Revisiting Springtime Travel Adventures
It is the third day of February, and having just returned from Barcelona with lessons on the self, the importance of reflecting on last year’s travel adventures becomes even more important. This year started with the sensations of San Francisco and Spain, which I shall soon write about, but for now, I would like to recapture the sweet sixteen days of Spring time travel last year.
Spring Was Not Far Behind
Before I knew it, Spring1 had arrived; and with it the discovery that I had less than a month to plan a trip to a family wedding across the pond. The days leading to the trip were both tumultuous2 and exciting:
Sleepless in Copenhagen
I started my trip by commuting to San Francisco, the first gateway to my travel adventures. Sunset was in North American skies; but sunrise was in Scandinavia – somewhere above the entrancing flatlands of Denmark. By mid-morning, I had breezed through the friendly immigration and customs check at Copenhagen International Airport and I was kissing Gustav’s rosy cheeks hello. Breakfast was at Carlsberg, where I met a Danish Beer Scholar, Ben; and a Taiwanese furniture designer named Vicky, whom I invited to join us. Vicky stayed with us until around 3:00 AM, when Gustav still guided my pedaled adventures across one the most captivating cities I have ever visited. I have not slept since days ago in California but I followed Gustav’s direction: “We can sleep when we are old.” To which I responded, “But I’m already old.” I may be old, but I shall continue to travel at times of wake and sleep.
Fairy tales in Prague
A city far older than me hosted the next leg of my travel adventures – Prague, which was most magical. I have yet to write about my trip to this city straight out of fairy tales; of its sights, history, beer, and the people I met. I had many offers for places to stay, but I chose to stay at an extraordinary hostel that was so centrally located I could walk to all the major attractions. I spent two early mornings walking up to the Castle District, where I enjoyed watching the sunrise flood the beautiful landscape with glorious light. In Prague, I drank the most amount of beer I have had in a while, and that alone is a great story in itself.
Bathing in Budapest
Budapest followed and captured my heart, too, even in the midst of excruciating back pain. I touched every wall I could touch to feel remnants of history twice older than countries I have known in the hopes of feeling, if not completely understanding the city’s complicated past and present. I stayed with the perfect hosts, my friends Dora and Edvard – intellectuals who live a beautifully humble life, but are royalty in the grandeur of their travel adventures. I also spent time with Milan, who gave me a luxury tour of Budapest at night in his sports car. I had the perfect people to introduce me to bounties of Budapest – its historical sites, fantastic food scene, panoramic views, and ah, the thermal baths. It was not until my last day in the city that I enjoyed the pampering of Gellert, the most beautiful 99 year old thermal bath. When I return, I shall begin and end my visit with time at the rejuvenating geothermal baths.
It was not love at first sight with Berlin, but it’s amazing how things change when you remain open and give a city a chance. I did not know anyone in Berlin, but that quickly changed when I was lost and then found. I was so intrigued with the omnipresence of historical reminders and with the competing, yet unifying presence of modern structures. It was a city so intoxicatingly confident and I cannot wait to return for a longer visit.
I had endless navigational dilemma in Munich, and if not for my friend Dani, I would have been lost for a longer period of time. Through Dani, I met his roommates Stefan and Valentin; both wonderful and welcoming. When I found my way, I also discovered a new love affair with a city so beautiful and richly layered with history. In the comfort of Dani’s apartment, I finally slept3 and recharged after a series of exciting but almost sleepless nights. I awoke with the German sunlight peeking through the blinds, which ushered me out of Dani’s room in my disheveled state to have coffee and conversation with Valentin – whose lips were as red and luscious as California strawberries and with a face even lovelier than his name. He talked of the opera, of fine arts, of the theatre; cultural tales that should not be coming from someone already gifted with fiscal inclinations and with that face. I remembered how brilliance is sometimes disproportionately distributed, but I was not complaining as I very much enjoyed his presence; and as I am brilliant, as well, I am sure he enjoyed my presence, too. My presence in Munich was delightful and on my final night, I cooked dinner for my gracious hosts – a Filipino and Californian surf and turf dinner paired with Gruner Ventliner and a California Zinfandel. I left Munich the next day so brutally early to catch my flight to Paris. The Lufthansa agents were rude and indifferent, but it did not matter; the marvels of Munich were in my mind.
My Love Affair with Paris
I arrived in Paris on my family’s last afternoon in the city; and I was so happy to have had the chance to go for a walk with them in one of my favorite cities in the world before they left for the United Kingdom. I stayed with Romain, a Parisian Policeman and his girlfriend, Julie, a Psychotherapist turned Art Gallery Manager. I also spent an afternoon walk with my friend Arnauld and had Rose and macarons by the Seine. For this visit, I stayed away from the typical tourist sites, and lingered more in the Latin Quarter and at St. Germain des Pres. On my final night, I went out with my friend Irvana to a Wine Bar and had wines, tapas, and crazy conversation we did not want to end while the romantic Paris in the rain turned into romantic Paris in a Southeast Asian typhoon. Three days in the City of Lights are not enough; there is so much romance, so much beauty, and so much culture to fill the heart with.
London is Calling
I confidently took the train from my friend’s Paris apartment to Gar du Nord, where I took the high speed train from Paris to London. Mistakenly on my seat was a man with a Spanish-sounding accent who should have just stayed because the window seat was available. I would have stayed up to speak with him. I arrived in London and then took another train to the O2 arena, where I briefly reminisced on my first visit seven years ago. It took a while for my family and I to find each other, and in the midst of hunger, sweat, and frustration, disaster is almost imminent. I bit my tongue and focused on the positive – we were together again and on our way to a wedding in the country.
Wedding in Catsfield
I had never planned on visiting the English countryside, and I am glad my cousin’s wedding brought me there. It was an interesting afternoon of our arrival – after visiting the first castle, we found and followed a sign to an idyllic fishery, where we had lunch; and as with all our travels, we found a winery, too that made wines, hard ciders, and mead. It was a charming prelude to our arrival at our Bed and Breakfast and to the wedding festivities that followed. Although the beginning interaction with locals was quite awkward, to say the least, we left being admired and adored by the beautiful locals who welcomed us, the rare sprinkling of minorities in their community.
Before returning to California, I spent a night in London, and I had a chance to reconnect with Hanna. I wanted to see Spencer, whom I met on the bridge next to Big Ben years ago, but our schedules did not align. Gustav said that I brought the California sun to Copenhagen, and I think I brought it with me to London, too. Hanna and I walked and walked on streets, bridges, and parks I remembered only as drenched in fog and water; It was refreshing to see them under the brightness of the sun. My dining experience was also beyond the fish and chips recurrence of my previous trip. We had dinner al fresco overlooking the Tower Bridge from an elegant restaurant that was compatible with the remaining drip of my trip budget. I parted ways with Hanna after sunset and I continued to walk. With neither rain nor fog, London streets were almost unrecognizable to me. I caught the last train to my hostel, which was in a somewhat seedy neighborhood. I arrived safely and departed safely while it was still dark. My London sunrise was my magical farewell, right when the train that would take me to Heathrow was approaching.
Sunset in San Francisco
Ten hours later, I arrived in San Francisco just in time to be welcomed by the California sunset. The orange and crimson beams of light presented a comforting reassurance that I am home in California where the familiar awaits. In seeing the world, we get to know ourselves more through how we experience the discovery of places previously foreign to us; through tasting food and drinks our palate have not previously savored; through interacting with people with tones and culture different from our own. Traveling is important for the soul, but there is also the great value of having a home to return to where we could, in the safety of the familiar, process our discoveries and stage a launching of future events that could further define us.
Home in Sacramento
They say home is where the heart is, and in the almost one decade that I have lived in Sacramento, my heart has grown fond of this city for its charm, unassuming character, and richness in intelligence and culture. There is a sense of humble effervescence that permeates Sac Town, and those who welcome such bubbles of life are gifted with a lightness of being so characteristically Sacramento. I am blessed to have crossed oceans and mighty rivers to meet myself through others in distant lands, but I am also grateful that I get to call Sacramento home where I could get to know myself even more.
- Sping 2017, that is.
- My boss took his time to approve my vacation request, despite numerous reminders, and I dreaded that I may just have to leave and suffer the consequence had he denied it. He approved my vacation request shortly before my trip, knowing full well that I was flying out of the country.
- Overslept, actually.