Could I live in Madrid?

by Val Bromann  :::  11-10-2014  :::  Comments (6)

Madrid, Spain

In my travel plan, that one I made in June and almost immediately abandoned, I had thought to return to Spain after three months in South America.

I wanted to spend some time there. At least a month, hopefully three, longer if that damned visa didn’t exist.

I first went to Spain in 2011, a month into what turned into my 15-month, or three year, depending on how you look at it, ’round the world trip. Spain was a turning point.

In Spain I finally started to get the hang of traveling. In Spain I started thinking that I never wanted to stop traveling. In Spain I allowed myself to have random sex. In Spain I finally started letting go.

Spain was a turning point.

I always imagined that I would go back to someday, get an apartment for a few months, study Spanish, learn Flamenco, eat all the tapas, drink all the wine.

Of course, life happened, and I ended up accepting a job back home in Chicago instead.

But I still wanted to return to Spain before I “finished” traveling.

So, instead of going for three months, instead of renting an apartment, instead of studying flamenco and Spanish, I took my friend Christina up for her offer to let me stay at her place in Madrid for a week. And in that week I did almost nothing.

But Madrid was a good enough place to do so.

I wandered the streets. I ate. I shopped. I slept way too much because I just couldn’t acclimate myself to the time change. I got caught up on my blog.

It was a different feeling than the last time I was in Madrid. Because the last time I was in Madrid it was in the blistering heat of August. And the Pope was in town, attracting millions of followers.

This time, with temperate weather, without the Pope, I loved Madrid even more. I felt like I was just living while there. I didn’t feel like I was traveling.

Part of me wished I was staying. Part of me wished I could stick to my plan of living in Madrid, of living somewhere in Spain.

But then the weekend came along and, in traditional Spanish style, we went out for tapas at 9 and then went out, staying at the bars until 4am before stumbling to a nightclub. I left at 7am: the rest of my friends continued until 4pm the next day.

4pm.

Walking home from a club, alone, beyond tired, at 7 am, trying to navigate back to the apartment, I thought, “I could never live in Spain.”

 

p.s. I only took photos of food in Madrid…

Prawn pasta in Madrid, Spain

Seafood on toast in Madrid, Spain

Tapas in Madrid, Spain

Chocolate con churros in Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain

BBQ Pork Sticks in Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain


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Santiago is just another big city.

by Val Bromann  :::  10-22-2014  :::  Comments (3)

 in Santiago, Chile

“Santiago is just another big city.”

That’s what everyone would tell me when they said they went for just a night or two before moving on or skipped it altogether. “It’s just another big city,” they’d say. “It’s boring,” they’d say.

But I had already decided that Santiago would be where I’d spend my last ten days in Chile, in South America. I was nervous. People made me nervous. Everyone had me thinking that I was making the wrong choice. Maybe I should have decided to spend more time in Valle de Elqui. Maybe I should have decided to go down south. Or cut over to Argentina.

But I stuck with my plan figuring that, if nothing else, I could spend my last week relaxing in bed with Netflix, going on day tours, or working.

When I got to Santiago, with ten days ahead of me I realized that yes, Santiago is just another big city…

 

Santiago is just another big city with markets.

Lots of markets. Markets full of fresh fish and meat and fruits and vegetables. Markets where you could stop at a restaurant for lunch or pick up something to make later, for dinner.

Central Market Fish market in Santiago, Chile

Central Market fish market in Santiago, Chile

Meat market in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where those who have passed are remembered.

Where a wife might leave her husband beer. Where a family might celebrate a child’s birthday, year after year, even if that child only lived a few days.

Cemetery in Santiago, Chile

Cemetery in Santiago, Chile

Cemetery in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city that hosts Lollapalooza.

Because we all know cities that host Lollapalooza are awful. Just awful.

 

Santiago is just another big city with a Plaza de Armas.

I don’t remember where I was or who I was with, but someone somewhere on this trip said at some point, “it’s not a city in South America without a Plaza de Armas.” And that is a pretty true statement.

Of course, I’m only guessing here that Santiago has a nice one. Because it was under construction. Along with the cathedral.

Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city with really good food.

One of the best things about Chile is that you’re never really that far from the coast. So seafood is everywhere and some of their best dishes revolve around seafood. And while most of the street food consisted of massive hot dogs topped with everything, the sopaipillas, fried pumpkin pastries topped with spicy salsa, are delicious snacks.

Ceviche in Santiago, Chile
Ceviche. Because, ceviche.

Pastel de Jaibas - crab casserole - in Santiago, Chile
Pastel de Jaibas — crab casserole.

Caldillo De Congrio - eel soup in Santiago, Chile
Caldillo De Congrio — eel soup.

Sushi in Santiago, Chile
Sushi. Which I know is not Chilean. But it’s all I’ve been craving lately. And, hello, fresh seafood.

Sopapilla in Santiago, Chile
Sopapilla topped with spicy salsa.

 

Santiago is just another big city where the national drink contains pineapple ice cream.

The Terremoto, so named because of Chile’s tendancy towards earthquakes, is a drink made of a white wine, grenadine, sometimes pisco, and a scoop of pineapple ice-cream. And it will fuck you up. It will fuck you up…

Terremotos in Santiago, Chile

Terremotos in Santiago, Chile

Terremotos in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city with a lot of street art.

Maybe not as much as nearby Valparaiso. But enough.

Street art in Santiago, Chile

Street art in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city filled with people with pink or purple or blue hair.

Not everyone. But I saw a lot of people with weird hair colors. And people with weird hair colors are awesome, right?

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can visit Paris and London in an afternoon.

At least on streets named after Paris and London…

London Street in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can easily take a wine tour.

There are plenty to choose from. But please note: a wine tour is not fun the day after you’ve had a couple of those terremotos…

Concha y Toro wine tour in Santiago, Chile

Concha y Toro wine tour in Santiago, Chile

Concha y Toro wine tour in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can climb to the top of two hills.

There’s Santa Lucía Hill…
Santa Lucía Hill in Santiago, Chile

Santa Lucía Hill in Santiago, Chile

…and San Cristóbal Hill.

San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where people stop you on the street and ask you to take their photo.

I could be all Humans of Santiago. Except my Spanish isn’t good enough to ask people what their saddest moment is.

Humans of Santiago, Chile

Humans of Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can go salsa dancing.

And salsa dancing is the best.

 in Santiago, Chile

 in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where they block of the streets on Sunday mornings.

So cyclists can take over.

Blocked off streets for cyclists in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city with a rich, interesting, sometimes horrifying recent history.

On September 11, 1973, a coup d’état in Santiago left president Salvador Allende Gossens dead (of apparent, and contested, suicide), leading way for Army General Augusto Pinochet to take over. His dictatorship lasted for many years until a plebiscite in 1988, in which citizens could vote “yes” to allowing him another term or “no” for him to be rejected. The “no” vote won with 56% of the vote, and Chile was free to find a new president.

I’d heard the story many times over my days in Santiago. But it wasn’t until I was sitting in the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago’s Human Rights Museum, watching a video of their 1988 national election that it hit me how recent this all was. The political commercials that played on repeat were very much 80s, very much on television, and very much in color. Something about that triggered something in me. Like you’re so used to reading things in text books, seeing all these old photos in black and white. But seeing those commercials made it all seem so recent, just like seeing videos of victims of the dictatorship’s detention centers speak out made it all too real.

 in Santiago, Chile

 in Santiago, Chile

 

If I had arrived in Santiago first I would have probably stuck to my original plan to stay somewhere for three months. Unfortunately, I arrived there last, just ten days before my flight out of South America. It was a place so many people skipped and so many people didn’t like. It was, maybe, just another big city. But it was a city I could see myself in.

I cried walking through a park my last night. Because there are so many places I see myself living. I want to live in Santiago. I want to live in New York. I want to study salsa in Cali. Flamenco in Spain. Tango in Argentina. I want to go back to Chiang Mai. I want to go to Africa, Australia, Japan. I cried because I want to fall in love. I want to get married. But I fear I will never find a man who wants the same things in life that I want. Because I want too many things. Because I want everything. Because I don’t know what I want. I cried because my life is about to take a drastic turn. And while I’m still not sure if it’s what I want. I know it’s what I need. And so, as I left South America I just had to keep reminding myself of my mantra:

I can have it all. Just not all at once. Just not all right now.

 

 


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The Street Art of Valparaiso, Chile

by Val Bromann  :::  10-20-2014  :::  Comment

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Every time I was buzzed into my hostel in Valparaiso, Chile, the woman at the front desk would ask me, “A dónde fuiste?”: “Where did you go?”

“Solo caminar,” I’d say. “Just for a walk.”

Valparaiso is a walking city. Street art covers most of the edifices, every inch of blank space. Around every corner there is some new drawing to see. You can spend hours just walking, observing.

It’s actually illegal to write on the walls in Valparaiso. But homeowners can give permission to artists to paint on their homes, and do so because they would rather have artwork there than a gang symbol. And so the city is one big canvas, one big art gallery, one big showcase.

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

 

 

p.s. If you walk around Valparaiso, you will probably have a dog following you. Like “Lebron” here who followed us all around the city for three hours one day.

Street dog in Valparaiso, Chile

 

 

p.p.s. Since Valparaiso is built on cerros (hills) it can get difficult to get around. So, if you get tired you can always take one of the many ascensores, rickety old elevators that go up and down the hills.

Street dog in Valparaiso, Chile

Or, you know, you can take a slide…

Street dog in Valparaiso, Chile


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A Moment in Valle de Elqui

by Val Bromann  :::  10-19-2014  :::  Comments (1)

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

 

I was taking the photos above when a man tapped my shoulder and pointed across the plaza. A parade of people were walking by, clapping, singing, followed by three cars decorated in orange balloons. I moved away to be closer and, as they walked by, saw that the first of the cars was carrying a coffin.

A funeral procession was leading its way through Plaza de Armas.

The parade stopped in front of the sculpture I had just been taking photos of. The cars stopped. People gathered around to remove the coffin and set it up.

A man stood in front of the sculpture and gave a speech that resulted in roaring applause. A saxophone player played a song on the outskirts of the crowd.

It was a memorial for the sculptor, George Nobl, A Hungarian man who lived there in Vicuña and had passed away earlier in the week.

I watched, from a short distance, for as long as I could until I had to meet my tour group and move on.

I had decided to take a day tour of Chile’s Valle de Elqui instead of doing it on my own, as I’d originally planned. I was growing tired of figuring out buses, or finding places to stay. This was easier and took me to all the places and more than I’d go to on my own: Vicuña, Pisco Elqui, a pisco plant, a craft beer tasting, a solar-powered restaurant.

If I had gone on my own, I could have stayed and watched the memorial until it was done. But if I had gone on my own I probably wouldn’t have been in Vicuña at that moment anyways.

There was more to the tour, of course, than that moment in the park. And that moment was in no way part of the tour. But, over the years, I probably won’t remember how the pisco tasted. I probably won’t remember whether I chose the turkey or the goat from the solar-powered oven. I won’t remember any of the names of any of the people on that tour. I won’t remember the random stops for random photos. But I will probably remember watching that memorial.

 

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile


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La Serena, Chile

by Val Bromann  :::  10-17-2014  :::  Comments (1)

La Serena, Chile

 

By the time I reached La Serena, Chile, I was feeling a little burnt out. In Bolivia I had traveled a little quicker than I like to. I saw a lot of places, amazing places, but no where I could stay for more than a few days. So I moved. A lot.

I meant to stay just one night in La Serena and use it as a jumping point to explore the Valle de Elqui region of Chile. But I just didn’t feel like getting on more buses. So I stayed in La Serena for three nights. And I took just a day tour to Valle de Elqui so as to not have to think, find buses, find accommodation. And I decided that I would spend my last two and a half weeks in Chile just between Valparaiso and Santiago.

Did I mention how hard it is to find balance while traveling? It’s hard. After La Paz I hardly touched work for a month. I fell behind on my blog. I fell behind on my freelance project. I fell behind in everything.

Sigh. Someday, I will find that balance.

Someday.

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile


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