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Nova Scotia, Loving New Scotland

Tide coming inWelcome to the highest ocean tides in the world. Folks around Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia adapt to tides from 47 to 54 feet.

IMG_2389We start to set up camp in Advocate Harbour, when a woman calls us over to her car, which contains seven small yapping terriers. “I know a campsite with much better ambiance,” she says. “Get your money back and follow me. It’s a bit hard to find. I’m Glenda. I’ve had three concussions.”Eagles on Bay of FundyOkay, how can we refuse that offer? Fifteen minutes later we set up camp on the edge of the Bay of Fundy at low tide, and watch eagles feast on easy prey. Yes, this former shipyard turned campground turns out to be a gem. Thank you, Glenda!Camping on Bay of FundyIn the morning as we watch the tide return, two women walk past our campsite carrying bags full of what we surmise to be clams. “Oh no,” Jan says. “This is dulse.” She grabs a handful and shows us. “Seaweed?” I ask. “Yes. We come here every year during a new moon to collect enough to last all year.” She explains that you dry it out in the sun until it gets crispy. “I like to leave the sea salt on it, but some people wash it first. It’s good for the blood.”Drying DulseDulse contains a bunch of minerals like potassium and iron. Supposed to improve vision, immunity, bones, thyroid, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the brain. We now carry a bag of it in the truck and chew some every day. Thank you, Jan. We need all the brain help possible!Cape dOr LighthouseAfter an outing to explore the Cape d’Or Lighthouse, we return to camp and watch the tide surround us. Soon we sleep to the sound of waves lapping within a few feet of our truck.Cape Chignecto 2Let’s hike part of the Coastal Trail in Cape Chignecto, an isolated wilderness area. Filled with many sea cliff views, this heart-pumper provides a sweaty workout.Three sistersDuring the drive back to camp, we must wait in the truck for the road to clear from high tide. Good opportunity for a cold one. high tideWe have lots of fun driving around Nova Scotia, stopping in cool fishing villages for tastes of local craft beers and seafood delights.LunenburgMarilynn finally finds some oysters to her liking, and I find scallops. As you can tell, folks are beyond friendly. Nova Scotia scallopsAfter a week of camping, the rains decide to pour, presenting perfect timing for some luxury. We splurge on a harbor view room at the Cambridge Suites in Halifax. The hotel feels so good that I don’t leave it, not for one step, except from the parking lot. Marilynn walks around town in the rain, while I write in the luxurious room.

20170824_064542We happen to hit the hotel on Wednesday, when they have free drinks and hors d’oeuvres for an hour in the evening. Of course, we make friends with the free drink guy. Follow up in the morning with free breakfast, a gym workout complete with sauna and jacuzzi, and we’re strong, clean, ready for more camping and hiking.WhycocomaughDriving the Cabot trail offers diverse scenery and excellent hiking opportunities.

Driving

Driving 2Perhaps we expect to see more dramatic vistas due to the hype, but it’s still nice and will be spectacular when the fall colors come.IvernessAlong the Celidh Trail, the scenery reminds us of Scotland. Of course, we have never been to Scotland, but almost feel as though we’re there.

Skyline Trail 2The Skyline Trail wraps around an easy five-mile loop through boreal forest and coastal views. Fenced-off areas keep moose out so that the forest can grow.Hiking Skyline Trail 1Otherwise, moose consume the saplings, leaving the terrain barren. Our good luck continues when we spot a mama moose eating the forest, despite the crowds and fences. MooseBack at camp, to hell with lobster utensils. We have an ax!LobsterThe first lighthouse in Canada was in Louisbourg. It’s no longer there, but they built one to replace it. Louisbourg LighthouseThe Lighthouse Trail traverses about 4 miles, weaving between boreal and Acadia forest, over bogs and fens, and Precambrian polished granite on the coastline.HIkeThe French fought off the British here, and many shipwrecks lie somewhere under that ocean.MareOkay, it’s time to clean-up again, this time at Mountain Vista Seaside Cottages in Bras d’Or. We’ll cook our own food and reorganize the truck for the morning ferry ride to…, drum roll…, Newfoundland!

 

 

Escaping the Eclipse in Northeast Canada

While hordes of folks in the US flock to the diagonal line of the total eclipse across the country, Marilynn and I take a road/camping trip in the opposite direction towards Nova Scotia (New Scotland) Canada. We’ll sleep under the cap of our truck for the next two months or so.

home

First, though, we revisit the Bar Harbor campsite in Maine where a few years ago (Click here for previous post) we ordered lobster dinner delivered to our tent. Well, they still deliver. Two lobsters, two ears of corn, and two dozen mussels delivered to the camp for $31.95!

Lobster delivered to campsite

Hello, New Brunswick, Canada! We camp for several nights, sleeping in cool, fresh air. Starting to mellow-out, Canadian style.

PEI

A short hike to the flower pots at Hopewell Rocks provides a worthy walk on the ocean floor at low tide.

Hopewell Cape

Time to drive the “longest bridge in the world over icy waters,” that strides the ocean for eight miles.

Bridge to PEI

It’s the only way to drive to Prince Edward Island, where red dirt, shores, and lush views of rolling farmland make for intense scenery,

Westcoasst PEI

Drink craft beers, and devour fresh seafood in one of the numerous small fishing villages.

Farm land

Could we ever get sick of lobster and other shell fish? We intend to find out.

oysters

Usually, we travel in the off-season, and enjoy cheap prices and scarce crowds. Currently, we travel in the heart of high season, when everyone that can is trying to take in one last holiday.

hay

Campgrounds with no vacancy surprise us, but we always seem to grab a tent spot where we can sleep in the back of our pick-up truck. Geez, many Canadians already live in the wilderness. I find it curious that so many go camping when on holiday.

PEI fishing village 2

Onward to North Cape, the northern tip of PEI. We spot three men raking in seaweed, sorting through it, filling up a truckload. Marilynn asks what they are gathering.

Harvesting 3

“Irish moss,” John says. He shows us a handful. “We sell it to a farmer who dries it for feed for his cows.

Irish Moww

They’ve found it to be an unlikely weapon against global warming. The combination of Irish Moss and other seaweeds has shown to nearly eliminate the methane content of cow burps and farts.

Invasive

John eats a spoonful of it every morning. “It’s rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.” He went on to explain that they extract carrageen from Irish moss, which is used as a thickener and stabilizer in milk products. It is also used as a clarifying agent in beer and some wine, and used to be produced industrially. Well that’s good enough for us.

PEI potatoes

Okay, Canada. We love your clean air, laidback friendly folks, and fresh seasonal food, including new potatos. What’s not to love, eh? The scenery grows more intense the farther we travel. Stay tuned, it’s aboowt time to check out Nova Scotia in the next blog post.

 

Last Days in Lisbon, Portugal

After renting a car and driving most of Portugal for ten days, we spend the last five nights in the great city of Lisbon. Full of historical/naval significance (the longest reigning modern European Colonial empire in history), shops, boutiques, museums, and cafés fill the buildings and fortresses of years past.

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Pedestrian walkway in Lisbon

Fabulous food and dramatic coastline emerge as our main travel theme of the entire Portuguese adventure.

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Views of the river from Lisbon

We find the final entrée on our “food list” in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant across the street from our poorly located hotel.

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Morcela de arroz – Blood sausage made with pigs blood and rice

Morcela (pig blood in sausage casing). Not too bad when mixed with rice. A tad too strong for us in its pure form.

pig blood

Pig blood baby

“You must try our other Portuguese tradition, Bacalhau a’ Bra’s,” (salt dried cod mixed with hash-browns) Antonio, our waiter says.

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Bacalhau a’ Bra’s

Well, all meals cannot claim a savoy title. The cod claims the title of “least favorite,” beating out Caracois (snails) by a fish bone.

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Caracois – “Poor man’s snails”

Our hotel’s location demands six-mile (round trip) sweaty walks to the center of Lisbon where the good cafés exist.

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Lisbon

A great way to burn off excesses of the past three weeks. Walking moves faster than traffic once the city awakens. Many guys try to sell me hash, weed, and cocaine along the way.

lisbon

Lisbon

“Those guys don’t have good stuff,” Antonio the waiter explains. “They are from Romania and just rip people off.”

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Lisbon on a lazy Sunday afternoon

Along with a poor location, our hotel offers see-through walls surrounding the bathroom. I don’t care how much you love your travel partner, some activities in the bathroom need to remain private. (Especially after eating blood sausage and snails)

We take three subway lines, and then a train to what guidebooks claim is the “must do day-trip from Lisbon – Sintra.”

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Castelo dos Mouros near Sintra

The city of Sintra disappoints. Although a walk through old forest up to the Moorish fortress and palace proves exhilarating, elbow to elbow tourists deplete our remaining energy.

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Palacio National da Pena in Sintra

The next day, we hop onto the “Hop and Ride” tour bus to the coastal tourist destination of Cascais.

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The cliffs near Cascias

If you’re going to do a tourist area, this would be the best spot in our opinion. Full of beautiful beaches and magnificent coastline, cafés compete for your palate pleasures.

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The beach in Cascais

To wrap-up Portugal according to our style of travel, we prefer the laid-back atmosphere in the small coastal towns.

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Green lip mussels

Feasting on an array of seafood, amidst waves crashing on cliffs and rocks, will stay with us more than historical accounts of greatness. But that’s just us.

 

 

 

 

 

A Portuguese Feast

It’s time to drive north through Portugal’s mountainous interior in search of meat and liquor. Melt-in-your-mouth “piglet cooked in wood oven” starts things off perfectly in the town of Monchique.

piglet

Piglet

José, the proprietor at our guesthouse Casa Mirante, shows us the fruit he uses to make medronho, a local brandy/moonshine, also known as “firewater.” Private distilling is tolerated, keeping this Portuguese tradition alive.

Jose

Jose

The fest continues late into the evening with peri-peri chicken and more medronho moonshine. Oops, suddenly even the street statues aren’t safe!

ron

Too much moonshine!

We’d do well to regroup the next morning with sardines for breakfast.

sardines

Perhaps it’s time to seek spiritual healing with a visit to the megaliths outside the town of Evora. Appearing around the sixth to fourth millennium BC, this large circular stand of stones represents one of the oldest monuments of humankind. Nobody knows exactly why they are here. Theories abound. If that’s not spiritual, what is?

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Megaliths near Evora

A drive through groves of olive and cork trees brings us to the medieval town of Evora.

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Stripped cork trees near Evora

Relics from Greeks, Romans, and Moors appear here.

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Evora

Our good fortune continues, as we happen to visit during the annual street fair. Who cares if we can’t find the hotel, while the GPS lady yells at us due to road closures? Bring on the street food! We’ll leave the moonshine alone tonight.

quail eggs blood sausage

Fried quail eggs and blood sausage

Continuing to the northern coast, the city of Porto greets us with beauty and delight.

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Our castle in Porto

We spend two nights in a renovated castle, and feast on the local traditional dish of pork tripe with beans.

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Cafés line the river and streets in this friendly city.

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porto 2

We make friends while sharing glasses of Port (we are in Porto).

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Making friends in Porto

Francesinha, a sandwich of egg, meat and ham smothered in melted cheese and sauce, is the local hangover cure.

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Francesinha

Back on the beach, the town of Ericeira grabs our heart.

Ericeira

Ericeira

Known for sun, surf, and seafood, it’s a smaller town, close to Lisbon, and offers a laid-back atmosphere.

goose neck

Goose neck barnacles

This would be a perfect place for an extended stay.

lobster

Lobster

For now, it’s off to Lisbon to wrap up our Portuguese adventure.

Celebrate Portugal’s Delights: The Best Meal in Three Weeks

After three weeks of hiking and public transportation around the hot Cape Verde Islands in West Africa, it’s time for some cooler temperature and creature comfort. Once we land in Lisbon, Portugal we indulge in the independence of a rental car in search of excellent food and scenic drives. Our car includes a “hot spot” which provides internet and google navigation from our cellphone. Let’s go! A road map would be useless on these infinite streets with no names.

looking back at Lisbon

Looking back at Lisbon from Costa de Caparica

We stop in Costa da Caparica, a short drive and hot spot for tourists. Enter our first delightful celebration in the form of seafood pizza and beer. Finish with wine and cockles and shrimp sautéed in garlic. Our best meal in three weeks.

couldnt wait

All that is left of “one of the best meals in three weeks”

Let’s head south to the laid-back beach town of Vila Nova de Milfontes for some raw oysters and octopus salad. Our best meal in three weeks.

octopus salad

Octopus salad

We will eat our way through Portugal. Delightful.

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Near the lighthouse south of Vila Nova de Milfontes

Our waiter for dinner that evening, Antonio, explains that he works 12 hours each day, with a two-hour break in the afternoon.

seafood platter

Seafood platter

He recommends the seafood platter crowded with shrimp, lobster, fish chunks, and an array of shellfish. Our best meal in three weeks.

Rota trail

The Rota Vicentina walking trail

Along the way south, we spend the day hiking a segment of the Rota Vicentina walking trail.

Rota

Views from Rota Vincentina walking trail

No need to bring sleeping gear, as the 217-mile trail cuts through small villages where hikers can secure food and lodging.

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More scenery from Rota Vicentina walking trail

We stop in the small town of Zambujeira do Mar for a seafood salad lunch. Yet more delight.

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Zambujeira do Mar

Driving through broccoli-like forest, we reach the most southwestern point in Europe, Cabo de Sao Vicente.

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Broccoli trees

Cool temperatures and harsh wind with spurts of rain greet us at this hot surfing spot.

Cabo

It is a rainy, windy day at Cabo de Sao Vicente

Time to celebrate with wine and Cataplana Mariscos (like paella but no rice, just various seafood with potato), again, our best meal in three weeks.

Cataplana

Cataplana – the Portuguese version of paella

The sun shines in the town of Sagres. We delight in dramatic cliffs and secluded beaches.

beaches

Just one of the many secluded beaches in southern Portugal

Searching for coffee in the morning, a stranger who speaks no English motions for us to get into his car. We do, and he peels rubber flying down a straight road. We’re beginning to wonder.

Dramatic scenery near Sagres

Then he stops and lets us out at a local coffee/bakery off the main road. The kindness of strangers – traveling’s greatest delight. Stay tuned, as we continue to celebrate Portugal. Maybe we will have out best meal yet.

 

Santo Antao Island, Cape Verde: Made for Hikers

We ride up a snaking cobblestone road that separates many fertile valleys, canyons, and Ribeiras of Santo Antao Island.

Road to cova

Ron up in the clouds on the road to Cova de Paul. Ribeiras on both sides!

The town of Ribeira Grande is the gateway to the island’s Gothic-like volcanic peaks.

town of Ribeira Grande

Town of Ribeira Grande on Santo Antao

Ribeira de Torre

Looking up Ribeira de Torre

Visitors come here to hike. So, here we go. The driver drops us off in a volcano crater carpeted with crops and fruit trees, better known as Cova de Paul.

climb out of crater

First we have to climb out of the crater

From here, we trek out of the crater and then into the Ribeira do Paul. The trail switchbacks down for about three sun-exposed hours, to our guesthouse in the middle of nowhere.

switchbacks

Just part of the long walk down

Stop to take in views of villages below, where block houses cling to the side of jagged peaks, often blending in with the scene.

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Cha Joao Vaz village

Terraces with crops of all kinds layer the peaks that we descend. This ribeira is best known for its grogue (strong alcohol).

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Typical homesteads in Ribeira do Paul

The trail eventually transforms back into the cobblestone road, and passes through several small villages. Friendly locals always greet us and often give a “thumbs up.” We stop briefly for a cold beer and plate of fresh goat cheese.

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Lunch at O Curral

Back at our guest house in the middle of nowhere, the shower still does not work. I’m sore in strange places. We lay on our bed, soaked in sweat, and listen to the drunken proprietor rant and rave at phantom tourists, or perhaps, at his partner. Doors slam and employees scatter. Eventually, the electricity turns on and we shower. Refreshed and renewed, we decide to leave the drunken proprietor’s place, despite having booked for another night. Let’s find some peace and quiet in the coastal village of Ponta do Sol.

ponta do sol

Ponta do Sol

We sit on a balcony and bask in the cool breeze. Sip beer, and stare at the ocean.

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Our favorite drinking hole in Ponta do Sol – Veleiro

Fisherman clean their daily catch of tuna and eel on shore. Children dive from rocks and swim in the turbulent pools.

active harbor

The active harbor at Ponta do Sol

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Kids will be kids

The streets come alive with warm and friendly people each evening. They often try to have conversations with us in a language we cannot understand. We are beginning to feel like locals as we recognize not just the people, but some of the free roaming dogs as well.

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Ron making friends, drinking grogue, and eating chicken

Time for a change from hiking the ribeiras. We follow yet another cobblestone road, this one hugging jagged cliffs that drop into the ocean below us.

hiking cliffs

Hiking to Fontainhaus

We stop in the small village of Fontainhas for refreshment. Again, folks all wave and greet.

hiking in to F

Leaving Fontainhaus

Back at Ponta do Sol, we watch children and adults alike enjoy the water and each other. Gentle and genuine best describes the people of Cape Verde. Throughout these past three weeks, we have felt nothing but welcome.

Saturday afternoon

Saturday afternoon in Ponta do Sol

As for tonight, we must decide on dinner of either Cachupa (national dish of corn, beans, herbs, cassava, sweet potato and sometimes with meat), or should we try the baked goat? Life is good.

From Rolling with it to Dancing with it in Mindelo, Sao Vicente

We expect difficult travel in West Africa. Here in Cape Verde, which we call “West Africa Light,” (click on previous posts Ghana, Togo, Benin) the mindset of “just roll with it” works fine, but doesn’t make travel any easier. Last-minute flight cancellations (four thus far) happen, and it’s best to have wiggle room rather than be on a tight schedule.

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“Rolling with it!”

We’re exhausted, and there’s something draining about the African sun that is beyond mere temperature readings. Binter Airlines cancels our flight and comps us a room at the “Seafood Hotel” in Sao Filipe, on the island of Fogo, that comes with a meal of fried fish or chicken. I believe that nobody comes to Cape Verde for the cuisine. After a bottle of fine Fogo wine, we don’t mind getting up at 4:00AM for the rescheduled flight, until morning of course.

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You don’t come to Cape Verde for the food

When our two-prop plane finally shoots down the runway for take-off, Marilynn whaps me in the arm with her elbow.

“That guy across from you is freaking out!”

“I’m on the wrong flight!” he yells. He stands up and tries to bolt for the emergency exit.

The flight attendant and I make him sit, and eventually calm him down. Now, I’m his best friend, and am forced to listen to him bitch about the airline company the entire flight. I just nod, and am grateful that this flight duration is only forty-five minutes. Roll with it. (He’s lucky he wasn’t on a flight in the USA)

Mindelo

Mindelo Harbor

We land in the port city of Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente. Set on a natural harbor, full of cafés and music, we instantly love this lively place.

man in boat

Dancing in the streets of Mindelo

It is a nice break from the silence of Fogo Island.

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Many cafes have live music

Enter our short attention span…, how long can we watch the active fish market by day, and explore the back alleys full of restaurants and live music at night? Three days.

fishermen

Just outside the fish market

 

view from room

Looking at the Presidential Palace from our terrace

They hand out vomit bags on a one-hour ferry ride to our fourth island, Santo Antao.

view from ferry

Leaving Sao Vicente

Avoiding seasickness, we soon fight motion sickness on land, while riding in a packed Collectivo that whips around dramatic coastal scenery.

coastal road

Driving the coastal road of Santo Antao

Once the driver turns inland and uphill, volcanic craggy mountains conceal lush, green canyons.

Paul

Next stop – Cuidade das Pombas (Paul), Santo Antao

From banana, papaya, and mango trees to corn and sugarcane, Santo Antao provides produce for all the islands. We plan to hike down from the Cova de Paul (volcanic crater) tomorrow.

making grog

Making Grogue from sugar cane

At our guest house, an older French man, whom we think is the proprietor, is drunk on Grogue (sugarcane rum), and slurs only a few words of English. Simple things, like trying to order dinner a day in advance are difficult. The room is sweltering hot, and the shower doesn’t work because of an electrical outage. Roll with it. And we do. Oftentimes, difficult travel culminates into luscious reward…like tomorrow’s cool hike! Stay tuned.

 

Hiking Pico de Fogo, Cape Verde West Africa

fter roaming around the laid-back island town of Sao Filipe, Fogo Island, we hop into a Collectivo for a twisty, crowded ride with many stops.

sao filipe

Sao Filipe

We’re heading uphill to the base of Pico de Fogo, a towering active volcano. The desert terrain transforms into black ash and volcanic cones.

Pico

The landscape begins to change

At the Casa Marisa guest house/restaurant in the village of Portelo, our cement room sits atop the crust of “new lava” in the middle of Cha Das Caldeiras, a massive, ancient crater. The eruption of 2014 destroyed this village.

Marilynn runs out of the bathroom. “There’s something weird going on with the toilet and the floor’s burning my feet!”

I look in disbelief at simmering water in the toilet. The floors are too hot to walk on barefoot. “Maybe it gets cold at night and the floors are heated?”

Pico above our hotel

Pico de Fogo towers above our guesthouse

Turns out that the floors are indeed heated. Not by design. By accident. After the 2014 eruption, they quickly rebuilt the Casa Marisa, where we will sleep the next two nights. The new lava below still produces steady heat, to the point of boiling water in the toilet. It will take about eight years for the lava below to cool.

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Living in Lava

Too hot to sleep in the room, we sit on chairs atop warm cement outside, surrounded by crusted lava. The smell of sulphur in this terrain reminds me of a steel mill. The hot African sun radiates down upon us, the ground heats up from below, and a Swiss man who hiked the volcano yesterday informs that it does not cool down at night.

We stare at the behemoth Pico de Fogo, one of the steepest volcanic cones in the world, and begin doubting our ability to hike it tomorrow. Are we chicken?

lets go

Here we go

After a restless night, full of barking dogs and volcanic subterranean booms, we meet Cecelio, our English-speaking guide. “We’ll hike slow and take breaks, he says. “It’s not competition, it’s vacation. Use lots of sunscreen, wear sunglasses, and drink lots of water.”

Off we go, along with a young Swiss couple. Cecelio, who is forty-years old, explains that he has lived here his entire life and has twenty-one brothers and sisters. He’s been guiding volcano hikes since age nineteen.

view as we start

Views back to our village as we begin

We approach the volcano through scattered fig trees and individual grape vines, watered only by humidity and minimal rainfall. A small winery converts muscatel and touriga grapes into reds, whites, and rosés, but not enough to export.

growing grapes
Growing grapes

Our trail turns to ash, and then shoots straight up a side of unstable stones. Cecelio makes sure that we take frequent water/rest breaks, especially after stints of scrambling on all fours. He’s an excellent guide, who knows how to find the most stable row of stones. Hiring a guide is imperative, and there’s no turning back once you begin.

here we go

Ceceilio and Ron lead the way

About three hours later, we sit atop a massive volcanic cone that surrounds a serene monster crater that will explode again one day. The five Italian hikers already up top applaud our arrival.

looking into the crater

On top looking into the crater

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Views of our village from the top

Now, to get back down. After negotiating some craggy cliffs, hanging on to a cable in places, we stare straight down at a massive slope of black lapilli (ash scree). Woohoo! Jump right in, baby! Glide down the mountain with long strides in knee deep ash.

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The way down

Slide to the bottom in no time at all. Reminds me of sliding down giant sand dunes in Namibia and in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia a few years back. Gobi Desert Mongolia …, Namibia

running down Fogo

Running down through the ash. Now this is fun!

The walk back to Casa Marisa twists through a black ocean storm of solidified lava. A few rooftops of block houses show how the lava of 2014 entered through the windows and took back the territory.

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Lava reclaiming the land in 2014

Time for some well-deserved beer and wine. Tonight, we not only meet our chicken face to face, we devour it!

before

Dinner

 

 

 

 

THREE MONTHS AT HOME

After spending three months at home taking care of necessary business, my wife and I prepare for a four-month travel adventure that will begin in West Africa’s Cape Verde Islands. We purchase one-way airline tickets, as we often travel without reservations beyond the first few nights lodgings.

Enter the energy of “Three months at home,” a powerful, psychological experience that wreaks havoc upon our freestyle spirit of travel. Daily television news shows, politics, an overload of internet information, all this bombardment sprouts seeds of fear and paranoia in us. Suddenly, our world appears doomed. War is inevitable. If fatal violence doesn’t get you, a new disease will. Don’t leave home. The world is a scary place, and it’s either melting or blowing up!

I’m getting sucked-in. Starting to believe that the whole world hates Americans, especially since the recent divisive election. Many people think that our country tolerates racism, and we’re a couple of white Americans planning travels to West Africa?

There’s more. Azores Airline employees are on a two-day strike. Reviews on Trip Advisor warn us to stay clear of this terrible airline, describing the planes as old and decrepit, the staff rude, and common delays up to ten hours. Reviews also tell us that our hotel on the island of Fogo has no air conditioning, and previous guests have felt unsafe. I’m nervous. Even my free-spirited wife starts to get nervous. We don’t know what to believe anymore. Too much information coming in from all angles. Let’s get out of here!

We start to feel better the moment we hit the skies. The world beyond television and internet welcomes us. It’s a life full of real people, nice people. Face to face interactions and experiences dominate, rather than distant opinions, tirades, and preconceived notions. The reality of travel on our Azores Airlines flight proves to be one of the most unique, fun experiences we have ever had on a plane. A stranger invites us to his house for a big party next Saturday. Musicians play guitars, bongos, sing and dance down the aisle. Flight attendants serve cake and fill our glasses with champagne, in celebration of the airline’s maiden direct route.

azores plane

We land in the city of Praia, on the island of Santiago in Cape Verde, and wait during a four-hour layover. We’re the only white people. Strangers welcome us with friendly gestures and attempts at conversation in English. Four guys at a nearby table buy us a round of beers. A young woman from our flight invites us to join her for lunch with her cousin during the layover. We decline, merely because of exhaustion.

fogo volcan

Our final flight lands on a live volcano – the island of Fogo. We look forward to hiking to the top. To hell with the energy of “Three months at home,” that spirit killer which had tried to prevent us from leaving our “comfort zone.” We escape its grip, back into freestyle travel, and it feels fabulous. Stay tuned for some travel blog posts that explore new adventures. Peace, love, and happy trails to all.

 

 

 

Slovenia: Into the Julian Alps

Driving all day through torrential rain leads us to change course, and head to the mountains instead of the Slovenian beaches.

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The Slovenian countryside

Despite my disdain of writing clichés, the overwhelming response that Marilynn and I have of Slovenia is “beautiful.”

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Bled Lake, Bled Island, Bled Castle

Once we park the rental car in the town of Bled, after a daylong drive through rain and fog, a beautiful lake appears outside our window when the clouds lift.

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The church on Bled Island in Lake Bled

We’re staying at the four-star hotel “Penzion Vila Preseren” for less than 60 US dollars, that includes fresh breakfast. Prior to this visit, my only impression of Slovenia has been its sausage.

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From across the lake you can see our hotel – the very small white building to the right

Let’s walk off some sausage on this sunny morning with a five-mile stroll around the lake. It’s a slow walk, due to distractions of beauty such as an island church and a castle in the mountains.

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Bled Castle

After a short drive to Bohinj, we’re on a gondola lifting with skiers to the Vogel Ski Resort area, in the heart of the Julian Alps.

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Bohinj Lake, near Bohinj

We just roam around, stopping for a couple of cold ones, content to watch the skiers and snowboarders fly by.

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Views of Bohinj Lake and Mt. Triglav (the tallest mountain in Slovenia) from the gondola

Slovenia beckons a more outdoorsy type of people. We stop in a small village in search of the traditional Slovenian sausage (We’re not that outdoorsy today).

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Watching the skiers at Vogel Ski Resort

“Can I recommend a traditional meal?” our waitress says. “We just made a batch of homemade sausage.”

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The Julian Alps

Well, you can guess our response. I discover a sense of irony when our waitress divulges her name. Melania. No kidding. The three of us discuss our travels.

“I loved the mountains of Montenegro,” Melania says. “Away from the coast you’ll find more natural beauty, and no crowds of people.”

She serves our lunch, and the sausage exceeds expectations.

slovenian-sausage

Home made Slovenian sausage – Beautiful!

Beautiful, just like Slovenia.          Ron Mitchell

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Slovenia