Spira Destination Guide – Macalania

This post is part of the Fictional Locales category. Macalania is a region in the video game Final Fantasy X.

After crossing the long and dangerous Thunder Plains, the party arrives at Macalania. Before reaching the lake, servants of Maester Seymour take Yuna to the temple ahead of her guardians. Shortly after, the Al Bhed attack but are thwarted by the party. At the Temple, the party realizes that Seymour is not the man he claimed to be. The resulting battle sends the party to the bottom of the lake where they wait until Sin comes to wash them away to parts unknown.

Main characters Yuna (left) and Tidus (right) take a rest after a stressful plot twist.

Macalania has two parts, a forest and a lake. The forest path is winding and dotted with creatures powerful in water and ice magic. It is wise for mages to brush up on fire and lightning magic and for warriors to equip weapons with lightningstrike for firestrike abilities. Ponds of various sizes decorate the edges of the path. Beyond the forest rests Lake Macalania, a lake constantly frozen and home to Macalania Temple. A travel agency stands along the shore of Lake Macalania, a welcoming site for travelers weary from fighting monsters in the forest. At the Temple, summoners acquire Shiva, the ice aeon.

Fun activities include fighting monsters and a butterfly catching game. There is also a prize for finding all of the musician spirits and reuniting them for a concert.

There is a lot of magic at Macalania, particularly in the forest. The water in the ponds are used for recording spheres which can be purchased at Luca. And its proximity to the capital city of Bevelle means there are a myriad of travelers passing through the forest. Macalania Forest is located north of the Thunder Plains and south of the Calm Lands. Macalania Lake is northwest of the forest

The Temple of Lake Macalania
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Favorite Milwaukee Restaurants

One of the challenges I gave myself while living in Milwaukee was to go somewhere new every time I went out to eat. Sometimes, you come across a restaurant that is too good to eat at once. These are those restaurants.

Stone Bowl Grill

There is a small list of restaurants I have dragged my parents to and they enjoyed. This is on that list. Stone Bowl is a Korean restaurant, with television screens showing Korean television shows and KPOP playing in the background. There are even oven settings at the tables, just in case you want to get shabu/hot pot. The food is delicious. I recommend getting bibimbop if you are unfamiliar with Korean cuisine. Personally, I have a soft spot for bulgogi. Anything you get will be delicious, however, so be adventurous! Stone Bowl Grill is located on Farewell Avenue in downtown.

Balistreri’s Italian/American Ristorante

My parents lived in Milwaukee before they had children, and one of the staples of our visits to Milwaukee was a stop at Balisteri’s Pizza. I highly recommend the deep fried eggplant appetizer. Pizzas are thin-crust and cut into squares; fork and knife are practically required to eat this pizza. The family staple is a large pizza with the works. Balisteri’s has two locations, but we frequent the location on 68th street in Wauwatosa.

Oakland Gyros

If I were to rule the world as a super villain, my arch nemesis superhero would be able to defeat me with a gyro from Oakland Gyros. I do not know what they do to make their food so good, but they are my favorite place when I feel like splurging a bit on take out. Oakland Gyros has two locations in Milwaukee, but I have only visited the one on Layton Avenue.

The Safe House

To be honest, I only went here once, but I am willing to recommend it to others. The Safe House is a themed restaurant, specializing in hiding “spies” (customers) while on their “mission” (getting dinner). I hope I won’t get in trouble posting a picture of The Safe House’s actual front door. In order to enter, you have to know the secret passcode. Never fear, for if you do not know it, all you have to do is an embarrassing little dance. The food itself is nothing special, but the atmosphere is amazing. I highly recommend walking around while waiting for your food. The Safe House is tucked away in an alley off Front Street.

Pantheon

This is a nifty little diner I found pretty early on despite having a limited online presence (limited to Yelp and TripAdvisor). The building is a renovated fast food restaurant, either Taco Bell or McDonald’s, and is next to a Pick ‘n Save grocery store. The staff are friendly and will recognize you months after your last visit. As for the food, prepare to undo a buckle. I often went for the daily specials since you get two courses (soup/salad and the main entree) and your choice of dessert or a glass of wine. Though I usually went for dinner, I did have their brunch a few times. Their menu is huge and diverse so be prepared to go in knowing what you want. The Pantheon is located on Rawson Avenue in St. Francis.

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YOUR TURN! Let me know your favorite Milwaukee restaurant in the comments.

Spira Destination Guide – Moonflow

This post is part of the Fictional Locales category. The Moonflow is a place of interest in the video game Final Fantasy X.

The shore of the Moonflow.

Yuna’s pilgrimage brings the party to the Moonflow, a wide river that can only be crossed by riding the elephant-like shoopuf. While crossing, some Al Bhed kidnap Yuna and take her underwater. Tidus and Wakka rescue her.

Afterward, as Tidus explores the area, he comes across Rikku, who helped him when he first arrived at Spira. Rikku happens to be Yuna’s cousin, whom she has had little contact with, and she joins the party.

The Moonflow is a river that splits the northern and southern continents of Spira. All summoners must pass through the Moonflow on their journey, but only because it is the only path that leads directly into the Thunder Plains. Travelers with time to kill can stay the night at the Moonflow landing. When the sun sets, the pyreflies along the river light up like stars for a spectacular sight. If I lived in Spira, seeing the Moonflow lit up would definitely be on my bucketlist. To cross the Moonflow, travelers ride giant elephant-like animals called shoopufs. The diet of the shoopuf remains a mystery, but people have speculated that they get nutrients from the Moonflow’s waters as they walk across it.

Pyreflies are iridescent spirits of the dead. Although beautiful on their own, a mass of pyreflies form fiends which attack people. The Farplane, located in Guadosalam on the north side of the Moonflow, is home to most of the pyreflies. The Farplane’s proximity to the Moonflow is what attracts the pyreflies to the river. Travelers coming in from the north and the south should stock up on items to help with fighting fiends. Lucky for them, merchants tend to hang around the Moonflow crossings, so there are plenty of opportunities to shop around and stock up.

To the south of the Moonflow lies the Djose Temple, and the Thunder Plains are north just outside Guadosalam. It’s difficult to swim across the Moonflow, so crossing by shoopuf is the only recommended option.

A building on the south shore of the Moonflow. The big yellow bird is a chocobo, a common creature in the Final Fantasy franchise.

World building Points:

– One of the duties of Summoners is to Send the pyreflies of the recently deceased. The magic behind a Sending is not explained, but Summoners dance and the pyreflies are so offended they retreat to the Farplane. This is my interpretation and not an official explanation.

– Guadosalam is named as such for the people that live their, called Guado. They are a race of humanoids with plant-like features (hair that looks like tree branches and longer arms and fingers). Noted for their magic, they are the keepers of the Farplane. The Guado and the humans did not get along until Maester Seymour, who is half-human and half-Guado, took power.

Spira Destination Guide – Luca

This post is part of the Fictional Locales category. Luca is a city in the video game Final Fantasy X.

The blitzball stadium as seen from the sea. Pictured is the main character Tidus.

Tidus enters Luca in hopes of finding someone who might recognize him. Before he can search on his own, he helps the Besaid Aurochs with the blitzball tournament. Things go awry shortly after arriving, however, as Yuna is kidnapped by the Al Bhed before the first game begins. Tidus and the guardians Lulu and Kimahri rescue the summoner before the game finishes.

With Yuna safe and the Auroch’s first victory secure, Tidus finally joins the game. As soon as the game finishes, however, the city is attacked by fiends. In the kerfuffle that follows, Tidus reunites with Auron, and the two officially become guardians of Yuna.

Luca is the second largest city in Spira, located at the southernmost tip of the continent. Home to the only entertainment in all the land, Yevon takes pains to protect Luca from Sin and other fiends for the sake of the peoples’ morale The stadium for blitzball, Spira’s national past time, is on the edge of the sea. The Luca Goers, the blitzball team representing Luca, are regular champions in the tournaments. Located more inland is the sphere theater, where visitors record images and sounds to spheres and play them back in a theater setting.

Luca can be accessed by one of three ways: boat, airship, or on foot. The docks are to the south, located below the blitzball stadium which requires a lot of water. To the north, the Mi’hen Highroad connects Luca with the Temple of Djose. Those who can afford to do so can ride chocobos through the highroad instead of walking. Airships can come and go as they please from any direction, though because they are not common transport through Spira, Luca may not have many locations to dock airships for extended periods.

In the game, Luca serves as a turning point in Tidus’s story. After the tournament, Tidus reunites with his childhood mentor Auron. Auron served as a Guardian for Yuna’s father, and she asks him to be hers as well. His only condition is Tidus join them. Yuna agrees, and the party continues their pilgrimage.

Auron squares off against a fiend.

World building points:

– Spira’s government is a theocracy run by the church of Yevon. Four Grand Maesters are the heads of government and perform duties such as judging criminals and upholding laws. Yevon’s teachings say that the monster Sin is a physical manifestation of humanity’s sins and can only truly disappear if everyone atones. Use of machines called machina, except in certain circumstances, is forbidden.

– The Al Bhed is a sub-culture of humans who defy the teachings of Yevon by salvaging and repairing old machines. Throughout the game, they attempt to kidnap summoners as a way to “save” them from their fate. Because they speak a different language, they are often difficult to work with. However, primers can be found throughout Spira, so it becomes easier to understand the Al Bhed when you interact with them.

Fictional Places – Spira Destination Guides

Ten years ago, Jecht disappeared, leaving behind a wife and son, Tidus. Since then, Tidus* became a star Blitzball player as if in defiance of his father who constantly put him down. On the night of a major tournament, the stadium is attacked by a giant monster called Sin. Tidus is swept away by Sin’s power and finds himself a thousand years in the future.

Ten years ago, Yuna’s father defeated Sin, bringing a Calm that lasted ten years. Now that Sin has returned, she becomes a Summoner and begins a pilgrimage to defeat Sin like her father before her. With her heart on her faith and her friends at her back, she is determined to see her dream through.

Yuna and Tidus team up, and their individual stories will have a greater impact on Spira than either of them anticipated.

Final Fantasy X is a video game originally released in 2001 for the Playstation 2 gaming console. It won the hearts of fans and critics alike and has maintained its popularity years after its release. Final Fantasy X pioneered several facets of the Final Fantasy franchise, most notably facial expressions, voice acting for the characters and a world aesthetic inspired by East Asian cultures. A remastered version of Final Fantasy X and its sequel Final Fantasy X-2 was released in March 2014 for the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita consoles. Those who pre-ordered the game (like me) received an illustration booklet with the HD Remaster edition, so now I have a fancy illustration booklet that let’s me marvel at the artwork that went into the development of this fantastic game.

Since travel plays an integral part of Final Fantasy X, I decided to write destination guides for my favorite locations in Spira, the world of the game. I hope you have fun learning more about this fictional world (and possibly inspiring you to play the game yourself. I promise you’ll fall in love with it).

Summoner Yuna at Kilika Island

* The game takes great pains to avoid saying his name so players have the option to rename him without fuss. One of these days, I will name him something embarrassing or inappropriate and I will spend the entire game giggling at my decision.

Journal – Leaving on a Jet Plane

Happy New Year!

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I have been doing some thinking recently, and I have three points to address in this post. They will be discussed one-by-one.

1. I am moving to New Zealand

There will be a more detailed post about the events and decisions leading up to New Zealand. For now, know that I am going on a Working Holiday visa, that I am flinging myself into a life of spontaneity and financial instability, and that everything about this excites me as much as it terrifies me.

I am uneasy about advertising my travel dates on this blog, but you will know when I am there.

2. I am reviving the travel blog

This blog has been on haitus for over a year, but now that I am going abroad again, it is time to revive it. In the next several weeks, expect two types of posts: a destination guide for the fictional land of Spira (from my favorite video game Final Fantasy X) and highlights of my favorite places in Milwaukee. These will bleed into my posts about New Zealand, which will eventually overtake my blog entirely.

The majority of the posts here will be the same as they have been: photo journals, travel tips, destination guides, listicals, recommendations, essays, and more. You will get a sense of what I have been up to, but if you want to keep up to date, you’ll have to read the next point.

3. I am starting an email newsletter

I had a blog when I traveled abroad five years ago, updated daily because the main readers were my parents. But other people could read it too, and I didn’t change the names of the people I interacted with. What if I said something unsightly? What if I isolated myself because no one wanted to associate with someone who exposed things they didn’t want exposed? I don’t want to do that.

Enter the age of the email newsletter. Sent directly into your inbox and not accessible to the general public. If you want updates outside of Twitter and Instagram, you’ll have to subscribe!

The Morike Travels email newsletter is meant for personal friends and family to keep up-to-date with my activities without it being an overbearing part of my life, like it was when I studied abroad. It will be weekly and cover highlights of my week: places gone, events attended, personal news, future travel dates, etc. My life, as it happens, good and bad.

Newsletters won’t start until I arrive in New Zealand. If you would like to preemptively sign up, here is the link to the sign up form.

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That’s all the news for now. Catch you on the flip.

 

Journal – A History with Chicago

The Millennium Park Bean - A Chicago Icon
The Millennium Park Bean – A Chicago Icon

I like my urban dwellings with trendy apartments and coffee shops within walking distance of reliable public transportation. Places with a variety of restaurants call to me, from casual to black-tie and a range of cuisines that span from Korean BBQ to American to Mediterranean and everything in-between. Personally, my heart belongs to those places that can make a mean lamb stew with couscous (I’m looking at you, Husnu’s in Madison). I have lived in London, fell for Stockholm, and walked around Seoul. For me, though, nothing beats Chicago.

Like the mafia, I have a history with Chicago, though less extensive and mostly based on tourism. When I was little, I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in the suburbs for Easter. Once or twice, my family spent a few days in a downtown hotel to have some family-vacation fun in museums and shopping areas. Back then, Chicago was as familiar as a friend I visited on occasion. We got closer in college.

My sophomore year, my soon-to-be roommate invited me to join her in Chicago for Spring Break. With my savvy (read: familial) connections, I got us a place to stay on a couch and an invitation to a Passover dinner. In-between museums and getting lost to Navy Pier, we packed sandwiches and tried not to spend a ton a money. A year later,the publications committee planned a trip to visit professionals in the publishing and marketing fields. It was enlightening on a professional level. We stayed in a hotel downtown and ate chocolate cake from a busy restaurant with a name I can never remember. The trip happened again the next year, which was the infamous year one of our vans got towed. (Don’t worry, we had a “spare” to go get it).

With my friends, our trips were purely for entertainment. For a while, we picked an arbitrary day in June to drive to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee Mills. One year, we pooled our money for a Flash Pass and rode a record number of rides in a single day (I think 18). By the time evening rolled around, I had no adrenaline left. None. It was exhausting. Despite the lack of comfort, I still slept in the car on our way back.

Another year, we ventured to Chicago to see Starkid’s Holy Musical B@man! expecting to get tickets at the door. We ended up meeting Nick Gage (who played Robin and co-wrote the script) a few hours before the matinee showing. He wrote a note to the ticket person in a blank page of my journal to make sure we got seats, which is when we launched into a conversation about My Little Pony that somehow found its way to thematic issues in the Star Wars prequel movies. We mentioned cutting the conversation short a few times before finally doing so.

I intend to start a career in Chicago, gaining notoriety in the publishing industry and moving on from there. Right now, it is slow going; the economy isn’t the greatest, but I’m hard working and determined. I’ll figure it out.

If I don’t get distracted, that is. Did you know Australia has a working holiday visa for disenfranchised young adults such as myself?