Sanctuary City: Part Two

Sanctuary City: Part Two

As promised, this second post is about being home and taking refuge in the place that we rest and come back to. I live in San Francisco, CA. I have lived in this city for over 12 years and I am also a Bay Area native. I am happy to have grown up in a liberal bubble and have the privilege to travel the world and see what is beyond the boundaries of the area I was born in. Not everyone has that privilege and I would just like to name that, I can afford to travel and I take the opportunity to do so often. Maybe you are an arm chair traveler and this blog is your way to see the world, and if that is the case, I salute you. Please come back and please keep reading. Home can be a wonderful place to explore and to find solace in just as much as the newness and exoticism of travel.

In that respect, this blog post is dedicated to my home and the ways I incorporate my travels back into it. While I attempt to make a trip once or twice a year, let’s be honest, the bulk of our time is spent in the place we pay our rent or mortgage to be in. We have to live our daily lives doing things like feeding the cat, making dinner, going to our jobs. This shouldn’t mean that our homes can’t be lovely reflections of our travels.

When I was younger (remember I started my world travels at 15) I would buy a lot of tchotckes, little cheap trinkets that they sold at tourist attractions. They had no real purpose and they all eventually ended up in boxes to be packed away in the back of my closet.

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The totem was from Seattle or Vancouver, the Buddha from Hawaii and the watercolor was bought in Italy. These are on display in my bookcase.

As I got older, I wanted to be sure what I spent my money on was useful in some way. I didn’t want to just fill my house with things for thing-sake or bring useless gifts home for friends. I became more mindful about my purchasing decisions. Perhaps I’d rather spend that money on an experience or food from a local vendor. Where would my money be going when I spent it on a tourist goody, to Chinese manufacturers or to the local people?

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One of the storage boxes containing shot glasses and old honey and olive oil jars. In the background you can see a mug I actually use daily from my travels in Iceland.

I find the best way to decide on my purchases is by asking the following questions: Can I eat it and if so can I get it home? Can I display it in my home and will it stay on display or end up in a box? Am I supporting the local population with this purchasing choice? Can I afford it?

Due to these questions, here’s what I buy the most of: honey, alcohol, art and local artisan crafts.

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I love this Iceland puffin mug-bought in a tourist shop but something that I actually use. In the background you can see the carved hippo I purchased in Kenya on display.
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Different types of alcohol specific to each region: Peru, Costa Rica, France, Italy. The rooster is a wine stopper from Portugal. These are great to share and bring home as gifts for a tasting party.

I would rather share an experience with my group of friends or have art that will last on my walls forever. After returning from Portugal, my friend Caroline and I hosted a Portugal party and broke out are ration of sardines, olive oil and wine we had bought in the country while on a Douro Valley wine tour. We shared our love of the food we enjoyed for those two weeks with our friends and family over the course of one afternoon. What a great way for them to experience the tastes of a foreign place from home!

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I am a big fan of Afternoon Tea and these boxes highlight some of the tea I’ve picked up in France, Iceland and England. You can keep reusing them to fill up with different tea year after year. Functional, pretty and a good memory from that time period.

The other things I love to bring home are artisan goods. Something that I can wear, put on my walls or use in my house. We visited a local artisan collective in Peru where we bought woven table runners straight from the women who made them rather than from the big name stores in the cities. The table runner lives on my kitchen table most of the year.

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© Michael Goode

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Making the dye from nature

I try to actually use things I bring home. This sheet from India hangs at the foot of my bed. Not only does it keep Bean’s cat hair off my white duvet, it also potentially blocks all those scratch marks she leaves on my bed from view.

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I still wear this bracelet that I picked up when visiting the Masai in Kenya
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Technically this puppet has no purpose other than to please me, but my father and I got a lot of kick out of what we dubbed “Elmer” when we road around the countryside of France after I purchased it in a toy store in Lyon.

It’s important to display the things we love. I added this hook on my wall to display a kimono my Japanese grandmother brought back for me after her last trip to Japan. I wear it on a cold day but I get to admire it year round.

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In the background, you can see art that I collected on my travels as well. I keep a gallery wall in the hall and basically add art to any open surface throughout my apartment. Buying art from local artists is one of my most favorite purchasing decisions when traveling. My favorite piece is from the Peruvian graffiti artist JADE. I found it in a trendy boutique in Barranco. My brother and I did a lot of shopping in the San Blás neighborhood of Cusco and found a boutique that featured local artists, where I got the painting to the left of the Jade Rivera piece by Natalia Lizarraga.

I also like to keep things to remind me of what the name of a boutique was or an especially good restaurant. After all, it helps me with this blog. I use to keep the mementos in scrapbooks but after reading a Martha Stewart article, I decided to start throwing things in keepsake boxes and displaying them on my book case instead.

All I have to do is pull one out and riffle through it. I keep my travel journals and a small photo album of some of my favorite images from the trip in the box as well. And that brings me to my last favorite item to bring home from travels: photos.

I don’t like to let my photos linger on my hard drive. Instead, I get them professionally printed out. I have used the Apple photo book feature in the past to make the small photo albums in my boxes but recently I branched out and used Social Print Studio for the first time. I ordered 48 of my Instagram photos and they were delivered within a week and were beautiful. I am not being paid to give them a shout out but I can’t sing the praises of this Bay Area start up enough. I will definitely be using them again.

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Some of my Valentine’s Day themed travel photos on display from Social Print Studios.

Passion Passport recently did an Instagram challenge featuring people’s favorite Travel Treasures. You’ve seen some of mine, what are yours? How do you display them in your home?

Rosé and Cigarettes

Rosé and Cigarettes

Warning: Not to be read by those under 18. Do not do as I do! I mean it, I’m looking at you. Don’t even think about it!

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I made it 30 years without ever smoking a cigarette. I was very proud of this. In high school I would thumb my nose at all the smokers and feel very holier than thou when I announced that I would not smoke, did not smoke, that not one cigarette had touched my lips. In college, I was a loner. I didn’t smoke cigarettes and the only reason to go out into the snow at 7 pm at night in Boulder, CO was to smoke a ciggy and I would not do that, so I was alone.

And then there was Portugal.

Oh Portugal. Europe on the cheap. Who needs the French Riviera when you can have the Algarve Coast?

I was traveling with my work friend Caroline and we needed a well-deserved break from the school year. And what was the best way to relax, by drinking rosé and smoking cigarettes on beaches in Lagos, in parks overlooking orange rooftops in Lisbon, in al fresco restaurants in Cascais.

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Cigarettes were everywhere and I needed them. They went perfectly with sardines and potatoes. They complimented our chilled wine while we were warmed by sun on our shoulders. They circulated why we played card games with Germans and Italians in hostel backyards. I couldn’t say no and I didn’t want to. I was a chain-smoking queen.

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I would love to say that this piece has a moral to the tale. That I learned that my lungs were heavy with tar and I couldn’t stop coughing for a week. That I felt my skin getting loose and my breath tarnished with cigarette taste for days. I would be amiss not to think about the death of my grandfather from lung cancer and hang my head in disgust. While all of this is true, that is not this piece.

Instead, cigarettes became a lesson in mindfulness on my Portugal adventure. They slowed me down. They made me appreciate the moment. I could just be. Just sit and experience everything in a heightened sense of awareness of this one particular instance of time. It was now and would always be now and I damn well appreciated it. I was doing nothing other than tasting the Tremoços, peeling their skin off with my teeth.

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I was sucking miniature snails from their tiny little spiral shells, letting condensation run through my fingers as I held a glass of wine in the heat, feeling my legs grow warm as my feet sunk into the sand of yet another beach. Each cigarette kept me locked in that moment, slightly high on the heat, the wine, the heady hit of the tobacco. I was here, in Portugal, enjoying the small pleasures. And what pleasures they were.

 

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In Porto, we wandered into a charcuterie restaurant for dinner then meandered down a cobblestone side street to have one last drink for the night. By the time the drink was over, a band had started playing fadó and suddenly the small room was packed with dancers.

On a wine tour of the Douro River Valley, we were taken to a small boutique port vineyard and were handed apricots straight from the trees. They were the sweetest things I had every tasted until we were ushered into a small house from the 1800s and escorted into the parlor where skinless plums shaped into balls were waiting for us. I thought I would never stop eating those plums. But then I had the bread, with the cheese or the olive oil, it didn’t matter, both were delicious especially paired with the ports that varied from white to a deep blushing red.

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In Albufeira, we sat by the ocean and ate large chunks of fish from a stew called caldeirada. The briny broth trickled down our chins and we laughed as the waiter tried to translate all the different seafood we would be eating in our stew.

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I had my first taste of pastéis de nata with a coffee by the seaside port of Lagos. I had avoided it for days but the yellow egg custard pastry was surprisingly refreshing after a night of drinking and for the rest of the trip I would make sure I got one every day.

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This is specifically Pastéis de Belem

After a long afternoon of walking the Alfama, we stopped at a nondescript restaurant and had grilled octopus in a butter and lemon sauce before making our way back up the hill to the Bairro Alto for drinks at Pharmacia while the sun set and waiters brought blankets over to warm our bare legs.

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Outside at night in the beach town of Cascais, I accompanied a Brazilian guitarist at our hostel with Sublime covers. My favorite phrase to say was “Caracois in Cascais” after a local Portuguese man boiled up some snails and had us eat them for the first time. And through all of this, we were accompanied by cigarettes and a summer rosé.

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Would I do it again, just as I did then? Yes. Do I allow myself to smoke cigarettes now? No. They are not the same. I don’t know if it was the Portuguese tobacco or just that summer, but I never get quite the same feeling anymore. It’s not worth it. Could I have enjoyed the small pleasures without them? Probably. But at least for now, I can say I truly had the European experience.

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How uncomfortable do I look holding that thing?

 

Rather than a book suggestion this week, I offer up a movie for your perusal, Coffee and Cigarettes by Jim Jarmusch.