Archive for February, 2014

Ostia Tio, Joder!

Posted in Makin' moves with tags , , , , on February 24, 2014 by robdc

Madrid has brought on an interesting set of feelings. I’ve been here before for long periods of time and have always just enjoyed the general demeanor of this city and Spain in general, so arriving here felt less like a new foreign place and more, the feeling when I merge onto I-95 on the final leg of the drive into Miami. Accept without the “ugh” feeling of having to activate the turret guns on my car. I spent the first couple of days wandering around and taking care of some of the things I came here for. Finding my grandmother’s birth records is proving more difficult than I had imagined. Other than that, things have been going very well and this city has succeeded in making me feel very much at home.

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I finally linked up with my cousin Adolfo on Friday. We had a couple of drinks and caught up in Sol then we went out to where he lives outside of Madrid proper. He’s in dental school and it’s pretty clear that all the students live in this town around the college. They had this racket going at this one club where everyone pays to get in and your ticket in gets you one drink and a very convenient bus ride to another bar across town. Apparently everyone does it because the bar cleared out after, what I imagine is the time it takes to consume one free drink. But it was pretty clear to me that this guy (or lady, or some consortium) owns 2 bars and happened to own a bus to conveniently milk the students of any spare cash they may have, so we refrained from the bus ride. We went to a couple of house parties where it quickly became clear that wearing camo pants and having the pretty advanced beard that I’m rocking these days, made the first assumption anyone had about me pretty clear: I’m an aspiring dictator. Thank god I speak the language and am able to explain to people that I am merely a humble traveler who happens to have a large beard and have on this particular pair of pants. We got along just great after that. I honestly don’t blame them, exhibit A:


There was a political demonstration of some sort going on which is not exactly rare, especially with the situations in Venezuela and Kiev right now, but I decided to get in close and see what all the commotion was about. The person on the bullhorn was being less than, well, politically correct. Then he passed the mic to a nice looking old lady who promptly shouted into the thing that she shits on the mother’s head of Coca Cola’s CEO. Accept that it obviously doesn’t translate right, she used a far worse word than ‘shit’, it’s a Spanish word that I can only approximate as “shit violently and vulgarly.” Apparently they’re closing the Coke factory here.

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I spend some time clocking a Traveler (Gypsy, Romani, Tinker, whatever the moniker is where you are. Traveler is the accepted term in Ireland, the land where I’ve dealt the most with them, so that’s what I’ll stick to) in the park to really see what was going on. Begging and panhandling is either not against the law in Europe or no one cares. People will come into restaurants and try to sell you flowers or trinkets and the restaurant or bar owners don’t seem to have any problem with it. So I’m watching this woman, whom I avoided, expertly, on my way into the park and saw that she was “giving” some plant to passers by. You learn quickly not to accept anything like that while over here but I wanted to see what went down if someone did, not that I was too surprised. I passed her by and took off down the park, found a nice spot and ordered a scotch. 15 minutes later guess who takes up shop right in the walk way in front of my sitting spot? Yup, this lady was all over the park.

So now I have a vantage point and am not in a hurry. I’ve always wondered how much there really is to be made doing this sort of thing, especially while in Europe since so many people are spending their days and nights participating in similar endeavors. Let the science begin!

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So here’s the game: This lady offers you some rosemary (my cousin solved that mystery) and if you’re dumb enough to accept, you are now in her web. She does a quick assessment of how much of a boob you are then chooses her tactic. I couldn’t get my camera up for the first couple of guys that got hit. They were proper marks, rolling bags in tow, on their way to or from the airport. She didn’t even bother with a dance. She shoved the fig in the dudes hand then immediately holds hers out. He reaches in his pocket and grabs a coin which she snatches out of his hand then she grabbed his wrist and jammed his hand back in his own pocket while still extending the other hand in the international sign of “pay the fuck up.” He gave her another coin… The next marks were less obvious so after the first payment she read the woman’s palm and said some Traveler blessing then kindly asked for more money while calling the woman pretty and the man handsome. I had the pleasure of this live sitcom for approximately half an hour, in which time this woman got at least 6 coins and 2 bills. Making her take by the hour at very least €26 and a practical high of €54 an hour!!!!! What?! €54 euro an hour?! That is a serious amount of cash! I guess I know now that it can be a pretty profitable occupation, more so than working at any fast food place (or doing IT for UF…{sorry boss, but it’s true, that’s $148,000 a year with two weeks unpaid vacation})

A couple more shots of Madrid for good measure…

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Ok, that’s enough for now. I gotta grab some dinner.




On spatial situation, travel as therapy

Posted in Makin' moves with tags , , , on February 19, 2014 by robdc

I’m sitting in Parque del Retiro, having a drink and taking in the day.


An accordion plays “summertime” across the way. My thoughts briefly dart to that song’s origins as a spiritual, Billie Holiday’s version plays in my head. I drift again and start to put real thought into why spatial situation is so conducive to my mental and spiritual health. Relativity scenarios start overlapping: You sit on a plane and are bored because to you, you aren’t moving while, if you told a person 200 years ago that you were sitting in a metal tube, several thousand feet above the ground, moving at a few hundred miles per hour with very little concern about the things going on, their head might explode. Sitting on a beach vs sitting in a prison cell, there are obvious advantages to one but if you’re happy inside your own head, closing your eyes in either would get you to the same mental place, or so one would think. The issue is, people are only so good at actively dulling the senses and tuning out the world around them, no matter how happy you are, only the greatest meditative minds can truly exclude the senses and retreat into themselves. Since I am no Zen master, and have a tough time tuning out the outside world while actually trying to meditate, I travel. I know it’s cheating, rather than concentrating or willing the input to one of my senses, I put it in the place it would like to be. I want to feel sand and water, I go to a beach. This is obviously not always possible and sometimes takes weeks or months to organize but for a humble mind that is incapable of proper mediation, it’s the best I’ve got.

Enough of the thought spiral I found myself in earlier, lets see where I’ve been running around the past couple of days. I have missed Madrid and can’t believe that it’s been 8 years since I was last here.

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Breakfast of “broken eggs” fueled a very pleasant walk through the city where I promptly got lost. I kept in a general direction until I found the park. The lazy pace of the day led to an ability to conduct some experiments as far as how much natural light is too much. Some examples:

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I, personally, prefer the shadowy images, but that’s just me. Anywho, I did some more running around and found the deeper parts of this truly enormous park which held some hidden jewels such as the “Crystal palace.”

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IMG_6802_tonemappedTomorrow I’ll head towards the center of town and check out Plaza Mayor but for now I’ll just just hope that I rise up singing.



A quick taste of Belgium

Posted in Makin' moves with tags , , , on February 17, 2014 by robdc

Thanks to Pedro and Kerry I found myself in Brussels today and got to run around the city getting lost and taking shots of many types. The main city center is breathtaking and the spire shooting up from it serves as a great waypoint when navigating about the place.

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We went out on the town the night I arrived and I am not ashamed to admit that I had a more than moderate hangover to nurse on my first day waking up in Belgium. The phone rang, I answered it, and back up I was, meeting Pedro and Kerry in the bar of my hotel, the marvelously decadent (please read in hedonism-bot’s voice) Royal Windsor which I booked completely by accident. As far as mistakes go, though, this was an incredibly pleasant one.

IMG_6737  A small dose of some hair of the dog and back out on the town we were. Sure there were plenty of things we could have done with this day, go to Bruges or Ghent, see a museum, visit the FN factory at Herstal… did we do any of these? No… God no. Of course not.  We found the nearest and best purveyor of finely prepared animal parts and fermented spirits and began the party! A not so carefully planned day of getting lost in Brussels while zig-zagging through bars and restaurants followed, I kept my lens cap off and tried to capture as much as I could while not letting the camera become a hindrance.

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Brussels is huge on art and. thank god, it spills onto the streets. There are a bunch of insanely talented artists flexing their muscle around the city and even some internationally famous names have pieces displayed around town.

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Space invader even had some work up:


After many drinks and tons of walking and at least two meals, we thought we were thoroughly lost and quite far away from where we started, but like most things in life, we were wrong. A five minute walk found us right back at the spire at around 2 in the morning, it was Sunday night and nothing was open. We had been kicked out of 2 bars already. It was time to turn in.

Taking the road less traveled by and diverting my path to see Pedro and Kerry in Brussels was one of the best decisions I’ve made in quite some time. Thanks for the laughs, I’ll catch you on the next one.



A point for social media.

Posted in Makin' moves with tags , , on February 16, 2014 by robdc

If this is the only good thing to come out of social media and me writing down the places I go, it not only validates everything until now but will also keep me going for years to come.

My boy Pedro, my favorite of the Buigas Clan, happened to read some of my musings and just so happened to be on the road as well. A slight modification to my, already pretty wide open, itinerary and here I am in Brussels where I have come to share a meal and a few drinks with good friends. There are many reasons to go to a place or do a thing, but I can think of few better than good company.

Pedro and Kerry were a god damned delight and we ran around Brussels with an open mind to any local beers supplemented, of course, by shots, scotch and rum (for me). I advise anyone to try the Flemish stew when in this neck of the woods, it’s delectable.  

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I took no notice to where the hell we were going or what bars we wandered into and out of, but we managed to find the Grote Markt which we hade apparently been circling for a couple of hours. We then realigned our instruments to guide us for the next set of bar hops.

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I have no idea where this is but I know we had a dope ass time, toasted of many serious subjects and lost people/inspirations, then rejoiced in the fact that we are able to ruminate about such things over good drink and company. (they had lots of marionettes for some reason)

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Tomato to-ma-to, potato ….

Posted in Getting the boot on February 15, 2014 by robdc

It’s with a heavy heart that I leave Florence today. The experience has been beyond anything I could have foreseen on the way in and that is in no small part due to my hosts while I was here, Kerry and Diana deserve most of the credit for why this leg of the trip was so damn refreshing and awe inspiring.

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Kerry was kind enough to take me in as a roommate for my time in Florence and for that I will forever be in her debt. Check out the view from her skylight.


It’s a little known fact that nearly every view in Italy has at least one crane in it… Damn cranes.

A quick note to anyone who hasn’t been to Florence: Watch where you walk. Lots of people have dogs here and there is no grass. I think I’m being generous when I estimate that about half of the dog owners in Florence bother to pick up after their pets. This equates to very narrow sidewalks with extremely regular potential day ruiners scattered about, so… Watch your step.

I understand the idea of limited real-estate in these ancient cities but among the unintended side effects, the things people are ok with driving around really crack me up.

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I’m pretty sure this is a later model of the “car” that Steve Urkel drove around…

IMG_6552_tonemapped While most of the Florentine street art is not much to phone home about, mostly teenagers with stock tips who watch Spaceballs on loop, apparently. (“Barf” appears to be the most prolific bomber with a possible pseudonym or crew member throwing up “Yogurt”) Big burners along the railways but nothing amazing. That being said, there is some street art of note.

There is a very peculiar street artist here who seems completely unencumbered by the police. He certainly owes more than a little of his livelihood to a certain British fellow who has made an art of modifying existing street signs, but his work is refreshing and appears to be embraced by the city (I gathered that by the dual facts that his stuff is literally everywhere and he has a shop in town where he sells kits to do more of his work all over Europe and no one seems to care).

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There is also someone going around putting up modified versions of classical portraits. Most of them just have scuba gear added, which is a joke I’m not sure I get completely but, again, it’s refreshing to see someone branching out and doing something new even if it’s with something old.


Again, I really can’t thank Kerry and Diana enough for putting up with me and making sure that I didn’t have a dull second in Florence, Venice or Montepulciano. I’ll make it up to you both some day, I promise.

Just so I don’t forget, here is one of my favorite shots of the past few days when Kerry jumped on stage with the Beatles cover band and helped out with “Hey Jude,” Ringo really took a shine to her for some reason.




Sense of urgency sold separately…

Posted in Getting the boot on February 8, 2014 by robdc

We awoke one hazy morning and went to the kind car rental people of Hertz, with a simple crazy idea… Give a motor vehicle to these two morons and let us drive around this country of yours, full of unfinished ancient roads and maniac drivers with no regard for human life and let us run around as we see fit. They agreed that this would be a fantastic idea and promptly handed me the keys to a marvel of Italian engineering: A Fiat 500, AKA the Cinquecento. Any conveyance worth even entering needs a name so we put our heads together and came up with the incredibly apt (to us anyway) moniker of “La Vendetta”

IMG_6595_tonemappedWe may have gone a little overboard on the photos…

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We zipped along the highways and mountain roads at the blistering speed of 120 Km/h!!! (about 75 mph…) and actually reached the eye bleeding, breakneck velocity of one hundred and forty five Km/h! that’s one hundred forty five thousand meters per fucking hour!! Yea, la Vendetta wasn’t exactly a McLaren but whatever, she was ours and we loved her.


Our first real site was Monteriggioni, sure we ran around the night before but it was dark and rainy and the pictures weren’t great so we’ll start here. The view was amazing and we were lucky enough to catch some sun early this day.


The castled city was beautiful but most of the good vantage points were restricted and completely off limits during the off season so we had to settle for views of the city from within mostly and no walks along its ramparts.

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Next we went to Siena where… Let’s just say… We are lucky to not be in jail. Or, not to exaggerate, we are lucky that we weren’t chased out of the city by locals with pitch forks and torches. This is no hyperbole, we fucked up on this one. It was mostly Google maps fault, but we still did the action (well I did since I was driving, but Kerry didn’t help).

How does this pleasant Piazza look to you?

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This is Piazza del Campo, smack in the center of Siena. Nice right? Quiet? Notice anything else? Completely devoid of cars. Well, google maps don’t really discern between walking paths and roads in old world parts of Italy like this, so as we followed the waypoints to the restaurant we were looking for, we found ourselves on more and more cobblestone roads, not much wider than our miniscule Vendetta. Plenty of leering from the locals and the distinct feeling that we weren’t supposed to be where we were until… Yup, we drove right into the Piazza, pretty much at the edge of the main building in the picture to the furthest right. I stop, Kerry yells to back up, no backing up was possible, so I do as any logical moron would do and, rather than drive directly across, I pretty much jump on the sidewalk and drive all the way around the Piazza. Moving pedestrians from the menus they’re reading, hurrying women with strollers off the path into the central sitting area and pretty much making the template for a large portion of the next Lampoon’s European vacation movie. Much more screaming ensues, Kerry is complaining about chest pains but we must power through. Finally we duck into an alley and I park Vendetta. We allow our heart rates to fall as we thank any number of gods that whatever police just watched that driving catastrophe figured that the paperwork outweighed the effort of calling us out.

The rest of the city was lovely…


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IMG_6593_tonemappedYou may notice the she wolf statues, not being Rome, that seemed a bit odd. After some research it’s because Siena, as legend has it, was founded by Remus’ son, so apparently he gets no credit but his dad does… Odd.

We are now sitting in Montepulciano and the view from where I’m sitting is beyond words but I’m very tired and it’s very dark so I’m going to end here for now.

Keep on keepin’ on…


A new set of eyes

Posted in Waxing Idiotic on February 6, 2014 by robdc

After returning from Venice we have been doing a good amount of the usual: running around to the more highly recommended restaurants and trying to see Firenze from different angles to really appreciate it. Today I think we accomplished that. We ran around finding unique vantage points and I think I was able to capture a good amount of the effect.

The day finally cleared up:

IMG_6487_tonemapped We found a rooftop cafe and had some Campari orange and Belinis

IMG_6508_tonemappedIt offered a new look at Il Duomo:

IMG_6506_tonemappedThen Kerry suggested a place she had heard about but never actually been to, a rooftop bar hidden away in a hotel on the river. If we could find it, we’d be in for some spectacular views. We fumbled around the Ponte Vecchio for a while then finally stumbled into this place where apparently this suits as an elevator:

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I’ve lived in apartments more poorly appointed than that elevator, which only moved one floor by the way. Extravagance at it’s very best.

Once we ran around the hotel for a while, without anyone even asking a single question, oddly enough, we found the legendary spot.

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Dusk is quickly becoming my favorite time to shoot, at least in Florence.

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That little bottle simply sais “CUBA” on it, it contains some rum chocolate drink and I picked it up at a bodega earlier in the day, I have no idea why I felt that it was just what this picture needed.

Ponte Vecchio was fantastic from up here. I love that the bridge was originally occupied by mostly butchers but the Medici got tired of the smell every time they took their private walkway from the offices to the palace so they decreed that only jewelry was to be sold there, so it stays a bastion of exorbitantly priced precious stones and bent metals to this very day.

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Then we messed around in the elevators for a bit…

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IMG_6550_tonemappedI still can’t believe that no one asked us for a room key or why the hell we were running around this lavish ass place. Elevator rooms?!

Ok well, that’s it for today although there are many things I’d like to remember like nutella in bed (definitely a high point in my life) and some other highlights, I’m running low on time and we leave to Tuscany tomorrow, can’t wait to see what car we get after booking the “special mini” category. Gotta go!



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