Feelin’ It in San Andres

Oh my Lovers… today I’m treating you to a special post, a recent memory accounting of an island adventure, something I haven’t provided for months. You’ve been subjected to past adventures, hustled through previous experiences, and denied recounts all together. But today I’ll provide all access in real time. Adventures as they happen. My steam of consciousness, as live as it gets.

Back in Medellin, Sarabear and I arrived at city preview, late, sweaty and out of breath – but just in time to hear Juan pitch his Feelin experience in San Andres, a Colombian island adventure that drew my attention from the get. After some mental debating, a fat commission check and a need to do something for myself, I booked a spot and a flight, and was headed to and island I’d never heard of with people I had never met for the experience of a lifetime (sounds like RY, right?).

I arrived at the airport with minimal time to spare, an experience I had designed over my many early morning airport trips over the past year. An extra 15 minutes of sleep, or a cushion to grab a coffee and a croissant? I’ll take the sleep any day. Not by design was my check-in bag, something I desperately tried to avoid on side trips, but these budget airlines and their stingy overhead space…..

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter, flashed my biggest por-favor-discuple-mi-mal-espanol smile and handed her my passport. Everything was going as per usual until she asked me for a return flight, something I had been waiting to get to the island to decide on. She made my decision for me when she told me I had to have confirmation of departure from the island if I wanted to go to the island. Thank god for cell phone technology. I stepped out of line, and within a few moments had booked my flight back to Bogota for Tuesday the next week. Now we were cooking with gas. Or so I thought…

I hit the ATM before going through security, and I was still left with a few moments before boarding, just enough time to get that passport insta-post in {“Island bound bitches!!!”}. They called my flight, and I watched as the line dwindled to a manageable length before jumping in – only to be denied because I didn’t have a customs form. Customs forms? Wasn’t San Andres Colombia? Was I not in Colombia? I was sent to the back of a much longer line, where I waited to get my form – and pay my island fee. Another item I hadn’t factored into my travels. Good thing I hit that ATM. Also, mental note to do more research on reaching my intended destinations.

A quick hour later, we’re touching down in San Andres. After a short stop for airplane crossing (these tarmac flights tho), I find myself in an actual customs line… talking to a customs agent. In the same country I flew from. But as far as customs experiences go this one is relatively painless, so I’m spit out on the other side to wait for that damned check-in bag. Now, I’ve stood at 20+ luggage belts over the past year, but I am not above the panic that sets in the longer it takes for my bag to peep its purple head out on the belt. My only solace is that several other passengers from my flight are standing around with the exact same look. After 20 minutes, a fresh set of luggage emerges, including my trusty duffel, still adorned with the Tigger given to me by JDC prior to my States departure. Another long line for customs X-ray and I catch sight of Juan on the other side (after being asked 7 times if I needed a taxi – gotta love the hustle these drivers put out).

After a stop at our <AIR CONDITIONED!> accoms for a quick change, Cata, Juan and I hop in the back of scooters and are off to our first adventure, a lunch spot directly on a beach that’s as empty as it is gorgeous. I dig my toes into the soft sand as I gaze out over the waves crashing in, and I can see at least 4 shades of breathtaking blue. To my right is a small rowboat with an ancient trolley motor bobbing in the waves. Off to the left is Johnny Cay, an island covered in palm trees, and just in front of it is the remains of a shipwreck that has been abandoned, a relic that help sets the tone of this scene. If Norman Rockwell painted the perfect beach, this would be it.

With Aguila Lights in hand, Juan recounts the history and politics of the island to me while we soak up the sun. San Andres is closer to Nicaragua than Colombia by far, and the Colombian government has considered it an afterthought for far too long, causing a difficult economic strain on the island. Once a tax haven, put out of business when Colombia opened its customs border, the island turned to fishing until the Nicaraguan government commandeered the waters they depended on. Left with little to work with, narco traffic became the big business of the island as cartels took advantage of its proximity to Miami. As I look around at the beauty of the island, dotted with obvious signs of poverty, Juan confirms the thought I am having that tourism, done right, could have a much needed positive impact on the island.

After lunch, we’re whisked into the center of the island to the national park that houses Big Pond Lagoon, a fresh water lake that sits in front of a compound of houses inhabited by native islanders – Rastas. We start our walk around the lake by feeding the alligators that live in the pond, and as we circle, our guide tells us about each plant, each tree, and how they use them – cedar wood for furniture, gourds for plates, medicinal plants for anxiety, cholesterol, gastritis, diabetes, cancer – there’s mango tress, guava trees, cottonwood. His family has been on this land for generations. I learn that while this area of San Andres sits between two mountains, the bedrock is coral reef, not volcanic, and the coral filters the water from the sea, making the lake a source of “sweet water” as they call it – a “mystic place” he calls it in his heavy Caribbean accent. The natives here speak Criolla, an island English adapted back in slave times – there are forms of this all over the Caribbean – here in San Andres it is derived from English, Jamaican having a more French influence, and the Dominican Republic heavy in Spanish.

Seeing that this is the “Native Experience” portion of the trip, our guide and his family are preparing Rondon, a traditional island stew in which fish, conch, pork, plantains, yucca and local potatoes (all locally grown) are all cooked down in coconut milk {which itself is made from coconuts macheted open, grated and soaked in water}. As the stew cooked down, we once again wander in the the jungle, and it occurs to me that I’m following a machete wielding Rasta into the San Andres nowhere, something that when my step mother reads this will give her a heart attack, but this is my #newnormal, and fear is merely excitement at the adventures ahead.

Our return from the jungle trek, where we find more trees and plants used for shampoo, rope, ties, ship masts and more, is greeted by the delectable aroma of the Rondon, almost ready for us to eat. Truth time: I am FAMISHED, but leery of the hodgepodge stew – 1) I’m not a huge fan of dishes where everything is thrown together – I usually deconstruct burgers, I don’t assemble my fajitas, and bread is a side dish, not a vessel for whatever was meant to go on it. *side note, I make exceptions for pho – load it up with the goods. 2) As my father, step mother, and most recently Marky, will tell you, I’m a grazer. Big meals are not my forte, and I’m aptly served up with a HEAPING plate of this stew. But it smells heavenly, so here goes nothing.

To say it was delicious gives it no justice. If I call it delectable, mouthwatering, savory, or any other food related adjective that I can think of, I’m not even coming CLOSE to accurately describing how amazing this dish tastes. Knowing that even in my ravenous state I don’t have the capacity to eat this entire dish, I quickly isolate the components that will be the focus of my attack – 1) The conch. Dear Key West – please STOP frying this. Yes, your signature fritters are good, but sans deep frying, conch is one of the best creatures from the sea I’ve ever had. 2) The fish. A local fish, white and flaky that falls from the skeleton (sans bones, gracias) in the most delicious fashion. 3) The pork – fall off the bone, flavorful – only to be eaten with hands, gnawing at it to get every last bit *interesting aside, the islanders only eat pork from the States – they aren’t fans of the Colombian swine. 4) Everything else – the plantain and yucca make the top of the list, and there is a dumpling that I want to eat all of, but strategy dictates that carbs will inhibit my goal to eat as much of this as my tiny tummy will handle. Just when I think it can’t get any better, I’m asked if I like spicy (YES) and handed a pepper sauce that ups the ante to mind blowing. I made myself absolutely MISERABLE trying to eat as much of this as I could. Although I wasn’t able to finish it, I’d still say my dad and Marky would have been proud that all that remained was half a dumpling and two Irish potatoes.

Satiated and sun worn, we headed back to the accoms for showers and a wardrobe change. I have a lengthy convo with Latam after a survey of the local wifi proved to be insufficient for a Monday client meeting. Once my flight is rebooked, we head to the main beach walk. As we walked along, I found myself with a sense of deja vu. My surrounding reminded me of my time spent with Ariela in Koh Samui. Or with Duff in Gili. Kiwi in Krabi. Even back to my pre RY days in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and St. Croix. I began to wonder if this cookie cutter island experience was by design. Had someone scripted what a beach feel was, patented the color scheme, filled it with white plastic chairs, stuck some palm trees in the ground (always at least one sideways) and sold it to every tourist destination? A fully functioning island experience, just insert your own music! Whatever the implementation method, this place is vibrant and beautiful, and as we walk the promenade, a warm Caribbean breeze blows in from the sea giving my lions mane an island wind blown look that I’m not opposed to. We settle in for a beer and talk about travel. Juan asks for advice, as someone who would like to see the world. My only advice to give: Do it.

Saturday morning I wake up to a feeling… an odd one only to be described as my skin BEGGING for a day not exposed to the Caribbean rays, but day two is White Wata, or as I like to call it, BOAT DAY! I concede to the adornment of sunscreen, a usual afterthought in my life, and despite the protests of my dermis, we head out. After some breakfast at a local cafe where I horribly mispronounce “revultos” {scrambled} we’re picked up on island time {read, 45 minutes after planned} and head to the marina. Our vessel properly loaded with sub wings, snorkels, and {of course} whiskey and beer, we head out into the Caribbean blue. History first, we cruise by San Andres’s only port before heading to the mangroves. On our way, we pass a graveyard of shipwrecked boats, just sitting in the water, no one caring to remove them. It’s eerily majestic, and Juan tells us that they are narco boats that the government has left to deteriorate on their own. Into the mangroves we go, and Juancho recounts their importance for the eco system and the economy, as the fish and shellfish feed on the algae that grows on the roots. We grab our snorkels and head in search of sea life – I’m looking for lobsters {er, dinner}, but they must know my intentions, because we can’t seem to find any. Lobsters – 1 Pino – 0. I’ll get you next time…..

Onto the White Wata {Criolla}, a breathtaking area of the ocean where the coral reef produced an island of white sand about three feet into the water that reflects the clearest aqua water you can imagine. It’s sub wing time, but my shoulder is still nagging from Lisbon-New Zealand-Cordoba and most recently attempted pull up at Casa en el Agua, so I pass on this adventure and play photog for Cata and Juan. As we’re slowly treading through the water, I look over and there’s this random guy swimming through the ocean – no boat in sight, and we are pretty far off shore. Juancho tells me he’s conch hunting, and his crazy ass had absolutely swam in from shore, with nothing but a snorkel and mask. He tosses one up to the boat, and overshoots his landing – before I can say go, Juan Pablo has dived off the boat after it, surfacing a few moments later with a victorious grab.

After everyone has had their dolphin like experience, we park the boat and hop in for some snorkeling. I dive off the boat sans snorkel, so I swim back to the boat so Juan can toss me a setup. These waters are intense, but I consider myself a strong person, and I’ve faced rough seas a few times this year. Note about a snorkeling mask – put it on before getting in the water. Note about snorkeling in rough waters – use flippers. I’m getting pounded by waves at I try to get set up, and Juan Pablo swims over to help me – something even my stubborn self accepts. Once I’m ready to go, I start swimming towards calmer waters, but I’m already out of breath from my adorning adventure. I tell myself it’s ok, just swim slowly and take some deep breaths, but the waves are crashing over my snorkel, making this difficult. I consider its time to go back to the boat, but I have a destination in mind, and well, like I said, I’m stubborn. It’s not long before I briefly consider the possibility that I might drown out here, as I’m terribly winded and making no progress. About that time, all three Juans are waving Cata and I in, with Juan Pablo sticking close by as we head back to the boat. Yep, those waters were rougher than any of us suspected, which makes me feel better about my own struggle. And let’s be honest, it was easy to push the bounds of my limits knowing full well I was never in any real danger with the boat and boys nearby. Although I have probably once again scared my stepmother. Sorry Bettejo.

It’s time for another island meal, so we pull up to Johnny Cay, anchor off and wade to shore. Lunch is served up at a Rasta run hut, and I have immediate order envy – my shrimp rice was delicious, but the island fish the boys were tearing into looked so much better. We’d been watching the storm clouds roll in for a bit now, and the sky opened up halfway through lunch. We trudged back to the boat, and slowly headed out in the rough waters to yet another abandoned ship – this one a tanker sitting on a reef that divided the rough seas from the calmer waters inside the reef. A quick jaunt over to Rose Cay, but when the sky opens up this time, it’s dumping buckets, so once it lets up, we call it a day and head to shore.

After and absurdly long sun nap (seriously why does this orb take so much outta me?), Juan, Cata and I head to La Regatta for dinner, a restaurant perched on the dock beside the marina. I’m beside myself with wine joy when I see a Sancerre on the menu, and it pairs beautifully with the fish I ordered. *Happy girl*. On our walk home, we run into the boys headed out for the night, so we decide to join and end up at Coco Loco, one of the three or four clubs on the island. Everyone told me the music in Latin America was an acquired taste and it has taken this moment to to make me realize its true. A bottle of whiskey is ordered and we dance to the Latin beats… but I know I’m at home when the beat slows and a remix of Sweet Dreams vibrates across the crowd.

The next morning my alarm blares way too early and I can feel the night before pulsating in my temples. I rouse from my super soft bed with super soft sheets to throw my bag together for our departure. We’re scheduled to fly out at 11:11, and by way of island time, we arrive at the airport at 10:35, and still make it to our flight with a few moments to spare despite Juan being placed on the standby list.

I’m not ready for Bogota… the cold, the rain… but I land in manageable temperatures, albiet without data. Thank goodness or my developed taxi skills, and its not long before I’m headed back to my Harts.

To quote my beloved Dre, home is where the Harts are, and I’m home. San Andres was an incredible adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I can’t contain the joy at being back where I belong, with my tram by my side. <Insert sappy ending….or don’t>

Specifically yours,

SR

Want to Feel It for yourself? Get in touch with my man Juan here.  Tell him I sent you 🙂

Conceding to the Universe

Hola mi amantes! I’m coming to you today as I soar high in the sky above the Caribbean on my way to San Andres island. This is the third weekend in a row that I’ve jetted off to Caribbean destinations in Colombia – first it was a house in the middle of the ocean, and then a beach hidden deep in the jungle – now its time to live the island life for a few days before heading back to Bogota. But with some time to kill, I thought I’d check in with you with my latest personal discovery in yet another brain dump post.

I used to believe that in order to love my Harts, I needed time away from them _cue solo side trip_. See, in a past life, I was the kind of person who would sacrifice my own well being to make sure that the people I cared about were happy. After being taken advantage of in this respect time and time again, I started to view this as a weakness, and attempted to reinvent myself as someone who didn’t give a fuck about anything but what she wanted. Ahem, this doesn’t work for me {insert Starbucks “toasty marshmallow” reference}. I’m not saying people aren’t capable of change, but once a caring soul, always a caring soul. What I did learn as the number of people that I cared about in my life grew, is that in order to love and care for those around me, I need time away to love me. Surrounded by the group, I allow myself to be swallowed up by the pursuit of their happiness ~individually and collectively ~ and I’m not complaining, I love every minute of it, and it is a much more fulfilling way of life when those around me are constantly recognizing and appreciating me for who I am. What I didn’t realize until I landed in Cartagena is how draining it can still be on me if I let it, and that my happiness {while still mainly derived from the joy of others} requires effort on my part to focus on me and recharge that spirit of giving. So, in order to love my Harts, I need time away to love me.

I’m not big on faith. I have a hard time accepting that there’s a grand master plan out there, or a celestial being is guiding my life, or that my mood is dependent on where Mars is in orbit {cough, control freak, cough}. That said, sometimes the Universe speaks so loudly, I can’t help but give it a little nod and an “ok, ok”. When planning my flight to Cartagena, the launching point for a weekend at Casa en el Agua, I decided to take a few days on the front end for myself ~ a funny notion, considering this was the consensus of at least half the Harts.

When we landed in Bogota, it was gloomy. I was sick. It was cold. Sure, cold is relative, but when my suitcase is loaded for endless summer, 50 degrees and rainy is a bit uncomfortable. It was fine, I told myself, only a few days until I was coastal bound. When making my usual initial grocery run [er, Rappi delivery], I hesitated on a few items I would normally get for the month {mainly the makings of a PBnJ}. I also heavily researched gyms, and hesitantly held off on signing for the month. When I packed for Cartagena, I WAY over packed, a severe deviation from my usual minimalist travel style. All of the above mentioned out of character moves made complete sense the moment we landed in Cartagena. I stepped off the plane, the Caribbean breeze hit my skin, and I knew I > was > home. Month 11 wasn’t meant for me to spend in the mountains of Bogota {which I’m sure is a lovely place rich in experiences}, but rather on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, gazing out at the sparkling waters and recharging my so{u}l<ar> batteries. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to buy a jar of PB. I see you universe.

Cartagena is a beautiful mix of Miami and New Orleans. I had booked a swanky top floor condo in the Miami-esque area of Bocagrande, a peninsula of high rises that overlooked the bright blue waters of the Caribbean. A mere 5 minutes cab ride away is Old City, a walled maze of brightly colored buildings, energetic activity, and a distinct New Orleans vibe, if you replace the jazz with salsa. Less than 24 hours into my trip, I booked my AirBNB for another 10 days.

I didn’t spend the whole time alone. As I previously mentioned, there were other Harts with the same idea I had, so I hung at the pool with Duffs, had lunch dates with Mel, birthday dinners with the crew, a week of the Marky and Noir show featuring jungle treks, beaches, hammocks and _boulders_, and of course, the tramily gathering at Casa en el Agua. But when I was alone, I was never lonely. I slept. I ate clean. I drank lots of water. I took myself out to dinner. I ordered food in and binged on trash TV. I laid by the pool. Caught up with friends. I wrote. I read. I watched every sunset. I worked, long days, that I didn’t mind because I was slaying. I woke up every morning to the sound of the waves crashing and a view of the ocean that put a smile on my face. I started to feel rejuvenated and refreshed, felt my confidence return and my mind start to ease. I missed my Harts, but I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Ok Universe, I get it.

As we begin our descent into San Andres, I have to regrettably say that the time allotted for this brain dump is up. I’m off to more Caribbean adventures and can’t be bothered divulging my inner workings anymore. Until next time Lovers…

Randomly Yours,

SR

Sad you didn’t get any adventure updates? Guess what… pics are UTD

Hanoi(ingly late)

Greetings from SE Asia my Lovers. Yesterday marked one week in my new home of Hanoi, and while I have spent the majority of my time either working or sleeping, I still have plenty to report on the Random front. I am truly in a different world, in every sense of the word. Europe was beautiful and romantic, not drastically different from home, and you could almost always find someone who spoke English, or you could at least fumble your way through the language. Hanoi does not afford us any of these luxuries – even if you can find “western” food, goods and influence on almost every corner.

Marky, DL, Ktunes and I all arrived in Hanoi on a 7 hour overnight flight from Dubai. I sat between the boys while they slept, unable to zonk out myself despite the copious amounts of free Jack Daniels Emirates provided. Customs was a breeze, contradictory to the horror stories we had been prepped with, but I was tired and cranky and a whiny little girl. They keys to my home (and my eventual sleep) were at the workspace (Toong) with Pigeon, so DL and I ubered/napped there to gain my access to my home and also my data – Vietnam is the one place that T-Mobile is not a thing. Our first introduction to the language barriers was arguing with our Uber driver who was supposed to carry us on, but it didn’t work out and we were left on the sidewalk with our baggage in hand. DL had a call, so we ducked into Cowboy Jack’s, a restaurant downstairs from Toong that can best be described as a Vietnamese Hooters. One business call, two plates of chicken cartilage, and a few beers later, we start our search for our Hanoi homes. The address provided to us is NOT accurate, so we spend the next HOUR dragging ourselves up and down the street, dripping with sweat, trying to find our air conditioned apartments for the month. Skeen to the rescue, we each find our destinations, I unpack a bit and go down for a much needed nap before my first taste of the night shift.

The next evening has me missing some faces, so I venture out to , my new favorite cocktail bar, to meet some fellow Earharts and have my first flaming Pho cocktail – which is every bit as delicious as it sounds. We leave Nê and wander to the corner for some actual pho, served on the sidewalk while sitting 6 inches from the ground on a plastic stool.  After lighting ourselves up with chili sauce, we move to Xofa for some iced coconut coffee to cool off in the monstrous heat and humidity.  The crew eventually breaks off, but Phil the Thrill, Bonina and I aren’t ready to turn it in, so we catch on Uber to the Old Quarter, follow some nice young expats into a ruin type bar that is entered to through a scooter rental shop, meet some english teachers (seriously, everyone here teaches english) who then take us to another corner where we drink Vietnamese beer and chat amongst our group of 20 or so until the sun comes up – sitting a corner on plastic stools 6 inches from the ground.

The next week is mainly me trying to manage the jet lag, a new work schedule (8pm-2am seems to be my jam), and one hell of a sinus infection. Its not until the end of the week that I really start to hit my groove, but a forced 10am wake up one day for Town Hall allows me to explore in the daylight, grab lunch and catch up with an Australian beauty, hit the grocery store, and stumble upon the cutest little park with a lake just a few blocks from Toong. Naps a plenty, grabbing 90 minutes here and there, I finally start to feel human enough to interact with the world, only my world now is limited to my fellow creatures of the night – those of us bound either loosely or tightly to US hours. We inhabit Toong until the wee hours of the morning, pack it in and head over to Puku, the late night joint that hosts us until sun up when we depart for our blackout shaded rooms for our 8 (or 10) hours of slumber.

The streets of Hanoi are filled with scooters and motorbikes – and the sidewalks, and the alleys, and, well, pretty much everywhere – you even see them inside.  Crossing the street was best described by Becks as a delicate game of frogger – although basic strategy dictates picking a moment, picking a speed and just going for it.  Which brings me to one of my favorite things about Hanoi: Uber. Moto. When you think about it, UberMoto makes perfect sense in the organized chaos that is the streets of Hanoi – and when you factor in that each ride only costs $.44 (read that right, forty-four cents), its a no brainer. Riding an UberMoto makes you feel like you are a part of the elite Hanoi scooter gang -each red light a new chance to be in a sea of motorbikes all revving at the same time to take off and ignore all proper traffic laws – lanes, lights, one ways – anything goes.

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Saturday night is ladies night, and we all get dressed up in our sexy best (much better than your Sunday best) and head to The Rooftop – a swanky joint on the 19th floor of the Saigon Hotel with expansive views of the Hanoi skyline. A girl DJ and drinks named “The Hot Lady” have us turning the joint into a dance club, because Earharts can start a dance party anywhere. Once we’ve exhausted our welcome there, we descend down to the lobby (with one daring rescue of a damsel in douchebag distress) and walk more than a few blocks in the drizzling rain to our next destination – The Toilet.  Despite it’s name, the club itself is quite swank, but the vibe is weird and we leave after not being about to dance the weirdness away.  Back to Puku, where there’s always Earharts to be found, a little sheisha, a little whiskey, and I’m home to pack for my 6am departure to Sapa (see Sleep When I’m Dead for overnighter status continued).

Week 1 recap: Hanoi is hot and humid and I mostly see it under cloak of night.  I moto as often as I can, eat food from street corners while sitting on cheap plastic stools and I questions anything that costs more than $4.  Side trips often require all nighters, and sleep is gotten where I can get it.  There’s more to come, so stick around Lovers; the Asian Random has just begun.

Specifically Yours,

SR

P.S. I know, this post is late – upon posting I only have two weeks left in Hanoi – but don’t fret, all will be revealed – I would never abandon your Love.  Kisses.

Lisboa

Dearest Lovers of Random – I promised a post about my latest city of habitation, Lisbon Portugal.  As referenced in my past post, Lisbon has been a different feel for me.  I’m an employed woman now and I am throughly enjoying being an accounting badass again.  I’m running a fitness challenge and have started a new weightlifting program, so I’m enjoying slinging weights again (thanks Dustin!). Budapest may have felt like home, but Lisbon feels much like my old life…. with a European twist, of course.

What can I tell you about Lisbon? Well, for starters, its dirty. In the midst of an economic rebound, there is construction everywhere, which means there is dust everywhere. Also, most of the drinking is done in the streets. So is the male relief of the by-product of that alcohol. Speaking of the drinking in the streets, Lisbon is also loud. At least my home is. Situated between the two bar districts in town, Barrio Alto and Pink Street, and having a few lively places of our own, there is always a chorus of drunken madness wafting it’s way up to my windows. Also directly beneath my window, a tram rail and a bus stop. Both run frequently. The sidewalks are narrow. The locals hate tourists. In the dead of summer, every day is hot and there are hills everywhere. But all of this is just as much a part of the unique charm of Lisbon as the tile buildings, towering staircases, stone walkways and street art filled walls. I’ve learned that Lisbon is a lot like me…. you love it for what it is, or you move on. It does not apologize for what it is.

In most cases, this dedication to culture is heartwarming and satisfying in the form of decorated plazas, delightful local dishes (I recommend the duck rice at Castro), and a wine culture that rivals any I have ever seen. Seriously, two buck chuck has nothing on the bottles you can get here for 3 euro. Some if it is better than a $50 bottle at home. There is a craft cocktail bar – 4 Caravelas – where I can walk through the door and order a Bulliet rye, and the Australian expat who owns the place automatically puts the dash of bitters that I enjoy so much and only had to ask for once. We can talk about the subtleties and differences of rye, bourbon and scotch while I sip my cocktail and it reminds me of HBG at home, because my glass is never really empty. There’s Helio, the local who runs the aforementioned Castro’s, a quaint bar and eatery offering open air seating in vintage upholstery served with a side of conversation about local culture. There’s Red Frog, a speakeasy that reminds me of Death & Co in NYC, although the door guy is a midget instead of a towering ape in a tux. There is Foxtrot, with it’s open courtyard and smoky old fashions. And one of my personal favorites, Baguettes & Cornets, a French corner bakery with the best baked treats and the friendliest staff in Europe.

But Lisbon also has a dark side, and it is ugly. I never personally experienced it, so I don’t feel I have the right to write about it, but you can read my tramily’s takes on the events of one horrible evening here and here. I have no respect for those who fuck with the people that I love, and I love my fellow Earharts deeply, so Lisbon will always carry a scar on my heart. But if I were to lump all of Lisbon in with the few neanderthals that perpetuated the events of that night, I would be no better than them.

In the spirit of open mindedness, I climbed the hills of Lisbon and watched sunrises and sunsets. I peered down it’s picturesque alleys and enjoy local wine in it’s parks. I ran along the river and watched the rising sun sparkle across it. I boarded a sailboat with friends old and new to see sunset from the Tagus and eat homemade stew between bouts of uncontrollable laughter. I wandered Pink Street and Barrio Alto after late night shifts. The Goddess visited and we sipped sangria with DL on top of a parking deck while watching the sunset over a bridge that resembles the Golden Gate. She and I swank it up at the Palácio do Governador with pool time, spa visits and girl talk in hotel rooms. I enjoy meals and drinks and late night deep chats with the 11 other souls living in my building. I do my best to make the most out of my time in Lisbon. That said, I’m not disappointed to leave.

My European adventure has come to an end. I’ll spend a few days in the Middle East before starting my life in Southeast Asia, and I don’t even have a clue what to expect, so I’m ready for anything. Stay tuned for the Random adventures: Vietnam addition.

Specifically Yours,

SR