For my American readers, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that there is no way in hell that you don’t know what Napa Valley is. But for my readers from abroad, I’ll explain just in case. Napa Valley is America’s postcard wine country. There are pockets of vineyards all over the country of course (Oregon is a notable wine producer as well), but Napa Valley is the epicenter of wine culture and cultivation in America. Napa Valley refers to a large fertile valley full of vineyards in Napa County, California, which just on the north side of the San Francisco Bay. Driving north through Napa Valley, there are a few towns that you will pass through, the first of which is also called Napa. The next major towns before the northern end of the valley are Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
I could talk about the history of San Francisco for ages, but this article is about what has been happening much more recently. Historically, the Mission had been home to a large part of SF’s Chicano/Latino population, but starting as early as the late 1960s, the LBGTQ community began to play a much more defining role in the neighborhood’s identity. You are probably already familiar with San Francisco’s reputation for being the gay capital of the U.S., but what you might not know is that much of this reputation was built right here in the Mission.
However, by the late 1970s, the Mission had become a much more multidimensional haven for fringe culture. It actually developed a thriving punk rock scene, and helped produced such bands as the Dead Kennedys, Jawbreaker, Rancid, and Green Day! Even today, you’ll see remnants of this scene walking around the streets of the Mission with colorful mohawks and studded belts.
First off, what I’m defining as “Richmond” here is actually made up of 4 smaller districts: Inner, Central, and Outer Richmond… and a little area to the north called Lake Street. This neighborhood (or group of neighborhoods) is essentially a big grid system, which, despite occupying an extremely urban area of San Francisco, is surrounded on almost all sides by nature.
Prague is the historical capital of Bohemia. Through the last few hundred years, the boundaries in this part of Europe have been notoriously fluid. The map here has been redrawn quite a few times as Empires have risen and fallen, but Bohemia has always been a notable region with a strong cultural identity. Today, Bohemia is more or less synonymous with the Czech Republic (formerly part of Czechoslovakia, and recently renamed to simply “Czechia”). With 2.6 million people living in its metro area, it’s the 14th largest city in the European Union. However, what it lacks in size relative to other European capitals, it more than makes up for in clout. When it comes to history and culture, few cities pack a punch in quite the same way Prague does.
In July of 2012, a few friends and I were leaving Spain and embarking on what would be my first ever Euro-trip. In deciding where we wanted to go, I'd be lying if I told you that Amsterdam's famously progressive drug laws did not play a role in our decision to come to here. So our motives may not have been entirely academic, but once we arrived, I was enraptured. Amsterdam turned out to be one of the most beautiful cities that I had ever had the privilege of exploring. I’ve traveled a lot more today than I had back then, and Amsterdam is STILL one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen. We spent 5 days here, and in that time, I took more photographs than I had of any place I had visited prior.
So have you ever considered coming to Geneva? I’m betting the answer is no. Geneva isn’t a common stop-over in European travel, because it has a reputation for being super expensive and (tbh) kind of boring. It’s mostly a hub for international organizations like the WHO, WTO, Doctors Without Borders, and quite a few different UN offices. It’s also got a reputation for being home to a lot of “old money.” So this is a city that really does matter in the world… but might not be quite as relevant for your average traveler.
However, that doesn’t mean the city isn’t still gorgeous! Geneva is surrounded the Alps on all sides, and sits on the southernmost shores of Lake Geneva. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from some of the most beautiful terrain in the world, and the city itself is also very pretty.
Barcelona is the last Spanish city that is going to be covered in the #ThrowBackThursday series. I came here during my study abroad in 2012, during which I lived in 313 miles inland, in Madrid. Why did I choose to study abroad in Madrid? The short answer is that I didn’t. Madrid was, incredibly, the only study abroad option in the entire world that would count towards both my major and my minor. So if I wanted to go abroad, the choice was already made for me. But, in my mind, Barcelona was “the place to be” in Spain. Ideally, I would have lived in Barcelona.
When I finally arrived in Barcelona, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting…
Situated on the eastern coast of Spain, Valencia is the country's 3rd largest city, behind Madrid and Barcelona. There are roughly 800,000 people who live in Valencia proper and about 1.6 million that live in Valencia's metro area. It is also worth noting that Valencia's harbor is the busiest container port in the Mediterranean and the 5th busiest in Europe. That means that this is a city of economic importance. Stuff happens here.
Today, I’ll be telling you some of what happened to ME (and one very unlucky friend) while I was here.