Bambi Recommends: Los Angeles 2017

Disclaimer: This list does not mean to discredit any of the locations mentioned. On the contrary, if you have the time, do both. However, if you’re looking for the lesser known option, this line-up offers alternatives to the landmarks that get a lot of attention. I also focused more on activities since there are plenty of food recommendation lists online (links at the bottom).

Instead of the LACMA,
Museum of Broken Relationships
Started in Croatia, this museum collects tangible mementos that are attached to ephemeral memories of a relationship gone sour. Each item has a short blurb next to it explaining the story and the museum rotates new items in every few months. Not all relationships featured are the romantic kind but they’ve got their fair share of heartbreak.

They usually have an interactive part that visitors can add to as well, be it fill-in-the-blanks or an alter for moving on. I spent the most time at these.

Instead of the MoCA,
The Broad
One of the best museums I’ve been to as far as contemporary art goes. It’s much less WTF, more FTW. With Koons, Kruger, and Murakami pieces, it’s vibrant while still having a witty intellectual critique on society’s vices. Plus some of the stuff is just weird AF so you can have a lot of fun with your camera.

Entrance is FREE but you have to wait in line for a while especially now that Yayoi Kusama’s got a whole setup there. Tickets are sold out for that but you can go early and hope to snag a few same-day standby tickets if you’re lucky.

Instead of The Last Bookstore,
$5 or Less Bookstore
Don’t get me wrong, if you make a trip to DTLA, definitely head to The Last Bookstore and peruse the shelves of affordable books, get lost in the labyrinth, and stop by Liz Huston’s shop upstairs. But if you don’t feel like heading to the city, there is a chain of $5 or $10 or Less shops that also have substantial collections of second hand stuff for pennies.

The Last Bookstore is still worth a visit but it’s poorly ventilated and parking in downtown is a nightmare.

Instead of Netflixing your Saturday away,
UCLA’s The Hammer
Currently hosting an exhibit on Radical Women: Latin American Art as part of Pacific Standard Time until the end of December, The Hammer holds 20 exhibitions and 300 events every year. It’s also located in Westwood which has lots of shops, restaurants, and public parking that isn’t a total ripoff.

Entrance is also FREE and they’re open until 8pm during the week, closed on Mondays. Another option is the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. Entrance is also FREE but they’re only open until 5pm and closed on Mondays too.

 

Instead of walking the halls of the Getty Villa,
See the Venus Shrine outside the Getty Villa
It’s hidden at the end of the gardens beyond the pool to the left if your back is to the Villa. Here, visitors have tied love prayers to Venus in the traditional Roman fashion: addressing her, complementing her, and then scribbling down wishes for her to grant. You can spend hours flipping through them only to find that everyone wants the same thing in the end: a little love and a little happiness.

Getty Villa has FREE entrance, you just have to pay for parking which is $15 or $10 after 3pm.

Instead of the local Starbucks,
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Starbucks is definitely the king of convenience since they’re everywhere but if you find yourself near the Arts District in DTLA, head to Stumptown for a real cup of coffee. And it’s right around the corner from Bestia. 

Instead of going straight to the bar,
Live Rude Girls at Second City
A lot of comedy legends emerged from this place but the 5-girl troupe that does Live Rude Girls every Friday have a knack for keeping it current, poking fun at today’s misogyny and political woes.

You can get tickets for $6 (50% off) on Goldstar. It’s not a very long show so head to Mama Shelter or Farida for drinks or food after.

Instead of Blue Star,
Primo’s Donuts
I read about how one foodie judges ice cream brands based on their vanilla flavor because it’s a fundamental flavor that will show you what a brand is really made of. I use the same logic when I judge a doughnut joint based on their glazed buttermilk. If you can’t get this basic staple right, you’re not on my radar. It also happens to be my favorite. I’m not a fan of the maple bacon cereal covered crap, just make me a classic old fashioned.

Primo’s is a family-run spot. I popped in with my little sister and met the owner who told us the whole spiel about how he took over from his dad. He then loaded a box of freebies so we could try all their greats. They also serve Stumptown coffee.

Fun fact: After first opening in 1956, they’re opening another branch in Venice soon.

Instead of Perch Rooftop,
Bacari PDR
This wine bar is out in Playa Del Rey across from Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Resto (which is a family-run Italian joint that’s on my food list). If it were closer, I’d be a regular here. It’s low-key, casual, and GOOD like a wine bar should be. Sit on the patio and enjoy the breeze around sunset. They have great wine, $14 sangria pitchers on Sundays, and yummy nibbles to share.

Instead of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 
Rooftop Cinema Club
I never made it to the Hollywood Forever screenings but a woman I gave my extra drink token to told me that she preferred Rooftop because it’s “bougie in the best way possible”  because you get seats, blankets, and decent sound quality. It’s operational in LA, NYC, and London. Only downside is the headphones can get uncomfortable after a few hours – stick to shorter films.

Honorable mentions in this category are Street Food Cinema and Eat|See|Hear. I also watched two of my favorites (Edward Scissorhands and Goodfellas, respectively) at those so my opinion is a little swayed. Whatever you choose, make sure to bring a blanket because LA gets cold when the sunshine is gone.

Instead of Abbott Kinney Blvd,
Camarillo Premium Outlets
These are not near each other whatsoever but Camarillo will offer you much more for your money as far as luxury shopping goes. Abbott Kinney is hipster heaven but I get the gross feeling that I’m being ripped off by businesses that pushed out the real artists of Venice so if paying to dress like a hobo isn’t your thing, drive out to Camarillo and pop into the outlets there – they’ve got all the big names too.

Instead of Seeing LA from the 405 for 3 hours,
LA Conservancy Walking Tours
I can’t recommend this enough. I’m a huge fan of walking tours so these were my mission for the summer. I went on all three offered: Art Deco, Historic Downtown, and Broadway. The docents are extremely passionate about what they do and, after attending each one, you will look at DTLA as more than just the seedy place it can seem to be at times. The buildings have stories and details that you overlook when you’re walking through the atrium to get to Guisados. You learn things like the fact that Broadway was once home to 32 theaters or that Biddy Mason, who was born a slave and was one of the first African Americans to purchase land in the city, had a huge impact on the development of Los Angeles.

Instead of Chick-Fil-A,
Howlin’ Ray’s
ORDER THE FRIED PICKLES. The trick to experiencing this is showing up extremely early, waiting in line for 1.15hr, and eating at 11am. Or having your cousin wait early while you’re stuck on the freeway getting there only to arrive and have your anger dissipated with fried pickles and spicy Nashville fried chicken. No but really, get the fried pickles.

They’re open 11am-4pm and you will wait in line forever if you don’t get there at around 9am. It’s worth it. Make it a Bumble date and get to know each other in line. Worst case, you’re bored to death but, in the end, you still get fried chicken.

Instead of a Broadway show that’ll break the bank,
Rockwell Table & Stage
I saw an unofficial parody of Hocus Pocus at this spot in Los Feliz (pronounced “Fee-liz” because LA) and it was phenomenal. The talent is strong – you’ll recognize some Tony winners and supporting actors – and the jokes are stronger. It was a 90s throwback for a solid hour and a half and they’ll be doing one of Home Alone during the upcoming Christmas season. 

Check out the upcoming shows here. Book ahead because they sell out. You can also go down the street to Jon’s International and stock up on Almaza, labneh, and markouk bread because that’s how you perfect an evening.

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If you’re outdoorsy, hiking is big in LA and there are so many trails worthy of exploring. Instead of sticking to Runyon Canyon and hoping to see a celeb in Ivy Park, download the All Trails app and find something suited for you based on your level and location.

Temporary shows and exhibitions are aplenty in Los Angeles . Kerry Marshall’s Mastry at the MoCA is just an example of a fantastic show that came and went while I was here. There was also Barnsdall Friday Wine Nights which are only during the summer season but worth it. To stay on top of what’s currently going on while visiting, check out these references for LA activities:

Discover LA
Studio DIY
PF Candles
We Like LA
LA Conservancy
Infatuation LA
Thrillist LA
TimeOut’s Summer in LA list
LA Mag’s Best of LA or their lists
SoCal Pulse Weekend Lists

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Catalonian Traditions, Turkish Snowstorms, and Lebanese Warmth

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Coincidence brought me back to Barcelona around the same time that I had departed last November. I found the city just as I had left it, minus a few notches in temperature but just about the same number of pigeons.

Going somewhere familiar is unlike vacationing in an undiscovered destination. I guiltlessly slept in and spent afternoons in cafes. I finished a book. It was, for once, a break where I disconnected from home and was present in real time. I still worked from my trusty overweight laptop but I was mentally distant enough; my thoughts had room to expand and float above me before they popped in thin air.

Being in Catalonia at the end of the year means you learn about the seasonal traditions. First, there was Tio. Then, on New Year’s Eve, you have to eat 12 green grapes when the clock strikes 12. One grape per chime of the clock, one grape per month of the year. You also have to wear red undies for good luck? Some say they have to be a gift, others say you have to gift them before daybreak. I’m still digging up the origin story on this because I fear it’s the De Beers’ solitaire of undergarments, not that that stopped me. After 2016, I’ll take any source of luck for the calendar ahead.

Tortell de Reis (like our Galette des Rois) appears on January 6th for Three Kings Day. It contains two surprises baked into the pastry: a small king figurine and a bean. The person who gets the slice with the king gets to wear a paper crown and the person who gets the bean has to pay for the cake. They’re also granted good luck if they keep the bean in their wallet all year. I had already paid for the cake AND the bean was in my slice. It’s like it knew.

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Whenever I encounter Arabs abroad, there is an immediate sense of familiarity. You’d think that once you’re out of the country, you’d make it a point to meet people of different backgrounds but I understand why we flock to each other when setting up shop overseas. When I come across a Syrian, Jordanian, Egyptian, and, of course to an even greater degree, Lebanese, I feel an unspoken understanding. As Rankoussi, my glass-blower friend in Rome, said to me with a grin,“you are also from there,” after revealing he was from Damascus.

The unexpected “unlucky” 72-hour layover in the Radisson Blu near Sabiha Airport opened my eyes to a quality of our people that I am reminded of whenever I leave: warmth. 

I left Spain decked out in thermal Nike running gear (that I didn’t run in) and boots (to avoid adding the extra weigh to my suitcase). Thank you red underwear and bean for knowing more than I did. Besides the literal warmth my lucky outfit provided, there was a figurative one that came from being stranded in a Turkish blizzard with 3 Lebanese guys who were also flying back to BEY from sunny Barcelona.

Although I may not ever see my stranded brothers of Istanbul again, I am grateful that I had some company while stuck in a frozen village. Plus, chasing down taxis in a snowstorm would’ve been a nightmare solo. These absurd yet instant friendships where you are trading stories on a hotel couch drinking minibar wine, the kind that may evaporate as soon as you part ways, never to see each other again, was still comforting in a situation where you would normally feel entirely alone. It’s bittersweet how this only happens when we’re away from home. When abroad, I don’t get the same warmth from my fellow Americans in airport terminals or Starbucks lines but, when I’m here in Lebanon, I don’t get it from my fellow Lebanese either. When at home, we don’t mix outside of our known circles.

We have to be removed. We have to be foreigners together against the world to feel like we can do that, to feel like we’re the same.

3 Meals in NYC – 2016 Edition

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Back in 2014, I spent a quick 5 minutes in NYC and wrote about my 3 main food stops – one of which has since closed permanently. After spending a week in 2015 and another in 2016, here’s an updated list of 3 meals to enjoy if you ever visit the home of 8.4 million.

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Hillstone for Campfire Ribs
My friend took me here in 2015, it was the first meal I had upon revisiting in 2016, and I will be back for sure. There is a fear that a restaurant will not be as good as you remember it, leaving you heartbroken because you romanticized a memory of saucy ribs, shoestring fries, and coleslaw. Not at Hillstone. They were better the second time around and I still couldn’t finish them. Mom helped.

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Photo Credit: @blacktapnyc

Black Tap for Burgers & Shakes
Pearl from legymonline tagged me in a gram of their crazy “milkshakes.” One afternoon, mom & I were wandering around Soho and ended up near Black Tap so we mozied over to the spot for a volcano of fat. Fifteen minute wait. She had a burger while I had a spicy margarita with onion rings. We split the top of a milkshake. It’s all we could get down considering they’re a mountain range of deliciousness. Bonus points for the 90s R&B playlists.

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Gotham West Market
Located in Hell’s Kitchen, GWM has a couple of offerings all housed in a food hall. From Indie Fresh to Choza Taqueria, the variety is there along with a chill vibe that’s perfect for hanging out with friends. It’s what you wish your high school cafeteria was like. It also has a bike shop inside. No, I did not see Wilson Fisk anywhere.


Honorable Mentions:
OBVIOUSLY, a pastrami sandwich on rye from Katz on the LES. The line you see above is not tourist hype, it is worth the wait, the $19.95, and Meg Ryan’s reaction was because of this sandwich. Also, Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, Untitled at the Whitney in the Meatpacking District at the end of the High Line, and pre-packaged food at the Food Emporium for when you need takeout so you can go back to your hotel room and binge watch Luke Cage.

BambiRunsBey42K: Balloons and Central Park

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This is the 6th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Balloon Run and the 36K Peak
The week before taking off to the Big Apple was a bad one. I only made it to one run (the balloon run) and then went off the grid for the days following. Between preparing for my trip and falling into a pit of solitude due to burnout, I just wanted to get the week over with and get on the plane.

While my team was running the 36K max distance before marathon day, I was sitting at Cafematik pissed off for paying $20 for two coffees and a bite of banana bread. They were done by the time I got to Heathrow. Check out their triumphant faces:

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Running Central Park
I ran two 6Ks in Central Park during my week away, and although that is not on par with my training schedule, I’m still glad I bothered at all. Running while being abroad, even if for business, can make your mind switch into lazy mode with excuses like, “you don’t need to run because you’re walking a lot so it’s not like you’re doing NOTHING.”  Mbala.


On my last morning in NY, I was sharing the Central Park track with the NY Road Runners who were participating in the annual Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Fred’s Team Presents Grete’s Great Gallop. Let me break down that name for you:

Fred: Fred Lebow was the former NYRR president and co-founder of the New York City Marathon, he died of brain cancer in 1994.
Fred’s Team: An organization who raises funds for cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where Fred Lebow received treatment. Fred’s Team runners have raised +$65 million for this cause.
Grete’s Great Gallop: a half-marathon race in honor of Grete Waitz, friend of Fred and 9-time winner of the NYC Marathon who also lost her life to cancer in 2011.

I didn’t bother to look into races in the city that were taking place during my stay. However, given that I needed to be back at the hotel before check-out, joining was not meant to be. I also didn’t run with NRC NYC for fear that their paces would be too quick for my slow self. Adding these two runs to next year’s growing runs-to-do list.

Nike x Kith
I was heading to Crate & Barrel to get my Scandal wine glasses when I came across this Nike concept store. Designed by Snarkitecture, the store has multiple nods to Nike history with casted Nike shoe boxes, AF1 outsole encrusted seats, and memorabilia encased in glass. Before you enter the rest of Kith, there’s Kith Treats, a snack bar with Nike themed cereal or ice cream served in shoe boxes, and a customization station where you can get Nike x Kith products customized. If you don’t get a chance to go to NYC’s 5-story NikeTown, head here. 


Just for Kicks
The easiest way for you to see a shoe’s true colors is to test them out in a pedestrian city. I got a pair of Nike Air Huarache Ultras (pronounced waa-rah-cheez) and I was clocking a minimum of 20K steps/day in them while wandering around the 5 boroughs. The verdict? I could live in these things. They are the new AirMax. They’re also travel-friendly because they’re like slip-ons because of the elastic body – perfect for security checks and long flights. I got mine from the men’s section at Nike DT purely for the color combo. NikeTown had BEAUTIFUL ones but I need to stop feeding this addiction.

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From nike.com


Reading this month’s edition of Wired US will give you the behind-the-scenes scoop on how the HyperAdapt power-lacing sneakers came to life. The inventor, appropriately named Tinker, gives a tour of the Nike grounds including the Innovation Kitchen.

Read more about Tinker and the Nike Labs here.

Back in BEY
I’m back (that’s why this post is a day late) and there’s six weeks left until we all run the marathon, or half in my case. Fellow NRCer Anthony shared this link for those of us who feel the half gets looked down up0n because it’s HALF a marathon. Sure, it’s not 42K but it’s still over 68,000 feet in distance. In Manhattan, that’s like running past 51.6 Starbucks branches. Sip on that, haters. Six Sundays until we break the wall, Jon Snow!

 

BambiRunsBey42K: Shifting to 21K

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This is the 5th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Weak Sauce Weeks
Pre-diagnosis of puffy femur, I was already stressing about trying to get my pace down. Post-injury break, getting back into my stride and finding my old pace has been making me feel like Taco Bell weak sauce: you got the heat but it’s sub-optimal and you barely feel a burn. Allowing yourself time to gradually heal is necessary but SUPER annoying.

After being sidelined for 2 weeks, not being able to do the full distances upon return, and falling behind in the climb up the long-distance ladder on Sundays, I’m feeling frustrated that I am forced to take it slower than I already naturally am. However, I’ve got to remember: I can’t throw in the towel with 8 weeks to go until race day.

One Week at a Time
I did 3/5 runs the first week back, skipping the hills and long distance sessions. I made it to a max of 6K before feeling a little wobbly. The stiff leg combined with mental fear had been holding me back from pushing too hard too soon. My teammates were reassuring me that there is time to recover and improve before November but I couldn’t help feeling weighed down by my dumb, sensitive femur. And then I thought, “cancel the pity party, be grateful, and get out there.”

By week 2 of being back, I upped by mileage run by run reaching a max of 14K while pack42 was conquering 33K as a long distance. I had faced the hard truth and shifted to pack21; it is better give the half-marathon a real shot instead of cracking a hip going for the full. Poo. I’ll admit that removing the looming pressure of a full marathon has been a relief (until next year) and now I can focus on getting better for/at a distance I’ve already covered.

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Sunday NRC crew joined by the Defeet runners

Despite my downgrade, I’m going to keep the name of the series just for the sake of continuity and archiving but it’s official: Bambi is now running Bey21K.

Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
By the end of the last two weeks, I have managed to get back to my average 5K time so recovery is underway but the longer distances (10K and beyond) still need fine-tuning. I’ll be slowly increasing distances so that I can then tapper (go back down in distances pre-race) safely. This is the unsettling part about sitting out for a couple weeks: working your way back to where you were at pre-break. For me, it’s the main reason I avoid skipping runs; you immediately feel your body getting lazy again and sacrifice hard-earned progress.


Just for Kicks

In an effort to find motivation, I put Shantaram aside and started reading Run the World by Becky Wade, a 5’0″ 27-year-old marathoner from Texas. Becky’s talks about her year of country-hopping that opened her eyes to running cultures across the globe. For example, Becky (and Georgie, a temporary NRC Beirut runner visiting from the UK) talks about ParkRuns in London, weekly 5Ks done in the public parks open to all and tracked via chips so there’s friendly neighborhood competitin. She discusses about ugali in Kenya as running fuel. It’s an overall easy read that I recommend if you’re a runner.

Next up:  Shoe Dog, the memoir by Nike creator Phil Knight.

For Visual Motivation 

And in case reading and inspirational videos weren’t enough, leave it to Yeezus to release a video that makes you feel like a human jigglypuff who needs to flashdance the pounds away instead of crying into a pizza pie. “Imma let you finish but did you say you weren’t going to the gym??” Ah hell nah.

Bambi is Going to NYC…Again
Of course, in the middle of this comeback, I have a flight to catch. I’ll be gone as of next week and will need to get in at least 3 runs around the Big Apple. If not for the training, then at least for the ribs that I’m most definitely ingesting, diet be damned.

Hillstone, we have a date.

El-Tanein Diet Week #47 and #48

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View from the Borghese Gardens

I spent these two weeks in Rome and, upon return, learned that I dropped a kilo. Given all the gelato and cheese, I was not expecting that whatsoever. But I will say that I did not indulge to the max which changes travel as an overall experience. I tend to adore the foodtourism aspect of a new city but I want to stick to this new lifestyle choice of smaller portions.

Workout Tally

– 3 early morning runs around Rome

Outdoor Activity

I had no access to a gym but I made sure to get a couple of runs in before my workshop classes. I had been told that exploring a city while everyone’s still asleep as the sun rises is the best way to see it but I didn’t believe it until this trip. I felt like Rome was mine, even if just for 20 min before the eager tourists started to line up. How often do you get to see the Trevi or the Pantheon deserted in daylight?

Nike+ App

Best Meal(s) of the Week(s)

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A wooden slab of cold cuts and cheese with red wine.

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Cacio e pepe fresh pasta.

More on these two meals will be posted in my Rome Top 5 coming soon.

Other Highlights

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Meeting Arabs abroad and blending in with the Italians: We are everywhere. And we know how to spot each other. I’d feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I’d find a fellow Arab and trade stories as to why they’re in Rome. What was even better was being able to blend in like an Italian and be ignored by street vendors/avoid tourist treatment.

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Letterpress Workshop: Old school typesetting and layouts. The time and work that used to go into book production and print design makes you realize how easy we have it now with our Adobe, Kindles, and iPads.

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Two weeks with no 3G and I’m in love with Rome: Usually, getting a sim card is one of the first things I do upon landing in another country. This time, after spending my first day without it, I decided to forego constant connection and wing it. I would use Google maps to find a main destination and depend on my own sense of direction to find my way back after closing the app. Looking up instead of at texts or work emails allowed me to reconnect with my surroundings. Nasri’s latest captures what I felt in Rome. I should schedule when to be online anywhere, not just when away. If I was to cheat on Beirut, it would be with other Mediterranean cities. Barcelona. Rome. Akh. I love this sea’s people.

Workout Track(s) of the Week(s)

These tracks helped me stay up late working on a presentation for the workshop. I hadn’t done that since my uni days so that was a fun throwback. Not sure if my hotel neighbors thought so unless they had their own PJ parties to Chris Brown.

Cheese of the Week(s)

I made a trip out to Eataly Roma, the largest branch of the chain. This older man, after laughing at himself for speaking Italian to me while I remained clueless, was offering samples of cheese from his cow and ship (sheep). That ship makes great cheese and held me over on my late nights when I avoided searching for pizza.

The Last Afternoon in Roma

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First published on SVA blog on June 14th, 2016 under the title “Rome Day 14: Tangible Memories.”

“An orgy of goodness” is what Steven Heller called our final presentations which were a mix of tangible memories of Rome in the form of reinvented intricately illustrated postcards, a bracelet of Italian female role models donned the Sorelle Sante (Sacred Sisters), and of course, a typeface or two. All were deemed marketable entrepreneurial endeavors which is not a small feat given the timeframe we had to cook up something fresh and exciting. 


As we dispersed for what was most people’s last afternoon in Rome, I felt the need to jam-pack as much of the city in the few hours before our farewell dinner. A couple more gifts here and there, but mostly I wanted to walk the streets and take it all in – this place that had me enamored so quickly because it reminded me so much of home. I didn’t even mind that locals would seem utterly confused as to why I couldn’t understand Italian; I was flattered that they thought I was one of them. I passed by the same streets, dropped by Roscioli, snapped some photos of the places I felt I would frequent on the regular if I was ever a Roman resident. I was creating a memory palace for my next walk down memory lane. Sorry, too much Sherlock. And I did manage to see St. Valentine’s skull at Santa Maria. It was too far away to inspect which wasn’t a great loss considering those tiled floors. Those alone are worth the trek. If you don’t have time for the Vatican, go to this little church. It’s what most beautiful places of worship are: understated and underrated.

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Our farewell dinner was all things Italian meaning food, wine, and good company. We swapped stories and plans for the weeks ahead. It didn’t feel like we were going anywhere; it felt like a regular Saturday night with friends that continued at our dorm’s common room (the hotel lobby) as we polished off the bottles of wine and Prosecco left from our working nights before.

But alas, we said our goodbyes and now we’re all on different ends of the earth. Luckily, we’re all just a text or a call away thanks to SVA.