From the Mind of Markie

Photo taken by me, 2018.

The almighty human thought it would be cute to dress me up today. How original. They have terrible taste in what they call “clothes.” Little do they know, I like running around naked. I don’t know how they do it–walking around all day with all those layers they wear. It all feels so heavy. Plus, my hairs are getting stuck to this..what do I even call this? It’s not really a sweater; it feels more like a cape. I hear them laughing at me because I refuse to move with this thing on. One of my humans kneels down to take pictures, and laughs as I strike a pose. Normally, I despise taking pictures, but maybe if I participate they will take this sweater-cape thing off of me. Joke’s on them though, because next time  my humans leave the house, I’m going to leave a nice surprise for them as a “thank you” for dressing me up.

insomnia

Photo taken by me. Paris, France, 2018.

I stare at the ceiling as headlights of cars occasionally seep through the silkscreen curtains as they pass by. It feels like I’ve been at this for hours. How am I supposed to deal when my mind refuses to shut down? I continuously glance at the clock, counting down the hours of sleep I won’t be getting, and feel my heart pounding as if the coffee I consumed earlier in the day is finally kicking in. I plead for tranquility, trying to comprehend why the sleeping Gods continue to fail me. Obsessive thoughts continue to trickle through like the droplets of lavender mist permeating through the air. As if that is not enough, anxiety welcomes itself to the party and exacerbates any lingering possibility of a well-rested night.

Goodbye, Oracle

Oracle
Photo taken by me. Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA 2019.

Years of history
will remain behind these walls
Goodbye, Oracle.

To our Warriors,
hailing from past and present,
the Bay is your home.

We find a new home
at Chase in San Francisco:
DubNation stands strong.

 

First Dates

Photo taken by me. Paris, France 2018.

…are always a little awkward. We tend to latch on to familiarity, but unfortunately, a dabble in to the unknown is necessary to find love these days. After a swipe or two, conversations via text messaging, or maybe a set-up by friends, the initial meeting comes with a plentitude of emotions. It’s all about impressing a potential significant other with fancy clothes, a delicious meal, and (hopefully) good conversation. There’s that wonderment of “appropriate” topics to bring up–such as not knowing if it’s too soon to talk about  past relationships, or revealing certain parts of ourselves that we normally don’t tell others. We are often tough on ourselves if we say or do the “wrong” thing; maybe a mild penance for unintentionally offending. Sometimes, it works out the way you’d hoped, sometimes, it doesn’t. But just remember, we’re all only human, and we can learn from terrible first dates. Take your time and have faith in the process. The person who will love and nurture you is out there somewhere.

the walk

Photo taken by me. California State University, East Bay, 2019.

this is the moment
most people dream about.
a moment most are unable to attain;
a moment most have worked tirelessly to achieve.
a moment often taken for granted.

loved ones sit idly by and applaud
speech after speech,
name after name,
as students come up one by one
to receive a piece of paper.

but to the students
who have remained inspiringly strong throughout the years,
who have fought against the odds,
or who have experienced life’s lowest lows;
they should all be certain of one thing:

it is more than just a piece of paper.
it is more than just a walk across the stage.

it is the culmination
of blood, sweat, and tears shed at night
fulfilling every essay prompt,
studying every footnote,
and recalling every professors’ lectures verbatim.

for some superstars specifically, this is all achieved
while working forty plus hours a week,
while caring for children,
while struggling to make ends meet,
or while fighting a physical or mental breakdown.

this is more than just a piece of paper.
this is more than just a walk across the stage.

this is the reminder that
you deserve to feel proud of every accomplishment,
you can achieve any goal you put your mind to,
your strengths can overpower your weaknesses,
and you are destined for greatness.

To the Beautiful Notre Dame…

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It is a heartbreaking sight to witness as one of the most beautiful landmarks in the world becomes engulfed in flames, especially with the coming of Easter. Not only are you a true staple to religion and Catholicism, but you carry more than 700 years of history within those walls. I feel extremely grateful to have seen your inner and outer beauty shine in person. Seeing your gorgeous stained glass windows and hearing the bells echo loudly through the streets of Paris, are forever embedded in memory. You are so much more than a cathedral. I have so many reasons to believe that you will be restored to your former glory, and your spire will rise once again. Until then, I pray for the people of Paris / their safety, as well as authorities who are working tirelessly to diminish these flames.

Love Is In the Air

DSC01015.jpg
Photo taken by me. Paris, 2018.

A gentle breeze
tenderly caresses her cheek.
Her love stands idly by,
admiring the view before them.
Dazzling lights dance across the night sky,
inviting them closer to one another.
At long last, he wraps her in his arms,
fully sheltering her from a tenuous chill.
While the lights flicker to a close,
they gaze longingly in to each other’s eyes,
fully committed to deeper levels of love.

Craving Adventure

DSC00080.jpg
Photo taken by me. Barcelona, 2018.

He worked endlessly to provide for his family, so this vacation was well-deserved. Although he preferred a nice, relaxing time on the beach or a golf course like plenty of past family vacations, he knew it was time for a change. His family longed for travel around Europe and he wanted to fulfill their wishes. It was a solo trip the last time he ventured off there. The kids were far too young to be able to appreciate the beauty and adventure the world had to offer, and his wife selflessly made the decision to stay home with them. But things were different this time around.

Before taking a step on to the Metro, he adjusts the collar of his shirt. The Barcelona heat was slowly creeping up on him. A loud ding lets him know that it was safe to board. He puts a protective arm around his wife’s shoulder and allows his kids to lead the way. Knowing all too well the horror stories of pick-pocketers in unfamiliar territory, he insists on taking the aisle seat while his wife and kids pile in near the window. As the Metro departs, he goes deep in to thought. As much as he tried to avoid it, thinking about home was second nature to him. He convinced himself that he had forgotten something back home, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe he forgot to turn on the alarm, or left the TV turned on. Maybe one of the cars parked on their driveway would get broken in to. Or worse, their house. On second thought, maybe they shouldn’t have traveled this far. Suddenly, laughter from his wife and kids takes him out of his trance. Attempting to let go of those worries, he smiles, knowing this was a time to live in the moment.

London Calling: Travel Bug Pt. 5

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Ah, London…I love you, but why did you have to rain so much?! Luckily, museums and shops kept us occupied, but we hoped to walk and venture around the busy streets. This being said, we were still able to see the biggest attractions when the rain decided to take a short break. Despite old, stereotypical rumors that London doesn’t have much to offer in terms of food, I beg to differ…we had some delicious meals during our visit. Here are some highlights of my trip to London:

FOOD
Savoy Grill: As a huge Gordon Ramsay fan, I made it a mission to check out one of his restaurants in London. We opted for Savoy Grill and each ordered the tasting menu for the full experience. The tasting menu offered a six-course meal consisting of Chef Arnold Bennett’s glazed omelette, pan fried scallops and confit chicken wings, a selection of British cheeses, and Ramsay’s ‘infamous’ Beef Wellington. For dessert, we enjoyed free macaroons (my brother and I treated our parents out for their anniversary) and table side Orange and basil crepes with Grand Marnier. The wonderful service and food exceeded my expectations–the Beef Wellington was tender and definitely a highlight of the meal. Our incredible waiter even gave us a tour of the kitchen and we met the head chef after our meal; although pricey, my first experience at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant was a memorable one.

Poppies Fish and Chips: You can’t go to London without trying fish and chips! I enjoyed the vintage atmosphere as well as the quick and friendly service. As for the cod, the combination of a crisp exterior, yet light and tender textures made each bite of fish an enjoyable one. When it comes to chips, I happen to think the crispier, the better. Although I would give the fries a 3/5 on the “crispy scale,” they were still satisfying and filling.

Dishoom: I don’t dabble much when it comes to eating Indian cuisine, but if Dishoom is just a small taste of authentic Indian food, I should start eating it more often. My cousin, who is a foodie of some sorts, recommended this place to us before we left, so we took her word for it…and I’m glad we did. Food quality tasted fresh and flavorful; served family style, you can’t go wrong with their chicken ruby, Awadhi lamb, and garlic naan. Fair warning, they don’t take reservations and the waiting time can be pretty long (we waited for an hour), so if you don’t mind waiting for excellent food, definitely put Dishoom on your list.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Lobster and Burger: Delicious burgers are my weakness….especially when combined with tender and juicy lobster as a topping. Be prepared to eat a lot here as portions are enough to feed two people, depending on what you order.

The Breakfast Club: For all the brunch lovers! Music and atmosphere catered to younger crowds; it felt like I took a time machine back to the late 80’s or early 90’s. Great food for a reasonable price; come here with an appetite! If you have a party of two or more, I’d suggest half of the party ordering savory dishes while the other half orders something on the sweeter side so you can try a bit of everything.

Yuu Kitchen: Killer Asian fusion dishes served tapas style. The braised pork belly bao, chicken wings, and BBQ’d octopus were definite highlights. Delicious cocktails, flavorful food, and a cool, but classy vibe…what more can you ask for?

ATTRACTIONS
Buckingham Palace: Visiting Buckingham Palace gave me a similar feeling I had when we went to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You dream of going to these places and you’re in awe when it finally happens. There’s so much history within those gates, and the palace itself is absolutely gorgeous. As expected, there was a large crowd watching the changing of the guards ceremony, so be there early if you want a good view of the palace. Guards also march around the perimeter so you can still feel a part of the tradition even if you don’t have a direct view of the ceremony. Very picturesque landscape; we got lucky that it wasn’t raining the day we went here.

Tower Bridge & London Bridge: More historic landmarks that you can’t miss when you go to London. We took a river cruise when the rain died down to get the best view of both the Tower Bridge and London Bridge. When walking across these two bridges, you can’t help but stop and take a moment to take the views in. The Tower of London is within walking distance from Tower Bridge, and is truly a beautiful sight at night. If you’re willing to pay for the Tower Bridge exhibition, you can take a guided tour of the towers, see the observation deck and the people walking the bridge below you.

National Portrait Gallery: We visited a few museums due to rain, but one of my favorites was the National Portrait Gallery. With an emphasis of Michael Jackson’s “On the Wall” exhibition (MJ just happens to be my favorite musician), I loved the collections here. Because it was art dedicated to Michael Jackson, I felt such a high, positive energy in the gallery as “Workin Day and Night” can be heard throughout the rooms. In terms of the upstairs gallery, it was fascinating to learn more about British history and see portraits of  the most iconic British monarchs.

OVERALL
As lovely and welcoming as it was, I felt like I wasn’t able to fully experience London due to the weather. We spent a lot of our time on the Big Red Bus, so I can’t complain because I was still able to see some of the “major” attractions. However, I would have definitely enjoyed it a lot more if it didn’t rain for a majority of our visit. Granted, we were only there for three days, so I can’t judge based on such a short trip. I would love to visit again sometime; maybe when Big Ben is up and running again, but it will definitely be a longer stay. I’ll come back for you, London!

Eiffel In Love In Paris: Travel Bug Pt. 4

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J’aime Paris! Honestly, I’ve had such a tough time gathering my thoughts when it comes to talking about my 4 days in Paris. We visited so many beautiful places and ate such amazing food and pastries, so it is difficult for me to pick favorites. This being said, when it comes down to it, there are meals and tourist attractions I remember more fondly compared to others. Again, feel free to leave a comment below if you would like to add more to this list or would like more recommendations as I won’t be listing every restaurant and attraction we visited. Without further ado, here are my top highlights from my time in Paris, France:

FOOD
L’As du Fallafel: This was our first meal in Paris. Whether taking an order to go or dining in, lines are always long here and for good reason. I ordered a grilled chicken steak sandwich with a side of fries. Delicious. The sauce combined with the fluffiness of the pita and fresh ingredients made this an incredible first meal.

La Jacobine: For authentic French cuisine, La Jacobine was one of my favorite spots. It was a little hard to find as it was located in a small alleyway in the Latin Quarter. Their onion soup was extremely cheesy; just how I like it. The broth was packed with flavor and seasoned perfectly. While I ordered their delicious salmon a la Florentine, I snuck a taste of the coq a vin and beef stew my parents ordered. You really can’t go wrong with anything you order from this menu. I’m not a huge escargot fan so I didn’t order it, but based on reviews before coming here, it happens to be one of La Jacobine’s best dishes.

La Cuisine de Philippe: The food here was exquisite. Very comfortable atmosphere, friendly staff, and the chef even went out to greet the guests. While I loved my steak entree, the dessert lover in me needs to talk about the soufflé. Even if you’re not a huge foodie, it’s no secret that mastering a soufflé is an incredibly difficult task. As far as soufflés go, La Cuisine de Philippe has set the bar. It was overwhelming to see the different flavors they had: whether sweet or savory, you really couldn’t go wrong (just enough for a family of 4 to order different flavors of sweet soufflé). I ordered the chocolate soufflé and it was like heaven in a bite. Fluffy, sweet, and airy: everything you’d hope to have in a soufflé.

Auguste: My mom, brother, and I treated our dad here for his birthday. Being a Michelin Star award-winning restaurant, be prepared to spend a good amount of money (the food here is well worth it). There is also a dress code, so be sure to bring a business-casual outfit if you plan on going here. We each had the 3-course lunch special, so individually, we ordered similar items. In terms of focusing on quality rather than quantity, Auguste really makes you appreciate the combination of sweet and savory ingredients to create amazing flavor. Each dish was beautifully plated while still keeping a simplistic vibe and atmosphere to go along with the decorations of the restaurant; I never felt like anything was “over-the-top.” Because it was my dad’s birthday, we received a free Grand Marnier soufflé; not bad for a free dessert. While the soufflé was delicious, La Cuisine de Philippe still has my heart.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Laduree & Pierre Herme: For all the macaroon lovers out there. We ordered the same flavors of macaroons at both locations to compare, but there were some from Laduree I liked more than Pierre Herme’s and vice versa.

La Droguerie: The crepes are freshly made in front of you and delicious. The menu has a wide range of sweet and savory crepes or you can customize your own. It is a very small shop, so the line is outside and can get long pretty quickly.

A La Biche Au Bois: Another great restaurant if you’re looking for authentic French cuisine. Their steak-frites (and according to my dad, coq au vin) are must-haves. Packed with a creamy pepper sauce, tender beef filets, and extra crispy fries, this was one of my favorite dinner entrees in Paris.

ATTRACTIONS
Eiffel Tower: I didn’t know what I was expecting when we went here, but just seeing the Eiffel Tower from a distance on the Metro, made me extremely emotional. Maybe it was because it had already felt like a long day (we literally went here after our flight from Barcelona and only had an hour or two to eat lunch), but I think the emotions stemmed from disbelief. It’s one of those things you see in movies, TV shows, or photographs and think, “When will I be able to see this up close?” I couldn’t believe I was there, and to have experienced it with my family, was truly a moment I will never forget. It didn’t start hitting me until I walked around a building and saw the 1,063 foot tower standing directly in front of me. If you want to go to the top of the tower, be sure to purchase tickets beforehand. Even with tickets, the line for the elevators were pretty long. There are also two packages–one in which you go to the second floor and one where you go all the way to the top, also known as the Summit (we purchased tickets to the Summit). Anyways, we went to the top of the tower where we enjoyed a glass of celebratory champagne and the worker handing out the glasses even gave me the champagne cork as a keepsake. The views from the top of the tower were indescribable–I’ve included a photo in the slideshow above to give you guys an idea of the view. As if those views aren’t enough, you need to see the Eiffel Tower at night. In addition to its golden glow at night, sparkling light shows occur for five minutes every hour on the hour. The twinkles of 20,000 bulbs are truly a wonderful sight up close, and I would recommend going on a boat river tour at night to get the best view of this mini show. Just be sure to bring a jacket!

Louvre Museum: Visiting the Louvre is not a one-day activity. Unless you know exactly what you want to see or do a guided tour, there is no way you can see everything this museum has to offer in one day. Again, we purchased tickets before our visit so we could skip the long line and did a guided tour. With this, our guide brought us to the more “popular” works of art and in turn, we learned a lot more about the history of each piece rather than just reading the descriptions on the walls. Of course, the room which featured the Mona Lisa was by far the most popular compared to other rooms around the museum. It was insane how huge the crowd was–just rows and rows of people trying to get front and center for a photo of / with her. The outside of the Louvre holds just as much history as the inside. Formerly a palace, there are just as much photographs to be taken outside compared to inside. Its extensive collection makes it one of the finest museums in the world.

Palace of Versailles: We went here on our last full day in Paris. They were doing repairs on one of the buildings, but we were still able to see a majority of the palace. It was huge. You need a full day to really take everything in and see every inch of the palace, but we tried to fit in what we could in 3-4 hours. Unless you rent a golf cart at the welcoming center, prepare yourself for A LOT of walking. We purchased tickets to the garden as well as the indoor tour; it was awesome learning about the history of the palace, how / why it was built, and how long it took to complete. If you are looking to stay there the whole day, the palace offers tickets to view Musical Fountain shows, but again, if you are only in Paris for a few days, limit your time wisely.

Galeries Lafayette & Champs-Elysees: Because Paris is also known as the “fashion capitol of the world,” I felt so out of place when it came to shopping. Although I couldn’t afford a majority of the things I wanted, just walking along the avenues or department stores was a great experience. When it comes to Galeries Lafayette, the first two floors house the more expensive department stores, such as Gucci or Prada. The next four floors are the “more affordable” department stores and there is also a bridge leading to the men’s fashion departments. I’d also recommend going up to the roof after browsing trough all the department stores for a free, lovely view of Paris. From this view, you can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance or buy a cocktail or two from the roof-bar. In terms of Champs-Elysess, walking this avenue can be incredibly crowded, so definitely watch for pick-pocketers. This being said, the streets are very wide and decorated with various stores and restaurants. The avenue’s end houses the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris.

OVERALL
As a foodie and art enthusiast, what Paris had to offer went beyond my expectations. It was surreal to see such iconic monuments up close; photos really don’t do it justice. As much as I loved the entire trip, I would have to say that Paris was my favorite stop. Knowing French would have made it easier to get around and communicate with taxi drivers, but the spontaneity during times where we missed our stop on the Metro or had to switch trains due to repairs, made our adventures ten times more memorable. There’s a reason why visiting Paris is listed on countless numbers of bucket lists, and I’m extremely grateful that I get to cross it off mine.