TRAVELS AND TRAVAILS

rominakarla, 22
MNL - LAX - SFO - CDG
LAST: BCN

A msterdamn

A few pictures below from my Amsterdam trip on the second to last week of March. When traveling in the northern part of Europe, I’ve come to the realization that the weather is terrible no matter where you go in February and March. It was a bit sunnier, so I can’t complain. Amsterdam is one of the best cities I’ve visited and I can’t compare it to anything thing thus far.

I try and go to the markets every time I travel to a new city. It’s one thing to eat the local cuisine (FUN FACT: Indonesian food is big in Amsterdamn!) but it’s another thing to taste and the eat local produce wherever you may be. I’ve never seen so much cheese in one place (and delicious too!) Often times in the US, I get so caught up in the convenience of having a Safeway or some other grocery store close by that, I forget there’s such thing as a local market! I definitely recommend the Noordermarkt and the  Singel flower market in Amsterdam.

I can’t sum up my Amsterdam experience without talking about the Red Light District and THAT was an experience in itself. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but the legality of prostitution (and marijuana) in that city was both appalling and mind-blowing (in a good way). You can definitely see the culture difference once you reach the streets of that neighborhood. Imagine the store display of a clothing store. Now replace the mannequins with real life girls. I’ve never stepped foot in a strip club but after that night, I might as well say that I have. Let’s just say that In my mind, “The Strip” is no longer in Las Vegas.

Off to Disneyland on Tuesday to get some of my innocence back! So excited! (:

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Waffles, Fries, Beer, Repeat.

Did you know that french fries aren’t French? They originated from Belgium… which is where I was this past weekend! Despite the terrible weather (cold and wet!), I had a pleasant time for the 2 days I was there. I convinced my friend Manuel to sign up for an Erasmus trip with me a couple of weeks ago since I didn’t want to go by myself. I wanted to do as much traveling as I could while I’m here so I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to do so especially since it was a reasonable price.

We left Paris by bus on a Saturday, with other students from different universities, and headed to Brussels. Belgium (as I heard) is well known for a couple things: chocolate, waffles, fries, and beer. First things first, I’m not exactly a fan of beer but a friend of mine was convinced that Belgian beer would change my mind. Doubted it but what was the harm in trying?

The waffles, chocolates, and fries were absolutely amazing. I never knew that fries would taste so good with mayo! And the waffles, don’t get me started. Crunchy outside, fluffy inside, topped with melted chocolate; it was heaven. The Atomium, the Grand-Place, the Manneken-Pis, and other touristy things aside— the food was the best part. That is, until night time fell and we came out to play.

The night life in Brussels, was nothing like I imagined. We went to one of the most famous bars called Delirium and they had more than 2,000 different types of beer. It was packed but still surprisingly enjoyable. Knowing my aversion to beer, a new found friend recommended Kasteel Rouge. Loved it. It was probably because it tasted nothing like beer to me; just a glass of cherry aromas and flavor. There was another one that I liked, but can’t remember the name of. It was a type of blanche beer and it almost tasted like jasmine tea. It was like drinking flowers, if that makes any sense. After that, we decided to go to a club, drank more and danced the night away. I honestly don’t even know how I managed to walk all the way back to the hostel in that weather.

We headed to Antwerp the next morning and since it was Sunday, a lot of the shops were closed. The weather was still terrible but despite all of that, Antwerp was more beautiful to me than Brussels in my opinion. A lot cleaner and just overall more pleasing to my eye. I really wanted to visit the Musee de la Mode but it was closed so instead we visited the Rubenshuis (Ruben’s house) which was literally a house museum. I’ve never been to one before but the artwork, the house itself, the garden.. it was a sight to see.

It was overall a great weekend and, if my budget permits, would definitely go back without hesitation! (:

Brussels, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium 

Paris Fashion Week 2013

I can’t believe this week is almost over. I am still in awe about the recent events that have happened these past couple of days. I’ve always admired the high fashion industry but never really saw it as something I would be closely involved with, mainly because of how exclusive and "out of my league" it feels most of the time. Being in Paris, however, during Fashion Week has made me realize that I may never be back here again during this time so I went out and decided to see what it’s like to be on the outside looking in— just a tad bit closer.

Having no invitations to any of the shows, I only expected to catch glimpses of these shows. I dragged a friend of mine on Sunday to see Chloé which is one of my absolute favorites. Long story short, I completely missed that. I met up with a couple of friends to see Valentino on Tuesday, and missed that too since I’m late to everything. I went to the McQueen show right after and expected nothing to come out of it since I’ve been so unlucky thus far. The show went longer than expected but definitely worth the wait since I saw André Leon Talley, Frida Gustavsson, and even met Karlie Kloss!  I couldn’t believe it. Karlie Kloss has been one of my favorite models since she first came out on Teen Vogue back in 2007. I usually never get starstruck but that definitely hit me. Hard.

Today was the last day of PFW and I decided to try again and see the last two shows after class. I rushed to see the Elie Saab show and once again, got there right as everything ended. I went on a limb to see Lie Sang Bong which was the very last show on the list and conveniently enough, really close to my apartment. I was only going to wait until the show ended but got really lucky as they were letting a few people in without invitations. It all happened so fast and it was such an amazing experience. I’m actually a little sad that it’s over now but I feel very blessed with the opportunity. See pictures below!

Lie Sang Bong RTW 2013

THIS WEEK’S TRAVAILS

Failing and heaving, ladies and gentlemen.

I failed the first thing I was ever graded on. I could sit here and make excuses and say that “I just switched classes and was a week behind” or that “the questions were vague.” Truth be told, those are valid excuses but in reality I didn’t even know I was taking a quiz at the time I was working on it. I might have missed that memo right before the teacher handed it out. After all, she is speaking French for 4 hours straight and though I may understand what she’s saying most of the time, clearly I don’t catch everything. On top of that she did tell us to review that topic, yet I chose to interpret that as recommended rather than required. 9.5 out of 20. Apparently that’s considered a C- so maybe it’s not so bad. 

I vomited the first night I went out in the city. The weird part is that all I had to drink were 3 tiny glasses of white wine. My friends had a wine party in their apartment and by the time we headed out to the bars, I was so nauseated I couldn’t even get myself to order a drink or take the free shot I was given. Talk about a face palm the whole night. My housemate ended up taking me home and I managed to hold it all in until that glass of water he made me drink. Sigh. I realized that the last time I vomited, I also drank white wine. Perhaps it just doesn’t sit well with my stomach. Then again it could just be the fact that I drank too fast. That’s probably it.

15 weeks left. Let’s hope I get better at this.

My favorite shot at Pont Alexandre III on the way to Musée d’Orsay.

My favorite shot at Pont Alexandre III on the way to Musée d’Orsay.

La Tour Eiffel (Finally! I waited long enough.)

La Tour Eiffel (Finally! I waited long enough.)

First Week. DONE.

There are many things that I realized after conquering my first week of school. The biggest one being that I can actually understand what my teachers are saying. It’s been 3 or 4 years since I took a French language course and I was afraid that I would have difficulties with it since those courses were taught in English. I have 22 hours of school per week. 18 of those hours are taught in French. It turns out that I remember a lot more than I thought, which is why they changed my classes and moved me up a level. I guess that’s a good thing for my minor when I come back to USF. I’m just worried that this may bite me in the derrière and make school harder than it has to be.

The other thing I realized is that speaking French is not my strongest suit. I may be able to understand what the teacher is saying and what she wants me to do but once she asks me to respond to her question, I stumble at putting my words together. Grammar exercises? Writing? Dictation? No problem. Oral expression? C’est une problème. It’s ironic because I could care less if I read or wrote in French. One of the things I wanted to accomplish in Paris was to be able to speak fluently. I mean it’s only the first week right? 16 weeks left. Wish me luck!

These were some of the best meals I had in Madrid. I should mention that I was pescetarian for 6 months in the US prior to my trip in Europe. I still am for the most part but I started eating chicken and beef again so I don’t miss out on any foods that I may or may not ever eat again. So, from top to bottom:

Aliño in Malasaña: Cuscús Ensalada and Pollo al Curry
El Tigre in Gran Via: Kalimotxos (cocavino), Mojitos, and Tapas
Caffé del Arte in Malasaña: Milanesa del Pollo and Salmón Ahumados con Guacamole for tapas and a Brava Hamburguesa

Last but not least, Churros con Chocolate! I don’t remember what the restaurant is called but I got these in Puerta del Sol right before my flight back to Paris. Apparently you can’t go to Madrid and not have these babies so it was the perfect way to end my trip in Madrid!

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Mercado de San Miguel in Plaza Mayor, Madrid.

Puerta del Sol, Madrid