#2017 | from a guesthouse in portugal

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Olá from a guesthouse in Portugal, where I am currently sitting with my free coffee and tea, content with my discovery that the Portuguese do in fact make excellent (and strong) coffee, watching the other guests do various backpacker-y things like eat the complimentary cornflakes or charge their phones. One girl seems to be revising for a language exam: interesting. Also interesting: I had forgotten how glad I used to be for free laundry options in hostels – and accordingly, have revisited that feeling with great affection.

I am in Portugal for a wedding, which happened three days ago, a beautiful affair that was the cumulation of a student romance I was brief witness to in Stuttgart, Germany, 5 years ago. How time flies. After the wedding Shane and I have continued to traipse across Portugal since we are already in this part of the world, a strangely nostalgic remake of our time traversing the cobblestones of Europe as broke students all those years ago, dragging suitcases, drinking cheap wine, getting fat on fresh seafood. The difference is we are older now and our bags heavier, and we are more afraid of the unknown, I suppose. Or perhaps it is just me who is afraid. Not a crippling sort of fear, but a more adult awareness of the ways things can and may go wrong, a tenseness in my lower back that now never really goes away (correlation? to a newfound love for massages back home), and a kind of ache for the more gung-ho innocence of youth. Is this something that happens automatically as you grow older, I wonder? Or is this new wariness a by-product of the specific way the world has changed in recent years, and the lightning rod speed at which international conflict is wrapped up and delivered to us in our own remote corners of the world?

Who knows. The fact is that people have been so good to us on this trip – reuniting with old friends has been excellent, as always, making new friends who surprise us at every turn with how generous and kind they can be, also, the open helpfulness of people we meet in hostels, guesthouses, shops, and etcetera. So there is no concrete rationale for worry and also I am understating how incredible and beautiful the country has been thus far. Each interaction I have unknots a little of the fear in my belly and reminds me that I cannot allow a vague worry originating from increasingly hysterical international news to box myself into a smaller world. We cannot change the overarching sentiment of the world but perhaps in our own local ways we can weave a friendlier one, unseen and unmappable, but blended into the experience of each destination through our touch and speech and breath. Maybe part of travel is allowing that unseen world to move us too.

x
Jem

#2016 | Apple of my eye

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An apple by any other name…
Pic one: Table 65
Pic two: Akira Back

I had two apple themed desserts of late, leading me to wonder if this belies a new trend, or if it has been the classic dessert option all the while, the only variable being my mild nosing into the specific echelons of dining circles that would blowtorch sugar into beautiful, fruit-shaped crystals. Regardless, they were both excellent.

Table 65 Van Oostenbrugge’s signature Apple, which was made famous in Amsterdam’s restaurant Bord’eau, serves up a sour green apple sorbet under a transparent sugar dome, the whole thing perched atop a pastry flaked to perfection. One bite and you can’t imagine there being a more apt finishing dessert to balance the meal out, also, it’s prepared enchantingly before you, open-kitchen-concept style. Dinner and a show.

Akira Back’s Apple is a tantalizingly glazed sour cherry apple granite, filled with dense cream cheese with an apple compote middle, surrounded by ice cold champagne jelly which is my new favorite kind of jelly. Cutting into it is its own kind of satisfaction, watching the dessert knife sink cleanly into the soft glaze.. and then you get to the actual eating and you’re blown away.

Interesting to me also is how they’re named – nestled amongst names that conjure fantasies and images of gastronomical flight, both dishes are just – Apple. Almost a punctuation in the menu. Perhaps both places, unaffiliated as they are, had the same thought: stripping the dessert to its main descriptor, and letting it speak for itself on the plate. It’s a strategy that certainly works.

x
Jem

#2015 | under the weather again

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As I’ve been relegated to the couch, here’s my unhappy bedfellow

No romanticism about it, I’m just sick again, and it sucks. I saw two doctors this time and they are divided on what it means, but agreed on the point of it being non-contagious, meaning technically I can (and will) continue working. The bottom line is, I’m either the victim of a random viral attack, or have developed a tragic late-life allergy to shellfish. Please, Lord, no.

The worst part is, sick me is delirious me, aka totally hallucinatory me. The medicines have hit me hard, and I’ve been living life in a blurry haze the past week. I keep dreaming up plans that I’ve made, or texting people based on conversations I thought we’d had… it’s embarrassing. It’s funny, when I first read My year of rest and relaxation by ottessa moshfegh i didn’t like it at all, but I suddenly find her character’s Ambien induced wooziness extremely relatable, if not desirable. The difference for me, is that life, by both necessity and circumstance, must go on.

x
Jem

#2014 | i made a meme


am i young now

i tend to shy away from crowds so i’ve been avoiding the Jewel opening, hoping to wait it out till the hype pipes down.. but the boyfriend, tourist that he is, excitedly signed us up for the public preview along with fifteen thousand other people it seems and told me we were going on monday morning. That was this morning btw. I nearly had a panic attack because there were people EVERYWHERE. And I’m ultimately a creature of comfort, of familiarity, so obviously i located the nearest starbucks and ducked in. The idea was to ride out the panic attack until either the crowds died down or i was calmed by the dulcet tones of a smooth nitro cold brew being pulled.

No luck with the first, but a good compromise – the second floor of the new Jewel flagship is quiet, comfy, and serene, and more to the point, it is absolutely gorgeous. There was this hand chiseled mural of the starbucks siren which the team later told me took two months to do, and what a mural. I was so blown away i took a million photos of it then made a meme because that was the only way i knew how to express accurately how i felt. I know, i know. Shame on my English degree, etc etc. I’ve heard it all before. Get over it. Sometimes a meme is just funnier, o.k.

x
Jem

#2103 | pretending to be a tourist in the sun sun sun

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sentosa island, singapore

the thing about loving eggs is that when a mega gudetama pop up event happens, approximately 4000 people forward you the press release. Like, i get it guys. I’m not really the sort to visit pop ups, especially not when they happen under the sweltering singaporean sun, but i made an exception this time because a visiting friend was in town. What can i say except that it was super fun, and that after returning home i made like a gudetama and collapsed on the cool marble floor of my house? Nothing, really, as that just about sums it up. Nothing at all.

x
Jem