The Rewind: Dec/Jan
Does time fly by for you the way it does for me? It feels like just yesterday I was a teenager getting ready for prom and before I knew it, I transformed into a fully-fledged adult with real life grown-people problems. They say time flies when you’re having fun, so hopefully, January coming and going is an indication of how much fun I had this month. This month’s review includes December of 2018 because, why not? Well, truth is, January was pretty low key and December was where a lot of the action happened. Keep reading to see where I went and what I listened to in December 2018 and January 2019.
Where I Went: December
Nowadays it’s easy to hop on social media and be flooded with travelers’ stunning pictures of some of the world’s most immaculate sites and mouthwatering foods and if you’re a regular degular person like me, it can beg the question: “How the heck do these people manage to travel like that?” I’ve been there. Often times the answer is more complex than we think and can’t be concluded to one single thing. December brought me to the breathtaking land of Italy, and I’m going to tell you how. Two main reasons: a.) I couldn’t afford to travel home for Christmas—tickets from Barcelona to the US were upwards of 2,000 USD and b.) PTO. Paid time off. The company I work for gives time off for Christmas holidays every year and by using leftover vacation days, I was able to extend my break. So there you have it. I linked up with a few friends to explore three cities: Venice, Bologna, and Naples. I like to think of Italy as a family. Venice is the chic, stylish sister whose outfit is always on point. Bologna is the mysterious, distant uncle. You’re not quite sure what he’s up to, but he’s chill and you’d still invite him to the cookout. And Naples is the cool, rebellious brother, who doesn’t give a flying f&*%. Here are some highlights and tidbits from my Christmas adventure in Italia.
Venice: The Fashionista
Venice is one of those places where I can honestly say: the photos don’t do it justice. I was struck by the beauty. I knew Venice would be a stunner, but I wasn’t ready for just how charming it actually was. The whole city will make you feel like you’ve been whisked away and placed on the set of a real-life Disney princess movie. Form the canals, to the colors, it has 'exquisite' written all over it. The city is small, so it’s perfect for putting Google Maps aside and letting the quaint paths lead you over small bridges and through romantic side streets.
Food and Drink Highlight
Word to the Wise
Travel during the off season. I was prepared to be bombarded with tourists and was pleasantly surprised when I wasn’t. It was so nice to experience the essence of Venice without all the tourists. This is especially beneficial if you’re on a budget or just wannna save some coins. Best part is, lots of restaurants and sites were still open which tends not to be the case in other, particularly in European, countries or cities.
Bologna: The Mystery
Here’s a spoiler: I didn’t fall in love with Bologna. To be fair, I was there on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and although the streets were filled and a few places were still open, my experience of Bologna would not have been as dry if I had gone outside the holiday season. I was primarily looking forward to the food because Bologna is a bigwig food town, but I’ll have to revisit for that. The color scheme and the fog made Bologna streets feel mysterious and cryptic. I felt as if I were in a scene from a murder mystery novel. There was a different vibe to Venice and had I stayed a bit longer, I think I would’ve gotten into it. But all in all, I had a good time and wouldn’t mind visiting again to see what this esoteric uncle is really all about.
If you’re in need of fresh air and want to get your exercise on, check out Portico di San Luca: A 3.8 km covered walkway connecting Porta Saragozza to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca (Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca), making it the longest covered walkway in the world. There are 666 arches along this beauty, and doesn’t cost you a dime.
Food and Drink Highlight
Oltre. A young, chic trattoria. You’ll def want to book ahead for this place. The food was fantastic and the 80’s atmosphere was dope. Perfect for a romantic evening or casual lunch with a friend.
Word to the Wise
Bologna is the home of tortellini, you’d be remiss if you don’t have it at least once while you’re here.
Naples: Grit and Grind
I’ve now got a thing for that tatted up, bad boy Naples. “It’s dangerous”…”It’s dirty”…”Be careful,” they said. Listen, Naples has got grime… and I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of New York. It isn’t there to please and it doesn’t give two shits about your opinion. But if I’m honest, I was enamored primarily due of one thing: I had a Neapolitan with me. A native will change everything. Always. Our friend took us to his favorite eateries and bars, shared childhood stories of the city with us, introduced us to his friends, and gave us interesting city tips. Experiencing the city through his eyes allowed my friend and I to come from a different perspective and see beyond the typical Napoleon commentary. While having a native isn’t always possible, I just happen to get lucky, I hope if you visit this spirited city, you will see in it what I saw.
Food and Drink Highlight
Via dei Tribunali. The hot street for pizza. If you feel overwhelmed by the choices, just take a stroll down this street and let the pizza find you.
Piazza Bellini: A fun, hip plaza where all the youngsters hang out at night. Get yourself a spritz and post up. Great for people watching.
Word to the Wise
Not all pizzas are made alike. If you do any research on Naples, you’ll inevitably find countless similar lists of the best pizza joints. But what they don’t tell you is those “best pizza places” get real crowded, real fast. My advice? Either find a native to help you navigate the specific rules behind pushing through the lines and getting a number or go hella early. Lines are out the wazoo and the frustration can be exasperated by not speaking Italian or not knowing the specific rules for each locale. But once you’re through, it’s worth it.
Where I Went: January
Since hunkering down after Christmas holidays, January has been pretty quiet. I’ve spent most of the month writing and catching up with friends. Here’s an inside look into two local places that I gave a considerable amount of my time to.
I save Saturday mornings for writing blog posts and getting personal shiz done. Winter is in full force and finding quiet caffeinated spaces to post up in can sometimes be difficult in Barcelona. I like third wave coffee spot, Satan’s for just that. The one on Gran Via housed inside Casa Bonay is my jam. It’s airy, has good vibes, lots of light, and isn’t crowded.
Location: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 700
Although accused of trying way too hard to be cool, my friends and I spent a good time at Raval bar: 33/45. You know those neighborhood places where everybody knows your name? That’s 33/45. We ran into friends there and made nice with our neighbors. The checkered floor and neon lights make you feel like you’re in an exclusive after party and the full bar means plenty of options. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s more of an expat place, but since I’m an expat, there’s no surprise there.
Location: Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 4
WHAT I LISTENED TO:
This month I dug into James Blake’s anticipated new album: Assume Form. Fans have waited for three years for a new album and this one does not disappoint. Lots of beautiful features and intoxicating melodies that take you on a musical journey. Some of my favorite tracks include: “Mile High”, “Tell Them”, “Barefoot in the Park,” “Where’s the Catch”, and “Power On”.
Like many people, I watched the Surviving R.Kelly docu-series. I was astonished, I was outraged, and I was deeply saddened. I was left with more questions than answers and while there is so much more to be said, in January I found myself getting lost in Aaliyah’s 2001 self-titled album. Below is the only viable source to the album (online) that I have found.
Normally not someone I would listen to, Aariana Grande’s “Thank u, next” has been on repeat this past month.