Ailyn and I connected on Instagram because not only did we both land an internship at FremantleMedia North America, but we also lived in the same part of the San Fernando Valley. Hard work really paid off later on when we were both then nominated and accepted into the inaugural year of The Academy's Academy Gold Intern Program. We car pooled to work, to Academy weekend screenings, and this afforded us time to both bond as friends and really become each other's anchors in our summer in entertainment. I have 1000 percent faith that when I become a media personality Ailyn has my legal back.
This past week, I turned a recurring joke into a reality. I, along with some good friends from Norwich, came to visit Ailyn in her corner of Spain for a week full of sightseeing, great food, and incredibly priced drunks.
Bilbao is in the north region of Spain, and it is on the border to France. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country, and the fifth-largest urban area in Spain. Some of Bilbao’s attractions include the Guggenheim museum, Casca Viejo, the colorful city where we stayed, and La Alhondiga. Unlike my trips to places like London or Rome, I allotted more time for my stay in Bilbao. I was there from Thursday until Saturday. With 2 full days, I was able to balance tourist and exploratory experiences in well.
I came to Spain with my friends Hannah, Shyla, and Katy, and we were the Fantastic Four of travel buddies! The girls and I were always willing to get lost and find something interesting. Luckily, we did not always have to wander because Ailyn found us and showed us around to her favorite spots in Bilbao.
My first day in Bilbao was breathtaking. Everyone we met stressed how gorgeous the week was. It was. The sun was bright, and this highlighted the beauty of the old city and its multicolored edifices and the abundance of flowers. Thursday morning was amazing because we found a nearby place that served breakfast, and we were introduced to the best orange juice we had ever had. If you ever go to Spain, make sure you order OJ! After that, we made our way back to the old city for some light shopping. I fell in love with this fringed denim jacket and I swore I had to leave with it. But, my credit card, and mom, said otherwise.
When we met up with Ailyn it was in a plaza near us, and I could not believe it was her in the flesh. We all did some quick introductions, and she wasted no time in introducing us to real Spanish sangria.
That sangria cannot be described in words, but I will try because if I cannot write then what will I do with my life?
The sangria we got was tart, thanks to the actual lime and lemons bits chopped in. It was refreshing and sweet. It was potent as hell. After just a glass, Ailyn and I messaged each other, “Are you spinning too?!” Just like the OJ, a Spanish sangria is a MUST do.
While we are on the topic of food, let me share the greatest Spanish dish I tried. In Latinx culture, a tortilla is made from wheat or corn. However, in Spain a tortilla is a mixture of eggs and potatoes molded into a cake shape. IT IS DELICIOUS! During my stay in Bilbao I had 3 types of tortilla and my palate never got bored.
In Spain, the biggest meal is dinner. Dinner cuisine in Spain is also what Americans would consider breakfast, like eggs, potato, and pancakes. The food culture in Spain is all about eating small portions throughout the day. This is why the siesta is so important, and this is when you take advantage and try all the different pinxtos available. Spain and Rome both have a huge food culture, and it was interesting comparing the two. In Rome, meals are a ritual and they seem to dictate how people organize their day. In Spain, food is more casual but still expected to be a respected time of relaxation and camaraderie.
As you can probably tell, food was a huge part of this trip. Of course, we went clubbing and to bars, but the quality time we shared with each other was over our meals. From ox tail, to payata, and Spanish wine, our appetites lead this trip. I loved coming to a place where I had a friend to guide me. Ailyn knew what to get and where to get it! Her friends also helped us find some really tasty places, where drinks were also incredibly good. The vodka lemonade in Spain is served in something like a goblet, so I have no reason to complain when its only 2 euros.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be abroad in England, and I am truly blessed to have the ability to travel throughout Europe. Thank you to my travel buddies, to Ailyn for leading us, and to the good vibes and good friends I have everywhere that continue to help me do great things like this.
Like Julius Ceaser once said, "Veni, Vidi, Vici," I too had a quick victory here in Rome, Italy. Food, art, and architecture are all staples of Italian culture, and lucky for me I had friends with a free weekend and an empty couch!
This is my third trip while abroad, including London and Cambridge, but I consider this my first major trip. While my time here was short, my weekend was full of great food, gorgeous landmarks, and enough walking to shave off all the pasta and pastries I had to try. I left Norwich, England on Saturday morning and spent the majority of the day whipping around the U.K. to get to the Gatwick airport. Honestly, I was so tired when I landed in Rome Fiumicunio. Can you imagine how shook I was when I got out of the airport to realize the taxi driver I ordered didn't speak any English?! Spanish couldn't cut it.
If it wasn't for Shantell, Eliza, Madi, or Mikaela I couldn't even be here! I owe them so much for letting me stay with them, and for showing me a Roma good time. When I arrived to the girl's apartment it was so surreal. Shantell ran down to get me and said it; "You're in Rome."
It was nearly 11 PM when I settled in, and the night was young! While the girls organized our night, I wasted no time in changing and downing the cheap vodka I found on the kitchen table. Remember, when in Rome!
The night started with us arriving at a local bar, G Bar, and having the "Saturday Special." That meant two cocktails and two shots for 10 euro. I got the sense that a night out in Rome consists of bar crawls and constant claustrophobia. The bars here are very "cozy" and when you commit to getting a drink, you commit to standing there as long as it takes! Even if the queue is a 30 min wait. Walking to the next location, the club Sharivari, was a real mission. In Rome, it is all cobble all the time, and I had to make sure I didn't twist my ankle. I know it may sound like I'm vilifying this place, I swear I am not!
When we got to Sharivari I was beyond excited. The club looked like an exclusive venue, and everyone was dressed to a T. I was way underdressed.
The night went on like any night would, but only a lot more Italian. When I would pay attention to the music I realized it was different from any club music I had heard before. In America it's about pop, in the U.K. you got grime, but here it was very eclectic. One minute it was Calvin Harris and the next an Italian song I had never heard of. Definitely, if you have the chance to go out a night in Rome it's worth a try. The social scene here is it's own standard.
When we finally got home, I got some pasta and head to bed. Sunday was my tourist day, and I wanted to make sure I was ready.
Sunday afternoon I left the apartment and Shantel was my guide. I told her to take me to the most iconic places, and we wasted no time. We head to the Coliseum first. When I say I was in awe, I mean I couldn't speak for a good minute! I was in front of one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It was all stone, giant, and just gorgeous. After a lunch break, we preceded to head to the Pantheon.
Rome reminded me of London in the sense that getting to monuments was fairly easy. Most of the spots were close to each other. But each spot had its own aura. Where the Coliseum was open and grand, the Pantheon was in an alley. It was more secluded and it felt more intimate. People would stand in front of it an take in its beauty. Honestly, art history paid off because that is how I heard about this edifice.
Shantel was most excited to take me to the Trevi Fountain. I wanted to save this for the end, because I knew I would spend the most time there. When we got to the fountain I finally had my Lizzie McGuire moment!
The fountain was gorgeous and it felt magic! People stood near it with their partners, family, and some people went alone. Everyone was appreciating the presence of the grand sculptures, and getting their coins ready to toss in.
As Shantel explained to me, you turn around and toss the coin from the right hand over the left shoulder. The myth is that if you do this then you will return to Rome. I hope the myth is right because this weekend was just not enough!
If you had asked me 3 years ago what I would be doing, I would not have said studying in the U.K., and I never would have guessed going to Rome! I got to speak to the girls and we all shared the same sentiment. We could not believe that we were actually in Italy, let alone Rome. Rome is an ancient city that preserves its history. I could tell that Rome was the real deal, and it requires an appreciation for the culture.
A weekend was not enough time for Rome. But it was a good start!
Coming home to L.A. means a lot of things, and one of those is finally using my full taste palette. Back at school, the only recipes that impress my tongue are those that use buffalo chicken. But, you can only stomach buffalo chicken quesadillas, buffalo chicken pizza, or buffalo burgers for so long before it becomes bland. I must of course mention my mentor Stacey Pierce, a woman whose kitchen is the gateway to all things scrumptious.
When the holiday season sits on the horizon, we Latin families prepare to feast! The best part of this culinary cornucopia is that it's shared. From the day I landed, neighbors, friends, and family stop by to say hello and they leave a delicious present. From tamales, to menudo, to carne asada, champurado and so many more, there are enough left overs until past the new year!
One of my favorite dishes, and one that I anticipate, is my grandma's homemade pozole! Pozole is a traditional Mexican stew that consists of hominiy, pork, and it can be seasoned with various vegetables. It's a dish that is saved for celebrations like birthdays, baptisms, Quinceneras, and many more important days to the Mexican culture. Hispanics and Latinos have adopted this plate and there exists dozens, probably even hundreds, of recepies for making this stew. The reciepe that I will be writing about is how my grandma makes her red pozole.
What you need:
Let's Get Started
The first step is that she grabs her chilles, and takes off the top and removes all the seeds from the inside. She then grabs all the seedless dried chilles and boils them until they are soft. The water should also start getting a red color.
While the chille is boiling she also begins to start boiling the pork all together. In this batch she tosses in the garlic cloves, the whole onion (I know I asked her 3 times if it was the whole thing), and the Knorr cubes. This boils for 40-45minutes, make sure to move every so often.
Drain the pot and place the soft boiled chiles into a blender. While the chille is blending, she puts down 3 tortillas on the stove top to warm them up. Right when they are crunchy, break up the tortillas and toss them into the mix. My grandma prefers to use her Nutribullet, and it's the cutest thing ever.
When the chille and tortillas are all blended as best as they can be, strain the mixture. My grandma has explained to me that time varies since meat always cooks differently. Toss the strained, soon to be stew, into the boiling meat. This is the same time she tosses in the hominy.
In the giant cauldron, so big she needs a little step stool to stir it, sits the boiling meat, the blended chille and tortillas, and she sprinkles in 3 teaspoons of grounf oregano. She lets the pork continue to boil and tosses in the tablespoon of salt, each time tasting to find the right balance.
She continues to stir and let the pork, accompanied by its seasoning squad, boil adding up to a total of nearly 2 hours boiling. Before the chille and all that was tossed in, the pork was already boiling for 40 minutes remember. As the meat becomes tender and the water becomes red, and once again nearly 2 hours has passes since she began boiling the pork, she turns the stove off. I asked her what heat level she boils at and she said high, because of the volume of the produce she's using is so high.
The last step to serving any pozole is the toppings! She cops up onions, radish, and cabbage to garnish the pozole once it's done.
The realy beauty of this dish is how even as my family and I obssessed with digesting the media around us, we pause as converge at the table to dine on my grandma's stew. I grew up knowing of Latin and Hispanic traditions, but I never got them all. My Spanish has dissipated the more time I spent at school. And I have never been to El Salvador. But this dish is an invitation to my Latin roots. It's a way for me to connect with the culture I am a part of of, and also writing this post is a way of me preserving that culture.
In order to write this post I set time aside to sit with my grandma and listen to her. Listening is the skill that every professor, employer, etc, talks about as being crucial to success and I believe it. Millenials were glued to the screens around us. I once went a weekend without my phone, and instead of breaking free I lugged around my iPad.
Sitting across from her and asking my grandma questions is more important than replying to my Snaps or texts because this is a woman who for the past 19 years has nurtured me and continues to. Making this post is important to me because it helps me get closer to my culture and it is also a piece that captures the love I have for my grandma. I leave soon and wish I had more time at home, but at least I have this moment with my grandma.
Anyone who knows me, or knows of me, can detail my passion for Starbucks. The funny thing is I hardly ever order Starbucks signature coffee. My vice is the chain's teas and refreshers. I know it doesn't make sense. We can talk about that later.
What I think is more interesting is the drinks I order. Being such a loyal customer my palette is numb to the typical menu drinks. I'm no Da Vinci in the art of mixing or being a barista, but these mixes have produced some, "That was good!" from my friends.
My Mixes (I always order a Venti btw)
These aren't as revolutionary as the summer of the rainbow drinks, but they sure are delicious! Let me know if you have any mixes you have so I can add them to my list and to my Gram posts!
When ever I come home to Los Angeles I notice change. The city's edifices do not shift, they can't, but each time the enviorment is different. Shops close, business open, musuems acquire art exhibits, and my friends and family continue growing.
Being away does suck, but the positive spin I place on my story is that I'm more eager to adventure when I return. Being in Upstate New York has served as a catalyst for my pride in being an Angel native. When I'm asked, "Wow how did you come hear?" I respond with my script about winning the Posse scholarship. Every time I'm smiling more as I recognize that L.A. is not a dream but my reality. Each break, I make a bucket list inspired by Buzzfeed videos and listicles about the top tourist attractions in SoCal. One of my favorite aspects about living in California is the sheer volume of areas to explore. This break is short, only 3 weeks, and so I've tried to cross off a few more points off from my list.
I am thankful for my friend Rachel, pictured in the right, and her nomadic spirit. She is our group's navigator and every time we hop in the car we end up somewhere new. On Tuesday, I asked her to take me wherever she liked. She texted back with, 'Be ready at 10 we'll take the train.' I had to haul ass when I awoke to see the crimson digits on my table display 9:55. We missed the train, but we managed to ger breakfast. After an hour ride we arrived in the Los Angeles Arts District.
The caffe is called Urth Cafe, and as you can imagine I had never been here before. Besides the food looking for Instagram it was delicious. It was organic, locally grown, and all those other labels west coasters slap onto our food to make us look boougie. After the last slice we went looking for the famous wings.
These are wings painted by Colette Miller as part of her Global Wings Project, created to "remind humanity that we are Angels on this Earth." The wings are painted throughout SoCal and Miller has gone as far as to paint some abroad.
We found 3 sets of wings and each discovery ingnited a photoshoot. We continued to stroll throughout the streets discovering art that intrigued and inspired.
The night ended with Rachel, Adriana, and I watching La La Land and crying.
I think the biggest gem found this day is the fact that L.A. is the city where dozens come to dream. Unlike Breakfast at Tiffany's though the ending is not a happy one. La La Land ends with the starcrossed lovers in seperate lanes, not kissing in the rain. You don't come to L.A. for love, you come here to fight.