My surprise trip to Rome at 5am

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My visit to Rome was guided by a native Italian, my boyfriend, who had been to Rome many times before and knew that I had always wanted to see it ever since I told him I had reoccurring dreams of being in front of the Colosseum. One morning while I was visiting him in Torino, he rushed me on a train at 5 am and didn’t tell me where I was going. A few hours in he looked at me and said “Don’t you want to know where we are going? We are going to Rome.” My mind nor my imagination had nearly been prepared for what I would do if I went to Rome.I stared out the window grasping on to the idea. He had everything prepared for us. All I needed to do was get ready to walk and be mesmerized.

I had been familiar with the architecture in Italy already, but arriving in city limits, I hoped to catch a glimpse of any ancient ruins visible that would tell me I was there. As I stepped onto the streets, It felt like a lucid dream. I looked everywhere for the images I had seen in pictures, books and movies, but still, there was nothing familiar in sight.

Italians are very creative with parking spaces I know this, but the first thing I noticed in Rome was to them parking was a masterful skill in the creative art department. I saw cars parked in crosswalks, sidewalks and in intersections.Walking into Piazza del Popolo we would notice the people saying “Bella Ma!” or “Bella Zi!”  and use endearing terms such as “Caro” often instead of the regular “Ciao Bella!” we were used to hearing in the North. My boyfriend would nudge me and say, “Do you hear the Roman accent?”.

I had expected everyone we passed by to have a look of wonderment on their face like I did.  Of course, people were carrying on with their usual business just like they do in San Francisco, I admit that it surprised me still. As we began walking through the stone streets of Via Del Corso, I was surprised at how many beautiful and ancient dwellings along the street were stuffed with Armani and Burberry shops. The street performance artists in front were much more peculiar than those I had seen in LA or New York.  I had dreamed of a naked Rome, free of modern commercialism, but still, the street artists were quite amusing. We strolled at our own pace through the sprinkling rain to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. A kiss was made under our umbrellas at every corner. I had seen so many things already and still nothing yet. I caught myself looking around wherever we went to see if I could catch a glimpse of the Colosseum. I didn’t realize that Rome is far more vast than I prepared for and there was no way I would see the Colosseum unless I took a subway ride. 

On the next day the most unexpected view awaited me as I climbed the stairs to daylight out of the conventional looking subway tunnel. The Colosseum, low and behold, was just as I had pictured it. Massive in its white and silver outlines, it’s dark eye sockets peered around  in front of a dismal sky. Many people were standing in line just in front, waiting to get in and sharing the view with their friends and family with the aid of their selfie sticks. Everywhere brown men were waving them in the air for a quick sale. Hour after hour after strolling through Ancient Rome, sitting on the stairs built by Michelangelo, I used my imagination to picture what was going on where I stood during the days of Augustus. By this time, I had toured my way to exhaustion and was almost too heavy to take a peek into the Colosseum. I thought about some Gelato and a nap back at our apartment but Matteo wouldn’t let me miss out. I settled for a nap in the Colosseum on some worn steps overlooking the center of the stadium. Instantly I dreamed. I deemed it the most peculiar nap I have ever taken.IMG_2722

The sight of graffiti and tiny pieces of trash strewn about in places along here and there in some of these sacred spots reminded me that the eternal city that resides in todays time, also suffers the difficulties of today’s time. It is still a city very much alive that will be alive for the passing of many generations, withstanding momentous periods in world history to come.

 

At last we arrived at the Vatican. Here I began to humble myself with what I had known about the world of sculpture and renaissance art.  I touched and passed by many of the most famous works in the world from Van Gogh and Raphael, to Michelangelo and Salvador Dali.  I felt as though it would have taken me at least 3 days to know the Vatican properly. I found myself filtering through pieces and giving glance overs to some of the most ancient and beautiful paintings  I had the privilege of seeing in real life. I had reached my peak of art viewing in the Sistine Chapel, where I was grudgingly disheartened at the people who were taking pictures even though it was forbidden. I was a little tired and hungry at this point so I was less patient with the public world around me. When I reached St. Peters Basilica, the larger than life atmosphere made me forget my petty concern for human behavior. Our size was reduced to field mice in a mansion. I walked through the papal tombs in silence and wonder, under the massive dome in presence of Bernini and Michelangelo. My eyes attempted to burn to memory every last detail offered, accompanied by an eldritch atmosphere of historical figures that used to occupy these spaces. Half of the day had passed, and I sighed in relief as I discovered outside under the Columns, a line of eager humans at least a quarter of a mile long waiting for their turn to have the same magical experience. The trick was to get tickets in advance, I thought.

Leaving the Vatican, the attempt to go into another church seemed meager and unsatisfying. The only thing I needed now was food buon pranzo and my love sitting across from me. Without going further into food, that is how I remember my Rome.

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The Deadliest Parade in San Francisco

A part of what makes the historical Mission District of San Francisco is the rich culture, art and celebrations. The Day of the Dead brings a deeper meaning with it, along with beautiful costumes and handsomly morbid face paintings to roam the streets at night. The Day of the Dead is to remember those who are no longer here.Originating in Mexico, it is celebrated all around the world in most Catholic families. Such things as parades, visiting grave sites, creating alters and lighting candles are also ways El Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated. In San Francisco, and other places like L.A., it can be a large spectacle that residents and tourists come to see regardless of beliefs. For more information on the Day of the Dead go here.

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The dead

The painted

The haunted

Loved

Lost

Forgotten

Souls perched up on rooftops and window seals bellowing their lust for remembrance upon death

For those who forgot to live

For those who live a lie

Sickened by the living world which feeds them leftovers of life

Soak every inch of cloth and hair in paint and radiate the screams of which you hold within

Starve on life and only consume the richest of it, the most precious, so that every last taste is a golden memory

– Inspired on November 2nd, 2015 Mission and Bryant SF, CA

This is not Holloween. A part of what people love about the historical Mission District of San Francisco is the rich culture, art and celebrations. Pictured above, The Day of The Dead is one of them. El Dia De Los Muertos brings a deeper meaning with it than just beautiful costumes and handsomely morbid face paintings. The Day of the Dead is to remember those who are no longer here in ones family. People will dress up and display a picture and/or candles to parade through the streets during the evening. Originating in Mexico, such things as  visiting grave sites, creating alters for the lost ones, and lighting candles are also ways El Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated. In San Francisco, and other places like L.A., it can be a large spectacle that residents and tourists come to see regardless of beliefs. For more information on the Day of The Dead visit here

The California Bear has a name, it’s Monarch

http://www.monarchbear.org/monarch/
Monarch’s image is the image adopted by the California State Flag in 1911.

After the Spanish settlers came to San Francisco in the 1800’s,  they essentially wiped out most of the wild and more exotic animal population including the Grizzly Bear from the Bay Area. One of the ways humans managed to achieve this was by fighting Grizzly bears with wild pigs for entertainment.  William Hearst, who is the founder of the San Francisco Examiner, wanted to bring the Grizzly bear back to San Francisco for a publicity stunt, so he hired one of his Journalists to scout for one. The Journalist ended up with a successful catch in Northern California after months of searching. Hurst initially asked Golden Gate Park if they would be willing to house this massive bear, unsurprisingly they refused. Hurst ended up finding a home for it in a place called Woodward Gardens, a small park and petting zoo off of 14th and Mission Street in San Francisco. Some people may know this area today as The Armory. The bear was proudly named Monarch by the organization who housed it. Monarch went on display and spectators came to marvel at him for a small fare. Monarch eventually became so popular amongst the crowds that Golden Gate Park ended up receiving him after all. There, officials introduced a female bear and they created a family together of three cubs. In 1911 Monarch died. His image became the model in the new state flag that would be adopted that same year.  Monarch is now stuffed and on display at the California Academy of Sciences where spectators used to be able to walk by and rub his nose for good luck. Now, he is on display in a glass case to protect his nose and keep him intact from the ongoing spectators. The last Grizzly Bear in California was seen in 1929 in the Sierras. For more information on Monarch the Bear, visit http://www.monarchbear.org/monarch/.

A San Francisco Wordsearch

Get a visual of one of San Francisco's oldest most controversial neighborhoods. The Mission was the first place of settlement in the Discovery of San Francisco. Here, the Mission Dolores was built by Father Junípero Serra of the Catholic church. Junípero Serra, with much controversy later, attempted to convert the Native American Ohlone to Christianity. During this time many natives were killed and died due to the stresses of the change. Today, some people might compare the tech boom to one that is repeating history in pushing out the natives to make the mission a place for the people of money and status to reside, as the city gets more popular and crowded and the tech industry becomes the main source of employment for San Franciscans.
One of San Francisco’s oldest most controversial neighborhoods, the Mission was the first place of settlement in the discovery of San Francisco. Here, the Mission Dolores was built by Father Junípero Serra of the Catholic church. Junípero Serra, with much controversy later, attempted to convert the Native American Ohlone to Christianity. During this time many natives were killed and died due to the stresses of the change. Today, some people might compare the tech boom to one that is repeating history in pushing out the natives to make the mission a place for the people of money and status to reside, as the city gets more popular and crowded and the tech industry becomes the main source of employment for San Franciscans.

Underwater Meuseums

Pictures taken underwater are all about breaking barriers in some cases. We all want cool pictures, yeah, but it is also about getting uncomfortable, without a specific expensive camera it can be tough. Getting in the water and making the most out of this fragile time frame that allows for the most captivating setting to be utilized. I was able to take some photos with an iPhone 6 protected by a case made by Lifeproof©. It works! Thanks to that case we were able to capture some moments playing under a mid sized ocean cruiser in the Channel Islands.

A place to plan to go soon is off of the coast of Spain to an actual Underwater Museum. Yes, and it is slightly creepy but it is more breathtakingly beautiful. Jason deCaires Taylor has made several lists for his work including this website which list the top ten underwater photographers in the world.

http://www.topteny.com/top-10-best-underwater-photographers-in-the-world/

“Jason deCaires Taylor is an award winning underwater photographer, underwater naturalist and he is also a qualified diving instructor. He is the creator of the first underwater sculpture park in the world and it was founded in 2006 to be considered by National Geographic as one of the top 25 Wonders of the World. Jason deCaires Taylor aims to encourage marine conservation and environmental awareness through his underwater public art projects. He transforms his art or sculptures from dead objects to living coral reefs by submerging them in the ocean.”

If you enjoy seeing underwater art check out @underwaterwednesdays on instagram as well. They were so kind as to feature one of my ameteur photos and they have something new and inspiring every week.

Cheers to those underwater creatives!

                        

The Happiness that is Costa Rica

Pura Vida or Pure life is a saying that I had hardly heard of before I began considering traveling to Costa Rica to see what the surfing was like. I was looking for a great place to surf with warm water that hopefully wasn’t a tourist trap. Costa Rica has some of the most outstanding surf spots in the world along with the most diverse ecosystem in the western hemisphere. Monkeys, crocodiles, scorpions, parrots, dogs and dolphins all live here.

I traveled to Costa Rica alone for my birthday in order to escape the city life and to surf. I did not know anyone else who had been there, and my family thought it could be dangerous to travel to Central America alone but this was something I needed to do. It is one of the things I think all women need to do once in their lives, travel alone. Dominical, the place I chose, is a small dirt road village of about 200 people. Home of the Costa Rican national surf competitions. Many surfers around the world frequent here as well as the music and yoga culture to make the beach a dance floor during the Envision festival.

My first experience as I got off the plane was being greeted by my driver, a laid-back bleach blonde Costa Rican native, let’s call him Toad. He greeted me to a van that made me a little weary at first, but I decided to trust in the Universe… and the girl on the phone at the hotel who sent him. By one hour in the drive we were both singing Red Hot Chilli Peppers songs cruising down the highway and he asked me to move to Costa Rica to be in his band. I wasn’t going to do that but a lot of girls did move to Costa Rica after the first time they visited. I soon found this out. After all of the singing in the car I made it safely to Dominical and Toad was alright in my book.

I experience so much here that enriched me. I had an iguana who hung out on my front porch. I came home to a group of crabs dancing outside my door. I had a scorpion crawl above my table at lunch. We caught our own fish, swam in crocodile infested rivers and surfed amazing waves.

The locals never really went inside their homes unless it was to sleep, there was really no need to. All of the restaurants were outdoors and the sunsets were the most beautiful I had ever seen, the water was water was a constant 82 degrees.

Here live the happiest dogs in the world. The dogs here do not have owners, but rather the community takes care of them the same. Leaving food out in different places and letting them sleep, well, wherever.

Blankets and hand woven tropical articles of clothing hang from lines connected to palm trees in a maze to give tourists something to spend their money on.

There are many places in the world where we could go and realize that people are so much happier than us with so much less. Most unnecessarily, we go against the grain, stress ourselves out and destroy our bodies to achieve what we think success might be. We end up with bodies that we don’t feel good about, poor health, in a nice car and a big house to show everyone.We are told that this is the definition of successful. We know deep down inside what we love, but we are scared of doing it. Many times we are afraid of going after our calling because it seems unconventional, or it might make less money. That takes away our sense of self and our unique identity?

We can easily fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, which unfortunately is easy to do now with social media. We compare ourselves with our friends and colleagues’ personal marketing campaigns for their identities.  It resembles a secret competition to check in with each other and see where normal people are supposed to be in life. The humor is, others are going through the same struggle.

What I have learned from those people who live in Costa Rica, who don’t have big houses and give surfing lessons for a living, live in small cottages and have no masters degree is that they are happier than most people I have met with access to all of those things because they have friends that they see every day, they get exercise and they eat good food. Let us not forget that they have dogs running around everywhere. They are surrounded with an appreciation for natures forces and embrace all other people who come from around the world that want to spend time with them. There was no exclusion in this community. These are the things that matter. This is why I beleive that Costa Ricans are so happy.

Why Torino is my Favorite City in Italy

Visiting a different country it is truly the most enriching valuable experience. Growing is about gaining new perspectives, and we have to take ourselves out of our comfort zones and go to places we have never been before in order to truly gain that new perspective. Many people wait until they are old enough and have saved enough money to travel safely, unfortunately, by then they cannot do the things that they want to do because of life circumstances or it is not as enjoyable because they cannot use their bodies as well anymore, not having the energy or the curiosity of seeing a new part of this beautiful world we live in.

I am not into seeing huge tourist attractions but rather parts of the world that inspire help me learn more about myself and other cultures. I wanted to show a little bit of a place that touches my heart because of the interesting people and history that it has. This place is Torino, Italy, a city in the Northern Piemonte region. Of all of the other cities in Italy that get attention, I figured that this places deserves just as much.

The culture runs thick in Torino. It’s roots derive from native inhabitants (Taurini) in the 3rd century BC, but it was the Romans that provided the name, Augusta Taurinorum, and it’s peculiar streets with a grid pattern still visible now are found in Rome as well, as they are based on the roman camping (castrum – The latin term used for an original Roman fortress in the earlier periods of history).Torino was the first capital of Italy before it was moved to Florence and then Rome. This region is now the home of Italian names such as Fiat, Ferrero (makers of Nutella) and Lavazza. Torino was the home of and hosted such legends as Primo Levi, Alexandre Dumas, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In 2006, Torino was endowed as the home of the Winter Olympics, deeming Torino the Sport Capital of Italy. Adding to its depth of history, the Holy Shroud, an artifact that many people believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, resides in the Cathedral of Turin.

If there ever was a place to transform you into a food and wine snob and make you go off of your sworn-in Paleo Diet then this is the place. It’s amazing what won’t kill you if you eat it in Europe. Italy will raise your standards in men, food, wine, history and lifestyle…and not in a lavish way, but with an appreciation for genuine on many different levels.

FEEDING YOUR SOUL

In Italy, you can go to any hole-in-the-wall and it’s still going to be high quality. Because Italy has a ban on GMO’s, everyone gets to live better knowing or not knowing that their food isn’t full of things they don’t need. In Torino, it’s really easy to find animal products coming from the Alps, which means that they breath fresh air and they get to roam free in luscious and mineral rich land. There is no worry that the animals have been mistreated or the food isn’t good enough. Down to the honey with its rich mineral earthy taste, everything has substance.

Negroni sbagliato – An amazing cocktail with absinth, aperol and vermouth. This is not your normal negroni and it was only 5 Euros.
Colomba pasquale A typical italian sweet dish prepared during Easter, made of flour, eggs,butter, sugar, candied orange and an almond frosting on top.
Colazione italiana– Honey and pastries from the mountains, fresh coffee… this is how Italians do breakfast. They also have large lattes only in the morning and do not down obscene amounts of coffee during the day. If they would like a pick me up later on, it’s usually just an espresso.

P A S S I O N

 L I V E S      

 H E R E ……

There is no lack of chivalry here. Torino is full of lovers of all ages. It could be the romantic setting for the lucky ones who have found this treasure of a city to spend with their significant other. Personal experience has shown me that it is easy to see the happiness found in life from the simple things here, and from each other.

Best Gelato I think I have had in my life. #ruined
Best Gelato I think I have had in my life. #ruined

There is also a lot of passion for futbol here because there exists strong emotion and culture wrapped up in the history of these rivalries.

Juventus and Torino FC are the big futbol rivals in Torino. In the 1940’s Torino FC was believed to be the best soccer team in the world. In 1949, they tragically crashed their plane against the Basilica di Superga walls in the hills of Torino because of limited visibility, killing the entire team. Pictured below people are crowding the streets to celebrate the first time Torino FC beat Juventus in 20 years.

Picture taken in the middle of Via Roma, the most important street in the center of Turin. A couple kisses with people walking by.
Picture taken in the middle of Via Roma, the most important street in the center
of Turin. A couple kisses with people walking by
After 20 years, finally Torino FC manages to beat Juventus FC, prompting fans to get in the streets and celebrate. An old FIAT 500 stops in the middle of the road and gets surrounded by chanting fans.
After 20 years, finally Torino FC manages to beat Juventus FC, prompting fans to
get in the streets and celebrate. An old FIAT 500 stops in the middle of the road and gets surrounded by chanting fans.

B  E  A  U  T  Y 

     Being from San Francisco, I have seen many eccentric and creative things, but walking through Torino, I found Golden Gate Park’s European twin. Life is abundant in Parco del Valentino. Outdoor cafes, picnicking, sunbathing, riding bikes, young love and families.  There is a free outdoor fitness center for everyone to use. Yes, free. People do not have to pay to get healthy and there are initiatives to create a rich and healthy environment for everyone here. Even if there are plenty of gyms in Torino, it is not uncommon to find free fitness centers outdoors in the parks. Extra bonus for Torino, a lot of walking plus free outdoor fitness centers! There are also hikes just fifteen minutes away in the hills that have stunning views of the Alps overlooking the city and will definitely get your heart pumping.

These guys have been hogging the bench all day.
These guys have been hogging the bench all day.
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Parco del Valentino – This is the brother to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. People lounge, read, love and sunbath. Italians love their sexy tan skin!
The Alps are always visible from the city if the sky is clear and they are amazingly huge. It will take your breath away.
The Alps are always visible from the city if the sky is clear. Overlooking Torino on a sunny day, the sheer massiveness adds an energy to the air and coaxes you into the world of winter sports, reminding you that you are in Northern Italy.

Old arcades and docks became a nest for the city “movida” (party) on the River Po, with several clubs and bars, heavily popular during the hot season.

H I S T O R Y

Torino has much to offer, from it’s origins dated more than 2,300 years ago to more recent days, especially with World War II history. From a bunker on display where residents would go to hide during German bombings, to the original King and Queen of Italy’s castle, almost everywhere you turn it’s a time capsule of events that have shaped our world today.

Parco della rimembranza - A huge public garden situated in the hills surrounding Torino. It hosts more than 21.000 trees and has walkways, trees and commemorative poles to honour and remember (“Rimembranza”) all soldiers who died fighting for Italy.
Parco della Rimembranza – A huge public garden situated in the hills surrounding Torino. It hosts more than 21.000 trees and has walkways, trees and commemorative poles to honour and remember (“Rimembranza”) all soldiers who died fighting for Italy.
Faro della Vittoria - Built in 1928 for the 10th anniversary of World War I victory and all soldiers who died to achieve it. The statue hosts a lighthouse and stands tall on the hills of Torino, facing the city. Underneath it, walkways, trees and commemorative poles create the Parco della Rimembranza.
Faro della Vittoria – Built in 1928 for the 10th anniversary of World War I victory and all soldiers who died to achieve it. The statue hosts a lighthouse and stands tall on the hills of Torino, facing the city. Underneath it, walkways, trees and commemorative poles create the Parco della Rimembranza.
Fontana del Frejus - This fountain was built to mourn all the workers perished while building the Frejus tunnel at the end of the 19th century, a strategic infrastructure that connects Piedmont with southern France running under the Alps. Ancient locals believe it represents the black heart ( a dark and mystifying place) of the city for several reasons: it's position is adverse towards the sunset, this square used to be the place for public executions, the angel on top probably represents Lucifer and underneath the statue there is a door leading to the entire sewer city network, believed to be the gateway to hell.
Fontana del Frejus – This fountain was built to mourn all the workers perished while building the Frejus tunnel at the end of the 19th century, a strategic infrastructure that connects Piedmont with southern France running under the Alps. Esoteric believe it represents the black heart of the city for several reasons: its position is adverse towards the sunset, this square used to be the place for public executions, the angel on top probably represents Lucifer and underneath the statue there is a door leading to the entire sewer city network, believed to be the gateway to hell.
Notes to the future about what we have learned from the past at the Museo della resistenza. This museum, created in 2003, guides the visitor in a journey from 1938 and the racial laws and promulgations to the bombings in Torino and, in particular, to the Resistance (“Resistenza”) which managed to fight the germans and free Torino and the entire country from the now-enemies in war.
Notes to the future about what we have learned from the past at the Museo della Resistenza. This museum, created in 2003, guides the visitor in a journey from 1938 and the racial laws and promulgations to the bombings in Torino and, in particular, to the Resistance (“Resistenza”) which managed to fight the germans and free Torino and the entire country from the now-enemies in war.
Museo Egizio di Torino - The second most importan Egyptian museum in the world after Il Cairo in terms of number (3,300 showcased, more than 26,000 stored) and quality of the finest egyptian artwork. A time journey running back as far as the Predynastic Period of Ancient Egypt (prior to 3100 BC), including statues, stones, clothing, jewelery, papyrus, mummies and much more.
Museo Egizio di Torino – The second most important Egyptian museum in the world after Il Cairo in terms of number (3,300 showcased, more than 26,000 stored) and quality of the finest
egyptian artwork. A time journey running back as far as the Predynastic Period of Ancient Egypt (prior to 3100 BC), including statues, stones, clothing, jewelery, papyrus, mummies and much more.
The Cathedral of Turin - The Holy Shroud, an artifact that many people believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Cathedral of Turin contains The Holy Shroud, an artifact that many people believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. Many police officers and armed guards protect the church during it’s display and people are lined up for blocks to view it.