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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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St. Louis – Back to the South

Apparently there is a debate across our country on whether St. Louis is really Southern. From my experiences it is – though my thoughts on whether a place is Southern or not is largely culinary based. Do they brew the sugar in the tea or do they stir it in after the fact when you order? I can taste a difference! Do they traditionally have their own distinct style of BBQ (Pulled Pork Carolina Mustard Style, Texas Cut Brisket, ect.) I grew up sticking my head out the school bus window to smell that savory smoke billowing out the front screen of BC’s BBQ – the pride and joy of all the Yalaha, Florida locals. I’d smell it down the road on Saturdays and hear the vroom of  biker groups speeding by on their pilgrimage. We had to stop by grab the meat, a coke from the long wall cooler and a mini sweet potato pie at the cash register. I later worked at Sonny’s serving up the good stuff – smelling of sweet sauce. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some authentic St. Louis style ribs!

I was directed to this place called Pappy’s by my Couchsurfing host Mark. I was fortunate to have a spare bedroom in the apartment of my freshly college graduated and surprisingly platonic roommates Mark and Laura. I was told to go to Pappy’s at an odd time of the day, because it is always packed. I headed over at around 2:30. There was a line out the door, but the BBQ was worth the wait! Ohh… it was some good stuff!

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Laramie and the Landlords

I made it to Laramie and decided to check out the Wyoming Territorial State Prison. Laramie is a small college town and there isn’t a whole lot to do there, but there is the prison. I was actually really happy I checked it out! There are a ton of cool old buildings on the site and the audio tour is very informative. Some outlaws make infamous by western movies (such as Butch Cassidy) were incarcerated there and the truth was normally not quite as exciting as the legends. The prison ran a broom factory on site and part of the prison had been used by the university at one point, so not only could you learn about prison life, but you could also find out about farming and old-fashioned broom making.

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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

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