Category Archives: Travel

Montréal’s Impeccable Street Art

I took a walking tour on the morning of my first full day in Montréal this summer and the guide, Anne-Marie, clearly had a thing for street art. When I realized she was wearing a T-shirt from an art gallery she took us too, it all made sense why admiring murals and graffiti art in Le Plateau Mont-Royal was just as much a part of our tour as walking inside of Old Town’s Notre-Dame Basilica or navigating through Montréal’s underground walkway network.

With that, here’s a spread of some of the stand-out works that can be seen branching out and around from Saint-Laurent Blvd in the Plateau (with artist IG’s linked in the caption so you can go down your own street art rabbit holes.) Also, it should be noted that many of these went up as part of the yearly Montréal Mural Festival.

And shout out Spade & Palacio for a refreshing look at the city. Peace.

@pichiavo – Spain
@roneglishart – US
@dface_official – UK
@buffmonster – NYC
@francofasolijaz – Buenos Aires
@LeonKeer – Netherlands
@ashopcrew – Montréal
@fluke.art – Montréal
@kevinledo – Montréal
@sandrachevrier – Montréal
@saraerenthalart – Brooklyn

5 Days In Seattle In 5 Songs

I took a jaunt up to Washington for the first time in damn near a decade last week. And despite multiple trips to Seattle in the past, I’d never seen a proper concert in the city before. This is no longer the case, and a couple of these five tracks that marked my trip related back to those live music experiences. Here they are, along with two new discoveries and one absolute classic that tell the story of a memorable trip to the PNW.

Nicola Cruz – “Criançada” (feat. Castello Branco)

We arrived on a Wednesday and made our way that evening to the tightly-packed yet still comfortable Nectar Lounge in Seattle’s Fremont District. Nicola is one of the few producers I’ll make a point to not miss when he comes through for a DJ set and I was happy to make up for the SF set I’d be missing with this Seattle tour stop. “Criançada,” with it’s Brazilian rhythms and vocals by Castello Branco, is a total standout on the incredible cultural journey that is Siku. Nobody infuses indigenous South American music into electronic production quite like the French/Ecuadorian Cruz and more than anything, this is type of music I want to have playing at a club when I’m catching up with friends, drinking and dancing the night away.

Continue reading 5 Days In Seattle In 5 Songs

Food For Thought…

I had a moment yesterday in Budapest…a food moment. And I’ll never forget the feeling.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve ever been quite as floored by something I ate, where the flavors of a region and the world’s passion for food all just made so much sense.

It was our last night in Budapest and Teagan and I went to a spot called Cafe Kör on the recommendation of The Cipher Podcast Producer Josh Kross. “If you don’t eat at Cafe Kör in Budapest you’re doing it wrong,” he commented on a FB post. “Ok buddy,” I thought…”Let’s see what you got.” We walked by Kör in the afternoon to peek in and it seemed traditional, if not touristy – just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Basilica – but too nice for the quick lunch we were shooting for in the moment and planned to come by at night.

We came back at around 9:30pm, after a rejuvenating end of the day at the Rudas Baths. We ordered a bottle of Cuvee from Eger. It was dry and tart, typical of the area just outside of Budpest and the way I like it. We ordered salmon carpaccio as an appetizer, that covered the plate to the edges. It was excellent and substantial. The waiter, sensing that I wanted something traditional, was pushing me towards the beef tenderloin goulash as my main.

Here’s the thing though: I know it’s Hungary’s most famous dish, but whenever folks talk about goulash, I’ve never felt very excited about it. Stew with vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices? It’s always sounded so…pedestrian.

I’d had an outdoor market’s goulash the day before, but it was served in a fresh bread wrap and it was chicken-based. I dug it, but it was as memorable for the heavy metal music blasting from the stand I bought it from as it was for bold flavors that lingered on my breath for the next couple hours. In short, pedestrian.

Grudgingly, I ordered the Goulash at Kör and questioned that it was served with potato croquettes rather than noodles. But when the food arrived and I started eating, something amazing happened…

As I got into my second and third bites, I started to notice the temperature of the beef. It was hot when it first touched my tongue and my instinct was to back the fork away and blow on my food to cool it off. But then I realized that the heat quickly quelled and that this was in fact perfectly hot. (Hot food?! What a concept! It’s crazy to consider what a lost art this is at many restaurants.) I found confidence in knowing that even though the first touch was hot, it would never be too hot. Again, it was perfect.

And I got to dwelling on the optimal temperature that lasted nearly through the whole meal. I marvelled at how difficult this must be to maintain in a dish that while essentially braised for hours, was spread on the plate, in optimal fashion for cooling. And how did the beef attain such a pleasant chew within this process??

Then I thought about the spices, the sauce and the over-arching confluence of flavors that was before me. Cubes of beef simmered in a brown sauce of onions and peppers, seasoned with paprika and other spices, with the soft and crispy croquettes on the side. My amazement for how perfectly cooked this dish was, then was overcome by how distinctly it tasted and I began to realize that perhaps this is why goulash is so globally ubiquitious whenever the topic of Hungarian food comes up.

So I just kept eating, and sipping my wine and the intensity of the experience kept building. My brain was slowly unfolding into a complete understanding of everything contained within this dish…how the croquettes soaked up the thick stewy sauce, how tender the beef was, the balance that the paprika and the braised vegetables operated within and how it was STILL hot!

It was fairly powerful and I got emotional. My eyes got watery at the thought of this incredible experience as it was happening. I thought about the formative moment Anthony Bourdain describes in Kitchen Confidential, when an old fisherman in the South of France fed him an oyster right out of the water when he was a boy and how a light bulb went off in his nascent culinary mind (these days, I take Bourdain’s work with a grain of salt, but there’s no denying the impact of Kitchen Confidential.) This felt like my culinary moment of the same kind.

My loving partner smiled and laughed as she watched me go through the motions I just described above and it was just a spectacular affair. It felt good to be this affected by food and it re-ignited a passion inside of me. I want to replicate that moment again – badly – and it’s only been 14 hours since it happened.

But this is why I travel. To experience how people live around the globe…And from the standpoint of food, to step outside of my delightfully rote Whole Foods, Mexican food and sushi intake. And now on a train to Prague, I’m inspired. Three days into this trip and I’m in love with the world again. Oh how I’ve missed it.

AS

Playlist

The Avalanches – Since I Left You

Charlotte Day Wilson – Stone Woman

My São Paulo – A Photographic Essay

I’ve been going back to my birthplace of São Paulo, Brazil every year since I first left Brazil in 1989. And the place where I was born, is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been in the world.

When I come back home to the US following a visit, everyone always asks “How was Brazil?” And there’s only so much I can convey with words. I feel like everyone’s idea of Brazil is forged on images of Rio De Janeiro, yet São Paulo is a much different place. I sought to provide a glimpse into My Brazil and My São Paulo.

With these photographs, I looked to juxtapose the old and new parts of the city of São Paulo with the beach getaways of mid-to-upper class families from the city. The city and the beach are very different places and holiday weeks at the beach are comfortable refuges for city-dwellers like my family. Where daily life is filled with the grandeur of skyscrapers and the urban sprawl & accompanying poverty of the city, weekend homes on the coast of the state of Sao Paulo seem a world away. With these 3 galleries, this is My São Paulo.

(Click anywhere on the tiled mosaics below to open the full gallery)

Old São Paulo

These photos were all taken in the Republíca area of São Paulo. It’s the historic central part of the city and just feels like a mish-mash of every aspect of São Paulo in one place. This is where poverty is the most prevalent and homeless kids riddled the streets amongst open shops, buildings, restaurants, the Municipal Theater and a major artery into the city’s core.

The Beach 

I looked to highlight themes of the typical Brazilian family and male/female roles within the household. Hopefully, you can feel the difference between one house and the other and the moments of relaxation versus potential conflict. Technology as a theme is reflected on the outer edges of the frames, reminding us that no matter how far outside of the city the family may be, technology remains ever-present.

New São Paulo

Avenida Paulista is the most important thoroughfare in São Paulo. The wide 6-laned avenue houses major financial institutions, museums, parks, shopping malls and is towered over by giant radio antennae on the top of it’s many tall buildings. New and polished public transportation is peppered throughout it’s nearly 2 mile stretch and it’s been developed into a modern hub to showcase the cosmopolitan city.

Parque Ibirapuera is the city’s largest urban park. It’s the Brazilian equivalent to Central Park, showcasing the country’s rich history, smack in the middle of a metropolis.

The 7 Weirdest Things For Sale at Cusco’s Baratio Flea Market

Cusco is an interesting city….It’s population has nearly doubled over the last decade (think about that mind boggling stat for a second) and boasts a beautiful historic city center, emanating from the Plaza de Armas, where many prominent Incas were executed by the Conquistadores in the 1500’s. But it’s the the commerce-driven outskirts that truly represent the sprawl of Cusco. When i say “commerce-driven”, what i really mean, is that people are selling EVERYTHING, often times aggressively and there is no better example of this commercial cesspool than the Baratio market on Saturday mornings.

Continue reading The 7 Weirdest Things For Sale at Cusco’s Baratio Flea Market

Festival de Choquekillka: 4 Days of Dancing, Food, Booze and Everlasting Peruvian Tradition

Call it dumb luck, but the day after i arrived in the small Peruvian village of Ollantaytambo for two and a half  weeks, the most important annual festival in the town’s history kicked off for the next 4 days. I was in Ollanta (for short) to spend time with some some old friends who were living there as they neared the opening of their new craft brewery (Sacred Valley Brewing Company). Ollanta is a village of 2000 people, that you can’t get to Machu Picchu without passing through. But despite the heavy influx of tourists it sees as a result, the festival de Choquekillka is a prime example of how local tradition triumphs above all else and how when given the opportunity, the locals will out-party the visitors while dancing into the wee hours of the morning.

The festival celebrates the legend of when the christ of Choquekillka cross miraculously appeared at the head of the Incan road, ending days of spiritual strife. The spirituality of the event permeates the celebration throughout. 17 dance groups, ornately dressed with everything from bead art capes and handmade knit masks to whips and even dead baby llamas, pay homage to the local deity with parades, dances and a non-stop celebration. The whole town comes out every day to witness the festivities and leaders of the dance groups set up private parties (cargos) throughout the town as well. I had the pleasure of attending a few of these cargos and ate until i couldnt anymore, had a beer in front of me immediately after i finished the previous one, drank an intoxicating corn brew called chicha, ate guinea pig for the first time and danced with reckless abandon.

One of the dance groups parading through the plaza.
One of the dance groups parading through the plaza.

On one of the days i attended a picturesque bullfight, on another the evening ended with a dangerously intimate fireworks display, on another we walked down to the pampa to celebrate the afternoon away and every day ended in Ollanta’s central plaza, where my friends at Sacred Valley Brew Co were pouring beers amidst the crates and crates of the local Cusqueña lager that were littered throughout the entire town. The dance groups would march into the plaza and entertain the crowd while paying tribute to the Señor. The parties were fantastic, but it wasn’t until i started gaining a better understanding of what the traditions and the dances meant that i truly began to appreciate Choquekillka as a timeless local tradition and a unique display of faith and solidarity…

Sheets of fireworks exploded over our heads.
A waterfall of fireworks exploded over our heads.

I met one of the dancers, William, from the group Qapaq Qolla, who closes out the celebration each year and he began to describe the details of his outfit and of the festivals traditions to us. He talked about how speaking Quechua (the ancient Andean language) and understanding the history of Choquekillka are major prerequisites for being in a dance. I was amazed at how much William revered the Q’achampa dance group, who are considered to be the most sacred and traditional of all of the groups. During their performance he pulled me aside and gave me the type of play-by-play of their performance that i would give to someone who didn’t understand a baseball game. When members of the Q’achampa square off in the middle of the dance circle and exchange whips to each other’s legs, it’s a male proving ground that serves as a model of piety to the Señor and is just flat out entertaining:

Kachampa ran in a "whipping" circle. Their stoic ability to keep moving despite such abuse gives rise to their nickname of "pie de Christo" or "foot of Christ."
Q’achampa ran in a “whipping circle.” Their stoic ability to keep moving despite such abuse gives rise to their nickname of “Pie de Christo” or “Foot of Christ.”

The whole time, William was so enthused…and i likened his giddiness of the dance to the way i feel about my “religions”: baseball and music…the two things that make me fly up out of my seat and vibe out on the regular and it started putting the festival, the town, the celebration and their faith into perspective. How a small town like this who doesn’t live at the pulse of amenities like baseball stadiums, concert halls, gastro pubs and gasp…supermarkets, finds a purpose to their simple, yet sustainable lives in the spiritual traditions in which their livelihood’s were founded. It was incredible. Watching the closing ceremonies on day 4 and seeing William and Qapaq Qolla so reverently chant and move with deliberate grace as the cross of Choquekillka bowed to every corner of the crowd of thousands, i was silent…as was everyone else. We were mesmerized by the ceremony and i was overcome with the memory of the last 4 days. Thinking about all of the people i met and of the exposure to a remote culture that i could’ve never imagined i’d have when i arrived in the town.

Me, Louisa and William.
Me, Louisa and William.

Overview of the plaza during a daytime parade.
Overview of the plaza during a daytime parade.

Kachampa standing proudly.
Q’achampa standing proudly.

Kapakuya flanking the Christ de Choquekillka as he bows to the masses before re-entering the chapel in the plaza where he resides, thus ending the festival.
Kapakuya flanking the Christ de Choquekillka as he bows to the masses before re-entering the chapel in the plaza where he resides, thus ending the festival.

The moon rising above the celebration on the pampa.
The moon rising above the celebration on the pampa.

SVBC provided fine libations throughout the festival!
SVBC provided fine libations throughout the festival They even prepped a ginger ale (pictured w/ Louisa and Juan)!

 

Until next time….i’l be prepping for my trek into Machu Picchu and bumping the new First Aid Kit album on repeat!

Spinelli

 

 

Living in the Moment…

You MUST press play on the new Damon Albarn album before going any further:

Ok…so I’ve tried my damndest to give every post a “hook” so far, but this time, i just gotta wax….I gotta wax on how anxious i’m feeling right now on the evening before heading to Peru. It’s been a lovely last 4 days in San Francisco, but there’s been a certain emptiness to it all…Like a big fucking purgatory. You see, it’s an interesting life i’m leading right now. Cause while i love traveling and being on the move more than just about anything,..I’ve had my share of moments where i wonder what the next long term step will be and it’s hard to detach from that.

I found myself talking to a couple at a bar this weekend about living in the moment. How it’s a truly beautiful thing, but it’s challenging at the same time. Especially for someone like me who has so many ties to so many people and cares deeply about them all. And yeah, traveling cross country and then to Hawaii and then to South America for months requires a certain ability to detach from that next step to be able to live in the moment. I just chuckled thinking about how “first world problem” that might sound, but it’s a real emotion..and i’m bracing myself for it. I’m ready to arrive at this village in the mountains of Peru and just breathe and NOT think about the next step for a while….In fact, it IS the next step as far as i’m concerned and the “boundless belief in the future” that John Wooden spoke about is the confidence that lets you enjoy it all.

So here’s to the next month and a half+ of living in a village in Peru and then going to Brazil for the World Cup. Here’s to my lofty goal of starting the “I Believe That We Will Win!” chant in a bar in Peru during Team USA’s opening game against Ghana and then doing it all over again from the stands of the stadium in Manaus against Portugal. Here’s to a wedding for someone i have yet to meet the day after i arrive in Peru where according to my friend “they’ve ordered 40 pigs slaughtered” for the occasion.  Here’s to seeing Machu Picchu just before i leave Peru to head home to Brazil. And finally, here’s to all the time in between where i have no fucking clue what i’m gonna do and who i’m gonna meet, but that’s the part i’m most excited about. Cause that’s the essence of this madness. That’s the heart of this trip…the great unknown and living in the moment.

Spinelli