Do you have a favorite wine? Mine is Petite Petit by @michaeldavidsfreakshow Like most of their wine, it's a memorable bottle: two elephants sit drinking wine in front of a circus tent. 🐘🍷 🎪 A few days before we visited California in May I found out that Lodi, where the Michael David Winery is, was a mere 45 minutes from my parents' house. So, we went! The winery has tasting rooms and a small restaurant. The grounds out back contain beautiful flowers, trees and water features with places to sit and relax. Surrounding this area is where the rows of olive trees and grapes are. If you are ever in the @visitlodi area, it is worth a stop. The wine is great, the food is good and the tastings are only $10 - and you get to keep the glass!
Traditional Saramakan House in Asau Basu (sp?) village near Djumu. The Saramakans are one confederation of peoples who make up the Maroons of Suriname. The Maroons are descended from enslaved peoples in the 17th and early 18th centuries who fled for their freedom, and blended bloodlines and cultural ties with local Amerindians. Some villages speak a dialect of Spanish, some English, depending who ran (not owned) the plantation from which their ancestors escaped. The Saramakans specifically live on the Suriname River, as opposed to other rivers in the country.
Houses are made of wood, with either thatched or tin roofing. Some have decorative designs on the inlay of the wood as above.
Motor Boats lined up in Adjoni, the cast off point for locals and tourists alike down the Suriname River into the Amazon. The river is sparsely dotted with medical centers, Eco Lodges, and Saramakan Maroon villages. The Maroons are descendents of enslaved Dutch plantation workers who fled starting in the late 1600s. They often blended with local Amerindians peoples, forming new creole identities. In 1760 they signed a peace treaty with the Dutch for control of the lands along Surinamese rivers, along which they continue to live today. Some villages are more modern, but most are very traditional and simple. The Saramakans are only one multiple groups of Maroons in the country.
If you go to Pristina on a Monday, prepare to meet a ghost town. The National Library will be closed, though nothing can stop that funky exterior from shining. The Ethnographic Museum, where a guide takes you through the Ottoman history of the area, will invite you to return on Tuesday at 9am.
If you go to Pristina on a Monday, The Kosovo Museum might trick you with its inviting online hours, but that, too, will be shuttered, its ancient artifacts just out of reach behind its metal gates.
If you go to Pristina on a Monday, cafe-lined Nene Teresa Boulevard will be quietly baking in the afternoon sun.
But, if you are lucky, you might wander in to Soma Book Station, a hipster tourist enclave any day of the week.
Here, you can order frothy cafe frappes and play “American or not” as you eavesdrop on other tourists. You can sit under twinkle lights, starting up at shelves of books, from the Bhagavad Gita to Stephen Hawking. You can read about the history of Yugoslavia, or select a novel at random, which you dive so deeply into that you completely ignore your table mate who is trying to relay interesting facts about Yugoslavia to you.
It may not be the day you had planned, and maybe you’ll walk away with a bit less of a history lesson than you had anticipated, but it will be a pretty great Monday.
Uluru, Kata Tjuta & The NT
Finally seeing Uluru/Kata Tjuta and my last state in Aus (8/8)! There is so much more than red dirt and vast desert here. Culture, wildlife, and history run deep.
Stay tuned 🤙🏼
3 8218 August, 2019
Siena’s Palio race. A tradition that started in 1656 and has been run virtually every year since.
10 of Siena’s 17 Contradas, or essentially neighborhoods, compete twice a year and I just happened to be planning on being in Siena at this time.
Each Contrada has their own seal, colors, churches, songs communities etc. They are very competitive and proud to be a part of their Contrada and take the Palio race very serious! Jockeys are hired and brought in to take 3 laps around Il Campo, Siena’s main square which twice a year is covered with sand and turned into the horse track. The jockeys ride bare back, with no blinders for the horses, sticking to tadition. And if a jockey falls off, the horse can still win. The last video is of the race, excuse the poor filming I was actually watching just hoping I’d catch the race 🤣) if you watch 2 jockeys fall, one gets trampled twice and then dropped or maybe thrown into the crowd by the medics as they get him off before the horses lap back around). Surprisingly that’s not me screaming haha.
In fact one of those horses won it for their Contrada who erupted in shouts and tears of emotion as they celebrated their victory; Winning the Palio flag and bragging rights until next years Palio!
The rest of the pics and video are from the parade Before the race when the Contradas visit important locations including a benediction by the Contradas priest where the horse and jockey are blessed. “Go and return victorious!” But in Italian of course.
What an exciting, interesting, and simultaneously frustrating at times, experience. (The old lady in me doesn’t love crowds, being pushed and waiting 4 hours for a 90 second race🤷🏼♀️😂) but it was all worth it in the end to experience this medieval tradition!!! PS. I’m about to blow up my insta story feed with videos and pics from the day before as well as race day) #sorrynotsorry#sienaspalio#horserace#italy#tradition#lovetheexperianceHatetheceowds 😂💜🇮🇹🐎 #siena
Kosovo was the biggest question mark in our Balkans itinerary. The second-newest country in the world, Kosovo only came out of its messy war in 1999, officially a country in 2008 (though not if you ask Serbia). Between major towns, it was, as you might expect, dry, dusty, and barren - used car shops, half finished buildings, a rundown warehouse proudly labeled "Hangover Club." But most of the towns we visited - Gjakova, Prizren, Pristina - held little trace of their relatively recent status as a war zone. They felt distinctly European. We sat at packed outdoor cafes blaring pop music, soaking in the summer vibes over espresso.
Peje was a bit of an outlier. It wasn't that "new Europe" wasn't there, you just had to look a bit harder. We stayed at the Semitronix Hotel, housed in the 9th floor of a 90s era shopping mall. We rode up the sluggish glass elevator, eyes on the ground floor barber shop packed with young guys waiting for their Saturday night buzz. Plugged noses through the smoke-filled restaurant, our room at the back was another story. We had a nook with a big bay window affording excellent views of the orange rooftops below.
In Prizren, we braved the August heat to walk up to the town fortress. We came mostly for the view, but were pleasantly surprised to discover a recently restored and a one-week-old museum displaying an impressive collection of local artifacts dating back to the Neolithic Age.
As tourists, we navigated the complexities of a region where borders do not match ethnic and religious divisions and historical wounds run deep. We had read that Kosovo, like Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia, speaks a relativ of Serbian. At our first cafe, Ken said "hvala" as the waiter brought his drink, showing off our extensive knowledge of Serbian. No acknowledgement. We noted that the menu seemed to be in Albanian. When it came time to leave, because we are thank-you-literate in Albanian as well, we tried again - "falemindehrit." The waiter beamed and nodded his approval. Luckily, in Albanian, they have adopted the ubiquitous "ciao" as a common greeting, so we were able to say goodbye as well.
Neveh Shalom Synagogue. This beautiful colonial building (circa 1835) replaced an older small synagogue dating to the early founding of the Dutch colony in Suriname. It is one of only two left, and only has about 100 members, and no Rabbi since they early 80s. For big holidays, such as You Kippur, they invite another Rabbi from the Caribbean to help them celebrate. The floor inside is covered in sand. This is similar to a few other Caribbean synagogues, such as in Jamaica. The sand is to remind the congregation of Moses and the Peoples' journey in Exodus, through the sands of the Sinai back to the Promised Land. A Holocaust memorial was recently added with names of Surinamese family members who perished.
The only other synagogue in the city (and maybe the country?) no longer operates. But apparently they rent the space out as a Cyber Cafe. Additionally, the ruins of a very early Portuguese synagogue also can be visited, near the ocean.
2 3215 August, 2019
I keep returning to Mexico, even if it’s only for the few hours I can spare over a weekend, because I don’t want to forget about the year I lived in that marvelous country. I moved back to California just over a year ago, and in some ways my time in Mexico already feels like the distant past. I feel disconnected. I don’t live there, anymore. Mexico isn’t my home. I no longer feel like I belong. I see the country as an outsider, once again. I am not a foreign resident, but a tourist. I am so afraid that since I don’t use Spanish every day, I will forget the language again, like I did once before, and that will compound my sense of disconnect.
I hate these feelings. I want to do everything I can to prevent these feelings from growing more prominent. And so I go back. At every opportunity.
The first time I flew back, in March, I was shocked at how much of an outsider I felt. That’s when I first realized that while I had made Mexico my home in 2017, it wasn’t my home anymore. I walked around Condesa, watching people go about their upper middle class daily lives, in the neighborhood they lived in. I was jealous, because I didn’t also live there. It was a difficult series of emotions to grapple with. Part of me thought, “I could simply not get on the plane back to California. I could stay here. I could figure out how to get a longer term visa. I could make Mexico my home, again.” But practically, I couldn’t. I have a blooming career, I have stifling debt, I have responsibilities. And so after 36 short hours, I boarded the return flight, and was in the office bright and early Monday morning, back at work. I felt confused, and conflicted.
[Part 1 of 2. Click into comments to continue reading my novel.]
Start with a land-locked country you know little about, except that there was a war there in the 90s.
Mix in bustling European plazas with excellent espresso, and several well-run and restored historic sites to visit.
Add an unexpectedly beautiful hike, leaving the heat of the city below for a well marked trail through the forest to a picturesque lake.
For a little extra pizazz, add 100 wedding processions, concentrated on Saturdays but visible throughout the week. These should be 10-20 cars long, hazard lights flashing, crepe paper fluttering in the breeze.
Sprinkle on some courteous drivers who stop for you, parking garage security guards who back you in then walk you to your hotel, endless friendly and helpful locals.
Best served hot.
1 3314 August, 2019
Urban farming on the hotel roof! 🍃😃👏🏻
1 1914 August, 2019
On our rest day in Theth, we spent the morning at the Blue Eye. A brilliantly green, sparkling and inviting pool of water cleverly masks the icy bath that awaits any swimmer brave enough to enter. So we had to try it. Twice.
Later, after waiting out the afternoon heat from our breezy guesthouse porch, we took an evening walk up to the local waterfall. Along the return path, I spotted a hat - an adult's black baseball cap with a sports logo - lonely and abandoned on a stump overlooking the river. I wondered about its owner. Did they stop to take in the view, absentmindedly removing their hat as the sun went down over the river? Maybe they chose that as their picnic spot, spent the afternoon with friends, and the hat was forgotten in the excited shuffle of packing up. Did they finish the same hike we had just done? Enjoy the waterfall spray as much as I did?
I've lost three hats on our travels. Two of them were uneventful - first a tan, billed sun hat, later (though not too much later), its black replacement, hastily purchased in the blazing sub of the Atacama and promptly left behind in the unpacking-repacking frenzy somewhere along the way.
But the third one, a purple wool cap that I had picked up on an unexpectedly cold trip to Banff the summer before, had a memorable demise. Backpacking over the Cerro Castillo mountain pass in Patagonia, the wind was laughing at us at what must have been 100 miles per hour - at least that's how I remember it. In a movie scene sort of moment, I struggled up the steep face of loose rocks, grunting as I went. First, my walking stick snapped in half. I faltered, then continued, timing my movement between gusts, occasionally falling to my knees. The next gust whipped that hat right off my head and carried it far away down the mountain before I ever had time to react.
I've often wondered where that cap eventually landed. I hope it is near a trail somewhere, so that hikers walk by each day and wonder about its story.
Yesterday I went out to the island of Capri and it has been my favorite part so far! Rome, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast have all been lovely, but I was looking for a break from the crowds and big cities and was in need of some ME time. And while The two main cities, Capri and Anacapri, are very crowded with tourists, Italians and foreigners alike, I found myself in my favorite place, alone in nature, and quite unexpectedly.
I started by walking across the island instead of bussing. I soon found out this involved nearly 1000 steps with incredible views. I definitely earned my gelato! I only ran into a few locals along the way, all at the bottom of the steps. And then all of sudden I’m at the top, on Anacapri’s main shopping strip. -
It was still a bit early, so it was still quite calm and not yet crowded, as I made my way, taking in the quaint pedestrian streets lined with shopps and cafes to my main attraction, the view from Monte Salaro.
I knew about the Trail to and from Monte Salaro, which is also reached by chairlift which I did take up, I earned the break and experience. 😅 I also knew about another trail that led to an old church and more views. But along the way, I discovered several smaller trails, each leading closer to the cliff edge with incredible views of the island and the cities below. Once off the main trail I did not run into a single person and I found myself lost in The beauty, and the heat! What I thought would be a 40 minute trek turned into several hours of exploring and it was exactly what I needed! -
Too soon, I reconnected with the main trail and headed into what had become the busy tourist streets you would expect, particularly down in Capri where the magic was completely lost. So I found a spot on the crowded beach and waited for my ferry back to Sorrento. -
I love the history, art, and culture found in cities. But for me, the best part of traveling is in the mountains. (Well in this case more a hill 😉) #myhappyplace#memyselfandmytravels#thelonexplorer
Btw, the last pic is from the viewpoint and you might be able to see how the iconic Faraglioni Rocks get just a bit closer #italy#capri#isoladicapri#capriisland
Thinking back to cooler days when we wandered through Rancho San Rafael Regional Park😎 The park is on the northwest side of Reno very close to the University of Nevada Reno campus. 🐺 It's on a former ranch with lots of trails, flowers, trees and activities. We saw our fair share of wild birds in addition to the turkeys housed there. You can picnic beside the water and even explore a dinosaur playground. 🦕
Spotted on the trail:
A family vacation. The youngest boy passes first, bag free, practically skipping. Mom comes next, with a small drawstring pouch, enough to hold her water maybe. Another son. Last is teenage daughter, earbuds are her only accessory.
A few moments later, Dad brings up the rear, huffing and sweating up the hill, a 60 liter pack stuffed with overnight gear for a family of five.
Successfully over the mountain into Theth, the next day, the family walks by again, headed out for a day hike I presume. Dad has downsized to a daypack. His four bare backed ducklings follow close behind.
Our brief glimpse of Albania has been, in a word, breathtaking. We spent three days in the mountains sometimes referred to as the Albanian Alps, but I prefer their local name, Prokletije: The Accursed Mountains. It has a pleasantly menacing ring to it, no?
We joined a popular foot traffic route between the mountain towns of Valbone and Theth - about 9 miles, straight up and then straight back down. The journey into the mountains to complete this route is only for the truly committed, though very much worth the time. To start our journey, we drove two hours from Shkoder t the Komani Lake ferry. Though called a lake, it's something much more like a series of fjords stretching for several miles. For two hours, we floated slowly through rocky canyons on emerald green water. The journey took close to 3 hours, followed by another hour of driving to arrive to Valbone, the start of our hike the following day.
After pulling off the ferry in Fierze, we stopped in the nearby town of Bajram Curri for lunch. There were plenty of cafes marked on our map, and we sat down at a nice-looking one with outdoor tables. Glancing around, every table seemed to be enjoying an ice cream. Perfectly round scoops served in sundae glasses, dripping with fluorescent berry or chocolate sauce. "No food" the waiter said. So we tried another cafe- same thing. And again and again as we walked down the road. The whole town seemed to be subsisting on ice cream and beer, maybe the occasional espresso.
We've had plenty of those funny cultural moments on our journeys, and typically we can adjust to the local custom rather quickly (though I will never get behind the UK's upside-down fork, which completely takes away the dual prod-and-scoop mechanism that is the beauty of the fork). But in this case, we just couldn't figure it out. Were we too late for lunch? Too early? Was it National Ice Cream Day? It was impossible to tell. We finally found one cafe that would serve us a meal. No menu, the waiter just listed a few items - soup, bread, salad - we nodded, and lunch was served.
Of course, I promptly got food poisoning that lasted for the next three days. I guess we should have stuck to ice cream.