City

The City of Girona

Welcome to the lovely, medieval city of Girona, the capital of the northeastern Catalan province of Girona and a region historically inhabited by Iberians, my ancestors.

Surrounding the old town of the city is an ancient, Roman wall that once protected the area, recently reconstructed in some parts. In another part of the old town is the Girona Cathedral (the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona), restored in 1015 and redesigned around the renaissance era. Next to the Onyar river are houses reconstructed to resemble houses by the Arno river in  Florence, Italy (I like the Italian ones better. More authentic. Peh).

Though it is a very picturesque town with a lot to offer, it is more famous being one of the locations filmed for scenes in Game of Thrones, episode 10 from season 6. Look it up because I won’t. I haven’t seen it. Don’t kill me.

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La Rambla

Starting off the year with some Throwback Thursdays.

It’s been exactly a year since I took a trip to Barcelona, Spain. Seems like worlds away. The Spain I know now is going through so much with the recent Catalonia crisis, Barcelona being at the center of it. And then the terrorist attack that happened right where these photographs were taken. That broke my heart.

Because out of all the places I’ve visited in Barcelona, this was my favorite. This was where I stayed at, just off to the side in the heart of La Rambla. This was what I greeted me in the morning and what tucked me in at night. It almost seems like a pattern to a lot of places I love.

Ok, enough of that. Now for some quick facts: history of La Rambla dates back to the middle ages when it was formerly just a seasonal stream bed filled with sewage. Nowadays, it’s the central street of Barcelona, filled with ridiculously tall tourists, pickpockets and locals alike.

These shots were taken under the influence of a two-liter sized mojito the very first night I landed in Spain. Seriously, like I just landed I’d say about three and a half hours prior to these pictures being taken. After taking a cab, dropping off my stuff in the hotel room, a very large glass of mojito and plate of paella later, I was off. Right in the middle of the night. There were colorful bars, tapas, souvenir shops and cafes everywhere. Occasionally, I’d run into one of those women-of-the-night, inconspicuously standing by one of those tall tables, alone with a suspicious-looking, empty soda can. I still don’t get that. Was the soda can supposed to signal something?

Anyway, enjoy semi-drunk shots.

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More touristy stuff in San Francisco

Fun fact! As stated from my last post, the first time I ever set foot in San Francisco was on the same year when I first moved to the country. It was on the way back from a road trip to Canada and it involved nine people and a van with a dead deer inside. Fun times!

Anyway, I’ve forgotten how difficult it is to play tourist in San Francisco, until I had to be one. Walking was painful and driving was absolutely terrifying.

Those hills… those really, really painful hills.

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Playing tourist in San Francisco

Considering how often I’ve gone up here, it was so surprising that I have never actually crossed the Golden Gate Bridge by foot. So here’s a first. Since the bridge has been photographed so many times in so many ways, I couldn’t think of a unique angle for this one. But hey, this is the best I could do.

Now for a little history:

Formerly the longest suspension bridge in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge was first constructed in early 1933 and completed in early to mid 1937. Made of steel and painted in the bizarrely chosen International Orange (could’ve been yellow and black which I would’ve preferred. Why? Hufflepuffs, that’s why), it was designed with hints of art deco features which I didn’t notice until I was up close to one its towers. (Le sigh. I used to love art deco until I discovered Ayn Rand. Thanks a lot, Ayn Rand.)

Anyway, what the Statue of Liberty was to the early immigrants arriving by ships from Europe in the east coast is what the Golden Gate Bridge was to the early immigrants also arriving by ship from Asia in the west coast. It’s a very symbolic sight, I’m sure. You know, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to a new and better life of freedom and all that. But first, a trip to Angel Island, the immigration inspection center equivalent to Ellis Island in the east coast except with more extreme vetting (it also contains a detention center). Because you know… them Chinese immigrants were so suspiciously… ummm… well… something. They were so suspiciously something. Or I should say not American, whatever flimsy and selective definition of American was at that time. You know how it went and you know how it goes. Thank gawd, that was so last century, right? RIGHT?

The first time I ever crossed the Golden Gate Bridge was when I was just a freshly migrated 10 year old with big hair, on my very first summer road trip in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. My first thought was “That bridge ain’t gold!” It’s like calling a banana “Blue.” Go figure.

International Orange… peh.

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Venice Beach

There once was this Caltech Quantum Physicist who also doubled as a world-traveling photographer. He had piles and piles of films and slides of places he had traveled to, anywhere from across the U.S. to South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. And amongst these photographs were pictures of people from different countries, natives from indigenous tribes. And in these photographs, the subjects were always smiling and holding in their hands a square Polaroid shot of themselves.

This, he told me, was his way of returning the favor of allowing him to photograph them. He always had a Polaroid camera handy so that whenever he asked a stranger for a picture, he would give them a copy with a Polaroid shot. Never offer to pay them with cash, he warned me. Or else you’ll only encourage them to rely on tourists taking their pictures for money. Which, of course, would take away their authenticity and start off this whole commercializing mess.

And that brings me Venice Beach, the drugged-up cousin of Santa Monica Beach.

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It’s an awesome place to take pictures. You just have to “tip” for every single, freakin’ shot you take. I don’t know how it started, if one day a tourist came across a psychedelic pothead and thought, “hmmm, that’s something you don’t see in <insert small midwestern town> everyday” and then decided to tip him a dollar for a picture and thus instigating the entire pay-me-for-pictures concept.

But I get it. I do. Some of these folks are real, hard-working artists just trying to get by, really no different from any other street artists.

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But then you do have these other ones that are just plain old tourist bait (me being one of those baited tourists, as you can see below).

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But if you look long and hard enough, you can across random things you can shoot for free.

Like these:

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This one below was an abandoned sand sculpture. I have no idea what it used to be, but hey, it still had some spiffy details and the culprit was no longer around to charge me a dollar for a shot.

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These Dia de los Muertos skull shots below weren’t exactly free. I had to purchase one these suckers just so I could shoot them.

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And finally, probably my favorite shots out of all (and the one that least likely screams “Venice Beach!”), a puppy. And it was free.

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Yep, that’s Venice Beach.