Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'm ringing in the New Year in lovely Sedona, Az!
This year I took a family vacation to come visit Sedona and hike some in the Grand Canyon. It's exciting as my aunt pointed out today, because it really is my WHOLE family and we're hardly ever all together like this, especially for such a big occasion. It's my parents, my 2 brothers, my aunt and uncle and 2 cousins and even my grandmother visiting from Buenos Aires. We've made reservations at a yelp recommended Italian place called The Hideaway and have some ice cream and apple cider to toast with later.

Must head out to dinner now but I hope everyone has a great night!

Look forward to a post about Arizona soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Houston, we have a problem...

No one knows how great a city you are!

Ok, so I'll admit that growing up I was one of those people that "couldn't WAIT to get out of Texas!"
But I don't know if it grew on me, or now I'm just mature enough to understand everything that goes into making a city a good place to live, but seriously, I LOVE Houston! It's really dawning on me now with upcoming travels, and real opportunities to move away that, even though I'm thrilled at all the possibilities I have in front of me and want to experience as much as possible, I do see Houston as the place where I could settle for the long haul.

Houston is just....easy. That's a strange word to use for a city, but really, life is easy here. Our cost of living is significantly lower than any other major city, and being such a huge city, there's a place for everyone. There's always something to do, places to go, people to meet, great schools, museums, art, diversity and culture, music, food... I could go on and on and on.

I consulted THIS amazing website (and finally discovered how to link, yay!) to help me get organized. I even ended up finding about a million things I didn't know about and still have to experience in Houston. I could be a tourist here forever! Since I already tend to be overly verbose and there's tons of information, I'm going to try to touch on all my favorite things to give you an insider's view and let you peruse the website yourselves.

First: Museums!
We have so many fun museums and all of them have at least one free day a week, in addition to probably hundreds of free art galleries. 
The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most well known. They have beautiful permanent exhibits, and bring in some amazing artists. Thursday's and the first Sunday of every month are free, and they host workshops and activities for kids and adults alike. They show foreign films year round and also periodically have film festivals where they'll feature a specific country for about a week. They also have parties a few times a year for us over 21's where they'll bring in famous DJ's or bands, serve cocktails and free appetizers and let you dance the night away. These are so much fun! I'll never forget the party where we were waiting for one of my friends as they introduced Grand Master Flash and showed him walking in through the back doors on the big screen and suddenly we see my friend walking right behind him! They had closed the front doors so he went around and told a security guy he was with the press ha ha! Yes yes, I have sort of insane friends and I love them...or at least get to tell good stories about them. 

I haven't been to the Children's Museum  in a really long time but it used to be one of my favorites. They have interactive exhibits and recently remodeled and added a few more that I kind of want to go visit. I remember I used to love going pretend grocery shopping and checking out at the little register. 

The Museum of Natural Science is a favorite among my family and friends and I love going there. They have had some incredible exhibits recently, including Lucy, the oldest human, and the Body World exhibit has been here twice. I thought I'd be grossed out by it, but I found that one fascinating! And of course I am in love with all IMAX films. I went and saw A Christmas Carol a few weeks ago with my mom and brother in 3D and the graphics were soo well done! Def recommend that movie, 3D or not. 

One place I still need to visit and have no excuse for not yet doing so: The Orange Show
Houston has a bunch of "oddities" and this is one of them. It's a house full of some guy's random collection of junk that he's turned into art. He is obsessed with oranges, and they also sponsor our annual Art Car Parade. 

There are many more museums but let's move on....

While our theater district is top notch- The Houston Ballet, Alley Theater, Hobby, traveling Broadway shows, The Houston Opera,Symphony etc ...I'm poor and therefore do not really get the chance to attend these events :\

However there are about a million places to go see free or cheap music shows. Many cafe's and bars feature live local bands or bands on tour almost every day of the week. Recently I've also discovered a lot of smaller theaters and dance troupes that are more reasonably priced, so I need to start going. The larger organizations also offer a lot of special events at places like Miller Outdoor Theater and Discovery Green Park. Miller Outdoor used to be my go to place for all these shows. It's an outdoor theater (duh) with standard theater seating and a huge grassy hill behind that where you can pack a picnic and watch a show. I love going to see dance shows. This is also a really nice park to just go hang out on a sunny day, and when I was younger (ok ok not that long ago) I loved rolling down the hill. 

While I still love Miller, Houston has a recent addition to its downtown that tops EVERYTHING. It's the new Discovery Green Park and is like an oasis in the ghost town that is usually our downtown. They have several free exercise classes every week like yoga, pilates, and zumba. I only managed to get to zumba once but found it was one of the most exciting ways to exercise ever. I felt like I was at a dance party! They also have a stage and feature bands and shows every week. In the summer and spring they show silent films, so my friends and I like to host pot luck picnics for these. They have a playground, and a big fountain- which is an ice skating rink at the moment, lots of grassy space, a dog park, traveling art exhibits, a low key burger place, and a fancy restaurant next to it. 
All of this was built on what used to be an old parking lot for our Convention Center that they moved underground. The Convention Center is also cool, or at least HUGE and brings a lot of international conferences to Houston. From the outside it looks like a big cruise ship, so I've taken some funny photos there, even though I can't find them at the moment.  

But here's my brother and dog at Discovery Green.

See that beautiful sunny weather? That also happens a lot here. Yes we get hurricans, and sometimes, like the last 2 weeks, it's non stop rain, but just as often it looks like that photo up there. And in the summer, even though it's a little unbearable unless you're indoors or in a pool, we manage to get nice tans (through my spf 50 of course).

All that great weather makes for good outdoor activities. And conveniently, Houston has several parks and trails, bayous, rivers, and lakes to do just that. I personally am a huge fan of biking (note to self: talk about the bike I got for Hannukah in next post, yayayay!) I do like going to the trails in Memorial Park and they have a very nice arboretum, but usually I just use my bike to get around my neighborhood and run errands or go to the local cafe's. I'd love to have more space to get into all the diverse neighborhoods but I think I've probably already lost all my readers. So check them out here. I live in Midtown, but grew up in the suburbs where the majority of people still live. Houston is quickly becoming more city like and high rises and new condos are popping up all around me.

Here's a group I led on a tour of Houston's many amazing farmer's markets! During college I worked as a bike tour leader for the University of Houston's Outdoor Adventure Club. We also took students on kayaking, canoeing, hiking, surfing trips, and many other outdoorsy things, and had a rock wall in the student gym too. I miss that job!

I can't talk about Houston without mentioning our gastronomic delights, but they are many and merit their own post. After all, we are one of the fattest cities in the US. I'm not sure what number we are now, it's #3 or 4, but it used to be #1. Come on Houston, what happened?!

Ironically, I'm off now to get to eating my dinner and maybe single handedly get Houston back it's 1st place title. Hope you've enjoyed this overview of my 'hood!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Snow in Houston!

Hi readers! I just wanted to quickly update because, get this: It's 30 degrees and snowing in Houston!
Actually it has snowed the last few years in a row. Yes, it's only for a day usually and only just barely accumulates an inch or two before turning slushy, but it's still such a novelty for us native warm weather people. I find it super exciting!
The photos from my 10th floor balcony don't look like much but I'll take more and post them if it accumulates later. My parents might get some nice snow out in the suburbs. I live in the downtown area, which is also not the norm for Houston.

This brings me to my next point, since this is a travel blog, there are a lot of great and unexpected things I could share with you about my own hometown. Maybe I'll convince some of you to come visit! I promise it's not all big oil, astronauts and cowboys!
Of course I want to plan this out and do some research before doing a long Houston post but I wanted to get you all excited for it. So is there anything you want to know? Any myths or anything you've heard about Houston? I'd love to share all the cool things that have been going on in Houston lately and the improvements that have been made in the last couple of years. Houston is becoming a real city!

So be prepared for this post, and in the meantime, I didn't want to leave you hanging with nothing to read for so long. I've been busy with LOTS of interpreting, friends and family visiting, game nights and lots of cooking and baking. My friend gave me her bread machine because she never used it, so I've been having fun with that along with inventing new dinner recipes such as this one:
and hosting a nice dinner party to test it out. Go and vote for me! There are sooo many great recipes though so I'm feeling the competition, but it was fun nonetheless to participate.
I have a lot to be thankful for! My thanksgiving was huge, over 30 people at my parents house. I loved it! Everyone was together, my brother came home from Austin, family was here from Argentina and we put ourselves into a pleasant food coma and sat down and watched Religulous  by Bill Maher to finish off the night, haha. I hope that gives you a good insight into what my family is like.

The snow is still coming down hard so I think I'll leave you with some pictures and maybe bundle up and go play! Hasta la proxima!

This picture makes me really happy! We're almost never all together like this. These are my "little" brothers. There's David, me of course, and Michael. Interesting tidbit: I'm almost 5'9, so they're really not so little anymore :\

Awww my puppy! Percy is 13 years old and has gone completely gray. 

What's Thanksgiving without pie? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A real change of season- Boston

While it's still fresh in my mind I wanted to do a recap of my trip to Boston at the end of October.
I was able to go to Boston twice last year through work trips, but that also meant that we wouldn't get out of the conferences until after 4 or 5, so I mostly saw Boston at night. And both of those trips were REALLY cold.
This time, however, the weather was perfect! It seems we made it right in the middle of that very brief period where all the leaves are bright reds, oranges and yellows and it's still 50-60 degrees and sunny (well mostly sunny). It also happened to be a mini vacation added on the front end of one of my parent's work trips so we had 3 full days of tourist-ing. This was mostly on account of my little brother since the rest of us had hit all the big spots on previous trips. Also, he's 16 and in American History so we absolutely HAD to do every historical thing in and around Boston. Not complaining though, I had a lot of fun, and our trips are always these non-stop "go go go" type vacations anyways so I'm used to it and just had to sleep for a week after getting back (I think I'm getting old)

Day 1- We arrived late on a Saturday and it was rainy and cold so we bundled up and walked a bit before grabbing dinner- a cozy Italian place where I had them create a pizza just for me, no cheese, lots of veggies, and really delicious crust. Boston has a lot of good Italian places but you have to find the usually tiny authentic places among the many overpriced North End restaurants (Italian area of town).

Ok maybe Mike's Pastry Shop is worth the price and the line the goes far beyond the door every night.

Day 2- My family went to Salem because of course all the witch museums and activities are really cute to see, especially Halloween week. I passed on this since I did all those same Salem museums the last trip about 6 months ago and it really would not have been worth it to pay to see the same talking robot witches and pirates again. But I promise it's worth it the first time around! When I went with just my parents we got a 3 museum pass that makes it a bit cheaper too. Salem itself is a really cute Northeastern style town with little shops and restaurants, so I'd also recommend just giving yourself time to walk around and enjoy it too, especially on a nice day.
I also had a great day walking around Boston. I discovered the South End Urban Market. It was kind of a walk from our Beacon Hill hotel (The place is called John Geoffrey's House- great price and location) but very worth it. There's a small food market but the arts vendors are really what it's all about. This weekend of course was Halloween themed with people in costume and each vendor stand giving out candy (free!). There were rows upon rows of stands with really unique creations. I bought a beautiful necklace which unfortunately broke so I'm still waiting on the replacement. I also sampled some jams and briefly checked out the large warehouse of antiques behind the market. After that I literally walked all over Boston. I didn't want to do any of the tourist spots without my brother so I checked out Trader Joes, walked through the park. Then went to Fanuil Hall, which in the past has been both a meeting place and market, but I held off on the historical part and just did some shopping. Then I stumbled on another Halloween fair while waiting on my family to get back from Salem. I got some decent flavored coffee and of course had to try a candied apple, and then listed to some Gay rights protestors.
When my family arrived I took them to a spot I had scoped out earlier called Pheonicia, a middle eastern place, that seriously had some of the best food I've had in Boston. Now I know Boston is not known for it's Middle Eastern food but we're going by my standards here, and while I love a good plate of homemade pasta, most places like that are really difficult for me to eat in because of lack of veg options and really heavy meals that tend to make me feel sick. This place was perfect. Several totally vegan versions of traditional plates like moussaka and the pumpkin kibby that I ordered. This was so good! I think I want to recreate it for our Thanksgiving. And the greatest thing was the real Turkish coffee at the end of the meal. I love finding the strong coffee grains at the bottom!

Boston Commons. I don't know if you can tell, but they were playing soccer with a giant rubber ball, FUN!

Day 3- Concord: We took the train to Concord where my brother had a whole list of places we needed to see. Outside the city is where you can really see all of autumn's brilliant and abundant colors, it's no wonder so many famous authors and poets found inspiration here. Writers like Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathanial Hawthorne all had homes here and are now buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetary. Walden Pond is also nearby and is suppoesd to be a beautiful national park but they recommend having a car to get out there. The Concord Museum also tells you about the small town's historical significance. You may remember learning about the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first battle in the war for Independance. Like all of my family vacation days this was also an exhausting one of non-stop walking so after taking the train back we only made one quick stop into the Liberty Hotel- an old prison closed down for its continued violations and prisoner abuse, and now turned into a hotel. Dinner was just italian again...I don't really remember it but do remember passing out soon afterward.

I couldn't take enough pictures of these leaves!

Day 4- This day was rainy and cold but we were still determined to complete the whole Freedom Trail (  Much of the Freedom trail is simply walking by monuments, but it does include some interesting spots such as the first Public school, the Granary Burying Ground with people like Samuel Adams, the site of the Boston Massacre, The Paul Revere House, and the Bunker Hill Monument. After walking all of Boston to see these sites, I had a very much needed break while my parents checked on the conference site. I literally was about to lay down in the lobby of the Medical Conference Center but that would have appeared unproffessional since we were meeting with people I sometimes work with too. But sitting down for about 30 minutes gave me the energy I needed to then go to Harvard. We walked around campus though it was still rainy. We snuck a peek at the freshman dining hall that looks like a scene out of Hogwarts! I then parted with the family and met my friend Hannah ( for dinner at Wagamama's. This place is so good, please come to Houston! I had a great time catching up with her before hopping the train back to the hotel. I love public transportation :)

My brother and Ben Franklin

So that was my trip. If you want more information or have questions on any of the sites I visited just leave a comment and ask me. I just didn't want to make this post any longer than it already is. I give Boston two thumbs up, and definitely hope I get to go back, even for work, really soon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wow I took a long break!

Hello friends! I think it's time I start writing again as I'm hoping I'll be getting more readers, plus the usual friends may want something to read...

I've been quite busy and I guess sort of uninspired to write, especially since I want this to be a travel blog but it seems that my summer vacation was forever ago and it's hard to go back and write about now---> lesson: do not procrastinate these things!

Life has been treating me well for the most part. I finally began interpreting for REAL, and it's going really well! I've only had a number of jobs but as it turns out, it's something I really enjoy doing. I like that it's challenging, but doable, and I feel accomplished when I'm finished. Sometimes the topic is really mundane, like research for beer commercials, but other times it's medical research, conferences, etc and no matter what it is, I always learn something new. Another large perk is that it pays well and there's much more demand so I'm no longer rationing out every penny and turning down trips to movies and such due to lack of funding. I'm caught up on rent and car payments also and I don't hyperventilate (as much) when I have to look at my bills at the end of each month. I'm also really working on doing my job as Marketing Director for our translation company but I'm finding it really really challenging. 4 1/2 years of college and my marketing degree is apparently useless =/  Anyone have experience with advertising and sales out there?

My friends have been the greatest: lots of dinners, parties, game nights, movies, and wonderful meaningful/ meaningless conversations that all mean just as much to me nonetheless. I finally seem to have pulled myself out of that rut and I find that I'm focusing on everything and everyone that I love in my life and how lucky I truly am. It's becoming more clear what's really important to me and it helps me to get through the harder obstacles to remain conscious of these things. I won't get too into it on here but for a while I had a potentially perfect boy and it really seemed that everything was falling into place for a while. October was an amazing month! Then I lost said boy, so lately I've been pretty sad on and off, but trying not to think about it and reminding myself of everything I said above. The travel plans are still very unplanned due to a difficult family situation, but it will happen, I just don't know when. BUT, my point was that I still have a lot of great things going on and supportive people to surround myself with. I think my new attitude is serving me well because I know that, yes, sometimes I will be sad, or angry, but then I'll get better. I've been through bad things before and gotten through them, and I'm sure I'll go through more hardship many times over, but it never fails to get better. All I can do is acknowledge how I feel for what it is, accept it and move forward. Such is life. 

I've gone all philosophical here, so I'm going to stop and save the overdue travel post for next time (it will be soon I promise!)
And to make this more visually appealing, here are some pictures from the last couple of months. I'll also be posting some fun Halloween and holiday pics in the future I'm sure, butthese will have to do for now.

My aunt had a "where the wild things are" themed birthday party so I made some appropriate yummy things to go with it. Those little wild thing rum balls were also just featured by my blogger friend Katie, who is a chocolate loving vegan with a super cute blog and if you visit it, she donates money to charity. So go see my handiwork there!

I went on a family vacation to Boston and got to experience a real fall! The colors were absolutely beautiful, we don't have that here in Houston. As you can see, my brother and I had fun with all the leaves!

Don't worry guys, I'm keeping Starbucks afloat in these difficult times. Lots of coffee has been and will continue to be consumed. Especially because it pairs so well with my baking :)

A tout a l'heure mes amis!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A little ME break

Hello again faithful blog readers! (Are you there?)

Before getting into my guide to Menton, France, I'll give updates on ME :) and talk about travel again next time.

My life has just been more of the usual. I've had more translations coming in,some tech work and more marketing. I have been practicing my interpreting and have my first job as an interpreter beginning of October. WOOOOO!!!! That will be exciting. I know I can do it! My skills are there at least going from Spanish INTO English. I just work best under pressure and being on the spot that way, I'm sure I'll be fine. I also decided that I need to take the leap with going to Argentina. Family circumstances allowing, I'm going to go in the spring and hope to find a job there, since it will be a lot easier in person than expecting people to respond to emails from some random person they don't know in the US. I may do an online TEFL certification to be better prepared.

Another awesome thing is that I set myself a 30 day yoga challenge. My studio has one but I know I can't commit to that financially and time wise but I knew I could do it for myself. The deal was at least 20 minutes of yoga a day for 30 days straight, even if some days all I did was lay in savasana and breathe. I actually ended up doing about an hour or sometimes more every single day, it just felt so great! I think there were only 2 occasions on which I stuck with lighter 30 minute practices if I was really tired. It's been really fantastic for me both physically and mentally. I can see visible differences in my body and have noticed increases in strength. I mastered a few new arm balances and the other moves have become easier. I've also learned to value the meditative aspects of yoga too and that's done wonders for my stress levels as I navigate this transitory period in my life. Some days, as I said, I did 20 full minutes of breathing exercises. I used feel so weird doing breathing exercises and felt that meditating was just kind of kooky and didn't really work and just wasted time. Well, I still don't meditate in that stereotypical sense, but taking a few minutes to clear your mind can work wonders. I can't imagine starting my day now without those stretches to wake me up, or taking time to focus myself for the day. I definitely recommend that every do this! You don't have to be super flexible, or have a lot of time, or go all out yogi. It's really as simple as 10 minutes a day, and it's all about YOU! If anyone wants some online resources and videos I have tons so just send me a message and I'll give out links.
Now that my 30 days are over I'm still going to keep it up. I just might not be so strict about it, maybe some days I'll go bike riding and not feel up to it, or some days I'll be busy or traveling, but I know I need yoga regularly.

The baking and cooking has continued in my abode as well. I have to keep my home well stocked with baked goods at all times and have been particularly enjoying biscotti of all kinds, as well as some other pretty cupcakes and cakes. I'll do a post full of those pictures one day too and see if I can maybe promote a future catering business ;)
My friends and I have also held some dinners and potlucks, and Houston has been a fun place to hang around too. I'm serious! Houston can be really fun! We have great parks with a lot of free events such as concerts, dance performances, movies, and classes. Midtown and Montrose areas are full of cute coffee shops and bars and vintage stores. And where else can you continue lounging by the pool well into October?

That's all I've got for now so I'll leave you all with some pictures and bid you farewell for now!

My cat when she was tiny. So cute!

Playing with my camera.

The peppers that have been plentiful on my balcony all summer. I think their season is coming to an end and I'm going to miss them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nice: beyond nice!

Ready for the next installment of my Euro files??
"YEAH!!!" (that's what you're all supposed to say while jumping up and down excitedly)

I left off when we arrived in Menton and went out to dinner for my birthday. Menton was really our "home base" and we took day trips from there. I'm tempted to stick to chronological order, but I think Menton deserves a longer post of it's own so I'm going to skip a day here and go back to Nice. After spending the first day in Menton settling in, it was time to go meet one of my bff's, or as we dubbed it- "bfff" for best friends in france because we are really clever like that. She came to spend a week with us and her flight was landing in Nice so we took the opportunity to take a day trip to Nice to meet her and tour this popular French Riviera destination.

She met us at the train station around 1 and had not eaten yet so we took her to a Brioche Doree nearby. This chain is all over Europe and it's really good (isn't all European food!) It's mostly just sandwiches or quiches, lovely baguettes and desserts, and they have really good meal deals that include coffee. Bread + caffeine = love.

Our first stop was the waterfront to admire how shockingly blue the water is. This is due to the beaches being mostly rocks all along the Mediterranean. I really like this, it means no sand clinging to you and all of your stuff, and it also means adding several pounds of pretty rocks to your backpack for the trip home for your rock collection. At the end of the waterfront you reach the cliff where the old village is located.

We climbed (in the elevator for 1 euro) to the top for more views such as this one of the port. At the top there's a nice park with a playground, the usual hotel, restaurant, touristy things. There was also an archeological site that people were excavating so we got to watch. This was cool because I have several good friends that are geologists who would have loved to see that. On the hike down there's also a man-made waterfall, so we took some quick pictures but we were ready for more important things.

GELATO!!!!!! This is the greatest place ever and I wish I could spend several weeks in Nice so that I could try every single flavor. This place is in all the guidebooks so you're sure to find it. It's called Fenocchio and is well knows for not only tasting amazing, but also tasting amazing in 98 different flavors. My choices this trip included a dark chocolate sorbet and fig sorbet- super combo!
After that we were ready to catch the train back to Menton, but not before taking a quick look into H&M because Houston is not fashionable enough to have one here.

That's all for Nice for now. There are definitely many more tourist spots and museums that I'd recommend seeing if it's your first time, but we were just there half a day so we took it easy.

Til next time!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to our regularly scheduled program

Hello lovely friends!
I'm feeling a better after letting all of that off my chest. This week has been pretty boring but there has been some work and I make sure to keep busy, even if it means making things up for myself to do. Several weeks ago I cleaned out/ reorganized my apartment so I'm finishing that up this week and have added new paintings and gotten some essentials I've been putting off. All this in time for a little dinner party I'll be hosting tomorrow for some of my favorite people. I have a lot of teachers in the family who all went back to work this week and are stressed out, and I like to help out in the best way I know how: vegan Mac and "cheese"!! I'm so excited!
I have also set a goal for myself to do yoga every day because I notice such a huge difference in how I feel when I practice regularly. I decided this after a class on Saturday because even getting in 20 minutes of stretching a day makes me feel amazing. So I know this will be good for me and it gives me something to work toward. I think I'll start with ....30 days? I think that seems reasonable.

Now- back to France!
From Barcelona we made our way through the French Riviera. We took a 3 hour train to Perpignon where we spent a few hours walking around. We were able to leave our bags at the station, and though this costs some Euros, it's worth not lugging it around. Perpignon is a small town but has a nice commercial center with all the major shops, tons of bakeries, creperies, and gelato places. One thing to keep in mind when traveling in both Spain and France, however, is that everything closes between 2 and 5 pm for their lunch and resting time. Those French do know how to live well!

These bike stations are all over Europe now from what I've seen. They're all over the city so that you can pick one up when you need to go somewhere and drop it off at another location. And they only pay something ridiculous like 20 Euros a year. How awesome and eco-friendly!

Mid-afternoon, we took another train to Montpellier. We spent one night here so the first thing we did was take the train to our hotel. The train is this cute above ground system painted with all kinds of funky designs. Then we headed out to explore. There are some nice pedestrian areas with restaurants, a large park by the river, lots of monuments and one of those old stone dams on the river. And the best part was that we happened to get there on the first day of their summer festival! They had a huge open market, street vendors, free giveaways and performers!

Those were little kids at the top! My guess would be the youngest were about 5 or 6.

Here's the big bridge.

The next morning we took a train to Nimes and planned to spend a few hours there but couldn't find anywhere to drop off our luggage. But we made the best of it and quickly ran to the Colosseum and took pictures before hopping on the next train.

We arrived in Avignon soon after. It's a little bit larger of a city, and absolutely beautiful. All of the old architecture is still intact, I love how Europeans preserve their history. I think that's so important, and here in the US we tend to like bigger and newer. Shiny metal replaces brick and cobblestone.

Our first stop was the Pope's Palace. Inside is the Papal History Museum, which is what the name implies, the ENTIRE history. The place is huge and you can see everything from the lavish banquet rooms, to the kitchen and servants quarters. There's also an audio tour included that goes into detail about every last corner of the palace and every single pope. Give yourself at least 2 hours (more if you plan to listen to every audio chapter). I don't want to offend anyone, but the excesses of the old Catholic church are astounding. The history is really interesting.

The famous Pont d'Avignon! Did anyone else sing that song when they were little? I sang it in Spanish but of course the original is French. The tune brought back fond memories. There is also an audio tour for the bridge that explains how it was knocked over so many times that they didn't bother to rebuild it all the way across anymore. From there we climbed up above the Pope's Palace to some gardens for some really nice views and a very much needed cup of coffee!

We spent the night in Avignon and the next day happened to be my Birthday! It's not so exciting anymore because I feel old. Oh well, we still had my birthday morning celebration there before heading to Menton that evening for a birthday pizza dinner :)
We spent the rest of our vacation based in Menton, but more on that next time.

This concludes another jumbo post. I at least hope the pictures held your attention throughout. Hope you enjoyed them!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Any job openings for professional procrastinator?

Yes, this is what I am, and lately I've taken it to an extreme. While it's sometimes just me being lazy, as per why I haven't moved on to the next destination on this blog....
I kind of want to touch on the bigger picture today and put off the French Riviera a little longer because my brain has been set to repeat for the longest time and I can't stop it. I think about this in my sleep, I wake up thinking about it, and I spend my days searching for ways to change it.

I've basically put my life on hold since I graduated in December. Some reasons for this I'm aware of and others I haven't figured out, but I don't know what to do about any of them.
I think a lot of it is fear, a large part indecisiveness. I know that even though I don't have a clear idea of what will make me happy, for right now it's becoming critical that I simply DO anything (and on top of all the pressure I put on myself, my parents seem to get more and more impatient with me each day), but then I just can't follow through on anything. I feel restless and unsettled all the time due to this stagnation, and then really afraid of what will happen once I decide on or manage to plan a direction for myself. Where to go? What to do? What will I miss by choosing one thing over another? Can I have it all???

Then there's fear of not succeeding. I was already rejected from the two things I had become seriously invested in, not to mention countless job applications. But I can't fail if I haven't really tried, so instead I try everything halfway. I've investigated a lot of opportunities but I'm stuck about what I'd really like and how to do it.

So this post was really just to vent a little, I'm still stuck, but I do want to post the options I'm investigating thus far, and think that maybe by revealing something a little more personal about myself on here and making my goals more public I'll feel even MORE pressured to do something.

First, I need to go to Argentina at some point. I don't know how long I'll go for or what I'll do there, but that will happen and hopefully sometime this fall. I've looked at the English school there. I know they have courses for English professors, particularly a 3 part seminar in November that I could do. However, it would be nice to find a job with them. If not I can take the seminar, and find some other fun classes to take while I'm there and simply make it a shorter trip. Due to some personal circumstances, a shorter trip might be better anyways, even though experience wise, longer is better. And I do have family and friends to stay with and who can keep me occupied anyways, not to mention a free place to stay!

Today I emailed a Portuguese school in Maceio, Brazil. I don't think I could afford their courses, and would like to do something longer than 2 weeks of classes anyways, but I asked about job opportunities teaching English that I know they've offered in the past.

This week I will get some interpreting practice and record myself interpreting some cassette tapes of old interviews I have so that I can start getting higher paying jobs. And now that it's written down I HAVE to do this!

I need to do some more serious investigation into volunteering in Israel. I know the programs themselves are free, but obviously other costs are involved, and I need to start preparing myself financially and otherwise if I do choose to go live in Israel for 5-10 months (depending on the program).

I will go to a few networking events for the family business, and search for potential clients online, since I live on the computer anyways.

I will not neglect my friends just because I feel defeated and want to stay curled up on the couch forever (yes guys, this is the reason, I haven't stopped loving you!)

I will stay or go back to being more politically active because I know this really does make me happy. I will start this by going to the Mayoral Forum tonight to hear all the Houston candidates speak.

I'll finish organizing my apartment because I like being neat and clean :)

This emotional spillage was brought to you by a quote on another blog I happened upon this morning:

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

-Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Now I'm off to start being productive!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Barcelona in pictures

Looking back at my previous post, I'm realizing more and more that I need to find the best way to keep all the information I want to share simple and to the point. It's difficult because there's so much to tell, but I seriously commend anyone that actually read through everything I wrote on Barcelona, because that was way too wordy and not very organized.
So I think this post will be better and much more exciting to "read"!
Here are the promised pictures of Barcelona:

Tiled ceilings in part of Parc Guell.

The crazy stone architecture at Parc Guell. Half the place looks like this, the other half is done up in that tiled style I show in the first picture.

On the rooftop of "La Pedrera"- The house designed by Gaudi.

View of the bustling port of Barcelona from atop the Old Village Montjuic.

Inside the market- Look at all the beautiful fruit!! I probably ate my weight in fresh figs on this trip. Why don't they grow like that here??

The lifesize mammoth replica in Parque Cuidadela with my brother and the kids underneath so you can get a sense of scale.

Entrance to the park. I'm not sure about when or why this was built but arches are always pretty :)

Next time I'll talk about all the little French Riviera towns we passed through. And if you'd like, you can leave comments telling me what you most like hearing about so I can make my posts more concise.

Hope you enjoyed the photo tour!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ultra late vacation posts begin!

I know it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been home for almost a month now! Life has been treating me well enough, though the job hunt/ future planning is still at a stand still. It seems I go around in circles, get ideas but either I don't follow through or the plan falls through....I'm not too sure yet what I should do about this. The good news is that for now the family translation business has picked up some. This week I took over the secretary's job since she was on vacation. That meant a lot of phone answering, emailing, billing, etc. I also had several short legal translations, and I'm pretty sure I saw that I have some market research groups coming up. So I can slowly but surely start pulling myself out of debt and eventually start making money so I can take off somewhere. Right now I'll pretty much take any job short term whether I like it or not if it will make me some money to travel with.

So now on to the purpose of this blog- TRAVEL
I'm going to work my way through my three week trip and give you an overview of where I went and what I did, and if I write it right (hehe) it will hopefully inspire you to travel yourselves and help you along the way.

Here in Houston, we're lucky enough to have a direct flight to Barcelona. You leave in the evening and arrive early the next morning. That's great news for people like my brother who has the ability to pass out anywhere, and means a long night of bad movie watching for people like me. I don't mind though, I packed some good books and lots of meals/ snacks and it also turns out my mom ordered me the vegan meal so I had extras. Note to Continental users: vegan always = Indian. I'm not fond of spicy at all, particularly not on an airplane, but for the first time ever it included a vegan choco chip cookie! Score!
The first day, we were of course exhausted but that is no excuse when you're in Barcelona. So much to do and so little time! We had rented an apartment since we were so many people. I would really recommend doing this if you have a decent amount of people (3+) and are staying for close to a week. It's a lot cheaper than a hotel, saves you a ton of money on meals out, and is just more comfortable all around. Ours was really spacious and really nice. We went out and found lunch and then made our way to some touristy sites.
One thing we didn't see but that was near where we stayed was the Museum of Chocolate. Yes, I can't believe we didn't make it there either! But I read it in a guide somewhere and was really intrigued, so next time I'm in Barcelona, that will be a must.
The first thing we did was take the cable car up to Montjuic. Take this from the metro station rather than the main entrance on the Port and you'll save money and not waste time waiting in line. Montjuic is the old Spanish Village. It has a few craft/ tourist shops and a museum, which was closed, but the views of the Port are wonderful. The walk down has several sights- gardens, museums, fountains. We walked through the botanical gardens and found these giant slides that the kids (and me and my dad) had to go down several times. I do still love good playgrounds and this place has a lot of fun places to let your inner child out.
We then went to see the old Olympic Stadium from ...1992? It's now used as a fancy fitness club and has some nice lap pools and you can still see the broadcasting tower.
We walked by the 'Plaza Espanyola'. It seems to be kind of like a theme park but more historical, and a good way to spend the day if you have more time. We were tired and had the younger kids with us so we decided to pass that up.
At this point we still had a long walk back to the apartment but we eventually made it, walking back through the central area. We rested for a while, meaning everyone ended up napping for about 2 hours while I sat around, read and used the computer. I finally managed to get everyone up for dinner, we went out again, and that was it for the day. I slept really really well.

The next few days I failed to keep an accurate account in my written journal, but I did take note of other important things to see in Barcelona.
First up: All the Gaudi architecture is amazing. The most famous is "La Sagrada Familia". It's a giant temple that has been under construction since 1882 and still has anywhere between 30 and 80 more years to go before it's finished. We didn't go inside this year, but I had been with my mom in 2006. The inside has really incredible towers and windows but much of it is still covered up by all the construction. The outside kind of hidden too, but what you can see of the detailing is crazy. Really, all of his architecture is so interesting. He used a lot of intricate and weird designs and shapes and all of it is very unconventional. Other things to see by Gaudi are 2 houses he designed- "La Pedrera" and "Batilliou". We toured La Pedrera, but not Batillou, although I personally think it looked a lot more interesting. Whoever is in charge of all the tourist attractions thinks so too because it's also more than twice as much to get in. If I had had more time I would have gone, but I was babysitting our family friend's little ones this time so my museum and site time was limited to their attention spans. The other main site to see by Gaudi is Parc Guell. It was once someone's home but is now a large park with a lot of beautiful gardens, more cool architecture and houses. These are all hard to describe, but I'll make my next post a picture post.
My favorite things to do when traveling are to simply walk around and experience the city as the locals do. I love the shops, the food, people watching, and enjoying a lifestyle that's so unfamiliar to this native Houston/suburbanite. The best place to do this in Barcelona is Las Ramblas. This is the main street with tons of shops and restaurants and the huge outdoor market. The market has to be one of the greatest I've seen in Europe. So much fresh fruit and vegetables, and juices. The Spanish are meat lovers so they have several meat stands with cuts of Iberian ham, chorizo, or entire pigs ( I avoid these, poor piggies!). And even I must admit, the cheese stands smell quite enticing. More good people watching and shopping can be found around this area too on Passaeg de Gracie and other streets that all meet in the main square.
The kids really loved Parque Cuidadela. It's a really nice park adjacent to the zoo. There's fountains, a small lake with paddleboating, ping pong tables, widespread grassy areas for picnicking and soccer(futbol) and a lifesize replica of a mammoth.
We went to the beach on the last day just to see it. I had never been but it's actually a beautiful beach, full of restaurants, hotels, and water sports. With more time, you can definitely turn Barcelona into a beach trip too. From there we explored the old town streets to get back to Las Ramblas. These are filled with cute little shops and cafe's, just try not to get lost (or let my dad have the map) like we did! This is also where you'll find the Picasso museum. I had seen this back in 2006, and if you appreciate art even the slightest bit, or even if you don't, you have to go see it. The other well known art museum is the Miro Museum. I'm not as big a fan of his artwork, but I still think you should see as much as possible while you're there.
The Catalan language is a lot more prevalent than what I remember from my 2006 trip. It is used equally as much as Spanish, if not more, though everyone speaks both. For me, it was easy enough to understand, or I could at least get a general idea. I think if you speak both Spanish and French it might be even easier.

I was going to go into tapas style eating and also elaborate on the wonders of El Corte Ingles, but I'm actually hungry myself and this is already a monster post so I'll let you all rest your eyes and provide some pictures next time! (maybe including the cherry poppyseed muffins I'm about to devour :D )

Til next time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Delayed posts!

Sorry for not really posting updates! You all know how crazy vacations can be. Not to mention we're so busy moving around and trying to do as much as possible, so the last thing I'm making time for is being on the computer. Bad for the readers, but it's a nice break from technology for me. 

Since I last posted, we did a bit more touring of Barcelona, left for Perpignon, France where we spent a few hours before going to Montpellier. We spent the night there, left in the morning and tried to go through Nimes, which didn't work out so we continued on to Avignon. We spent the night there too. I celebrated my birthday morning in Avignon, then after lunch we got on a 4 hour train ride to Nice, stopover in Nice to wait for the short train to Menton. And this is where we are now! I had a nice birthday dinner here in Menton and since then we've been really enjoying some beach time and exploring just like last year. 

Menton is unbelievable gorgeous! Liza, one of my besties :) arrived in Nice day before yesterday so we went to meet her there and spent the afternoon exploring Nice, getting the best gelato ever and generally having a lot of fun. Today we're headed to the markets of Ventimiglia, across the border in Italy for the morning, then getting some of the best gnocchis available for lunch before coming back for some more beach time. 

I know this is a super rushed overview and I promise to write long travel guide style posts about everything I've done in the near future, but it will probably not be until after I get back to Houston, or if I happen to have some time at night in the apartment. There's just way too much to say and as much as I appreciate the few people that have started reading this blog, you will have to be satisfied with these shorter updates on my whereabouts while I squeeze in as much beach time and France touring as possible this next week and a half. 

A tout a l'heure mes amis!  (excuse the horrendous french) 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quick update

Hello lovely friends!
This will be quick because I'm tired and it's late, plus we are all sharing one computer. 
BUT, I arrived in Barcelona yesterday morning safe and sound after a long and bumpy sleepless night, but what can I expect from airplanes? 
Other than that I ran surprisingly well on zero hours of sleep and was able to see a lot yesterday. 
We did even more walking today and saw the old fortress, the Olympic stadium among many other things. Plus a yummy stop for gelato and good trip to El Corte Ingles. That was so nostaligic for me! I loved grocery shopping there while I was in Madrid. 
A lot of things are actually bringing back great memories of living in Spain. I love it here! I'm so excited for the rest of my vacation. Tomorrow we're doing all the Gaudi spots and maybe going by the beach if there's time. 
Then Friday my mom will be here so hopefully she can join me for some "commercial" sightseeing :)

Bueno, t'luego tios/as
Til next post,


Sunday, June 7, 2009


Time to departure: ~ 13 hours

EEEEEEE!!!!!!! I'm so excited!
I fear that no one is really reading these posts....YET. But that's ok, I'll soon pick up a following once I tell more people about this blog and start making it more visually appealing.
I will try to keep this short because I still have a bit more packing to do and have been running around trying to get everything together all day. I did, however, want to write a little about just that.
Getting ready for a big trip like this is always stressful. Even packing for my short trips can be hard, but leaving for a month takes it to a whole new dimension. I'm actually a very good packer and have a lot of experience. I've learned to pack light, no matter what, and haven't ever forgotten anything major.
For example, I studied abroad in Spain and managed to put everything in a medium/ suitcase and a backpack for the whole 6 months. When I arrived, everyone else on my program was shocked and thought maybe I had already left things in the hotel or I had a real suitcase in the other room, or something couldn't be right. They all had 1 or two large suitcases and duffel bags, etc etc. But why would you want to haul that around??

Knowing how I usually dress, I tend to wear the same 5 things over and over. And as far as my experience goes, I think most people at least do this on vacation, so there's no need to bring a million options "just in case". I promise there will not be too many unexpected special occasions that pop up while traveling. And no one will notice if the same tshirt is in 80% of your pictures. That's how mine always are and people haven't stopped being friends with me because of it. Cutting it down to the basics is the best way to go, a few layers, comfortable shoes. Taking note of what you actually wear is really good in general. I've taken advantage of this by throwing several things out while going through all my clothes.
Keep in mind where you'll be and what you'll be doing, what the weather will be like, and also take into account whether you might want to shop so you can leave space (ALWAYS leave space).

My trip starts out in Barcelona, goes through a few cities in s. France, and we end up in Menton, a small town between Nice and the Italian border for a little over 2 weeks, and we'll surely take a few day trips from there too. The weather will be in the 70's for the most part, and hopefully sunny, but I'll bring a small umbrella (note to self: put the umbrella in my backpack before I go to bed) So, I plan to wear jeans on the plane with a tshirt and a black zip up sweater because I'm always cold on airplanes and this way I'll have something a little warmer if I do need it while walking around at night or something later.
I've packed about 2 tank tops, 5 tshirts, mostly basic solid colors, and 2 light cardigans. This way I can layer, and if I really do feel the need to dress it up if we happen to go out, I have some nice jewelry or something. There are ways.
I have 2 shorts, 1 skirt, and a few breezy dresses for the beach and walking around in the heat because once we're in the beach town I know I'll be in my swim suit the majority of the time and it may be really hot walking around so I need something breathable and easy to wear over the suits. Plus I just love dresses :)
And of course I can't forget plenty of underwear, and a few pairs of socks for when I'm wearing my tennis shoes, though I think that will just be in Barcelona, then I'll switch to flip flops for the rest of the trip.

Moving on to other things- medicines, toiletries, etc.
I went and refilled all my prescriptions this week so they'd last me. I also realized I'm one sickly girl, yuck :\
I have waterproof spf 55 sunblock, a travel sized facewash, new toothbrush and floss. I'm going to rely on my family to provide the shampoos and toothpaste so I kind of luck out in that sense since we save space by sharing. I did buy a fancy leave in conditioner for my hair yesterday since several weeks on the beach is not good for hair. I picked up this bio- something brand olive oil leave in conditioner. I was kind of confused while picking one out because it was a brand that they had for shampoos and conditioners too but the leave in was in the section for african american hair, which I don't have, but I know olive oil is good for your hair and to be honest it just smelled really good so I got it. Then I was reading the back today and it is in fact for "relaxed" or dry course hair. I was obviously looking in the wrong section, but as it turns out, I really like it and maybe that's what I've needed all these years for my dry curly hair.
On the airplane, I'll take a backpack with my camera (extra batteries!) a few books, my ipod, and a notebook for writing and drawing. I will also pack lots of food.
About the food, this is a biggie for me!
In my suitcase I have a variety of bars, larabars, kashi, protein, and so on, and a container of mixed almond, cashew, and peanut butter. Obsessed? YES. But they don't really do nut butters in france and I would not like to live without it for a month. The bars are just good for in between meals and snacks in case my family does not want to eat as often as I do, as that frequently happens.
Our flight to Newark leaves at 11 so I've packed a lunch, and some snacks. I"ll probably buy something during our layover. Then the flight to Barcelona leaves around 7 so I've packed a dinner and many more things for snacking on that flight, and I'm making sure I have quite a lot since I can't sleep on airplanes. My backpack is always filled with tupperwares and various packaged foods and I always think the security people must be laughing at me after I walk away. Oh well, I bet they're just jealous because they don't have any. This has also been good for cleaning out my fridge today. I've been like a human garbage disposal all day trying to eat through anything perishable, I have sooo much left! Speaking of which I'm off to work on that a little more and finish the packing and get to sleep.

A few last important things to remember:
phone and charger (must remember this in the morning)
passport (dad has it)
games for the airplane (little brother)

Next time I post I'll be across the pond, yay!!!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My very first entry!!

Hello! I'm finally getting around to starting my blog. I've thought about it for a while and have just made a lot of excuses- I'm not sure if I can manage to keep up with one consistently, or if my life is interesting enough for people to read about, am I a good writer? ...etc etc. But either way, here I go! I'll start by introducing myself and writing a little about what you may read in the future.
So first, What will I talk about??? Well, my real passion is traveling so that will be my main focus. I've kept written travel journals before and had a lot of fun with those. but they were just for me. This way all of my friends and hopefully readers I pick up along the way will get to enjoy my trips too. This also solves the dilemma of "what if I don't blog regularly?". Now I'll only feel obligated to document my trips, though I'm sure I'll write about a million other things too. Back to how I feel about travel- regardless of what else is going on in my life, work, friends, family, anything, I NEED to travel. It's not just that I like to, of course I like to, I love seeing new places, and meeting people and experiencing how they live in various countries, but there's also this restlessness. I just can't stay at home for too long or I go crazy. Not that I don't love home. I actually love to be at home and also need that consistency and comfort in my life too. I'm all about contradictions, so this blog will be confusing and fun! So yes, traveling is my life and I always want it to be my life. I have no idea what that life will entail, which is another purpose to this blog, but no matter what I end up finding out about myself and what I like to do, I will travel through it all. Starting with my upcoming trip to Barcelona, some cities to be determined in between, and a couple of weeks in Menton, France. It will be glorious!!! I LEAVE IN 3 DAYS!!!!!!!
About me:
I graduated back in December with a degree in marketing, but in all honesty, I can't stand the idea of entering the corporate world. I'm not sure what I was thinking by going to business school, other than the fact that it seemed practical and applicable to most anything I'd like to do. Or so I thought. I haven't managed to think of something I could apply it to now and enjoy. The economy doesn't help either, as there are not many jobs available, should I choose to seek out one of those office jobs anyways. I want something that allows lots and lots of travel. Whether I'm traveling with my job, or simply have a job that's flexible enough to where I can travel on my own.
Up until now I've worked with my parent's interpreting company doing translations here and there, some market research, tech work, and a lot of PR stuff. I'd like to continue this kind of work since we travel all the time and it always brings new and exciting experiences. Unfortunately there just hasn't been enough volume of work for me the last few months and there won't be until I get myself together, work on my fluency in Spanish, and simultaneous interpreting, and get certified. Eventually I know I'll probably do this, but first I really want to try something new. Something in diplomacy would be fun, or world peacemaking, something really idealistic along those lines. I want to feel like I'm doing something important, and the last few months of being broke, and unemployed, and no longer a student, have left me feeling like a completely useless unaccomplished person.
I need to fix this. I know my self esteem has definitely suffered a blow, and that really just leads me to make things worse for myself. That's two more things I'm sure you'll end up seeing once in a while. Politics, and introspection/ learning what makes me happy.
I also like food, cooking, baking, and eating a lot of it. Mostly vegan things, all vegetarian, so you'll see quite a bit of that, especially since I like to show people that it's very much possible to have amazingly delicious things without hurting animals or sacrificing your health. Also because traveling usually means trying exciting new cuisines, and how could I go to France and not talk about their food??
And one final word, since I'm sometimes like an old woman and it's past my bedtime. I have the greatest family and friends ever and I will talk about them often. I have just a few close friends who I'm with all the time. One of which will come spend a week with me in Menton, and it will be the best week ever! And when it comes to family, I'm probably closer to them than what most would consider normal. They are my best friends in the world, and even when they drive me insane, I'd still rather spend my day arguing with them, than be anywhere else. I think my mom is superwoman, and we talk on the phone numerous times a day if I'm not with her, and it really bothers me when we haven't talked in over a few hours. And I'm not just saying this because they'll most likely read this. They're so great that I know they'd continue to help me with my rent whether I talked about how wonderful they are on this blog or not.
That's all for tonight, and I'm looking forward to begin the vacation blogging really really soon!

- Gaby