Road Travelled: Arches National Park

Moab, Utah

 Canyon Lookout from the bottom basin. 

It was the last lookout stop of the day that took us on the best trail through the park.  A large rounded arch hung in the horizon. A delicate winding path led off into the distance where a rock climber was resting in the middle of the arch. I wanted nothing more than to head up there and do the same, but the farther we got down the path the more unrealistic that vision seemed. The base of the arch was no less than 100 feet above us, and the rock wall below it, flat and smooth. We stood at the base, wondering how anyone could climb up there.  Though I felt somewhat defeated for not being able to join that mysterious person up on that majestic arch, I was glad we had done the hike. Even from the base, it was stunning.

Skyline Arch from trail head. 

We were exhausted by the time we arrived. We had seen so much already on our route from Denver through to Moab, but the view wasn’t one you could resist exploring. We had already passed up trekking the 3-mile un-shaded hike from the trailhead to Delicate Arch, likely Arches National Park’s most famous formation. The guide map said the trail was complete with steep inclines, bare rock and mid-afternoon heat. We weren’t feeling it. We nonchalantly decided to see it from a different view at an upper lookout spot. (Though internally I wondered if I would greatly regret this decision in retrospect). I can now proudly say, I won’t. The last stop was, for us, the ultimate redemption.

 

The park’s elements tear at your attention. You must decide whether to watch the sharp hairpin turns, marvel the rugged cliffs or take a picture before the next rock outcropping shows up on the horizon.

We’ve decided the best way to explain the red rocked peaks is to tell you to envision the ocean floor and imagine that someone has pulled the drain plug.  It’s simply hardened red clay, but the way the rock has eroded draws your eye as you stand marveling at the peaks surrounding you, a minnow resting on the emptied ocean floor.

 

We’ve headed back to our site outside Moab, ready for rest with a new road to travel tomorrow. 

 

 

Throw Back Thursday: Greece By The Sea

Vathy, Greece

 

With sailors for parents, I have always felt at home in foreign marinas. It didn't matter what country we were in, they all seemed so similar. White bearded men worked at scrubbing the decks on their old teak boats, wind generators ticked with the light breeze, halyards clanged against the masts and wheelbarrows lined the dock ready to carry provisions from the local shop. 

Small family run taverna in Vathy, Greece

 

Menu board outside the taverna. 

When we reached the marina on the Greek island of Kos, it was all the same. Home again. A familiar place in a foreign land. As always, the deck hand greeted us, showing us the features of the particular boat we'd be sailing and telling us all the best spots to visit.  I swear these guys are always the same. Crusty, weathered, free spirit no collars who you couldn't ever imagine really living on land. A cross between Captain Ron and Jack Sparrow.* 

This particular one, who we always refer to now as Crazy Eyes, for some reason I can no longer remember, never appeared without some sort of smoothy beverage in hand.  We can't be sure if there was rum in it, but we certainly all assumed. Crazy Eyes recommended we make the town of Vathy our first port, so we set sail to reach the harbour before sun fall. The sound of mountain goats on the steep rock cliffs greeted us as we docked. It was a small town pier, lined by a few stores and one family run taverna.  Two older Greek men sat at the table near the pier. A younger woman waited on patrons. We choose a spot with a great view of the harbour and the little old men smoking pipes by the shore. We ordered salad and grilled chicken and as we tasted it we were sure our waitress had just freshly handpicked the ingredients and deboned the chicken. It wasn't just the taste that gave it away, but the cleaned animal bones that laid at the bottom of the azure water just outside the taverna.

*Sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow.

 

Back streets of Patmos, Greece. 

 

The town road dead ended at the pier, forcing the town's people, who drove down to see what local excitement the visitors had brought in, to perform three point turns on the narrow strip of road. We sat there watching them as they watched us. A perfect taste of the quiet Greek life. This is how Greece was meant to be explored. 

 
 

Coastal path in Nafplio, Greece. 

 

Rooftop lounging in mainland Nafplio, Greece.

Small greek home on the path through town in Vathy, Greece

Throw Back Thursday: The Best of Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the ideal city for a young traveller to explore. Considered by some as the homeland of the hipster, Iceland's capital city is booming with everything young vagabonds love. Coffee shops, vintage clothing boutiques, quirky art, record stores, live music and vibrant hostels fill the eclectic city. 

It's been a year already since I was enjoying nights out sipping coffee infused beer at  local hostels and meeting new travellers en route to various impending adventures, but it feels like yesterday.

I remember spending the late hours of my last night in Reykjavik at the foot of my hostel bunk bed, peaking out the window at the passersby below.  I watched them all carefully, imagining them reaching their prospective homes until eventually the streets were empty. The noise from live music and loud chatter across the street subsided. I was left alone, just me and the city, and I felt sad. I was leaving in the morning and I knew that meant this was the end of a chapter of my story. I was saying goodbye to the city, a new friend, who I had come to know and to grow fond of.  I’d spent the last week watching people here as they met friends in cafes, drawing near windowsills, reading books, and listening to artists perform their new songs. It reminded me of how Hemingway had described Paris in its prime. A movable feast.

“If you’re lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you forever.”

Sometimes a city moves through life with you, free from the rules of time and space, transformed by the meaning of all that you experienced there. For now this city is to me what Paris was to Hemingway, a place I am sure to return to and a memory I will keep with me. When I do return next I'll be sure to revisit some of these favourite spots. Be sure you do too. 

Café Babalú,skolavoroustigur 22, Reykjavik

"It reminded me of how Hemingway had described Paris in its prime. A movable feast"
 Sipping whipped lattes on our favourite couch at  Café Babalú.

Sipping whipped lattes on our favourite couch at  Café Babalú.

 Mural outside Café Babalú catches the laid back village perk aroma of this quaint coffee house. 

Mural outside Café Babalú catches the laid back village perk aroma of this quaint coffee house. 

 

The Laundromat Cafe Austurstræti 9, Reykjavík. 

The perfect spot to sip on beer and snack your way through doing the laundry. The upper level of this cafe is full of Iceland's famous mystery novels, so grab a book and get comfy after taking your grundgy clothes downstairs and throwing them in the wash for a much needed scrub. A tidy tucked away room on the bottom floor can fill all your laundry needs, so pack light and make it a point to stop here for a relaxing morning of chores.

The Blue Lagoon,  Grindavík, southwestern Iceland.

 The Blue Lagoon is the perfect 40 degrees on a misty May afternoon. Bath your way to bliss, wading through this mystic blue lagoon heated by a  nearby geothermal plant. Indulge yourself with fresh juice from the floating bar. 

The Blue Lagoon is the perfect 40 degrees on a misty May afternoon. Bath your way to bliss, wading through this mystic blue lagoon heated by a  nearby geothermal plant. Indulge yourself with fresh juice from the floating bar. 

 

Take a break from bathing and be sure to check out the traditional Icelandic saunas. 

 
 
 

Kex Hostel, Skúlagata 28, Reykjavík.

 Kex Hostel might be off the beaten path as far as this city centre is concerned, but it is the best spot in the city to meet up with the new friends you've made, order some fried eggplant, and sip on beers while hearing whichever indie band is in that night. 

Kex Hostel might be off the beaten path as far as this city centre is concerned, but it is the best spot in the city to meet up with the new friends you've made, order some fried eggplant, and sip on beers while hearing whichever indie band is in that night. 

Hallgrímskirkja, Skólavörðustígur, Reykjavík.

 

Loft Hostel, Bankastræti 7a, Reykjavík.

 Loft hostel is for the loungers. Hang out with new friends cooking oatmeal in the early mornings, meet over a carafe of coffee on the rooftop terrace or team up in a foosball battle before drinks.  

Loft hostel is for the loungers. Hang out with new friends cooking oatmeal in the early mornings, meet over a carafe of coffee on the rooftop terrace or team up in a foosball battle before drinks.  

 Top off your trip to this magic city by glancing down at the colourful vistas of Reykjavik from the top of this church which resembles the basalt lava flows from Iceland's western landscape. (See first image, take from atop this church.)

Top off your trip to this magic city by glancing down at the colourful vistas of Reykjavik from the top of this church which resembles the basalt lava flows from Iceland's western landscape. (See first image, take from atop this church.)

While the city is well worth your time, the country though small has much to offer. Mystic landscapes are not lacking. Watch the video below to see more of what this magical place has to offer. 

You can read more about our adventures in Iceland by searching 'Iceland' on the PLACES page. 

Road Travelled: Québec City

Québec City, Canada

 
 
He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him.
— Dutch Proverb

On a average day, how many times would you say you walk through a doorway? Once, coming out of your bedroom in the morning. Twice more leaving and coming to the house. Another two or three times entering and leaving the office.

I counted the other day. Fifty-six times. Fifty six times I walked through a door without looking at it. It's a shame really, how often we pass by the extraordinary without marvelling at it. I know, you must be thinking, what is so special about a door?

If however, you've had the chance to wander the back streets of an old town, you'll know exactly what I mean.

Amongst all the charm of the old Canadian town of Quebec City, my favourite thing to marvel at is the doors, painted in bold colours and made out of old wood frames, some dating back as far as 1604.

As you wage your way through the maze of uphill streets, the doors that line the roads call out to the passerby, commanding much deserved attention.

 
 

We spent our afternoons walking the residential streets, watching people come and go from their apartments, stoping briefly, with hands full of groceries or other loot from their morning out, to unlock the door and retreat within. The sound of jazz musicians playing music a few blocks over echoed gently down the street. At each new doorway I stopped to imagine how many people, in how many decades had wandered through these doorways, and if, like me, they stopped to marvel at them. 

Throw Back Thursday: Taste of Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Travel - It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
— Ibn Battuta

There are certain things, that on any average day, can suddenly take me back to an old memory. A unique smell, a particular taste, the sound of an old song. A memory I've stashed away, likely one I've long forgotten, suddenly blows in with the wind. 

This happened to me recently while I fumbled my way through making my family and I dinner. (Read about this on the DISHES page under Thai Curry: Cooking Advice From A Local). I was quite concentrated on the monumental task as I made the dish, but once it was served the memory arrived on cue. 

The plate of red curry that sat on the table in front of me became a role of film and the first bite suddenly made it begin to play. The flavour hit my lips, and the memory jolted me back in time and place. I was there again. Sitting in a white plastic chair sipping Chang beer, with a plate of spicy curry. At the time,  just another meal in a month long adventure in southern Asia, now a cherished memory, playing out all over again in my mind. 


See more images from this recipe on the DISHES page. 

In an effort to bring back more of these fading memories, I'll be gazing back into my past adventures for the next few weeks, offering up some of my stories from traveling over the years. In doing so I hope to inspire us all to be more reminiscent and reflective on the experiences we've all stashed away.

Keep tuned for Throw Back Thursdays on the blog and be sure to jump in on the conversation by commenting and sharing your favourite stories too. 

To begin, a not so distant past. Take a brief look into more of what we saw in Asia. 


Floating Latterns: a Starry Night In Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

It was such an epic night, right off the pages of a fairytale book. We walked the streets near Chiang Mai's Tha Phae Gate watching thousands of people light floating lanterns, sending them up into the dark sky. From a distance it felt like the milky way had come a little closer to us that night but eventually the burning lights fade, the sky is left dark and the only remanence of the lanterns is the burnt paper and metal frames littered on the streets the next morning. 

Voluntourism in Thailand: A Day with Chiang

I took the opportunity last week to head up to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. And, like many others who visit the ancient city, got a chance to spend time at one of the many elephant parks.

I took a trip up to the mountains into a haven built by Lek Chailert - a woman who has dedicated her life to building the Elephant Nature Park.  The grounds there are stunning! The sun bathes the area with light all day, with jungled mountains surrounding the whole park. A perfect backdrop for the elephants roaming around, many of which were rescued from poor working conditions or found with heart breaking injuries. 

One of my favorite, Jokia,  was rescued from a logging camp on the Thai-Burmese boarder. She lost sight in both of her eyes after working conditions caused a tragic accident. Forced to work during her pregnancy , Jokia was out logging when she went into labour. At the time of her baby's birth, Jokia was on a steep mountain slope and her baby fell down the side of the mountain. Mourning the death of her baby Jokia began refusing to work. While her defiance was understandable it put her at the wrath of the camp workers and her mahout. Jokia's mahout used a common technique of poking at or sling shoting the elephants in the eye to get her to work. (Elephants use their eyes for only about 10% of their sight relying on other senses like ground and sound vibrations, as well as feeling from their trunks, so their eyesight is treated with little respect from abusive owners). Jokia is now completely blind but living happily at Lek's Camp. 

Jokia is only one of 40 elephants at the camp, all of which have bitter sweet stories. While many of them have experienced sad and difficult lives, their stories end happily. These elephants and those living at the few other humane camps in Thailand have a unique story. 

The plight of elephants is an important part of tourism in Thailand, for locals, tourists and elephants a like. 

As most of Thailand's elephants originate from logging camps -from which elephant working was banned in the 1980's- many have never truly experienced living in the jungle. That being said, finding solutions to providing quality lives for these beautiful animals requires that these tourist parks operate humanly and respect these animals.

Camps like Lek's teach visitors about elephants and why they are so much like us. Like humans elephants live to an average lifespan of 80 years and experience the same strong sense of family as well as similar mourning emotions surrounding death.  

 

We had time to spend with each elephant helping them with their numerous feed times, daily baths and grooming. It was a day well spent with the majestic. 

 

Let me end this post by saying anyone who travels to Thailand and plans to spend any time with elephants owes it to these animals to take the time to research their living conditions at each camp and choose responsibly what type of treatment you will support. It will make your experience with them all the more enjoyable.  

 

Bitter Sweet Goodbye : The Best Of Bangkok

 

I hate leaving a new city. It doesn't matter how long I've been there, a few days or a few weeks. I always feel a sense of loss, like saying goodbye to an old friend. I so easily fall into daily habits in new places -finding a favourite coffee shop, seeing a local every morning waiting for the city bus, getting use to the city's smells, its sounds. It all so easily becomes every day that leaving all of a sudden seems more foreign than staying. 

And so as I sit waiting to board ThaiAirways flight 106 to Chiang Mai I've been thinking about all the parts of Bangkok that I'm going to miss after my time here, 

-- First and foremost is, traveling with the locals. There is something so exciting about feeling like I can do things like them . Cramming into the express boat at rush hour pressed against the rail being splashed with dirty water from the Chao Phraya or the mad scramble to fit into the train car on the BTS to Siam station, while so unpleasant in the moment, is a routine I am surprisingly sad to part from. Sure a taxi up town is only 45 baht (about $1.35 CAN), but traveling with the locals is so much more fun.

-- You must also, at least once, travel by Tuk Tuk. While mostly a means of transport for tourists, it was loads of fun. They are cute, colorful pocket size motor bike taxis. I had to continually remember to not let the size fool me, you can fit more people in them than you'd imagine. 

-- Hunting for bargains, though not hard to find, is something that I imagine I will be able to do throughout all of Thailand. But there is a thrill in walking around a big city, having just left a mall so lavish that it has a white glove-wearing doorman and then walking a block down the street and  finding a vendor selling goods for the price of pennies by our standards. Bangkok's Chatuchuk weekend market was my favourite place for bargain shopping. The market covers 27 acres housing over 8000 stalls. So feel free to spend a whole day lost in its alleyways of stores, just be ready for some mild heat stroke (stay hydrated!). 

-- Counting the number of 7-11 on any given street became such a thrill. Trust me, if you saw how many there were you would understand my excitement. I know from now on, when I see a 7-11 at home I will smile and think of this city.

-- I will so badly miss the $10 half hour head massage, double shampoo and silky blow dry. Or the hour long foot massages for a similar $10 ticket price. Let me tell all my lady readers, this is the place to come to be pampered. There is nothing quite like it. 


-- And the cherry on my time spent in Bangkok, tea at the Mandarin Oriental. The hotel was originally built in 1887 by a danish business man who opened the luxury hotel for fellow travelers and business men visiting Siam. The hotel gained a prominent reputation for its lavishness due to its second story and carpeted floors - features which at the time had only been seen in the royal palaces in Siam- . The hotel has kept its reputation as one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. Its rooms have housed their fair share of famous guests including Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana. Most noteworthy for me however is the hotels history in the lives of some of my favourite authors. The hotels only remaining original building is the author's wing, which served as a residence for writers including James Michener, John le Carre and a personal favourite, Harold Stevens, who I was lucky enough to spend some time with during my stay in the city. The tea was delicious and the atmosphere elegant and refreshing. A stroll through this historic hotel is a must during any visit to Bangkok.

Although I am sad to leave this lively and eclectic city, I am reminded that goodbyes are only easy if you never said hello in the first place, and are then a must for any traveller intent on seeing a new part of the world. But to make it easier, for now I will only say 'see you later Bangkok'.

A domani. 


We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we may go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.
— Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

 

Road Travelled: Bangkok, Thailand

 
 

Before I left, others that had travelled here before told me that two days in Bangkok was more than enough. Unfortunate news for me, considering I had planned to spend two weeks in the city.

Let me set the record straight. Two days in this bustling city would pass in the blink of an eye. There is always something interesting happing, something surprising or odd to see. With an adventurous spirit and wandering feet the city offers up so many hidden gems.

After leaving our apartment every morning, set on exploring some temple or palace, I am always happily interrupted by something intriguing happening down some street. Before I know it I’m deep into some back allies exploring all sorts of hidden paths.

From all that I saw, and everywhere I wandered, I learned that time cannot be spent. It can only be squandered.
— Roman Payne

The street food is so diverse - and sometimes so smelly- but find the right stall and your taste buds will be salivating. The mango sticky rice is delish! And the pineapple is heavenly. I’ve resolved to never pass up a street snack that looks yummy….When in Bangkok right?

We spent the day yesterday wandering through a few of Bangkok’s temples. From afar I thought the wats looked like they were painted in gold.


But a few steps closer and I realized the detail put into their construction. The colors are made up of small glass mosaic tiles, no bigger than an inch wide.

image.jpg

The colors here are so vivid. From the red and blue dragons decorating the outsides of temples to the majestic orange robes of monks shuffling from one prayer room to the next. It is a sensory overload.

We climbed to the top of Wat Arun this afternoon. What a rush. The steps are precariously steep, the kind where you know better than to look down as you’re climbing. But the view from the top makes it worthwhile, even for those with a fear of heights.

The temple, which sits off the Chao Phraya River, dates back to the golden era of Ayutthaya. It was named the Temple of The Dawn after a royal fleet of King Taksin arrived at the temple precisely at dawn to pay homage to the Emerald Buddha that was once housed there.  It’s one of my favourite places I’ve seen so far. Peaceful, eclectic, colorful.

Only one of many amazing cites in the city…. Out to see as much more as I can.

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees only what he has come to see.
— G.K. Chesterton