February 14, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

I’ve become uber-fascinated by street art lately. Nerd-level fascinated. So when I plugged in my old point-and-shoot camera the other day and discovered a jackpot of San Francisco street art photos that I had forgotten I’d taken, it felt like a colorful care package from home (minus the candy and other awesome things my mom usually sends).

I claim “nerd-level” status because I actually wrote an article on the subject for Off Track Planet about the Valencia scene (if you haven’t read my writing on OTP, well, brace yourselves for a slightly more uncensored Erin). In doing so, I headed out to Spain’s third largest city to hunt down work by top grafiteros. Accompanied by my partner in crime (AKA Sox, my best girlfriend, who lives in Valencia), we traversed sketchy neighborhoods, and angered prostitutes with my paparazzi-like graffiti photography tactics.

Escif, Valencia, street art

So, when I visited California over the holidays, I couldn’t avoid feeding my obsession. With a new set of eyes, I scoped out the urban artwork that SF had to offer. While most of the pictures below were taken in Clarion Alley in the Mission – San Francisco’s edgy, diverse and borderline hipster neighborhood – my favorite snuck up on me while cruising around Alamo Square.

Driving down Oak Street with my best buddy at the wheel (I apparently like to drag friends along on these excursions of mine), I saw the ladder-and-trunk mural. Doing a double-take, I demanded we stop, certain that it was painted by my favorite Spanish street artist. And sure enough, while inspecting the image, there it was – his signature, ESCIF, in bold capital letters. His murals grace walls in his hometown of Valencia, but also around the world, including this particular street in the City by the Bay.

If you don’t already get geeky over urban art, I hope these colorful images might inspire you to scope out street masterpieces in your hood. Full of messages, heart, and passion, they’re worth more than just a passing glance.


Jet Martinez

Escif, San Francisco




September 15, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain, Trips to the US

What is your favorite place on the planet? When approached with this question for a Lonely Planet BlogSherpa Carnival, I couldn’t really imagine how to sift through the heap of awesome places that started flickering through my brain. My favorite place to live? To visit? To eat? So many locations flash into my mind, and surely yours too. Last month it would have been Halong Bay, Vietnam. Last week I would have probably said any Spanish terraza willing to serve me my beloved tinto de verano, a plate of manchego cheese and some gazpacho. And then growing up, my choice would have been Vashon Island, Washington – that weird little island where I built some solid clam digging skills. But of all time? I suppose a couple of places do stand out – two places that tickle all my senses and make me feel like I’m frozen in a dream.

Let me start by taking you on a journey to the first location. It’s a very precise spot in the best city ever (I’m only slightly partial) – San Francisco of course!!! This little spot can be found on the water side of Broderick Street, right before you reach the row of Broadway Street mansions. Sitting there, propped up on the steep incline of the carless block of Broderick, the Marina sits in front of you like a stage. The bustling neighborhood below gives way to the sailboat-speckled waters of the slate-blue Bay. In the distance to your right, Alcatraz pokes gloomily out of the water. Then to your far left, the ebb and flow of marine fog engulfs the Golden Gate Bridge. And just over the hill behind you, whether you can hear it or not, hide the noise and chaos of the big city. Here, in this little piece of heaven on earth, the crisp marine air kisses your skin, and everything around you seems to stand still. I’ve spent countless moments in this very spot reflecting on a stressful day, pondering life-changing decisions (to move to Spain or not to?), or simply reminding myself how grateful I am to have such a special city wrapped around me like a familiar hug.

I have to tell you friends, if I haven’t made it clear already, this is the best place on earth. The rolling hills lined with colorful buildings and filled with equally colorful people, the fusion of international cultures and cuisine, and the weather….no, NO, NOT the weather. This is the one thing I do not miss – except perhaps the mild overcast mornings with the fog horn humming in the distance, carefully soothing me out of my slumber, as opposed to the blinding Madrid sun that does everything short of scream “rise and shine amiga!”

This can’t be my only favorite place, though. There is another, that is perhaps less sentimental and more universally acknowledged as one of the most amazing places in the world – the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I’ve tried to capture in words before the paradise that is the Alhambra. But honestly, until you are there, and even right now as I write this, it is hard to recall the sensation of walking through the Moorish wonderland. The thought of a palace, for me anyway, typically recalls fancy chandeliers, vast gardens filled with perfectly groomed shrubbery, and ornately tasseled rugs and curtains. While impressive, it certainly seems forced and perhaps a bit excessive, doesn’t it? But this palace, oh this palace, it’s like nothing that you have stored in the corners of your imagination. It’s equal parts elegance and austerity. The Arabic architecture, with its open rooms and intricately carved details, blends naturally with the dribbling fountains. You can’t escape the trickle of water traveling through the palace and gardens, which overflow with everything from roses to fruits and vegetables. When you walk through this palace, everything is in perfect harmony. Nothing is ridiculously lavish, but at the same time, it feels like the richest place on earth – rich with color, smells, sounds and life. It can only best be described as a drug that heightens all your senses – smell, touch, hearing, sight. It is truly euphoric. This would be my kind of palace indeed. Speaking of which, Jacobo, are you taking notes??

Lucky for me, I will be returning to the Alhambra for a third time in just a few short weeks, at which time I will be taking my own notes on what I’d like in my personal (imaginary) Moorish palace (an Andalucian patio and a balcony full of electrically colored petunias are musts!). Meanwhile, if you’re itching to know some other sweet locations around the planet, stop by the Lonely Planet BlogSherpa Carnival hosted by Sophie’s World, to find out what other expert travelers are saying about their top spots and favorite places.