Camino Day 1 & 2

Day 1

We made it to St. Jean Pied de Port at 10pm the previous night. Upon arriving at our first Albergue, the host advised us to run to the Pilgrim office and get our Pilgrim Passport, for a couple of reasons: 1. We could get our first stamp for that Albergue, and 2. We wouldn’t have to stand in line and delay our journey the next day. I’m so glad we took his advice because the first day was tough! (We needed all the extra time we could get!)

The start: that morning we woke up at 6:30 to make sure we would have the whole day to make it over the Pyrenees and into Roncesvalles before nightfall. They said that it would take us 8 hours, it takes most people 8 hours, but it had been raining the past 2 days, and more rain was expected for the first leg of our journey. They forgot to warn us how bad the mud would be. It was SO bad. But through rain all day, drizzle to heavy falling to side-ways rain (due to the strong wind), we made it in less than 8 hours (not much less…)

When we got to Roncesvalles, the Albergue was full. All 183 beds we’re claimed by fellow Pilgrims. So we were taken in a taxi to another spot near Espinal. It was a campsite/hostel. Super cute and very quiet, maybe 20 Pilgrims including us. There we did laundry, ate our first Pilgrim meal (which included a bottle of wine!) And talked to some Pilgrims from California. They had been on the Camino before, but were unable to finish. So a few years later they decided to take more time and do it in it’s entirety. They told us what to look forward to in Pamplona, how to make sure we explore the old city behind the wall, and eat the pinchos. They were awesome, I hope we run into them again.

Day 2

We slept in. I set an alarm for 6:30am but didn’t actually get out of bed until 7am. By the time we were dressed and packed, it was 8am and we still hadn’t eaten breakfast. We decided to stop at a cafe in the next town, where we ate toast and drank Cafe au lait. We took some time to write (thinking it would be an easier day) then hit the trail.

We didn’t arrive in Zubiri until a little after 2pm. Zubiri means “City of bridges” and we only saw one bridge, but it was beautiful.

While eating lunch, I booked us an Airbnb in Pamplona. I told the hosts we’d be there at 8pm; we could cover 10 miles in three hours, right? Maybe if they were flat miles and we hadn’t walked 17 the previous day… Anyway, we gave it a good effort! By the end, we were struggling. We reached the edge of town at 8:45pm and decided to call a cab. We’d already walked 22 miles, and 45 min passed the time I told them I’d be there and we were incredibly tired.

When we got to the AirBnb after 9pm, our hosts were incredibly jolly! They were so welcoming, giving us a quick tour around the place and suggesting the best neighborhoods for pinchos. I don’t think they realized that we were barely able to stand and really just wanted to sleep. But we really couldn’t have picked a better spot for our stay in Pamplona.

Buen Camino.

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First time in Asheville

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If there is one place that I could pick-up and impulsively move to, it would be:

Asheville, NC.

Drew and I went there this weekend after our trip to Atlanta to see his cousin marry her beau in the sweetest ceremony/reception. It was lovely, but I realized that I did not take one picture in Atlanta. Not one.

Part of that had to do with the fact that we stayed in Downtown which is sort of like Las Vegas (hear me out) in the sense that the only thing there is major chains and party-goers. Restaurant choices involved Hard Rock Café, Hooters and Chick-fil-A. Night clubs in the area are numerous, according to our hotel concierge when asked what there is to do; Or we could have taken a tour of the Coca-Cola factory. I wish we could have gone with a guide, a local who could show us the neat little restaurants and other places where locals hung out.

So when Drew woke up Sunday morning and said, “What do you think about going to Asheville?” I jumped at the idea and immediately started packing.

We arrived in Asheville around 4PM. (we had our little love-pup, Jade, so traveling always takes just a little longer once we get her walked/fed/potty-ed) Our first stop was Ben’s Tune Up, where we stumbled upon once parking the car and were drawn in by the cute patio. The owner’s dog was wandering around the area off-leash, so we took Jade off her leash and let her roam, too. (Although, Jade’s area of roaming is about a 5 foot radius around our table, she didn’t go far)

After that, we checked into our hotel room at Aloft Downtown Asheville. If you are ever looking for a pet-friendly spot, I highly recommend this chain. There are no additional pet fees, and they will give you a pet bed, two bowls, poop bags, a toy, and a bag of treats for your furry friend. Plus, they have a pet area (Grass where your doggie can do they’re business) and your pet is allowed anywhere in the hotel you are. Also, they work with local shelters and feature an adoptable dog in the lobby of the hotel. Looking for something to remember Asheville? Adopt a pet on your stay!

Since we were only in Asheville for about 24 hours, we didn’t see a whole lot of the city, mostly the downtown area. We drank a lot of beer and coffee, ate some awesome food, and basically just got a preview to the wonders of the city/area. I can’t wait to go back!

When we do go back, I want to visit the breweries and check out the hiking trails. The people there are SO friendly and anyplace that treats Jade like the child I think she is, is high in my book.

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Jade Aloft

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Going Native

First, this is not a sponsored post.

I love AirBnB. And Homeaway. And whatever other vacation rental site I haven’t yet heard of or used.

There is something exciting and thrilling to travel somewhere and stay in a cool neighborhood like a local, experiencing things that most tourists aren’t going to. And whenever I say that, I think about my college Anthropology class where the professor described the term “Going Native” a common experience for anthropologists who are studying cultures and getting lost in them. That’s exactly what I like to do when I travel, get lost in the local culture.

I have stayed in many homes around the world, and honestly must say that all of them were excellent. It’s amazing how the internet has brought us such a great resource to find apartments or treehouses or boats to stay in instead of the ‘normal’ hotel. And to think that Europeans have been doing this for decades… glad we Americans have finally caught on.

To me, nothing is cooler than waking up in a neighborhood, going to a local coffee shop and seeing how life happens in that city outside of the tourist meccas and shopping centers. However, that also means that if you are in a country that doesn’t speak the same language, you are going to find that it will be more difficult to find fellow English speakers. But don’t fret, you’ll forget about the language barrier as you drink the booze that is way cheaper in the neighborhoods (Because it’s not marked up for tourists who don’t know any better, or don’t care)

When we were in Paris, we loved the Airbnb that we rented. It happened to be directly across the street from our friend’s childhood home where his parents still live; and a block or two from another friend’s apartment. Not to mention, it was in Montmarte so just an all-around splendid neighborhood, great food, great nightlife, delicious patisseries and coffee shops. In Mexico, I stayed in Roma Norte, a very trendy “Hipster” area with bike shops and markets on nearly every block, as well as Parque Mexico a short walk away.

If you are going somewhere, definitely check out renting someone’s home in a neat area over a hotel on the main strip. We’re going to Atlanta next week, and I am already looking into some cool rentals down there. Like the famous Treehouse or a cute camper.

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LA Guide – According to a Local!

Andrew Fromer is a friend of mine that I met in an acting class in Los Angeles. Andrew hosts a weekly podcast, blogs AND acts for film, television, and commercials. A native of LA, he shares his favorite food stops, scenic drives, nights out and getaways — where the locals go!

I can’t tell you how strange it is, the looks I get when I tell people I’m from LA.

“No, where are you from before LA?”

“No no,” I say. “I was born in Santa Monica, hung out at the old Sherman Oaks Galleria, the one from Fast Times. I slept through the Northridge ‘quake. I remember a time when downtown LA was not cool, just creepy and hipster-free.”

I am an LA native, and it is weird. This place is weird. Its identity in flux, fractured, and big: Really, really big. “Sprawling” I believe is the word. Some parts of it I love; some parts of it I hate. But here are some of my favorite things to do in and around LA, so maybe you can enjoy it just a little bit more.

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Cat on a Plane

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Traveling has never really been stressful for me. We traveled A LOT growing up, and my dad was always so unbelievably excited that I think I can’t imagine traveling any other way other than being very excited all the time. Especially when it comes to flying. My favorite!

Moving Jax (the cat) has been a process. Drew and I were both concerned about how he would do in the car, with the UHaul for over 12 hours and therefore, we felt it would be better if I flew with the cat. In theory, flying with a cat seems ridiculous. He’s a cat. But in the end, I had a great experience. If you are going to travel with a small pet in the future, I hope my experience will benefit you!

First of all, every airline has a different fee amount and individual regulations for traveling with pets. Some allow you to hold your animal on your lap, while others only offer pet travel below deck. I flew Allegiant Air which may have the best pet travel policy. It is a $100 pet fee as long as the pet fits under the seat. You are not allowed to bring the pet out of the carrier during flight. And that’s it. No pet health certificates or any other additional paperwork as long as you are flying within the contiguous 48 states. That’s it. $100.

Before the trip, we took Jax to the vet to get their opinion on the best way to travel with him. They gave us little kitty-calming pills and advised us to give Jax half-a-pill to help him relax. I am anti-unnecessary medication for animals, so, I am not a huge fan of this. But I also didn’t want Jax to have a heart-attack if it could be prevented. The pills didn’t seem to affect Jax’s mood much other than making him less vocal. The vet also gave us calming wipes that we wiped his carrier down with. Apparently, the smell is supposed to relax him similar to how people feel with lavender or eucalyptus scents.  They also recommended giving him a T-shirt that smelled like us that he could hide under, since cats feel safer in smaller spaces.

When we got to the airport, late, everyone from the desk attendants to the TSA agents were incredibly kind. (Yes, you got that right, the TSA people were NICE). You cannot send your pet through the Xray machine (which seems obvious, but I guess not look here) You must remain with your pet at all times, meaning, you have to hold your pet through the metal detectors.

Jax was scared into submission; So he was an angel. Everyone from the TSA people to the folks in line around me commented on what a beautiful cat he was. Once I got to my seat on the plane, the surrounding passengers were very sweet, even giving me chocolate! Ha! I must have looked slightly panicked. The only time Jax really freaked was during take-off. He began panting! Poor guy. I opened the carrier and tried to console him with affection. After that, he seemed OK for the rest of the flight.

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My sister picked us up from the airport and once we were in the car Jax climbed out of his carrier and onto my lap. I think it was traumatic for him, to be honest. But the whole experience was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

End Note: Check with your vet before flying, even if they don’t recommend pills, they will probably give you good tips for travel. Also, look over the restrictions and regulations for your airline’s animal travel. Some require much more paperwork that your vet may have to help you complete.

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Dear Tourist: Tips for visiting Paris

Tips for Paris

Hey there, fellow tourist! While we were traveling around Paris, there were some things that the guidebook and French translator didn’t tell us. I thought I would share those things with you here.

Water

It is OK to drink the water in Paris.  You can definitely ask for free tap water at a restaurant rather than paying too much for the fancy bottled water. And they will try to up-sell you for not knowing what you’re asking for. Or if you wait, it seems to be a custom that they bring you water when you eat, just not necessarily right away. But that also means, you don’t have to worry about anything when you are brushing your teeth or accidentally open your mouth in the shower. (Sex and the City… Anyone?)

We also looked this up on Google and there were some snarky responses about the cleanliness of water in Europe, namely Amsterdam, claiming that they have had water purification systems longer than our country (America) has been around. But still ask the locals, because we were instructed not to drink the water in both Brussels and Copenhagen (Two cities also older than America…  I guess they didn’t do a great job with the up-keep of their water purification systems…)

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Food

Paris is an expensive city. Where you are makes a big difference. If you want to save a Euro or two, eat away from the touristy spots. Yes, those places will have servers who speak perfect English, but the food is going to be sub-par and pricey.  Baguettes are typically 1.5 or 2 Euros and cheese, meat and produce at any grocery store is cheap. Check out a Monoprix which is like the Parisian version of Target, Franprix are kind of like a 7/11, small and not as much, but any place you see a variety of produce outside is probably the entrance to a great grocery store.

When eating out, most cafes have a lunch special written on their chalkboard outside. Usually, those are cheaper meals like 10-13 Euros and you get two or three courses. Pretty good deal to get lunch and dessert for 10 bucks! Even by American standards!

Tipping

You don’t have to tip your service at restaurants. They add that into the bill. If you look closely at the bottom of the tab, you’ll see that they get a little commission on every item you bought.

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Transit

Going from place to place is actually easy when you understand the Metro lines. If you have lived in any major city with a train system, you will easily understand this one. If you haven’t, you will get it, don’t worry. The biggest thing I want to advise against (Tourist to tourist) is the vulnerability you have at these pay stations. There are a lot of scammers and pick-pockets in the depots, they will try to “help” you and get you to pay ridiculous sums of money for tickets you don’t need. They seem nice and helpful, but always tell them a firm “Non” and walk away. All of the machines have English options, just look for the UK flag. A Metro ride will cost you 1.80 Euros each way, and you can buy in bulk which will save you a little.

Taxis are so much cleaner and nicer in Paris (Compared to LA). They are a lot pricier than taking the Metro, but it’s kind of exciting. To operate a vehicle in Paris you must be very attuned to everything around you and you must have a death wish. We took a cab from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre and it was 16 Euros. Not terrible. Plus, it’s like a ride at an amusement park! I was amused.

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Cameras

I hate to say this, because it is such a beautiful city and you never know what you are going to see at any given moment, but put your camera away when moving through the city. That is a huge sign on your back that you are a tourist, and you will be subjected to much more soliciting from street people and scammers alike. And the Parisians will be nicer to you if they don’t realize you are a tourist at first.

Drinking

There are no open container laws in Paris. Which begs the question: is it OK to drink on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, or the bank of the Seine? Yes. And everyone is doing it. Whether it’s a bottle of wine or a case of Heineken, at about 4PM everyone starts to drink in Paris. I mean, socially. Parisians drink whenever they damn-well please, but in the afternoon, it becomes a social event. People will get together just to drink and they will do that just about everywhere and anywhere. I never saw anyone drinking on the Metro, but if it’s a nice day and you want to sit on the bank of the Seine and split a bottle of wine with someone lovely, do it.

PDA

I don’t know why I saved this one for the last. But I did. Public displays of affection are commonplace in Paris. Everyone is doing it and everyone is so nonchalant about it. So if this makes you uncomfortable, I’m giving you a fair warning. I think that is partially why it’s known as the “City of Love.” Our friend, Marion, said that they feel like if you are in love then you have a right to show the world. I love the French way of thinking.

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Day Trip: Le Marais

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Hotel DeVille

One of the days we were in Paris, we visited Le Marais in the 3rd arrondissement. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris, maintaining it’s 13th century charm with narrow and winding streets. Originally, Le Marais was built to accommodate royalty. You can see the remains of aristocracy in the hidden courtyards and extravagant buildings.

Throughout history, it has been home to many groups and somehow it has survived all of Paris’ wars. At the turn of the century it was the center of the Jewish community. Unfortunately, with the Nazi occupation of Paris, the neighborhood was left nearly empty. Today, it is Paris’ Gay neighborhood and one of the most desirable places to live hosting very expensive properties and apartments. And It’s a great place to find eclectic boutiques, Parisian art, trendy bars and some very interesting pastry shops.

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Though the neighborhood may be more known for being trendy, there are still many traditional Jewish delis, bakeries, and falafel stands. Some of the best falafel in Paris! We went to the place that claimed to be the best falafel.

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Drew got the shawarma and I got the falafel. It was good. The line was quite long, but these guys had it down to a science. It was a quick and very tasty meal! I have no idea where we where, we literally stumbled upon it, following our noses. Definitely worth the payoff.

Exploring through the day, I think we may have uncovered about 15% of this neighborhood. Not because of it’s size, but simply that there are so many beautiful hidden courtyards, museums and shops that it’s impossible to get to all of it in such a short amount of time. It may seem small, but don’t let that fool you, there is still a lot of ground to cover!

 

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Selfie Sundays: 3 years in California

I can’t believe it has been three years since we moved to Sunny SoCal. A lot has happened in that time; some major life-changes as well as some self-discoveries (However, that might just come with getting older).

I was in my early twenties when I moved here, pretty much straight out of college, with not a penny on me, and dreams that seemed sort of washed up from the beginning. I thought for sure, all the answers were in the sunbeams that lit up Los Angeles, and once I got here my life would fall into a sequential list of tasks that must be completed to thus achieve the amazing life and career that is the American Dream.  That sort of happened.

Some lows, dark and terrible lows, happened first. Lows that probably would have made most change their course. I slept in my car then, which I later found is a popular and almost right-of-passage for the artist in transition to LA, persistent in my pursuit to make this happen. And it finally did. I got a job, Kelsy (my sister) and I found an apartment in West LA, she got a job, and we thought this could be the resting place for our growing souls.

Not long after moving in, I fell in love: Truly, madly, deeply with my neighbor. If that’s not fate, I don’t know what is. We eventually moved in together and got a cat, Jax. We’ve had Jax almost a whole year… time flies!

I also realized, somewhere recently, that my dreams were just that: dreams. And not because they are unobtainable, but they are because that’s just not what I want anymore. I think I’ve grown a lot in the past 3 years, and what I realized is that I am an artist through and through, (Sorry Mom) and I don’t like the games and politics that come with the direction I was going in tinsel-town. I want to make my reality by myself, while maintaining exactly the brand and image I want. I want total creative control (hence the blog and other media outlets that are on the way, still in development). The good news is that I am going to be using my college degree more. I am going to focus on Social Media and internet businesses, because that is a passion that drives me everyday. I have big plans for the future and I can see pretty clearly the path that will take me there.

So I guess in the three years I have been here, I have found the answers in the sunbeams. I’ve realized that there’s more than just this and I can go anywhere, for the internet will always be with me. That said, I guess I am also announcing that we are packing up our act, and moving at the end of June. To where, we aren’t sure yet, but we’re excited none-the-less. Stay tuned!

Cheers to Us! And the 3 years of self-discovery that are leading the next big adventure!

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Mondays

Beginning this Monday off right, a little painting I did to help keep a positive outlook on the week ahead.

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Keep looking for it.  And it will find you.

Acrylic on paper 8.5×11

 

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Finding Inspiration

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Working as a creative is just as exciting as it is challenging.  More times than not, it seems like there is never enough time to finish a project, yet finding that initial push to get things going is sometimes the timekeeper that makes it difficult to begin a task.  So where do you start when you have no idea?

Recently, I’ve been battling with a  sort of writer’s block that seems to be seeping into all of my other projects.  And that’s very frustrating.  But even more frustrating than that is knowing that all I need is to get on a roll and I will be going with so much kinetic energy, I’ll be unstoppable.  Part of that problem is my priorities and what I’m committing my extra time to.  I’m not gonna lie: lists and schedules keep my world going round and round.

When I was in college, I was an expert at time management. What changed? I think having that other person (my professors) to give deadlines.  You had to organize your time well or there would be an instant repercussion: your grade would fail.  So how could I get that sort of ‘heavy’ in my life that would make me feel the pressure?

Make a list

I once read that successful people make lists the night before of what they need to accomplish the next day.  That does two things: First, it frees your mind of the circles it’s going to try and run in as you try to fall asleep; Second, you have a plan do get going as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Re- inspire

Take a class. There are so many awesome classes out there that are free or very cheap.  I, personally, have been binge-watching skillshare.com videos.  I initially took the 7 day free trial, loved it so much that I have been a ‘member’ for a while.  You can stop anytime, but the experts they get to give the lectures are cool, to the point and entertaining.  Best $10 I’ve spent in a while that also benefits my life.  There are other sites like this as well.  A friend of mine just told me about Lynda.com — I have yet to check that one out.

Someone to hold you accountable

It helps me to get friends’ projects going.  I’ve recently been doing photo shoots with my friends to try and get some additional creative activities in my life.  And the great thing is, if you promise them that you’ll get them copies, you better get that going. For me, it’s a deadline that helps keep me focused.

Take a break

This is awesome and the hardest.  I beat myself up if I take breaks. I feel like there are hundreds of other things I could be doing, but I’m not.  I’ve found for this to work, I need to get away from my work station — completely out of my apartment — and do an activity that distracts you from doing any work. I always come back completely rejuvenated.

 

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