Category Archives: Europe

THANK YOU INTERNET – WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE YOU

I have to admit, I watch a lot of Netflix. I love TV shows, I love stories. Most of the time, the series I watch spring out of the writer’s imagination, most of it being fiction inspired by real events. Sometimes however, I really love getting into a show that tells a true story. The Tudors, The Crown, even Vikings, are great examples of these shows. I am fascinated by what happened in years past; and truth is, history can be even more fascinating than fiction.

Most recently I watched “Kurt Seyit ve Sura,” a Turkish show set in the early 1900’s. The show was a love story adapted from a novel; which happened to narrate a real story between two people during the Russian Revolution and WWI. It is an incredibly emotional show, and there is no consolation in saying: “it’s just a show.” Because it isn’t. It happened, regardless of specific details, the story is true.

Kurt Seyit ve Sura

You might be wondering by now, where am I going with this?

Well, the show is set in times of war, were families were separated, and when going on a voyage from one country to another might mean you might not see the people you are leaving behind ever again. It made me reflect on how lucky we are as a generation.

I am also from a country that is having social and political unrest; but watching this show made me thankful about the opportunities I have, that people one hundred years ago did not even dream of. Communication and travel have never been so accessible in history.

Why not take advantage of the things we have now?

The internet has made it possible for us to stay connected with those whom we met briefly on a weekend in another city; with family members on a foreign land, and with childhood friends who went on a different direction.

 

It has never been easier to explore the world, and to enrich our lives with experiences. We can work from anywhere in the world from our laptop. Everyday there is less need to go to an office, and sit in a cubicle. The difficulty lies in our own patterns.

Because it’s the way it has been done for so long, it becomes hard to break away. Even if you consider it for a second, many of us dismiss the thought as something crazy. I invite you to consider the possibility. Allow yourself to dream. Because with that kind of exploring and adventure, comes interconnectedness and understanding. Understanding of different cultures and its people.

What would have been the fate of the people in the Russian Revolution if they had the tools we now have?

PS: If you want a real tear jerker, watch Kurt Seyit ve Sura on Netflix

I WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN – WANDERLUST OF TRAVEL

I want to see you again. I want to wake up early in the dark and know my day will end in a different place. I want to fly.  I want to taste something new.

I want to sit with strangers for hours, close my eyes, and enjoy the ride. I want to know you will be there to show me around. I want to make a list of all the things I will bring. I want to drive myself crazy trying to fit everything into one place. I want to say “who cares,” because I know what matters is waiting for me in that different place.

I want to hear your voice. I want to hear a different language other than my own, other than the one I know. I want to hear your voice again, steady and calming. I want to hear your accent. I want to learn something new.

I want to dance in a different land once again. I want to make new friends that I might never see again. I want to spend hours sitting in an uncomfortable seat, and complain about my lack of sleep.

I want to travel. I want to see new places. I want to see new faces. I want to see those places I haven’t seen in quite a while. I want to see those faces I haven’t seen since I was a different person. I want to know you. I want to see you again.

Photo by Tobi

JUMP TO A DIFFERENT WORLD – THANK YOU AVICII

Not too long ago, there was a time in my life when I spent a significant amount of time in airports. Usually waiting for connecting flights. I always looked forward to the moment when I could just sit down, put my headphones on, close my eyes, and let music transport me to a different world – or a different reality.

I have gone through quite a few different music phases. When I lived in Venezuela, I would barely listen to any latin music. Now it consists of 70% of my music library. I would say there was a time 80% of what I listened to was EDM. In fact, all those times in airport, traveling back and forth from home to boarding school, then from home to university, I would let myself go with the likes of David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, and of course, Avicii.

I would say music has introduced me to different cultures and it has the power to transform my emotional state. If I let it. Music is very ingrained in a culture, it comes from it. There is a reason Latin music is very different to that of Nordic European cultures. But once you can enjoy the beat, it’s almost like a bridge opens up to a different world. Different people. Different backgrounds. Different languages… different dance moves.

Photo by Jack Gittoes

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see Avicii perform live in Boston’s TD Garden. I remember how Levels used to make me feel. Powerful. Free. Not to mention that I even got to enjoy country music (which is usually not my style), when he managed to combine EDM and country. It was incredibly innovative.

It was with incredible sadness that I received the news about his passing this weekend. Since then, I have gone on an Avicii music binge and reminded myself what I loved about his music. How it makes me feel, how it makes millions of people feel. Every person has a different experience with EDM. It’s hard for anyone not in the scene to understand it. I could watch a 30 minute Tomorrowland aftermovie and not get bored because of a lack of plot. It’s a vibe. It’s an experience that makes you believe and know life is and can be beautiful.

“He said one day you’ll leave this world behind, so live a life you will remember. My father told me when I was just a child. These are the nights that never die”The Nights, Avicii

Thanks Avicii for bringing us into your world and for all the wonderful goose bump inducing music.

Emanuela’s Napoli: Full Naples Interview Transcript

Last week, I wrote a post titled “Local Perspective: Emanuela and the Fascinating Woman that is Naples,” in which I collaborated with a Neapolitan friend of mine. I asked my friend Emanuela about the city where she was born and raised to write a local profile. Through her answers I quickly noticed her passion for her city. If you haven’t read that post, you can do so here! I would love to hear your thoughts. For those of you who have and are curious for more, here is Emanuela’s full transcript to all of my questions for her:

– What is your favorite thing about your city?

The most peculiar trait of Naples is its intensity.

It is, par excellence, the city of contrasts where many different factors live together in an incredibly harmonious way. I always say that it is some kind of a blessing to be a Neapolitan. The city flows in your blood; and it is a bittersweet curse you bring in your heart wherever you are. Just like an incredibly fascinating woman, there is no way the city won’t shock you. You will either deeply love her or hate her, but one thing is sure: you will never forget her. You can start observing these contrasts from the urban planning of the city itself. Bourgeois and less rich quartiers were (and are) literally intertwined. Creating an incredibly rich melting pot of culture and social characteristics. This peculiarity puts its roots back in the history of the city. Naples is a gorgeous microcosm that witnesses the course of European history, as a result of numerous civilizations that have dominated it. Its origins start on the neolithic era, on the “Pizzofalcone” hill and, since then, it has never stopped to be among the most attractive areas of the Mediterranean. Its strategic position in the Mediterranean basin, its natural beauties and resources, the prosperity of the highly-mineral soil, have been the main attractive factors for the Greek and Roman colonizations of the region; nowadays still witnessed by the amazing “Pompei” and “Ercolano.” Since then, the city’s cultural, monumental, and architectural heritage still shows the long excursus of dominations that brought Naples to be the third most important European city in the 18th Century, together with PAris and London in terms of population, scientific, and artistic progress. Fun fact? The most ancient railway, water system, and among the most ancient opera theaters (San Carlo Theater), and universities (Federico II), were born here! All those influences are still in the veins of the city and its citizens, and you will notice it through the mixed architectures, the extreme noise, the rooted traditions, the intense smells, flavors and colors. You’ll find yourself in a city with an ancient soul, where the openness to diversity will accompany your discovery through its splendid “Vicoli.”

 

Photo by Emanuela Cervo

 

– What is a staple of a true Neapolitan?

Definitely humor and intensity. Neapolitans are known for their extreme ways of being, their hilarious jokes, and their lightness mixed up with deep wisdom. Getting to know Neapolitans is a way to complete the journey through the city and profoundly understand it. If you have any italian friend from another region, you will certainly get the difference!

 

– What is a tradition that you only find in Naples?

In Naples traditions are an integral part of the social structure. They are still alive, and not only in the elders’ memory. They are enthusiastically handed down to new generations and they live in the contemporary life. The most famous one is definitely the “Miracle of Saint Gennaro;” Patron protector of the city. According to the tradition, the relic of the Saint (his blood contained in an ampoule), must get liquefied each year on December 16th, May, and September 19th. It is viewed as an auspicious sign, which is believed confirms that the Saint protects the city. According to the tradition, on December 1631, the Saint has been able to stop the lava of the Vesuvius eruption at the foot of Naples. Contrarily, it is believed that when the blood didn’t liquefy (various time during the 20th Century) those years were signed by miseries, such as in 1939 with the beginning of the 1st World War, in 1973 with an epidemic cholera, and a powerful earthquake in 1980. For this reason, on those dates hundreds of faithful, various religious and city authorities get reunited at the Duomo Church to devotedly pray and observe together this phenomenon. No matter if you believe in the miracle or not, the experience is extreme! Another fun fact: the “Treasure of Saint Gennaro” (located just few steps away the Duomo Church) is the most precious collection of the World, followed by the (English) Crown Jewels. Curious to know who’s the owner? The city of Naples and its citizens! An amazing treasure enriched thanks to the devotion of Royal families and the faithful. An often forgotten must see, I highly recommend!

 

– Is there something Neapolitans say that is specific to the city? What about 20 something Neapolitans?

You will find that almost everyone has a positive obsession about the city. We love it, we protect it from negative messages, we belong to it. If you have time, it would be a great to visibly experience this obsession at the Stadium, when the Napoli team plays. I don’t appreciate football at all, but I must say that the emotion I felt there is astonishing, and reflects many peculiarities of the city. People come together in that place; incredibly different people from diverse backgrounds, but they find themselves united by one singular faith. The intensity of the chorus, the energy spread by all the Napoli supporters, the cohesion created among people is an overwhelming and breathtaking feeling. To be noted: Naples is a very Catholic city (with almost 500 churches) and you will often find “Edicole Votive” and religious signs all over the city, but pay attention: the second religion here is definitely the “calcio” game and the Napoli football team!

 

– What is something people in their 20s do typically in their free time in Naples?

Generally speaking, I would definitely say hanging out with friends, eat and drink together. And I mean in a very excessive way! We love to party and we always search for good excuses to enjoy life. Friendship is a fundamental factor here; but every stranger will always find very welcoming and extroverted people around. Thanks to our good weather we spend a lot of time in open air, walking through the streets and chilling in main squares for entire nights, chatting and laughing. Young Neapolitans are often fun, very talkative and they love to speak a lot and laugh loudly.

 

– Where is your favorite place to hangout? Why?

It really depends; but the great thing is that, based on your mood, you have plenty of choice. In the mood to be in the crowd in a genuine way? If so, a great choice would be the historical center. Few places make you feel so alive in the world! There are plenty of delicious restaurants; and after dinner there are many beautiful squares (Piazza Bellini, Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, Piazzetta Nilo) where you can cherish a great regional wine (Falanghina, Coda di Volpe, Biancolella, Aglianico, and Moio highly recommended); and get to know some locals. The language barrier could still be a problem, but you’ll see how the Italian gestural language will help you through this journey. Oh, and try to learn some Neapolitan words. There are so many nouns with particular nuances that can’t be really translated in other languages!

 

– What is your favorite restaurant? Bar? Why?

That’s what I call a hard question! Here it is almost impossible not to have an incredible food experience. Thanks to a vast variety of traditional recipes and great local ingredients, we are lucky enough to have among the most delicious cuisines in the world. Very heavy though, get prepared! I also appreciate the “democracy” when it comes to food here: you can even have a great street food meal starting from 2 euros (for example for a “pizza a portafoglio”).

As for the pizza I really love “Concettina ai Tre Santi”, an old family-run business in one of the most difficult (but also beautiful) neighborhoods called “La Sanità”. I would suggest to go there very early not to wait hours to get a table. All the pizzas are amazing, just remember to start trying the “frittatina di pasta” as appetizer. I would suggest to go first to the amazing “Cimitero delle Fontanelle” and then, after the pizza, to take a nice walk to “Palazzo dello Spagnuolo” and “Palazzo San Felice.”

If you feel like having a romantic dinner, I would definitely suggest to go to “Marechiaro” zone (on Posillipo Hill) at “Cicciotto a Marechiaro”. You’ll find a wonderful panorama right on the sea, a relaxing environment and you’ll not feel like being in the city anymore! A little secret for the adventurous ones: there is a wonderful place where you can have a splendid night swim just 10 minutes by walking from there. The place is informally called “Scoglione”, and you will have to reach it passing through the sea and climbing just a bit. I can assure you that having a swim there, with the Vesuvius right in front of you and no one around, is going to be an incredible experience.

There is also a newly opened restaurant, “Classico Ristorante Italiano,” which I like a lot. Right in the heart of the Chiaia quartier, the restaurant offers a quiet and elegant place where to experience a great traditional cuisine lead by an innovation kick, a great choice of wines and a pleasant outdoor space.

As per the bars, I would suggest “Spazio Nea” in the historical center. It is located in the crowded and lively Piazza Bellini, but it has a splendid outdoor where to sip drinks with friends just a step out of the chaos. Another bar I suggest is certainly the “Happening”, at the center of the Movida area of “Baretti” in Chiaia, where you can find a nice crowd of clients and super great cocktails.

 

– What kind of music does the young Neapolitan generation listen to?

Lately, there’s been a big spread of Latin-American music. After all, we have Hispanic blood and its musicality perfectly fits the lively and dynamic rhythm of the streets.

 

– What is a typical thing to do on weekends?

It all depends on the season. During Spring and Summer, if possible, we definitely prefer to get away to one of the enchanting beauties close to the city. An example? By ferry or private boat (also possible to rent), you can reach in about 30 minutes our islands: Capri, Ischia, and Procida. Another option could be the Costiera Sorrentina and Amalfitana. We would need an entire chapter just for these beauties, so just choose one of them by heart and based on your character! My favorites are definitely Capri for its magic and its blue sea that I love to sail on the typical “gozzo” boat, Ischia for its diversity and its thermal baths (“Miramare Sea Resort and Spa” is my favorite) and Positano, which is just a real dream.

If you wanna stay in the city, I adore to getaway by Kayak around the Gulf. Enjoy the silence and the nature, surrounded by the wonderful architecture of Posillipo and with the picturesque Naples panorama as a background. For this, I really recommend the “Kayak Napoli” crew: professional, super fun, and kind guys (they have two locations in Posillipo, easy to reach).

During Autumn and Winter, luckily, Napoli is a big city with a wide offer of alternatives. Restaurants, bars, night clubs are always incredibly crowded and lively, and the weather is generally good. For these reasons, especially during Christmas, the city remains a popular destination also for Italians from other Regions.

 

– What is something weird about the city? Something unexpected

Napoli has also suffered of numerous catastrophes: destructions, eruptions, earthquakes, bombings, tidal waves, plagues and fires. For this reason, the city has developed a particular cohabitation with death; which is nowadays still translated in a fascinating esoteric approach to life that is still alive in traditions, legends, and monuments. Even in despair, the city learnt to face difficulties with a bitter sweet smile and a profound positivity you can still feel everywhere.

Photo by Emanuela Cervo

 

– If I was there for only 24 hours, what should I do?

Stay longer is an option? Jokes apart, even for a local a lifetime won’t be enough to discover Naples!

I would definitely suggest to get yourself lost in the historical center, going with the flow and experiencing the place with eyes and heart wide open. Let’s try to find a one-day path to see as much as possible. You can start your tour from the Duomo Church, visit it and the Treasure of Saint Gennaro. Keep on going towards “Via dei Tribunali” and take a stop at “Napoli Sotterranea” to visit the underground beauties of Naples. Have a great pizza at “Di Matteo” or “Sorbillo” and start again wandering toward the beauties of “Piazza San Domenico Maggiore” (near there, a must see is the “Cappella San Severo” with the “Veiled Christ” sculpture). Take a coffee and a sfogliatella at “Scaturchio” and head to “Basilica di Santa Chiara”, then to “Piazza del Gesù” and the baroque pearl “Gesù Nuovo Church”. Go to “Via Roma” and be sure to take a fantastic ice cream at “Mennella” (I swear, among the best of my life). Fill your eyes with beauty in “Piazza del Plebiscito”, visit the “Royal Palace” and, if on time, also the “San Carlo Theater” known as the most beautiful theater in the world. Time for another coffee? Go to the “Gambrinus”, and find yourself teleported in an historical bar of the 20 th century. Then, continue on “Via Chiaia” and go to the classy Chiaia neighborhood. After a rapid look at the amazing stairs of “Palazzo Mannajuolo” then rapidly go to “Borgo Marinari”, located on the Lungomare. It would be amazing to take a visit at the “Castel dell’Ovo” Castle and to have a nice aperitivo in front of the sea to enjoy a spectacular sunset. Walk all the way long to “Mergellina”, take a cab and have dinner in “Marechiaro”.

Napoli is a true and genuine city, which can seem to be untouched by globalization from certain point of views. Getting lost in its chaos and craziness will definitely make you feel extremely alive and its contrasts will shake you from within. Experience. Enjoy people’s kindness, invasiveness, joy and let your soul be filled by all of that. And, of course, don’t forget to put as many food-stops as you could along the way!

 

WHY WE LOVE BIG CITIES – I DREAM OF NY, I DREAM OF EUROPE

For a little over a year, I have been living in Los Angeles. I haven’t yet warmed up to the city to the extent that I feel comfortable to call it my home; yet, when I first arrived to Los Angeles I absolutely loved it. Why? The beaches, the weather, the mountains, the proximity to both ocean and snow, the diversity, the food, you name it! The creativity! There are so many people that come to this city with a vision of making their dreams a reality. So many artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers. I felt surrounded by people that understood my desire for a creative life. Yet, I haven’t been able to call it home.

After a long inner search, it finally dawned on me. I miss that constant novelty I got in New York City. Where all I had to do was step outside my door without worrying about a car or parking and I knew I could find a world of possibilities. An adventure awaited. LA is a big city, and unfortunately, not the best example for public transportation. There are great pockets to the city. But having to drive to them takes away from the spontaneity that I personally crave.

I am drawn to travel. I dream of a European home. Weekend trips to different cultures by simply jumping on a train; different architecture, different languages spoken. European cities are built for the human scale, for walking; for experiencing architectural beauty every few steps. I see that in my future, but for now, my craving goes to the concrete jungle in the East Coast. New York still holds my heart, even with all of its imperfections (aka. the subway at rush hour).

Turns out, my craving of novelty is a very basic human need. We are biologically disposed to want to be in locations with variety, with differences, with complexity. We all have different ways of fulfilling this need. Perhaps many don’t even realize why, or how to fill it. There is even research that suggests humans are healthier when we live among variety. That the cities of the future, especially here in the US, that are built for the bottom line, could cause even more depression – among other health issues. Boredom increases cortisol levels more than sadness.

Imagine the cumulative effects of working and living in the same dull environment. Day after day.  Ughh.

Yes, I realize this took a dark turn. It all started with a sunny happy description of Los Angeles. The wonderful city of Los Angeles. I truly do think it’s beautiful. It does need to work on it’s infrastructure for better public transportation. With so many artists in the city, I don’t think it is living up to it’s best potential just yet. For now, I am here to point this out, but I see myself moving back to New York City. After all, I know I have unfinished business with that town, and with that, be closer to my beloved Europe.

Cheers!

What do you think? How do you look for novelty in your life?

Is Food an Anchor, or a mode of Transportation?

As I mentioned in a previous post, Millennials are the most global generation in history thus far. Many of us live far away from where we were born, many of us have an insatiable hunger to get to know the world that surrounds us; and for the times we can’t physically travel to a location, there is something we can use in order to take an instantaneous journey: food.

As I’m sure travelers from all generations will agree, food can be perennial to a location or a particular culture, it really doesn’t matter where one takes that bite; you can instantly be transported to wherever you associate the meal to be from originally. There is nothing quite like food to get your senses to transport your mind to another culture, or place. Especially if taken the time to enjoy and flavor Every. Single. Bite.

Close your eyes and have a slice of the best pizza in town. Let your imagination transport you to the streets of Naples. Overlook the navy blue water at the Mare Lungo while you are there. Have a bite of crepe with a touch of sugar and a cafe au lait; and imagine yourself in a street side cafe in Paris, just about to go for a walk in the Champs-Élysées.

Just as it can transport you, food can also be a delicious reminder of your roots. An anchor in the best sense of the word.

My anchor keeps me from straying too far from my home. An anchor that with every bite, reminds me of a simpler and more carefree time where I would jump out of bed to run to the breakfast table to have a meal with my family.

My anchor is the arepa, what Venezuelans call home; and with every bite, no matter my location, I suddenly find myself back in Caracas, having breakfast, overlooking the hills of the Avila mountain, and feeling that warm caribbean breeze.

What food transports you to a different place? Would love to know! Comment below, or contact me!

Cheers,

Traveling at 15, a better version of the Quinceañera?

Every place has a different rite of passage, whether its a simple thing like your first drink, your first date, prom, or a more elaborate moment like a debutante’s ball, or a Quinceañera party.  Many of us go through different rites of passage, and they all have different effects, different weights on our soul, mind, and heart; but for many of us, there is none quite as powerful as our first trip abroad.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people” – Anonymous

If we are open to it, even a short term trip can change our perspective. Change who we are; push our limits and drive us to discover new horizons. It’s no wonder many people feel the need to travel to “find themselves.”

It is tradition in many Latin American countries to have a Quinceañera or “Fiesta de Quince Años,” when a girl turns fifteen. Historically speaking, turning fifteen meant a girl became a young woman. She was not a child anymore, and she could be presented to society; which in many cases meant she was ready for marriage. Of course, even though the meaning has changed over time, the celebration remains. For over half a century, there is another form of celebration that takes place not in the shape of a party, but of an excursion.

The tradition (if we can call it that) has been embraced quickly enough that most girls in the position to take the trip, choose to travel with new and old friends and neglect the party altogether.

Many consider summer to be a time for freedom and discovery (myself included). There’s no better time to open your mind, and experience a different culture. The travel companies which organize these tours focus on having the girls (and most recently boys too) truly experience the countries visited. Not only through museums and monuments, but through history, food, and their ways of enjoying life.

In fact, this was a personal experience as well. Both my mom and I chose to not have the party when we turned fifteen; and instead, went on a trip for a month around different European cities, with other like minded girls.

There was a lot of time spent sitting on buses, hearing our tour guide explain the history of the place we were visiting. Some of the times we would even listen. Others we just dreamily looked out the window and hoped for an exciting adventure to come our way. We visited over 10 countries, most of which was traveled on the tour bus. Some of us had our first kiss with a Scottish guy in a club in Florence while dancing to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” song (some of us never even knew his name). Others experienced moments of solitude in a foreign land where no one spoke our language. We made friends. Got into fights. Lost weight as a result of walking around emblematic European cities (despite the fact of eating our weight in chocolate, bread, and pizza). And made unexpected connections with people of completely different cultures.

For most girls taking the trip, it’s the first experience traveling abroad without a family member to guide their actions. Even though the travel companies (like Protocolo) provide chaperones, it is a new found freedom which encourages a new outlook in life. Many of us came back with higher expectations for our lives. Desire for deeper meaning, and to one day go back and widen the experience even further.

For generations, this trips have been shaping the vision of many young women who, over the course of a summer, become more independent, open-minded, cultured, and excited for life. No longer do they see the world through the lens of their hometown or through their family’s protection. As Mark Twain said best, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness…”

Any interesting experiences you’d like to share? Would love to hear about it! Comment, contact me, or share!

Cheers!

Some travel resources:

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