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NEW ORLEANS!

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Last Wednesday I went to New Orleans with my friend Miren. It took me just a few hours to realize NEW ORLEANS IS MY FAVORITE CITY IN THE US SO FAR! I’m so glad I had the chance to visit it before leaving in May.

So we took the MARC Train to Baltimore around 2 pm, getting to the airport at 3. Our flight departed at 4:30, and we landed in New Orleans around 6:30 pm. We got into our hostel at 8, straight after taking the StreetCar, a really old but cozy tram.

First impressions

We were staying in a hostel, called India House that was supposed to be 10 minutes far from the French Quarter (the old city downtown). However, 10 minutes were more like 25. The place was pretty weird, and the nicest guest was probably this obese cat.

The first thing we did was getting some seafood, poboys and walk around the famous Bourbon Street. I had so many oysters (Miren feels pretty disgusted by them, so even more for me!) and seafood and crab poboys, that are basically sandwiches with real bread. It was so good I wish I wasn’t so full to keep trying everything.

Happiness at its finest

Then, we went out and we were surprised about all the people drinking in the street. Apparently, New Orleans is the only city in the United States were public consumption of alcohol is allowed, to the point you can even order a drink and bring it to another bar. Also, it’s so warm and humid that most bars are completely open while there’s live music being played inside, so many people just walks around Bourbon street drinking, to the point that there is more people in street that inside of the bars. We had a grenade, one of the typical NOLA drinks, while many people in the balconies threw the classic Mardi Gras necklaces to the pedestrians.

So touristy

The morning after we were planning to take a free walking tour around the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. However, we woke up at 7am because of the noise of a thunderstorm. It was raining as I never saw before and we kept hearing the sirens of the firefighters driving back and forth. Of course, the tour was cancelled, but we were encouraged to sign in for the one at 2:45 pm, and so we did, being hopeful. We went downtown to have breakfast Cafe du Monde, probably the oldest cafe in New Orleans, famous for its cafe au lait (people started having it because of war rationing) and beignets (like doughnuts, but way better). During breakfast the tour was again cancelled because of the storm, so we decided to go to the National WWII Museum, the 3rd most visited museum in the US!

One of the buildings was a recreation of the route of the Ally troops freed Paris and then Berlin

During the evening we went to have some more amazing food and listen to live jazz. We explored some Voodoo shops, where we found information about the religious tradition and its origin and we finally went home hoping the weather would get better the day after.

The weather didn’t really improve, but the show must go on! So we went on the walking tour (after 20 minutes Miren’s shoes were already flooded) and when we got to the Mississippi river I was so amazed by it! Then we went to a “Hot sauce shop” were we tried even one we had to sign a waiver for, and of course we ended crying and spitting all over the place. Disgusting. We also visited the Garden District, famous for its colonial architecture, and we finished our night taking a really funny tour about ghosts and vampires in New Orleans in which even the tour guide was having a drink! We had dinner and Frenchman Street, where the locals go out. The weather was finally good, so we were able to put our raincoats and umbrella in our bags and party like we didn’t have to catch a flight the morning after!

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Exploring DC

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March and February were very busy months; with all the traveling in addition to classes and homework, I realized that so far I had visited more of the US outside DC than DC (I’ve visited more things in LA then I did in DC). In DC I have become very familiar with GWU’s Gelman Library and the rooms on the ground floor of Marvin that offer the most undisturbed and quiet study sessions ever. But outside of that I hadn’t seen much of DC.

Therefore I decided to spend the whole month of April in DC and visit this beautiful city — and what better time to start than at the beginning of the cherry blossom festival?

I started my discovery of DC by doing something people here talk about every day — “brunch.” In my 2 years in Paris, I don’t think I’ve been to a single brunch. I did hear people talk about it, but it wasn’t as big. In DC it’s probably the thing people talk about the most after politics.

I heard great things about Agora so I went there with my cousin who was in town. We were quite hungry and decided to go for the unlimited option of the brunch. The food was great, the restaurant was full and lively and yet the service was efficient and fast. I won’t talk about it too much, but I did take pictures of everything him and I were able to eat and so I’ll let those do the talking:

*As I said we were quite hungry!

We then went to the Washington Monument for the kite festival. The weather was great, and therefore everyone looked much more happy. There were tons of kites and people running around in attempt to untangle their kites. The atmosphere was great and it was truly appealing to see the sky full of colorful kites flying around.

At the end of the festival I decided to walk around the Tidal Basin to see in real life all the picture I have been seeing online of the cherry blossoms covering the shores of the water. The blend of pink, white and blue with the Jefferson on the other side was a great view. Taking a picture was a bit complicated because the path around the basin was stacked with people but I did manage to get a few pictures of the landscape and myself.

During this walk, I saw the Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Both of these places were impressive and rich in history. I eventually found myself following a Park Ranger who was talking about the history of DC, which helped me learn a lot about the history of this place.

On Sunday, I went to Union Market where throughout my time there, I kept asking myself why I hadn’t come before. The variety of food there was amazing (there was even a Burmese inspired restaurant). I ate oysters, a few Burmese dishes, and got ice-cream. I got full pretty fast that day which annoyed me cause I wanted to keep eating, but that just means I will go back there soon. Definitely recommend going here if you’re ever in DC and hungry.

To continue my exploration of DC, throughout the coming week I will be going to different museums I’ve heard great things about!

SPRING IS HERE!

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Just kidding. It lasted a day. But that day was Saturday, I didn’t work and I had the chance to go both to the Kite Festival and the Cherry Blossoms around the mall and the Jefferson Memorial. I went with my friend Miren and we spent the morning going around families and kids playing with
their kites. We tried to go make one ourselves but the line was infinite. Then we went around the Martin Luther King Memorial to take the same pictures that flooded Instagram that same night. It was a really nice walk, however it was pretty crowded.

Miren giving me her best influencer face.
In my head I was like “Is that kite abandoned? Shit. No.”
There was a line to take this picture.

I went home for lunch and then I realized I didn’t want to study at all, so I texted my friend Luca to have a picnic in the mall, since he had already invited me to have dinner and grab some drinks later with Conor, his roommate, best friend, and definitely, my favorite American so far. We brought some drinks, prosciutto and bread, cookies and we played Uno and pet a dog that was around until it got dark. The weather was so nice I didn’t want to leave at all! After dinner and another Uno battle that of course I won we went to Johnny Pistolas (I know GWU students love it, but still, I need Latino music!) After a few gintonics and pretty much done for the day we walked all the way home enjoying the good weather that of course, didn’t last. Anyways, I’m heading to NOLA today! I’ll keep you updated!

“Why on f*****g Earth I’m playing this stupid game?”
The most beautiful sunset in DC ever.

Snowboard trip (Whitetail Resort)

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As I was in my bed Friday recovering from my Spring Break, I realized that the closest ski resort  was closing, and that the last skiable day was tomorrow (Saturday). I therefore got a ticket to spend the day on the slopes snowboarding. 

I booked my snowboarding day through a company called Sourced Adventures. I definitely recommend checking out their website and booking a trip with them because they have great customer service and are super organized. They have partnerships with companies around the area and as a result, offer very competitive prices.

I booked the day trip at whitetail resort and I absolutely loved it! My day started at 6:00 am since I had to be at their bus stop by 6:45 am. The bus was comfortable and I personally slept the whole way so it seemed very fast. By 9:15 am I was already sliding down my first slope (checking out my snowboard and receiving my lift pass took less than 15 minutes, and there was absolutely no hassle, everything was taken care of by Sourced Adventures).

So the first observation I had was that ski resorts are very different in France than in America (of course this doesn’t apply to every single one of them). To begin in France you can only go skiing in the mountains where there is natural snowfall. In America there are many small snow resorts around the area which are maintained by artificial snow which makes skiing much more accessible. Although this is great, it made snowboarding at Whitetail more challenging. The snow was much harder and therefore I was more careful in attempting tricks here than I was in France. The falls I had here hurt me much more than the ones I remembered in France last year.

Whitetail has 25 trails, of which the longest one was 1494 meters (4,900 feet) which meant that I usually completed most trails in about 5 to 8 minutes. It sounds fast but I actually liked this because it gave me time to rest on the chair lifts as I got back up. I was lucky because there weren’t too many people that day and therefore I never spent more than 10 seconds waiting for a seat on the chair lifts.

The snow-park was full of obstacles and had jumps for every level, therefore if you are a beginner or not you’ll have fun here. The runs had a great range too which was great because I started on the easy ones as I felt rusty at first, but then I got used to it again and moved to the harder ones and didn’t get bored throughout the day.

Since the bus left the resort to head back to DC at 4:30 I kept thinking that I should not eat and enjoy the slopes as much as I can because I only had 7 hours. By 1:00 pm I was exhausted and therefore took a half an hour break to eat. The food there wasn’t too bad but was pretty expensive. I got two hot dogs for 10 dollars and they really weren’t that good. But I was so hungry that it made it worth it. By 1:30 I was back on the slopes and by 4:00 I was drained out of energy and was all bruised up which meant that it was a great snowboarding day (if you don’t have one or two bruises after a day of snowboarding, you’re either a professional or you didn’t attempt anything new).

I slept through the ride back and by 8:00 pm I was in bed and I actually fell asleep before 9:00 pm for the first time in a few years. I definitely recommend doing a skiing or snowboarding trip with Sourced Adventures when the season starts again, I enjoyed every minute of mine and the only regret I had was not booking a trip with them sooner because I would have loved to go back there at least once or twice!

GETTING STUFF DONE!

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I’m planning a trip to New Orleans in a few days so I have been working really hard in order to save some money to spend on seafood and jazz bars. Unfortunately this means that I’ve been working every single day since we came back from the break and it’s going to keep going like this until I leave next Wednesday. But I’m sure it’s all going to be worth it! At the same time, things are working really well at the OAS, where I’ve been working next to the Spanish Ambassador during a really interesting time for the Americas: the Venezuelan crisis.

This week, the OAS is celebrating African Descents and Afro heritage and because of that all the delegations were invited to visit the African American History Museum today. I felt so lucky since I have been trying to go for so long but getting tickets was an impossible mission! We had a guide that explained all to us, relating it perfectly to the current reality of the Americas. It kind of felt like going on a field trip with my fellow delegation, it was so much fun. If you haven’t had the chance to visit the museum yet, it’s a must. It’s the most recent Smithsonian and tickets are released the last Wednesday every month around 10AM. Be quick though, they vanish!

Some of the OAS tour members in the main room of the Museum.
The Panamanian and the Spanish Delegations members next to Chuck Berry’s Cadillac. ⅓ of the OAS members are women, and even though there’s still a long road to walk towards equal representation, it’s amazing to be surrounded and able to work with this amazing group of empowered women from every single corner of the American continent.
The African American History Museum lobby.
Some pictures in the gallery about Modern Civil Rights Claims.

Also, on Sunday, when the weather was so good that I could put down my coat for the first time since probably…November, I asked my best American friend, Luca, if he wanted to go grab some food in a place with a TERRACE. He told me about a place called Barcelona and although I’m kind of reluctant to go to Spanish places for food since it’s generally pretty disappointing I said yes. OMG. OMG. It’s so real I felt like I was eating at my grandma’s. We had simple but delicious tapas and some Spanish wine, the place was full but it didn’t feel crowded. Here are some pictures. It’s on 14th St, order albondigas, arroz caldoso and olive oil cake. De nada.

My friend Luca enjoying some Spanish wine (he’s originally French and we always fight over which one is better)

San Diego and Los Angeles (Spring Break part 2)

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So after realizing that there’s not much to do on a Monday at Tijuana, we decided to head back to America and explore the West coast. As I expected, going back to America took much more time than entering Mexico. After being asked 8 – 9 questions I was able to pass the border. We went to an outlet that was basically on the border and spent a few hours shopping. Wasn’t the smartest decision cause our flight ticket consisted of bringing absolutely no luggages and at the mall I ended buying an extra bag to fit everything we bought (luckily the person checking us in for our flight back to DC was French and so we got through with no problem). 

That night, we were exhausted and decided to rest up. After eating a good dinner, and watching a movie, we got restless and bought on impulse a return ticket to LA. 8 hours later we were on a bus to LA and by noon we arrived. In the span of 5 hours, we walked through Melrose Avenue, the Walk of Fame, and went up to the Griffin Observatory. I then decided to take an Uber across town to go to Venice beach and was stuck in so much traffic that I stayed in the Uber for an hour and a half. It wasn’t too bad though, the driver had been to Myanmar before and so the ride ended up going by really fast as we talked throughout.

Venice beach was really nice, It was a shame that it was really windy but nevertheless I really enjoyed it and decided to come back this summer. I walked around the beach, watched skaters practice at the skatepark, watched people graffiti the walls around the beach, and saw muscle beach. I loved the atmosphere there because the many things to do at this beach gathered so many people with different interest and I thought that was really nice. I then took an electric scooter and rode all the way to Santa Monica Pier which was pretty fun, (It definitely beats dealing with traffic). After walking around the pier I went to pick up some friends at UCLA for dinner. The campus was huge and it looked more like a resort then a school. Therefore, I would like to congratulate the students at UCLA for getting any schoolwork done because with the beach not too far away and the LA weather, I would always feel tempted to do anything but work in a library!

The next day I ate at different places around LA and spent a few hours on the beach trying to get a tan. After a nice and relaxing day, I headed back to the station and took the bus back to San Diego.

In San Diego I visited La Jolla which was absolutely beautiful. We walked around the cliffs, saw the seals and ate at a UCSD restaurant which was by the beach. The views were great and luckily it was a very sunny day which made everything that much prettier. I went to eat at In-N-Out which was on my bucket list and had the best ramen I’ve ever had at this place called Raki Raki (go there if you are in SD). I then saw the campus housing of SDSU which did not make me jealous at all (they have jacuzzis and a swimming pool in the common areas)…

By the end of the day, the fatigue due to a lack of sleep throughout my spring break starting hitting me so I ended the day in bed watching Netflix and falling asleep at 11. The next day I headed directly to the airport for my flight back to DC!

I was able to rest on the flight and throughout the day Friday in my room. By 6pm I got restless again and booked a snowboarding trip for the next day which I will talk about in my next post!

SPRING BREAK

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For spring break I went back home (home is Madrid for those of you who don’t know!) because my grandpa was sick and since my family is mostly abroad we try to go visit as much as we can. Apart of making my grandparents really happy I was able to see my friends and fly for a couple
days to Morocco (Fact: the shortest border between Europe and Africa is the Gibraltar Strait that separates Spain and Morocco by 14 kilometers and where both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet).

Madrid is a really beautiful city located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, where Spain and Portugal are. With around 6 million inhabitants, Madrid is one of the most important European
cities and an really welcoming hub for immigrants from Latin America and North and Sub- Saharan African countries, as well as Eastern Europeans. This has enriched Madrid, turning it into a multicultural, diverse and unique spot loved by tourists from all around the world.

What I loved the most about going back for the break was definitely the weather. Since the moment I landed I was able to get rid of my coat and my scarf, enjoy the early spring, make a barbecue with my friends and just lay down in my yard with my bunny pet. (Who doesn’t want a
picture of a bunny?!)

Also, even though I didn’t know about it when I bought the plane tickets, I was able to attend my Masters graduation that was scheduled for the same day I arrived! As some of you might know, this is my second BA program and during my junior and sophomore years I studied a MA in
Madrid, for which I just graduated. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring much luggage and my mom decided to be my stylist. This was the result.

Another great thing I was able to do was to lecture in my home university. A professor requested me to lecture his two hours course in “Security Models” on Monday and so I did. I prepared a lecture about the differences between Spain and the US when talking about prisons, gun control and incarceration. (I highly recommend a documentary in Netflix called 13th about mass incarceration in the US and slavery). I had 62 students and I had so much fun. Here you can see me faking it until I make it.

After this exhausting vacation I went to Fes, in Morocco to visit Amine, a friend I actually met at GW during the fall semester. Although I barely had two days there we drove (just him, to be honest I shit my pants just by thinking about driving in Morocco) 1,000 kilometers! We went to Ifrane, where his university is, and then we went to Rabat, which is by the coast since I’m a sea lover. There I was able to lie in the sand and nap while just relaxing which is something I miss so much when in DC. Then we came back to Fes, one of the oldest cities in Morocco, from where I flew back to Madrid before heading back to DC. Here are some pictures.