Our two-week holiday in Mexico at the beginning of November didn’t turn out quite like we planned. When people ask about our time south of the border, inevitably the focus shifts to Marcus’ windsurfing accident, booking an early flight home, and the tale of a two-week holiday cut in half.
But I choose to remember the sunrises.
I am an early riser. I enjoy waking up with the maximum amount of the day stretched out before me. However, that doesn’t mean I am a morning person. I get up early so that I can take my time preparing for the day, to be quiet before facing the noise of the world. Rushing outside a few minutes after opening my eyes is not part of that routine.
The sunrises in Baja Sur changed that, at least for a week. I would wake and see a golden glow leaking through the edges of the curtains that I couldn’t simply ignore. When I pulled back the curtain, I was met with the most glorious sunrise. I would nudge Marcus and then bolt out the door, camera in hand. Wild-eyed and half-dressed, completely inappropriate to the world outside, but I didn’t care.
We had seven days to catch the sunrise. Some were more breathtaking than others. And someday, we’ll get more when we return to climb the Sierra de la Laguna and witness the sunrise from the top of a mountain.
At the end of May, Marcus and I drove to Central Oregon to spend my birthday weekend at The Lodge at Suttle Lake. The resort has a beautiful main lodge and boathouse restaurant, with private cabins scattered around the premises. We rented a small cabin a short walk from the lake and dined the first evening at the restaurant. Due to a mixup, our reservation was lost, so the manager opened the second floor and gave us a private meal with a view over the lake. The ambiance was amazing, complemented by delicious food and a bottle of wine. After our meal, we headed back to sit around the fire and roast birthday s’mores.
The next day, my parents joined us for a hike around the lake, although the water was too cold for a swim. In the evening, we cooked a meal of chili, cheese sandwiches, and roasted kale over the fire. With s’mores for dessert, of course. On Sunday, we headed to the nearby town of Sisters, an Old West style town with a mountain range for a backdrop. We visited a few antique shops, enjoyed lunch on a sunny terrace, and grabbed coffee at the legendary Sisters Coffee Company. And then, we headed over the mountain and back to Portland.
It’s no secret that I love to travel. I can’t imagine a life that didn’t involve packing a suitcase every few months at least. Marcus and I even have promised ourselves to visit at least one new country each year. In 2012, I traveled to ten countries outside the Netherlands. Some of these trips took me back to familiar territory, others took me to unexplored areas of countries I’d visited before.
The two new countries this year were Wales and Morocco. Wales was my favorite. The sheep dotting the rolling hills, the climb up Mount Snowdon, the shepherd’s hut we stayed in, and eating one of my favorite meals of the year. Morocco, visited on a work trip, was the most novel and much too short. And our trip to Italy, for our honeymoon, was undoubtedly the most memorable.
Read more about: Florida, Belgium (Ghent, Brugge), Italy (Rome and the Amalfi Coast), Germany (Stuttgart and the East for summer and Christmas), France (Paris, Versailles, and Lille), Spain, Canada, Oregon (summer and fall), England (Bath, The Cotswolds, The Lake District, Gloucestershire), Wales, and Morocco.
In one week, Marcus and I will fly to Berlin to spend Christmas with his family in the East. The last time we had a German Christmas was in 2009, a visit that also took us to the Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) in Dresden. It’s a magical city, but even more so with a mug of Glühwein in hand and sparkling lights all around. Besides visiting Dresden, we’re looking forward to visiting family, walking through the snowy woods, and eating at our favorite restaurants in Berlin. I can’t wait to step on the plane and head East for Christmas!
What are your plans for the holiday?
Oregon is beautiful in all seasons, but autumn just might be my favorite. After my trip to Casablanca, I returned to Amsterdam for a few days before departing for Portland. The occasion was my father’s 60th birthday, which we celebrated with abandon. My father declared his birthday a season and has been celebrating the past several months with fishing trips to Bend and explorations of hidden lakes. We take birthdays seriously in my family.
The actual celebration of his birthday lasted about three days, starting with a large party on Saturday, complete with live music and an array of baked goods by yours truly. On Sunday, my parents, Marcus, and I went on a long walk through the orange-leaved trees in surprisingly warm weather. We wore summer clothing and sat outside, drinking lemonade and eating watermelon. On Monday – my dad’s actual birthday – we turned in our ballots, went book shopping, and gathered around the table for a family dinner. I’m thankful for such a wonderful family, a dad who has humor and wisdom, and especially for the love of nature he has inspired in each of us, which comes in especially useful each time I return home to Oregon.
Above, a few images from Instagram (clockwise): sunset over the Willamette River taken while hanging out with my two sweet nieces; the sun shining on the leaves of a maple tree in my parent’s garden; the Stayton-Jordan covered bridge; and the view from the Wildwood trail at Hoyt Arboretum.
It’s a cold Sunday in Amsterdam. I’m bundled in a sweater and sipping hot tea, trying to remember the warmth of the sun that I enjoyed last week during a work trip to Morocco. I spent most of my time in Casablanca, but took a train to Rabat for a meeting on Tuesday. Both cities were amazing. Bright colors, thick air, and a bustle of activity as people prepared for Eid al-Alha (the Feast of the Sacrifice).
My best part of the trip was the food. Each meal began with an array of dips and bread as an appetizer, which ensured there was never much room for a main dish. The craziest part was certainly the taxi rides, careening through the streets with people, cars, and horse-pulled carts coming from every direction and a driver screaming out the window. It was just a first glimpse of the country and I hope to someday return and visit the smaller cities and the countryside. Working with great people and getting local tips was a good start though.
And a few shots from Instagram. Clockwise from the top left: An Arabic stop sign in Casablanca, a morning view of Casablanca, a colorful lantern at Riad Zitoune, and a doorway to the medina in Rabat.
One last post about our road trip through the UK to highlight the Prior Park Landscape Garden and the beautiful Palladian Bridge. Built in the 18th century, the garden is located south of Bath. It was designed by Alexander Pope and Capability Brown (great name!) with funding from Ralph Allen. Arriving when the garden opened for the day, Marcus and I had the place to ourselves. The entrance is at the top of hill and the path leads to a clearing with a view over the garden and Bath in the distance. A winding path took us through the foliage, past a herd of grazing cows, until we reached the bottom of the hill and the bridge.
We returned to the Cotswolds for the remainder of our trip for a second round of rolling hills and sunny weather. Our base was a bed and breakfast in Gloucester, a town with fantastic pubs, easy access to nature, and an impressive cathedral.
The highlight of the Gloucestershire region was the Forest of Dean, an ancient woodland said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien while writing Lord of the Rings. Wandering among the trees, you could almost sense the motivation for the Ents. We made our way to Woorgreens Lake, but had to take a detour when we came across a wild boar and her piglets scavenging for food.
The next day, Marcus and I visited several nearby towns, such as Cheltenham and Painswick, centerpieces of the Cotswolds charm. In the morning, we slowly made our way to Bath to return the rental car and then took the train to London for the last night. For as much as we saw, there is still much more to explore.
Our fantastic UK road trip has been over for about a month now. I spend a lot of time planning for each holiday and when it’s over, I can’t help but start planning for the next. What are you upcoming travel plans?
The Lake District. The land of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter greeted us with a downpour as we headed to the northernmost point of our trip. Marcus and I stayed in the bustling town of Keswick, which sits on the shores of Derwentwater Lake. When the sun came out on our second day, we made our way around the lake and picnicked on the shore with a flock of ducks. The unpredictable weather prevented us from hiking, but we did get the chance to visit the prehistoric Castlerigg stone circle.
During our last night in Keswick, the rain came in torrents. We were lucky to have such good weather for most of the trip, but when we woke in the morning, we quickly packed the car, grabbed coffee to go, and headed back south for a second round of the Cotswolds’ sunshine.
During our visit to North Wales, we climbed Mount Snowdon, the highest point in the British Isles outside Scotland at 1,085 meters (3,560 feet). My hiking boots were quite dusty from years of living in the Netherlands, one of the world’s flattest countries, but we planned to take one of the easier trails past the lakes and waterfalls.
Due to a series of circumstances, we ended up taking the Watkins trail, deemed the most difficult route to the summit. It was very difficult. The first part of the trail had a moderate incline and an abundance of beauty. Most of the photos are from the first 1.5 hours of the hike. About the point where I took the photo of the cairn, the incline steepened and clouds rolled in. I put away the camera and we focused on the summit. There were moments I felt daunted, when the wind whipped and the fog was so dense that you could only see several meters ahead. Not to mention the 45 degree incline. Reaching the summit made it all worth it though and we basked in the glory before beginning the descent.
The sunny weather stayed with us as we drove to North Wales on a narrow road, barricaded on each side by stone walls. I distracted myself from the terrifying proximity of oncoming vehicles by taking in the dramatic landscape and countless sheep grazing on the hillsides. We stopped for afternoon tea at Pont Yr Afon Gam Cafe, surrounded only by sheep, a stone bridge, and a swift-moving creek (images 2 and 9).
Our destination was the town Betws-y-Coed, nestled in the foothills of Mount Snowdon. We stayed in a Shepherd’s Hut, again right in the middle of nature, with an ideal view for watching the sunsets. The first morning, we discovered Cwmni Cacen Gri (The Welshcake Company) and their delicious assortment of griddled Welshcakes. Another culinary highlight was The Silver Fountain, where I ate my favorite meal of the trip, Welsh style wild rice with roasted tomatoes. Wales was amazing. One of the many reasons I love to travel is the opportunity to go to new places and discover new things. To put myself in unfamiliar territory in the chance that I might discover something new about the world and myself. It’s the best of places that you long for when you leave and dream about returning to someday very soon.
After leaving Bath, we headed one hour north to The Cotswolds, an area filled with rolling hills, stone cottages, and green meadows. We rented a yurt in a field owned by an organic farm to be in the midst of nature. Our days began with the sight of cows grazing on the fog-covered hills and ended around a campfire with the last bits of sunlight streaming through the trees.
We hiked through fields, spotted a fox, climbed over stone walls, cooked dinner on the campfire, and enjoyed the pubs and farmers’ market in Cirencester. And we discovered the Budding Pale Ale made by the organic Stroud Brewery, one of the best drinks we’ve come across yet.
Our road trip started in Bath primarily because we didn’t want to pick up the car in London and have Marcus learn how to drive on the other side of the road in city traffic. Still, I was excited to see the place Jane Austen once lived in and a town so teeming with history that the entire city is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
When we arrived in Bath, it was sunny and warm. A nice welcome to England and the forecast for almost the entire trip! We dropped off our luggage and promptly went out in search of a pint. After getting in a properly relaxed mood, we headed towards the circular row of houses known as The Circus (images 2, 6, 7). It was beautiful and the sun shone warmly on the houses. Soon after, we found a fantastic vegetarian pub and then took a meandering walk back to our hotel among the old buildings.
The next day was dedicated to seeing The Royal Crescent (image 1), visiting the Jane Austen Centre, and picking up the rental car, which resulted in a long walk along a quiet canal. We left Bath and traveled 1200 miles (about 2000 kilometers) around England and Wales over the next ten days. At the end of our trip, we returned to Bath for the afternoon and had the chance to visit Prior Park (post to follow) and the Pulteney Bridge (images 3, 4).
The last weeks have taken me across England and Wales, on a road trip dedicated to spending as much time in nature as possible. (And admiring the ease with which Marcus could drive on the left side of the road.) I’m still awash in the experience of waking to foggy hillsides and hiking across the Welsh countryside. More about the when, where, and how to come in the next days. For now, a few images from my Instagram feed.
The next adventure is almost here! Soon, Marcus and I will head on a journey through England and Wales. We’ll go by train from Amsterdam, through the Channel Tunnel, to begin our travels in Bath. We’ve both been to London numerous times and want to get to know the countryside. Since we’ll be making our trip around by car, we’ll have the freedom to explore at our leisure.
If you have any tips or suggestions for England and Wales, I’d love to hear them!
Photo of the Cotswolds by mazzle
At the end of July, I headed to Ottawa for a work trip, my first time in the Canadian capital. The work part of the trip went smoothly and the after-hours part allowed for a peek at the city. A few things I enjoyed about Ottawa:
1. The Scone Witch. I ate breakfast twice at this small café tucked among the government buildings and skyscrapers of downtown Ottawa. Delicious, organic homemade scones served with a dollop of cream. They even had a Portland love sticker. Sold.
2. The weather. When I left Amsterdam, it was 17°C/62°F and rainy. Ottawa, on the other hand, was gloriously warm with a consistently blue sky.
3. The swimming pool in my hotel. Swimming laps under a glass ceiling is a perfect conclusion to a long day.
4. The Rideau Canal. I probably have a thing for canals, living in Amsterdam, but I loved the combination of a festival celebrating the Unesco heritage site, the sun, and the sound of water.
A posting from Portland where it is just like summer should be.
After our holiday in east Germany, we returned to Amsterdam on a Sunday afternoon and I promptly left for Barcelona on a work trip the next morning. It was a bit of a whirlwind and I was sick, but the sun is therapeutic, isn’t it? A few hours before my return flight, I lounged by the pool, working and eating fresh watermelon. But the best part was probably my morning walk on the beach.
I stayed at Vincci Bit, which was close to the neighborhood I needed to work in and a convenient ten-minute walk from the beach. On my second day there, I woke early and headed out to feel the sand between my toes. Just me, a few elderly people, and several dedicated surfers populated the beach. A quiet walk to the sound of lapping waves.
West Coast, here I come! After a few days working in Ottawa, Canada, I will land in Portland tomorrow night. I am so excited for a week of Oregon sunshine and soaking up the love of my family. Nothing is as sweet as going home, especially when it happens to be such a beautiful part of the world.
Illustration by Brent Couchman
Sarah Natsumi is one of those people that oozes creative talent, whether she is taking photographs, making a film, designing a website, or applying a paintbrush to canvas. Her Etsy shop has a beautiful collection of vintage inspired travel photography, from the beaches of Spain and the parks of Amsterdam, to the mountains of Japan and the deserts of Texas. She also has a collection of European city postcards that capture scenes from some of my favorite cities.
I met Sarah in Amsterdam in 2007. She needed a bike, I had an extra one for sale, and a friendship was born. Five years later, she recently returned to her home in Austin, Texas and this city just won’t be the same without her. For now, I have her beautiful Romantic Amsterdam photo collection (below) to remember her by and now a great reason to visit Texas someday.
The eleven photographers that make up Moment Agency spend much of their time capturing stories around the world. This summer, they are returning to their homes in Scandinavia on a road trip that will take them from the north of Norway, across Sweden, to the southern tip of Denmark. Working from their own perspectives, the work will collectively become a document of Scandinavian identity today. They’re raising money for Scandinavian Moments on Emphasis.