Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lisbon Photos

A few photos from Lisbon. I lucked out so far and the weather has been very comfortable (13-16 C 60ish F). Tomorrow or Saturday some friends and I will visit Sintra, a "romantic must-see" that been called one of the most beautiful towns in the whole world. Fun fun.

Do you relate?

Lisbon is amazing. Don't have much time to update with anything real substantial, so here is a funny and thought provoking design by Hugh, who's site/blog I frequent a lot. I hope you don't relate to this too much. If so, maybe some changes are in order for 2007...? More designs by Hugh to come soon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Just Wander

Want to really see a city? Just wander. I no longer follow a map when I’m exploring a city for the first time. In the past I would map out all of the popular areas and “must sees” and then start heading toward them. The problem was that my eyes would spend more time looking at street signs than looking at the city. I would spend more time worried about the next turn or getting lost than I would spend enjoying the moment. I wasn’t able to enjoy the moment for what it should have been: a time to relax, enjoy and discover.

What I do now is quickly read about good areas to visit, see where they are on the map to get a basic idea and then I start walking in that general direction. Sure, sometimes I don't make it to my intended destination. Funny thing is that without a doubt, I can say this is the best way to explore a new city (for me). Every corner becomes a new unknown. You never know what's next. You’ll wonder for hours and it will feel like nothing. I did this when I first arrived in Barcelona and would walk for 4, 5 sometimes 6 hours at a time.

So next time you visit a new city make sure to bring your walking shoes and leave the map behind. Wander. Explore. Discover. You’ll be glad that you did.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Landed in Lisbon

...and loving it. I wish that I didn't have my camera stored in my luggage when on the plane because the view coming into the city was stunning. I've never seen anything like it.

I have several days to explore the city before I meet up with my friends for the new year festivities.

Photos to come soon...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

For the past 23 years I've celebrated Christmas with family and friends back in Wisconsin. This afternoon I'm going to my friend Keyan's house where a small group of friends will celebrate together. The following 8 countries will be represented: Switzerland, Peru, Spain, Italy, Denmark, France, Uruguay, and the U.S.

We all chipped in money and bought copious amounts of food and drink. Somehow I was elected to cook the turkey. Please wish me luck....!

To all my family and friends back home: know that I'm thinking of you with much love this holiday season, and always!

Merry Christmas
Feliz Navidad
Joyeux Noel
Frohliche Weihnachten
Buon Natale
Merii Kurisumasu
Prettige Kerstdagen
Boas Festas
Zalig Kerstfeest

Feliz Natal


An Invitation

I came across The Invitation a year or two ago and just rediscovered it once again while looking through some old documents in my computer. I think it's pretty amazing and hope you will too. More Oriah to come soon.

In The Invitation, bestselling author Oriah wrote about what we long for. In The Dance, she taught us to embrace who we are in the moment, to learn to join the dance of life. Now, in The Call, Oriah shows us how to discover our unique place in the world. The call cannot be found in the expectations of others or in the outside world; it can only be found within ourselves.""

The Invitation

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you
have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain

I want to
know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you
can disappoint another to be true to yourself
If you can bear the accusation of
and not betray your own soul
If you can be faithless and therefore

I want to know if you can see beauty
even when it's not pretty
every day
and if you
can source your own life from its presence

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the
edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me to know where you live
or how much money you have
I want
to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to
the bone
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if
you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company
you keep in the empty moments.

About Oriah

Friday, December 22, 2006

More Travel - Zurich & Berlin Confirmed

It's official - I'm going to Zürich and Berlin. I've heard that both cities are amazing so I'm very excited. Feel free to email me if you need a swiss bank account...I'll see what I can do while in Switzerland.

Below are my travel plans over the next three months:

Lisbon (Dec/Jan)
Madrid (Jan)
Zürich (Jan)
Berlin (Feb)
Prague (Feb/March, to be confirmed)
Brussels & Paris (2nd time, March to be confirmed)
Marrakesh (TBD)

These additional cities add to the following cities that I've already been to.

Visited: Barcelona (duh), Rome, Milan, Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, London

Planned: Zürich, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Prague

Happy Friday!

No Snow in Moscow

Below is just one example of how sun and color can affect our mood.

''Russian health authorities fear that a rare lack of snowfall could cause a wave of depression across the country. This has been the warmest December in Russia since 1870, and much of the country hasn’t seen a single flake of snow. Winter days are extremely short in Russia, as it’s so far north, and people depend on snow to reflect sunlight and brighten moods. “The psychological state depends directly on the light,” Russian psychologist Baleria Mikulina told the London Daily Telegraph. Officials have installed extra street lamps and urged citizens to turn on all their
lights, hang up yellow curtains, and wear colorful clothes..'' Via The Week

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The decline of the Spanish identity...?

In a extremely informative article entitled, "Spain No More?", Norman Ho, a senior editor at the Harvard International Review argues that President Zapatero has radically altered the Spanish identiy while implementing his vision for the ''new Spain''. My favorite excerpts are below.

''There can be no question that Zapatero’s reforms are bold, dynamic, and dramatically new. But whether or not they are ultimately beneficial for Spain’s national interest and world security is another question. For a nation that has been marked by historical disunity and uncertainty, Zapatero’s domestic reforms dangerously strip away the layers of Spanish society. In his attempts to create a “New Spain” and bring Spain quickly in line with other European nations, Zapatero is sacrificing Spanish national identity and showing that he simply does not understand the distinctiveness of Spain’s unique domestic and security needs.''

Zapatero’s decision to embrace Old Europe ironically brought about a decline in Spain’s prestige and influence with the rest of the European Union. Despite his administration’s heavy campaign and his assurance to France that Spaniards were the most passionate Europeans, Zapatero indubitably looked bad after the historically low turnout of Spanish voters to the EU Constitution referendum. But perhaps what is most disturbing about Zapatero’s policy is his alacrity to sacrifice Spanish natural interests to please Old Europe.''

''Zapatero, during the discussions on the EU constitution, made it clear that he would be willing to compromise Spanish voting strength for the sake of agreements on the constitution. As a result, Spain has decreased voting power compared to Germany and France and thus has less influence in EU decision making. Zapatero also, as discussed earlier, pushed away an important non-EU friend, the United States, whose political support might have given Spain future leverage it might have needed to protect and even to enhance its power within the European Union in situations which required standing up to “Old Europe.” Instead, Zapatero has alienated the United States, one of Spain’s leading economic trading partners, and has started down the path of decreasing his country’s influence in European Union.''

Read the full article here.

Las Ramblas - Barcelona

People Watching at its Best...
A must for anyone visiting Barcelona, the Ramblas are a little over 1 kilometer long with Port Vell at the Southern most end and Placa Catalunya at the northern most end. Shops, restaurants, tourists and street performers line the promenade ensuring a fun, lively and always interesting adventure. Make sure to bring a camera...

I previously wrote about my first few hours after arriving in Barcelona. In truth, I didn't even realize it that the airport shuttle bus dropped me off right next to Placa Catalunya on the northern most end of the Ramblas.

Below are just a few examples of the countless street performers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Top 4 Barcelona Trends

I’m constantly scanning my surroundings as I walk. I’ve noticed a lot of interesting trends while doing so in Barcelona. Below are 4 of the trends that I find most bizarre.

Hold me Tightly
Women of all ages grasping the arm of their female friends while walking in the street. I’m pretty sure that doing so in the U.S. would mark you as a lesbian. This is especially funny when you have one 85 year old woman trying to help her 80 year old friend when in reality both of them need help. Sadly, you see this too often as a lot of the men from older generations were killed during the Franco years & civil war.

Just shave it all off
Crazy super skinny and pointed sideburns on younger men.

Wisconsin Waterfall
The already well documented mullet on both men and women of all ages.

Fun with Color
But perhaps the most interesting and shocking trend that I’ve noticed involves a large and growing number of women (most are 60+). So what is this trend that has caused grannies to go wild all over Spain? Well, many women are choosing to dye their hair deep red and light purple. Check below to see a few photos I was able to capture.

Dolce & Gabanna Barcelona

Less than two months ago Dolce & Gabanna broke ground on a new store on the fashionable Passig de Gracia in Barcelona (less than 5 minutes from my friends house). The store adds to the already impressive number of luxury stores such as Valentino, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, Versace, Bulgari etc…

D&G really must have wanted the store open for the Christmas rush because it was recently completed and had its grand opening just one week ago. Today I went into the store for the first time and was greeted by some extremely nice workers. They were more than happy to show me some 500 euro jeans, 450 euro shirts, a 300 euro belt and a pair of boots for 700 euro. Of course I bought them all. Then I woke up, realized I was dreaming and cried myself back to sleep.

P.S. Isn't the necklace amazing?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mullet Monday

Today marks the return of mullet Mondays. In truth, it never actually went away, I've simply haven't had the time to capture and post photos. Thankfully Christmas shopping has provided ample opportunity to capture these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat: the Barcelona metro. Enjoy!

Park Guell Photos - Barcelona

The always busy Park Guell is a masterpiece designed by Antoni Gaudi. At the top of Guell park is a terraced area where you get an amazing view of the park and of the Barcelona skyline. Some photos are below with more on Flickr. A ''must'' when visiting Barcelona.

Friday, December 15, 2006

People Watching - European Style

I enjoy people watching. I picked it up from my father. The photo below shows how almost all outdoor cafes are setup throughout Europe. Notice how most of the chairs are facing the sidewalk (which is less than 1 meter away). I particularly like the large cafes that have 20 or more rows of chairs. This setup can make you feel like your on a runway as you walk by. Work it, baby...!!!

Cafe Metropole is in Brussels

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Eurotrip Photos

My plan is to post photos first with all my thoughts and observations to follow. Below are a few examples from each city. The links below will start a slide show with photos from each city.

Amsterdam ''Coffee shop''




Belgium Photos

Clicking here will start the Belgium photo slide show.

Paris Photos
Clicking here will start
the Paris photo slide show.

Amsterdam & Rotterdam Photos
Clicking here will start
the Amsterdam & Rotterdam photo slide show.

The photos bring back a lot of memories. Enjoy!

Back in BCN

Wow, what an adventure! Sorry for the lack of overall communication (blog, email, IM), but finding internet cafes was way too time consuming (and often expensive).

I arrived back in BCN late last night. I'm in the process of digesting everything that occurred and sorting through the countless photos. Photos and more details to come very soon.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Spend less, save more recently posted a good piece that hit home for me. It details how six twentysomethings "lived their dreams in France and around the world on entry-level salaries and a strict savings philosophy."

Read the full article here.

P.S. The weather has been cold, damp and rainy...not the best weather for travel and exploration. We'll be in Paris tomorrow morning through Monday. The weather forecast does not include rain, but time will tell.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Zach & I arrived in Amsterdam around 8PM last night. The city is beautiful right now. Christmas lights illuminate the entire city giving it an amazing feel & glow at night. It's also created a great opportunity for photos. I'm very pleased with how the photos have turned out so far and I'm excited to post them once I'm back in BCN.

Walking around the streets instantly brought back a lot of great memories from my first trip to Amsterdam back in May with my good friends Lee & Peter. Because it was a Tuesday night there was not much to do. We decided to see the new Bond movie. We went to a theatre that was very similar to the Oriental in Milwaukee, WI. It has a similar look and feel, but an updated screen and sound system. The movie was great and I would highly recommend it.

Today I had cake and coffee for breakfast. It was very enjoyable. I'm really happy that I successfully exchanged a 6 month old pair of jeans from H&M. I was almost happy when one of the buttons fell off because they were too loose on me now. I thought it couldn't hurt to at least ask if I could exchange them. The didn't hesitate for a second. The new pair not only fit much better, but they're the new style. It worked out well. Perhaps you have some old jeans that you could exchange. You would be amazing at how liberal many exchange policies are. The worst scenario is they say no. The best scenario is thye give you a brand new item.

We'll be here in Amsterdam until Saturday morning when we'll leave for Paris. The adventure continues...

Cologne, Germany Update

Two days was not nearly enough time to explore Cologne. My friend has a car and the drive from his apartment was only 1 1/2 hours. We got there in the late afternoon when it was already starting to get dark. As we approached the city, I could easily see the Dom (cathedral) towing over the much smaller buildings surrounding it. It was decorated for Christmas which make it particularly stunning.

There was a large outdoor festival the night we got there so there were vendors all over the city selling everything from arts & crafts to food to toys and of course, beer. Lots of beer. Garbage collectors were unsuccessfully trying to keep the streets clean as people and garbage were overflowing the narrow streets.

We spent several hours walking aimlessly around the entire city. I think that is one of the best ways to explore any city. I recall getting a weird feeling as I heard German. I think its the rough tone that freaks me out just a bit. Zach is a great travel partner. He speaks German, English, French, Dutch and Arabic, so he's able to speak the local language for every city in this eurotrip.

Later in the night Zach and I met up with some friends of Zachs and relaxed a bit before heading off to a big disco that occurs once a month (Greenkomm) . Zach and I were luckily enough to be there the night it was going on. The club had main dance floor, multiple observation decks and a nice lounge room w/ bar. The disco was extreemly busy and we had a great time.

I left cologne wanting to see more. That's alright with me, its just another excuse to visit the city again. That is, after I visit Berlin...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Economics 101, Purchasing Power

Are you American and planning on visiting the UK or Europe? Make sure that you've saved a lot of dollars because it's crazy expensive right now. The pound just hit a 14-year dollar high over the dollar while the dollar fell to a 20-month low against the euro.

It now takes 1.97 dollars to get 1 pound and 1.33 dollars to get 1 euro. Ouch.

I've felt the effects of this first hand...especially while in London.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thoughts on Brussels

Brussels is an interesting city. The city is charming (read: boring) and beautiful. I took some really great photos. I will post all the photos when I get back to Barcelona.

Language & People
I found the locals to be very friendly (and old). Everyone speaks Dutch and French as they're the official languages of Belgium. French is more widely spoke in Brussels.

All signs are written in both languages. This, along with the fact that the streets are small, angled and interwoven make getting around extremely difficult. The Brussels city map is a useless joke because all the street names are on top of each other making it nearly impossible to read.

Food (best part of Belgium)
Beer: Brussels is to beer what France is to wine. The number and quality of beers in Belgium is crazy. My friend and I went into one bar that had over 100 regional beers on tap.

Waffles: Orgasmic. The smell of Brussels is an intoxicating vanilla smell from the countless stands all over the city. The waffles have a crunchy outside with a warm and soft inside. Never again will I call a normal waffle a Belgium waffle.

Fries & Durum Kebabs/Wraps: I normally do not like fries, but the fries here taste so good that, like the waffles, I've been buying some every day. What really makes them special are the numerous sauce options. Most places have at least 20 different flavors to choose from and one tastes better than the other.

Chocolate: The best in the world. They're works of art. You could easily eat kilogram of free choclate every day from the samples they offer when you walk into the stores.

Brussels is great for drinking in a pub and drinking the world famous beers. They're all over the city and fun to relax and chat at with friends.

Feel like dancing? La Demence is a very famous disco party that occurs once a month. Great if you are lucky enough to be there the one night a month it occurs. Sadly I was not.

The most popular reoccurring weekly disco in Brussels was playing polka music on a Friday night....and the YMCA. If anything, Brussels was a nice reminder how great I have it in Barcelona.

Being "the capital of Europe" I expected more from Brussels. Enjoy Brussels for one or two days to eat, relax and see the beautiful architecture, but do not expect a crazy night.

I won't be in any rush to visit again and I'm looking forward towards Cologne tonight and Sunday and Amsterdam and Rotterdam next week.