Corazon, amorcito, por favor

This is a free of structure post where a song, the rain and well-placed candles make it happen all together. Where I don’t think about the constant rainstorms and thunderstorms I’ve been biking through in the last day, where it doesn’t matter I sleep 9 hours a night with no visible benefits on my mind and body but on the dark circles on my face. Where it’s ok I haven’t done laundry yet or finally framed those photos waiting for me there. I wonder where should I hang out my Christmas light, eh?

It’s also a post where there’s freedom to think about next week and next month, about where we’ll all be in a year, about popping out babies and engagement photos, about random walks in the middle in the night, about writing a book and having no idea where to start. You know, the kind of post that makes no sense but you but all your bits and pieces together and hoping they will form a puzzle.

 

Analfabetizarea Madalinei

Sa ma iertati, va rog.

Cand va vorbesc ciudat in expresii care nu au sens in romana, cand stau in telefon cate 20 sec si ma incapatanesc sa gasesc cuvantul “dulap”, cand trantesc cate un cuvant in engleza la fiecare 3 romanesti.

Cand va intreb “are you ok?” in loc de esti bine si va zic “see you later” in loc de “ne vedem mai tarziu, pastram legatura”.

E cel putin la fel de frustrant pentru noi, cei care ne pierdem fluenta in limba materna precum pentru cei care ne asculta si mustacesc prieteneste in fata amalgamului de cuvinte si expresii ce nu-si au locul impreuna. Imi vine cateodata sa-mi iau campii cu tot cu engleza mea cu tot, cu toate cuvintele pe care nu le gasesc, sa le iau pe toate si sa ma duc in padure.

Vorba alor mei, “quatro mici con mustari”, chiar uitam de unde venim sau ne maimutarim pentru un efect mai interesant?

N-am uitat, m-am adaptat, m-am integrat si n-am exersat.

Nu mi-o luati in lume de rau, nici mie si nici altora ca mine, traim in aceeasi lume, dar in alta limba. Vorbesc romaneste cu ai mei, scriu romaneste cu prietenii de acasa, dar atat m-am adaptat de-a lungul anilor incat gandesc romaneste prea rar, aproape deloc. Ma ajuta in viata de zi cu zi, mi-a iutit gandul in sendinte, imi fac prieteni rapid, sunt fluenta in sarcasm si mistouri in alte limbi, dar pe cat de adaptata sunt prin alta parti, pe atat de alienata ma simt cand vorbesc si sunt acasa.

Dati-ne timp sa ne readaptam la propria cultura si contextul de acasa, e o provocare continua sa nu te gasesti pe tine in limba in care te-ai nascut si crescut si sunt putine lucruri mai ciudate decat sa nu-i poti spune bunicii ce faci coerent si corect.

Si ca un exercitiu, “sa va aduc un zambet pe fata”, alegeti-va o limba si simulati o zi ca un expat: ganditi, vorbiti, scrieti. Intrebati-va la sfarsit de zi cum a fost, iar daca vreti sa vorbiti despre asta, imi puteti mereu spune, voi intelege.

5 Myths about Greece and Greeks

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I’ve had some wrong ideas about Greece, particularly Athens before I went there. I heard so many times that the Greeks are lazy that it stuck to my head even if I didn’t actively believe. I expected a poor and deserted city, somewhat of a shadow of the beautiful photos on Google. I though men are strong-headed and machos and are women are tough ladies with beautiful hair – well, that part is true.

I was ready for 20 degrees Celsius but got 10 min of snow and a blue sky in the cold weather. Here’s Athens debunked for those who can’t wait to go there and have no idea where to start their research about it:

  1. Greek people are lazy – False

They work the most hours compared to all the European countries. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re 100% efficient but it does mean they’re determined and eager to succeed. Gotta love the Norwegians and Dutchies for the work efficiency though.

  1. Greek people love food – OMG YES, true

Such a passion for food, it’s contagious. I must’ve gained 2 kilos in 4-5 days but mind you, I do eat for a living. The feta, the salads, the meat, the souvlaki, the sweets, the olive oil and the olives – try them all at any given point. Combined with ouzo which I’ve never enjoyed before but kinda didn’t hate now and racomelo which is my fav liquor (think rakia with hot honey, yum!), you’ll end up tasting a good chunk of what the Greek cuisine has to offer in Athens. Don’t miss out on the Greek coffee, which could also be Turkish coffee and also happens to be the way we make coffee in my family – we do live in a small world – loved the thickness and coziness of small black coffee after dinner.

  1. Athens is all ruins and tourists – False

Okay, fine, it was off-season and I can imagine how it’s packed in the summer, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the cool, underground places. Here’s a few hints:

  • TAFF is super close to the Monastiraki metro station and it’s hipster café that becomes an open space in the summer and hosts some exhibition throughout the year.
  • Six dogs is a similar place, also somehow carved in stone with access to a higher level terrace in the summer
  • Socrates is your casual smoky whiskey jazz bar close enough to Sintagma Square
  • Lotte is your grandma’s vintage stuff all rolled into a vintage fancy bar with cocktails running from 9 euros, super cute.
  • The entire area of Plaka, we stopped at a place called Jasmine which has a mean cheese pie I absolutely fell for.
  1. Athens is cheap – Almost false

I definitely did not expect to pay 4 euros for a latte in an area that did not look fancy. But there seems to be a logic to it – When Greeks go for a coffee they spend 2-3 hours in a place, so the prices are higher to cover the slower guest turnover. So you know, take your time. We’ve paid 4,5 for a beer but also found places where a beer was 2,5. And there’s always the 2 euros souvlaki to fall on if you’re on a budget. Transportation is affordable with 10 euros for a 5 days ticket and taxis being very affordable as well. Restaurants seemed to charge anything between 8 and 25 euros for a main course with hidden places where wine could be 3 euros/0,5 l. I wouldn’t be surprised if prices went up in the summer. Gotta pick your battles.

  1. Greeks are welcoming – very true

Smile and you’ll make friends, they treat their guests as kings and queens and are happy to open their houses to people.

Other random things I learned about Athenians, Greece and Athens include a pro-refugee attitude, a anti-argument rebellion because of previous bad decisions that screwed up the country, a love for their own country that includes the need to keep their people close, the sun closer and the sense of freedom deep in their hearts.

My favorite discovery is that people are doing well, they’re working or looking for jobs, they’re striving to get ahead, the bars and restaurants are full of locals and there’s hope to just end this bad few years already. The capital control is there to handle the cash flow and things are moving forward.

I’ve been told a gazillion time I need to go back in the summer and that the islands are nothing short of paradise so there, I’ve put it on the list.

Share away, what else was a surprise in Athens for you?

Why Venice is beautiful in January

Venice in a photo

I’m not gonna lie, it’s gonna be miserable weather. It might rain, it’s gonna be cold and humid, oh, so humid. Your hair will be all frizzy and your shoes will get wet. But it’s gonna be lovely in a very different way.

When I was doing my research on Venice, reviews were not very encouraging and I couldn’t tell how busy the island is gonna be. So I ended up booking an airbnb right on the island (got a whole appartment worth 250 euros/night for a mere 35 euros/night/2 people because the listing didn’t have any reviews*, yay!) and left the rest for when I got there. Completely worth it!

*you can get 25 dollars off your first airbnb booking by using this link)

Venice in a photo

Getting there

Italian trains are expensive – think 50 euros for a 2 hours train ride – so Blablacar worked wonders for this trip. That’s just because I got lazy and didn’t book anything in advance. Once we got to Mestre, the connection to Venice is an easy-going local bus worth 1,5 euros/trip.

Went completely unprepared in my converse and leggings and paid continuously for underestimating Italy in the wintertime – that’s how cold and windy it was in the evening.

Stay on the island

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Completely worth it for the late nights when nobody is on the street. Others mentioned it’s the same for the early mornings, but let’s face it, I’ll just never be a morning person. You can go from the the north of the island all the way to the south in about 30-40 min walking – you might as well get used to the idea you’re gonna get lost. I always suggest you keep you GPS on for when things get frustrating, otherwise have fun discovering the bridges and seeing where all the small streets take you to.

Main attractions

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Skip the gondola trip thing and just cross the canal like the locals by getting on a gondola with others, stand for 30 sec and bam, you’re on the other side. Go to the San Marco square at night, it’s empty and beautifully lit, visit earlier in the day if you need to,  I loved it on the outside, the inside was way too commercially presented for me to actually appreciate it.

Do an off-the-beaten track tour, I chose Venice Free Tour  and had a blast. Don’t forget to tip your guide, save on the other stuff and show your appreciation to the locals.

Also, there’s an extensive list of beautiful churches to see. I mean, really, they are impressive to look at. Here’s a top 10: Famous churches in Venice

San Marco at night

Eating and drinking

Don’t eat on the main street – don’t be that tourist. Really, just don’t.

Wander around and enter anything that doesn’t look fancy, you know, build up your appetite by searching for the right place for you. My founds include Paradiso Perduto and Ruga Rialto – I can’t praise enough this place that simply made me fall in love with its atmosphere and its 1 euro glass of house wine. Erm, multiple glasses.

To consider:

– cold, it’s gonna be cold, so cold, bring layers

aqua alta: “high waters” – it happens when the tide is too high and it can get up some serious water on the streets, most likely between Sept and April. Laugh it up if it happens, the locals are used to it, the city just carries on like usual

– you might need to have more warm-up breaks, don’t stress over not seeing and doing enough

– Venice is not an amusement park, people do live here, find them, talk to them, learn about their lives

Enjoy the views, please drop the selfie sticks and if you go in the season, please share your impressions afterwards. I concluded I couldn’t take Venice in full-on tourist season, but the miserable weather Venice suited me very well. Arivederci!

Today’s joys

package

…come from getting a goodie pack from home. And while I can’t really eat the amount of pork, beef and extra pork sent I realized that it just makes me nostalgic because it smells like home. Smoked ham, zacuscă, cured meats and homemade sausages – all of that smells like home. I’ve never had it before. Add the cozonac smell and you have yourself a non-foodie happy woman with a full fridge to last her the next 3 months.

 

A long weekend in Marseille

South of France sounds exotic, laid back and fun. So I booked a flight (Eindhoven-Marseille, 55 euros, FTW) and didn’t check a thing before I took off cause I imagined a beachy weekend to work on my tan, full of good food and chill people. Didn’t really go as planned as I ended up being super active and sporty, spent only one afternoon on the beach and had mostly fruits to eat as the 40+ Celsius degrees made it hard to enjoy proper food.  But man, was it pretty.

If you have 3-4 days in Marseille, here’s my recommendations and highlights. But first, a photo. (my instagram is full of #weekendtrips photos)

Vieux Port

I went first to Vieux Port, picked up some fresh fruits on the way there from the Central Station (maybe a 20 min walk downhill), sat down on the ground and enjoyed the view, the sun, the boats and the buzzing atmosphere. Super touristy though, be ready for that. You’ll bear it for maybe 20 min and then I definitely suggest you get on your way. Pretty, huh?

Vieux Port Marseille
Vieux Port – where all the touristy magic happens

I then hopped on the last boat to Chateau d’If on the spur of the moment as I realized I won’t have time the next days. It’s a fortress transformed into a prison located on the island of If, the smallest island of the Frioul archipelago. The count of Monte Cristo, anybody? It’s one of the settings in the novel, Dumas made it famous and the whole fortress is now a mix of reality and fiction. Cool stuff, take a look. The ticket was 10 euros and it said there’s a guided tour included which was not true. The boat trip is nice though, you a get a bit of breeze and some nice views over the port.

Chateau D'If
Chateau D’If

Take your time and breathe in the history of the place. There’s a pretty view from the top too, but my favorite part was the view from the cells.

View from the Chateau D'if cells
View from the Chateau D’if cells

Later in the evening after you’re back in Marseille, check out the Cours Julien street to have a beer or a bite and stroll around for some local sights. Mostly tourist-free, people sit at terraces or in the small market and enjoy themselves over random live music, cheap drinks and snacks. My favorite street in Marseille is Rue D’Arc, it used to be a dirty uninviting area that has now been revived with plants and street art. Go to sleep before sunrise, you have a new full day ahead.

Get up early and go to Les Calanques. You just have to, no excuses. Also, don’t take a boat trip there, that’s for the ones that are physically unable to walk, the elder or the ones that have health conditions. I hope you packed your walking/running shoes cause it’s quite a walk. Learn from my mistakes, don’t hike in Converse. No, no, bad, bad. Bring around 3 liters of water, apply sunscreen, get a big sandwich for lunch and take your sunglasses. No flip-flops, no hand bags, get a small backpack instead. And prepare for awesomeness!

I went to the Sugiton Calanque, but we took a small detour to have our lunch at the Belvedere point for the breathtaking view there. Practical info: the National Park of Les Calanque has entrance restrictions during the summer time because of fire precautions, so check that out for the period of time you’ll be there.

Looking down from the Belvedere
Looking down from the Belvedere

While getting down to the calanque (don’t be afraid to ask what it means, it’s a cove or inlet especially on the Mediterranean coast of France), the fun begins. When you get closer, you’ll simply step from one stone to the other to get to the water. But the views, man, the view over the water and the rocks and the people cliff jumping into the bluest water I’ve ever seen. There’s no sand on the beach, so expect rocks everywhere. Souvenirs, anyone?

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Les Calanque – Sugiton

After you’ve had enough sun and sea, brace yourself for the climbing. I’m not gonna lie, I struggled to get back to the car. It felt like 50 Celsius degrees, I ran out of water and let’s just say there was nothing ladylike in my sweat. There’s a water fountain on the way out from the national park, enjoy it. I’ve seen several buses at the exit too, so I guess it’s totally doable to get there by bus as well. If you do manage to rent a car for the day, it will totally worth it, as you can then drive to Cassis, take a stroll through this pretty little city and simply drive up on the top of the cliffs for yet another amazing view over Les Calanques.

View from Cassis
View from Cassis

Needless to say I completely and utterly crashed after this day. I calculated the route was about 8-10 km but the elevation of ~300 m made it a really good workout.

I reserved my last day to go around the city and grasp it better as there are no free walking tours that I love taking. Check out the Fort Saint-Jean, newly renovated a couple of years ago when Marseille was the European Capital of Culture. It’s connected to the MUcem (Museum of civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) which has an interesting outdoor architecture. Cross the bridge that connects the two buildings and chill on the roof of the MUcem, there are free lounges in addition to the restaurant there.

MUcem’s architecture pattern

The prettiest and hardest part of the day was reserved for getting up to the Cathedral Notre Dame de la Garde. Smarter people than me took the touristic little train up there or just the simple bus all the way up. But no, I had to walk. Good booty workout indeed. Get plenty of water if you wanna do this as well. I gotta say, the church is not that impressive and it’s a popular attraction, it got pretty crowded while I was up there. But totally worth it for the 360 view.

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View from the Cathedral Notre Dame de la Garde

Because I was all about that view, that view, no trebble, here’s some alternative cool stuff to do and see, eat or drink:

– stroll through Belle de Mai, it’s a neighbourhood 30-40 min walking from the center which has multicultural mix of people and plenty of charming little shops

– go to one of the sand beaches in the city, I went to Plage de Catalans which was busy and closedsat 8 pm, but there are other options here.

– buy hand-made soaps instead of other souvenirs, they’re all over the place

– drink La Goudale, it’s a tasty one

– have baguettes with butter and jam in the morning

Marseille, I’ve had a blast, you’re a hot mess with all the right views but if I ever come back, I’ll never do it in the summertime again, we both deserve more. Also, your men are all flirts, aren’t they?