As much as I enjoy freshly laundered towels and turndown service, there’s a certain charm that comes with living out of a local’s apartment in a residential neighbourhood.

Here we were, close enough to walk to the Douro River and Porto’s prettiest sights, but distant enough to sit out on the balcony with a bottle of port, and watch the world go by through this (both literal and figurative) window.

Tipple, Travel

As much as I enjoy freshly laundered towels and turndown service, there’s a certain charm about living out of a local’s apartment in a residential neighbourhood.

Here we were, close enough to walk to the Douro River and Porto’s prettiest sights, but distant enough to sit out on the balcony with a bottle of port, watching the world go by through this (both literal and figurative) window.

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Food, Travel

Solo in Slovenia

Somewhere in my 20s I discovered that being alone didn’t mean being lonely. That I was much better off enjoying meals by myself instead of having to pass time in the presence of people whose company I didn’t particularly enjoy.

I still remember the look of abject horror on a friend’s face after he chanced upon me, hidden in a corner from the Business District Lunch Crowd with my lunch wedged between a book and my chewing trap. After I repeatedly assured him that I was perfectly fine and not eating myself into a funk, he gave me a dramatic pat on the back for ‘being so brave for eating alone in a public space where everyone and anyone could see you being alone’.

That same sort of response was often encountered whenever I shared any plans to travel by myself. Some well-meaning, concerned for my safety; others clearly eager to know why I was travelling without my partner. Was her relationship in trouble? Is she finding herself? There’s an almost palpable sense of relief, if and when I do say I’ll be meeting up with some friends abroad.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a shared adventure and quality time with my loved ones as much as the next person. But as much as I enjoy being around people, I equally love being by myself.

Two years ago I had left a job which had entirely consumed me. My time, my energy, and most significantly, my mind. I was never fully disengaged or ever switched off from the job. At some point as law students or lawyers, we all had lofty aspirations about the pursuit of justice and fairness. As a young associate, there was much satisfaction in a job well done for your clients and clinching the win at the end of a hard-fought court hearing. But as with all things worth doing, it came at a cost.

As a service provider, you answer when your client calls and you spring to action when you get an email. As a litigator, you fight. You constantly fight and before you know it, everything becomes a battle. The barista who didn’t get your coffee right, the person who cut in front of you in the train station, the airline check-in counter that took too long with your bags.

I had grown accustomed to recording every 15-minute block in my day and according to it a file matter and activity. Drafting submissions – 1 hour. Loo break – pause timer. Phone call with client – 15 minutes. Reviewing correspondence – 30 minutes. Walking to the pantry for a coffee – pause the clock. Attending court hearing – 5 hours. Not a single minute went by in a day without being accounted for, at least for me. We were essentially all units of chargeable assets, meant for the purpose of being deployed. Every minute unbilled was a minute wasted. Only one other profession follows the clock that tightly.

I guess you can see why plenty of lawyers are deeply unhappy people.

After spending some years in this cycle it had become the case that my time was no longer mine. I decided to spend some time away alone before going into my next job. Like all millennials my first port of call was the Internet. After spending some nights googling ‘Solo Female Travels‘, I somehow found myself in Slovenia for two weeks.

Slovenia is one of those countries you don’t hear that much about, at least not where I’m from. It’s a curious little gem, bordered by Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary. Unlike most of its former siblings in Yugoslavia, Slovenia was fortunately left relatively unscathed by the war. Today it is a tiny country teeming with unspoiled nature and extremely educated citizens. Everyone speaks English, it is perfectly safe, and surprise surprise, the place was alive with many other solo female travellers like myself (I guess we all read the same google search results).

The first order of business: learn how to accurately pronounce Ljubljana (it’s loo-blee-yah-nah).

Kralj Žara Restaurant
Kongresni trg 3, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

After several porcine days while transiting in Munich I was beside myself with glee to find a beef speciality restaurant near my apartment.

Sitting in that Slovenian summer I suddenly found myself faced with an enormous stretch of time, with nothing I had to do and nothing planned. This was the way I chose to arrive in Slovenia. I wanted peace, I wanted to unwind, and most of all, I wanted control over my time back.

I still look back to that lunch date with myself with an immense feeling of lightness. It’s like being out at open sea with neither horizon nor shore in sight. Time felt infinite, and that afternoon’s sunshine felt like it would go on forever. I ordered my first course, I read my book. I had a steak, I pondered over a map. I had dessert, I scribbled down some places I wanted to see over the next two weeks. I ordered a ristretto, and I opened up my book and read.

Three hours went by just like that, and they were all mine, only mine.

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.

– May Sarton

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“God Alone Knows”, Damien Hirst : A clever marriage of science and religion; an inventive use of preserved sheep carcasses in this instantly recognisable scene.

Contemporary art has always been somewhat of a hit and miss for me. When the contemporary man has neither time nor patience for frescoes or friezes, art can only seek to shock, intrigue, and scandalise; something to hold your attention just long enough till the next big thing comes along.

Could this be the natural evolution of art or merely symptomatic of our time?

Astrup Fearnley Museet
Strandpromenaden 2, 0252 Oslo, Norway

Art, Pangaea Picks, Travel

“God Alone Knows”, Damien Hirst : A clever marriage of science and religion; an inventive use of preserved sheep carcasses in this instantly recognisable scene.
Contemporary art has always been somewhat of a hit and miss for me. When the contemporary man has neither time nor patience for frescoes or friezes, art can only seek to shock, intrigue, and scandalise; something to hold your attention just long enough till the next big thing comes along.
Could this be the natural evolution of art or merely symptomatic of our time?

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Fell in love many times over with Portugal after spending last September in the Azores (if heaven was a place on Earth, this is it), and there was nothing more comforting than a huge vat of seafood stew at the end of a long hike.

All that goodness from the sea, bubbled with fresh herbs for hours, into this mouthwatering mix to be slurped on its own or enjoyed with the broth-soaked rice.

Why does Portuguese cuisine never get as much attention as its Spanish sister? 🇵🇹

Restaurante Mariserra
Rua Praia dos Santos, 61 – São Roque
9500-706 Ponta Delgada – São Miguel – Açores

Food, Pangaea Picks, Travel

Fell in love many times over with Portugal after spending last September in the Azores (if heaven was a place on Earth, this is it), and there was nothing more comforting than a huge vat of seafood stew at the end of a long hike.

All that goodness from the sea, bubbled with fresh herbs for hours, into this mouthwatering mix to be slurped on its own or enjoyed with the broth-soaked rice.

Why does Portuguese cuisine never get as much attention as its Spanish sister? 🇵🇹

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INVADER: one city at a time

👽

I first came across this French urban artist during a walking tour of street art in Paris – much of his work is composed of square ceramic tiles inspired by video game characters, and can be spotted in more than 65 cities and 33 countries.

👀

Was delighted to stumble across this little guy in Bangkok when I was on my way back to the hotel after a grocery run. Always keep those eyes peeled!

Art, Travel

INVADER: one city at a time
👽
I first came across this French urban artist during a walking tour of street art in Paris – much of his work is composed of square ceramic tiles inspired by video game characters, and can be spotted in more than 65 cities and 33 countries.
👀
Was delighted to stumble across this little guy in Bangkok when I was on my way back to the hotel after a grocery run. Always keep those eyes peeled!

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Travel

When the Music ends in Rio: Part 1

The thing about all open houses – be it properties or universities – is that you only ever get to see its ‘First Date Face’. Weeks of planning and a plump (often overspent) budget ensures that only its best foot forward is put forth for your special visit. Floors are extra sparkly, the food in the cafeteria is astonishingly good, neighbours are a bundle of affable smiles.

This was what greeted me in Rio de Janeiro back in 2013, when I arrived in the city alongside 3 million other Catholics for World Youth Day. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I had spent hours on forums with some rising trepidation. “Avoid the beaches at night!”; “Beware of scams!”; “Was robbed at knifepoint.” It was my first initiation into South America, and we were two young female travellers who didn’t speak a word of Portuguese. And mind you, this was a language where nothing sounds like how its spelt.

Yet all feelings of apprehension evaporated within minutes of my landing in Rio. There I was, with multiple coatings of plane grime; buoyed by the flashes of bright banners waving gaily in the sunshine, the cheery choruses of greetings welcoming groups and groups of visiting pilgrims. The streets were teeming with people, the air was abuzz with a dozen native languages. Rio had clearly risen to the occasion. Public transport was running smoothly (or as smooth as one could expect from having to ferry literally millions); police and security were on every street. This was also the year right before Brazil was to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the government’s bid for approval was loud and clear.

It was a week of extraordinary kindness, warmth, and love (another story for another time), and like all good things that must come to an end – the days flew by faster than my 30-hour journey to Rio. Some of us stayed on to properly see Rio as tourists, but the city was already rapidly clearing out. Like a deserted dance floor left only with the remnants of confetti, there was an abrupt emptiness to the streets. After bidding a tearful farewell to our host mothers in Tijuca – one of the most traditional districts in Rio – we found ourselves an apartment in Ipanema, an upscale neighbourhood best known for that iconic bossa nova song and a beach second in fame only to Copacabana.

Our landlady proudly declared herself a true blue carioca. Malu was born in the city, extroverted and authentic, loved the beach and the warm weather. She worked to live, and never lived to work. After a rocky start caused by our late check-in (try moving in a human jam caused by the migrating millions), and a particularly unpleasant encounter with her adopted street dog (hid in our bedroom for hours after that), things warmed up after she made us a special green concoction that she declared “necessary to clear the hangover” the morning after our night out to Lapa, Rio’s party district.

Over toast and sips of green goo, we asked Malu about the photographs which lined her walls. The black and white portraits and headshots (“I am an actress”); the people in the frozen moments of glory days gone, whose knowing smiles wore just a hint of mischief, like they knew some of the city’s best kept secrets that they would never tell (“These are actors, artists, and friends”); the collectibles sown in her airy rooms (“From my travels”). Her space had all the trimmings of an artistic spirit, and there was every sense of a wild life well-lived.

To be continued.

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