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Category Archives: Music

Bellinzona and Valle Verzasca – Pinterest Success!

pinterest-valle-verzascaIn Como, I made up my mind that I was going to try to find this swimming hole that I had pinned on Pinterest that mapped out as pretty close by. Pinterest has a new mapping feature, which is pretty cool if you’re traveling! So I used the hostel wifi at breakfast to pull up Google Maps and see what the transportation situation was like. I found out that while this place wasn’t very far away, I was going to need to change trains in this town called Bellinzona and because I would likely be getting in mid-day, I would need accommodations for the night.

Researching Bellinzona I found out that it actually is a UNSECO World Heritage Site with three castles! Pretty awesome! So I packed up my backpack (which was extra small as I had left my backpacking one in Milan and was traveling with a school sized backpack… yeah, I wore the same clothes over and over… but it’s good to travel light), booked my hostel and I walked to the Como train station. Well, first I walked to the wrong train station, but they straightened me up over there. Because I walked to the wrong station, I missed the first train and spent the majority of the afternoon hanging out at the train station.

I point this out because people think that traveling or vacation is all glamourous and pleasant all the time. Yes, it is wonderful, but part of the reason why I’ve seen so many amazing things is because I’ve been ok to eat PB&J, stay in and work, sleep in my car, accidentally go to the wrong place, hurry up and wait, wear the same thing over and over, ride long distances.

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Seeing Seattle

I booked a bed at the local American Hotel HI in the Asian side of Seattle. Being the friendly hostel veteran that I am, I quickly made friends with another solo traveler – a really sweet girl from Uruguay who was traversing the U.S. after her study abroad. We checked out a local noodle shop and then walked to the harbor. Next door to the hostel was also a dessert shop. It was so colorful that you just had to walk in. The shelves were lined with beautifully decorated cake slices of every flavor. The menu also included every kind of Boba Tea you could imagine.

 

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When Yosemite is Your Yard

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The roads from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite wind around and around. I’m not used to mountain driving, but it doesn’t really scare me. You just stay on the road. The height doesn’t really worry me too much, because I keep my eyes on the road. Paying attention is probably the most helpful thing one can do in mountain driving where staying on the road becomes even more important than it is on flat land.

I was happy to rest in Angel’s Camp for a while. A cute little town, I loved how they had clothes hanging over the street. It reminded me of shoes that hang above Spectre in Big Fish. Signs were in every window for the upcoming Culaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee. Apparently Angel’s Camp’s claim to fame is that Mark Twain published a story about a frog from there.

I didn’t really have a place to stay planned out for Yosemite. I thought I’d find a camping spot either inside the park or somewhere nearby. I had heard rumors about maybe some nearby BLM camping. I was caught off guard though when I found out that all the campgrounds in Yosemite were filled to capacity and that there wasn’t any BLM land nearby. I decided the smart thing to do would to be to stop and rent a bear can at least, so if I did make some last-minute camping arrangements than I wouldn’t have to worry about my car being broken into.

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Music and Austin Manor

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I really miss Bill and Morgan, but especially Bill. After my first week in Austin, I drove out to the country to Couchsurf with Bill in Manor, TX (pronounced Mainer) I really didn’t know what to expect as I drove out of the city and across wide-open fields divided by barb-wire and giant rural electric towers. Bill said he had two Couchsurfers stay with him for over a year and I wouldn’t want to leave. I turned down one cracked country road to another, until I ended up on the dirt.

In a gravel drive I walk up among trees and weeds to what looks like a very tall mix between a house and a sculpture. I am greeted by a short, round man with white hair and I follow along the warped pavers. We enter an antique door into a formal dining room. Hanging on the walls and propped up on the floor are oil paintings, mostly nudes. Bill is quite the artist and gourmet chief. “Is this house historic?” I ask. “Oh, no I built it myself about fifteen years ago. I was going for 1890s.” “Oh, you seemed to achieved that well.” Yes, I was very throughout in keeping to the time period.” “Did you use reclaimed wood?” “Let me show you around.”

I walk upstairs to gaze out of the bathroom windows. Windows wrap around half of the bathroom. A claw-foot tub shines brightly as the sun streaks over it onto the wood floors. My room is up the third set of stairs. An air mattress has been set up in the middle of the room. Windows and unfinished art work surrounds me. I an eagle in a nest also known as the artist studio.

I spent two happy weeks walking around the 25 acre land co-op in Manor, cooking dinner with Bill and Morgan, a girl who lives in his guest house. Bill makes everything from scratch. I got to learn how to make pizza and Shrimp Diablo. It was so cozy, our family eating around the dining room table when Morgan came home from work. No wonder his guest don’t want to leave.

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HI Austin

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SXSW

SXSW

My first week in Austin, I stayed at the Hostel International. It was jammed packed for SXSW. I think I reserved the last spot available 3 months earlier. The place was filled with developers from all over for interactive and Australians for film. The hostel is located right on the Colorado River and you can sit outside on picnic tables and hang out by this dock. The weather was perfect!

My first day in Austin, I offered a ride to this Chinese-American user-interface developer from San Francisco (Robin), who was also staying at the hostel. He needed to stop by the Car-To-Go rental place to get his key and I was having a ridiculous taco craving. We ended up meandering through this very hilly neighborhood with adorable houses and I tried to figure out with all the one-way streets how to get to the car rental store. I ended up just parking on a side street and walking to this place Tacos and Tequila. He wanted to treat me since I drove him and I’m not really one to turn down being treated. The tacos were amazing. They had three different ones offered for happy hour with a toppings bar. The brisket was the best. We sat at the bar sampling tacos and mixed drinks. After the restaurant we

Don's Depot

Don’s Depot

decided to catch a bus and check out downtown. For some reason Robin decided to start treating me all girlfriendy, but I didn’t really care. He was a sweet guy to escort me around with his hand on the small of my back and lend me his jacket.  When we walked back to my car, we were surprised to find a happening neighborhood bar right next to where I parked. We hung out in Donn’s Depot for a while for a bit of authentic Texas entertainment. Located inside an old train car, it was filled with older people two-stepping to the band… and the band played a mean harmonica. Read the rest of this entry

Steer Shows and Pot Holes

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Chuck Wagon Race

Chuck Wagon Race

The beginning of March, I stayed in Houston with my sorority sister, Amandine. She is a graduate student at a university there. On Thursday night I arrived just in time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Three other girls were at the apartment waiting on me. A car and then a train later, we were scouting out fair food. Between the four of us there were giant baked potatoes, a foot-long corn dog, a turkey leg, over a dozen fried Oreos and… fancy metal flasks.

I never realized that a rodeo contained so many different events. We played a ridiculous game of telephone in the bleachers as cowboys and a few barrel racing cowgirls roped, wrangled and rode in the dirt far below. The highlight of the night was the Mutton Bustin’ competition, where five year-olds are padded up and sent off riding lambs. A little guy named Brody won. They presented him with a man-sized belt buckle and asked him what was the secret to winning. He responded with a southern twang, “You just gotta keep you’re head down and hold on.” Read the rest of this entry

The Good Kind of Grungy

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2013-02-23_23-00-16_289Last week, I arrived in NOLA. Luckily because of the time change I arrived on time, instead of an hour late. I wandered up and down Frenchman Street, while waiting to catch up with my host. I read in a guide somewhere that the locals have their own style. For what I’ve seen it varies from hipster to turn of the century Carny. A friendly Tarot card reader let me know ahead of time about a fire show in the parking lot behind his table. Until the show I hung around Frenchmen Art Market, which had plenty of interesting wares. I spent most of my time at the booth of an independent filmmaker listening to stories about train hopping and the hobo life-style in the documentary Cure for the Crash. The fire show ended up being pretty amazing too.

Afterwards I walked to the Hi Ho Lounge, where my Couchsurfing host, Brody was planning to attend a  XXYYXX concert. The show was sold out and packed out! Luckily, with a mix of buying a ticket off a bystander and knowing the right people we were able to get in. Read the rest of this entry