Angela Tung

Oversharing on the internet since 2005.

Years in Review

by Angela Tung on Tuesday, December 30, 2014, 2 comments

View on my commute. #sanfrancisco # baybridge #nofilter

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

I can’t believe it was only last year that MB and I broke up. True, we broke up in the beginning of 2013 and now 2014 is basically over so it’s more like two years, but it feels even longer than that, I suppose because so much has happened and changed since then.

Travel

I went to a whole bunch of places in 2013 and 2014.

Last February I visited my brother Greg in Los Angeles, and later that month went to Boston for the AWP conference. That trip was such a good antidote for the breakup: I worked like crazy but also saw friends and schmoozed with writers. Then, because I was on the east coast, I had the chance to visit my parents (which might have been better before the much more fun conference and visit with ES).

In April I went to New York and New Jersey for my birthday, and in May I visited Paris and London with YP. In November I spent Thanksgiving on the east coast for the first time in years. And bonus: Greg was there too, which was nice since it was the last time we were both home before our parents sold the house.

I kicked off 2014 with a super-fun Presidents’ Day vacation in sunny (yet chilly) Orlando with YP and a college pal (and of course we hit Disney), and then AWP again at the end of February, this time in Seattle, where I participated in a reading with Bellingham Review and had the chance to catch up with a college buddy I haven’t seen in years.

April meant another birthday trip to NJ and NYC; August was the big Spain trip; Thanksgiving, a nice long visit on the east coast; and just last week, a visit with Greg and his girlfriend in Los Angeles.

I’m not sure yet what my travel plans will be for 2015. I have no plans to go to AWP. (I’m not working nor have I been invited to any readings.) I had been thinking I’d go to NJ and NYC again for my birthday, but now I’m considering someplace else. Japan is at the top of  my list and — I just thought of this — maybe Montreal or Prince Edward Island. Greg raved about Montreal, and PEI because of Anne of Green Gables.

Writing

The biggest project I completed in the last year or so was my paranormal teen romance.

I had had the idea for a while, but thought I should revise this other novel I had completed in December of 2012 although I hated it. Every single word was a struggle to write. In all honestly, I probably should have given up on it long ago instead of wasting time and energy.

After MB and I broke up, I couldn’t work on that book. For a while I did nothing, then finally decided, Fuck it, I want to work on something fun and new, and started the YA book.

It was a pleasure to write from start to finish. When I wasn’t writing, I missed my characters. I got tingles imagining some scenes. I was always excited to work on it.

I have such good memories of working on it too. In Paris I was jetlagged so I’d be awake at four in the morning. I’d make some coffee and eat chocolate and write in my notebook while YP slept in the next room and it rained outside.

View. #paris

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

I would like those kinds of mornings for the rest of my life.

I finished the novel in March of this year. I spent a month revising it, then queried a whole bunch of agents. No luck. Needless to say, I was really disappointed. I loved the book so much, and everyone I talked to got excited about the premise. I wanted to make the book better but didn’t know how.

Then my brother read it and gave me an excellent critique. Basically, he said, it’s more like a first draft. There are a lot of lost opportunities for “coolness” and imaginative stuff. Perhaps a red herring I set up isn’t necessary, and, most of all, the protagonist is dull. I tried hard not to make her passive, but I think in the end she’s too much like me, and so, as always, I wasn’t able to get enough distance to make her her own person.

After hearing all that, I thought, Of course! It’s all so obvious! Duh!!!

I’m not quite ready yet to start revising it, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. When I’m ready to work on it again, I know I won’t be able to help it.

In addition to my book, I published a number of short pieces on everything from language to libraries to the television show Hannibal. For 2015, I plan on more of the same, as well as, perhaps, getting back into personal essays.

Health & Fitness

I probably didn’t achieve as much in the fitness area of my life. Sometime I last year I gave up going to classes at my krav maga place. While the location was super-convenient for where I used to live, it’s just not anymore. So when my membership expired in September of last year, I didn’t bother renewing it.

Instead I joined a gym near work and it’s fantastic. Clean and spacious with gorgeous locker rooms and Kiehl’s in the showers. So while I don’t do harder workouts now like conditioning and carido punching bag, I’ve been going more consistently — four or five days during the week, whether early in the morning, at lunchtime, or after work.

I do miss those conditioning and punching bag classes though, especially since I hurt my back a couple of weeks ago. Walking and even running were okay, but sitting was excruciating, especially on a jerky bus ride. My theory is that because I stopped conditioning and punching bag, my back and core muscles have weakened. At the same time, I started rowing in the last several months, probably with bad form, and have been carrying around a heavy backpack quite a lot, whether during my travels, to and from work with my computer and other gadgets, or grocery shopping.

If my back feels better soon, I’ll try to take this conditioning class I like at the gym. I’ve taken it several times but stopped because it’s not until 5:30 and I get home so late. But how I’ll fill the punching bag shaped hole in my heart, I’m not sure. I sometimes work on the heavy bag at the gym, but it’s not the same as a solid hour of doing routines and conditioning. I’m almost tempted to rejoin my old krav maga gym, maybe for six months or so.

In other health news, since April I’ve cut out instant noodles and other high sodium processed foods. I’m paranoid about my blood pressure (I know, I know, I should get a checkup). Also because of what I’m theorizing is low stomach acid, I’ve cut my rice intake as well. If I eat too much rice or other carbs, my stomach feels like it’s going to explode (however, that didn’t stop me this past week from eating delicious stuffing, noodles, and sandwiches).

I’ve also started eating more fruits and vegetables, and gotten into the habit of having an apple or whatever is in season after lunch and dinner. I feel like the fruit neutralizes any saltiness and probably helps with digestion as well.

Family

My dad’s health has been up and down for the past couple of years. In late 2012, he had a bad fall during a vacation in Taiwan, and ever since then has dealt with a variety of issues.

When I saw him in April, he seemed to be improving. He was sleeping better and had a good appetite. But when Greg saw him over the summer, he was in bad shape. His doctor had him on strong antibiotics in preparation for a biopsy that could lead to possible infection. As a result, he had lost his appetite and was eating almost nothing.

Greg said he was really skinny, could barely keep his balance, and seemed really muddled. On top of that, he was having trouble sleeping again (he was worried about his biopsy results, which by the way turned out fine) and was on some sleep aid, which made him crazy, especially in combination with this appetite stimulant he was on. AND on top of all that, he had a cataract he was being stubborn about so he couldn’t see either.

Now he’s like a new person.

As soon as he was off the antibiotics, he got his appetite back. I had suggested eating yogurt and sweet potatoes to help with his digestion. He resisted at first, saying that yogurt was too sour and just not digging sweet potatoes, but now he eats both multiple times a day.

He got the cataract removed at the end of August, and now he’s reading and typing intelligent emails again. Before, his emails were crazy. I didn’t know if he couldn’t see or was, like, losing it. Now they’re back to being eloquent.

He still can’t walk as much as he used to, but he still takes short walks a couple of times a day, and goes to physical therapy. He started playing mah-jongg again and singing karaoke. He goes out to dinner with friends.

When I told Greg that, he couldn’t believe it.

Finally selling their house also helped. It was a huge worry for them. But now it’s off their hands and they’re settling in their new place in an independent living development (ie, a retirement community).

When I first saw the new house last month, it was weird. It was as though my parents were living in some stranger’s home, and the idea of some other kid living in my old room also weirded me out. But I got used to the new place fast. It helps that the upstairs is almost like its own apartment, complete with two bedrooms, a bathroom off one of the bedrooms, and a living room.

“You could live here!” ES said when I gave her the tour.

Yeah, a 40+ single woman living in her parents’ retirement community. Pretty pathetic (and possibly a rom-com).

While my father is doing much better, I doubt he’ll be up for visiting me before I move. However, I’m glad my mom had the chance to come out here last October. She came for my aunt and uncle’s anniversary party (they live in San Jose), and stayed with me one weekend. We mostly hung around the apartment although we did go into Oakland Chinatown, have dim sum, and pick up stuff for dumplings, which I had wheedled her into making for me.

During that time I also had the chance to see lots of extended family because of my aunt and uncle’s party (after which I got sick because of one glass of wine and a very winding car ride back to the house).

Moving

After MB and I broke up, I couldn’t afford to stay in our Nob Hill apartment anymore and moved into a friend’s condo in Oakland.

The sky now. #nofilter

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While there’s no denying the apartment is fabulous and the area beautiful, living not-in-a-city was a huge adjustment for me. After five years of living in Manhattan and three and a half in very walkable Nob Hill, I was used to having everything I needed within walking distance and to be able to pop out for food or just to get out.

You can’t really do that here. If you have a car, that’s another story, but I’m phobic about driving so that wasn’t an option for me. I have to admit at first I felt somewhat isolated. Walking into town and to the BART is doable but it does take a lot of time. And I hated the idea of paying for so many cab rides.

However, a year and a half later, I’ve gotten used to it. It helps that I’ve started taking a different walking route into town. The one I used to take was on the highway for quite a bit and went through this part of town with steep hills. The new one doesn’t go through any pretty developments, but it’s sidewalks all the way down and only a gradual hill. I’m not sure why I took my previous route for so long.

So now I’m a lot less hesitant about doing what I call the schlep. Plus it’s good exercise. Ever since Spain and marathon walking days, I’ve really been into these super long walks.

Despite my love for this apartment and the Bay Area weather, I’ll be moving back to the east coast next summer. There are many reasons. I have lots of friends on the east coast, I’ll be able to afford to live in a city (Manhattan rents are currently cheaper than San Francisco’s), and I’ll be nearer to my parents who, let’s face it, aren’t getting any younger. Plus the east coast just feels more like home.

I will miss the weather and my huge apartment though. Shit.

 

Writing Update: Nature Words, Boardwalk Empire, the Jersey Devil

by Angela Tung on Monday, November 3, 2014, no comments

baskinginsun-300x200Behind as usual. But at least I didn’t wait a whole year this time.

The Case for Making Libraries Full of Toys and Games

I wrote this piece for Quartz back in August. Researching the importance of play was really interesting.

10 Unusual Nature Words We Should Use More Often

An excuse to write about petrichor. By the way, the photo above is an example of apricating.

Boardwalk Empire: Our Favorite Words from the Final Season

I had to pay one last word-nerd hurrah to my favorite Prohibition-era gangster show.

The Mysterious Origins of the Jersey Devil

Writing the short Jersey devil entry on the Wordnik Boardwalk Empire piece inspired to me write this longer article for The Week. What I didn’t know: New Jersey is the only state to have an official state demon. Who knew?

[Photo: “Miss J Basking in the Sun,” CC BY 2.0 by Aiko, Thomas & Juliette+Isaac]

The flight home

by Angela Tung on Saturday, August 30, 2014, no comments

I was stressed about getting to the airport, but YP found out about the express bus and it was super easy.

Getting through airport security was another story. I didn’t realize I had to take out ALL my electronics, including plugs, chargers, and my headphones. I had to go back through the scanner twice more. However, luckily they didn’t make me go to the end of the line, and plus this nice American kid explained it all to me, having experienced the same thing himself.

Going to my departure area was also a pain. Between a tram ride and the walk, it was over 20 minutes. This woman approached me asking a question in Spanish. I said in English, “Are you going to the U.S.? Then you need to go to area U.”

“U?” she said. “Like you and me?”

At first I laughed, but then she wouldn’t get away from me. She stood RIGHT next to me on the escalators. Like she was pressed up right against my backpack and kept saying stuff like, “You and me, we’re the same.” She held up her passport but it was EU, not American so I had no idea what she was talking about.

Maybe it was mean of me but I totally wanted to ditch her. It was hard enough to figure out for myself where I was going. At first I went the wrong way, and when I turned around abruptly she was right on my heels. Then I walked off really quickly, knowing she wouldn’t be able to keep up.

I made it to my gate with about an hour to spare. I had time to go the bathroom, get something to eat, and pick up a couple of things from the duty-free shop. (I wanted to use up my euros but I wasn’t able to.)

Compared to my airport experience, the flight itself was a dream. It was Iberian Airlines and really nice. The plane seemed new, and each seat had a fancy entertainment center. There were so many free movies. On top of that, in a row of four, it was just me and one other woman, both on the aisle.

I didn’t sleep at all but watched three and a half movies: Veronica Mars, American Hustle (much of which was censored so parts of it felt disjointed), Captain America 2, and part of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The only uncomfortable part of the flight was after we landed. We were told many times not to get up until the captain told us it was okay to do so. Two airport officials with surgical masks came on and questioned this family (I’m guessing they were Afro-Spanish). At one point a stewardess, also masked I think, took away this water bottle that was stopped up with a paper towel. The family, which had two little boys, were escorted off the plane first by the masked officials.

All I kept thinking was Ebola, but maybe one of the kids was sick (one of the bathrooms smelled really bad and then was out of order) and because we were coming in from another country, that was just standard procedure?

It was weird. But I guess they would have told us if it was anything serious.

The next leg of my journey was tough. The only good part was that I had ended up not checking my suitcase. The woman in the Madrid airport warned me that I’d have to pick up my bag and get it through customs before getting on my connecting flight. I don’t know how I would have made it. I had to get through customs, then schlep to another terminal, then go through security AGAIN. At least this time I knew the drill.

I made it to my gate about half an hour before boarding. I had time to pee, get some food (this fruit cup really hit the spot), and be surprised that everyone spoke English.

I don’t know why I ever thought O’Hare Airport was nice. It’s shitty and not air conditioned well.

I thought the flight 4.5 hour to my city would feel endless but I was so exhausted I fell asleep several times. We landed on time, 7 PM, which was 4 in the morning Madrid time.

But my journey still wasn’t over. I still had the subway, and it was during that 45 minute ride that I felt REALLY exhausted and kind of sick. But at least it wasn’t hot, my car wasn’t crowded, and when I got to my stop, I caught the one cab waiting at the cab stand. By 9 PM, almost 24 hours since I left Madrid, I was home home home!

I was so happy to be back in my own place, my fatigue didn’t even bother me anymore. I washed up (thinking about that gross bathroom), set an egg to boil for a late dinner, and called Mom. We spoke very briefly.

I had lentil soup with an egg for dinner (it tasted particularly flavorless after two weeks of salty food) and watched a bit of Midsomer Murders. By 10 PM I was losing consciousness.

I fell asleep fast and at one point woke up and had absolutely no idea where I was. I even had trouble finding the bathroom. I was feeling around in the dark: is this it? No, that’s the closet. Crazy.

I was pretty awake around five this morning. I did my favorite morning routine: have a nice strong cup of coffee (Spanish coffee from the airport, which was really fucking good, wish I had bought more) and PBJ toast, and read. Then I caught up on work emails and worked out. Ten minutes on elliptical and then a three-mile run after one of the treadmills became free.

The early morning walk to the gym was so nice.

I thought about going into the city, but it’s already three now so that’s not happening. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow, or at least the grocery store. I have enough regular food but not enough snacks.

I’m pretty tired now. Think I’ll watch the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special and then have an early dinner.

Back in Madrid

by Angela Tung on Thursday, August 28, 2014, no comments

In Barcelona, I was dreading the subway ride from our hotel to the train station, but I surprisingly remembered how to get there since I had lead the way the first time. Again, the train ride was lovely. We ended up sitting next to each other, and we both dozed most of the way.

I felt more comfortable once we were in Madrid. I prefer hot and dry weather as opposed to hot and humid, and it was great that the hotel YP picked was very close to the apartment we had stayed in, which meant it was super close to the train station.

We had asked for two twin beds but they gave us a double. We asked to switch rooms, and they ended up putting us in a suite with two twins AND a Murphy bed. YP took the Murphy.

While YP went to pick up his matador outfit, I headed out to the Naval Museum. But it was closed — d’oh! I wasn’t sure what else to do. At first I wandered around aimlessly, looking for a restaurant since I was pretty hungry. But nothing appealed to me, or else I felt too shy to go in by myself. I ended up in the supermarket section of VIPS and picked up some Asian noodles and a yogurt. I went back to the room, ate, read, and watched Midsomer Murders.

It was during this time I realized the A/C wasn’t working. At first I was okay, but then I got so warm I had to open the windows.

After YP came back, we went to meet the apartment swapee for a drink. It was then that I realized how starved we both were to talk to someone who was not each other, and in English to boot. The swapee was very nice and it was fun chatting with her. That was also the first truly leisurely Spanish meal we had. We sat outside, had drinks, and ordered food in fits and starts. (As always I ordered too much.) The swapee had brought her dogs. She held the smaller one in her lap while the bigger one hid under the table and leaned its body against my legs.

That night, our last in Madrid, we both had a terrible night’s sleep. It was too warm, even with the windows open, and plus it was very noisy. After a while I put in my earplugs, which helped some, but then I was awake at six. I got maybe three hours of sleep.

Barcelona, Day 2

by Angela Tung on Tuesday, August 26, 2014, no comments

We started the day with a late breakfast at Brunch & Cake, which was adorable. I had something to eat earlier so I wasn’t super-hungry, but I was still able to have a cortada and one slice of coconut bread (YP had the other).

Coconut bread with carmelized pears #barcelona

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Afterward we went to check out Sagrada Familia. It was a bit of a schlep and again it was sunny and humid. The cathedral was really cool, but there were soooooo many people. I thought YP might want to stand in line to go in, but thank God he didn’t.

Next up was the Museu Picasso. On our way there we ran into La Monumental, an old bullfighting arena that’s now a museum. (Bullfighting has been banned in Barcelona since 2010.)

The museum itself was dinky and just okay. The fun part was going into the empty arena, standing in the middle of it, and going “backstage.” It was even more fun because by then we had been to an actual bullfight — and besides the museum fee, we didn’t have to pay for a tour.

There was quite a long line for the Picasso museum. We waited for almost an hour but at least we were in the shade. When we finally got into the museum, YP went through it quickly and took off to do something on his own. I got the audio tour and listened to almost everything.

On my way back to the hotel, I munched on a piece of yummy pizza, then stopped in the Barcelona Cathedral. This time I was ready with a little jacket. But it turned out I didn’t even need it. There were plenty of women in sleeveless dresses and tops, and both men and women in shorts. What a crock. At least I didn’t get duped into buying a shawl like the girls I ran into as I left.

Ceiling, Cathedral of Barcelona #barcelona #spain

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

At the hotel I charged my phone and rested a little, then went to Ciutadella Park, which was just a five minute walk away. It was pretty nice with lots of people running, doing CrossFit, and yoga. For those reasons, as well as the vegetarian restaurants, banned bullfighting, and transvestites I kept seeing, Barcelona reminded me a lot of San Francisco.

After the park I checked out a couple of cool buildings (the Palau de Musica Catalana and Palau Guell) and then had sushi for dinner. It was above average.

I slept much better that night.

Barcelona, Day 1

by Angela Tung on Monday, August 25, 2014, no comments

Off the Barcelona!

I was a little worried about schlepping to the train station with all our stuff and the possible madness of getting through security and all that, but it turned out to be a breeze. I kept remembering how it was taking the train from Paris to London, and only afterward remembered that was from one country to another.

We had a lot of time to kill so we sat in a cafe. I had (yet another) cafe con leche and a delicious chocolate muffin. I don’t know if it was any different from a chocolate muffin in the U.S., but it seemed yummier.

The train ride was absolutely lovely. YP made sure to get us front-facing seats, and we each had a window. Plus the woman next to me got off early so I had a whole row to myself for most of the time.

I listened to music, daydreamed, and had (yet another) mixto sandwich plus cafe con leche in the cafe car.

Three hours on a nice train is the perfect amount of time. Long enough to enjoy yourself but not too long before you start to feel antsy and bored.

Getting to our hotel from the train station in Barcelona was a bit of a pain. Plus it was sunny and humid. After we had a late vegetarian lunch, YP went back to the room and rested and napped for like four hours.

In the meantime I went to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, mostly because it was the only museum open that day. On the way I passed the Barcelona Cathedral (as I would a million times during our visit). There was a sign saying that shoulders had to be covered, and that day I was wearing a sleeveless dress. A lady tried to sell me a shawl, but I figured it would be easy to go back another time so I said no.

T-shirt art at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art #barcelona

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

The museum was nice and, as museums are in New York, over air-conditioned, which was nice at first but then it was freezing. I watched this short documentary on a Welsh professional wrestler, although I drifted off a couple of times.

Footsteps above, at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art #barcelona

A video posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

I went back to the room to charge my phone and found YP still napping. I stuck around for a little while, then headed back out. I tried to visit the library but it was closed by the time I got there (a recurring theme), and then had ramen for dinner

Ramen break after more than a week of Spanish food #barcelona

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

It was very pretty but tasted just okay. Still, it was a nice change from tapas and ham and cheese sandwiches all the time.

I got back before YP, who had gone to another vegetarian restaurant for dinner. I showered and relaxed with old episodes Midsomer Murders.

While I couldn’t hear the street noise, I didn’t sleep well that night. Too many cafe con leches I think.

The Bullfighters’ Tailor

by Angela Tung on Saturday, August 23, 2014, no comments

On this day we rented a car and drove to this place on the outskirts of Madrid so that YP could buy a matador outfit.

You heard right.

At first he thought he could get one in the city, but it turned out that place didn’t sell whole outfits. So it was off to this other place, which wasn’t far from El Escorial, the “historical residence of the King of Spain,” according to Wikipedia. We figured if the matador outfit place turned out to be a bust, we’d have another thing to see.

The place wasn’t easy to find. We got lost a couple of times but eventually ended up where we thought his place should be. But all we saw were little apartment buildings and office parks, very much a suburb.

Finally, YP found someone who pointed us in the general direction. Unfortunately, there was no sign, at least not that we realized at first.

Señor #JustoAlgaba is that you? I think it is. Compare: http://instagram.com/p/sDWHJFhFyW/ via @yonkey

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

It turns out that graffiti likeness is the tailor, Justo Algaba, himself, and the building behind it, number 23, is where his store is. But like I said, we didn’t know that at the time. All we saw was that the gate to the (empty) parking lot was closed. I thought YP would want to scale the fence. Luckily he found a buzzer and kept trying numbers until someone answered.

“I was looking for Senor Justo Algaba?” he said.

After a brief pause, a deep male voice answered,”Vale” (which basically means “Okay” or “Fine), and, to my amazement, the gate opened.

Because it was siesta time, the building was almost empty, but an older gentleman on the second floor spotted us on the stairs and waved us up.

Senor Algaba’s “store” certainly didn’t look like one. There was a mural of matadors —

Celebrity matadors #justoalgaba #madrid

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

— a bull’s head —

— and a display case with outfits, but that was all.

Later YP Ptold me that Senor Algaba took one look at him and came out with an outfit (second-hand) that fit almost perfectly.

While the WF got fitted with a vest, jacket, pants, shirt, socks, hat, and shoes (it’s a complicated outfit), I relaxed on the couch under the bull’s head and read. I was glad I had brought my book.

YP also later told me that the tailor has been in business for the past 40 years, and has outfitted in addition to famous matadors, the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Latoya Jackson. However, like I said, his store was very modest. Someone else might have photos of themselves with various celebrities, but he did not.

He was also insistent that everything about YP’s outfit be just right. YP said something about using his own shirt and socks, and the tailor replied, “No, no, no.” YP knew it wasn’t because he wanted to sell him more stuff; he just wanted it to be perfect.

And while I didn’t understand a word he said, I could tell he was very gentlemanly. When he pointed out the restroom for me, he sort of escorted me in the right direction.

After we were done, YP had me take a photo of him and the tailor, and it was totally cute.

Afterward, Senor Algaba said, “Very good, very handsome.” YP said, no you look handsome, and the tailor said no you, and they went back and forth like that for quite some time.

Senor Algaba wanted to fix a small tear in the pants, and offered to drop off the outfit at the store in Madrid for YP to pick up later in the week. He also suggested that instead of spending hours in a restaurant that we get sandwiches and stuff from the vending machine downstairs, which, in our starved state, was fine by us.

My sandwich — a croissant “mixto,” ham and cheese on a croissant — was actually pretty good. We ate in the car and then were off to El Escorial.

I was very tired but I really enjoyed this. It reminded me of Versailles (except much less crowded) with rooms set up like how they were in the past, paintings, sculptures, and a crypt (you know we love a good crypt).

The drive back to the city was less smooth than the drive out. The GPS was fucked up and we kept getting lost. On top of that both our phones were running out of battery.

To make a long story short, after much effort we figured out rental car return was in the general parking lot.

We were so exhausted, we ended up just eating in the train station.

Basilica, Royal Palace, National Library

by Angela Tung on Friday, August 22, 2014, no comments

Friday our plans were to check out the San Francisco el Grande Basilica and the Royal Palace of Madrid.

On our way we stopped for breakfast at this nearby cafe, where I had a lovely cafe au lait. I had also ordered a ham and cheese on a croissant but wasn’t very hungry. Luckily I had a trusty ziplock bag and saved 2/3’s of the sandwich for later.

The Basilica was really pretty, and it was kind of nice to get there just as it opened. There was a sign that said no pictures, but as I tried to sneak one in, a passing guard was like go ahead! kind of like the conductor on the train from Toledo.

I sort of can’t remember the Royal Palace. Mostly I remember the outside where a couple of accordion players played continuously (Italian songs mostly, and the theme from The Godfather), and how two little girls tried to climb onto the ledge of an exterior window until a far-off guard blew his whistle at them and one climbed down with her hands up.

We also passed through the Sabatini Gardens, where we kept hearing these birds squawking. YP joked that it was a toucan, and then a couple of minutes later I saw three green parrots fly overhead. It turns out Madrid is overrun with wild raccoons and parrots. Who knew.

Our next stop was the Alumenda Cathedral beside the Royal Palace. We weren’t sure what it was. All we knew was that we could go to the top, which we did and saw a lovely view and these really cool statues:

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

That was almost better than the Royal Palace.

Next were nun cookies. Let me explain: apparently there are these cloistered nuns who make cookies and other sweets. The nuns are somewhat hard to find, and we thought it would be fun to try and find them and also to bring back the nun cookies for our co-workers.

The convent wasn’t too hard to find. We overshot the alleyway, but quickly found our way back. We had a little trouble finding the door, but luckily the blog post I linked to above had a picture of it. I took one too. Then — d’oh! We discovered the place was closed and cookies and sweets wouldn’t be available again until September:

  A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

No nun cookies for us. Another good thing was that nearby there was the Mercado Market, where we had a variety of food:

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  A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

That night we went off and did our own thing again. YP went clothes shopping and I checked out the National Library.

Unfortunately the library was closed by the time I got there. The website said it was open until 9 but it actually closed at 8. I got there right before 8 so at least I could go inside the gate and look at the exterior, even if I couldn’t go in the building.

Feeding my inner library nerd: National Library of Spain #madrid

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I met one of the resident library cats.

Spanish library cat is not pleased with me #madrid

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I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to go straight back to the apartment so I walked some more. I wandered down this street that kind of like Fifth Avenue, ie, lots of high-end stores that I would never buy stuff from.

For dinner, I stopped at a grocery store near the apartment and picked up salami, cheese, and a baguette. It was a bit too salty but still delicious.

Tomorrow’s agenda: get YP a matador outfit! Stay tuned…

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museu, Crystal Palace, Indian food

by Angela Tung on Thursday, August 21, 2014, no comments

On Thursday, YP and I went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum together and each did our own thing afterward.

I enjoyed the museum. At first I was very diligent about listening to every audio description and at least looking at every painting, but after almost two hours, I got saturated and started breezing through the rooms, especially after realizing there were two more floors and I had started in the middle.

By the time I called it a day, it was almost three and I was hungry. Actually I was hungry earlier but I had a bite of a Balance bar, which sustained me.

At the museum cafe I got the duck over cous cous. While the sauce was amazing — tartly sweet with apricots, prunes, and currants — the duck itself was tough and chewy. The duck I had at the Courte d’Ingles was a billion times better. But I ate the whole thing, knowing it would be a while before I ate again.

I also had the dessert, a very liquidy vanilla custard. The flavor was good but it was so watery. I’m starting to think Spain doesn’t do dessert so well.

YP was already back by the time I got home. We were supposed to meet one of his old friends at six, but at 5:30 she sent a message saying she couldn’t make it. That kind of sucked because I came back early for our plans instead of going to the national library.

So instead we checked out the Crystal Palace, which we had been meaning to anyway. I’m sorry to say it was unimpressive. I could see how it was once amazing, but now the glass is dirty and the place was empty except for a scattering of rocking chairs which were apparently part of an exhibit. Apparently it used to hold “flora and fauna” from the Philippines. Not anymore.

It reminded me of stuff in China: buildings that seem grand from afar but are shoddy and dilapidated up close.

We decided to have Indian for dinner. He found a restaurant with plenty of vegetarian options. We got there at 7:30 but it wasn’t open until 8:30, which is often the case around here.

We sat in a Starbuck’s for almost an hour. That wasn’t so bad. I was so tired, I was able to just sit, daydream, and people-watch.

I’m finding that while some Spanish men are definitely attractive (I’m a sucker for dark hair and eyes), they are way too well-groomed for my taste.

Finally, 8:30 rolled around. I wanted a little bit of everything so I got the tasting menu. The starter was a tiny meat samosa and pakora which was more like an Indian onion bloom. The entrees were curry lamb, saag paneer, and chicken tandoori with a side of rice and naan. Dessert was a small mango lassi. All for 19 euros, which is a little expensive, but if I had ordered one entree with rice and naan, it would have been almost 19 anyway.

Back home we were both pooped. I did what has become my evening routine: shower, take care of my feet, and watch an episode or so of Doc Martin. I slept well.

Toledo and jet lag

by Angela Tung on Thursday, August 21, 2014, no comments

Although I slept pretty well the first three nights, Tuesday night I had trouble.

During the day we had walked around a lot and gotten tons of sun, but I probably went to bed too early, around midnight, when I wasn’t sleepy. Whatever the reason I was up until almost four, browsing on my phone and watching an old episode of Doc Martin on YouTube.

Unfortunately the next morning I couldn’t sleep in since we had plans to go to Toledo for the day. I got up around 8, had a couple of cups of coffee, and was functional (though barely).

We are so close to the train station. Just a five minute walk. And the train was really nice. The ride is only about 30 minutes, but the train was like a really nice Amtrak. I really enjoyed just listening to music and staring out the window.

Overall Toledo was fun, although it was easy to get lost, the cobblestone streets were hilly and hard to walk on, and because we didn’t know where we were going half the time, we missed a whole bunch of sights. We did get to see the Toledo Cathedral, El Greco museum, and Sephardic museum (which was pretty boring since everything was in Spanish). I had wanted to see a synagogue but we didn’t have time and I was pretty exhausted.

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The meals we had were pretty good. I’m not picky and enjoyed well enough the duck and chicken sandwiches I got at the first place (they were just 3 euros each and so I imagined they were tiny, which they weren’t, but luckily I had a ziploc bag and was able to save the superfluous sandwich for later), as well as the “tostata” with brie at the second place.

I expcted the tostata to be like the one I had in Madrid: one medium sized baguette. But this was the equivalent of three pieces of bread soaked in Brava sauce with two giant hunks of brie. I ate all the bread, one and a half hunks of brie, and all the chips.

I also had a lemon Fanta, which after walking around in the hot sun for hours, was freaking delicious.

We got back to the train station early and had to time stop in yet another Chinese-run convenience store. (I forgot to mention that these are common all over Madrid, if not all of Spain, and are called chinos.) Despite the lemon Fanta, I still felt thirsty so I got a couple of nectarines. He got drinks and a chocolate bar, which made me feel even thirstier looking at it.

My overall impression of Toledo? Hot, dry, and dusty. In a lot of ways it reminded me of China, at least the area surrounding Beijing. We even saw a little lizard clinging to the wall of the train station, which reminded me of the lizards in Changping.

The train ride back was just as nice as the ride coming. Our seats were backwards but there were plenty of empty ones facing the right way so we switched. (I was afraid the conductor would yell at us, like he would have in Paris, but he didn’t.) We even each got a window seat.

Before heading home, we stopped in a Body Shop, and I got foot files and cream. My feet really needed it.

We got back around eight. This time I was glad for an early night in. I took a shower then took care of my feet. It felt great and they are much better today.

We also did laundry, took out the garbage, and watered the swapee’s plants. The dryer took forever. I was worried about using up a lot of electricity so I took most of my stuff out and hung it up. I had thought about using the clothesline outside, but it’s really high up. Like, I have to climb to almost the top of the ladder to reach it. I said fuck it and hung up my stuff around the apartment. YP was kind enough to find me some hangers.

Because it’s so arid here, almost everything is already dry.

I was able to sleep last night. I stayed up past one, between watching an old Doc Martin Christmas special and waiting for the dryer to be done. I woke up around 8 today. I could have slept more but I don’t want to have trouble sleeping again tonight, or at least lessen the possibility of it.