BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for January, 2006

« Home

Snowfall in Spain

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Snow in Spain
It’s been snowing in Spain the past few days, some places reporting the coldest temps on record in 35 years. This is a photo from the Alhambra in Granada, which I hope to visit in early March. More photos here, here and at El Mundo. The wintery wonderland looks beautiful in these pictures, and I’m sure it’s a treat for the little ones who don’t see it too often. But I selfishly hope it warms up some before I arrive in a few weeks. I’m not expecting summer temps or hot sunny weather, but just a tad warmer would be nice 🙂

Movie Night

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

The pre-trip film festival has begun! Last week I compiled a short list of films, mostly foreign, that I’d like to see before I leave for Europe. I won’t get to all of them, and that’s just fine, but viewing a few of these flicks will provide a quick and helpful refresher on the history, culture and landscape of some of the places I’ll visit.

Tonight we (me, Mom and Dad) watched two foreign language films back-to-back. We read subtitles while listening to French, Portuguese, Czech and German, which is another great benefit of seeing these films — I can brush up on European history and practice understanding foreign phrases and expressions at the same time.

First we watched Voyage to the Beginning of the World (1997), a Portuguese film that Mom found. Viagem ao PrincĂ­pio do Mundo seems to capture the essence of the uniquely Portuguese saudade, and although slow going, I enjoyed the simple story, poetic language and scenic shots of the Portuguese countryside. It’s based on the true story of French actor Yves Alfonso, who traveled to Portugal for the first time as an adult to visit the village where his deceased father was born. It was cool to see the last film that Marcello Mastroianni ever appeared in — now I can work backwards and attempt to see some of his other films.

Next we watched a superb Czech film called Divided We Fall (2000), which lost the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2001. MusĂ­me si pomáhat is fantastic, a moving story about a young Czech couple who hide a Jew in their home during WWII. The characters are wonderful — I particularly enjoyed the subtle humor and uplifting spirit that whispers through the film, despite the horrible circumstances surrounding the time period it portrays.

Baltimore Bookstores

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

I visited two new bookstores in Baltimore last week. Both these shops have been open about a year or so, but I never knew about them until my recent trip.

First was Clayton’s Fine Books & Cafe on N. Charles St., which a former co-worker mentioned to me. The website does not do this place justice. Next time you’re in town, skip the tourist-cluttered Barnes and Noble at Power Plant Live and instead head to this quaint bookstore cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and free wireless too! It beats the B&N/Starbucks atmosphere anyday, and for $2.42 I enjoyed a small house blend coffee and large chocolate dipped biscotti big enough for two.

The second place I spontaneously visited was The Book Escape, on Light St. in Federal Hill, right behind the Science Center. It used to be a different bookstore, I can’t recall the name right now, but recently changed ownership. The shop is packed tightly with mostly used books and not a lot of seating, but is cozy and convenient to the harbor. I made a cheap $3 impulse buy here, but I’m not sure if the book I purchased will make the cut when packing for Europe.

While I’m on the topic, I might as well mention two of my all-time favorite Baltimore bookstores: Atomic Books and Breathe Books. I frequented both these shops when I lived in Charm City, two fabulous niche bookstores located just blocks from each other on The Avenue in Hampden, a vibrant and colorful retail/dining district just north of downtown Baltimore.

All four of these bookstores are must-sees for booklovers visiting Baltimore. Come to think of it, I’ll have to mention this to Larry over at Bookstore Tourism when he returns from hiatus. I think Baltimore is a fantastic candidate for a bookstore tour; there are several other great indy shops I’ve left out right now, as well as The Book Thing.

I’m thinking about all of this tonight because I’m beginning to gather a list of bookstores and libraries in Europe that I hope to visit through the course of my travels this year. (If you have any favorites, please share them in the comments.) I’ve decided to try and keep track of the ones I visit: I’ll keep one list in my handwritten journal, and an online version via delicious. We’ll see how it goes…

Checking In from Charm City

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

I just finished a cup of yummy beef vegetable soup at Metropolitan Coffee House and Wine Bar on South Charles Street in Federal Hill. My pal CJ and I ate here last night too, when I discovered that they have free wireless access, so I’m back now with my laptop for a quick hour or so of work/email catch-up. I used to live right down the street from this place, when it used to be One World Cafe. It’s funny being back in B-more without a place to call home. I don’t live here anymore, but in reality I have plenty of homes here, because I have so many gracious friends and family that have offered their couches, day-beds and futons. And fabulous food too — lots of great chili, salads, burgers, eggs (scrambled well), pudding pie and double-stuffed oreos!

My hosts have been awesome and it’s been so great to have quality downtime to enjoy each others company, and talk travel plans. I realized today that everyone I’m staying with this week in Baltimore are folks I’ll next see in Europe: CJ will meet me in Spain in March for two months of travel, in June I’ll meet up with T & J in Germany for exciting World Cup action, and then I’ll see my bro and Jo in Tuscany in July. Kinda cool to spend time with them now, before all our travels. And so nice to have comfortable places to stay here that make visiting Baltimore feel like visiting my second home.

This afternoon I’ll visit my former co-workers at their new downtown offices, and try and catch up with one or two more folks before heading back to NYC tomorrow.

Back to B-more

Saturday, January 14th, 2006

This week went fast. I made good progress in the gear department, did some important banking prep, and got ahead as much as I could with my writing work. Mom and I got in another fabu walk yesterday, even though it was dreary and foggy at the lake. Afterwards we had a nice dinner out at Del Arte and enjoyed our leftovers for lunch today, in between errands and Saturday morning chatting…

I’m now getting ready to head out on this cold, rainy, gross day…with my new backpack in tow! This should be interesting, but I’ve got to test things out for when I’m abroad…which is only a month away now. Wow… So, I’m off to Manhattan via bus, trekking the pack on the subway to the Upper East Side, then to the Adventure Travel Expo at Javits tomorrow, then on a Greyhound to Baltimore, where I’ll visit my bro and as many friends as I can from Monday to Friday. I’m pretty sure I’ve secured a car ride back to NY on Friday, but the next two days will be quite a mini-adventure — me, my pack, public transport and a slushy, soggy mess. Fun stuff!


Sunday, January 8th, 2006

This past weekend was perfect. A great mix of work and play, and I know that the energized spirit I’m feeling tonight can most definitely be attributed to the two fantastic walks I took this weekend. On Friday night Mom and I walked Rockland Lake, then had a relaxing evening with Dad. We ordered pizza, drank a bottle of pinot grigio and watched TV for three hours (!!), something I have not done in years (except for football games, of course). I made some phone calls on Saturday morning and then sat down to work for a few hours — I felt like I actually accomplished a lot of important stuff, which felt really good. It’s been hard to mange it all lately. I called it a day after that, joined J & T for an early dinner while we watched the Skins/Bucs game, then veged out again at home with Mom and a movie, then my book. Today was more successful multi-tasking: writing and football watching, which soon became a downer…as the Giants just faded away. Ugh. Thankfully, another walk came to my rescue, this time with cousin T, followed by a cup of tea, church and then yummy soup for dinner. Mom and I are gonna attempt a third walk tomorrow after work, which would put me at 9 miles in four days…more than I’ve done in months. It feels awesome to get outside and move around. I’m upbeat and ready to tackle my packing list tomorrow morning…I have to psych myself up to get my gear shopping list in order…I dread shopping, but its gotta get done.


Saturday, January 7th, 2006

I can’t get the lyrics to this song out of my head…and yeah, I know it’s just a silly pop song but I like it. Who the heck is Natasha Bedingfield, anyway?

I Am Unwritten, Can’t Read My Mind, I’m Undefined
I’m Just Beginning, The Pen’s In My Hand, Ending Unplanned
Staring At The Blank Page Before You, Open Up The Dirty Window
Let The Sun Illuminate The Words That You Could Not Find
Reaching For Something In The Distance
So Close You Can Almost Taste It
Release Your Inhibitions

Feel The Rain On Your Skin
No One Else Can Feel It For You
Only You Can Let It In
No One Else, No One Else
Can Speak The Words On Your Lips
Drench Yourself In Words Unspoken
Live Your Life With Arms Wide Open
Today Is Where Your Book Begins
The Rest Is Still Unwritten

40 Days…till 5 months!

Friday, January 6th, 2006

As I mentioned over at Gadling today, I’ve finally booked my flight: 40 days from today I will fly from Newark, NJ direct to Lisbon, Portugal. I booked a return flight to the states from Rome through London in mid-July… Soooooo, my 5 month European adventure is almost officially underway.

I’m at a complete loss with how to express in words all that I am thinking, feeling and doing these days: Excited, overjoyed, melancholy and nostalgic at times, motivated, determined, overwhelmed and all that other stuff too. I’m trying my best to balance it, keeping things slow and simple so I savor each step of the way.

Thoughts I’m juggling in my mind right now: the trip planning process (too little vs. too much), the packing challenges I’ve yet to tackle (no backpack or camera yet), how to handle the struggles I am having with my own writing (personal and professional), my desire to be honest with myself and others about certain issues, the valid concerns/worries & wonderful support/enthusiasm of family and friends, and the tough decisions I have to make about how I will ultimately choose to travel. I recognize that these are personal struggles I willingly took on. I’m managing them, learning lessons as I go, and hopefully create a stronger version of myself in the process.

Last night I started reading The Best American Travel Writing 2005. I got as far as Jamaica Kincaid’s introduction. She describes the collection of travel narratives in this way:

“These essays stimulate my curiosity; they underline my sense of my displacement.”

She goes on to say that she likes the feeling of being out of place. It got me thinking…I’ve always had a most wonderful place to call home, in the literal sense — our home in Pearl River, followed by the homes I made in Baltimore. But my internal “home”, my personal sense of place, has never been more out of whack then it is right now. I learn more and more each day about who I am as a person, but I’m just not sure where I’m supposed to be. And I’m not so sure that I like feeling this way. But my deep curiosity to see the world has led me to feel so very Lost in Place. I’ve chosen to put comfortable aside and follow the uneasiness. I have no clue where this journey will take me, but I know it’s necessary for me to live through this self-imposed displacement and see where it leads. And I trust my own judgment that it will do me some good to take this break, so that then I can do some real good in this world.

My tag line for the blog used to read: One woman’s love affair with location, search for vocation and occasional intoxications. I think I’ll have to change it back to that, since it does seem to sum up the trifecta of why I’m embarking on this trip quite perfectly:

Location = Place: I want to explore every nook and cranny of this earth
Vocation = Passion: I want to discover how best to walk through this world
Intoxications = Play: I want to celebrate the simple joys of life

Yikes! All these deep-thoughts aside, I’m stoked, blessed and bubbling with enthusiasm to get out there and enjoy the experience. Thanks as always to all of you who pray, support and cheer me on.