California, Europe, Ideas, Life, Montana, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Travel



A few weeks ago I started getting my normal itch to write something in this blog. It took about three weeks to finally sit down and actually start putting something on a digital canvas. For the past year my posts have been following this trend. Perhaps it’s because I’ve hit a point in my writing where there isn’t much inspiration, or maybe it’s because the ideas in my mind pop and disappear like bubbles in some imaginary ocean.

After writing and erasing, then writing again and erasing again, finally inspiration to post something came into the picture on July 15th, 2017. On this day one of my best friends Sebastian married another close friend named Megan. They asked me to officiate their wedding which was a true honor and something that I’ll remember forever. A couple days later another great friend in Murcia, David (from Gijon), passed an exam to become a tenured teacher with the Spanish government, which is an accomplishment that required over a year of studying. This past Saturday, two other very close friends got married in Missoula, Montana. Kyle and Charley are two amazing people and I was given the honor to being a groomsman during their ceremony.

These people all worked very hard, practiced great amounts of patience, and dedicated large amounts of time towards planning up until the final moments of these important events in their lives. They all had a plan, and they stayed committed to it, and also to each other. Seeing how happy my friends were to finally be married, and for David to go against the odds to get a secured position as a teacher in Spain, makes me feel waves of respect and joy for what they have just achieved.

Now that this week has passed, I have come to the conclusion that the best things in life don’t come easily; you have to work for them. Whether it’s a dream job, a date with the good looking person sitting next to you on the bus, or a quest for internal happiness, the road to gaining what you want takes time.

I’m writing this post to say congratulations, not only to the people who I just wrote about, but to you for all that you have achieved but maybe don’t give yourself credit for. Congratulations and cheers to you for being who you are, even if I may not know who you are. Maybe you haven’t achieved your goals and don’t want to hear the “C” word just yet, but that’s perfectly fine because you are one step closer. If you have a goal or dream, but haven’t reached it yet, then you should be happy because at least you’re trying. If you aren’t trying, then maybe it’s time to start?

Maybe you don’t know what your goals are, and that makes achieving them more challenging. As I write this post a new goal has washed up on the shores of my consciousness but by the time I finish this sentence it will have washed away into a swift undertow in the form of a period mark. The one fragment of these goals that keeps staying stuck in the sand is that I want to one day be a teacher somewhere in my country. I just don’t know where, when, or what.

One thing that might help me narrow this decision down is that I’ve just received my assignment as an English teacher in Murcia, Spain for the upcoming school year. Despite wishing to have been assigned a primary school, the Spanish Ministry of Education will be sending me to work in a secondary school (high school). At first I was frightened by the idea of working in a classroom with teenage English learners, but this is probably a blessing in disguise; I want to be out of my comfort zone. It will be my first time teaching in a high school, so let’s see what happens. This won’t be happening until October, and barring any Visa issues or sudden zombie attack then I should be heading back to Murcia for a third year of teaching English.

As I finish this post I don’t really have a concrete goal that stands before me, despite saying that I want to become a teacher. This is kind of why we are alive, to find what out what our purpose in life is. Inside I believe that we are all destined for many things, but the key is to find what out makes you happy.

Once again, congratulations to Sebastian, Megan, David, Kyle, & Charley, I love you guys. Also, congrats to you for finally being able to go back to whatever it was you were doing before reading this blog post.

Thanks for taking time to read this blog, more updates are coming (hopefully sooner than a month from now).

Have a wonderful day/evening/night.

Advice, California, Coffee, Sausalito, Travel, Travel Guide, Travel Tips, United States, Where to drink Coffee

Where to Drink Coffee in Sausalito

Good afternoon or good evening, depending on where in the world you are reading this..

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about eight things I learned while teaching English in Spain, and the quiet excitement it gave me was enough to make me want to continue this style of writing. The notion of doing a second list about something has been circling around my head for a few months now, but physically sitting down to do something about it hasn’t happened until now. Part of the problem was that I didn’t know what to make a second list about.

Maybe one about cats? About pop music? About ice-cream toppings?

After pondering for a fairly long time, drinking a cup of deliciously pitch black coffee, I came to the conclusion that there weren’t many things that I felt inclined to write about..

..except where to drink a cup of coffee.

I like drinking coffee so much that I’ve focused trips on this hobby, and also have written a blog post about how addicted I am to this mysterious dark elixir.

One of my favorite pastimes is hiding in a coffee shop, or place that sells warm beverages, to read and simply unwind. It’s a sensation that, for me, is impossible to replace. However, over the course of many happy years of hanging out in coffee shops, I have become selective of where to go in order to get a coffee buzz.

I’m by no means an expert of what makes a coffee good, but I think I’ve become knowledgeable about what makes a place to drink coffee good.

So, now that I’ve written a few hundred words of complete nonsense, and you are probably about to change windows on your web browser, here is my list of places where you should drink coffee in my hometown of Sausalito, California:


Cibo (Chee-Bow) means “food” in Italian, and this cafe brews arguably the finest tasting coffee in Sausalito. They roast their own coffee beans and provide guests with a comfortable atmosphere. White painted walls, wide glass windows, and a few different shades of red give Cibo an old-world minimalist feel and if you can score a table then it’s an ideal place to read or to do work. They prioritize quality, whether it be through brewing a near perfect cappuccino or with their small but great breakfast/lunch menu.

They are located on the local’s side of town, which is nice because you can escape swarms of daily visitors arriving from San Francisco or other far away places. The prices at Cibo are on par with everywhere else in Sausalito, and the only downside is that the place can fill up very quickly. On weekends be prepared to wait in a line.

Connect with Cibo:

1201 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

Cibo’s Facebook


(415) 331-2426


Sausalito Bakery & Cafe:


Sausalito Bakery & Cafe is an interesting place. It doesn’t offer very much in terms of decor nor size, and the heat one feels from the kitchen’s bread ovens can be a little overwhelming at times.

This shouldn’t hold you back from giving this place a chance.

Where it fails to provide in beauty and atmosphere, it makes up in price, quality of product, and more importantly in location. Downtown Sausalito is beautiful, but it’s also beautifully expensive. It’s hard to walk around town without feeling the weight on your wallet, however Sausalito Bakery & Cafe is money saving oasis. You can order a coffee, not the best but good enough to give you a buzz, and a surprisingly wide variety of food options ranging from veggie frittatas to chocolate cookies. It’s also one of the few cafe’s in town where you can sit outside and feel breeze circulating from the Bay.

Located along Bridgeway Avenue, across the street from the The Trident restaurant, this establishment is at the very end of Sausalito’s downtown strip. If you can score an outside seat or a narrow table near one of their rustic wood paneled windows then you might be hooked for a repeat visit.

Connect with Sausalito Bakery & Cafe:

571 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

(415) 331-9552

Osteria Divino:


According to Wikipedia, an Osteria is historically a place that serves wine and traditional yet simple style food. Typically in Italy these eateries were less expensive and provided local specialties. Osteria Divino is one of my favorite destinations in Sausalito, partially because this Florentine influenced restaurant lives up to its name: you can get a nice quality meal, glass of wine, or cup of coffee without breaking the bank. In the mornings this place is perfect for relaxing with a cup of steaming espresso mixed with water.

Located on Caledonia Sreet, Sausalito’s less-touristy and more local side of town, Osteria Divino is quite nice for brunch during the weekends but more importantly (at least for me) it’s a necessary place to start the day. In the morning there aren’t many people there, so sitting at the bar with a coffee and book is peaceful. At night this place changes flavor because on a regular basis one can find live jazz or latin fused music being played by a wide variety of local or international artists.

Connect with Osteria Divino:

37 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965


(415) 331-9355

Driver’s Market:


Driver’s Market opened in 2012 and their mission has been to provide a meeting place for people and also to offer delicious food with a heavy emphasis on transparency. Being a couple blocks away from both Cibo and Osteria Divino on Caledonia Street, this market has evolved into one of Sausalito’s primary shopping destinations. They strive to fill shelves with locally cultivated products and to ensure that guests know where the items in their shopping cart comes from. Their wine section is one of a kind, their employees are generally very personable, and they offer a positive atmosphere.

I hate to say that I seldom shop there, partially because organic and sustainable groceries come with a higher price tag, but Driver’s Market has become one of my dark-horse favorites for enjoying a cup of coffee. They sell dark or medium roast Equator coffee in to-go cups made from recycled materials at the checkout counter which is a nice bonus. I like to simply walk inside, pay for a pitch black coffee, then take advantage of their eating area, which is located next to their top-notch deli section. With wide windows it’s a great place for people watching and reading the newspaper. If the weather is favorable then an even better option is to take your coffee outside and take a seat at one of their outdoor tables.

Connect with Driver’s Market:

200 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965


(415) 729-9582




Honorable Mentions:

Taste of Rome & Poggio are also good for getting a cup of coffee. They boast excellent street views of Bridgeway Avenue and provide guests with a unique Sausalito experience.

RIP: Philz Coffee & Il Piccolo Cafe

Personally, the golden age of Sausalito coffee was in 2016 when both Philz Coffee and Piccolo Cafe were still open. Piccolo offered the absolute best views in town, sitting next to Yee Tock Chee Park and Philz became the heart of local Sausalito ever since it opened in 2012. Currently the doors to Piccolo are boarded up and the space is vacant. Philz Coffee has been replaced by Fireside Coffee, but out of personal protest I refuse to go there.

Thank you for reading!

These places are where you should drink coffee in Sausalito, California (in my opinion). I hope you found this information helpful. This list is based on my personal experiences and preferences, so you have the right to disagree with me. If you have your own list, then feel free to share it in the comment section below!  Have a great day and have great coffee!

Life, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Travel

Eight Things I’ve Learned From Being An English Teacher

Oh hey there!

I didn’t see you start reading, why don’t you make yourself comfortable?

It’s been a pretty long time since adding anything to this blog, and for that I apologize. Sometimes inspiration falters and in other moments we get too busy.

Since the last time I wrote, which was maybe a couple of months ago, I’ve been continuing the life of an English teacher living somewhere outside of the USA.

The recent months have been filled with lots of private lessons, teaching at an academy with loud primary school students, spending time with friends, and doing a little bit of traveling.

Recently I’ve been hearing that people really like to read lists, whether it be about restaurants or maybe about football player rankings. I wanted to try a list out myself, just to see how it felt to write one.

Here is my first ever written list ( besides one used for grocery shopping).Since starting as language assistant two years ago, and now working as an independent linguistic gun for hire, I feel safe to say that a few life lessons have been learned since diving into teaching.

This is what I’ve learned (so far)…

We are all human beings

One of the most important things to always remember is that the person or people who you are teaching aren’t just students, they are people just like you. They might be only four years old and can hardly old a crayon but inside this is a little person who has emotions and feelings. I’ve caught myself many times just thinking of my students as just few extra dollars to fund my coffee addiction, but this isn’t right. We are all human beings who are trying to live the best life we can. The more you remember that they are individuals, then it not only makes you a better teacher but it also makes you an improved part of this planet.

Nothing lasts forever

Each time I finish a private lesson I try to be thankful, because in the world of private English teaching you can’t ever guarantee that you will see the person again next week. People get sick, bored, change their work schedules, or quite simply move away.  Currently I have a schedule that is comfortable and financially adequate to fund my love of keeping a low profile. At the drop of a hat this might change, so I need to not feel too comfortable and be always grateful.

Know how to manage your money

Since students do sometimes cancel, move away, or change life goals, it’s always important to keep track of how much money you are spending. Maybe this week I made enough money to go out to dinner a few times, but I shouldn’t make a habit of treating myself with money that hasn’t been earned yet.

Remember that you are valuable

In life it’s best to never cut yourself short of what you think you are worth. If you are a hard worker and talented at whatever it is you do, then why not try to get paid for it? I wouldn’t ever try and rip someone off, but I also don’t want to rip myself off either.

Respect your boundaries

Depending on where you teach English, whether it be in China or in my current place of residence, you will be confronted with numerous potential students who want to start a series of study dates. If I would have said “yes” to every person who has asked me to teach them, then I wouldn’t have time to write in this blog. I would be running around town, introducing strangers to my impressive friend-circle of phrasal verbs. It’s good and healthy to say “no” sometimes, in fact I think it’s important that people learn how to say this more often. If you are saying “yes” in order to be nice, then maybe you are setting yourself up for future problems. It’s good to always keep that in mind.

Be flexible

Sometimes people show up late for class, sometimes they need to change the day of class, and sometimes they forget entirely that there was one even scheduled. This is something that you can’t let ruffle your feathers. As stated before, people are people and no one is perfect.

Patience is a virtue

Sometimes you have to stand your ground in front of a bunch of screaming six year olds. The desire to enter a verbal cursing competition might be surging but you have to be calm. Some private students might be excellent speakers but very slow readers (or vice-versa ) and you have to let them finish each sentence even if it feels like you’re stuck in the movie Frozen. You are there to help them, listen, and be there as a guide.

Lists make you sexier

This probably isn’t true, but I wanted to make sure you were still reading and not completely asleep yet.

You just passed my reading test! Ten life points for you 🙂

Thank’s for checking out this blog and I hope you liked this list. We are always learning something, even without realizing it.

Have a wonderful day or evening.


Daniel Catena

Life, Poems, Random Thoughts

English Teacher Crosswalkings

I’m on a quest for a phrasal verb.

Give me an idiom and I’ll give you a high-five.

Give me a few in thirty seconds and I’ll charge you ten euros.

I’m walking down the street, looking like I don’t have any damns to give.

We make eye contact on a corner and somewhere I find one more stashed in my back pocket.

It was hiding next to the multi colored dice and plastic pencil sharpener.

I’m thinking of a person, place, or thing.

Before you can ask the first question, the crosswalk light turns green.

A mechanical voice is presenting us a choice to continue walking.

The mood is now becoming imperative.

I blink twice and you’re gone.

Give me one lie and I’ll tell you two truths.

The first is that you’re beautiful.

The second is farewell.

Life, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized

The Next Five Minutes

The next five minutes might be the only time in our lives when you and I ever share a single thing in common.

You’ve stumbled on this blog and I decided to take time to write a little bit of nonsense into it.

The next five minutes will go by quickly, and you will hardly know that they ever passed by. This happens to me a regular basis. Thinking that this will only take five minutes can happen twelve times in an hour and depending on your sleep schedule nearly three hundred times in a single day.

Where do all of those five minutes ago?

Sometimes we use them to have a quick meal, to go for a jog, to hide from our boss, to read the news, to listen to a song, or in many cases to think about what happened five minutes ago.

Looking back on thirty years of life, I know that I have wasted many five minutes. Perhaps I was too concerned about something that didn’t really matter or maybe I was too busy staring at birds on trees.

Five minutes really aren’t anything, but in some cases they can be everything that truly matters.

In the past five minutes, somewhere in the world, a person just kissed for the first time. Someone has gotten a promotion, been accepted to a university, dumped by their girlfriend, and finally told the guy next to her how much they care about them.

Five minutes ago a baby just saw light for the first time and in a hospital a terminally ill patient doesn’t know if he’ll experience a minute in this world ever again.

When I get old it might only take five minutes to reflect on what the hell this life was all about.

I don’t want to spend any of my five minutes regretting moments where I didn’t do what made me happy, or didn’t have the courage to do something I thought was right.

Five minutes are precious, and even though the past five minutes will never come back to us, I am thankful that they happened, and more importantly grateful that there are another five minutes of enjoying waiting around the corner.

I’m happy we got to share these past five minutes together, whatever you decide to do after this is purely up to you.

Go fly a kite, write a letter, or say something that rhymes just for the better. Whatever it is, live it the way you want to live it.

Enjoy the next five minutes, after sitting through this blog post you definitely have earned them. 😉

Thank you for reading, maybe the next post is coming in five minutes!

Europe, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, Travel

The Virgin of Wonders in San Basilio

I’m sitting in the house where I used to live.

Blustery Murcian breeze sends ruffles within the undercarriage of outside patio plants as I stare blankly through the glass of Lola’s living room window.

She is my friend and used to be my landlord up until about three weeks ago.

The room where I once slept, prepared lesson plans, and secretly watched Youtube videos of angry cats is now being resided by Teresa, a very nice woman from Brazil.

I don’t pay rent here anymore, however Lola and the rest of the house has welcomed me as a guest for whenever I happen to be in the neighborhood.

It’s hard to distinguish whether the noises I’m hearing are wind-induced or ghosts from over a year of calling this house home.

I want to still live with these great people, yet it feels exciting to be mixing up the everyday scenery.

In Murcia my address was named after the late Spanish poet José María Pemán, an Andalusian novelist who was one of the few artists to publicly support Francisco Franco in the 1930’s.

Living now in a neighborhood called San Basilio, you can send me mail to Calle Virgin de la Maravillas (Virgin of Wonders), named after a Virgin Saint for the Murcian pueblo of Cehegin.

With an Ecuadorian market that sells frozen bags of aji, a small deli, a coffee shop that offers espresso for less than a dollar , and access to public ride-share bicycles within a short walking distance, I feel very comfortable with the fresh residence. This combined with friendly new roommates (Eva and Emili) has made moving a pleasant experience.

If you get lost looking for me in San Basilio you can find the entrance to my apartment building simply by looking for a dangling Santa Clause mannequin that someone has forgotten to take down since the holidays.

Listen for the sound of rollerblades with overused breaks or a strong American accent and you might bump into me on the corner.

Train your nostrils to the smell of cooking garlic or sound of passively aggressive hip-hop music through a third floor window.

As stated earlier I’m taking a break in my old house.

In a short while it will be time to hit the road and try my best to teach a couple of Spanish kids some common English verbs.

With one private and another academy lesson completed for the day, a strong desire to drink a beer is hovering over my head, however responsibility must linger around until the final class is wrapped up in a little over two hours.

There is more I could say in this post, but after skimming through it once, I guess there is also a lot less I could have written as well.

Only time and internet scientists for literary nonsense will be able to answer that question..

It’s time to go, so please remember to review your idioms and phrasal verbs 🙂

Thank you for checking out this blog! Have a nice day and have a great start to the year!

-Daniel Catena

Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, Uncategorized

This is La Flota

It’s about 4:15pm in La Flota.

This is a neighborhood in upper Murcia.

The square tile sidewalks are wide and blocks of faded pink houses line this Spanish definition of a suburb.

It’s great for starting a family, decent if you want a centralized living situation, and utterly horrible if you are an after school English teacher.

Four days a week I walk to a public elementary school in La Flota with a box of flashcards, balls, countless pieces of colored scrap paper, worksheets, and aspirations of helping a group of kids learn my native language.

Four days a week I walk home thinking, what the hell just happened?

It’s 4:15pm in La Flota and instantly after collecting ten first graders from one building in the school and guiding them to a separate classroom, I am pulling student number one off of student number two.

Number one said something to number two and soon they started fighting.

I tell him to sit in the corner as student number three decides to climb on a table and dance flamenco.

Student four just said “shit” in Spanish and the one student who ever truly wants to learn is screaming for me to hand her a worksheet. Pencils are being scattered all over the flour, along with what I thought would be a fun lesson plan.

Its 4:15pm in La Flota and I want to stop being an adult, stop trying to lead by example, and say f*** you to Spain’s future generation.

But I won’t do that. I won’t yell at these kids, won’t lose my cool even though I am finding out that my lesson plan sucked and that no one in this room wants to be here except me.

Educational bombs are dropping.

The next forty-five minutes will be linguistic trench warfare.

I give the class a firm, “five-four-three-two-one” and soon the eruption of child chaos is starting to go from green light to yellow light. Serious death stares establish me as the temporary alpha dog in this unruly after-school wolfpack.

We get an activity started. It starts to gel after a handful of patiently drawn-out moments and soon English vocabulary is not just coming from my voice.

Maybe the tide is settling.

Student one and two start to wrestle again. Student three decides to throw pencils across the room. Student five hasn’t come back from the bathroom yet.

Yells from six year olds and snapped debris of white chalk explode from the English induced car accident.

It’s 4:15pm and I want to go home.

I’m trying my best, but these kid’s whose parent’s are making them come to class don’t seem  engaged.

This is La Flota.

This is my first real teaching job.

This is a thirty year old getting pealed like an onion by a gaggle of Murcian six year olds.

This is looking at the face of a dream and seeing that it’s not going to be easy.

This is patience being taken for a ride like heavy winds on an unmapped ocean.

This is where I go back to the drawing board and get a better lesson ready for tomorrow.

This is La Flota, where I’m going learn how to be a teacher.

Belgium, Europe, Life, Murcia, Spain, Travel


Once upon a time I found myself in Belgium.

By once upon a time I mean a few days ago.

With temperatures hovering at around 40 degrees F, I took at bus from Murcia to Alicante and shifted through airport security before sunrise. Half-Asleep, a Seal song could be heard echoing through the terminal and I didn’t know whether I should be scared or just continue walking.

This was the first official time that I had ever been to Belgium, and the purpose for the journey was to visit with a couple very close friends and meet their seven month old daughter.

Lieven and Claudia live in Ghent and invited me to stay in their guest room for a couple of days. I have a really bad tendency of not doing any research before visiting a new destination, and this weekend was a toast to personal tradition. Luckily Lieven, who is originally from a village outside of the city, already had a few ideas.

On Friday we strolled around Bruges, Saturday we took a train to the capital city (Brussels) and Sunday we took in some morning sites of Ghent before we bid farewell. The waffles in Belgium are inexpensive (one euro in some places), the fresh brews are delightful, Christmas markets with ice-skating rinks played Adele songs, and the fries were a pleasant start to whichever afternoon it was. Belgium is a very clean country with three official languages (French, Dutch, and German).  The people speak softly, everyone is fluent in English, and cars won’t hesitate to run you over. Lieven was a decent guide (jokes!) and seeing his family has been a major highlight since returning to Europe.

I want to say more about Belgium but it’s been a long time since updating this blog. Since leaving the United States there hasn’t been a single post about Spain and about what the heck is going on over here.

I truly apologize about that and will do my best to give an update in as few words as possible!

October 28th was my first day back in Murcia, Spain since last saying “see you later” to friends here back in February.

Coming back was surreal because inside I didn’t know why I was here again. Something deep down was saying that I simply needed to be here right now. With no real plan besides reconnecting with friends and revisiting the old schools where I once worked, I decided to enroll in a part-time Spanish course.

After one week I had a lot of free time on my hands, so for the first time ever I decided to promote my services as a native English teacher with hopes of making some extra money to buy cheap coffee. One thing has led to another and now I find myself working at an after-school English academy for children and filling in the gaps with conversation classes for students ranging from the ages of 10 to 50 years old. Four days a week I have been given the task of teaching groups of 6 and 4 year olds beginning level English. Despite feeling like each class has been a disaster, slowly each session has started to gel in it’s own vastly chaotic way. With my current salary and small list of vices (empanadas, ALSA bus tickets, Full House DVDs) I am earning enough money to break even here in Murcia.

Some people who have made this return special are Lola, Lucia, Zamai, David, Paco, Ascension, the students at Vicente Medina, Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, Lindsey, Gretchen, Rali, and a lot of others.

I left California in October not really knowing what I was going to do with myself. Right now I’m in Spain, not really knowing what I’m doing with myself.

In ten days I’ll be back in California for my Dad’s birthday, Christmas, and New Years. A few days after the start of 2017 I’ll be headed back to Spain until the end of the school year, which is mid June. The English academy hired me based on the promise that I’d stay the full term, and even though there are some visa issues that need to be sorted out, this is something that I want to accomplish. I also am going to continue studying at the Spanish academy, so that I can hopefully pass a DELE exam and have an internationally recognized level of fluency. We will see what happens 🙂

I feel fortunate to be back here, to see friends again, and to be working on something that feels meaningful. That being said, everyone from family to friends back home are all missed a lot.

Thank you for reading and for your time. To those in the Bay Area, let’s hang out when I’m back! Have a great day, I think you are really special. Brush your teeth and floss after dinner, ok? 😉

Love and abrazos,

Daniel Catena

Cascais, Lisbon, Portugal, Travel

Wanders in Portugal

A little over a week ago I found myself in Lisbon, Portugal.

At 9:30am on Tuesday, October 25th an overnight American Airlines flight touched down in the Portuguese capital city. Fog and light drizzles greeted the plane as it screeched to an abrupt halt on European soil. Having not slept more than thirty minutes during the six hour flight from New York I followed with semi-consciousness a series of large signs to baggage claim then eventually to an adjoining metro.

Having never spoken a word of Portuguese before, nor having seen a Portuguese person in real life for that matter, navigating through the cities’ train system was stress-free.

A few metro stops past the airport and a seemingly forever long escalator later, I arrived at a major shopping district of the city called Baixa-Chiado which was only one block from Lisbon Poets Hostel. For the next three nights (October 25th until October 28th) I stayed at this relaxed, living room style backpackers.

I came to this city not really doing any research, but for the past few years it’s been high on my list for places to visit. Some really good friends told me that Lisbon shared quite a few similarities to San Francisco and for that reason I wanted to see this for myself. Another major goal of being here was to explore a neighboring medium-sized coastal town called Cascais. Cascais and my hometown of Sausalito, California are sister cities so for diplomacy purposes it felt necessary to say hello from the United States 🙂

The first and only phrase in Portuguese that I remember since last week was how to ask for a cup of coffee.

“Eu gostaria de um americano”

I don’t know how to say “hello” but at least my addiction can be satisfied. Thanks to Google I was able to find a great coffee shop called Fabrica Coffee. This would be my morning hangout for the remainder of my stay in Lisbon.

Lisbon, like San Francisco, is a waterfront city with a collection of hills that seem to never end. Every street feels unique however a wrong turn can cost you a severe calf work-out. One of the positives for so many climbing streets is that the city is filled with picturesque viewpoints for locals and visitors to take in a scenery of red roofs descending downwards towards the Tajo River.

Besides getting Fabrica coffee, I went for a hike along the waterfront towards Ponte 25 de Abril, a massive grey bridge that is a practical mirror image of the Bay Area’s Golden Gate Bridge. Lisbon’s version is a lot taller and longer, however the one in California is walkable and more Instagram friendly.

A series of vintage style cable car lines are scattered throughout various streets around the city center. Like back home, each cable car was filled to the brim with tourists and it didn’t seem like a worthwhile thing to stand in line for.

Lisbon is famous for a traditional style of music called Fado and a series of dishes ranging from Caldo Verde, Bacalhau, and Pasteis de Belem. I missed out on Fado and most of the food, however I did enjoy a few different glasses of vinho verde (green wine kind of like suav blanc) and dabbled in maybe the best rooftop bar scene I’ve ever experienced. Lisbon has dozens of loungy rooftop bars, restaurants, and cafes and only being in a couple made me want to become a future resident. Park Bar is a speakeasy style rooftop bar that is located on the top floor of a parking garage. Lost in Esplanada has a middle eastern vibe that offers affordable green tea.

As stated before, Cascais was a big reason for me coming to Portugal. A green line metro took me from Lisbon Poets Hostel to Cais Do Sobre, then a thirty minute train along the Tajo River had me in Cascais before lunchtime.

Having done zero research of Cascais, I decided to wander the streets in search of things that seemed similar to Sausalito. Both have palm trees, sunshine, and lots of businesses aimed at making money off of tourists. Sausalito has a great view of San Francisco, but Cascais offers immediate access to various beaches and along the waterfront percussion of an African band could be heard echoing off of the water. Everyone was speaking English and after one pint of Sagres beer I was buzzed by 1pm. Cascais is a beautiful town, just like Sausalito, and similar to where I grew up it felt right to leave after about an hour of walking around.

A great pit stop while in the area in Cabo De Roca, the most western point in all of Europe. A large stone cross stands over a series of cliffs and the only view one can see is limitless Atlantic ocean.

After three days in Lisbon I was ready to keep exploring more of Portugal, to learn the country’s native language, and to maybe move here at some point in my life.

Leaving Lisbon I felt very fortunate to have experienced it’s beauty and interesting culture. This won’t be the last time we get lost on a steep street together.

Have a great day wherever you find yourself in the world. I think you are pretty awesome 😉

-Daniel Catena



(Ponte 25 de Abril)


(Lisbon cable car)


(Cascais wall art)


(Cascais vertigo)


(Cabo De Roca)


(Cascais beach frolickers)


(A very handsome random guy)


(one of Lisbon’s many viewpoints)

Astoria, Montana, Oregon, Portland, Random Thoughts, Seaside, Seattle, Travel, Washington



Note: Written in various places, finished somewhere else.

For a brief instant a sudden impulse is prompting my eyes to quickly escape from the magnet of computer screen to scan the immediate airport horizon. Crying babies, airport staff speaking on intercoms, muffled side conversations from nearby seat neighbors, and streams of luggage donning pedestrians are erupting into my senses.

White iPod earbuds spooning with my eardrums, I can see my reflection from a front window.  The task of completing this blog post is starting to elevate to the top of an internal list of layover priorities. My eyes bounce downward towards the pending work in progress.

It’s about 7pm in Philadelphia and in one hour I’ll be pacing through a departure gate towards a plane destined for Lisbon, Portugal. American Airlines Flight 738 will land at around 9am and this will mark the start of a six to seven week hiatus in Europe.

Sitting at Gate 26 I can see a growing congregation of future plane partners developing to the left and to the right from where I’m seated.

This post is coming about a week too late. Since coming back from a trip to see friends in Missoula, Seattle, and Oregon, time for writing has been scarce. After visiting the Northwest for a gaggle of weeks (September 28-October 17)  I flew to New York on October 20th to visit some great friends in Jack, Jimmy, Kelsey, and Mark but more details about that will come in the next blog post!

In total there were six days spent between Seattle, Portland, Seaside, and Astoria.

During my final day in Montana on October 11th, my good friend Ryan dropped me off at the Missoula Airport.  A quick flight to Washington was hopped. At the University of Washington campus I was greeted by Holly, a good friend who was met in Murcia, Spain. She was kind enough to host me for two days. She, her boyfriend and fellow Murcia buddy Alvin, and myself got some delicious El Camion Mexican Food, toured Gasworks Hill, and wandered around the trendy Fremont neighborhood. The last time the three of us hung out was when we got ice cream in a random Spanish plaza over a year ago. On my second day in Seattle I met up with Vanessa, a salsa dancing friend who I hadn’t seen in over five years. We spent the day catching up over a walk around South Lake Union then capping the day with delicious vegan food at the No Bones Beach Club.


(myself and Vanessa)


(myself, Holly, Alvin)

After two days a Bolt Bus sent me from downtown Seattle to downtown Portland, Oregon. Three days of non stop rain was waiting for me upon arrival. The main reason for coming to PDX was to catch up with Tucker and Kristina, two close friends from Missoula who moved out there over three years ago. We hadn’t seen one another since August of 2012 so a reunion was necessary. Between Swedish breakfast at Cafe Broder, dangerous impulse shopping at Powell’s Books, and dabbling in scores of delicious craft beer, the stay in Portland was great. The city boasts a chill energy that is hard to replace.

Note: Tucker, Kristina, and myself failed to take a group picture. For those who don’t already know what they look like, let me tell you that they are very very attractive people 🙂

Typhoon-like weather prevented me from taking a bus to Seaside, Oregon to see Kyle and Charlie on Saturday of that week. The coast received a large storm with winds almost reaching one hundred miles an hour. In Portland the trees waved with stressful discontent and scattered throughout various streets one could see debris from fallen branches. Luckily Sunday was more mild and within two hours an Amtrak bus delivered me to the grey skied coastline. Kyle and I used to live together in Missoula a few years back, and Charlie is a great friend who I knew during the early days of college. It was my first time in Seaside so we did an obligatory hike around Haystack Rock near Cannon Beach, got some savory coffee at Sleeping Monk, and spent the evening in nearby Astoria at Fort George Brewery, Buoy Beer Company, then at the Voodoo Room.


(Charlie, Kyle, a random dude)

On Monday, October 17th I bid farewell to the Pacific Northwest and returned home to Sausalito. It was truly special to see everyone during that span of time, and I feel blessed that we didn’t lose contact. I hope that our next reunion happens a lot sooner than later (Except Kyle, that can wait a couple more years…)(That’s a joke, sorry).

A further blog post is necessary for talking about New York, so updates are on the way!

Have a great day, thanks for checking out this blog. You look really good, keep up the ship-shape work 🙂

~ Daniel Catena

Montana, Random Thoughts, Travel

The Last Best Place

Note: Started last Thursday, finished today 😉


If you drive along Interstate 90, take flight with an Allegiant Air jet, or hop a kayak along the Clark Fork River, you might discover a place called Missoula, Montana.

Some people come here by accident, however I find myself relaxing in this Western Montana town with a purpose.

I’m seated in a coffee shop called Liquid Planet and attempting to reduce my dependency on black coffee by drinking green tea. With a spiral constellation shaped ceiling light fixture above me, this used to be a regular study destination during my days in college.

Up until 2012 Missoula used to be called “home” and the last time I ordered a cup of tea here was nearly two years ago. The sun is roasting outside and the slightly cool temperature within the cafe is providing a temporary oasis from walking through walls of invisible heat.

The biggest reason for me being here is to see my friend Dave graduate from high school. We used to be matched via Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2010 and have stayed buddies ever since. He is leaving for the Army in one week so this is a necessary time to come up and visit with his family.

Another reason is to see some close friends in Chris, Ryan, Shane, Brian, Charlie, Megan, Lauren, and the crew at the local Doubletree Hotel. These are all people who I either lived with, worked with, or simply chilled with for extensive amounts of time in the past. Through phone calls, texts, or simply “likes” in various forms of social media we luckily are still friends despite a handful of years of not seeing each other. These are all some truly great people and to spend time with them again will be a treat.

Simply being back in town brings back instant flashes of excitement because it not only will be great to see some amazing people, but it will be nothing less than super to explore the various gems that Missoula has to offer.

If you are reading this and haven’t been to Missoula then let me give you a quick rundown of what you should do when you get here:

It is essential to come in summer and partake in Dinner in the Park on Thursday nights. If you decide to go out afterwards then it is a good idea to at least take a gander into The Badlander and possibly dance to fun music with help from the Dead Hipster DJ’s.

First Friday is an art walk through Missoula’s entire downtown and happens one Friday during each month (can you guess which one?). You can check out exhibits from local artists while sipping on a free local beer.

Every Saturday morning in the summer there is a large Farmer’s Market that starts beneath the Higgins Street Bridge and spans a few city blocks. You can buy anything from soap to Elk Meat at an affordably delightful price. Free live music and fun times all around have a high probability.

Missoula is home to some of the best craft beer ever fermented. If it’s a nice day then a trip to Draft Works is essential. They have one of the best outdoor patios in town. However if you want a true local vibe then hop on a bike to the Southside Kettlehouse and sip on a brew with strangers.

Near Kettlehouse are three places I love: Le Petit Outre, Bernice’s Bakery, and Bridge Pizza. If you stop by all three then you might be having some of the best bread, pastries, and pizza by the slice you’ve had in a great while. Le Petit is my personal favorite for drinking an Americano while Bernice’s is great for reading a newspaper and eating the world’s best macaroon.

After pizza and beer there are only two things missing: ice cream and live music. Missoula’s longtime frozen dessert favorite has been Big Dipper. The lines in summer are long but you can’t leave Missoula without trying a scoop from their walkup counter. A silent dark horse is Sweat Peaks and their waffles are pretty stellar. Top Hat and The Wilma are two venues in town that consistently host heeps of talented musicians.

If you want to buy a souvenir then look no further than Rockin’ Rudy’sBetty’s Divine, or The Greenlight.

These are by no means the only great options for things to do in town. They are simply activities that I really like and think that any random wanderer would find fun.

The green tea in front of me is becoming smaller with each careful sip like a reducing tide. It’s time to continue with the rest of the afternoon.

Before stepping outside into the June oven I feel blessed to be here. Missoula is a town where people keeping coming and going. It doesn’t really matter if you are living here or moving away from here, it somehow grabs a hold of you and never lets go.

A motto for many people says that the state of Montana is “The Last Best Place.

It’s hard to say whether this statement is true. There exists a large number of places in the world that I haven’t been to yet, but stepping into the sunshine it really isn’t worth debating.

This is my best place.