Cobblestone Alleys and ‘Big Sis’ Adventures with Portuguese Teens

Hostel Balcony Terrace

Hostel Balcony Terrace

After my accidental trip to Paris, and my cultural immersion on a train where I was forced to speak only French, I ended up at Portugal dos Pequenitos, a theme park/museum for kids (see previous post). I was on my first international journey and I was alone, something many people and most women would never think of doing. But little did I know that through my first solo adventure travels, I would discover a land forgotten by time, and develop a way of travel that would follow me the rest of my life.

Washing along the river Tagus

Washing along the river Tagus

Being in the city of Coimbra was like stepping back in time. Paris is very old-school architecturally, but  the high-speed trains, metro, fashion industry, and proliferation of technology, are constant reminders of the modern age. In Coimbra, many of the streets were still cobblestone, and life moved slower. While walking along the river, I discovered a field with a horse, and a woman washing clothes in the river!

coimbra hostel outside

Coimbra Youth Hostel – Old-Quarter Architecture

Have I mentioned that I learned to speak Portuguese by listening to music? My brother brought Brazilian music home once, when I was a teen, and I found it fascinating. It was like Spanish, but it rolled off the tongue full of “shhhz and zehhhs”, which were terribly sensual. I played that record many times and learned all the lyrics by heart. I figured I could understand about 80% of it. When I got to college I found some dictionaries and books to study it on my own, but I’d never studied it formally, or spoken a word of it to a real Portuguese or Brazilian person. And now here I was, smack in the middle of Portugal, flying by the seat of my pants because few people spoke English and I would have to communicate with them one way or another.

Mundo dos Pequenitos

Mundo dos Pequenitos – Coimbra, Portugal

My first youth hostel ever was in Coimbra. I was out of college and didn’t consider myself “youth”, but people were very friendly and patient with my Portuguese. I met a group of teens on a field trip and they invited me to join them at a bar that evening. I know it might seem weird to hang with teens, but I’d spent my day at a mini-version of Disneyland, so I guess I was working my way to adult company little by little.

Teens on holiday in Coimbra
Additionally, my 25hr train trip from Paris with an older woman who spoke nothing but French as my only company, had taught me that keeping to myself was boring, and I had to be open to new people and opportunities as they arose, in order to have a life filled with adventure and fun. So there I was, being a “big sister” type to the teens. I no longer recall if they were actually drinking alcohol (rules on drinking are different in Europe), or if it was a juice bar of some sort, but there was dancing and much merriment. And I even met a few folks my own age, which was great.

“When traveling alone, you can keep silent and be incredibly bored. Or you can open your mouth at the risk of making a fool of yourself, and you’ll probably have a great time and make friends.” — From My Own Rules of Travel

Coimbra Youth Hostel

Coimbra Youth Hostel

As far as hostels go, I’d learn later that Coimbra’s would be one of my favorites. It was sparse and functional, but bright very cheerful… like sleeping in an Ikea that’s totally old-world on the outside. The beds were comfy and the wooden floors were beautiful, and you could sit on a patio that overlooks the rooftops and cobblestone streets below. It is sheer bliss for a traveler that wants to enjoy architecture and culture, while being frugal with their travel budget.

I left Coimbra with fond memories. By getting out of my comfort zone, I discovered that I was comfortable with young and old people. Whether I roamed quiet cobblestone streets or sat in a busy youth hostel, I could make a social network for myself out of whoever I met. Being a solo traveler is not about being alone, it is about being open to adventure wherever you find it. And if you travel solo, adventure is everywhere!

Renaissance Rose on Copper, click to view on Etsy

Renaissance Rose on Copper, $35
Click here to view on Etsy

P.S. If you missed the beginning of the adventure, see my first post, My Accidental Journey to Paris, Portugal and Beyond … It’s A Small World After All

Stay tuned for my next installment of adventures as I make my way to Lisbon.

ArtsyGenius travels the world in search of beauty, and brings back a tiny piece of it for making jewelry. Here is one of our items inspired by world travels…

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Community Crafting Party TODAY in Downtown Fresno

colors

The Craft for Community – Fresno Etsy Craft Party will bring crafters together to share skills and enrich the community. It is a chance to learn art skills, meet artists, make crafty friends, do feel-good stuff, and win prizes! This event is open to all, artists and art lovers of all ages welcome.

**New** – “Puppets and Pie” – A separate event being held by First Pres. at the same time as ours. This will feature a children’s puppet show (6:30pm), face painting and animal balloons (starts at 5pm). BYO Pie.

Artist Demonstrations/Skill Sharing Schedule:

  • 5:30pm – Jewelry Wire-Wrapping Skil Share
  • 6:00pm – Making Stained Glass Art Demonstration
  • 6:30pm – Stamping and Scrapbooking Demonstration
  • 7:00pm – Metalworking Demonstration
  • 7:30pm – Making Stained Glass Art Demonstration
  • 8:00pm – Painting/Sketching Demonstration
  • 8:30pm – Metalworking or Metal Stamping Demonstration
  • 8:45pm – Prize Drawing for Crafting Volunteers (Starbucks & Michaels gift cards, jewelry and more).
  • 3 more tables available for artist demos, let us know if you want to participate.

Crafters and visitors are welcome to be part of our group project of making paper flowers to decorate several women’s shelters and making paper pinwheels as gifts for shelter children and other inner city kids. If you have the skill and desire to do Oragami or other paper crafts, we’d love that too. Craft supply donations are also welcome. Non-crafty friends and family who would like to help make gifts are encouraged to participate, no crafting experience necessary!

The craft party will be held on Thursday, June 20th at First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, in the Common Grounds meeting room, at 1540 M St  Fresno, CA 93721 from 4:30-9:30 p.m. Several artists have show their work here during Fresno Art Hop events held by the Fresno Arts Council. Anyone can drop in during the event and help with crafts … stay half hour or all evening, as your schedule allows. Children are welcome. Older kids can help make gifts. We will provide crayons or paints/glue for younger children so they can make something for themselves and stay entertained.

If you would like help make gifts, display your work, share a skill or donate art or art supplies (craft paper, scissors, glue, etc.) for a good cause, please contact the organizer.

Please follow the organizer for updates on the event:

Elise G.

FB – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Artsygenius-Jewelry/355743747870301?

Twitter – https://twitter.com/artsygenius

jewelry box

Stained glass art by Hector Alvarez

sodalite ring

Sodalite ring by Volunds Forge Studio

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Etsy is a website for handmade and vintage items, sold by artisans located all over the world. For more info on Etsy, please go to http://www.etsy.com

Etsy Craft Party 2013:Craft for Community,
is a global celebration of meeting and making, by the community of Etsy members. This year’s theme focuses on using your creative powers to make your hometown even better.

For more information on Etsy’s Craft Party, check out this article:https://www.etsy.com/craft-party

Abusing the French, My Fun Cinco De Mayo Tradition

mole and arroz rojo

Chicken Mole, an authentic Mexican dish from Puebla, Mexico. It’s made with chocolate!

Do the French annoy you? Have you ever seen public buildings in Mexico and thought they looked curiously French? Well here’s a little ammo so you can poke your French friends (I have many, by the way) in the ribs.

What? Isn’t Cinco de Mayo about Mexican independence day and drinking margaritas? Nooo…it’s the day of a battle, when a small army of Mexicans kicked French butt!

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Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara, Mexico

Napoleon III invaded Mexico and setup his relative Maximilian as the emperor. The Mexicans weren’t too keen on having their country taken over, so this resulted in the Franco-Mexican war. On the 5th of May in 1862, the Mexican soldiers who were greatly outnumbered and ill-equipped (4,500 Mexicans against 8,000 French), crushed the French army and sent packing!

Although ousted, France left an impression on Mexico. The Degollado theatre in Guadalajara looks a whole lot like the Palais Bourbon in Paris, where the National Assembly meets. And there is a multitude of statues in Mexico that look like they came out of the French revolution. But we need to be extremely grateful to that small Mexican army for 2 things. If the Mexicans had lost, the USA would have snobby French neighbors on its southern border. Second, we’d have lost all the tasty food like chicken mole, flautas, and maybe even Margaritas. And that would be true tragedy!

So go ahead, have a Margarita, and make fun of your French friends like I do! 😀

–Click on the button below to get $5 off any order of $35 or more in my Etsy Store before Mother’s Day.Etsy Coupon Codes for ArtsyGeniusJewelry

Happy Communist Day! Go Wear Something Red!

ImageI’m not a communist, nor do I play one on TV. I’m just a joker who uses any excuse to don costumes and colorful clothing. And if you think about it, would the communists have been so popular if they’d worn something sedate like flannel grey or brown corduroy? Red makes a statement. It is bold and emotional.

Red is dynamic. It flows like hot lava and overtakes your senses. It is the color of love and passion.royal red-701 I made a red necklace about a month ago, which I displayed 2 weeks later at a networking event. The director was a stylishly sedate woman, the kind of woman who feels most comfortable in beige (not knocking beige, but you know the type). She told me she didn’t like dangly things and since most of my necklaces have pendants, I told her I’d be happy to remove the pendant or turn it horizontally. I was slightly surprises that she’d kept this red necklace in her hands, but even more surprised when she said she loved it the way it was, and wanted to keep the dangle. So now she’s out there in the world, wearing red! I wonder what emotional response she’ll evoke in those around her.

Valentine Flower-524I just made this necklace. I’m going to call it Valentine Flower. Perhaps I should have made it in February, but oh well. My sister gave me the red flower. It was on a necklace that she picked up from some Chinese wholesalers in Los Angeles. It was clunky, mismatched and absolutely horrible. Chinese make great food, but I gotta wonder about their style choices sometimes. I cut up the necklace, kept the flower and tossed the rest. I combined it with stone jet beads, glass pearls, red glass beads and brass wire. The result is beautiful, I think. What does it evoke in you? Does it make you want to turn communist?! 😀

If you like my jewelry, please check out my Etsy store or drop me a line if the piece you like isn’t there. Thanks!

Avoid Getting Eaten by Lions

ImageI was driving around by myself in South Africa’s Kruger park, taking photographs of the wildlife when I came across two lions. I rolled down my window and started taking photos with my SLR. Since an SLR requires you to hold the camera to your eye and look through the viewfinder, I couldn’t see the lions directly, only through the lens. The lions were about 300 feet away from me when I first saw them, so I zoomed in to the max to get a good closeup. I began tracking one of them as he moved, and I’d zoom out as he got a bit closer. After a few minutes, I realized I was zooming out a lot and the lion must be quite close to me. I pulled the camera away from my face and found myself about 10 feet away from the lion, including the space taken up by my passenger seat. My passenger window was rolled down, so there was nothing between me and the lion except air. “Did I look like lion food?”, I wondered. I knew that if the lion was planning to attack me, he could jump ten feet much quicker than the speed at which I’d be able to reach across to my passenger seat and roll up my window. There was nothing to keep me from being lion food, other than the lion’s lack of hunger or disinterest. I decided that panic would do nothing for me, so I might as well keep taking great closeups even if I was about to die.

The lion got closer and closer, and then the most marvelous thing happened. He came inches away from my passenger door, and then suddenly plopped himself on the grass and proceeded to take a nap! He lay there purring like a kitten and he looked so sweet that I was tempted to reach my arm out and pet him. I’ve touched lions before, in wildlife sanctuaries. Those lions are still wild, but they’re well fed and not likely to attack you if you don’t upset them, but this lion was the king of his jungle and I was just potential lion food. But there he was, so calm, and I really wanted to touch him. He wasn’t even hungry!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI was prevented from following my desire by a little factoid in the back of my head. “Lions are cats.” Maybe he wouldn’t eat me, but if I dangled my skinny arm like a piece of string in front of the giant sleeping kitty, and he happened to wake up, he’d probably swat at the string the way kittens swat at yarn. So though it would be awesome, having the big cat swat at me out of curiosity might mean the loss of my arm, which I need for driving, holding a spoon, and stuff like that. So I watched him a good while, and decided to keep my arm for another day. Not to mention the rest of me, which I’m quite fond of. But next time I get a chance, I’m going to pet another lion. They feel just like stiff carpets! And if I’m lucky, I won’t get eaten then either.

Crack, Stones and Mohammed Ali

(This is a reprint of a travel story I wrote a few years ago)

Two weeks ago at Cinequest (San Jose Film Festival), I saw a cute guy standing on the street. He called out to me as I drank my latte. “Hi, I noticed you looking at my chest.” And I was indeed looking at his chest, but only because he had little dangly things on it, and I love jewlery… especially dangly chains and earrings. At this distance I realized that what dangled from his neck were many little bottles with something white inside them, and though I’d never seen any in person, I would have to say the little bottles looked like Crack!

tictacsThe cute guy was handing out little fliers so I took one. “Our film is being screened at 2 O’clock. It’s called Cocaine”, he said to me. Duh! The little bottles were a marketing ploy, and I’d been suckered by it. “They’re just TicTacs”, he added. Well… shows you how innocent I am… can’t tell the difference between Crack and TicTacs! The good part of it is that I can eat them, and I won’t explode or go to jail. It’s a win-win situation really.

alimosqueFunny thing is, the Crack that comes in little bottles isn’t the only kind that can land you in jail, at least depending on the country… why just 2 weeks before I’d been in Egypt, where I saved two stupid tourists from prison and public ridicule. I was touring the Citadel, an old fortress built 400-500 years ago. My mind kept spinning with imagery of eras gone by, and more than once I had to laugh when I was reminded that the largest mosque inside the Citadel was built by Mohammed Ali (can you imagine it… a boxer building a mosque?!!). OK, Mohammed Ali and Mohammed Ali are two different people, but my brain is weird and I can’t help make the connection.

Taking a walk down the road from Mohammed Ali’s mosque, you will come to… another mosque! This one is mostly in ruins, the roof is missing, but the Muslims still like to honor it. For this I give them credit. We took off our shoes and I covered my head, as is the custom of respect inside all mosques. Then I walked around and snapped a few pictures. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWalking back towards the exit, my heart nearly stopped. Sitting on the steps inside the mosque were a man and a teenage girl. In a country where women are covered neck-to-wrist-to-ankle, and even men don’t show their arms, were two people in t-shirts way too small for them. And why was this so shocking? Well guess what happens when your t-shirt is two small, your pants are too loose, and you sit down while bending forward… bingo! Your shirt rides up, your pants ride down, and you expose the world to something that comes in little bottles…. YOUR CRACK!!!

homerbuttcrackHashish will get you many years in Turkish prison (seen Midnight Express?), but showing crack in a mosque would most likely get you stoned on the spot… and not the kind of stoning you’d enjoy either. I crept up to them quietly, trying not to attract the guard’s attention, and whispered the words I hoped they’d understand. “Be careful when you sit. Your backsides are showing”, I said. The man’s face turned red and his teenager looked blankly. “Thank you”, he said, pulling down his shirt.

There would be no stoning in Egypt that day. No public protest of outrage besides the ones about the Danish cartoons of the Prophet. An international incident had been averted. All because of me!

The moral of our story? It is to take care to keep the innocent, well, innocent. Do not expose your Crack to young children or mosque-goers in Egypt. And if you must carry a little bottle around your neck… fill it with TicTacs.

A public service announcement by,

ME 😛