Despite its title, this incredible film that was ten years in the making, takes place in a darker and colder Romania, set in 1988 towards the end of the communist regime. Jesus del Cerro, a Spanish director based in Romania, wrote and directed this beautiful, historical, and moving story. Although, don’t be fooled by the setting either—this is not a film about communism, it is the exact opposite. This is a film about freedom and hope.
One of my favorite places to visit in England is Bath. It's so full of history and charm, and as a Jane Austen junkie, I like to think I'm walking amongst her spirit there. It's a perfect day trip from London or other nearby cities like Oxford or Bristol, but it's also a great little weekend getaway. Bath is a small city, so there are a few tourist staples one must do in Bath(other than walk around and enjoy the quaint town): 1) visit the Roman baths (duh), 2) visit the Jane Austen Centre, and 3) have tea or a meal at Sally Lunn's for the famous Bath bun.
I saw two white girls reading this book, and thought I should check it out. Reni Eddo-Lodge hits it right on the nose with this powerful read about the roots of racism, anti-racism, structural racism, feminism and racism, white privilege, and how we can all move to affect positive change. While it takes a closer look at racism in Britain, its historical context, background, and messages are a must read for all.
When I was in Taiwan, we visited my uncle at the cemetery. This was unlike any cemetery I've ever seen, and it was kind of the most amazing cemetery I have ever been to. I know that's weird to say about such a place, but not only was it a peaceful paradise for the resting souls and their loved ones who visit them, but it also is no doubt the future of cemeteries.
Old Town Shenkeng is famous for it's stinky tofu. As soon as you arrive the pungent smell invades your nostrils like a men's locker room. There's so much to see though, and it's a charming quaint street lined with all kinds of shops for eats and goodies...mostly different kinds of eats, with each shop offering you all sorts of samples, so it's almost like having lunch at Costco, but better.
Our arrival in Lisboa was a vibrant one, and began lively like a funny movie. Our Uber driver (yes, you can order Uber at the airport in Lisboa!), Thiago, zoomed up to us and popped out of his little white Hyundai wearing bright pink polarized sunglasses. He was full of the vibrancy you see all around the city and we realized we could communicate in Spanish together. Although, at some point he switched back to Portuguese, but we still had a largely, mutually comprehensible conversation with him speaking Portuguese and us speaking Spanish. This was much the case throughout our trip. Portuguese in Portugal sounds very different from Portuguese in Brazil, I have to say. It's much harder, and oft sounds like they're speaking Russian or German. It was strange and a little confusing, but if they spoke slow enough I could understand them.
We stayed in Alfama, the Old Town, and he couldn't actually drop us off in front of our Airbnb, so he got us as close as possible, dropping us off at Portas do Sol, a spot with a breathtaking view over looking orange tiled rooftops and out onto the river. There was a giant cruise ship docked in the river and it made it feel all the more like vacation had arrived. Then we walked down several flights of winding stairs until we we were greeted by a woman yelling down the alley way in a wretched voice that echoed between the centuries old walls and I thought she was crying and screaming at someone. When I turned my head to look at who she was yelling at, I realized she was just greeting her friend. Loud, and I mean LOUD fado music bellowed from her windows and I thought, "we made it!" This is Lisboa! A loud bellowing woman!
I picked the spot particularly for the old town charm, and there's certainly no shortage of charm here. The stairs and buildings are colorfully picturesque, with pretty paintings on random walls, and sometimes random paintings on random walls, football team flags hanging from windows, clothing hanging out windows, and on our street in particular, colorful streams lined the alley above our heads as if they were preparing for a large quinceñera or parade. You never know with old European towns, because you could just wind up in a dark, crumbling alley that smells like piss. Thankfully, I've not had that pleasure. So, we've been really fortunate with our Airbnb stays. It's also nice, because we like to stay in each city for at least a minimum of five days, we feel like we become part of the city and live a little like the locals.
Alfama reminds me of the Gothic center in Barcelona--you never know which each street is going to take you, and what you might stumble upon...sometimes literally, so be careful walking the cobble stone roads. I highly recommend bringing good shoes, because you'll walk a lot of hills, stairs, and cobble stone roads. I oft bring and wear my wedges when traveling because they look nice and they're comfy to walk in, even all day. However, I did not once touch my wedges on this trip. After realizing how uneven the streets were, and never knowing what we'd encounter, I opted for safety. Also, bring shoes or sandals with good grip on the soles if you can, because a lot of the cobble stone can be slippery. I was quite careful when I walked.
The guy who let us into the building walked up a few minutes later looking like Jesus got a bad haircut and was a character himself. He was also named Thiago. After we settled into our quaint studio apartment, we walked down to the grocery store located in a train station and picked up some basics like water, cheese, saucisson, chips, and cherries. Again, we really like to settle in and make each city our home for the few days we're there. It's actually really great for budget travel, not just because the accommodations are cheaper. We then also don't have to eat out for every meal. Eating out for every meal gets heavy and sometimes after a long day of sightseeing you just want to put your feet up and have a light meal.
Our first evening I made a reservation for us at Sr. Fado to help fully immerse ourselves into Lisboa culture. Alfama is like the center of Fado where there are loads of places you can dine at and enjoy a taste of Portuguese and Lisboa culture--literally and figuratively.
That was a full evening. We arrived at the restaurant at 19h30, as soon as they opened, because after 15 minutes you risk losing your table and left around 23h30. It's a very quaint space, family style. The whole experience is much like dining in someone's living room, and what I loved about it was that there were guests from all over the world--Poland, Germany, Sweden, Australia, France, Iraq, the States. As soon as you arrive, a basket of soft fluffy bread sits on the table next to a tray of cheese and charcuterie. This is all included in the menu, unlike regular Portuguese restaurants where they charge you even for bread. The cheese gave off an unpleasant odor which made me question how I was going to enjoy the long night, but then it was so delicious I soon forgot the smell. The second course was seafood heaven! It was a big pot of baccalau, shrimp, clams, and squid all stewed together and we ate it over rice. The dessert was very interesting. We were both anticipating one of Portugal's famed pastries, so what we received was a bit underwhelming--a plate of strawberries, whipped cream, and something that looked like thinly shredded cheese. It was not cheese though. It turns out it was actually egg yolk, that they somehow made look like shredded cheese, and it was sweetened. It tasted lovely, and the strawberries were so fresh and delicious, they came straight from the family's farm. I suppose it was a good choice for dessert because it wasn't too heavy. Finally, around ten past ten the Fado started. Fado reminds me of the lyrical storytelling of classic country songs like that of Hank Williams, it has the power and soulfulness of Etta James' voice, and sometimes sounds like Russian folk music. It's certainly comparable to the blues, as it's very poetic and sad, but it moves through you like a particular energy that only music can create. The melody is led by the 12 string Portuguese guitar and it's a beautiful experience. Make sure to experience fado when you're in Lisboa. For us, it was the perfect introduction to the city, which like the music, is like a sexy old woman...neglected, but as alive as ever. My friend describes Lisboa as a beautiful old woman, like an opera singer. That's a much prettier description, and just as accurate.
Keep in mind, Portugal is quite a poor country. The gap between the wealthy and poor is great. We did see some nicer neighborhoods outside the center, and our apartment was nicely renovated; but in general, the infrastructure is not well maintained, and the working wage is low. Chris and I noted, that the city reminds us of a mixture of Barcelona and Tijuana--which we enjoy both. It's great fun and a wonder, and it is becoming more and more popular a destination.
If you get the chance, we highly recommend it. Stay tuned for more on our experience in Lisboa.
BIG LOVE & HUGS
I got a lot of funny looks and “WHY???” when I told people I was going to visit Nürnberg on this trip. To be quite frank, how I originally landed on this charming medieval city was totally a logistical decision. When planning this trip, I just knew I wanted to visit Amsterdam and Austria (Salzburg and Vienna, in particular), so then I just filled in the rest. I looked for a German city I had not been to, near Salzburg, and voila. After a bit of research, Nürnberg ended up being one of the cities I was most excited to see --and I was most certainly not disappointed.
The first few days of the World Cup have been pretty exciting, and it seems Brasil took away a few lessons from Sochi. Apparently, accommodations were all ready for everyone, but the stadiums were not. At least our athletes have not been breaking down walls after getting stuck in bathrooms.
Thank you, Mr. Mandela. Simply, thank you.
1) “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
2) “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
3) “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
4) “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
5) “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
6) “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
7) “We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
8) “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”
9) “ As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
10) “I am the captain of my soul.”
11) “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
12) “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
13) “Appearances matter — and remember to smile.”
BIG LOVE & HUGS