President Mujica’s facts


(This is a non exhaustive list. It will be updated on a regular basis)

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay, home to 3.3 million people, has been in the spotlight lately due to its peculiar president, José “Pepe” Mujica. So I thought I would share some facts that would help you, dear flâneur, to understand why the Uruguayan president may be a cool guy.

– He donates 90% of his salary (U$12,500) to social assistance programs related to housing

– He has proposed to donate the presidential retirement benefits

– His entire wealth is nothing more than a 1987 VW Beetle, worth U$1,945. No bank accounts, no debts nor savings.

– In June, his government unveiled a proposal to legalize and monitor the marijuana market in Uruguay. This initiative will need 60% of the country to support it though.

– At the Rio+20 summit, his speech was truly breathtaking, focusing on human being’s pursuit of happiness. You can watch his intervention here (although the subtitles are not even half as powerful as what he really said). For a translated transcription of his speech, go here.

31/08/12 update:

 According to Monocle Magazine, Mujica is ‘the best leader in the world’, leaving far behind President Obama and François Hollande. Read the article here.

– In the beginning of August, the government sent a bill to the Parliament that would allow the state to grow and sell marijuana. This initiative seeks to reduce  crime associated with drug traffic.

04/01/2013 update:
Pepe Mujica featured in NYTimes!

Paris through your 5 senses – Summer edition

In full sight – One of the problems you might have while in Paris is to suffer from chronic indecision if you have to chose what will you visit first. There are so many things to see (monuments, museums, parks, etc.) that you shall make a list before visiting the City of Lights. Forget about going from one museum to another the same day – it can be not only tiresome, but stressful as well. Better go to a museum in the morning, stroll in the parks, and finish with a monument such as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe (both at walking distance from each other). Or start with the monuments in the morning so you can avoid queuing, stroll in the parks, and finish in a museum (consider that most of them close by 5 pm). My personal favourite is the Orsay Museum, just in front of the Senna River and not far from the Invalides esplanade.

The sound of music – Paris has so much to offer when it comes to cultural activities that you won’t have to worry about getting busy by night. Whether you are an open-air-jazz-concert-addict or a salsa dancer you will always find a place to go, the only restriction being that the bars and discos shut down at 2 am on weekdays. One of the best options is to buy in a kiosk L’Officiel des Spectacles, a very rich and up-to-date cultural guide of Paris and its region. And once you’ve got it, all you have to do is chose where will you end your night!

                                                             (French) Touch  This may be the favourite item of shopping addicts, and with good reason. Fashion capital of the world, Paris has a myriad of boutiques and stores where you can find that perfect dress or that lovely pair of shoes, as well as booking expensive rendez-vous with a designer that will make your fashion dream come true. Have you heard of Champs Elysées? Well, that is haven in Paris for fashionista’s from all around the world. Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton will be your best friends if you have the money to pay for them, and if you don’t you can always go window-shopping. Then, if you are interested in vintage clothing you should head to Le Marais, where the frippery shops are legion. They are not that cheap but it is worth taking a look if you’re around the corner.

Smell the glamour – Somewhere in the world, French people have this weird reputation of smelling bad. I cannot confirm nor deny this sentence, but in this domain you will be more than satisfied when visiting Paris and you might need an entire week to visit all the boutiques and beauty shops before you get an idea of what scent is the one you need. Champs Elysées avenue is an option – pricy, you know – otherwise you might find what you are looking for at Boulevard Haussmann and its thousand of shops. Got some more days? Visit the Perfume Museum at the Opéra district.

Taste it! – On a lazy summer afternoon, the best decision you could make after sunbathing in a park is to go for an ice cream at Pozzetto. Having only 12 flavours based on milk or fruit recipes, they will prepare a certain amount everyday for its costumers, so be ready to queue for at least 5 minutes. Yoghurt and Gianduja won’t disappoint you, fig will be rather scarce depending on the season.

Word of the day: Cats

Of all the creatures of the Animal Kingdom, cats are by far the most interesting, intense and funny. Sometimes even I believe that they are Satan’s spawn but then they give you “the look” that makes your head explode of a cuteness overload.

Recently on my quest for LOL cats and kitties I discovered this site, where mother cat Miranda takes care of her kittens live on the Foster Cat Cam (Needless to say, the first time I opened the page I got stuck there for several hours and now I try to sneak in without getting caught at work).

I grew up petting cats – and sometimes, turtles and dogs – and I can’t see my life without a feline in it, even if I’m highly allergic to their fur. I got used to change the cat litter, to have countless little toys all around the apartment ready to slip under my foot, to be suddenly attacked by a pair of claws out of nowhere, and to be observed in the dark without getting jumpy. Of course, having a cat is much more than that: you also get a very independent and furry companion that will come purring by night to give you some warmth, and that will give you loads – believe me, LOADS – of cuteness.

One of my latest plans for conquering the world is to open a cat cafe in Paris. Already successful in Japan, this concept is about a place (a bar, for instance) where the customers go to relax, have a drink, and interact with cats. Usually, in cities with high population densities such as Tokyo and Paris people can’t keep pets themselves, which is quite sad in my opinion.

Travelling abroad I noticed that Istanbul is a cat-friendly city. When walking around the Hagia Sophia, you won’t miss the stray cats – and their plastic containers of water discreetly placed on sidewalks. Even universities organize the feeding of strays! And as they say in the old imperial capital, “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”

Word of the day: New Year

(OK, I know, it’s two words, not one).

Starting a new blog was part of the New Year’s resolutions for 2012. The thing is that if you decide to begin on January 1st, you might have to deal with the hungover first. Luckily, this time I didn’t have to, but I couldn’t help to remember the previous times where I needed at least two days to get together myself back among the living.

For sure, the best New Year parties I have had were in Valparaiso, Chile. In Europe I have experienced Paris and Amsterdam so far, but none of them could compare to the tremendous party that takes place every 31st December at the Valparaiso docks. It is true that almost a million of people congregate there to watch the fireworks and to party afterwards, and it might get dodgy at some point of the evening. But it is definitely worth it to be there for the fireworks display, and if you are a party animal, you will just love staying there.

Whether you ride by bus or you rent a car to get there, the best plan is to arrive at least one day earlier to avoid the masses of cars and find yourself a good spot to enjoy the fireworks. Once there though, try to use the public transport (buses and metro) so you won’t suffer the endless pain of finding where to park.

Some of my personal favourite places to watch the fireworks are the Paseo Gervasoni, Paseo Yugoslavo and Paseo Atkinson, all of them close to each other (in case one is too crowded you can check the other two). These are high-demand spots, so better make sure you get there early – like in the morning early. The view is stunning, and the party goes all night long. Make sure you are wearing solid shoes, cause the broken bottles are legion around 2 am.

Going to the northern side of Valpo (towards Muelle Baron) there are other good spots – not as close as the ones I listed before, but good view and stunning landscape anyway. Mirador Portales and Paseo Wheelwright are my personal favourites, the latter being the newest one (it was finished in 2006). This coast promenade  connects Muelle Baron and Caleta Portales, so if you want to be really close to the sea for the fireworks display, just go there.

Other options for enjoying the fireworks are renting boats (at Muelle Prat mostly) so you and your family/friends get to see the show real close. Check this link if you want to get an idea of how much will it cost for the night.

Yes, Valparaiso might be at the end of the world. But it is one of the most beautifully eclectic cities I’ve ever been to. And the New Year’s Eve it’s oh, such an experience!

(Here you can check a map with the spots I mentioned before)

And some pictures to get you in the mood 😉

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