travel

The Great Andalusian Road Trip

February 3, 2017
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When I was younger, my dad told me about this wonderful cathedral with hundreds of pillars that used to belong to Moors  and  Christians. I was intrigued as dad showed me a National Geographic documentary and while it played in front of us, I knew we would get there once.

And so it was.

Last month we finally booked our tickets to Málaga. After two nights there, we rented a car and explored Gibraltar, ending the day in Seville, where we stayed for other two nights, followed by one (freezing) night in Cordoba and two nights in Granada.

Covering so much in so little time was definitely energy-demanding, yet I highly recommend this Road Trip as the region is absolutely splendid (although I would avoid August at all costs unless you want to sweat out all the water you have in your organism).

 

Here are some bits of what we saw (not necessarily touristy photos – those images are more about the things that particularly captured my attention):

Málaga

The Castle of Gibralfaro would have been a truly rewarding experience if we wouldn’t have climbed the hill in a taxi, but nonetheless the ride and the view were great. 

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January’s sun at Gibralfaro Castle

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Don’t be fooled, there’s orange juice in the glass!

We couldn’t miss a ferry wheel ride, so here is one image taken from above:

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I would definitely not mind an adventure on a boat

Overall, Málaga was a nice surprise and I am more than happy we chose to stay than more than just for transit.

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Málaga’s Cathedral

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the kind of balconies from which people in musicals pop out and sing their hearts out

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Málaga’s Pompidou Museum

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playing with reflections

Gibraltar

Besides almost crossing the Strait by mistake – we thought the line of cars was for the parking, but it was actually for customs, and nearly ending up in Morocco (which would not have been bad at all), our day in Gibraltar was mostly peaceful. Except that time when a sweet-toothed monkey decided to rob mum of her chocolate. Unfortunately, the macaque didn’t know my mum was a much bigger chocolate lover than herself, so she torn apart the foil until she realized there was nothing good hidden anywhere.

If you ever find yourself in Gibraltar, don’t take the cable car because it will leave you on the top of Gibraltar’s Rock with no other means of going around it. Instead, go for an 8 person taxi which will stop in key points such as St. Michael’s Cave ( the audio and visual show projected in the cave is a feast!), the southernmost point from where you can see Africa and the tunnels of the Great Siege.

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pictured in the background: Gibraltar’s plane runway

Seville

By far the city I enjoyed the most, Seville hosts the second largest religious building in Europe (the top spot being occupied by St. Peter’s Basilica), an impressive amount of orange trees, modern architecture ( the Metropol Parasol being my favorite example), fabulous food (I was too big of a coward to try the traditional oxtail stew, but maybe some other time) and the prettiest tiny rooftop pools I’ve ever seen.

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pictured: one of the towers of Seville’s Cathedral

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Honestly, the Metropol Parasol looks like waffles. Or mushrooms. Or Viva chicken flavored chips.

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and I thought I’ve seen some crowded cities in this life…

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Japanese art style meets Van Gogh 

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perfect sun rays

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can you feel the warmth?

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the beautiful architecture of the Alcázar of Seville

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Plaza España

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sunset on top of Metropol Parasol

Córdoba

The much awaited visit to this Church-turned-Mosque-turned-Cathedral (Mezquita) was definitely worth it. They say that once you’ve seen this place, you’ve seen them all. And it’s true. The Mezquita beautifully incorporates so many styles and influences that without being there you can’t truly understand how all those architectural elements can be present all in one place. 

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yes, I waited 5 minutes for the area to clear

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a hard-to-forget ceiling

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a view similar to Istanbul’s Water Cistern, right?

Besides this miraculous Mosque-Cathedral whose foundation was established in the 7th century (!), we have also went to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a royal fortress with serene and neat gardens. When we went there it seemed like the best place to sit around, enjoy the sun and read a bit.

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lush paradise

Granada

Famous for the Alhambra Castle and the surrounding domains (by the way, it’s necessary to get your tickets online in advance if you want to go in for sure!), I though Granada was not going to offer more. It turned out I was wrong. Its Cathedral is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen ( and I have seen a few), with the best use of light and art (yes, you read correctly – this Cathedral has several paintings on display in the Dome). What’s more is the charm of the Moorish neighborhood, called Albayzin, where we got to eat some amazing Moroccan food ( Chicken Pastela is my dad’s newest crush) and roam around the narrowest streets of the city.

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every inch of my body is itching to go to Morocco and those arches are not helping…

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The Dome of Granada’s Cathedral

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Alhambra should be a fancy synonym for Patience

All in all, this road trip was a feast for all the senses and I would gladly do it again.

Also, if you are going on a trip to Andalusia soon or you just want to find out more, let me know!

Thank you for reading this!

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P.S. Thank you to everybody who showed concern regarding my blogging hiatus. The past few months have requested my full attention which led me to choose to do less things, but of better quality. Thank you for respecting that. I am preparing some bigger things, but everything will be revealed at its own time.

Love,

Laura

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life

The Great What Next

September 27, 2016
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The first word that comes to my mind when I think of September is change. And currently, this September is the best example for it. ( I am not going to start a third grade short text on how the colors of the leaves change, so you can breathe out now).

I have recently celebrated my first month living in another country. Which may not seem a big deal, but if you’ve also been through it, you’ll agree with me that it is. Because everything is different now.

I have become my own private chef (and surprisingly, this has been going remarkably well) and a full-time house keeper (which as a matter of fact, I am truly enjoying, because it gives me a decent reason in order to postpone doing an assignment which I am not in the mood for #sneaky). I have also converted myself from a driver to a cyclist (if you’re wondering, yes, Biking is the unofficial religion of the Netherlands) and I am proud to say that since I have been biking and not taking the very-unfriendly-to-my-student-budget public transport (aka the past 28 days), I have reached my 400 km milestone without any falling, bumping or killing myself or others (although I was pretty close to offering some tourists a free ride on my front wheel, but in my defense, they were crossing the bike lane without checking for bikes #rookies). And most importantly, I am now a first year student at University, which makes me wonder when did all those years pass, but let’s not get into that, shall we?

At the same time, for the past few years, September represented the month when I celebrated my time blogging. Which brings me to the topic of my fourth year anniversary as a blogger. (!!! – I have literally no better signs or words for what I’m feeling, thus the use of the exclamation points). However, I can say that although I am not a worldwide known blogger, I am still extremely delighted by all those four years and I feel that as long as this brings me happiness, the other aspects simply fade. Blogging offered me a much needed space for my thoughts and for my creativity, while also generating a considerable amount of joy and relief.

I have currently embarked on a new journey, with a more or less known destination, but I have a feeling that it’s going be something marvelous. And just the thought that so many memorable moments, friendships and opportunities are a heartbeat away, it makes me look forward to every second of this adventure.

Cheers to The Great What Next!

 

P.S. Did you notice the rainbow in the cover photo?

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Reporting (with a huge grin on my face) from Amsterdam,

Yours truly

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life

You will be missed

August 21, 2016
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I thought I was OK. I thought I was handling everything. Until I opened this note written by one of the dearest people in the world to me. It crushed me. It literally tore apart every single bit of my nonchalance. It marked the first moment I realized I was leaving, flying 2000 km in the other part of the continent. It triggered the idea that I was living the last days of life as I knew it. I admit, I cried a lot that day. But it’s a natural thing to do when you reach the end of a chapter, or at least, that’s what I was saying to myself.

I cried thinking that no matter how many times I’ll say things will not change, life has its own twisted ways of making everything different in just a couple of seconds, so I was saying good-bye to the scenario where things remained the same. Me, my family, my friends, my hometown, my world…so many things can change in a twinkling of an eye. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will, but they can, and that’s quite scary, to be honest.

I also cried thinking about the fact that we often take things, people, events and relationships for granted. And when the risk of them vanishing appears, the epiphany strikes us. I should have said ‘I love you’ more, I should have done that, I should have showed him or her how much they mean to me and so on… It’s undoubtedly saddening to acknowledge what you had only after you lost it, but at the same time I think such thoughts can guide us better in life in order to be grateful every second for what we have.

Packing my clothes was something I could have done eye folded. Packing various boxes full of kitchen accessories and room necessities was easy. But packing memories was the hard part.

I went over my fondest memories with the people I love. Such as my Saturday routine with Mum. Each week we knew we had at least 4 hours of mother&daughter quality time as we were going to Pilates and Aerial Yoga together (the lobby I had to do in order to convince her to join me was lengthily, but it was totally worth it.) We added to this routine the brunch, which we always had in a different place, as we love testing out restaurants and cafés together. I will miss these moments a lot as only now I realize how precious the time you spend with your mum is.

I will miss procrastinating work while watching a documentary with my Dad and our dog. On my way to get chocolate from the fridge while working, I was always passing near the two of them enjoying a history movie on World War II or a documentary about wild chimpanzees or sea turtles. It could have been about anything, really. Most of the time my mental to-do list magically emptied, so I was joining them until the credits, the moment when I was usually realizing how late I actually was. But I don’t regret a thing.

I’ll miss my friends like never before. Being home, going out with friends doesn’t seem like a big deal. Sometimes, weeks may go by without seeing them, but you always know they are there, just one message away and you have a night out planned. But going away, things are not so easy anymore. Teleportation is still not a thing, so no matter how badly you want to see them, you have to wait. And that’s never a nice thought. However, I hope we’ll remain at least as close as we are today, despite of the distance between us.

To all my close friends: I truly love you. It was my greatest pleasure to meet you. You have changed my life and for that I’ll be forever thankful. You have made the past years more enjoyable, more adventurous and definitely, more meaningful. I hope my presence in your life made you a happier person. Please don’t cry. We’ll see each other in no time.

I’ll also miss some small, yet important things. Such as me driving in my super car, doing karaoke with my friends or bumping into my very own house while reverse parking (unfortunately, I’m not talented towards parking my car, otherwise I could say I’m a pretty good driver). I’ll miss the feeling of independence my car offered me and the pleasure of going from place to place by my own, just me and the radio.

It will be quite a challenge for me to wake up in a room other than mine for one year. I’ll miss going to sleep while watching the stars (yes, over my head there are fluorescent stars, cliché or not, I love them to pieces), I’ll miss having so many memories glued onto my walls and in general, I’ll miss my cozy haven. My room was a part time library, a permanent art exhibit (with an easel blocking the door to open properly at times) and a constant boarding gate for flights. I hope I’ll manage to turn my University room into a similar eclectic mix.

Of course, I’ll miss some aspects of my city too. The quiet streets in green neighborhoods, the familiar scent of summer during the deserted August nights, the hidden coffee and tea shops, the walks in the park just outside my high-school, the nights out, the innocence and the naivety of the years spent in this city.

By all means, I’ll miss myself. As in the person who I was here. I’ll miss my teenage, carefree and courageous up until the point of unconscious self. All those moments when I killed the silence with my laughter, all the times I was the clumsiest and most awkward person in the room, all those moments make my day right now. Because when I add them up, I get who I am right now, which is a person I like.

But mostly I will miss the people. My people. Because I have realized that what you do is pointless if you don’t have around you the people you love.

I have to go now, I am running low on tissues!

 

Until next time,

Laura

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life, travel

Stand up paddling in the Ionian Sea

August 15, 2016
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I was trying to stand up. I knew I could. The previous time I did it, I found my balance instantly. Now, I was hesitating. My knees were shaking and I could not get a grip on them. I looked around and I saw that others had already succeeded.

I couldn’t seem to find my place. Wherever I put my right feet, a cramp was immediately striking me. I tried to ignore it and proceeded to stand up although it was uncomfortable and moreover, painful. Of course, my right foot complained about my reckless decision by losing all its stability. And as a result, I fell into the sea and gulped a big mouth of salty water. Not really delicious.

While trying to get my paddle back I realized I should have remained seated on my knees and resolve my foot issue. Right after I managed to climb on top of the board again I could feel my foot had calmed. I tried to stand up one more time, with a different level of confidence. I wasn’t proud of my falling moment, but I tried to concentrate on the present, which required my entire attention.

After that incident, I finally found my pace. Slowly, but steady, I was making progress. The others were very far ahead, but for me, my own situation became more important. I focused on my breathing, on my paddling and on my balance and I successfully stood up for the next hour. The satisfaction was spreading through all my body and I have to admit, it was amazing to finally be able to relax and savor the views.

Of course, I am talking about stand up paddling ( or SUP if you prefer the acronym), an activity which taught me many things, such as:

  • Different people have different paces – This is why some people get successful at 25 and some at 45.
  • Checking the competition can actually distract and slow you down from your path.
  • Issues have to be taken care of. Nothing is solved by ignorance.
  • Peace comes with balance. Everything gets better after finding these.
  • You are in charge of your own happiness. So enjoy the moment and let others worry.

I hope I’ll able to post more about my summer travels in the upcoming weeks, so see you soon! :)

Laura

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travel

Călător prin lume

July 2, 2016
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Zilele trecute am dat peste fotografia de mai sus făcută în Egipt în 2007. Nu e chiar ce ți-ai imagina când te-ai gândi la anticul fost imperiu, nu? Unde e măreția copleșitoare, unde e înmărmurirea vizitatorilor în fața unei capodopere arhitecturale milenare ale cărei mistere nu au fost încă deslușite? Unde e întinderea nesfârșită de nisip?

Nu la Giza, din păcate.

 

De când capitalismul a cucerit lumea, turismul s-a transformat dintr-o activitate a păturii erudite într-o activitate accesibilă maselor. Ceea ce nu e neapărat un lucru rău, dimpotrivă, mi se pare că dacă e făcut cum trebuie, turismul poate avea un impact inegalabil asupra percepției oamenilor despre întreaga societate și asupra empatiei umane. Așadar, un rol posibil educațional.

Dar ce e educațional în a vizita de două ori pe an capitale internaționale pentru a te poza clișeic cu cele mai importante construcții de acolo? Nimic. Bine, recunosc, se poate îmbunătăți tehnica apăsării nonșalante a butoanelor care surprind selfie-ul perfect. Dar cam atât. Foarte rar mai sunt văzute persoane în locuri cheie ale capitalelor, precum dealul Montmartre, care doar să stea și să admire frumosul din fața ochilor. Restul oamenilor sunt prea preocupați de a obține supremația cerului de deasupra capului pentru a înălța o coadă metalică de mătură numită evident selfie stick.

Prin turismul acesta superficial, scopul călătoriilor s-a transformat din ”a vedea lumea” în ”a poza lumea”. Dacă îmi permiteți să adaug (și îmi permiteți de altfel prin continuarea citirii articolului), ”a poza lumea fără măcar a o cunoaște”. Să călătorești a devenit mai mult un moft, un rezultat al dorinței de a bifa încă un loc, de a completa albumul cu aceleași imagini pe care le mai au alte câteva zeci de milioane de persoane (studiu de caz: Turnul din Pisa). Călătoria nu mai are astfel rol educativ, rol de cunoaștere a unei alte societăți, mentalități, culturi etc. E mai mult un periplu la costul a cinci salarii care se materializează într-un banal contact la suprafață cu altă țară. Fiți toleranți cu mine, vă rog, ajung și la părți mai frumoase!

***

Revenind la imaginea din Egipt, ea înfățișează realitatea dură, care nu este expusă în majoritatea publicațiilor. Fundalul cuprinde Piramida lui Kefren (Kafra) și o parcare improvizată cu autocare pline de turiști refugiați la aer condiționat. Combinație cu adevărat frapantă.

Ce este prin excelență delicios este prim-planul în care se observă un autohton dând indicații unui cuplu occidental pentru realizarea fotografiei perfecte de arătat în ciudă neamurilor de acasă. Evident, privirile invidioase ale cuplului aflat în trecere sunt o dovadă a necesității lor de a face exact aceeași poză câteva minute mai târziu și o inconstestabilă mărturie a succesului pozei originale. Că deh, odată ești la piramide și poți să ții mâna lui iubi exact în unghi de 45°.

Iată cum o experiență extraordinară și unică în viață, aceea de a te afla pe platoul cu ultimele minuni antice încă în picioare, se transformă în copia la indigo a vacanței altor mii de oameni. Bineînțeles, fiecare va descrie diferit senzația resimțită în interiorul piramidei, desigur, dacă s-a concentrat la asta și nu la ce hastag-uri ar merge pe Insta la o poză cu piramidele editate evident în VSCO. Eu, sincer, recunosc că nu am să uit niciodată cum am zis în gura mare: ”Mami, aici miroase ca în beci la Mama Mărioară*! (*a se citi “străbunica”)”.

***

Poate ați observat că majoritatea lanțurilor mari de hoteluri au același design și același aspect peste tot în lume. Mall-urile devin laitmotive ale setei comerciale umane care nu realizează că, de fapt, sunt aceleași magazine peste tot și că iarba vecinului nu e mai verde. O globalizare similară se observă și la nivelul mâncării, ajungând astfel să mănânci la Craiova același burger ca în Chicago. Bun. Și atunci vine întrebarea, dacă stai la același hotel, dacă mănânci aceeași mâncare (studiu de caz: micul dejun ”continental”) și dacă ești înconjurat de aceleași nume, cum mai știi că ești într-o țară străină? Evident că apar opinii de tipul ”Urbea X m-a lăsat rece” dacă persoanele respective au luat contact cu adevăratul oraș doar treizeci de minute din cele 12-14 ore în care n-au dormit.

Nu mint, așa am fost și eu cu ai mei o perioadă. Deschid aici o paranteză ca să le mulțumesc încă o dată pentru sclipirea pe care au avut-o când au decis să investească în călătorii și în amintiri în loc de telefoane de ultimul răcnet, laptopul cu păcatul Evei, țoale cu sigla pe dos și altele… Ați fost măreți!

Totuși, de câțiva ani, am ales să nu mai dedicăm atâta timp atracțiilor sugrumate de puhoaie de turiști care nu au ajuns mai departe de pagina opt din ghidurile cumpărate și să vedem mai multă culoare locală, autentică. Totuși, diferența dintre a fi turist și a fi călător nu stă numai în ce alegi să vezi. Călătorul vrea să cunoască în profunzime, să înțeleagă, să discute, să asculte și să se “contopească” cu oamenii din comunitatea în care tocmai a aterizat.

Așa am ajuns să învăț în Madeira un cuplu catalan cum se joacă canastă (fi-mi-ar scuzată cacofonia!), așa am avut cele mai interesante discuții din Emirate cu niște vânzători din souq-urile de textile (fie vorba, se gândeau serios să emigreze în România pentru că acolo trăiau de pe o zi pe alta), așa am ajuns să mă negociez cu diverși portughezi în Feira da Landra pentru niște suveniruri cu adevărat dragi și nu pentru clasicii magneți, așa am ajuns să vorbesc într-un parc londonez cu niște pensionare din Australia despre sistemul international de învățământ, așa am ajuns să vorbesc în franceză cu un tânăr din Angola în drum spre Lisabona și așa am ajuns să ies la un cocktail cu un vânzător de rechizite, o agentă de turism și prietenii lor în Funchal.

Așadar, de ceva timp mi-am propus să experimentez și activități mai puțin cunoscute turiștilor și să devin ușor-ușor un călător, care să descopere locuri noi, nesufocate încă de roiuri de camere “săpunieră” și care să aprofundeze cu adevărat ce înseamnă o altă țară.

Mă bate gândul să revăd Egiptul, magazinul în care am atins pentru prima oară un cap de crocodil (pe atunci aveam numai 10 ani și încă nu eram o ecologistă ferventă) și apele turcoaz ale Mării Roșii. Însă cel mai mult mă gândesc la oameni. Cum s-au schimbat, ce mai face românca de la parfumeria din Cairo, cum se descurcă toți în lumea asta nebună, cum i-au marcat ultimii ani și în ce culoare văd viitorul.

Mă tentează și ideea de a deschide o școală de călători, un loc în care exploratori din toate colțurile lumii să se întâlnească și să discute despre minunățiile ascunse ale țărilor luate de ei la pas.

Dacă vă tentează și pe voi, aștept un mesaj mai jos! Și poate o simplă idee prinde contur…

 

*Articol înscris în concursul “Thailanda, Te Iubesc!” organizat de KLM România, în colaborare cu Tedoo.ro și T.A.T. Balkans

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life

Thoughts on mistakes, social pressure and existential dilemmas

June 26, 2016
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* paper collage by me

Torn between what the people in your close circle want for you and what you want for yourself, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of opinions, beliefs and ideas.

Who am I?

What is my purpose on this planet?

What do I want to be ‘when I grow up’?

Are these the right questions? Are my choices the right answers?

***

During the past year I have jumped from one dilemma to another. I tried figuring out what I want to do in life, what causes I should support, where is my next home or how I can positively impact the world. And perhaps the most bugging question was how would have my life looked like if I had chosen differently. Doubting my decisions only led to more issues I had to solve, which included backfiring existential crisis and unstable self confidence levels. Which, of course, I don’t recommend.

I still haven’t figured out everything. But I am working towards that.

Obviously, this doubting I felt came from the impression that I did something wrong.

Why am I not there yet? I was asking myself.

***

I have learned since then that trying, failing and trying again are natural parts of the process called ‘Self discovery’. And doubting yourself is part of the package too. That’s why we should embrace all these steps. Because they make us us.

***

Personally, I believe it’s completely fine if you don’t know who you are yet. Currently, there’s so much social pressure on young people from whom older generations expect perfection from the first shot and that’s totally unrealistic.

The worst part is that this stress is put on kids starting from very early ages. It continues with the choice of the perfect high school, the entrance to the perfect University, the perfect after-Uni life and it goes on and on only about accomplishments.

Apparently, even though it’s natural for us, human beings, to make mistakes, the society has zero tolerance to any imperfection. And this perception becomes very difficult to avoid.

The idea of rejecting mistakes has already deep roots in us. That’s why, probably, we hide every time we do something wrong when we are little or why we have so many secrets in our teenage years. That’s because we feel we have done something wrong, something that society might consider rude, immoral, shameful or disgraceful. Reality is, everybody is just exaggerating. And even though we know most things can be repaired in this life, we continue to make such a fuss about every single mistake, that when we actually do something well, we don’t enjoy it, but start looking for faults…

***

I believe that if you don’t know who you are yet, what your goals are or who you should be, you shouldn’t be constrained by what the people around you are saying and just do your thing. And if you don’t know what that is, try as many things as possible and stick to the one that makes you the happiest and the most satisfied. And if you do make some mistakes on the way, remember they are natural steps alongside your evolution and that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

***

So please remember the following: you are living your life and not others’, what other people say about how you should live your life is not at all important, making mistakes is totally acceptable and not knowing who you are yet does not represent the end of the world.

Keep growing, learn to love yourself and never stop persevering in finding out who you are!

Laura

 

P.S. If you need another push, here’s one from Jessie J: ‘It’s OK not to be OK.’ Listen to the song below and let it work its magic:

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life

Interview with Laura, the fresh high-school graduate

June 3, 2016
înainte ca cerul Lazărului să devină supă de litere
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{ #graduation #LZR #LazarCaModDeViata #HighSchoolDays #SeniorYear #DoarInLZR #ClassOf2016 }

Laura, a fresh high-school graduate, has agreed to answer a few questions about the period the majority of people call ‘the most beautiful years of one’s life’, her most precious memories, her decision to study abroad and much more.

 

The full interview below:

 

Interviewer: Today is the last day when you can call yourself a high school student. Are you sad?

Me: YOU BET.

 

I: Would you repeat these years if you could?

M: ABSOLUTELY!

 

I: If you could change anything about these 4 years what would it be? Your grades? The boys you dated? Your reading list?

M: Although a bit tempting, none of the above. I try to embrace this philosophy which says that you should accept everything you’ve done and live life with no regrets, because after all, all of the things you have done led you to this wonderful place you currently find yourself in. However, I would document every single day. I would keep a journal for myself, for my memory and for the simple pleasure of being able to recall EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I might remember right now 200 days, but what about the other 1200?

 

I: Would you say these have been the best years of your life?

M: I don’t know. I haven’t lived them all. I’ll let you know before I die though. (winks) However, they have been the best years of my life so far, although I am inclined to believe it’s natural for every year we live to be better than the previous one. The issue that will bug me for a while is how to live in order for this upward line of fantastic years to continue to be elevated even when I get old.

 

I: It’s nice to see you also think on a long term. But regarding the present that has already become the past, what was your favorite part about your high school years?

M: The people that I met, definitely. The people without whom I would have never become who I am right now. If I could pick two favorite parts, I would also say the experiences. The nights when we went out, the days we savored for their uniqueness, the times we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt, the plans we have achieved together, the in between moments.

 

I: Here’s another question: What did you first think about the ones who graduated?

M: To be frank, when I entered high school I thought the graduates were some demi gods. On one hand, the girls were these amazingly looking creatures who seemed to know all about who they were and where they were heading. On the other hand, the boys were actually…looking more like men than teenagers. They had three pieces costumes, smirks plastered on their bearded faces and this aura of self-peace that I had never seen before. In one way, they looked more like mature and confident adults than some kids only four years older than me. Now, when I am in their shoes, I realize that maybe they just seemed like they knew it all and personally, I think that’s completely fine. We shouldn’t be bound to have ourselves and our future lives completely figured out by the time we’re 18.

 

I: Name the most precious memories you have from your high school years.

L: It’s tough to choose, but I’ll try: I’ll always remember my classes and their special moments (maybe I won’t remember all I had to learn, but hey, that’s why it’s called selective memory), the Friday nights out, all the projects, programs and competitions, every time we got to travel, our freshman prom and our senior prom, the times we watched movies in the school’s amphitheater, the parties and the friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.

 

I: One message for your teachers.

L: Thank you for helping us grow. It meant the world to me.

 

I: A message to your fellow high school students.

L: Be selfless enough to do good in the world, be brave enough to do things that scare you, be perseverant enough to make every single one of your dreams a reality, be happy enough with you and your life in order to give up negative thoughts, gossip and complaints and be willing enough to live a meaningful life.

 

I: Moving on to the next level, why did you decide you want to study abroad?

L: First of all, quality learning is essential for me. Looking at an academic environment that will completely satisfy my high standards, I wasn’t able to find something here, at home, so I decided I will sacrifice my comfort and some sweet years still at mom’s place in order to get the education I wanted. Second of all, meeting people from all over the world and being part of an international context was also very important to me and studying abroad allows me to do this. Last but not least, traveling has become such an important part of my life that I cannot imagine having a different lifestyle, so being in a different country in Europe will hopefully let me explore various countries, cultures and ideas.

 

I: Please describe how you think your university years will look like:

L: I honestly hope the following three years will be full of happiness, excitement, traveling, continuous learning and strong friendships.

 

I: Anything else to add?

L: Yes, cliché or not, I would like to thank my parents for being there as they could, for supporting me, for helping me during difficult times and for offering me the environment where I could learn about the values I consider important and about the strong mentality that will get me through life. Please, don’t cry too much when I’ll leave this fall. I promise I’ll try too.

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travel

Saxon beauty

May 6, 2016
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jolielaura_sibiu_aprilie_2016_90It’s redundant to say how much I love being on the road, discovering new places, finding out people’s stories and simply recharging my batteries in a different city.

This time we went to Sibiu, before spending the Orthodox Easter in Brasov and we even managed to sneak some other locations on our route.

I decided I wanted to share here the experience, writing my own recommendations and showing you some places you might not know about :)

 

Starting from where to stay to what to eat and where to go, I hope you’ll find inspiration in this post to offer more of your attention to the Saxon side of Romania.

Where to stay:

Villa Fortuna Art O’Clock was one of the most pleasant surprises of Sibiu and definitely the only place we’ll check in into from now on. After making a reservation with only two days in advance, I have also managed to mix up some dates (I am still working on my mind-eyes-hands coordination). However, the kind staff helped us manage our reservation without paying something extra for the mess created (thank you again!). The overall price and experience were absolutely great. And I have to say, the Superior Double Room was probably the most beautiful room I’ve ever been check in into. Of course, beauty is subjective; while others consider 5 stars hotels that have the exact same room in all the 32 locations spread in the world to be the top of the tasteful and aesthetic hotelier chain, I prefer rooms with character and subtle decorations which prove good taste.

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Single Room

Where to eat, drink some coffee and relax:

Cafeneaua din Librăria Habitus – is a wonderful book and coffee haven for when you need to get away from your quotidian life and just read for one hour… or four (#guilty). Also, they have the most amazing literary sweets in their menu (literary, the name of every sweet is the title of one book, how clever is that? – ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ yoghurt with muesli, orange, apple, ginger and honey is a personal favourite).

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such a cozy & welcoming place!

Café Wien – with a fantastic location, glorious views and famous coffee, this is more than just a café (they have this omelette with ham, cheese and mushrooms which is simply delicious!)

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the eyes are watching you!

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biking as a way of living

MAX by Piazzetta – this is rated as the best Italian restaurant in Sibiu ( april 2016, Foursquare) and to be honest, it truly exceeded my expectations regarding food, design, staff and overall experience. The tomato cream soup with croutons is fabulous and not to be shared with anybody, the homemade tagliatelle con salmone are magnificent (and the portion is humongous, either that or I became Alice in Foodland, you never know) and they also serve some really good baked potatoes with rosemary. While it reminded me of a restaurant in Brugge (pictured in this post), it also had its own distinctive touch and welcoming feeling.

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harmonious mismatch

DonuterieAll I can say is that I could barely concentrate on taking the photo when I had in front of me this wonderful, Oreo sprinkled donut:

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* foodgasm

Places to see:

Sibiu is a well preserved medieval city which will transport you to a movie set, where time stands still and waits for the people to finish their morning coffee. Strolling around the historic centre is a must and there are some things which shouldn’t be omitted in your visit:

The Big Square, which is home to the Brukenthal Palace, currently a museum of European and Romanian art, together with other temporary exhibits (if you are a fan of Bruegel II, you will be definitely fascinated by the works displayed in the permanent exhibition), the City Hall (which is surprisingly beautiful, by the way) and the Holy Trinity Church (right under it is that wonderful café you’ve read above – Cafeneaua din Librăria Habitus).

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the windows of the Town Hall

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Brukenthal Palace and Art Museum

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pink marble columns at the Holy Trinity Church

In the Little Square (such an unpredicted name, I know), you’ll find the entrance to the Council Tower, which offers stunning views above the city (which looks almost perfect with its red tile roofs and not so tall constructions – obviously, there had to be some glass monstrosities built in the center which are the most hideous looking and eye disturbing hotels in town, but not much can be done now for these cases, unfortunately).

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the Evangelical Church which some serious tile game

In the same area, there is the famous Bridge of Lies (quite tempted to write Bridge of Spies, but sadly there has been no evidence of Tom Hanks ever walking on this bridge. yet) and the entrance to the Evangelical Church, which offers an observation point at way too many stairs above ground level. However, the effort is totally worth it.

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* insert here some specific dove sounds

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narrow streets and crowded neighbours

Around Sibiu, if you have a car, you can reach multiple villages with amazing fortified churches.

One of them is in Cisnădie and it is now a place for theatre events or music nights (some of the activities held during the International Theatre Festival of Sibiu will actually be held there). It was there where I experience the incredible surprise of encountering Transylvanian hospitality. It was 18:23, we were rushing from our car and that’s when we saw that the ticket office was closing at 18 sharp and that the lady from the administration was descending with the last tourists while locking the doors. After we explained to her how much we wanted to visit the place, she gave us the keys and told us where to drop them. Shocking, I know. But this truly shows how wonderful it is to have faith in people and to consider everybody a good soul!

If you do decide to go there, savour every bit of the road to Cisnădie from Sibiu. The forests that the road pierces are mesmerizing and the light on the pavement almost looks like lace being broken softly by skin ( which is something a bit challenging to capture in photos, but not impossible, obviously).

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the lateral entrance to the Church

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the village’s church as seen from the hills of the fortified church

The next place we saw was the Brukenthal Palace in Avrig. Paradoxically, the Palace is not open. The domains are currently undergoing restoration, with the old Oranjerie being transformed into a small sized hotel, events space and restaurant. The gardens are being brought back to their old beauty as well, while the Palace remains sadly touched only by time, water and degradation.

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Oranjerie/Restaurant

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the Brukenthal Palace of Avrig

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almost Parisian

Another interesting fortified church is the one in Cârța . It was built by some monks in the 13th century, but it had a merciless destiny, having been destroyed partially several times among the centuries.

We met there its priest, who let us in, after wanting to close the doors (am I the only one having the déjà vu feeling?).

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apparently it was not bombarded, this is just the result of centuries passing

He is the only priest in 8 villages, so he holds the masses by rotation. He believes it is his duty to convince people to come to church and to even transport them by car, just so they do come. He was such a kind, open and generous man and my heart shattered when I heard that 16 years ago some people broke one window of the church only to steal three angels from the organ. I wandered then, if extreme poverty is the one leading some men into stealing (even from the church!), or the desire to make easy money (instead of lawning somebody else’s parchel).

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the better conserved area

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the exterior walls (quite Roman, isn’t it?)

Last on the list was probably the one place I wanted to see the most: The Guest Houses of Cincșor. I have seen so many photos of the place until now that I fell in love with it. We met with the owner, who made me believe that everything we do, everything we own and everything we plan should have a story. Nevertheless, what she and her team managed to do there was impressive. They restored the old school and the Evangelical parsonage and transformed them into these magical rooms – true oases of relaxation. Surrounded by traditional style lines, simplicity and the purest of white, once you’re there, you feel like you might never get a good enough reason to leave.

Right across the Guest Houses is the Fortified Church of Cincșor, a pathway to a medieval portal so tranquil and calming. It is definitely worth a visit and if you are courageous, go up the Bell Tower to experience the omniscient narrator perspective.

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when can I move in?

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let the light in

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the Bell Tower – the only one renovated

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photo or painting?

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every single church had at least one bouquet of lilies

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me entering my own world

Have you seen any of the places listed above? If yes, what did you think of them? If no, what do you think? Will you give them a try?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Laura

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travel

The Hagianoff Mansion

April 25, 2016
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Car keys? Check.

Camera? Check.

Umbrella? Check.

Driver’s licence and outrageously important car papers? Inside the wallet. (‘MA, can I put my wallet in your backpack? My bag cannot fit anything!’)

***

This is how we started our Sunday. We wanted for a long time (5 days actually, but that is A LOT in mum’s days) to escape our home and fly to Morocco  visit this Mansion we’ve seen on Instagram (obviously) which is at about 60 km from Bucharest.

Said and done.

After what seemed to be an endless journey, (painfully slow as yours truly would despise receiving traffic fines – yes, I’m in that period when I still take notice of the signs displayed on the road), we arrived at our destination, the Domains of Manasia.

The most terrible April showers forced us to take as quickly as possible all our belongings from the car, only to find out after an unpleasant and muddy scavenger hunt, that mum’s bag was nowhere to be found. And she claims she’s THE responsible adult… (Needless to say I’ll start carrying my wallet stuffed in my bra from now own.)

So, no money, one single phone ( its fortunate presence owed only to the fact that we were relying on Google Maps), no credit card, no driver’s licence, NADA. But, hey, at least I had the most beautiful teeny tiny empty bag!

Great. Good thing we weren’t going to visit a private Mansion in the middle of nowhere. Oh, wait…

After pointing out that I never forget stuff (except that one time when I wanted to go to Bulgaria to see some rocks and somewhere in the middle of our trip I realized my ID was on my desk, at home, obviously), we decided to still give it a shot and see if we could get in the Mansion with the unbelievable amount of 7 lei found in various corners of the car in precarious conditions. Nevertheless, we had money!

‘Hello! Could we visit the Mansion?’

‘Do you have a reservation?’

Mum stares at me. I stare back. Then, we compose the most innocent looking faces (we could have been GREAT actresses) asking the now dear body guard if we couldn’t enter without.

‘Let me see what I can do.’ * reaches for the phone

‘Boss, yes, I have two ladies here, at the entrance. They have no reservation. What to do? … aha, OK, thanks.’

‘You can go.’

‘Great! Thank you!’

‘The entrance is 45 lei per person.’

(You know that emoji inspired by the manga cartoons where there suddenly appears a huge drop of embarrassment on a character’s face? We-think-Happy-inexplicably-sweaty Yes, this one exactly!)

‘Funny story, you see, we forgot the bag that contained everything crucial for this trip. Can my husband pay online from home? Please?’

‘No. Cash only.’

‘Um. 000087279dcb44fb2fcd1be2848bf662

‘Can we at least visit it from outside?’

‘No.’

Okay, then.

***

So, we strolled five minutes around the surrounding wall, took some fabulous photos with a silver church in the background and jumped back in the car. That’s the moment when my glorious mum decided she needed elderberry flowers.

Of course, the most natural thing to do when this urge strikes you is, in my mother’s world, to hail some half drunk men from the village’s bodega to promise them 5 lei if they bring some elderberry branches.

(You get used to my mother’s practices after you live some years with her.)

So, it was quite a surprise when not one, but TWO tipsy men skipped a fence and brought her 5 branches, leading to them gaining the easiest worked money they ever got. (‘Hehe, look, Dick, this is how easy I make money!’)

***

‘I’m glad we came all the way to here for nothing. It was such a revelation!’

‘Stop whining! I got elderberry flowers!’

I couldn’t hold my excitement.

***

With the thought of 3 wasted hours, I was pretty bummed that we had to turn around, I have to admit.

So, mum, as any super-mother, called the only person who could have been around to lend us some cash to see the Mansion.

‘He didn’t answer. It’s after all, 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon, so everybody probably sleeps.’

However, the next minute, the phone rang. It wasn’t who we thought it was, but it was better.

You know that overly quoted saying of Paulo Coelho: ‘when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”? Well, here it is quoted again. Duh. (Just because I find it suited for this situation.)

Our luck was that a friend spotted our car while at a gas station! Some say it’s Dumb Luck 101, I say it’s Destiny. (Watch out for this saying, it will become extremely popular one day).

‘Do you have money?’

‘mmm, yes, I think I have 50 lei.’

‘We need a 100.’

‘I’m with my folks and some relatives, we’ll search our pockets.’

‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Meet us after the second round-about!’

***

‘Mum, now that we have money, what are we going to say to the bodyguard if he asks us how we got them?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Wait. I have an idea! We’ll tell him we sold your 5 lei elderberry flowers to some naive Bucharest people for 100 lei!’

* eyeballs rolling ‘Well, doesn’t that sound plausible?!’

***

I have to say that I was blown away by how magnificent this building is. With an attic perfect for experimental theatre events or mini-conferences, a floor perfect for small business meetings that include a tea and hookah break in a really good looking salon and a ground floor designed to transport you to a movie scene where the characters indulge in the most delicious dishes (prepared by a top chef), the building is an architecture lover’s dream and a French enthusiastic’s refuge.

If the following photos will convince you to pay a visit, bear in mind that it is open for public only on Sundays, with reservation and only when there are no private events (aka the wedding of my dreams).

Schedule around three hours for the visit, as you wouldn’t want to miss all the floors AND the wine cellar which holds barrels SO humongous that their capacity is 4800 l.

Bring a book, savour some croissants and a tea on their terrace (they’re included :) ) and take deep breaths while listening to their amazing music (it’s the wonderful Café de Paris Radio).

And if you’re an animal lover, you’ll find some of the most beautiful white peacocks I’ve ever seen.

For reservations and other inquiries, click here.

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I hope I convinced you to go. If you do, drop me a line to tell me how it was.

And please, remember to bring cash!

Laura

P.S. My mother insists on telling you how amazing she truly is during the other 364 days of the year.

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