New Orleans

I left New York for a few days to discover New Orleans, Lousiana. I wanted to see something completely different in the States and after some research I was sure this was the place I wanted to go.  I contacted my Canadian travel partner and ex-Barcelona roommate to see if she was up for a trip. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and the cocktail. Nowadays a lot of people go there to party, especially during Mardi Gras.

The trip started with my flight getting canceled in New York because of the snow storms so I left a day later. When I arrived at the airport I had Frederique waiting for me in the gate. We took an Uber to our Airbnb and the first thing I noticed was the amazing accent sounding like ‘ How y’all doin’. The Uberdriver told us to be careful in the city, something I heard before as there is quite a high crime rate. The weather was great and there were palmtrees everywhere so we were happy already.

We arrived at the Airbnb which was amazing! It was an old French House full of art with a small garden close to the city center. The house was owned by a cute lady with two dogs.

We headed to the city centre straight after as we were so curious. The walk there alreay was amazing with beautiful, colorful houses, palmtrees and flowers.

As New Orleans was founded by the French, there are a lot of French influences such as French street names everywhere and some French buildings. As I am learning French and  Frederique is from French Canada this was a funny detail for us we didn’t knew about.

By accident we ended up on Bourbon street, which is the party street of New Orleans with literally only bars open every moment of the week and there are party people every times of the week. We didn’t know about this (I guess we prepared pretty bad. jup.) so we were both shocked and amazed as this was the complete opposite of the pretty streets we just discovered.

After a glass of wine and a burger, we roamed around the streetwatching all the completely drunk people we ran into an outdoor jazz performance at Cafe Beignet. We were basically listening with open mouth as it was an amazing performance and we were just sitting there outside with a glass of wine listening.

The next we went to discover more of the centre. There is literally music everywhere and so much talent. There are complete 7 man bands on the street at 12am.

Voodoo museum which was both weird and interesting. There is lot of voodoo beliefs still, ecending from spiritual folk traditions from Afro-American religions.

The following they we last to explore some other parts of the city. We went to a pretty upscale part of the city with boutiques and vintage shops.

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While we were in an modern art centre, I found out my flight for the next day got cancelled too, again because of storm. Usually they put you automaticcally on a new flight a day later but they didn’t so I got a little nervous. I called the airline to get me on another flight a day later so I needed to find a place to stay. Frederiques flight was fine as it went over the other side of America. I got a new Airbnb somewhere in the suburbs and we were good to go.

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At night we wanted to eat the typical dish jamboree’. For me as health freak at some point my stomach started to hurt as there is only greasy food and not a lot of fresh products. Still we wanted to eat the typical dish which is meat mostly.

At night we went to an amazing place which is pretty remote from the city but so worth it called Bacchanal Wine. If you are planning to visit New Orleans you should absolutely go here as we loved it. It’s basically a wine bar in a backyard with live music. When you enter it looks like your in a wine shop. You pick your wine, you pick your cheeses which they will plate nicely with olives etc. and you head to the backyard where everyone is drinking wine and listening to jazz.

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Jazz for lunch

The next day Frederique was leaving already so we went for breakfast and to eat beignets, the famous food from New Orleans. So sad to leave her but I’m sure we will see eachother again at a new destination. I went to my new Airbnb, in the suburbs, not even in New Orleans anymore but called Metairie, I thought it was so American, with big cars and showing who they are voting for. I stayed with a guy and his three dogs who was really nice and had some other travellers staying in his house.

The next day it was already time to go back to New York, I would have loved to stay longer not only because of the weather but the city is a bit like the Carribean in America, with a lot of fun an great people. I have never been in a place like this before but I completely understand people are so fond of  New Orleans.

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Thoughts on living in New York

Obviously this is just my opinion based on observation after spending 9 months in New York and others might completely disagree. I’m simply just answering the questions that a lot of people are asking me on my opinion on (working in) New York, Americans and America in general.

I think in the end everything turns normal and even an absolutely crazy city like New York feels normal and I feel at home in the city. Dance performances in the subway, people rude and screaming at you, people being so nice it surprises you, saying the word ‘like’ 15 times in a sentence and a tiny glass of wine for 13 dollars, it’s everyday life now.

After almost a year here I can say there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand of this country because the contrasts are so big. The only thing on television and newspaper is politics yet nobody talks about it. I have seen a lot of jobs divided by race and there is still a lot of discrimination in daily life. People are either really well off or pretty poor without health insurance and they refuse to see a doctor. I’ve seen someone panicking because someone called him an ambulance but could not afford it. I have seen a lot of homeless people and honestly many of them were in really bad shape mentally and physically. From men to veterans, to a lot of (young) women. I just don’t understand the social system in the country and how it can be allowed that people are treated like this. It seems like life is more uncertain than I am used to. One day I had to help translate a conversation where a woman got fired on the spot at the end of her shift without any prior warning or a  bit of time to find something else.

We Dutch people might be direct, and Americans think we are but I’ve found people many times being very rude at me, especially guests and clients. Screaming in my face or being very angry. On the opposite, many times people approach you on the street if you’re lost to help out or a friendly stranger starts conversation with you which is pretty rare in my culture. When I travelled to New Orleans the people were extremely nice but also a little wary of tourists (although I can’t blame them).

Another question a lot of people asked me is whether it is possible to make any friends. Well, I think everyone in New York is really caught up in his own bubble and people mostly work. In general, I think it is a lot easier to make contact with someone than in Europe (West Europe especially) and it is really easy to get into a conversation or even coffee with a stranger, or go for drinks with people from work. However, I think it is a lot more superficial and you don’t just have close friends in New York.  For some people this works though, I prefer to have a few close friends. Also, a lot of people work six days a week or several jobs so people have other priorities like getting promotion. So yes it is easier to meet people to go for a drink with but I found it hard to build friendships with Americans. I did made some great friends but they are all foreign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York and its energy, its interesting and talented people, the opportunities, the endless amount of things to do and explore. It is challenging to work with the staff and the guests but that is also what makes it interesting and in the end it depends on your ability to adapt because you are the foreigner.

 

Final months in Barcelona; Marseille, Andorra and Tarragona

Trips to Marseille, Andorra, Tarragona, rounding off uni and internship preparations, time flies! I am back already but I really enjoyed my time in Barcelona.

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Marseille
I went by bus to Marseille for 2 nights. It took 6 hours with a stop in Montpellier. Beautiful city and great opportunity to practise my French and drink a lot of wine.

Balcony of Catalunya and Andorra
Me and my travelpartner in crime Frederique went on a day trip to Andorra. We did a stop at the Balcony of Catalunya, impressive nature! It felt good to breath in some fresh air as Barcelona is really polluted. We continued our trip to Andorra.

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Andorra is strange but interesting! It felt like a combination of Austria and Spain with the main language Catalan, Spanish food and a lot of advertising and shopping malls (the tax rate is lower).

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Barcelona
Finally, after living in Barcelona for the second time I visited the Sagrada familia. Although I have seen many churches this one is very impressive and different.

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WhatsApp Image 2017-06-10 at 10.58.23My mum and auntie visiting, lot of fun drinking a lot of wine and showing my place and favourite parts of the city. We consumed a huge amount of pan con tomate.

As like everyone in Barcelona, my phone and driving licence got stolen. I lost all my pictures. In the second week I lost my debit card and it took a month to get a new one. The final week we got cockroaches in our appartment. They are huge and red, I was so done I just didn’t enter the kitchen anymore. All part of the experience I guess?

What I love about Barcelona that you end up at random amazing things. I ended up at a concert under the ground, a rooftop party, a few street festivals and so on. I also met up a few times with Larissa, who I lived together with a few years back in Barcelona, and by chance we both lived there again. As she is a singer now I even went to her (Brazilian) concert!

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Random Catalan fiesta

I finished all the exams and suddenly it was already my final night in Barcelona. I went with my roommates and friends to a cool hidden bar in El Borne. As every night in Barcelona, we came back extremely late and needed to eat a lot of Spanish ham. I had to fly back home a few days earlier because of my American embassy appointment in Amsterdam. Sad to leave this city but as I already came back the second time I am sure I will be back.

 

 

 

Morocco trip

What an amazing country! Friendly people, great culture and food. We went with a small (Spanish speaking) group and guide, consisting of Mexicans, Chileans, Argentinians, Spaniards, me as Dutchie and Frederique as Canadian, which was great for us to be speaking Spanish all the time. The accents really varied though and I am much more used to Spain-Spanish but I managed to understand everyone. Sometimes I didn’t and it resulted in funny situations.

We left on Wednesday morning for a 2,5 hour flight from Barcelona to Marrakech. We spent the entire day in Marrakech which was amazing! Its chaotic but I loved it. People on donkeys, horses, cars, scooters anywhere and so much noise.

Thursday morning we left the city on time with our bags and headed to Kasbah Ben El Hannou. We drove for a while with several stops at amazing places. Kasbah is a famous movie location where films like Prince of Persia, Games of Thrones and Gladiator have been filmed. During the trip we ate a lot of Tagine with chicken and lemon or beef and prunes. The food is very tasteful with a lot of spices.

We arrived in our very very traditional hotel just at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains. It was so cold!! We had some huge extra blankets.
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When we arrived at the desert, we had to leave the bus and continue by jeep because we couldn’t get there. Then we changed to camels and walked for an hour further into the desert. We arrived the camp and watched the sunset in the desert. Although I have been in the desert in Egypt before, this was very different because the sand was orange and it all reminded me of Alladin.

We had dinner together in the big tent and we had a desert party with music, drinks and some food. A lot of tequila was offered the Mexicans but I managed to turn most of it down. We ended up all listening to Reggeaton and dancing in the middle of the desert!

 

Sleeping in the desert, what an amazing experience! It was a Berber tent and I think we actually slept on sand. During the night all the lights went out and it was completely dark. At some point at night I had to search the bathroom when everyone was asleep. It was completely dark and quiet but when I looking up I saw this AMAZING sky full of huge stars. I stood there for a while, so impressed with what I saw I didn’t even realize how cold I was!

Saturday
Saturday we had a very intense drive of 10 hours all the way from the desert to Marrakech. It was very long but the amazing thing is we saw every type of landscape driving through the countries. We drove through nature and small villages which gave us a look at the local and traditional life, donkeys, children selling herbs, man drinking tea etc. People wanted to take a picture with my because of my blonde hair. We arrived back in Marrakech and had dinner. The main square of Marrakech on a saturday, what a chaos!! Frederique and me just couldn’t cross the street so we asked people to cross with us. They took our hands and there we went!

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Sunday
In the morning we did a tour with a Moroccan guide who could tell us a lot about the country and the culture and I could ask all my questions. We visited the main palaces and markets. What makes the city so beautiful are all the colors. Later, we bought some stuff after proper negotiation of my part. ‘Several questions like ‘what are you, a businesswomen?’  and they hoping to get American tourists after me because they would make much more money.

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Monday we travelled back to Barcelona, which is still an amazing place to get back to after this trip. I could definitely recommend Marroco to anyone who loves great food and friendly people.

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