Lisbon- The Most Underrated City in Western Europe

Monday, April 30, 2018

When I was planning my travels for study abroad, I thought about visiting all the popular places I'd heard of - from Italy to Spain to Germany. I had never even considered Portugal- the coastal country west of Spain. I merely bought a plane ticket and booked an airbnb along with some friends and didn't think much of it. Lisbon, however, took me by surprise. I'll never forget the vibes I got from that city when I first arrived. That alone has always stuck with me - never before had a city changed my mood, my spirit. my attitude so quickly.

My friends and I arrived at night and the moment we walked up the stairs from the underground metro, I was suddenly uplifted into a city unlike any other. There was a certain liveliness and warmth that permeated through the atmosphere around us. I heard jazzy, lighthearted music, people were talking and drinking, and there were dazzling lights everywhere that lit up the city and ultimately boosted my spirits. I couldn't help but smile and take in the fulfilling emotions that made up the city of Lisbon, Portugal. Of course whenever you arrive in a brand new city you are excited, but this particular intial experience was much different to anything I had ever encountered before. I knew I was in for a real treat.

It so happened that it got even better once we arrived at our airbnb. The cheap place that my five friends and I booked turned out to be spectacular, with unbeatable views of the city and ocean. The place was worth so much more than what we'd paid for, but since it was the first time ever being rented out, we experienced a major price reduction. The ceilings were beautifully caved in, the rooms decorated modern and minimalist, and it was located pretty much central to where we wanted to be. On top of that, the owner of the apartment was extremely kind and helpful giving us tips and advice on restaurants, places to see, and an extended invitation to return in the summer and ride on his sailboat! We sure lucked out on this trip - or perhaps this city eludes some sort of magic for its travelers.

Turns out just being visitors didn't capsize the alluring qualities of Portugal - for our tour guide the next day was as much in love with the city as we had begun to be. We signed up for a Sandeman tour, located in many major European cities, and we got paired with the most enthusaistic, genuine, and wonderful female guide. She had been living in Portugal for many years and was so knowledgeable on just about everything. 

We learned a lot on our tour while walking throughout the main parts of the city- from why the Portugeuse are known for their tile decor and the story behind the "Golden Gate Bridge" that is Portugal's own. Lisbon is known for their colorful, decorative tile that is lined upon building after building. It's a gorgeous sight and gives the city much of it's splendor, but its original purpose was actually to keep heat inside in the winter and cool air in the summer- much like a ventilation system! As for their 25 de Abril bridge, it was unintentional to match the beloved red bridge in San Francisco and is actually almost identical to the design of the Bay Bridge in CA (since the same company built them!) It was marvelous hearing so many interesting stories about this fascinating city as we walked onward for miles. 

We ended up having lunch with our guide at one of her favorite, bustling with people, local spots- a place where they served the most traditional of all dishes- fish! Lisbon is on the coast so we didn't expect anything less than fresh. I love fish but there was a catch: The Portugeuse are known for very salty fish and they adore it this way! I ordered a white fish that came with assorted vegetables and boiled potatoes and it was indeed extremely salty. I'll also never forget our waiter who literally told me to dip mine in the oil because apparently I looked too skinny. After lunch I remember we got gelato and laid out in the sun near their famous archway, Rua Augusta Arch. I remember feeling that I was living a very good life indeed and couldn't have imagined a lovelier day. 

In the city of Lisbon, I loved the red rooftops, the colorful pastel painted buildings, and the mosaic pathways grounding every step I took. While sightseeing we saw the famous old elevator in the center of the city, walked past shops entirely dedicated to tins of sardines, and learned about statue code indicating the purpose behind a soldiers and horses positions. For example, two of the horse's hooves on the ground meant the soldier died in battle. The city really came alive through its history and I sensed a culture that was deeply rooted in a way of life only understood by the locals. Portugeuse is a language similarily compared to Spanish, but is much different. The strangers I met were friendly and everyone seemed to be happy in this intoxicating city. It bursted with life, passion, and an energy that can only be felt to be understood. 

That night we rode on one of the oldest trolley cars in the city that took us up to the many viewpoints -or miradouros- where we watched a gorgeous sunset set on the glimmering ocean. Better yet, when we got home we could witness Lisbon by night from our very own view out our bedroom window. 

Nightlife in Lisbon is quite famous and their most popular street for young adults is the Bairro Alto. Bars lined the entire street serving cheap beer, mixed drinks, and giant mojitos as big as your face. The city truly comes alive at night and we had a great time mingling in the upbeat scene. 

My first every pub crawl happened to be in Lisbon and it was certainly an adventure for the books. I remember how loud, boisterous, and exciting the streets were at night with the sights and sounds of people drinking and laughing. My friend who I went with will never forget my drunken revelation about how, "We're in Lisbon! What is life?!" A comical, yet accurate depiction of how I was feeling, being in the place I claim now as the most underrated city in Western Europe. I believe this to be true, for what I experienced there was unlike any other place I'd been before. Lisbon is a seaside society positioned on the edge of the contintent, capable of elevating all of one's senses, beckoning with an irresistible vibe that envelopes the entire city. I await the time I can return and relish in one of my top favorite places I visited while being abroad! 

Why I Love Chapman University

Monday, January 29, 2018

Welcome to Resort College...

in Orange, California

My home university is located in the sunniest, happiest, and most beautiful spot on earth! The OC is the gem of southern california offering the best beaches, sunshine, and fun outdoor activities. When I say resort college I mean it: Chapman is surrounded by blue skies and palm trees making the campus pretty much feel like a tropical resort vacation. Take a look for yourself...

#1: The Dorm Pool

Feeling like tanning or relaxing by the pool after class? Or a light swim on a lazy Sunday? Chapman has got you covered with a pool minutes from the dorms! There's no such thing as spending too much time here. You can even bring your books to study on a lawn chair if you wish but don't forget your sunglasses or sunblock!

#2: The Caf

Our school's cafeteria (located on the left) is considered one of the better one's for many reasons. We have so many options of cuisines and it's fresh made on a daily basis right in front of your eyes. Student's favorites include the gourmet tasting chocolate chip cookies, the healthy grilled chicken, quality made to order sandwiches, and the famous lettuce wrap dish. Meal time is a great break from studies to catch up with friends and stay for hours.

#3: Fountain Hopping

One of the best Chapman traditions is fountain hopping. Chapman has four fountains on campus that are great for looking at but even better for late night splashing in! It's an unofficial tradition that usually consists of a group of students who gather by the dorms in their bathing suits ready for a wild time. They then proceed to run across campus and jump in each fountain, getting as wet as they please. The key is to go fast and skip the pictures as P-Safe might catch you!

The Global Citizens Fountain 

#4: UPB Events

Chapman's University Program Board organizes countless on-campus events every semester! There is an event for everyone ranging from cultural events, leisure activities, and even excursions off-campus. You'll always be aware of what's going on with posters spread across campus. Some of my favorites include the Holi Festival in the spring where students can throw colored powder in the air, Spring Sizzle with carnival games and food, Midnight Breakfast during finals week for late night snacks and entertainment, and day trips to places like Balboa Island or musuems. 

My friends & I after the Holi Festival on the main lawn

#5: Skit & Airbands

Chapman is a gifted school in the arts where there's always some dance show to attend, movie screening to watch, or art exhibit to view. However the main events of the year are Skit in the spring and Airbands in the fall semester. Skit is put on by all of Greek life's fraternities and sororities where they compete in a long-rehearsed dance and singing number. Airbands is a similar performance but it's strictly a dance competition. If you don't partake in the month long practices, you should definitely get a ticket for the show because it's a Chapman tradition that you don't want to miss! It's so fun cheering on friends and enjoying high quality entertainment.

Kappa Kappa Gamma's School of Rock Skit 2016

#6: Greek Life

They say almost 30% of Chapman goes Greek and it's definitely worth looking into no matter who you are. Finding a group of like-minded people on campus is a great way to get involved, meet new people, and expand your horizons. There are so many fun activities, events, traditions, and opportunities when you join that you will never be homesick or bored. Chapman has 8 different sororities and 10 fraternities.

Recruitment Bid Day 2014
#7: The Orange Circle

Walking distance from Chapman is the Orange circle which is the city of Orange's cute little town. It's called the circle because of the roundabout street in the center of town with a fountain in the middle. There are numerous clothing shops, places to eat, antique stores, and more in this quaint but charming town. It's a great place to walk around with friends and take your parents when they visit for a nice (free) meal. Some favorite restaurants of students include Growl (a juicery), Pizza Press (individual pizzas), Bruxie (gourmet waffles), and the Filling Station (an American restaurant).

#8: The Library

Believe it or not the library on campus is one of my favorite places at Chapman. It's a beautiful and spacious building with 3 floors featuring countless places to study and a cafe. It's open until 2am every day and during finals week it stays open 24-7 with free study cookies. I found my favorite spot here at a cubicle desk on the second floor by the window. A quiet study place is essential in college and here I find my needed peace.

Chapman's Leatherby Libraries 

#9: Free Fitness Classes

Besides the exceptional gym on campus, Chapman offers weekly fitness classes in the student union for anyone to participate in. There's yoga, kickboxing, and HIIT classes all taught by current and certified Chapman students. You just need to sign up to partake in these awesome classes that will get your heart rate up and clear your head. Sometimes there's yoga on the lawn which is always a fun and relaxing event to do with friends.

Yoga on the Lawn
#10: O-Week

For freshman, orientation week or O-Week is full of fun welcoming activities and events for the start of the school year. Current students can become an OA or orientation assistant that help make the freshmen's first week the very best. Most everything is optional but it's most beneficial to partake in everything there is to offer. You get a booklet highlighting the weeks events and meet with your group and 2 OA's every day for tours, activities, and informational sessions. I found it very helpful, exciting, and inspirational as an incoming student. For returning students make way for a scene of extended parties and festivities...

Candle lighting with your parents and family during O-Week

#11: Winterfest

Every December Chapman gets festive by decorating the campus with tree lights but it's really all in preparation for Winterfest. This annual festival is welcome for students and neighboring families in Orange alike. There's live entertainment from the choir, band, swing dancing club, and even a theatrical reading of The Night Before Christmas by a professor. The best part is when Santa arrives with his sleigh, tests the believer meter, and suddenly snow starts falling from the sky! Chapman is the only school that is cool enough to make it snow in southern california. Our past President, President Doti would even join in on the holiday spirit!

#12: Expansion 

Chapman is an up and coming school that is always expanding and growing in size and status. There is always something new being built to add to campus thanks to our endearing benefactors and alumni. The construction projects may take some time but the final result is so worth the wait. It's exciting to see your university becoming even greater and grander each year. Just as our performing arts building was completed, a new project to build a new science and technology building was launched. 

The new Musco Center of the Performing Arts building finished in spring 2016

#13: Small class sizes

To faciltitate learning, Chapman offers small class sizes for its approximate 6,000 undergraduate students. This makes it easy to ask questions in class, participate more, and to see a professor in office hours for additional assistance. For anyone wanting a more personalized educational experience, this is big factor that led me towards my decision to come here. 

#14: Disneyland is 15 minutes away

America's largest and most well-known theme park is so close to campus. Students get Disney passes to just go on rides or eat a churro after class in one of the most famous places on earth that people come to from around the world. It's even a great job opportunity to fulfill your dreams of becoming a Disney princess or perform in shows and parades. Whether you take advantage of Chapman's great location or not, at least one visit is necessary for every Chapman student to experience the magic. You can even view the Disney fireworks from the 3rd floor of our business building every night!

#15: Close proximity to the ocean

If I'm studying in California, I better be close to the beach. Chapman is only 20-30 minutes away from the closest beaches like Huntington, Laguna, or 1000 Steps Beach. If you don't have a car there's always someone who does that will lend an extra seat in their car. For a quick beach fix to a whole day spent there, anytime is a good time to head to the beach. 

There you have it, 15 reasons why I love Chapman University. It's truly a special place to be and even though I decided to study abroad for a year, I'm grateful for everything my school offers. If it wasn't for Chapman I would never even be studying abroad in the first place. This is yet another amazing opportunity provided by Chapman that I was lucky enough to take advantage of. Chapman University is the ideal place to be whatever your interests and you get all this and more...

Southern CA's sunsets are priceless

My Utah Adventure

Saturday, January 20, 2018

I haven't been adventuring in awhile so planning a weekend trip to Utah this Interterm was just what I needed! It's always nice going to a new place (see my recent post) and I realized the state of Utah is definitely underrated for its natural beauty. Utah was full of mountains, hilly red canyons, and blue skies heightened with a crisp, January breeze. My two friends and I took a five and a half hour road trip from SoCal to St. George where we stayed for two nights. We visited Zion National Park which was an hour and a half away and did the challenging Angel's Landing hike. Enjoy the pictures!

St. George, Utah

St. George is a lovely small town with a homey feel to it. Our first night there we dined at a homestyle chain restaurant called Black Bear Diner where I tried chicken and waffles for the first time. I liked both the chicken and the waffles... but seperately! Aftwerwards we went to another popular chain called Swig which serves sweet drinks and their classic pink frosted sugar cookie!

My favorite part about St. George was visiting the Slot Canyon which is basically a really narrow trench that you walk through! It was fairly tight and claustraphobic but luckily I fit through just fine. 

I also loved seeing the views at this gorgeous viewpoint: Just UNBEATABLE!

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion was abosultely breathtaking and I'm sure there was so much more that we could have seen. We arrived in the morning and it was quite chilly outside which made me not feel very prepared for our hike. However, I knew once we got moving I would warm up and the sun would shine down on us!

If you've heard anything about Angel's Landing, you know it's not an activity for the faint-hearted. It starts out like any other hike with steep switchbacks and steady inclines, but once you get up higher you have to hold onto chain ropes to progress further up.

It's definitely nerve-racking when you're thousands of feet off the ground and holding onto a mere metal chain, but the views are incredibly worth it and so is the rush you feel from the experience! It's a physically exhausting hike taking about four hours total but it was the best one I've ever done.

The hike was such an incredible experience that I will never forget! Afterwards we treated ourselves to in and out burger and a long nap! After two full days since the hike, I still feel the toll this strenuous hike did to my body! Certainly not an everyday venture, but 100% worth the effort. 

Thanks for the memories Utah & my lovely friends Brenna, Sandra, Alex, and Adam! <3

Blessings Through Change

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lately I’ve been pretty torn between the old and the new. I’ve now lived 21 years in five different places and moved between countless houses. Regardless of whether the move was against my will or what I wanted, each time I experienced, learned, and gained something valuable from it. Despite how I may have felt at the time, I would never have met the people I had or become resilient and adaptable if I hadn’t moved and changed environments. Change is inevitable and important but sometimes difficult to appreciate and be open to. 

[San Mateo, CA à Indianapolis, IN] My first move was when I was 10 years old and I was completely against it. It was hard to transition from the place I was born and raised to an entire different region across the US. In CA, I had my close group of friends, familiar extracurricular activities, and the comfort of a tight-knit community. I didn’t welcome the new environment I was thrown into and was sad a lot. However, after the brief three months that I lived there, I had already made new friends, gotten involved with new activities, and adapted well without realizing it.

[Indianapolis, IN à Naperville, IL] The second time I moved locations it again wasn’t my decision. I moved to a town in a new state three and a half hours away. Everything about this move brought new challenges, like how I didn’t assimilate quickly into my school, making me miss the place I only a few months ago disliked too! Time moved slowly living here but it progressed nonetheless and after eight years I had formed long-lasting friendships, made sweet memories, and matured in a place different than where I grew up originally.

[Naperville, IL à Orange County, CA] Finally I got to move to a place that I initiated which was back to the state that I loved but to a different area. I at first pushed toward attending college in the same area that I know I knew and loved, but fate directed me to southern, CA instead. I continuously pressed against the idea for awhile unsatisfied that it wouldn’t be what I wanted. I knew the old was in the past but I thought I could make new memories in the same place. I'm glad I was guided toward something new because as it turned out, whenever I visited my old neighborhood, I could never drain out the old memories enough and it felt bittersweet and unfulfilling to me. It is indeed a beautiful place that I grew up but I most likley wouldn’t find any direction or growth in it in the future. Going to a new area provided me with new adventures, friends, and possibilities I didn’t know existed. Now I can see the reverence that a new place can bring which also directly led me to my most recent move.

[Orange County, CA à Grenoble, France] The most independent I’ve ever been started with my move to France for my year-long study abroad program. I was very excited to experience a brand new place let alone country. It was a critical growing period for me and I was exposed to a new way of life entirely. I made friends from all over the world, got out of my comfort zone, and invited any cultural or language barriers. This was a time I greatly accepted the new into my life and had no hesitations.

Post-graduation plans are confusing for everyone and usually you’ll be going to a new place, with a new job, and surrounded by new people. We are suddenly at the point where we can go anywhere and yet it's common to struggle with where to go. I am only accustom to the places that I’ve lived and they are all great places of comfort, happiness, and amazing memories to me. Upon this upcoming decision for when I graduate, I for once need to look back at what the past has taught me and be proactive based off what I've learned. My youth may have been challenging at times but it gave me wisdom beyond my years. I need to remember that no place I’ve already lived will ever give me the capacity and freedom to experience something brand new. When you get to a new place it’s nerve-racking and intimidating but it’s also exhilarating, you are more alert than ever, and are exposed to the foreign and unknown. Even if it doesn't turn out to be as good as somewhere else, at least you tried something new and as my friend says, no expectations, no disappointments! In your 20’s I believe you should be exposing yourself to as much change as you can because it ultimately drives you closer to finding yourself: that being your true passions, maybe love, and the fulfillment the journey brings you all together.

I am both advising myself and the rest of -almost- college graduates to move somewhere where you can be part of a new environment (whether a new town, city, or country). You may think you know what you like and what you want but in reality we are still discovering. It may be tricky to appreciate what is unfamiliar but it’s the only way we’ll progress further as a person. The places we love will always be there to return back to and reminisce, but in a way, that’s all they will ever be. From experience I know it won’t feel the same and you’ll just be disappointed or unhappy in the end. This may be hard news to receive and I know it is for me but it’s reality and what I’ve come to realize. I’m not saying don’t ever settle, because eventually you should and you will but in the meantime INVITE & ACCEPT change. Once you’ve found where your heart lies you’ll know and you’ll be so content with who you’ve become and the path that cultivated it along the way. It may not be easy sometimes but it’s absolutely crucial to development. From how each of my past experiences have panned out, they keep revealing new things to me that surprise me and undeniably are better than what I could have ever imagined. I have to trust what has spoken to me through life itself and take it for what it is.

COME SO FAR (Got so far to go)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

This Saturday morning, I went on a short two mile run to get my day rolling. The moment I started to jog, four beautiful white doves flew above me. It was definitely a sign of peace and being content in my life.

After my workout, it dawned on me that we do not give ourselves enough credit for how far we've come. Think about it: In middle school we dreamed of the future and imagined our successes in the years to come. In high school we were extremely stressed about getting into college, getting good grades, performing well on sports teams, and being as involved as we could to make a good impression for admissions offices. Once in college, we had already achieved so much yet we still found countless ways to be stressed about the future. We are now worried about finding an internship, figuring out our strengths & passions and what we want to do, and eventually landing a job. It seems to me that we're always striving for more without ever looking back and noticing how far we've come, what we've already achieved, and how much we've grown as an individual. We may have a lot ahead of us - there's no denying that - but it's important to remember that you have come a long way and you deserve FAR more credit than you give yourself. We should give ourselves a break more often and enjoy the present with satisfaction. When you don't feel like you're enough, just remember where you started and where you are now.

Today, I let myself look back in awe of what I've already overcome, perservered through, and accomplished. ~When I think back to middle school I remember a time where I had copious amounts of free time to pursue whatever I desired. I had so many different phases going from one activity to the next. One week it could be painting, another gardening, then scrapbooking, baking, experimenting with makeup, nail art, writing, watching a TV show, etc. I also played travel soccer, spent time with friends, went to school, and biked around my neighborhood. I kept busy that's for sure but I also dreamed of going back to California, visiting a foreign country, and wondered where life would take me. In high school, I worked hard for an unknown future but realized my goal was to get to California for college. I had no clue how I would make it happen but I was determined to get there and had faith. Senior year I applied for the Horatio Alger National Scholarship and to my astonishment, received the award. I attended their annual conference in Washington DC and met some extremely influential people, a few who changed my life. This award meant so much to me and is the reason attending college was possible. Then going to Chapman was a dream come true and I knew I had finally reached my goal. I started taking business classes, got involved on campus, and worked hard once more. Most recently I embarked on my year abroad which fulfilled many of my dreams and was life changing. Furthermore I started my first professional internship this summer. Eleven year old me woudn't be able to fathom how much I've accomplished.

That's my story in short, but now I encourage you to reflect on your own life, all that has happened - the good and the bad - and realize how far you've come! The good means you've conquered so much and the bad shows you've overstepped barriers. Despite what you may think about yourself and all your doubts and insecurities, you should know you're already an accomplished person just by all the things you've done. Think back to when you thought you'd never get through a time-consuming group project, a huge presentation, an ACT test, an interview, getting into your college - these are all major things we should be PROUD of now. Not many people take the time and energy to feel good about what they've already succeeded in, and just get caught up in the next project or commitment. Next time you're worried about all the craziness that lies ahead - since we are told it just gets harder - remember just how far you've come. Even if it means literally writing it down, looking at old pictures, or whatever it takes, just glance at the proof of your amazing, inspirational, noteworthy accomplishments! You should feel fulfilled and gratified. Look back with CONTENTEDNESS and PEACE OF MIND.

Nostalgic for Santa Barbara

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This past weekend I went to one of my favorite places in the entire world. We are all tied to certain places for many reasons. To wherever has brought us happiness that's become imprinted and embedded in our minds forever. For me it goes back to my childhood, and this is often the case as many of our deepest attachments form when we're young. We tend to glamorize the nostalgic feelings that consume us or exaggerate on the bliss we experienced back then. This many be the case, however I can't deny that I have the most beautiful memories from summer vacations spent in Santa Barbara, CA. 

My parents fell in love with Santa Barbara and found it to be the perfect getaway only four hours from our home in the Bay. Once there, we would spend long days at the beach where I would happily build sand castles, boogie board in the ocean, or dig giant holes in the sand. I could stay at the beach forever and never once get sick of it. I guess my parents felt the same way. Other days for instance we'd visit the Santa Barbara Zoo where the beloved crooked neck giraffe lived. I loved watching the otters play, since they were the most lively animal and at the end of the day I'd take home a pressed penny as a souvenir. For the 4th of July a whole day of festivities would be planned: dressed in red, white, and blue, attend the parade, and watch the fireworks on Butterfly Beach at night. I'll never forget sitting on a blanket in the sand with my family, gazing at the fireworks dazzling and popping above us over the dark and vast ocean. The warmth and love I felt for my family in those moments was so real and precious. Some memories are still so vivid I can practically relive them - and many times it was the simplest thing. Like how I'd feel once we'd just arrived... I'd normally fall asleep during the car ride, along with my brother and sister, and would be woken from my slumber by a nudge proclaiming our arrival. I'd be exhausted and sleepy-eyed, but held such an excruciating excitement because I knew in the morning we'd do all the amazing things I loved. My parents were the ones who made it exciting, and ultimately gave me the invaluable memories that are worth more to me than all the money I'd ever want. I could go on and on about our summers here, but all in all roots were placed here and they are latched on so strong. They keep tugging me back and I can't help but follow. As is quite clear, I'm very connected to Santa Barbara and whenever it's even mentioned my eyes light up and memories of the past reappear. It's bittersweet but I yearn for it.

Anyways, I was extremely excited to drive up to Santa Barbara to see old friends from my hometown. One of them attends UCSB and we stayed at her house in Isla Vista. It's a little town almost completely occupied by students making it a lively party scene yet equally quaint and charming. It's minutes from the ocean and just the thought of that gave me adrenaline like a firecracker. Somehow both mornings of the one weekend trip here I jogged the short distance to the beach and ended up jumping in the waves with my running clothes still on. How could I not jump in when it was that close and attainable? The water was the most perfect temperature and it was so rejeuvenating; I'd say it's the best medicine to cure anything. I could seriously do the exact same thing every morning and be completely satisfied with life. Followed by an acai bowl and some avocado toast, there's practically nothing better. Definitely considering my future in Santa Barbara...

I could tell you exactly what my friends and I did over the course of the short weekend, but as exciting as it all was, what matters most was just being present with them. These are friends that go way back to elementary school, which is still one of the highlights of my life thus far. I connect with their personalities and we share similar customs and values. We grew up together and in the same town. Our journey's in life may have taken different paths, but we were molded and shaped in the same way, by the same things, and around the same lifestyle and environment. I'll always find it easy to bond with this group of people and I seem to always find myself again when I'm with them. Again, I'm taken a hold of deep roots that are purposeful and meaningful. Knowing where you come from is so important and if you ever find yourself to be lost, it's a good place to start. You're bound to find your way again and remember all you are and what you stand for.

10 year reunion since Elementary school! (2007-2017)
That Sunday afternoon before heading back to SoCal, I spent time with my friend from college who lives there. We got gelato at my favorite place, sat on the yellow & sandy rocks I used to play on, and watched the ocean and people pass by. We walked by familiar places to me including the Biltmore Hotel, the Coral Casino, and the condominium complex where my family resided during our summers. It's still as real as ever and precisely what I remember it to be. Time has gone by and I'm older, but it's merely the same Santa Barbara that drives my soul. My friend also showed me a viewing area up on the hills that I'd never seen before which gave me a new perspective of the town I love so much. That car ride back home, I was extremely content with a full and happy heart. I felt so in tune with myself and overwhelmed by true friendship and good vibes. I feel blessed to have had such a nurturing upbringing that's provided me with everything that makes me who I am today. I'm grateful for my generous and selfless parents for giving me what I believe is the greatest treasure in the world. Something not of gold that shines and sparkles, but a contempt deep within for people I love and a place that is my eternal home.

1st Time in VEGAS

Friday, June 16, 2017

I love spontaneity. It produces the best memories - the ones that count. Anything that disrupts a routine is healthy for the soul in my opinion. When my friend asked me Friday afternoon if I'd like to accompany her to Las Vegas for a show the following day, I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation. It wasn't just that it was a free ticket, but the fact I love last minute getaways; I'd rather my weekend be exhilirating and spontaneous than boring and dull. I've learned to always have a toiletry bag handy and I can whip together an overnight tote in a few minutes. I'm pretty much always game for a new adventure.

People told me the ride from SoCal to Las Vegas was boring. I had an entirely different outlook. I thought the desert was beautiful with the massive hills and expansive prairies full of Joshua trees and cacti. I love open nature that isn't disturbed by industrial life. Maybe it's because I'm bored of seeing cornfields in the Midwest but I loved the drive to Nevada. Time also flies by when you're catching up with an old friend!

My first impression of Las Vegas was that it is a very small city. I had to remind myself that it was created for people's leisure and not a place for business or work. It's comprised of hotels, restaurants, and of course casinos. We had found a cheap hotel room on "the strip" so we would be right in the middle of everything. It was an excellent desicion and totally worth it to be in a central location. Plus our "cheap" hotel room happened to be enormous and more like a suite! We only wished we could have stayed longer.

The main purpose of our visit was to see the Cirque de Soleil show at the Bellagio Hotel. It was the most spectacular performance I've ever seen. The acrobats were doing unfathomable stunts and I was awestruck at how impossibly easy they made it all look. Such talent I witnessed! The coolest part of the show was that it used a stage with a pool in it. They called it the "O" theatre as in "eau" or water in French. Very clever. Between each act the pool would disappear and reappear and I couldn't believe the technology behind it all. Looking back, I'm still speechless as to how the acrobats were so fearless in every move they made but nonetheless it was pleasing to watch and enjoy.

After the show we watched the water fountain "show" outside the Bellagio. As the sun went down it was beautiful to see the waterworks display at night with the "Paris" of Las Vegas in the backdrop. Just having gotten back from France, I was in my Parisien heaven with the faux Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.

The rest of the evening was spent walking up and down the strip. It was a Saturday night so it was very busy. One of my favorite parts about Las Vegas is the weather. It's always the most perfect tempurature to walk around in without even needing a light sweater - and I get cold easily! My friend and I visited the M&M and Hershey's worlds where everything was overpriced but fancy to the eye. Walking along the strip was fun in its most simplest form. The lights at night were mesmerizing and wonderful. I loved the vibe of Las Vegas and how everyone was happy to be there. It definitely is a world of its own since there's no place quite like it. To compare it to Monaco seems unfitting but the fact it was so small and for an elite group of people made me think of the comparison. In Monaco it's all about the fancy cars or yachts, the casino, and the wealthy and in Las Vegas it's similar with the mentality of living (or vacationing) in luxury. Monaco is of a higher caliber and holds more class but in some ways Vegas reminded me of it. 

My mini getaway was over before I knew it but the drive home wasn't entirely uneventful. About 30 minutes outside of Vegas in the middle of the desert is the famous landmark the "Seven Magic Mountains." I'd seen lots of Instagram posts about it and was excited to experience it for myself. From what I know, a European artist created it and it was installed a year or so ago. It will only be up a little longer so I'm glad I could witness the large art piece. What stood out to me about the sculptures were the bright colors contrasted against the brown hues of the desert. It was a bold flash of color in the middle of nowhere. I love color and it was a happy place for me. There was a steady stream of toursits that kept coming in and out. Thanks to social media, it has become a top place to see and take pictures at. It's amazing how the Internet brings people together and drives common interest among individuals.

Well, my very first trip to Vegas may not be the stereotypical one where "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" (especially since I've basically noted everything I did there on this blog), but I'm happy I got to see what it was like! Sometime soon I'd like to go again! Cheers! <3