Thick Skin

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I drove back to Berkeley with two bags full of fruit from my grandfather- grapefruit, pomegranates, lemons, and limes.  I took the time to peel a whole pomegranate and eat it today.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote over two years ago though, and I wanted to share it.

The poem reminded me of how something as small as seeds can symbolize a whole period of my life. It reminded me that difficult endeavors may leave you stained, but they also leave you smarter and stronger. It reminded me that stains don’t last forever, but maybe their impacts do.

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POMEGRANATE

A bowl of seeds in front of me remind me of you-

I had to cut through thick skin and peel it away just to get at the good stuff.

It didn’t stop there though-

I had to pick and probe, inspect and search for remnants of the thick skin so when I sunk my teeth into the fruit, I wouldn’t find myself with a bitter aftertaste.

Red stains my hands and counter tops, just trying to coax the sweetest part of you out.

A bowl of seeds in front of me reminds me of you-

The seeds and juices are sweet, yet soon gone. Ephemeral sweetness doesn’t mask the bitterness of skin I couldn’t get past, of the skin I could not peel away no matter how badly I wanted to.

 

 

It has been awhile

I began school at UC Berkeley and life is going really well. I got a job at REI, I joined a club called CRSSO that I help co-lead with three other people, I switched my major, I joined a sorority (Chi Omega), I tutor at a prison once a week with inmates, I somehow do laundry once a week and run as often as possible because I impulsively signed up for a half marathon.

Despite the excitement of my life, I find myself not making time for some things I care a lot about; travel, the outdoors, exploration of the external world and my internal mind, people, and writing

I wrote this at the end of December 2015, right after I got home from my study abroad. I’m posting it for a few reasons.
It’s a return to writing. It’s a return to the long lost blog. It reminds me of what I did, what I can do. It helps band-aid my aching desire to go. It re-instills gratitude for my past. It inspires me to go and do more. It reminds me to let down my walls and do what I wrote about- bid on living larger.

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Less touristy, but doing touristy things; My second month in Barcelona

I’m midway through my study abroad and merely typing that makes me sad- I don’t want it to end! I’ve returned back to school and beautiful Barcelona after a wonderful midterm break that took me across the United Kingdom and Ireland with my mom. This last month or so, just like all of my time here abroad, has been memorable and I cannot wait to share it with you all.

I finally got around to enjoying the touristy parts of Barcelona since I last wrote. I went to Parc Guell with Molly and Alyssa. We barely made our time slot because we had no idea the bus ride there would take eons. 
Regardless, we were in total awe of Gaudí’s impressive and ornate park. Gaudí is one of Barcelona’s pride and joy. He designed Parc Güell and La Sagrada Familia, a basilica in central Barcelona. His design is so specific to himself that it could not be mistaken for anyone else. He created beautiful displays of art through unique techniques and perspectives. The man LOVED tile, and Parc Güell is a definte testament to that. The park looks out on all of Barcelona and I’m hoping to go back on a sunnier day in the future so I can admire the skyline once again. I bought a book that I intend on reading during my flight home, or when I get homesick for Barcelona once I am back in the states.

   
    
 The three of us also headed to La Boqueria when we found out class was cancelled and decided to make the best of our free time. We had to pick out a foreign fruit to us for a biology project, ask the vendor about it, and take a selfie with it. Eventually we will present the fruit to our class with information about the fruit. Facilitating a selfie in La Boqueria is as impossible as it is embarrassing because you end up looking like a complete tourist in this intensely crowded space wherein you’re cheek to cheek with anyone near you. We bought candies, unique fruit from South America and had lunch at yet another burger place because my need for burgers is insatiable.

   
    

Lamb heads!
    
 That night, we attempted to see the Montjuic Castle but missed the last cable car ride up. We decided to walk around Montjuic Park instead and caught a great sunset and city views.  The park spans a large portion of Barcelona. It looks out over the harbor, the end of the gothic area, and leads all the way to Placa de Espanya, where one can find the National Art Museum of Catalonia. I particularly love this area because it is the most nature-esque part of Barcelona I’ve found. I come from the “City of Trees”, and I REALLY miss the trees. I’m not talking about palm trees and little plots of grass; I’m talking about forests where I can hike and find solitude. Montjuic was quiet and serene, especially compared to the hectic city life of Barcelona. I plan to head back up there next time I need a break from the stress of school and college applications.

   
   
That weekend was filled to the brim with activities. We went out to Torres Winery for my biology class, then spent all of Saturday exploring Girona and Figueres.

Torres Winery was lovely. We spent the day learning about sustainable wine making and the story behind Torres Winery. Torres Winery has a location in Sonoma County right outside of Sebastopol if anyone is interested in checking it out. It was also an absolutely beautiful day to be out and about. We were able to try three wines at the end of our tour. I am my mother’s daughter in that I loved the white but was not too crazy about the red. I bought a bottle and brought it to my mom when we met up in the UK. Thankfully she liked it!

   
    

Dev is a model and I’m at the winery in socks and sandals ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
   
We were up bright and early for our trip to Girona and Figueres. By 10 am we arrived in Girona and the first thing we did was kiss the town’s lioness on the ass. Apparently, if one wants to return to Girona, they must kiss the lioness on the ass and I simply wanted to be welcomed back!

  
Our sweet guide took us all around the old town and through the winding streets up to a breathtaking lookout. Again, I miss the trees. So much. All I do is talk about missing the trees. Just ask anyone I live with.

   
 To make the connection, Girona has trees! I wish I would have had more time to relax among the gardens we found ourselves in. This was yet another serene spot I could have spent hours in. Girona is also a location where Game of Thrones will be filmed. I bet it is because it has trees!!

 

At the top!
  
 Devon, Alyssa and I had a quick lunch at Picadillys, then walked the town. We loved Girona because of it’s old town charm.

   
   
By 12 we were off for Figueres! We were able to go through the Dalí museum here. This is where Dalí was born and help his first exhibition. The museum was a sight all it’s own. Dalí is known for his eccentrism and that equally eccentric mustache. His art opened doors  Though we were tired from a long bus ride, the museum was a treat and full of thought-provoking pieces.

 

Exterior of Dalí Museum
  
    
Dalí set design- you could not see this perspective of the set unless you climbed up some stairs and looked through a curved glass
    
Just another Kylie Jenner wannabe

 On Sunday, Molly, Alyssa, Devon and I went to the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Our program includes an art pass to six museums within Barcelona, and we decided to make use of it. Like the Dalí Museum, this museum was also an architectural sight. It looks like a grand palace from the outside and is the focal point of Plaça de Espanya. The walkway leading up to the museum is vast and leisurely. There are fountains and statues along the endless staircases one must climb to reach the museum. The view of Barcelona from the museum entrance is worth the walk!

   
   
The museum itself went on forever. The ticket allows you a two day entry because there is no way one could see everything in one day. We walked through halls and halls of art, spanning from earlier centuries all the way to modern periods. I am always more partial to modern art, and enjoyed the pieces by Picasso and Miró the most. There was also an ornate, grand theater-esque room that had one of the largest organs ever made. From my understanding, this is where one of Barcelona’s libraries are and where some museum office rooms are. Now that’s a room with a view.

   

  
  

 Later that day, we of course headed out to Federal Cafe in the Gothic area for a delicious lunch. Let it be known that Federal is my favorite place to eat in Barcelona for many reasons.

  1. Federal has a wide variety of food that even the pickiest eater would enjoy. The menu ranges from simple to adventurous. I once tried a daffodil latte, and I’ll admit it was a bit too adventurous on my part. (My friend Christina tried it and said it was like playdough…)
  2. The food is locally sourced when possible. The portions are not small, but the food itself is good for you. It’s mainly organic and always fresh. I am currently taking an environmental biology course and we touch on sustainability a lot. We also touch on eating local and how that is better for the environment and people in the grand scheme of things. I enjoy knowing that the food I am eating has not traveled thousands of miles or is treated with chemicals or hormones.
  3. The menu specifies what allergens are in what. I’m slightly lactose intolerant, and it is refreshing to see a menu that is so detailed in that respect. I’ve noticed that many menus in cafes and restaurants in Europe have the allergens specified.
  4. THEY HAVE ICED COFFEE. Iced coffee is not a thing in Barcelona, so I usually have a shot of espresso. No complaints there, but every now and then I just want an iced coffee. If you order an iced coffee at any other cafe, you will get a shot of espresso and a cube of ice.
  5. THEY HAVE ALMOND MILK. I don’t like soy, can’t really have milk. Almond milk is only .20 euro more. I’m smitten. I’d move in to Federal and live there if I could.
  6. Finally, the decor is simple but appealing. My generation is a sucker for good food and good atmosphere. If I ever go missing, check Federal. I’m probably having an iced coffee in the corner, people watching and feeling ridiculously content with my almond milk and cute cafe vibes.

 

My first meal at Federal- Veggie burger
  
ICED COFFEE AND ALMOND MILK LATTES
  
Chicken burger and ensada de arroz
  
Breakfast burger, aka my dream in food form
  
Rye with avocado, corriander, lemon and a poached egg
 
By the last week of October, the gas had gone out in my entire apartment complex. It became a citywide issue and was out of my program’s hands. My program advisers, being the wonderful people they are, found a way to accommodate the issue at hand. Myself and my 15 other apartment-mates were allowed to use the showers, washers and driers at another living facility owned by AIFS. We were also allowed to eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
 One night after dinner, Travis decided to show us the roof access. Travis is the adventurous one, so it is no wonder he found the roof access. We had a really cool view of Barcelona from the top of this building, and that was one of the silver linings of having my gas go out for over a week.

   
 The only downside is that this facility was not always convenient for us to use. If I wanted to shower before class, I would have to pack up all of my clothing and toiletries, carry them to the facility, and then head straight to class. I did not end up showering at the facility because of this. I just did not shower for a week straight. My roommates kicked me out. No one would come near me because the stench was so bad. I befriended a skunk out in the wild because he was the only one that accepted me for who I was…

Kidding. I showered in my freezing shower water. Day 1 of no gas, I went for a run and jumped straight in to the shower. It was not lukewarm or pool cold, but arctic sea cold. My tears froze on my face as I cried in my freezing shower.

Again, kidding. On day 2, I microwaved 5 mugs of hot water and took that in to the shower with me. That seemed to ease the pain of my freezing shower dilemma. By day 4, I had found the solution. I brewed hot water through my coffee maker while I ran, then poured half of the hot water into another pitcher and mixed the hot water with the cold water and finally had a substantial, tolerable shower. I knew I would learn a lot on this study abroad, but did not anticipate figuring out a way to deal with my freezing shower issues. My gas is on and has been working for two weeks now and my coffee maker is used solely for coffee; all is right in the world.

The day my gas turned back on was also the day my friend Christina flew in to Barcelona from Copenhagen to visit me! Christina and I met junior year of high school in Chemistry class. We went to the same salon and woman that waxed our eyebrows, so naturally I thought this was a good way to start a conversation. I said something along the lines of, “Hey, Ginger does my eyebrows too!” Thankfully Christina wasn’t weirded out by the even weirded connection I had made. BIG thanks to Ginger for being great with eyebrows and even better with making friendships happen!!

Christina and I became friends and study partners in that class, sat together, worked together senior year at Coldstone, went on a mission trip together, camped together, and we have now traveled internationally together! We continually get mistaken for sisters or cousins, or even each other. We currently go to the same salon to get our hair done, once had the same major, had our first kiss with the same guy (this is my favorite and most humorous commonality), and finish each other’s sentences. It is ridiculous and hilarious how much we have in common.
Christina is currently studying in Copenhagen through CSUMB. She’ll be there through the next year and is currently very involved and informed in the refugee crisis. Most of her classes are concerned with children on the global scale, and her comprehension and awareness of the crisis at hand is phenomenal. She explained a lot to me in the short amount of time we had together. Midway through my study abroad, it was great to have a familiar face in my current home of Barcelona.

While Christina was in Barcelona, we saw La Sagrada Familia, Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça de Espanya, a small portion of the Gothic, and La Rambla. La Sagrada Familia was astounding from the inside out. We were amazed at how detailed the exterior was, and found ourselves more amazed with the interior. The stained glass and carved stairwells were as unqiue as Gaudí. La Sagrada Familia construction began in the 1880’s and the basilica is still being constructed to this day. The basilica is anticipated to be complete in 2026.

  
La Sagrada Familia translates to “The Holy Family”. Gaudí wanted this building to be high enough that sailors coming in to the Barcelona harbor could see it and know they were home. He mixed natural inspiration with religion to create a religious building unlike any other I have ever seen. I often forget how intricate the engineering of the building itself it. It is a very calculated, detailed layout that must be closely followed if the building is going to be sound and follow Gaudí’s original intentions.

   
 The building in inviting and modern. It creates a sense of warmth as the light comes through the rainbow stained glass windows. We left with a greater knowledge and appreciation of Gaudí and his immaculate creation before us.

   
 Of course, I took Christina to Federal. We had more food than we could handle and had some killer cake to celebrate Christina’s twentieth birthday. Afterwards, we walked La Rambla and shopped around. We went to the National Cuban Ballet at the Tivoli Theater that night with Anna, Molly, and Alyssa and were blown away by the talent of this company. I used to dance, and being able to see a ballet made me feel at home in a way. It also reignited my love for male dancers. If anyone knows any single male dancers, PLEASE send them my way.

 

That playdough latte I mentioned… but the banana chocolate smoothie made up for it
  
💕💕
 
By Thursday night, Christina and I were on a flight to London to meet up with my mom in central London as a way to end Christina’s break and a way to begin mine. We flew EasyJet, which is not easy and misleading. We flew into Gatwick, which is far from Central London. We took a train from Gatwick to Central London, which was delayed by construction. We tried to take a taxi to the hotel, only to find they only took cash. We were yelled at by a rude Asian lady who was also waiting for a taxi, found a “cashpoint” to pull money out, and finally made our way to the hotel. By 2 am we were settling in and catching up with my mom.

Twins take London!

I’ll drop off here, and my next post will be all about my midterm break. Check in within the next day or so to see how I ended up eating sheep’s liver and experienced fall for the first time in forever (thanks a lot CA drought, you’re the worst.)

Un mes, no una mesa

One month down and two to go! Here’s an overview of my first month here living and studying in Barcelona.

I arrived 3 days before my program began and spent a few days wandering side streets, meeting people in my hostel and trying to combat the humidity (side note- Humitidy- 1, Megan- 0). I had coffee at the sweetest café with an equally sweet owner who said my Spanish was “very good!” She was being too kind because I know my Spanish now is infinitely better than when I first got here. One night, my friend Molly and I took a taxi home from the club and I told the driver that we were studying here in Spain for three tables (“por tres mesas”) instead of three months (“tres meses”).

My Americana cafe from the café by my hostel
Barcelona finds

My first few days were very low key but just what I needed. I had been traveling for nearly 2-3 weeks and spent most days out and about, getting up early and staying out late. I had not caught up with family or friends much within that time because I was so busy. The hostel I was at was perfect for me and I highly recommend Fabrizio’s Petit to anyone looking to visit Barcelona. The staff was wonderful, the showers were clean, and the kitchen was available 24/7. What more could you ask for?

View from Fabrezzio’s

That Friday, I was able to experience the National Day of Catalunya (Diada Nacional de Catalunya) in the heart of Barcelona. It was odd to be among a day of celebration when I knew back home everyone was mourning the tragic events that transpired on September 11th, 2001.

On Septmeber 11th 1714, after a 14 month siege of Barcelona, Catalonian forces fell to Castilian forces. Catalunya was overthrown and conquered by Philip V of Spain in the War of Spanish Succession. From then on, Catalan people have been fighting for the freedom they once had. They celebrate September 11th every year as a way to reignite and continue the fight for independence.

The fountains at Parc Ciudadella
IMG_9466
Catalan flag at Arc de Triomf

Sarah Smurthwaite was also in Barcelona before the program began, so we decided to meet up. We shared tapas and conversation before buying Catalan flags and joining in on the festivities. At the time, I did not think anything of buying the flag, but I came to realize that this festival is a lot more than a party. We received glares for sporting the flag and I eventually understood that I was appropriating a Catalan movement for independence. I did not intend to be so ignorant, but as a tourist I had no real comprehension of what the flag meant as I bought it. Now that I have been in Spain for some time and have studied Spanish history and culture under a wonderful woman named Nuria, I know that Franco’s dictatorship stripped Spain of its eclectic culture. Franco banned all other languages from being practiced or spoken during his regime in order to restore Spain as a country. Post-Franco, restoration of culture and language began in order to salvage what was lost during the decades he was in power. Independence from Spain and Catalan pride is taken very seriously here.

Current day, many Catalan people still strive for independence. I was lucky enough to be here for the referendum concerning Catalunya’s independence movement. On September 27th, a vote was held to decide which politician would represent Catalunya. The vote was deemed as “the first step towards independence for Catalunya”. The vote is subjective in that some agree that this is a step towards independence, while others feel it is not.

No matter what the vote meant to each individual, Catalan independence is an intricate debate. Hypothetically, if Catalunya gained independence, would it still be a part of the European Union? Could Catalunya still use euros as their monetary unit? Catalunya would have to create their own army. Even more, Catalunyan independence would really impact Spanish economics because Barcelona is a huge source of income for the country of Spain. Barcelona is one of the largest tourist cities in the European Union. Many Catalan people feel that Madrid, the capital of Spain, treats Barcelona like a bank. Barcelona puts a lot money into the country yet does not always receive that tax money back. The debate between independence is as unique and complex as it is prevalent for Catalunya and Spain as a whole.

Upon moving into my apartment, I met my three roomates. I live with Molly, Sophia and Alyssa. We’re all from different colleges and span 18-21 years old. Alyssa is my immediate roommate whereas Molly and Sophia have singles. Within the first two weeks we all chipped in for a coffee pot and a toaster because we have priorities; we MUST be caffeinated and we MUST have toast. We’ve had group dinners, have gone out together, and have even gotten our locks glued together! I’ll touch on that fun story later on.

Mine and Alyssa’s room
View from our bedroom

The four of us are so different from one another and if we did not live together, I probably would not have gotten to know them as well as I have. Sophia loves to cook, Molly has held a sloth before (if you know me that is a huge deal) and Alyssa knows more classic rock than my parents do. Together, we’re a quirky group that lucked out because we somehow make it work. We live in a complex with 12 other students from our program. Our complex is unique because most other students are scattered throughout the city, live closer to school, and only have themselves in the complex or another set of people from the program. We live about 20 minutes from school either by walking or taking the metro.

Sophia, Molly, Alyssa and I in Tarragona
Cheers to dinner together!

The first weekend we enjoyed fireworks on the beach to celebrate La Mercè, which is Catalunya’s festival that celebrates the Patron Saint Jordi. The celebration is also Catalunya’s way of saying good bye to summer and hello to fall. The week-long celebration is vibrant and unique compared to any other I have ever seen. They had a fire run where people run down the streets with torches and sparklers, fireworks on the beach and at Plaça de Catalunya, a fair with rides, human towers where people climb one another to nearly 9 stories high, and much more.

Beachside fireworks!
Cotton candy ft. Alyssa
My cutie patootie friends :,)

We took a day trip to Tarragona and Sitges the first weekend of the program. These coastal cities are about a 40 minute bus ride from Barcelona and are full of history. Tarragona is full of exquisite Roman Empire ruins. Sitges was interesting because it has nude and gay beaches. Sitges is not only known for it’s beached, but for also having a strong gay community. We hung out there and swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time! The water was so clear and warm and absolutely perfect after a long day of walking. That night we went out to celebrate and ended up in the Gotic Quarter, where we watched a concert and then went to a bar for patatas bravas. Alyssa and I dream of patatas bravas because they are so good. Nothing is better than fried potato cubes covered in a mayonnaise/curry-esque sauce.

Beautiful Tarragona
Tarragona has a wonderful sense of humor
Molly, Devon, Alyssa and me in Sitges
Devon and me in the Gotic Quarter

That next Wednesday, we had everyone from our complex over as a housewarming party and our neighbors were not pleased. We thought nothing of it until the next day when we left to check out the Human Towers in the Gotic. By 12 pm, my roommates and I were all locked out because someone from our complex had glued our locks. It is apparently a common thing to do here, and is sometimes considered a “prank”. We didn’t receive assistance until 9 pm because it was the last day of the Mercè Festival and everyone had the day off of work and school to celebrate. We finally got back in to our apartment by 12 the next day after plenty of frustration and worry. The silver lining of it all was that I at least had three other people to lean on during the ordeal.

Candids of Marcelo are my favorite
Plaça de Juame
Nine stories of people during the Human Towers

We went to a futból game at Camp Nou and it was a great time! Camp Nou can hold nearly 10,000 people and is an electric arean. Barcelona played against Las Palmas and won 2-1. This was the game that Messi injured himself and put himself out for the next 6-8 weeks. That night, we went out to Espit Chupitos, a shots bar that more often than not lights your shots on fire, and then checked out Razzmatazz. Razzmatazz is one of the best known clubs here in Barcelona. We got there as it opened, which was 1-1:30 am. It didn’t get packed until 2-2:30 am. I cannot comprehend how people go out that late. This city really never does sleep. We did not get home until 4:45 am and I slept for an eternity the next day.

Camp Nou
Meg luvs Messi

For 3 am, we look damn good

I really enjoy Barcelona because the culture here is art-oriented; there are numerous museums and public displays of art that celebrate Miro, Gaudi and Picasso for all to see. There’s street art and graffiti everywhere. There are squares and plazas for families and kids to spend time at. Eating out is affordable here because you do not tip, and that’s because workers are generally paid a living wage here. I love that dinner is a time to go out with friends and socialize. Dinner is meant to be shared through tapas and a glass of wine or two. The city never sleeps because there is always something going on.If you want it, Barcelona has it. This city is the epitome of lively.

Still not sure what the direct translation is, but it is along the lines of “You make my life return to color”.
Art we stumbled upon in the Gotic
FIG GELATO
Federal has iced coffee AND almond milk AND breakfast burgers.
Some of that affordable food I mentioned; SO GOOD. I will also eat anything with a fried egg on it.
Parc Güell
La Casa Batillo, the “Bone House”
Stained glass in the Gotic Quarter
Street art

I miss the trees though. I really miss being so close to the mountains and fresh air. I oddly miss my tap water from home and I miss hammocking in my backyard where I could see all the stars. This trip has been a wonderful opportunity for me to grow as a person and I have appreciated every second spent in this vast city, but I simply did not anticipated missing trees or stars or Norcal tap water. This trip has not only allowed me to explore a beautiful city and explore myself in the process, but has also given me a greater appreciation of where I came from and what I love.

Thankfully, I was able to see the stars and the trees when we visited Basque Country up in northern Spain. We endured an endless bus ride through the night after class on Thursday and did not get to the hotel until 2 am. The next morning, we went on a quick walking tour of San Sebastián. San Sebastián has a stunning beach, beautiful architecture and history. It used to be a vacation spot for one of the queens of Spain. The publicity from that made it into the tourist attraction it is today. The old town is filled with different shops and restaurants that leads to the central square.

Walking tour finds
A grand, beautiful church in the old town
My pinchoes, or better known as tapas

We took a group walk up to a 360 degree lookout on San Sebastián. I WAS ALL CAPS HAPPY TO SEE TREES AND BE ON A WALK IN NATURE. Again, I have missed the outdoors so much. Later that day we decided to swim, hang out at the beach, and then grab some awesome burgers in the old town.

Travis, Marcelo and I at the look out.
San Sebastián
San Sebastián

Beaches are even perfect in October

On Saturday, we went to Bilbao and visited the Guggenheim. First of all, there is a huge flower puppy outside that made me as happy as the trees and patatas bravas have. Secondly, I was blown away by this experience because I saw a large array of work by Jean-Michel Basquiat. I did not know much about Basquiat beforehand, but I quickly became engrossed as I read more and more about his work throughout the exhibit. His work was revolutionary for his time and still strikes a chord in people today. It amazes me that art can transcend time like that, and that is one of the reasons I have such a great appreciation for art and the people who create it.

THE PUPPY!

Basquiat’s art stuck me so much because he explored his duality as a man who was accepted into the world of art but was not accepted as a person within society because of racism during the 60s, 70s and 80s. I read that he couldn’t even get a cab at times. From my understanding, Basquiat felt he had so many different aspects of himself that he did not always comprehend who he truly was. I empathize with that sentiment a lot because I sometimes feel like I too have different aspects of myself that do not always converge and mix well.

Photo of Jean-Michel Basquiat
One of Basquiat’s pieces

Basquiat achieved so much through his work. He created political and social commentary that explored vulnerability, honesty, and racial tensions. He is known for crowning African Americans in his work to depict them as not only real humans, but as honored humans. He was able to work with Andy Warhol, who was one of the most prominent artists at the time. Warhol was one of Basquiat’s idols. Contemplate how phenomenal that must have been; I can only imagine how life changing it was for Basquiat to work with someone he held in such a high regard. His life story never ceased to amaze me.

The final thing that caught my attention was a quote above some of his work; “I don’t try to think about art when I am working. I try to think about art.” This quote does ring true because through Basquiat’s work, I was able to experience the life of a man and the culture around him through his unique and telling pieces of art.

The Guggenheim
Molly and I roomed together in Basque Country and listened to Earth, Wind and Fire all weekend. 10/10 would recommend being friends with Molly!!

Upon returning home, I was able to take a cooking class! We cooked a full Spanish meal: paella, blanched vegetables with a romanesco sauce, tortilla de patata, pan con tomate, and creama de Catalan. I made the tortilla de patata with my wonderful friend Derek Slama. We did a mighty fine job and gorged ourselves on a wonderful dinner, then rolled all the way home.

SLAMAAAA

Best paella I have had in Spain!

 This last week was full of assignments, homework, essays and tests, so the weekend was a time to celebrate. I went to Oktoberfest twice, checked out the shots bar (AGAIN) and went to a party. I consider myself a grandma and the sheer fact I went out four nights in a row is a miracle. On the contrary, I’ve only ever lived at home and have not had the “college partying experience”. I’m relatively studious and do not take myself for a partier, though I’m sure this weekend made up for that. It was definitely a weekend to remember!

When you wanna take a roomie pic but you have priorities
Cheers!
Take two!
Harry Potter or Oktöberfest???

Even as this first month comes to a close, I still find it surreal at times that I currently live in Barcelona. I’ll be walking to the metro after class while listening to my music and it hits me that this is actually happening and I really do live here. Living here feels really natural in a way I cannot entirely describe; when I left for this study abroad, I was really ready to leave home. Not because I don’t love my family or where I am from, but because I have only ever lived at home. I’ve only ever known El Dorado Hills where everyone knows everyone. This trip has been a fresh start for me in the sense that I’m “living the college experience” and living in a place where if I run into the grocery store, I won’t see half of the people from my high school and their parents (shout out to Target for that one). I did not see this as an opportunity to run from my issues or people from home (because unresolved issues know no state lines and don’t need a visa), but rather a chance to continue to grow as an individual.

Being in Barcelona has allowed my confidence to grow in ways it could not have at home. I’ve made friends that I cannot wait to bring up to Apple Hill the second our return flight lands. I traveled alone in Europe for some time and found a sense of independence I knew I had in me, but could not really access while still living in my hometown. I’ve learned to be less judgmental. Admittedly, I was too judgmental at the beginning of this trip and some of my judgments towards people and things were completely off. I’ve had to be more spontaneous and open to doing things on a whim, which is really out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned that you cannot actually wash every article of clothing together, otherwise you WILL stain your white shirts and lighter jeans (RIP to my mom jeans). Having roommates is not always glamorous but I always have someone to get gelato with and people to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with. Even though I am a grandma at heart, someday I am actually going to be a grandma and I need to remember to be twenty. I need to go out and be spontaneous and write run on sentences about it all even though I am an English major and know better.

On the contrary, I also need to respect who I am. I have never been a big partier or drinker; at 5’2, I am a lightweight in every sense of the word. I prefer hikes over bars. I like to get up early so I can run, make breakfast, drink tea, and study before everyone else gets up because that’s the only time Barcelona is ever quiet. I sometimes get perceived as boring, too serious or pretentious because I care a lot about my grades. I sometimes feel insecure about the fact that I am a 20 year old who doesn’t always act like a 20 year old college kid “should act.” I had this misconception that I could not really be both responsible and fun, that I had to pick good grades or a good time. Being in Barcelona has helped me begin to learn the balance of it all and understand that I can have my cake and eat it too. Rather, I can have my Crema de Catalan and eat that instead. Or another bowl of gelato…

A lot has happened but there is still a lot to see and do! Check in next month if you ever find yourself wondering what I’m up to. I’m having a hard time even catching up with my family, so please don’t be offended if I have not checked in (side note- if anyone sees Morgan and Logan TELL THEM TO CALL ME THEY NEVER DO). Much love from across the world, please send me 38428 apple donuts when anyone has a chance!!

-Megan

Let the adventure begin! Pt. 2

We landed in Iceland at 4 am and we were both a mess. I was more of a mess than Chelsea- I did not sleep much.  We did get to see the Northern Lights from our plane window though, which was so cool!
Exhaustion was kicking in, not to mention it was 4 am! We quickly bought breakfast and meandered the airport.

Some Icelandic airport art

103829 krones later…
Chelsea’s family flew from D.C., and almost didn’t make the next flight. We were so relieved the see them frantically board the plane minutes before we took off. By 6 am we were off for our first destination- Amsterdam.

We arrived in Amsterdam around 12 pm. We received our bags and headed to our apartment in the city. The apartment was beautiful. Our host, Jorus, was not around but left us wine and bread (God bless Jorus). We grabbed some lunch at a nearby café, then began what would turn out to be a 8 mile walk around the city.

Our cute apartment!

Our terrace

Jetlag got nothin’ on us
We meandered canals, side streets and found the city center. We meandered some shops and ate the largest order of fries EVER. We almost died a good 10 times because bikers in Amsterdam rule the roads and stop for no one. As delusionally tired as we were, our first day was terrific!

The most beautiful canals in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam street art

FRENCH.FRIES.

The city center and me, the center of attention :,)
Day two led us 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam. We took a train to Zaans Schans, a town that has historically run on power supplied by windmills. It smelled of chocolate and pastries. Everything was green, even the homes! We found a clog store and finally made our way to the windmills. We climbed one or two, reading about the significance of them as we went. We stopped in a chocolate lab where I bought the best 82% bar I’ve ever had.

  

We love windmills!!!!

Am I a Yee yet???


Upon arriving back in Amsterdam, we boarded a canal cruise. Whilst on the cruise, we passed many other boats where people enthusiastically waved at us. We felt welcomed and laughed as one guy fist bumped his way past us on his boat with a beer in hand.

Amsterdam has numerous houseboats that line the canals.
Post canal cruise was dinner that ended up being a good 3 hours long. We knew at this rate that European dinners were slow paced. The lemongrass teas and fried bananas made the wait worth it though. We stopped by an American bookstore and I bought a copy of “Anne Frank’s Diary” so I could read it during my upcoming train travels.

By the third day we knew to avoid the bike lane and had the bus system down. We headed out to check out the “I AMsterdam” sign. We stumbled upon a music festival with many other attractions, one of them being a children’s book reading and another was a skate competition. DJ Mustard was also present; he’s a DJ I saw recently at Outside Lands. Small world!


 We meandered around, shopped and found the famous Amsterdam flower market. We checked out the Microbia, a museum dedicated to the study and exploration of microbes. We also ran through the zoo next door. It was all very open, though none of the animals seemed eager to leave their designated areas. It was very interesting to see the animals have so much freedom compared to zoos in America where everything is very closed off.

Germs ? Art?

This attraction at the museum told you how dirty you were. I shower, I promise!

A monkey mid poop :,)

I present to you all, Amsterdam’s cow goat!

A wallaby!
Dinner was at the Pancake Bakery, a lovely place for crepes. My crepe had the best pesto I’ve ever had on it. I especially liked this place because the owner would not give out the wifi password- he wanted people to talk and eat instead. We took some photos along the canal and from the upstairs balcony before heading to our tour of the Anne Frank House.

Searching for a cute Amsterdam boy to give me his houseboat so I did not have to leave
The Anne Frank House was an experience. We were able to walk through the home of Anne Frank and nearly 10 other Jews that went into hiding during Hitler’s rise to power. Anne Frank’s father, Otto, received her diary from one of the ladies that worked in the office that fronted the Secret Annex. Otto published her diary after Anne had died just a month before the liberation. The entire home was an emotional look into a horrible part of history.


Anne Frank aspired to be a writer and it is phenomenal that she became just that. She also became the archetype for all who had gone through the Holocaust- her story represented an entire ordeal, an entire population. The most heart wrenching part was understanding that not everyone who lost someone was remembered; Anne Frank represented them all through her diary but the losses were still too personal to be solely represented through one diary. Millions had died- Anne Frank was the only one to have a memorial, a home, a book that reached immense stardom made after her. There’s no comprehensible way to commemorate the deaths of millions of people, and that hit me hard.

Postcard of the entrance to the Secret Annex, a moving bookcase
There was an aftermath movie where many people were featured giving a sentiment about Anne Frank and her diary. My favorite was from actress Emma Thompson- “The only thing we have to remember is: all her would-haves are our real possibilities. All her would-haves are our opportunities. And the book’s a flame, a torch, we can light our own candles and take them and illuminate our hearts with the incandescence of her spirit.”

On our last day, Chelsea, Carly and I had breakfast at a place called Bagels and Beans. We meandered a local market and found some great shopping where I found a unique Amsterdam sweatshirt to add to my collection. We found our way to the Museum of the Netherlands, otherwise known as the Rijksmuseum. We retired to a sweet cafe called Healthy Coffee, where we devoured the best cheesecake ever.

          
The Van Gogh museum was next. It was a pleasure to see his famous sunflower painting. I am particularly fond of sunflowers, so the painting was even more wonderful than anticipated. This is the painting that Van Gogh felt solidified his talent; he knew from this point on that he was an artist, and a good one at that. There were walls with his letters to his brother Theo that we enjoyed also.

The wall of letters
Our time in Amsterdam came to an end, and the next morning we were up and off to Antwerp, Belgium!

Our arrival to Antwerp was a bit hectic, though upon settling into our apartment we began to really enjoy the place. It was chilly enough for a jacket (or two- this California kid doesn’t know what cold is nor do I know how to dress for it). We explored the streets of Antwerp by foot and found ourselves at the awesome government building adorned with flags from all over the world.

The courtyard outside of our apartment

View from a bathroom!!!!

The Government building
That night we walked to the nearby castle and along the pier. Antwerp was quaint and quiet and perfect for leisurely activities, such as snacking on delicious REAL Belgian waffles!

Trying to blend in :,)

Belgian waffles and bae

A view from the pier

Antwerp, where mythical giants seemingly pee on peasants
Our next day we took a train to Ghent to see the castle there. Ghent was as cold as Antwerp but more lively. There was plenty of shopping and attractions to keep one busy for the day. We found a town specialty, the “noses of Ghent”. They’re little gummy triangles that are filled with marmalades. We also checked out a cool soap store where I bought a scrub and mud soap. I’m a sucker for nice soaps, even ones with mud in them.

I liked Ghent because Ghent knew me for who I really was, A QUEEEEN
The castle looked so spooky among all the clouds. We walked numerous winding stairwells to get to the top. The entire castle had exhibits about how people were tortured and killed during medieval times. Once at the top, we had a 360 view of beautiful Ghent. One part of the castle was more modern; it had portraits of people who knew they were dying or had already passed. The portraits were accompanied with a small biography and a sentiment from the deceased. It was touching and sad and all too real.


Lunch was at a vegetarian spot with a lovely back patio. We ate lasagne and “beef” stew. We continued to wander and found ourselves among a massive church. We bought some mousse from a nearby shop, then headed home. We had dinner at a sweet spot called Grandma’s. There were adorable photos of grandmas everywhere! I had a phenomenal salad with croquettes (fancier tater tots).

For breakfast we had waffles, savory and sweet. Is there any better way to leave Belgium? Definitely not. We bought Belgian chocolates and then left for our trains to head our separate ways- Chelsea and I to Paris, Carly and her parents to London.

Friends that eat together…

…stay together!
Upon arriving in Paris, we were met with the metro stairs and three bags of luggage between the two of us. Chelsea was a trooper and I was not. Side note- when traveling Europe, bring one bag and a backpack. That’s it. Otherwise you will end up like me- sad, sweaty, tired and cranky. DO NOT BE ME, ONLY PACK ONE BAG I BEG OF YOU. IT IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.

We checked into the Trendy Hostel, which was located right outside of Paris in Ivry sur Seine. We did not know it then, but our shared bunk bed would start to feel like home and that hostel would foster some of the best photos and memories.

We settled into our bunk beds (just like camp!!) and left to meander Paris. When I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I was like a kid in a candy store. I excitedly ran to the edge of the bridge we were on and pointed, squealed and jumped up and down. It was a unique moment, one full of genuine zeal and joy. It is not every day you do something for the first time, and seeing the Eiffel Tower was such a delight for me.


Chelsea and I had a fabulous dinner at Les Parisienne where we talked about boys and life just as we always do. Our waiter was cheeky and fun, which made dinner all the better. We bought some wine from a market and continued on our quest to see the Eiffel Tower.


The closer we got, the more excited I became. This was yet another surreal moment, to realize I was in Paris with my best friend underneath the Eiffel Tower as it shines and sparkles into the night. We took a moment to let it all sink in, then retreated back to the hostel.

  
We took Paris by storm- we saw the famous love lock bridge, the Louve (where the Mona Lisa is!), the Mussé D’Orasay, the Sainte Chapelle. We had lunch at a bakery I enjoy called Paul, and indulged on sorbet and wine at Mucha Cafe. Chelsea and I loved the Orsay because it had Degas and Van Gogh paintings. It also had this magnificent clock we just HAD to take photos with.

The Louve!

Mussé d’Orsay

Seeing these in real life were wonderful- I have always seen copies in the numerous dance studios I’ve been in throughout my life.

Saint Chapelle
That night, Paris took us by storm. We hung out at the hostel and got to know our hostel mates. We met people from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Texas, New Zealand, Wales, Oregon, New York, Croatia, Ireland, Egypt, Wales, England, Australia, and Norway. After a round of Kings Cup, 11 of us left for the Latin Quarter, which is right next to the Notre Dame.

Readers, meet Josh of Canada!

A beautiful metro selfie
We ended up at a small salsa bar where the sangria was great and my moves… Not so much. We tried to dance but were shown up by actual salsa dancers. We left in search of french fries, met Irish guys who told me I have a hot mom (side note- I’m going to Ireland in October with my mom and I showed them a photo of my mom whilst explaining that we were going to travel there. The Irish boys were impressed and my mom was not- sorry mom!) Chelsea and I got to know all of these fun people and had a night to remember.

Nick, my salsa dancing partner in crime

Katoush and Lofty of Egypt. When I first met Lotfy I thought his name was Ludvig and called him that for a good 20 minutes before everyone realized how badly I was butchering his name. These boys were so fun and we were so happy to meet them!

We slowly but surely got up the next day and headed to the Eiffel Tower for our tour! We took the elevator up to the second tier and were astounded at how cold it was, how high up we were. We took plenty of photos and had some hot chocolate to warm us up. As we tried to leave, an employee asked us how the very top was. We admitted we had not made it up there, and he turned us right back around and demanded we go to the top. We did, and we were happy we did- a 360 view of the Paris grid is hard to beat. We finally descended and had a quick lunch at the Tower Cafe before heading to Versailles.

    
An hour later we are at the Palace of Versailles! We check out the gardens first and we were taken aback by how intricate and detailed it all was. Some gardens had accompanying music, others had beautiful statues. We bumped into some hostel mates (Karli from Wales in the beret and Lauren from CA/OR with the glasses) and took a boat ride- the rowing was harder than it looked! We continued inward to the palace and my favorite was the Hall of Mirrors, which were beautifully ordained with chandeliers.

A garden from the Palace of Versailles
          
After getting caught in the rain and almost not getting train tickets back to our hostel (none of our credit cards were working so we had a sweet woman buy our tickets for us and paid her back in euros), we were finally on our way home. We got to know Karli from Wales and Lauren from Oregon/California. Karli has been traveling for the last 4 1/2 years, while Lauren just graduated from University of Oregon. Both loved travel (obviously) and had great senses of humor (they imitated all of the statues in the gardens with maps, wine and bread). We had such a fun day with them!

Our last day in Paris was a bittersweet one- we didn’t want to leave all of the people we had just met! We started our day with a visit to the Notre Dame. We waited in a line for over an hour so we could climb the steps up to the top. We finally got up there, slightly winded, and had our breath taken away all over again. The views were exquisite. The gargoyles were all uniquely their own. We even got to see the bell tower! After a quick snack of crepes and coffee, we set out for macaroons.

My favorite Paris view

When you see da booty
      
Along our macaroon quest, a building to our left caught our eye. We entered to find out we had just come across 59 Rivoli, a squatting flat for artists. Artists can rent our flats to work in. We meandered all 5 floors and came across a lively man named Francesco. He has been painting in this flat for nearly 20 years. His work has been featured all over the world, even San Jose, California! He volunteered to paint us a picture and it turned out wonderful and whimsical. He loves to paint people and we loved being muses for 10 minutes. We continued on and got our macaroons, which we happily ate en route to our hostel.

“I only create masterpieces.”- Francesco

Francesco’s specialty is painting, mine is selfies

Studio art on the 5th floor

All smiles in Paris!

Studio art on the 2nd floor
We said a sad good bye to our hostel and to each other. Chelsea headed home and I headed to Aix en Provence to spend some time with my older brother’s best friend’s mother’s aunt. Her name is Pam and she was a swell host- she met me at the train station and showed me her lovely town.

Pam’s flat

I stayed in her charming flat for two nights. I meandered the streets of Aix (pronounced “X”) and the local markets they have every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We ate plenty of bread and macaroons whilst talking about art and dance and politics and family and work. She’s an avid flamenco dancer who works part time at a macaroon shop in town. She doesn’t own a car and enjoys walking everywhere. She’s keeping up with American politics and believes Bernie would win it all if we try hard enough. Overall Pam was a joy and it was great to meet her!

The central fountain in Aix en Provence
 I left early Wednesday morning for Barcelona by train and arrived to my hostel by 2 pm. I’m at a great place called Fabrizzio’s Petit and it is just as home-y as the Trendy Hostel. The kitchen is clean, the showers are clean, the beds are clean. EVERYTHING IS CLEAN. It is centrally located, a short walk to La Familia Sagrada and the Arc De Triomfe. There are numerous restaurants, cafes and bars around too. I found a quaint cafe called Cachitos that helped cure some of my homesickness because it had an “Americana” coffee (whipped cream and chocolate on top of espresso) with American Top 40 Hits playing in the background. The woman working said my Spanish was good too.

My program begins Sunday and school starts Wednesday. My initial travels were beautiful and exciting and utterly memorable. I’ve seen and done so much, and now I’m resting before I dive into Barcelona head first. Until then, much love from me to you all. Thanks for reading!!

Love, Megan
Ps. If you’d like to write, I can send you my school address! I would love to write back/send a post card ❤️

Let the adventure begin! Pt. 1

Within the last 3 or so weeks, I have soaked up the history of the East Coast, meandered the canals of Amsterdam, ate my first true Belgian waffle in Antwerp, climbed my way to the top of a castle in Ghent, and ate my way from Paris to Aix en Provence. It has been a trip of a lifetime so far and I cannot wait to share it with you all.

I began in Maryland/Washington D.C to visit one of my good friends, Zoë. Zoë is majoring in biomedical engineering (aka she’s a badass) at University of Maryland. Zoë also just received residency in Maryland, something she has been working towards for quite some time. Congratulations Zoë! 

 

Smart, beautiful, fun Zoë!
 
We spent one night at her grandparent’s beautiful home in Annapolis. Coming from California, it was refreshing to see lush trees and even some rain! The next morning we drove to her grandparent’s condo in D.C., which is situated right above the National Navy Memorial. The condo looks out on the National Archives. You can see the Washinton Monument to the right, and the Capitol to the left. 

 

View from D.C. apartment
  
 I played tourist and visited the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. Considering the humidity that day, I was thankful to be inside.

 

The Capitol
  
Library of Congress
  
The Supreme Court
 
Here I was, at the nation’s capitol learning firsthand about the beginnings of America. I was so excited! My favorite of the three was the Library of Congress; the interior was breathtaking. Photos really do not do it justice. I studied American Politics this last semester, so this portion of my trip continued to strengthen my understanding of how our political system works and why it came to be the way it is. I’m looking to go into politics someday as an education lobbyist and meandering the grounds of where our laws are created excited me for that prospective future I have in mind.

The next day we visited a museum all about journalism and the evolution of news. The Newseum was as interesting as it was informative. From the map of freedom of speech throughout the world to the Pulitzer Prize photography hall, I was in awe. There was a 9/11 exhibit that really grabbed me. 9/11 was one of the only national tragedies I’ve lived through that I can really remember, and watching all of the news coverage that day nearly 14 years later was difficult even though I was 5 or 6 when the actual event occurred. Regardless of my age when the towers fell, I am more sympathetic and understanding of how that one event changed America forever thanks to the Newseum.

 

Green is free speech, yellow is half and half, red is little to no free speech
  
A part of the 9/11 exhibit
  

  

A portion of the Berlin Wall
  
  
Ferguson Riots, Pulitzer Prize Winner
  
Iwo Jima, Pulitzer Prize Winner
 Later that day we drove to College Park and I got to see the University of Maryland. I was yet again in awe. The college has beautiful brick buildings and an expansive lawn with fountains leading up to a massive library. I’m a transfer student and am heavily considering applying and attending University of Maryland. Maryland also has Rita’s so…

 

UMD, Go Terps!
  
 We had dinner at Zoë and Consie’s friend’s home in Maryland. We had such a wonderful time! Their family friends treated me like family and it was like I had known them for ages. Watching Zoë and her mom spend time with people they essentially consider family was a treat too. Our one mishap was that we did remember to bring our chipotle back to the condo, but forgot the condo keys in the car back at their friend’s home. We spent too much on three Ubers going back and forth to get the keys. It was a long night to say the least. 

Our lovely dinner where I ate a lot, and the mosquitos ate more 😦
 
We hiked along the Ponomac River the next day and saw a Beach Boys concert in Virginia by that afternoon. We were exhausted but happy. The hike was beautiful; one side of the hike was in Maryland and the other was Virginia. There were horseback riders, cyclists, runners, hikers, kayakers, even rock climbers! We hiked a trail called Billy Goat and it is obvious why; the entire trail is up and down rocks. 

 

Ponomac River
 
That night we set out for more monuments. We saw the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the WWII Memorial. Our walk home took us past the White House. Sadly Obama did not receive my emails about meeting up 😦

 

Washington Memorial
  
    
Is it too cheesy to say I saw Abe with a bAbe??¿
  
WWII Memorial
 
It is sometimes surreal to be amongst the physical monument, place or building that you have always read about or seen photos of. That’s what most of Washington D.C. felt like- surreal. I had seen most monuments and saw the Constitution first hand. I walked past the White House and got to stand within the halls of the Supreme Court, where the laws I follow have been created or overturned. It was my first and surely not my last time to D.C.

I spent a few days in Boston with my wonderful friend Chelsea. She’s a student of Northeastern University. She’s studying to be a teacher, loves babies and tacos, and knows how to shop. She’s one of my favorite people ever and my better half.

We went to Little Italy one night for ravioli. I got to catch up with Chelsea’s summer rommies, Natalie and Kerry. They’re both hilarious and fun girls that I love seeing when I am in Boston. A friend of Chelsea’s is always a friend of mine. We ran errands and shopped, had burritos and talked about everything we had missed in the last 9 months we had not seen each other. The only thing I love more than Boston is Chelsea!

Senior year we talked about traveling together and we were finally doing it! Chelsea has a sister named Carly, who has decided to study at the University of Western London. Chelsea’s family graciously invited me to join them on their trip to drop Carly off to school. Chelsea and I boarded our plane from Boston to our layover in Iceland around 6 pm. Chels and Meg were off for Europe!
 

A throwback to my first time in Boston- Simon is picking up my ID that i almost lost in the Fens.
  
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!
 

Coastin’ Through College

  
I am a California native, born and raised and really wouldn’t want it any other way. My hometown was safe and secure with a great school system. It is 45 minutes from the State Capitol in Sacramento and 2 hours from beautiful Lake Tahoe and lively San Francisco. I’m always a plane, train or car ride away from all of the beautiful and exciting things California has to offer. Despite living in this state for 20 years, I have not spent a lot of my time in Southern California. I leave for a study abroad in August and by next fall I will be transferring, so now was as good of a time as any to take on a solo road trip through SoCal and check out all of the colleges I am interested in transferring to.

SUNDAY- My first stop was San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo has a great downtown scene and is about 10 miles from Pismo Beach. I walked around Cal Poly and was surprised at how agricultural is was. I always knew the school was geared toward agricultural studies but never understood that until I found myself amidst a swine unit with tractors and a botanical garden. The campus was spacious and some of the buildings felt dated, though the college atmosphere seemed very relaxed and down to earth. The neighborhoods surrounding the school were quaint and quiet compared the the bustling downtown scene with plenty of shopping, food and art. My time at Cal Poly was short but sweet. I hope to come back and take advantage of the numerous hiking opportunities that the campus and area have to offer. Up next I was headed to UCSB to meet up with one of my best friends from high school.   

Evan and I met when we were sophomores in high school. Junior year he asked me to get coffee and we sat at a Starbucks for nearly 6 hours talking about everything. 3 years later he is still one of my best friends. I love Evan because he is never one to sugar coat- he tells it like it is and I always appreciate his doses of reality, even if they are laced in serious sass.

Evan and I when I visited in Febraury .

I have been to the Santa Barbara and Goleta area a few times beforehand. I almost transferred to Santa Barbara City College in Spring of ’14. I have always loved the beachy atmosphere that complements this college town. It’s hard not to love a beach town!

I came down to visit Evan in February of ’15 with my friend Michael and we had a great time! We hiked, went to parties along Del Playa and ate awesome burritos on the beach. Somehow I skipped actually walking the campus that time, so another visit was in order. Evan and I walked the campus and I liked that it is manageable. I felt like it was spacious but not enough so that trekking from one class to the next took eons. From there we ended up at the famous lagoon that leads to a private beach owned by UCSB. Fun fact- UCSB is one of the only schools in the nation to own a beach. How cool is that?! We ended up at the rock garden that was installed by a former grad student and continued along the coast all the way back to Evan’s apartment. UCSB is a great option for me because the school is terrific, the location is more than beautiful and the town of Goleta promises the entire college experience.

 

A vista point right before Goleta. I didn’t take the “No Trespassing” too seriously if you couldn’t tell.
Evan playing tour guide as I slyly take candids.
Obviously Evan is not as amused as I am about this whole candid thing.

 

The view I had at 5 something in the morning while on a run.
 

MONDAY- The next morning I somehow beat LA traffic and made it to UCLA by 10 am despite a pit stop in Ventura and a detour through Malibu canyons that brought me to the PCH. 

Murals in Ventura
       
The moment I stepped on to campus I fell in love. UCLA is not only in an exciting city but is an exciting place in itself; sorority row was stunning, the buildings were brick beauties and the campus was lush with lawns and trees. I happened to be on campus during the Special Olympics, and that was a pleasant coincidence! My friend Jack gave me many suggestions and they were super helpful. I ended my tour with a walk through the botanical garden at the edge of campus and was on my way to meander LA.
I’m hoping me and my birk clad feet can be UCLA property too!
  

  

A random hall and a hopefuly future Bruin
  
Botanical garden views
 

I drove through Beverly Hills to get to a café my very chic friend Gretchen showed me when I came to visit her in Malibu in March. Urth Café ain’t cheap but it sure as hell is worth the money. My green tea latte and veggie nori wrap were worth every penny (and the long wait). After lunch I went to check in at my Airbnb in Little Armenia, which is right outside of Griffith Observatory. 

   
 

My Airbnb host was Monika, a UCLA film graduate. She was cool and cordial. Her apartment was minimal but modern and inviting. The room I stayed in had a great view of the LA landscape. From certain angles you could see the Hollywood sign! This was my first experience with Airbnb and surely won’t be my last.

   
  

 After checking in I headed out to be a tourist. I walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame (where I almost got hit with a selfie stick and then promptly left), visited the light structure at LACMA, and meandered La Brea Tar Pits where I found a prehistoric version of my favorite animal, the sloth. At first glance it looks like a turd but I swear the evolved sloths are very cute!! Side note- “Baby Sloth Bathtime” is the best video ever and you should all YouTube it ASAP. It will prove the assertion that sloths are cute.

 

LACMA
 
About the light instillation
   
It’s a bird! It’s a turd! No, it’s a prehistoric sloth!

 I then braved the traffic up to Griffith Observatory in hopes to catch the sunset. I barely missed it but the traffic and failed attempts to parallel park were worth it. Griffith Park has numerous trails to hike that give you sights of LA in it’s entirety. The observatory is a sight itself and I took it upon myself to take a selfie with it. From day to night Griffith offers killer look outs and I high recommend lacing up your running a shoes and checking it out.

      TUESDAY- I drove about an hour to CSU Long Beach. The campus was beautiful but I didn’t entirely love the surrounding area. I had 3 schools to check out so my time there was short. 

I then headed to UC Irvine and was pleasantly surprised. Though the location of the school is in the middle of nowhere, the campus itself is beautiful! The college center across the way was also full of healthy food options and entertainment. The campus was similar to UCSB in that it was large but manageable. UCI has an entire production center and is a huge supporter of the arts, which I really liked.  

Walkway at CSULB
 

From there I headed to San Clemente because this may be my favorite beach town. I road tripped to San Diego in February of 2014 and randomly stopped here only to later find out my good friend Erika has family here! Erika, her family and I stayed here last April when we were on our way to Irvine to perform at the Miss Teen California Pageant. I stopped here because the Rainbow Outlet is located here. I learned that Rainbow sandals were originally created here and were intended for surfers. The outlet has numerous styles and sizes and colors. The best part is that when you donate an old pair, you get 10% off your new pair. Even better, the old pair is then recycled to someone who is in need of shoes.  After some Bagel Shack snackin’ and beachside relaxation, I was off for CSU San Marcos. 

 

Bagel Shack is the BOMB- eggs with avocado, cream cheese, onions and green peppers

 
San Clemente’s main beach
 
CSU San Marcos is the youngest CSU. It is only 25 years old. The campus had awesome views of San Diego mountains and valleys. The facilities and halls are all newer and well kept. I didn’t like that the surrounding area felt like the desert and the campus is the only thing around that area. 

CSU San Marcos views

Cesar Chavez memorial
 
Next stop, San Diego! My other best friend from high school is currently attending UCSD and lives in Pacific Beach. Amelia and I met junior year at our prom when we ended up in the same group. We instantly became friends and I only wish I had met her sooner. She is empathetic, silly, knowledgable and loving. She’s someone that I could tell anything and everything to.  
MEGS AND MEALS
  

I arrived in San Diego around 5:30 pm. Amelia and I immediately sought out to get food and ended up at a New Zealand grill called Bare Back Grill- I highly recommend the Meso Hungry with a black bean burger. It was SO good. We then indulged and had ice cream sandwiches at CREAM. I got Soy Blueberry Vanilla with Oatmeal Raisin and Amelia got Red Velvet and Snickerdoodle with Cookies and Cream.  

WEDNESDAY- We were up early to get some breakfast at Kono’s, little local spot right by the beach. Our scrambles were awesome and our post breakfast walk was picturesque- a gloomy beach doesn’t seem too pretty but it sure was. Amelia then went to class and I headed to SDSU.

   

Seaside art
   
San Diego State is paradise. The campus is stunning and the architecture is equally so. I found myself among beautiful Spanish inspire buildings that are well kept. This is another school where I know I would get the “college experience”- it has parties, sports, nearby attractions, etc. The only inhibiting factor is the current graduation rate; the average student graduates in 5-6 years. I love you SDSU but ain’t nobody got time for that. 

  

Though exhausted, I continued to explore. Balboa Park was too beautiful for words, so I’ll just show some photos instead. In short, this park is filled with museums, the San Diego Zoo, numerous gardens and a restaurant. It’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon! 

  

  

  

  

  

  

Dear sticker, I’m trying. Love, Meg.
Amelia then walked me around UCSD and I loved it. Amelia had a great pint about the look of the campus- no one are is too similar to the other. The campus is eclectic and almost forest-like with all of the trees. 

UCSD

To top off the day, we headed to Ocean Beach for their farmers market. We ate a gluten free dessert and pupusas, which were well deserved seeing as it took up 30 frustrating minutes to find parking. 

  

   

My trip taught me a lot. First, my bladder is the size of a peanut. I cannot tell you how many times I stopped just to pee. My detours brought me some great sights (see Ventura murals) though. That being said, take a detour. Check out the vista point, stop and sit on the beach- life is not always meant to be moving towards the destination. Life sometimes means taking an exit and seeing what you find.

I learned that I am a very independent person. Traveling alone does not scare me and I figure life is too short to wat around for people to jump on board with my plans. There were moments I was anxious (LA traffic, figuring out directions, poor parallel parking skills, NO WHERE TO EVEN PARK AT 9 PM IN LOS ANGELES, gas is expensive so is parking BOO) but I made it through in one piece. I figured out that I’m ready to take on more traveling experiences because I can rely on myself to make the best of a situation and figure it all out.
Being alone is not synonymous with lonely. Read that again. START BELIEVEING THAT. Yes, I wish I had had a copilot at some points to direct me and DJ and keep me from talking to myself (I’m a great conversationalist if you were wondering). But this trip was one hell of an adventure- I saw so much and always kept going. I got to do exactly what I wanted because it was just me meandering down the coast. Being alone helps you get to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. It lets your true self shine. Being alone allows you to figure out what you want and what you dont, on a road trip or just in general. Be alone. Take a road trip, go see a movie, grab coffee ALONE. Be comfortable alone because if you always needed someone else you’ll be held back eventually. 

More than anything, do what you aspire to do. I wanted to take a road trip so I did. I wanted to see my best friends before I leave for a study abroad so I did. I wanted to check out these college so I did. We make excuses all the time that withhold us from being happy. It happens in every aspect of life- our relationships, our jobs, our schooling, our fitness, our dreams. Get out of your own way and GO DO WHAEVER IT IS YOU WANT TO DO. I went and I did and I saw and below we see the ending result of it all- genuine happiness. 

  

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon with more adventures and stories and all-caps life lessons I think you ought to know.
Love, Megan