visit the Museo Reina Sofia because you can’t really Madrid without seeing Picasso’s Guernica in person, in good conscience. Plus it’s a close walk from Edward’s place and aiiirrrconditioned and it’s hot as fuck outside. After being in the museum for like five minutes I realized I should have bought the two day pass because the museum is a treasure trove of powerful and priceless art, and I have about a 2 hour capacity to dig in with these paintings and sculptures before I max out and my eyes begin to blur. But how does one simply walk past a Picasso? You don’t… you just skip the entire floor and save it for the next time. 

Although I’ve seen Guernica in person before, I was surprised at how moving it was. The woman screaming in agony while holding her dead baby in the bottom left of the painting really tore me up. It is one of the most powerful anti-war statements I’ve ever seen. Another work that struck me was Un Mundo by Angeles Santos. It’s a true luxury to be able to stand in front of a painting and look at all of its intricacies for 10 minutes. 

In fact, I’m getting to the point in my stay in Madrid where I’m like, I could live here. Yes, I could live here and eat cheap food and study art and write a dissertation on any given piece over the course of 5 years and really live it. And then I remember that I’m only 5 days into a three month trip and I better not fall in love and commit to anyone or anything for at least a solid two months. Please hold me to that, ok? Any love I feel within a week is infatuation, a flame that burns bright and burns out fast. So maybe I’ll be ready to move on in two days, and maybe not but I already bought my train ticket to Cadiz, so I had better get on the damn train. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Day Dos

 Is it day 2? Or has it been 2 days since I last wrote? Time is a funny thing so I’ll leave it at that. I believe I left you last on the couch at Edward’s around 5am, but it didn’t feel like 5am due to the 90 degree heat and already loud city. Again, time is a funny thing. 

After lolling about for a good 5 hours, I decided that my cultural adventure for the day would be the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. I stopped at a little bakery on my way to the museum and ate a damn near weightless pan chocolat quite possibly baked by angels in the park before going to the museum. Again, who died and made me queen?!

The Thyssen-Bornemisza museum is chock full of national treasures. I don’t know much about art history, or art for that matter, but I felt a profound sense of awe standing in front of the works of Dalí, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Manet (I always get them confused), Kandinsky, O’Keef and so many others. I tended to breeze over the 400 17th century Dutch depictions of Jesus on the cross and, The Hillside, or The Lake, but I guess these are the closest things we have to photos of that time. And… I know I missed a lot. I’m not the more perceptive person. But I spent a good three hours there, plus the museum was gloriously air conditioned and about 100 degrees outside, so great incentive to really dig into that art. 

When I got home, hot and exhausted (from jet lag, I swear!) Edward and Ale wanted to take me to their friends’ restaurant for lunch. We had a delicious lunch of caprese salad, a garlicky egg and shrimp dish, and ice cream for dessert, along with a crisp cold beer. While Edward and Ale chatted with their very sweet and welcoming friends, I did my best to follow along with their super fast talking, slang filled Spanish, as well as not fall asleep in my eggs. 

By the grace of los dios I made it home without collapsing, and within minutes was completely zonked out, but not before setting an alarm so that I wouldn’t sleep until midnight and then be awake all night, although if that were the case I’d find the real parties. But no, I woke up around 6 super groggy and wanting more sleep and made up for it with a big strong coffee. 

In the evening the whole family - being Edward, Ale, Ipa (the dog) and myself - went for an evening stroll. Edward wound us through various neighborhoods and Ale explained that Madrid was built like a maze on purpose, so that invaders would get lost in the streets when they tried to ransack a city. It’s still an effective tactic today. Although I’m not trying to ransack the city… let’s just say gracias a dios for Google Maps. After an evening beer in a plaza, which is a mandatory part of an evening stroll, we got ingredients for pizza and headed back to the flat to make dinner. 

A note on plazas - these charming little open squares are all over Madrid, each with its own vibe. Each neighborhood has their own as a place for the community to hang out. Most have at least one cafe, if not multiple, a fountain, and maybe a little playground for the kids. One of my favorite things to do is have a beer or coffee in the plaza and watch the world go by, which to me is the epitome of luxury. Luxury, and food and drink are stupid cheap here, especially compared to Hawai’i. 

Back at home, Edward and Ale made delicious pizza and a midsummer storm turned the cobblestone street below the house into a river while lightning flashed in the sky. Edward had me sample a bunch of his favorite beers and wines and it was just about the most awesome way I could think to spend a day in Madrid. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

On The Camino Again

Aaaaaand we’re back! After an absolutely lovely month in San Diego full of family, friends, surfing, and all the wonderful things San Diego has to offer, I’m back on the road. Or, sitting on the couch, listening to the sounds of the street below my friend’s flat in the center of Madrid, to be exact. 

I could have easily made Hawai’i my home, but I committed to being in Barcelona on August 20th for my brothers’ birthdays well before I knew I’d be in Hawai’i. Had I not made this commitment, I might have melted into the jungle never to be seen again. Alas, Europe called. On Sunday morning, Dad was kind enough to drop me off at the airport at 4:45 AM. I donned my new backpack full of what I hope to be everything I’ll need (and likely much more) for the next three months, and set off for adventure. 

I had a 5 hour layover in Philadelphia, so I texted my friend Mel who lives in DC, which I figured was close enough to Philly pop in and say hello for an hour because everything is close on the East coast. In fact, DC is not that close to Philadelphia, but Mel serendipitously happened to be driving back to DC from the Poconos that Sunday afternoon, and was gracious enough to swoop me up from the airport for an authentic Pennsylvania experience. Due to lack of time, we stuck close to the airport and ended up having a delightfully Americana lunch of Tacoritos and fish bowl strawberry margaritas from Ruby Tuesday, all of which I would say screams PA. 

Mel dropped me off at the airport with just enough time to get through security and prove to the airline that I’m fully vaccinated and have a return flight (somewhere, sometime), before boarding for Madrid. 6.5 squishy but tolerable hours later, I landed in Madrid, breezed through customs and was picked up by my best Spanish friend, Edward. I know Edward through Annette and Monica, who met him when they studied abroad in Madrid. He is one of the most kind, generous, knowledgeable, and hospitable people I’ve ever met. Not only did he pick me up from the airport, but offered to host me for an undisclosed amount of time, AND has the cutest brown lab named Ipa who I’ve been cuddling and practicing my Spanish with. 

Now would be a good time to end this post because of an agreement I made with myself. I decided against bringing my laptop to Europe for a few reasons: it’s big, heavy, clunky, and stupid, but I’m still an aspiring travel writer, so I gotta write. Right? And writing novellas like this on one’s phone sucks, so I agreed with myself that I would leave the big stupid slow computer at home, but committed to writing one blog post every day. This means that they will (theoretically) be shorter and easier to manage (and remember things), but I’ve already blown it. 

Sure, I could cut myself some slack and say it was a travel day so it doesn’t count, but there are going to be a lot of those. Eight thousand words later here we are (but I can’t really see on my 4” iPhone 8 screen). 

After arriving at Edward’s super charming flat in el centro de la ciudad, meeting his partner Alejandra and their dog Ipa, I made myself go out for a walk with the hopes of staving off jet lag. I walked to the Plaza Mayor and Puerta Del Sol, marveling at the charming cobblestone streets lined with delightful looking tapas bars and restaurants. I vowed to eat and drink at each and every one. 

After an hour of walking around in the 102 degree heat massively jet lagged, I headed back to the flat where Alejandra offered to make us lunch. I sat down on the couch and promptly woke up three hours later to a delicious, home made quiche just being pulled out of the oven. Who died and made me queen, we all might be asking. 

After eating I took another nap, which was as blissful as it sounds. Then Edward said it was time to go out. He works for the biggest beer company in Spain, Mahou San Miguel, knows the ins and outs of the industry, and is seemingly friends with every bartender in town. We went to a very chic rooftop bar for sunset around 9pm where everybody was becoming Insta famous and then for dinner at a place that used to house a newspaper company. You have to walk through a nondescript bookstore to get to it which I thought was very cool. 

For our last stop of the night we went for a drink at an old porn theater that has been converted into a very trendy bar called Sala Equis, as a tribute to its former glory days. Fortunately, it is right down the street from Edward’s place because by this point I was running on fumes (and beer). Once home, I crashed into a blissful sleep for about three hours before waking up at 4:30am ready to rock and roll. Now here I am, sitting on the couch, listening to the city wake up, trying to decide which epic museum I should visit today. What a fucking life, eh?!

P.S. This and future posts will be sent from a shitty old iPhone so please use that as my excuse for all typos, terrible formatting, lack of photos, run on sentences, grammatical errors and other egregious writing faux pas.