Carnaval in Cadaques

23 02 2015

Last week, I welcomed my sister to Barcelona for an all too short 10-day visit. We spent the first half in Barcelona – walking tours, Parc Guell, hanging out at my favourite craft brewery – Edge Brewing, biking around (even doubling on occasion, much to Lindsay’s fright), and exploring the different barrios of the city.

At Gaudi's Parc Guell (the free part of course!)

At Gaudi’s Parc Guell (the free part of course!)

The most delicious dessert ever...Lindsay, let me know if you can replicate it!

The most delicious dessert ever at a Napoli pizza place in the Gothic quarter. The best pizza in Barcelona too!

The second half, we hit the open road, and I had a much needed break from the city. We headed up Costa Brava, first to Palamos, then on to beautiful and breathtaking Cadaques and Cap de Creus. Then, we crossed into France (ssshh, don’t tell the car rental people) to the small, artsy town of Ceret, nestled in the Pyrenees, and then spent our final night in Girona, and drove the steep and winding road up Montserrat before returning the car in the afternoon. In total, about a 700 km journey, not much by Canadian standards for 4 days, but we definitely saw a lot.

Our favourite stops were Cadaques, drinking wine at Cap de Creus, lunch and self-serve wine tasting an agricultural cooperative in the wine region of Emporda, a lovely lunch by the historic bridge in Besalu, the Dali museum in Figueres, live music in Girona, the unnerving drive up Montserrat, and being caught in the middle of Carnaval parades in both Barcelona and Cadaques.

Beautiful Cadaques

Beautiful Cadaques

Lindsay in Cadaques

Lindsay in Cadaques

Contemplating the oddities of Dali in Figueres

Contemplating the oddities of Dali in Figueres

Could Lindsay look any more excited about the Michelin-recommended restaurant in Besalu

Could Lindsay look any more excited about the Michelin-recommended restaurant in Besalu?

Eating a cloud - love when not really knowing what you ordered turns out well!

Eating a cloud – love when not really knowing what you ordered turns out well!

Live music by UK singer/songwriter Ben Owen in Girona

Live music by UK singer/songwriter Ben Owen in Girona

Wine and vermouth on tap in a supermarket. Not sure if you can see the prices, but it's 1.17 euros/L of wine, and about 3 euros/L of vermouth!

Wine and vermouth on tap in a supermarket. Not sure if you can see the prices, but it’s 1.17 euros/L of wine, and about 3 euros/L of vermouth!

Yup, that's 18 C!

Yup, that’s 18 C! Not bad at all!

Contemplated the "serrated mountain"

Contemplated the “serrated mountain”

At Montserrat

At Montserrat

Breathtaking Montserrat, just 1/2 hour from Barcelona. Definitely worth the frightening drive up!

Breathtaking Montserrat, just 1/2 hour from Barcelona. Definitely worth the frightening drive up!

Carnaval is a big street party that occurs just before Lent starts, especially celebrated in highly Catholic places like Brazil, Mexico and Spain. So, the idea is they have a big party before enduring six weeks of penance. Sitges (just south of Barcelona) is the place to go for Carnaval. Thinking that this scene might be a little too crazy for two small town gals, we headed north up Costa Brava for a more relaxed rendezvous.

Carnaval parade in Barcelona...

At Carnaval parade in Barcelona…

Everyone joins in the fun!

Everyone joins in the fun!

But of course there was no escaping such a highly observed celebration, nor would we want to. When we arrived in Cadaques in early afternoon, there were large speakers set up in the street, pumping upbeat tuns (the likes of the Beatles and Gloria Gaynor) and filling the town with a cheerful ambience. Everything was either closed or closing early. And then, while walking down a narrow street along the sea, we were suddenly caught off guard by an oncoming parade – basically groups of friends dressed in similar costumes, drinking and dancing on themed floats. Not too many tourists about, mostly locals doing as they do best and having a good time. After this, we headed off to see Cap de Creus for a couple hours. Upon returning to Cadaques, the speakers were taken down and we were surprised that the town was so quiet after such a festive afternoon. Where were the party people? We never really found out, maybe having siestas or partying in their homes.

The Carnaval parade in Cadaques

The Carnaval parade in Cadaques

 

We did find out that there was going to be a big fiesta that night from about 11 PM until 6 AM, and it seemed as the whole town, young and old, would be going. While a decent uphill trek up from the main town centre, it was fairly easy to find – between asking people in street and following the crowds. I was curious more than anything and had no idea as to what to expect. We found ourselves in a large indoor gym, with a bar set up in the back corner and stage at the front with a band setting up. We arrived around 11:30, still very early by Spanish standards, so people were still coming and many just partying in the parking lot – looking much like a tailgate party if you ask me. The scene felt oddly familiar, much like the Lion’s Head street dance (bearing particular semblance to the year it got rained out and moved to the arena), or Halloween party at the Tobermory Legion, or an open wedding dance.

A gym...

A gym…

...and a band is all you need in a small town!

…and a band is all you need!

 

So, maybe I’m in a different country and among people speaking a different language, but as it turns out, small town fun is small town fun! No need for a fancy venue, just some music and maybe some costumes on occasion, because it’s really the people, young and old, who make the party!





The brink of the Baja

12 12 2013

Gazing out at yet another mesmerizing Pacific sunset, going down at Ocean Beach in San Diego, not only does this moment mark another 360 degree rotation of the Earth’s axis, but also the ending of a chapter, the first chapter of our journey. It’s been 6 weeks since we left, and according to Joni’s odometer, it’s been about 7,000 km since we left Vancouver. We’ve travelled through Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and California, approximately following this route.

We’ve enjoyed the Columbia Gorge, steamy hot springs, the Oregon coast, the majestic Redwoods (especially Fern Canyon), the streets and street cars of San Francisco, connecting with faces new and old in Big Sur, countless flights of beer, the farm folk of Ojai, the geological wonders and magnificent panoramas of Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, the bright lights of Vegas, the desert winds of the Mojave, new friends and bouldering in Joshua Tree, the saving grace of nice people of Slab City and now the sunshine of San Diego.

Sadly, our trio has now became a duo as Jenelle flew back to family and frigid temperatures in Ontario. Nonetheless, our journey continues and a new chapter begins as we enter new land – Mexico! But before getting to that, we’ll take a brief pause here to slap on some new brake pads, do laundry, mail our Christmas letters, and show you a few snaps from the past 7,000 kilometres.

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - the backdrop to the Jurassic Park films. Thanks for sending us this way, Shandel!

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – the backdrop to the Jurassic Park films. Thanks for sending us this way, Shandel!

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A bearded forest creature we encountered in Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

A bearded forest creature we encountered in Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Don is the best trolley driver in San Fran!

Don is the best trolley driver in San Fran!

Frolicking by the seaside in Santa Barbara

Frolicking by the seaside in Santa Barbara

 

Enjoying a flight of Figueroa Mountain brew. Notice Firehall product placement!

Enjoying a flight of Figueroa Mountain brew. Notice Firehall product placement!

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park

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Where's Westy?

Where’s Westy?

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Stirring up the dust

Stirring up the dust

Atop Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley NP

Atop Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley NP

The most stunning sunset I've ever seen at Dante's View, Death Valley

The most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen at Dante’s View, Death Valley

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Soaring into the Grand Canyon at Ooh Aah Point

Soaring into the Grand Canyon at Ooh Aah Point

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The deserted Mojave Desert

The deserted Mojave Desert

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

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Salvation Mountain (as you might recall from "Into the Wild")

Salvation Mountain (as you might recall from “Into the Wild”)

Our attempt to summit Salvation Mountain failed, or rather, it succeeded but not without getting stuck on top. The chains were worth a try, but weren't enough. Thanks to the Slab City folks for the tug.

Our attempt to summit Salvation Mountain failed, or rather, it succeeded but not without getting stuck on top. The chains were worth a try, but they weren’t enough. Shovel neither.

But thanks to the pleasant and friendly residents of Slab City for the gentle tug, we were eventually able to get off the top of Salvation Moutain and continue down the road and to the coast. Better go enjoy the sand and sunshine before the Earth makes another rotation!

Why don’t we drive through the night,
And we’ll wake up down in Mexico…

 





Updated route

24 11 2013

Here’s the latest of our route map. We’ve now landed in Ojai, California where we hope to find some farm work to get our hands dirty and make our hearts happy!





Joni’s staples

24 11 2013

Oh, good golly. I can’t believe we’ve been on the road for over three weeks already. We’ve seen and done so much, it’s hard to know where to begin. Our Vanagon Joni has quickly become home for the three of us. We’re living well – cooking wholesome meals on our double propane burners (plenty of oats, quinoa, rice and veggies, carrots, apples, and about a jar of peanut butter every few days…we’re trying to cut back!), singing lots (to our wide-ranging collection of tunes as well as making up our own diddies), exploring the new and changing landscapes, and of course, giggling and laughing (the deep in the belly kind).

In addition to peanut butter, we also have a few other van staples:

  1. The sombrero. I acquired this sombrero at the merch tent at the Ponderosa Music Fest in Rock Creek for a mere $3. In a van that doubles as your home, space is highly valuable, so Olivia rationally pointed out that maybe the sombrero wasn’t the most practical of items. As a result, it was determined that I would have to prove its importance and the 30-day sombrero challenge was born. Originally, the rules were that I would have to wear the sombrero for at least an hour every day for 30 days. Luckily, these rules haven’t been strictly enforced. Nonetheless, the sombrero is not squished into a corner of the van and it makes regular appearances. It goes without saying that we all recognize its significance to our journey and I won’t be forced to give it up.

    Liv & I on our morning stroll to North Head Lighthouse in Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington (just before we crossed the Astoria bridge into Oregon)

    The sombrero makes an appearance on our morning stroll in Cape Disappointment State Park in southern Washington (just before crossing the Astoria bridge into Oregon)

  2. The Firehall Brewery growler. The best of memorabilia from my time working at the Firehall this summer. Now that I’m too far from the Oakanagan to refill it with Stoked Ember or Holy Smoke Stout, my growler is experiencing new brews. And luckily, the Pacific Northwest is renowned for its craft beer, so our trip has also been a bit of a rendezvous of breweries – Elysian (Seattle), Pints (Portland), Deschutes (Bend, OR), Eel River – the first certified organic brewery in the US (Fortuna, CA), Rogue Ales (based in Newport, OR but we visited the pub in San Fran) and most recently, Figueroa Mountain (Santa Barbara, CA). In Seattle, I picked up a nifty beer tasting notebook complete with a flavour wheel to complete for each beer, as well as room for all the stats (ABV, IBU, OG, TG, etc.).
    An impressive 12-sample flight of organic brews at Eel River Brewing

    An impressive 12-sample flight of organic brews at Eel River Brewing

    Jenelle's flight (with a free 7th sample of our server's choice) at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR

    Jenelle’s flight (with a free 7th sample of our server’s favourite) at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR

  3. The musical instruments – a ukelele (Duke the Uke), a harmonica, a melodica, a couple of kazoos, spoons and just about anything else we can find.
  4. Dino. Handmade, fleece, pink and complete with a head and tail. I accumulated this cozy dinosaur costume for a mere $3 from the thrift store in Oliver. No regrets! It has kept me warm many a chilly nights while still in BC as well as interior Oregon. It has also facilitated many laughs.

    Dino and Joni Estevanagon somewhere in Oregon

    Dino and Joni Estevanagon somewhere in Oregon

  5. The Kodak Funsaver. Despite the plethora of camera technology ranging from ultra high quality digital cameras to super convenient phone cameras, nothing quite beats the fun of a disposable film camera, not to mention the anticipation as you wait until the roll of film is finished and developed before seeing the photos. So, of course, we have one of these to try to save some of the fun.
  6. 20W50 motor oil. Quite possibly most important of all. While we’re sipping on craft beers, Joni’s drink of choice is some high grade oil. Originally, we were using a lower grade, but found she wasn’t running so smoothly. Upon consultation with a VW mechanic in Cambria, CA, we were recommended a switch. I’ve just bought a 5-quart jug, so hopefully it will quench Joni’s thirst and keep her running smoothly.

Here’s a few other photos from the Washington and Oregon leg of our journey that might offer the essence of van life…

Striking a pose in Squamish Valley, post-breakfast at Fergie's and pre-departure from Squamish

Striking a pose in Squamish Valley, post-breakfast at Fergie’s and pre-departure from Squamish

Enjoying a picnic in the park (Volunteer Park, Seattle)

Found this cute, elderly couple having a picnic in the park

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Cheese samples, ice cream and a VW "Baby Loaf" to boot at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Cheese samples, ice cream and a VW “Baby Loaf” made us very happy about our stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in northern OR

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Sipping on one fine cocktail at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland. Notice the shelves of whiskey and library ladders in the background!

Sipping on a fine cocktail at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland. Notice the shelves of whiskey and library ladders in the background!

A disgustingly delicous donut with chocolate icing, Oreo crumbs and peanut butter drizzle at Voodoo Donuts in Portland

A disgustingly delicous donut with chocolate icing, Oreo crumbs and peanut butter drizzle at Voodoo Donuts in Portland

Overlooking the Colombia River Gorge just west of Multnomah Falls

Overlooking the Colombia River Gorge just west of Multnomah Falls

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The long way home

16 08 2012

A while back, I embarked on an epic motorcycle trip from Salt Spring Island down the Pacific coast and then headed east just north of San Fran all the way back to Ontario, meeting up with pops and the boys in Wyoming. I was pretty good on the blogging front for the first few days, but eventually was unable to keep up with it. Anyway, here’s a bit of a general overview of the trip…

Day 1: Salt Spring Island, BC – Olympia, WA

Day 2: Olympia, WA – Newport, OR

Day 3: Newport, OR – Crescent City, CA

Day 4: Crescent City, CA – Orr Hot Springs near Ukiah, CA

Day 5: Orr Hot Springs – Nevada City, CA

Day 6: Day trip to Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley w/ Crissy & Gavin

Day 7: Nevada City, CA

Day 8: Nevada City, CA – Sand Mountain, NV = 315 km

Day 9: Sand Mountain, NV – Salt Lake City, UT = 807 km

Day 10: Salt Lake City, UT – Rawlins, WY = 476 km

Day 11: Rawlins, WY – Chardon, NE = 650 km

Day 12: Chadron, NE – Mitchell, SD

Day 13: Mitchell, SD – Oshkosh, WI = 858 km (Longest day of the trip!)

Day 14: Oshkosh, WI – Sault Ste. Marie, ON = 588

Day 15: Sault Ste. Marie – Lion’s Head, ON = 420 km

My total mileage for the trip was 6,619 km. Using the Conservation International‘s calculator, my 1982 Honda Sabre V45 produced 0.88 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Covering the same distance by plane would have been three times as much.

Here’s some photos from along the way…

After spending at least an hour driving over a steep and winding road, I was welcomed by this breathtaking vista on the other side

Best coffee of the trip! I did my best to avoid the “crack shacks” (selling espresso) that are especially abundant in the Pacific Northwest and hold out for the good stuff!

The Redwoods

Crissy and I at Sand Mountain in Nevada – the most amazing campsite that made for the most magical full moon experience

“I survived Highway 50 – The Loneliest Road in America”…and thanks to Crissy and Gavin, it wasn’t lonely at all!

Thank goodness for zap straps!

Mount Rushmore – a quintessential stop along any great American road trip

Getting my tourist fix

The boys are back in town

Dad in front of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota with murals and designs made from corn and other grains

The weathered, sun-kissed and wind-blown gang of six after about 3,700 miles, Tobermory bound at last





Clothing optional

31 05 2012

In an effort to commit fewer blogging faux pas than I have in the past (i.e. long posts, no photos), I have decided to try to post on most days of the trip. We’ll see how it goes.

After spending the night with Angie, my couchsurf host in Crescent City, I continued down Highway 101, pulling out about shortly after 8 this morning. Driving through the Redwoods was quite a magical way to start the day, as the sun peaked through the trees. However, there were more logging trucks than what would have been ideal, with just enough loose debris flying off to make me nervous.

My first stop of the day was the charming Arcata where at last I picked up a Rand McNally road atlas and I finally found a copy of Ecotopia (link), my next seminal reading. As recommended by Angie, I stopped at Los Bagels for a coffee and a rosemary parmesan bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese and grated carrot!

Then, back on the freeway for a bit until I was able to take the Avenue of Giants scenic alternate through more magical Redwoods. Along this stretch I stopped to take a peak inside the Eternal Treehouse, a 20-foot room inside the base of a living tree.

Around this time, it also started to get uncomfortably hot. I had already made the switch to my “summer” gloves in Arcata, but I took off a few more layers when I stopped for gas in Miranda.

Before long, I was off 101 again and on to a long winding road back out to the coast  that took me from about Leggett to Wesport. Boy, was I relieved to get out at the other end and see the stunning oceanside. Then, down to Fort Bragg, where I stopped at the tourist info centre, Headland’s Coffeehouse for some java and wi-fi and then checked out Glass Beach before heading out of town.

By this time, it was about 6 PM, so I considered just staying in Fort Bragg. However, Angie had told me about Orr Hot Springs, so I was determined to make my way across another long winding road. Along the road of rolling grassy hills, not only was their a jaw-dropping sunset, but I also saw about four deer and a wild boar!After travel in third and fourth gear for about two hours along this road, I came out at the other end in Ukiah! Ah! I had driven right past the hot springs! It was about 20 minutes back in. There was a moment of thinking, “Forget it! I’ll just find somewhere to camp in Ukiah.” But then, I thought about how far I had come across that road and headed back. This time paying attention to the street numbers! And alas, this is where I am now.

Here at Orr Hot Springs, I paid for accommodations for the first time on the trip, but I think it was worth it! Without wasting anytime, I dropped my stuff in my room and hopped into the tubs and pools, sauna and steam room. Most remarkable were the stargazing tubs, which sat under the twinkling night sky. It felt so so good after a long day of riding. Check out isn’t until noon, so I think I’ll spend a bit more time here before heading eastbound towards Sacramento.





On the road again

30 05 2012

My time on the farm has sadly come to an end. I definitely have more to say about my experience there, which will come at a later date. For now, I am going to practice being “present” and update you on my new adventure…my motorcycle trip down the coast to northern California, then east, all the way back to home sweet home in Ontario. The first leg of the journey is down the coast, camping and couchsurfing along the way. Then, I’ll head east around Sacramento, where I plan to

take a day or two and visit a friend. After that, a few longer days across the dessert (Nevada and Utah), then by mid-next week, I’ll meet my dad and a Wiarton gang in Colorado and we’ll make the rest of the journey together. Until then though, I’m more or less on my own. That’s alright though. As much as I love community and think life without people would be meaningless, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf at heart. Also, I find that I meet more people when traveling on my own too.

Waiting to board the early morning ferry in Fulford Harbour

I’ve just finished my third day on the road, and I’m now landed just across the California state line in Crescent City. Monday morning I left the farm on Salt Spring, first taking the ferry from Fulford to Swartz Bay, then going to Victoria and jumping on another boat across to Port Angeles, Washington. After a moderate degree of interrogation from the border patrol, I was welcomed into the great U.S. of A.! My first brief stop was the Olympic National Park visitor center, right in Port Angeles, then down the highway. I drove as far as Olympia, with a beautiful side trip off the highway to Port Townsend. I also stopped at a cool nursery in Brinnon for the free wi-fi. A combination I never would have predicted. Despite there being more clearcuts than what would be ideal, it was a lovely drive through some majestic forest and a bit of coast. I landed in Olympia around 5 pm and met up with my first couchsurfing host of the trip, Teddy. Even though I didn’t go that far, my first day of riding kinda kicked my butt and I was pretty tired.

I headed out of Olympia around 8:30, after a quick stop at McDonald’s for free wi-fi (to load directions on my phone until I find myself a good road atlas) and some milk for my raw oats. On a mission to get my Canadian cash exchanged, I stopped at several banks in hopes of success. It proved a lot more difficult than expected, but eventually found one that would accept my paper funny money and give me some of the cotton/linen variety. I crossed several bridges, but the most remarkable of which was the one between Washington to Oregon into Astoria, which spanned a whole 14 miles!

The Astoria–Megler Bridge, spanning 14 miles across the Columbia River

I also stopped at a beautiful beach at Seaside and had a heavenly nap in the warm sand. Cannon Beach was another highlight and I wish I could have stayed their longer!

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

I finally landed in Newport close to 8 PM, once again pretty tired from a long day. I maybe diddle daddled a bit too much in Seaside which made for a more exhausting final stretch. However, in this final stretch I did fit in a stop at the cheese factory in Tillamook and sampled some cheese, toured the factory and treated myself to some German Chocolate Cake ice cream. When I arrived in Newport, it was like arriving to a little piece of heaven, just a block from the beach. The warm shower was divine, then I chatted with my host for an hour or so over some nice wine and some delicious fritters she had made. Then off to bed (not couch!) in a room of my own! It felt like I was staying in a quaint little B & B, but for free!

Hitting the jackpot with a luxury “couch” in Newport

This morning I got a bit of an earlier start, or at least felt more organized when I left. I continued south on the beautiful Hwy 101. My first stop was for coffee about 25 miles down the road at a place called the Green Salmon. It was really good and was just the kind of start I needed. They also had a cute little used book exchange. What a great idea! You could buy a book for $4 or exchange one for $2. I was tempted, but restrained myself, after all I already have a handful of books loaded in my saddlebags. Aside from gas, my next memorable stop was at the farmers’ market in Coos Bay where I had my first strawberries (other than the handful I had at Foxglove before I left) and had a nice chat with a man at the master gardeners booth where they offer free gardening advice – another great idea! A few more miles down the road (with plenty of singing, and even making up a few songs of my own!) and I stopped at McDonald’s for wi-fi to check in with my host and a Reese McFlurry. While I was sitting outside on my phone, a man drove up next to me and called me over. I went over and he handed me a wad of bills. He said, “I don’t know why, but I feel I should give you something. I hope this gets you a few more miles down the road.” After he left, I counted it and the bills totaled $51. Wow! That’s over two days worth of gas! And now, here I am in Crescent City, California! It feels great to be in California, but I must admit that the Oregon Coast is absolutely stunning and doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves! I can’t believe I had contemplated skipping the coast and going through Portland instead. My only problem is trying to look to the beautiful scenery while also watching the road!

Despite my best efforts at regular sunscreen re-application, I can feel the warmth of my sunkissed cheeks. I can also feel the slight ache in my lower back that is calling out for more yoga. But more on the pains and pleasures of motorcycling later. For now, I’m just living the dream. So, please don’t wake me up!