Alfama is one of the old historic towns in Lisbon. Of all the places I visited abroad in May, this was one of my absolute favorites overall and definitely the most beautiful place I saw in Portugal.An interesting part of this area was riding the old trolley. They are hand operated by a driver at the front. Because I'm not from the area, I didn't anticipate the number of slopes and twists and turns on the cobblestone road. Add that to an seemingly unsafe speed for such a place, it seemed worse standing up in the ride for that than it was in all the times I've ridden the subway in Manhattan. The hills were almost comparable to San Francisco hills. Almost.
Many of the buildings are either painted a happy pastel color or tiled with unique painted tiles from top to bottom, which added variety and fun to what would otherwise be just another plain city in Europe. And that was what I loved most about Alfama. Although the colorful homes and doors were weathered and old, they seemed to hold stories, and being someone who loves color and design, this was a special place for me to visit. A quiet and peaceful place.
More to my travels through Lisbon
Lisbon, Portugal - Belém
Lisbon, Portugal - Cabo da Roca
Rossio Square, a popular place among locals to dine, shop, and relax
We took the bus towards Belém, a beautiful area mixed with historic buildings, including a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and modern infrastructure situated along the riverbank that flows to the Atlantic Ocean.
Pastéis de Belém, a delicious pastry shop most famous for its Portugese egg tarts. Thick, hard flakes surround the soft custard center. Although a long line, stretching about half a block, formed by the time we arrived, all orders were processed very quickly and we bought various pastries to try for lunch.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery) from the late 15th century
Tower of Belém, used in the 16th century for Portuguese maritime defense and as a symbol of Portugal's Age of Discovery
Loja Das Conservas is a small shop by the coast that sells what Portugal is best known for - canned fish. We stumbled upon this small shop on our way to Alfama, another old town in Lisbon. I've never had canned sardines before and have always heard that they taste and smell bad, but are surprisingly so delicious! They sell canned sardines, mackerels, tuna, and bass in different sauces and spices. These canned fish are part of the Portuguese daily diet, and if I could, I would eat them on a daily basis because they are that good.
More to my travels through Lisbon
Lisbon Portugal - The Colors of Alfama
Lisbon, Portugal - Cabo da Roca
In the past few days since the last day of my internship, I've been able to sleep in until 7am, rest my finger and eyes from the hours and hours spent on the computer in "Excel World", checked items off my summer to-do list, have fun Sister Time with my one and only, and feel excitement about my future rather than dread.
Most of all, this was a summer of professional growth. Since summer of 2009, May through August have been spent on intensely working towards my career goals. While each one had its own challenges, rewards, growth, memories, and friendship, this summer in particular has been the most daunting, interesting, and inspiring one. The determination of carving a future that I crave settled in a few days before my first day of my last internship. However, there was fear of direction in my career. I have always been a worrier from the time I was in middle school. Maybe it's the mindset that Asian parents instill on their children, that life is a straight road and that money will make you happy; therefore, you must work hard, earn a college degree, and land a prestigious job because money equals happiness. But what is life without happiness? When we wake up in the morning, we make the choice of how full our happy-o-meter is. Most mornings throughout the school year, my happy-o-meter was close to empty, and I was beginning to lose hope that I wouldn't find my own ground.
But something changed after my first day of work. For the first time, I woke up every morning excited about something. About working in an industry that I've wanted to work in since high school, about knowing my efforts are making a significant impact for my team and towards the building of the new manufacturing plant, about learning something new everyday outside the textbooks and lectures, about working with people who have the same drive and motivation as I do, about people who value both the company and individuals. College education is an important tool that has shaped how I think and approach problems to create solutions. But in the end, it is just a tool, and there is more to the next 40 years of my career than only what I learned in college. Why choose the expected path of working in petroleum or for a chemicals company? I don't have to. Why should I be just like the rest of the students and fellow classmates at my school? I don't want to. Despite what websites and my classmates believe in what I will do with my major, I will do something different and more. My experiences over the past couple summers have quietly shaped the path I have dreamed of for years, and now I know what I want to accomplish in the next 5 years and 15 years. At the top of my list is to have a job that I enjoy and the chance to live and work all over the US and the world.
Last week, after intense interviews for a full time position, everything started to fall in place. Life is a great adventure. It is about creating my own doors of luck that will open on their own when I least expect them to. It is about always doing things outside my comfort zone and going beyond the status quo. My goals will change every year as new events and obstacles scatter in my path. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but as of this summer, I have found where I am happy and what can make me happy. That is what's most important.
It's been just a few days since I've been back from Portugal and Spain, and it feels like a dream. My family and I have been to enough places in the US to crave for trips abroad now, so we took the plunge and decided to visit Europe.
As cliche as I'll sound, there is just one word to sum up the trip - beautiful. The architecture, food presentation, people, product designs, history, fashion...everything. Perhaps it's because everything is new to me, but honestly, nearly everything that I prefer is not what the typical American market caters to, and so I definitely felt very comfortable and happy in my new surroundings. (An example - what's served in restaurants in the US is always too salty or sweet for my tastes, but in Portugal and Spain, they really knew how to cook and bake.) Because this was our first time traveling to somewhere new on our own, it didn't come without problems of its own - finding parking, language barrier, cultural differences, running low on cash, driving directions, running behind our pre-planned schedule, and more. But what is all that when you arrive to the destination and find joy in everything there? It's been a long time since I've lived in the present, and with the trip, I found that I live more and feel more when I do so. By being off the grid and having limited WiFi opportunities, there is much more to experience in life than having my eyes constantly glued to a screen and pondering over what notifications I recieved.
I'd also like to point out that Portugal and Spain has some very kind strangers. Even those who knew little to no English what-so-ever tried their best to help my family when we were lost or confused. But of course, some things wouldn't have been possible without knowing some Spanish. Thankfully my sister and I still remembered some of what we learned in high school. But after the trip, I'm excited to try learning Spanish again. I know there were stories from locals that I missed out on because English was not their first language, so one day when I return, I want to speak with them in their mother tongue.
The 9 cities we visited
There was so much that I loved about being in another country. All five of my senses were engaged and always pleasantly surprised. With that being said, there are many photos and video footage I will be sharing here, along with stories and travel and photography tips. Much has been planned for this summer, and I'm very excited for what's in store! Stay tuned for what's ahead!
We stayed at the Snow Lodge so that we'd waste no time in rising early to explore and head towards Utah for Arches and Canyonland National Parks. It only the only on site lodge open to visitors amount of snow there was. Imagine that, snowfall in May! Unheard of in the south. We spent the day braving the cold and freezing wind at Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Black Sand Basin, Sulphur Caldron, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Yellowstone Lake before driving to just enjoy the snowy landscape. We spotted six different animals that day! It was quite an exciting time.
This is as much as you can see of the Grand Prismatic Spring. It is very colorful, as you can see through the vapors rising off the spring due to how cold that day was, not including windchill, but due to its size, the only way to see the classic, beautiful shot from above is with a drone or helicopter. Speaking of drone, someone's malfunctioned and crashed into the spring back in August...
The mama osprey is an impressive architect, building her nest at such high altitude on a narrow ledge of rocks
Yellowstone lake, frozen in May! My parents didn't know what this was at first, and quite frankly it looks like something out of a movie. Ice for as far as the eye can see.
A lone photographer patiently stood at a far distance with his equipment because within a cluster of trees was a bear that almost no one else could see except him because he had the excellent telephoto lens.
Despite the gloomy weather, it was an excellent trip because best of all, there were barely any other tourists! Since we went during early May, students haven't finished school yet and the Europeans weren't on holiday yet. So at most sites, my family was the only ones there. Which was great because we could walk at our own pace and I could take excellent photos without strangers in the background. The park is huge and I love how the pathways were designed. They allow you to be close to nature without barriers obstructing your views. This would definitely be a great place to camp and hike around in the future!