San Diego Women’s Prison is a dark, imposing building with barred windows and blistering paint. Unlike a typical American prison, there is no razor wire or guard towers. A sign hangs over the entrance barring weapons and visitation outside of Saturday and Sunday. It’s nondescript facade fades into the background as Cartagena’s historic center buzzes around it. What grabs your attention, if perhaps you are confused and staring at your Google Maps saying “this cannot be a restaurant,” is the tiny bright pink entrance to your left, enlivened with the sounds of a packed dining room.
This is Restaurante Interno, our dinner spot on our last humid night in Cartagena. The bright pink accents and florals walls look no different from other upscale bars and restaurants we had visited that week. The dining room is intimate—all the wooden tables are occupied and are placed close together, arranged neatly around potted plants. The staff in the restaurant is mostly women, all wearing t-shirts that say “Yo creo en las segundas oportunidades,” or “I believe in second chances,” with hair swept up neatly in hot pink headwraps.
“What are these bugs called?” Liam asked as we flipped over each mushroom we picked to blow off the tiny mites that burrowed deep into the folds of the underside of the mushroom cap. “Probably blow mites,” I replied assuredly, not knowing or caring the scientific name for these aggravating little bugs. At the exposure to light, the mites wriggled out from between the folds and with our gusts of breath, floated to the ground below.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many American flags in my life. It must be illegal not to display one in Maine”, my boyfriend said, as we drove into Bar Harbor, passing dozens of lobster shacks, cottages, and yes, endless American flags.
We were on a 5 day road trip through Maine. Our journey started in Boston, where we flew in from New York, rented a car, and drove two hours north to Portland, Maine. Never having been north of Boston, and being generally clueless about the Northeast, I wanted to take advantage of the ample vacation time around the 4th to relax but also visit somewhere new. Maine, to me, was a mystery land that beyond lobster and Acadia National Park I knew very little about.
Spring in the Smoky Mountains was calling my name. We were coming off a long, brutal winter, capped off by two blizzards in late March & early April — the New York winter I was gravely warned about was wearing on my patience.
I decided I wanted to head south, to North Carolina, a state I had grown up visiting but had not experienced in over a decade. My boyfriend and I booked a long weekend in Asheville, NC in late April. What began as a desperate escape of the elements turned into a completely rejuvenating, true vacation — the kind where there’s a meticulous itinerary that isn’t followed, dinner reservations that are pushed back several times, and lazy conversations about what hike to do are had while sipping beer in a hammock.
The challenge of Iceland is being able to squeeze in as many cultural excursions as natural ones. The days were so jam-packed with activities that prioritization is important here - no matter how long you have there will always be another natural wonder you didn’t quite get to.
On Day 3, we headed out early from our Airbnb and made our first stop at Skogafoss waterfall. The drive to the falls was nothing short of spectacular. To the left a wall of cliffs lined the road, with seabirds diving through streams of water barreling off the top. To our right, the North Atlantic, grey and foggy.