Tag Archives: coffee

Back from Barcelona: Part 2

When we last left our heroes (i.e. me and John), they were exhausted but exhilarated from a day of walking the narrow cobblestoned alleys and the wide, tree-lined La Rambla. Onward to Easter Sunday, which felt much less like Easter than any other place we’ve been to on that date. The Catalans just don’t get all that excited about Zombie Jesus day, it turns out.

We found a delightful brunch place, Federal Cafe. The restaurant could easily have blended in with our favorite breakfast joints in Philly, as the menu encompassed more than just English Breakfasts and boring “toasties” that you’d find around Oxford. Federal Cafe was so wonderful, in fact, that we went back again for our final meal before leaving for the airport on Monday. The coffee was incredible, and the New Yorker evidently left behind by a fellow American traveler made for high-quality, high-brow reading material while waiting for my latke and smoked salmon.

Although Sunday morning was misty, drizzly and a bit cooler than the previous day, we trekked up to the Montjuic Teleferic for a view of the city. At the top of a steep climb, we explored the grounds of the Montjuic Castle, and saw the spot where a former President (of Barcelona) was executed (for being a leftist, naturally). 

We also stopped by the Olymic Stadium, which was not too far away by foot, and which pretty much looked like your typical baseball stadium. It didn’t have the gravitas that I was expecting, but was interesting to see nonetheless. We also wandered past the Joan Miro foundation, looked at the queue formed around the block, laughed, and moved on. I might’ve said this in my last post, but I just don’t believe in standing in line, wasting time, when you come to a place to explore and enjoy its sights. Much like I don’t believe in Santa Claus or unicorns (though ghosts are definitely real).

After resting at our hostel to recharge our batteries (our phones and our aching feet, tired by 1 pm), we made our way via the metro to the Park Guell, which was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. A description won’t do it justice, so you’ll just have to wait for the (eventual) photos. I was panicking a little because I purchased tickets for a 2 pm slot, and by 2:15 we were trekking up a mountain (seriously…there was an escalator for assistance, it was so steep) and got a little lost trying to find the entrance. But, we made it in time, and really enjoyed the serenity of the place, which was overwhelming enough to drown out the chaos of too many tourists.

Not too far away from the Park was Casa Vicens, another Gaudi work (I think his first popular structure, a house designed for some rich person). Oddly enough, we were the only people there, apart from maybe 2 other families who briefly passed by to snap a picture. The solitude of this spot made the house seem almost like a typical residence rather than the World Heritage site that it is. I imagined, as I stood there, that the inhabitants of the apartments on that block probably viewed that house just as a typical neighbor’s house. For some reason, I found that comforting.

Next, we passed by the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a concert hall that was probably even more impressive inside than out, but again, [insert my stance on waiting in line]. We also passed by a market, that I thought would be much nicer, but turned out just to be an overpriced, stuck-up place where they didn’t even serve coffee that wasn’t laced with booze (La Princesa). I wasn’t too upset about the detour, though, because we happened to wander by a Bavarian Pretzel shop and picked up a cheese and pepperoni brezel as well as a “Laugenbreze.” It was a poor imitation of what Nurnberg offers, but whetted our appetites for our next trip (May 3rd!) 

I thought that the Picasso Museum, free on Sundays after 3 pm, might not be so busy on Easter Sunday, when basically every European country has the day off and isn’t spending it gorging on subpar bunny-shaped chocolate like we do in the U.S. Yeah, I was wrong about that. The queue stretched not one, not two, but three (or more?) blocks away from the entrance, so we counted our blessings that we’d seen enough Picasso in other museums to last a lifetime, and moved on.

A few more stops littered the way to our hostel for another break (we’re old!), including the impressive Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. That night, we went out for Mexican, which is downright impossible to find in Oxford (Mission Burrito doesn’t come close, local friends). The nachos were somewhat disappointing, and the tacos were decent but lacking lime. Luckily the gelato afterwards, with its crazy flavors (parmesan-vanilla, anyone?) made up for it.

We didn’t stay out very late, but probably one of my favorite moments of the whole trip was during our walk back to the hostel. There was a street performer in one of the alleys, a dreadlocked guy who looked like anyone from my college class, entertaining a gaggle of kids with this stick-and-rope contraption that he used to dip into a bucket of soapy water and blew bubbles the side of…well, those kids who were gazing up at him in awe. As I found myself smiling just as admiringly as those kids, I thought that he probably didn’t have much money, and I didn’t know what his life was like in the slightest, but he was using this small gift, this act, to make people happy. This realization, though cheesy, made me appreciate the simple things I do, and that others do, to spread joy (or at least get someone to smile).

I think that’s a good place to wrap up this trip down memory lane (at least to the memory lane of last weekend), because if there’s on thing that Barcelona represents to me, it’s liveliness. From the architecture, to the leisurely meals of delicious cuisines, to the energizing walking along the steep hills and countless city squares, Barcelona is a city of vibrancy and inspiration. I can’t wait to return.

 

Advertisements

One more month

Yesterday I realized that my birthday is coming up in a month, and got all giddy for about 30 seconds. Not many people seem to get excited about birthdays past the iconic age of 21, but I think they continue to serve as a reliable, yearly milestone. Much more so than January 1st, anyway. I bet you’ve all forgotten your New Year’s Resolution (capitalized because this year you’ll really stick to it, you mean it), just like I have. I suppose I could scroll back through old blog posts to find out what it was – likely something to do with reading more. I haven’t done so bad on that front, actually. My standards are set low, so my one completed book makes me pretty happy. (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – it was just okay).

I’m particularly enjoying this Sunday because I’m typing this from bed, with a gigantic mug of coffee next to me. The mug says Cipramil in bold green letters. I’ve been meaning to look it up, and finally did – it’s the UK equivalent of Celexa, an SSRI used to treat major depression. I think coffee is equally, if not more, effective. 

But back to birthdays. I remember, in my awkward middle school years, spending the week before the annual cake-for-breakfast day drafting self-improvement plans for the year ahead, usually through something superficial like buying new jeans that would be long enough for my gangly legs or using my grandma’s birthday money to buy the latest JANE eyeshadows (still miss that brand). This would become a tradition, though I abandoned the list-making probably in high school. My birthday became a day for me to think about what I want to do differently, and why.

I don’t think I ever got to the “how” part, though, and this is probably why I spent year after year not really feeling any different. In many ways, I’m still the awkward middle-schooler, looking toward improvement but having only a vague idea of what will get me there (answer: it’s not eyeshadow). 

This year, I’d rather just be happy. I want to spend more Sundays lounging in bed, drinking my big mug of anti-depressant coffee, and appreciating the idea of nowhere to be, nobody to become. John says I’ll change the way I feel about birthdays once I turn 30, but I don’t think so. I have two more years to prove him wrong, though.

 

For lack of a better title: My new job

It’s officially my second week at [insert name of big university publishing company here]. Friends and family have asked me the usual questions – what do I do? Do I like it? And which part exactly of publishing do I touch?

I think I’m drawn to jobs that sound straightforward on paper, but are actually kind of complicated to explain. And yet I’ve come full circle, and find myself in a role much like the one I landed straight out of college – Admin. Assistant. It’s pretty different (in scope) compared to the first time I found myself in this type of job – much more document management and many more meetings to arrange around insanely-busy schedules, but the groundwork feels familiar and I really enjoy it. My (extreme) attention to detail is both a blessing and a curse, as I submerse myself in the why, how, and did-I-dot-all-my-i’s of my daily workload.

I’m happy to be part of an organization devoted to literature, research, and education, so I feel inspired to be a better admin. assistant this time around. And there’s much to learn; for instance, I’ve never worked on a PMO (programme management office, in this case) and feel challenged to wrap my head around MS Project workbooks and change management processes. As to the question of “which part” of publishing I do, I suppose the easy answer is people. Divisional infrastructure, risk management, and other business-y terms might be a better description, but the core of it is: look at how departments are currently doing things (hierarchy, IT and process support, etc.) and help them do things differently. Well, help my boss help those departments do things differently.

So, I get a high-level view of how things work here, and that’s pretty cool.

Other perks: cheap cappuccinos, a gym in the basement (did a ViPR class today, which was fun) and an in-house library. Not to mention a slightly shorter commute (by 5 minutes, I’m slow on my bike) and walking distance from John’s office. He likes the cappuccinos, too (and burger-bar Fridays).

This past weekend, I got together with my former co-workers, and hope to keep that going as my previous job increasingly becomes a distant memory. The people were (are) great, and Oxford is small, so I feel I can actually maintain those connections. What I won’t miss is the ride up Rose Hill (and possibly a few things I liked to grumble about on regular occasion to anyone who’d listen).

I should wrap this up because I have a deep conditioning treatment* dripping down my face and into my eyes (ouch), but as a last note on this subject, I feel like this is the most “career”-ish job I’ve had. Maybe it’s just a result of getting older, but it could also have something to do with aligning my love of literature and knowledge with how I pay my bills. It’s a nice feeling.

*Homemade science experiment: mix equal parts warmed coconut oil (one of the few oils that penetrates the hair cortex, rather than just coating it) with a moisturizing conditioner (conditions, duh) and add a small blob of raw honey (an effective humectant/emollient) and massage into your hair. Secure with clips/bobby pins. Leave in for a few hours (or until you get sick of it dripping down your face) and wash hair as normal. Shiny!

London, finally

When I began telling people about my impending move to Oxford, a common reaction was, “Oh, you’ll have fun in London!” Or, “Oxford…that’s in London, right?” Really, I can’t blame anyone for thinking that. Oxford is known for its famous university, and probably not much else. Even after proving to some that Oxford is, in fact, an actual city, it was not uncommon to hear, “Oh. Well, you can still go to London on the weekends!”

I spent a semester in London during college, and knew I’d love the chance to return. What I didn’t expect was that I’d fall in love with Oxford as its own entity, considering it much more than just a suburb of that famous metropolitan city well known for its clock tower and falling-down bridge. I didn’t expect to find Oxford satisfying enough to, well, not really be tempted to leave at all.

But the temptation finally arose this week, after finding out my aunt and uncle would be in London for a few days while my cousin attended an English School course. They came into Oxford for the evening; we had dinner, and enjoyed surprisingly gorgeous weather. The next day,I got to leave work a few hours early to hop on a bus and head into the other city.

As soon as I stepped off the bus and into the crowds of Marble Arch, I sort of…regretted it. That sounds pretty terrible. Maybe I’m less of a “city person” than I thought I was, but I had a similar reaction to whatever I feel when I visit NYC. Sure, I like getting out and exploring an exciting place, but there’s something about crowds, busy people pushing their way as they rush rush rush from here to there, that’s just too overwhelming for me. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Oh, happy belated birthday, self– you have to remember you’re 27 now, not 26, which was finally starting to roll of the tongue, effortlessly. I’m 27: saying it will make it seem true, right?

I don’t want this to sound like I hate London. I like it. I particularly like where I am now, in a Harry Potter-esque castle, waiting for my cousin to come back from his school excursion into city centre, battling the same traffic we fought to get here. Funny story: Bought 2 bus tickets –> Sat on bus and moved maybe 2 blocks in 40ish minutes –> got off bus –> Did the smart thing and went underground, £30 poorer from topping up Oyster Cards with a sum that sounded reasonable.

Anyway, this makes me think: did I really love London all that much when I lived here, 6 years ago? Sadly, I was too wrapped up in early-twenties angst to fully enjoy it. Maybe the busy-ness, the sense of overwhelm, was a good distraction at the time. Maybe I’ve just gotten better at filling my days with enjoyment and reflection, engagement and confidence, a sense of self that isn’t a complete embarrassment.

This is getting a little too heavy for what was meant to be a light travel post, but I guess what I love best about being here in London, right now, is that I’m learning about myself. Learning about change. No, the best thing is seeing my family– that emotional crap comes second. Of course, it’s also kind of scary to think that the last time John and I were in London together was after a few months of dating. He visited once, then came back for a second time. I never pictured this kind of future for us, or myself, but I guess the unknown is what keeps life exciting.

And with that, it’s time to get bak to enjoying London, to the fullest extent.

Even if that means taking a break, or a nap, when needed.