Barcelona: a beautiful city

An artsy, modern city with a Roman wall, beach, Picasso, tapas, and Gaudi, to name a few.

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A street near La Rambla

When I first arrived in Barcelona with my friend, I had great expectations for the city. For years people told me “visit Spain!” That they loved the “vibes of the people”. On our way from Rome to Barcelona, a Italian man told us of all his favorite spots to visit and that Barcelona was one of his favorite cities in Europe. Barcelona was so clean and modern (Free wifi in the streets!) yet artsy. The people were very friendly and there were many other Americans visiting too.

We stayed at a boutique hotel that was a converted convent (figures) and were pretty pleased with our choice right by La Rambla

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Hotel Peninsular

La Rambla is a long street lined on both sides by restaurants and some small shops as well. It’s great for people watching and checking out what you are in the mood to eat. As tapas are a pretty popular thing for visitors to try we got our taste of some on our first day, but learned that many tapas are made with pork (insert sad face).

But no matter! We found a Kosher restaurant to eat at. At first hesitant to enter, when we finally decided one night in starvation to go. We just kept walking and a server came to seat us quickly. I left for the restroom and when I had returned, my friend informed me that the server’s name was Mohammad and he was from Morocco. He treated us so well and we had an amazing dinner there enjoying the food!

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Paella made with chicken

One of the amazing things about Barcelona is that you will never know what you will find or run into. Cute stores, a ROMAN WALL(!), and hidden museums. One thing that was a last minute decision, was to visit the Picasso Museum. There was a long line in an alley to enter, and one could not take pictures inside. Once inside, I marveled at all the artwork that could not be Picasso, but was, while my friend explained to me his history: that Picasso traveled and lived in different cities, mingled with the artists there, gained inspiration from them, and grew his craft. That Picasso painted, sculpted, and drew many thing in so many different styles before the art he is famous for today. That his father actually supported him to be an artist from a young age. These golden nuggets of information, what I would later read in Robert Greene’s book Mastery are some of the patterns of other geniuses.

Prior to leaving for Europe, I had hoped that this trip would be trans formative or at least maybe give me some direction. It inspired me to focus in on my own possibilities and I think that can happen to anyone who goes beyond their comfort zone whether in their own city or even from listening to someone’s ideas that are different from ones own.

 

 

 

How to unwind without sex, drugs, or alcohol

Wait a second! There’s another way?! Yes, why yes there is.

In a society that has a tendency to project what is fun, cool, or popular, these may not work for everybody. Individuals with health problems, religious guidelines to follow, or who have just become fed up with the hookup culture of their city; maybe you or someone you know is looking for alternatives to that lifestyle.

I personally don’t care what people are doing in their private time, but what I do not like is that people can get so caught up in these behaviors that it can become toxic, unhealthy, or disruptive, and possibly, just not make you happy at the end of the day.

For example, think about what you used to do as a child. What were the things that made you happy? Things you could not, not do. You got so caught up that it wasn’t a chore or task. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Look through your old music collection. Music especially music without words, is a great way to center oneself, and scientifically there have been studies that music can affect our brain: Brain and Music there’s tons of other articles to read about it.
  • Go to a sauna or salon and or get a massage done more frequently. In other cultures, people go to the salon or sauna every week or so. Its relaxing, and a way to de-stress your mind and body. OR do a at home spa/sauna stay-cation.
  • Take classes, keep learning, and read. Read whatever you like to read (even a guilty pleasure romance). We as a society have fallen out of this great habit and mind release. Concentrating on a text and focusing to read can take our minds and thoughts to a different place and is a great way to learn. Books are free! You can even download books for free from Project Gutenberg and catch up on the classics. It will make you look smart and sexy while having cool things to talk about beside silly “stories” on social media that everybody has already seen or heard.
  • Plan a weekend getaway. Go somewhere whenever you can. Even a local trip or trying a new spot can make you feel more rejuvenated.
  • Get a pet or play with someone else’s pet or walk someone else’s pet. Pet’s and animals in general, can be very soothing and pleasing to care for. I realized that after I moved away, I really missed my pet and the comfort that she provided.
  • Play games. Games challenge our minds and help us feel motivated because for every win or problem solved it teaches us to keep trying and to not fret the small stuff. Every challenge in life can be approached with this positive mindset.
  • Keep a diary, blog, or daily journal. Keep track of things you want to do, eat, talk about or think about. Sometimes we can’t find someone to talk or share our thoughts or we need to process them more before sharing. Maybe somethings don’t need sharing but personal understanding.
  • Have a group of trusted friends. You don’t need a lot of friends just a few gems will do. Keep them close and text/call whenever you can. Meet up for coffee or have them over.

I hope these suggestions help. Stay happy and healthy!

Easy Parisian Chic

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The museum Louvre in Paris

As fall approaches, one can learn a thing or two about updating the warm winter essentials from Parisian women. There is nothing really to it, actually you may find you already have what you need.

When I visited Paris earlier this year in late May, it would get chilly at varying times of the day then the sun would magically appear warming things up. In Atlanta, we have sporadic weather sometimes as well in the fall. But while walking around Paris and observing what is it that Parisian women wear, I noticed a pattern.

Women would wear either a wool blazer, leather jacket, or a dark trench/parka. They would usually carry a understated bag (not necessarily a brand name), a simple light colored scarf around the neck, dark sneakers or ankle boots, and dark fitted jeans or fitted trousers. Hardly if no makeup, and simple undone hair. Parisian chic really is effortless.

Instead, I would say, Parisians emphasize: layers, easy reliable go to pieces, a carry all simple bag to use while commuting, and more importantly: Parisian women probably emphasize skincare. Their skin, no matter what their race, was flawless. Organic food probably helps a lot as well, and the fact that French skincare works great. Some of my favorite French skincare brands are Clarins and Loccitane  because they include a lot of natural ingredients from plants. Having Asian skin, those work for me as well (though my favorite skincare brands are Japanese and/or Korean and they have become pretty trendy as well in America, which makes me so happy!).

Thanks for reading my blog post about how to be fashionably effortless like Parisian women! I hope this helps save you time (and maybe some money) with the variety of choices for fall, these go to pieces you can use season after season!

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Me and my friend were walking around the Eiffel tower and it became hot again after a chill spell! I had to hang my bulky sweater coat over my shoulder ha ha.

Impressions of Istanbul

 

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Nestled between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a city of movement, water, and light. Having just returned to the states a week ago, however, a bomb blast took place in Istanbul just a few days ago during the holy month of Ramadan. The people though carry about living their lives almost as if unawares: even the area where a bomb blast took place in Beyoglu, Istanbul’s popular shopping and entertainment destination. Syria borders Turkey to the south and Turkey has engaged with fighting DAESH there, while Turkey also has been having conflict with the ethnic Kurd’s who live in and around Turkey.

While there, me and my friend, two females, we traveled freely in Istanbul. Young couples, girls wearing hijab, with their husband or boyfriend held hands, some kissed on the cheek. For me, this seemed pretty liberal for a country that is majorly Muslim but claims to have a secular government, if at times conservative.

Hailing back to the time of Ataturk, Turkey has been trying to assert itself by modernizing through “westernization”, and with that, trying to join the European Union. Westernization was seen as a necessity to modernize and innovate Turkey. While walking around the Sultanahamet area, me and my friend got lost on our way to see the shore. We walked into an alley and met a kind gentleman that said we could get through his leather factory and walk easily to the view of the water. He did try to sell us his leather jackets (Turkey manufactures clothing for many couture and designer western brands) which were for the western market at a quarter of the cost. He spoke some English and told us he was a Kurd. I asked him how he liked Turkey and living here. He said that he came for work and to support his family which he would see once a year. We took pictures of the water and walked back through the factory. The EU sights Turkey’s treatment of the Kurd’s as one of the reasons for not allowing it to join the EU so far.

After our short reprieve in Turkey we headed to Italy and the rest of our trip, and eventually, returned for a final day in Turkey before our return trip back to the States. Germany acknowledged the Armenian genocide which took place in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire. For Turkey (or at least Erdogan), this was a sting for their relationship. Will Turkey be able to join the EU like it wants without confronting the past? For Turkey its identity, culture, and history as well as its internal struggles seem to keep it from doing so. At what cost will Turkey have to change and or give up to become the model country in the eyes of the EU? Turkey’s strategic location, it’s fluidity and adaptability of its culture and people, its willingness to embrace modernization, hopefully will not come at the expense of its identity to the point that Turkey is no longer a possible leader, in the region. With so much potential, so much to offer as a culture and people, chasing after the shadow of power and influence at the expense of their own civil liberties or the rights of minorities in the region, Turkey once again must channel a balancing act or else go down the slippery slope of another repressive state as its enemies (such as Daesh) would like the Turks to become. Still I have hope for Turkey and I believe it can repair relations with its neighbors, the minorities in the region, and come to grips with its past. The beautiful city, people, and ancient history are testament to Turkey’s potential for growth and longevity into the future.

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Street art on the way to the Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey.

Los Angeles: weekend trip beaches + shopping

LA may have a bad rep: drugs, crime, and people being “P.C.” But LA has some amazing pluses: amazing modern architecture, great food, shopping, beautiful weather, and most of all the beaches!

When flying into LAX, it’s difficult to get an uber, and taxis are expensive. Instead, order a shuttle online ahead of time to save you money to pick you up from the airport. I used Super Shuttle to take me to my hotel in Long Beach. I stayed at the Varden hotel, a really neat boutique hotel. It’s close to some nice restaurants and customer service was amazing!

During the day I would go shopping and by afternoon I would go to the beach. There are expensive shopping areas in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and so forth, but they are spread out and one has to walk around a bit to get to each store. But there is an area that has one street filled with shops on both sides: Abbot Kinney Blvd. I stumbled upon it when car pooling in uber to pick up another driver. Even the US ambassador to Spain likes this area. It’s by far the best place to shop for mid-range priced fashion. The shops are beautifully modern and bright. Grab a cup of coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee or Intelligentsia, (or Toms) and shop away!

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Modern design in Abbot Kinney Blvd

Getting around LA: I suggest uber: uber has an option to car pool in LA (not a feature in all cities where Uber is available), that way you only pay half for a ride, but it may take longer to get to your destination because other passengers may get picked up along the way. Still a neat way to save money!

In the afternoon (or anytime of the day) hit up the beach. The best beaches are: El Matador beach in Malibu, Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica beach, and El Porto beach. You can also go further south for even more beaches!

El Matador Beach: a small rocky beach. A little far off, but worth it for a sunset photos and a ride with a view of the pacific ocean and hilltop homes of Malibu. When I made it to the beach, models were getting photo shoots done, and a couple was having their engagement photos taken! Its a steep rocky climb down so wear comfy shoes (I had to climb down barefoot). Not for those afraid of heights. Also, it may be hard to find a Uber to get to and from there, but still worth it!

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El Matador Beach.

Venice beach is not too far from Abbot Kinney Blvd, so hit that up after shopping. Santa Monica beach is also close to shopping and restaurants but it’s pretty touristy. I hope this guide will give you some adventure and sun for a weekend.

A poem for Gaza: “The walls are around me not within me”

The walls are around me not within me.

The walls around me I cannot see: I see beaches, waves and ocean blue wind.

The walls around me I cannot feel: I touch the wild beasts of the night who howl to my other self.

The walls around me I cannot taste: I taste sweet water, dates and olives, and my true loves kiss.

The walls around me I cannot hear: the drum beats of my heart echo to the rhythms of days long past and of nights long spent in laughter and movement.

A fire burns within me and I remember you. I cry out at night and smile in my heart. The dawn brings hope but by night I am alone. I crave your touch and I miss your song. My heart cannot be contained, nor trapped, nor caged. I remember you. I am free.

Welcome!

This is my blog about writing, publishing, and I also have excerpts and premises for stories I’ve written. Here you’ll find helpful tips that I’ve learned about writing, the publishing industry, social media, and how to get your writing out there into the world.