Monday, December 31, 2012

Les petites choses

So I'm finally at the last of my Europe Series, which I just realized will focus on the later half of my trip in France. The more I think about the fact that I even made a European series, the more lame I realize that I am. But I had fun reminiscing about my time here. Anyway, here we go..

What I loved most about Europe was all of the little details that I would never have the opportunity to experience in my little city of Cypress. There was a something incredibly nice about being able to take a ten minute walk to the train station and hopping on the RER C to central Paris or seeing all of the amazing buildings in pinks and oranges in the back streets of Lyon. The majority of the time, I'd fall behind from my group as I tried to capture something that caught my eye, like the giant Charlie Chaplin painted on the side of the small theatre in Sainte Genevieve du Bois or the handmade clay necklaces on the side of the street in Cognac.

It was the little details that made this trip so wonderful. It was the little things that the locals have the opportunity to experience every day that I didn't want to take for granted, that I wanted to soak in and never forget. Europe was an unforgettable place with some of the most kind, generous people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. If any reader out there decides to go, I highly encourage you to couch surf and try to stay with locals there. That's how you get the chance to taste the best food, see places that the guidebooks don't mention, and really get the chance to experience what it'd be like to live there.

I came back from Europe with over 1500 pictures to sort through, and these 50 were just some of my favorites. They're the ones that can put a smile back on my face when I'm having a rough day. I hope someone out there enjoys them too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Le food.

London: I actually didn't try any fish and chips when I was in England, because our host said that it actually a food that's mostly bought as take out, not for a sit in restaurant. The one thing my brother told me to that I must eat was a kebab, and these places were everywhere! This one in particular was the first one I saw in Dalston.  There were actually a lot of kebab places in Amsterdam and Paris as well.

Amsterdam: So we used our Iamsterdam cards to get discounts or free things throughout the city, and we pretty set on going to get discounted pancakes for breakfast. That didn't happen. After an hour of roaming around different blocks in Amsterdam and asking at least 5 different people about the restaurant, we gave up. Luckily, that little adventure led us to a really cute restaurant with a great view of the canal that served omelettes and what Rachel referred to as the best chocolate milk she'd ever had. Ever. (There are more pictures of the place in my post about Amsterdam.)

France: Once I met up with my aunt in France is when I really felt as though I started eating good food. I had tried out crepes and such with Rachel, but nothing too amazingly impressing. Partially cause they were very directed towards tourists and seemed like they would be easily replicated in the states. It wasn't until I experienced the home cooking of friends in Lyon and La Rochelle when I really knew what it meant to eat well. Apparently it's quite common to pair some cantaloupe with with salty ham as an appetizer. I really loved it. Every meal in France went on for hours, as I mostly sat around focusing on my food since I couldn't really understand the conversations going on in French. But that was okay with me. I think one of my biggest regrets was not capturing the cheese. Haha, don't I sound crazy? But the fact that every meal ended with cheese and wine followed by a cup of coffee stood out to me so much and was definitely one of my favorite parts. I miss it.

I still tell people that if I had gone to France, didn't see the Eiffel tower or visit the Musee d'Orsay, and ONLY ate food, I would still be happy. But then again, the food came with the magnificent sights, like drinking some cognac in a castle from the 15th century in Cognac, France or walking along a vineyard, eating grapes straight from the vine at sunset. I was very blessed to have such generous, unforgettable hosts who really knew how to cook. I think food makes any trip just that much more memorable, even if it's the Chipotle you visit after a long weekend of easy macs and ramen in the wilderness. I was fortunate enough to feast on foie gras and drink way too many glasses of wine on numerous occasions.

This was my last and favorite meal of the trip. Potatoes fried in duck fat covered in bacon bits, a simple salad with home grown baby tomatoes and a vinagrette, way too much foie gras and a rose wine. This was the meal where I ate about 25 dollars worth of foie gras in one sitting and went to bed in pain from how much food I ate. No regrets.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I don't remember the last time I was excited for life.

Is that sad? I'm thinking yes right now. I've looked forward to trips across the world and catching up with people that I have seen in a long time, but I can't ever recall feeling excited for my general future. I think nervous would be the word that I usually have for it. Nervous at the idea of failing and disappointing myself, or worse, disappointing the people around me. I've held back for fear of not meeting others' expectations of me, at the cost of meeting the expectations I have for myself.

Now that I've finally acknowledged this, I'm hoping that I finally get the courage to do what it takes to make me excited for life again. I just don't want to hit that wall of nerves again.

I know that God has His plans for me, and that they may not seem that appealing to me. But He knows best and that should be enough, right?

I feel like I'm still missing something.. and also that this post severely lacked direction. I'll just blame the Nyquil. Goodnight, world.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"I've calculated how much sleep you've been getting.."

To say I'm tired would not suffice. I leave for school before my roommate even leaves the bedroom and come home hours after she's already been asleep. I don't think I've allowed myself to add up the numbers simply because I'm in denial of how little sleep I'm actually getting. While the rest of the world is telling me to just go to bed and start again the next day, my mind is screaming, yelling that there's still some cavity somewhere in there that can retain a little better understanding of Nash equilibrium and iterated dominance. My gosh is game theory kicking my butt. And I have a whole quarter of it in the winter? This will be... We'll see. 

In all of my studying, I've never been this distracted. Not simply by the social media outlets that steal away the precious hours of so many students, but just thoughts.

Thoughts about life after San Diego.
Thought about whether life should stay in San Diego a little longer.
Thoughts about the general future.
Thoughts about how my wants for my life are turning down a very different path that I did not foresee. And that scares me.

In some ways I don't want things to change because that was always the plan that just happened, and for things to veer towards a different path doesn't make me feel very.. safe. But I worry about that part of me that will always wonder what would have happened if things ended up differently. If I didn't go back home. If I took the chances, even if they ended in failure. If my education (and someday a career) was, for the first time, to become a priority in my life.

This is me. The kid who worries way to much for her own good.

"Life is way too short to consider and reconsider every possibility."

No words, no "Happy Birthday"s, no "You can do it!"s, in the last week have ever been needed to be heard more than that. 

I ramble.  :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Idea: Instagram but with gifs.

Now I'll finally have proof when it is actually engineered to say I was one of the first people who thought of it. If only my mom didn't just laugh at me in 1996 when I said that there should be solar panels on the tops of cars and and TV screens on the back of the headrests...


"I wouldn't have had good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally." - John Nash

Not so guilty pleasure:

Chubby Asian baby gifs

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Paris, je'taime.

I don't remember if I mentioned earlier, but one of the things that people always ask me when they find out about the trip is which place was my favorite. It's usually a really difficult question for me to answer because I loved each city I visited in its own unique way. But Paris.. Paris is the city that I daydream about going back to. This was the city of sidewalk cafes, cobblestone streets, buildings that made your neck sore from looking up so much, terrifying roundabouts, and hundreds of year old churches. But most people already would know that even before going. I think the best part is that coming to Paris truly turned my infatuation into true love.

Again, my original impressions of Paris worried me, and I questioned how much I would really like the city. We took a 10 hour bus ride through Belgium and arrived at a small, dirty train station at 6am with only one worker, whose only English was to explain that she didn't speak English. My first 2 hours in the city were spent waiting for a McDonald's to open, so we could use some wifi and find some directions.  Eventually though, we were finally on a train to our hostel and things were exponentially better from there.

Again, we only stayed in Paris for 3 nights, but were able to get a lot done. 

Day 1: Finding the hostel, visited the Moulin Rouge, Sacre-Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. 
Day 2: The Louvre. Go there and you'll understand why that was our only stop. Also stayed with our couchsurfing host who fed us our first typical "French" meal. 
Day 3: Versailles, Notre Dame, Seine River, Bastille

My experience there with Rachel consisted of a lot of sidewalk crepes, jumping turnstiles, gawking at the amazing, well-fitted suits that the men wore, incredibly cramped Metros at 5pm, drunk men who liked to flirt, and lots of giggling (What can I say?) The only thing I wish we had time to do was take a river cruise along the Seine on her last day, but we were still really happy with our experience. This trip made me re-think just jumping on a plane and going to a country whose language I only know three words of. But it definitely pushed me out of my safe little bubble that only really knew of suburban southern California cities and the wilderness. Waking up to coyotes howling at 2am while camping alongside a meadow I knew I could handle, but taking public transportation alone with only a map and no phone was a different story. I honestly still think of myself as a child at times, but this trip was a much needed step towards growing up.

More random European posts to come!

Because not a birthday will ever go by when I won't remember you and how you taught me to love unconditionally with your contagious smile and never ending generosity.  I still miss you.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Free Energy - Dance All Night


Canals, bikes, & cheese.

Baby went to Amsterdam. She put a little money into traveling. Now it's so slow.. so slow. My relationship with Amsterdam wasn't great at first. Partially because we had been up since 5am, had nearly missed our flight, were exhausted from carrying our luggage everywhere, and still had to deal with the heat. Asking for directions was pretty difficult since my attempt to pronounce Warmeostraat was absolutely horrid. Our hostel was the typical hostel people talk about when describing hostels. Bunk beds, foreign youths who stay out til 4, coed showers. It was two blocks down from the Red Light District, full of university students traveling and partying on holiday. We talked to some Brits in our room, who said our accent was cool and asked us various questions about American culture and whether we would be voting for Obama or Romney. (In case you were wondering, John Mayer is very in there.) They decided to take naps before going out that night, and we ventured out into the city and experienced a tour through the canals, visted the Van Gogh Museum, found some dinner, and ate a sandwich or two.

I fell in love with the city about 5 minutes into our cruise through the canals. The houses, though all quite similar to each other at first glance, had their own personalities to them. It was interesting to learn how to distinguish which houses were once warehouses in the 1700's by the hooks hanging 4 or 5 stories up, which allowed traders to move in boxes through the windows rather than carrying them up 4 flights of narrow staircases. The amount of bikes, cheese and tulip bulbs that people describe is not an understatement. It was the perfect transition on our European tour since most people still spoke English, but we still faced some language barriers when attempting to pronounce street names. I wouldn't change a bit of it. The brick sidewalks, bikes that are about to run you over, even cigarette butts everywhere.