Monday Travel Memory: Cinque Terre

Hey kids. It’s been awhile. A solid three month absence. Sometimes it’s good to take some distance from stuff, even stuff we love, to come back with better focus and energy. Right? It’s been nice to have some space and not spend so much time at the computer. Sounds like a legit excuse. Maybe nobody even noticed. 

And maybe you did. I know I miss writing on here and sharing bits of our sometimes interesting life. So why the long held breath? This had a little something to do with it:

This is Flinck.

This is Flinck.

Yes, we adopted a tiny puppy from the shelter where I volunteer (Oregon Humane Society). His name is Flinck, in honor of the street we lived on in Amsterdam (Govert Flinckstraat). And, not that I’m biased, he’s the best. 

But back to the topic at hand. As August hit, I realized that I have not been swimming or have even donned a swimsuit this summer. That’s just not right. To me, that’s the quintessential summer experience that I have not had this year. Too many house projects and other commitments have consumed our time. Bummer. Summer bummer.

This had led to some serious reminiscing. About this time last year, we took our summer vacation to Italy. Twelve months and some crazy life changes later, I’m still enchanted. And amazed at just how much Italy has to offer. Oh, Italy. What can I possibly say about you that hasn’t been said before? From your bustling streets in Roma, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to your seaside luxury in Sorrento, to your decayed elegance in Venice, you truly have it all. And you have more. And on top of all that, you have this glorious little region known as the Cinque Terre.

I know I shared this trip with you before, but it’s fun to look at the pictures with fresh eyes and see the beauty anew. Sometimes I sit here and pinch myself because I cannot believe we were there. While far from a luxurious resort getaway (you lay out on rocks to sunbathe after all), it was the perfect break from reality for my husband and me.

When we arrived, I was instantly smitten with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. As we walked the narrow “streets” (they can hardly be called streets as barely a moped could squeeze through), you could smell the salty sea and catch whiffs of a grandmother’s sauce on the stove.

Each morning, we would wake up in our tiny room, head out for coffee and fresh fruit, then spend the days alternating between sunbathing on rocks and exploring the twisty streets in each of the five towns. Below are some more pictures that I didn’t include in my original write up. Those initial pictures captured little moments that I felt (at the time) best depicted our experience. Looking back, I realize I didn’t share much of the actual towns or the panoramas that created the wonderful backdrop to all those fried fish cones we devoured. Here you go:

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

The trail that connects the towns

the trail that connects the towns

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso’s beach scene

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Kiss!

Kiss! along the trail

sunset from Manarola

sunset from Manarola

Manarola at dusk

Manarola at dusk

happy tree in Corniglia

a happy tree in Corniglia

pretty door in Corniglia

a pretty door in Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Vernazza

a "street" in Vernazza

a “street” in Vernazza

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

5am quiet

5am quiet in Vernazza

Vernazza at night

Vernazza at night

Our trip to the Cinque Terre was one of my favorite vacations. Ever. These pictures make me want to be back there immediately. August, while brimming with tourists, is still a great time to go. Now if only I could find my bathing suit…

xxx

Booked: Flag Point Lookout Weekend

Did you love tree houses as much as I did when you were young? My friend across the street had one in her backyard and we’d spend countless hours up there, plotting, the way kids do, away from the prying eyes and ears of adults. There was something magical about being up high, among the trees, away from the ground reality. I never outgrew this fascination. Maybe it’s because I’m short; any method of being higher/taller than others gives me great satisfaction.

So imagine my pure, child-like glee when I found out that you can rent forest fire lookouts in the National Forests around Oregon (and beyond) during the off-season. You know, to sleep in. Like a cabin, but way up high over the trees. How cool is that! My Oregonian friend mentioned wanting to do this awhile ago, and obviously we were in. It’s yet another instance of all the awesome things to do in and around Portland. Four of us are going to be staying at the Flag Point Lookout in Mount Hood National Forest for a weekend next fall.

It’s seriously cool!

flagpoint lookout, or

Flag Point Lookout, OR

With views like this!

flagpoint lookout, or

Mount Hood, OR

Isn’t it beautiful? I can picture it already… Playing board games, wrapping up in our cozy Pendleton blankets, eating, I don’t know, salmon jerky(?), drinking whiskey hot chocolate from our Stanley thermos… all with those rich autumnal colors surrounding us. It’s a photo shoot waiting to happen.

The reservation process is a little intense. Lookouts can be reserved exactly 6 months prior to their availability, so you gotta have a plan and act fast before someone else snatches up the days you want. Weekends are especially competitive. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit we were both logged in and frantically hitting the refresh button waiting for Flag Point to become available… for six months from now.

If you’re interested, here is the website where you can browse and select accommodations: recreation.gov. There are really cool spots all over the country, but we selected one that would be an easy weekend trip from Portland.

xxx

(image 1, 2)

Day Trip: Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls & the Gorge

Another day, another adventure. With my dad visiting, we thought it’d be as good a time as any to trek out to Mount Hood. Only an hour’s drive from Portland, Mt Hood is several things: the highest point in Oregon (roughly 11,200 ft), home to 12 (!) glaciers, almost year-round skiing and considered an active volcano (though not likely to erupt, or explode in the near future). Pretty impressive, huh? We can usually see it towering over the city like a watchful eye or something. Its icy white peak stands alone.

The trip was sort of a bust in that we drove completely around Hood and didn’t see a wink peak of her. Why? Because although Portland has been a balmy 60-ish degrees, Mt Hood looked like this:

Mount Hood, OR

Mount Hood, OR

That’s right. A totally NOT balmy 30 degrees and covered in snow and clouds. Oh well. My dad will just have to come again to see her.

It wasn’t a total waste. We drove the Gorge (again) and stopped at the truly magnificent Multnomah Falls. Gorgeous scenery, flowering groves, inspring panoramas and not a snowflake in sight. Oh, and a pit stop at Full Sail Brewery in Hood River. So really… not even close to a waste at all.

Troutdale, OR

Troutdale, OR

Mount Hood National Forest, OR

Mount Hood National Forest, OR

Hood River, OR

Hood River, OR

Full Sail Brewery, Hood River, OR

Full Sail Brewery, Hood River, OR

Multnomah Falls, OR

Multnomah Falls, OR

View of Vista House, Columbia River Gorge, OR

View of Vista House (teeny tiny on that overlook), Columbia River Gorge, OR

View from Vista House, Columbia River Gorge, OR

View from Vista House, Columbia River Gorge, OR

Cascade Range, WA

Cascade Range, WA

Oregon, you are wooing me with your springtime delights.

xxx

Day Trip: Astoria

The radio silence around here wasn’t for nothing. We’ve been busy getting our house together and continuing to explore the Pacific Northwest with alarming zeal. Seriously. Things are super busy around here. In a good way.

And my dad recently visited! He was our first guest in our new old house and that alone made it special. But we also toured all around the NW so he (and myself, let’s be honest) could learn more about this region that I now call home. Guess what? It’s awesome! Our first day trip was to Astoria, home of my generation’s classic The Goonies movie, the devastating Columbia River Bar (aka: the graveyard of ships) and some really great breweries. Since the weather was a little crummy, we spent the entire morning in the Columbia River Maritime Museum learning about the dangerous Bar, which was fascinating. The water looked so peaceful, but somehow that area has amassed over 2,000 shipwrecks and many, many deaths. After finding this out, both surprised and unnerved, we drove up to Washington to visit the state park where two historic lighthouses protect this barbaric coast.

Goonies House, Astoria

Goonies House, Astoria

Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria

Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria

Fort George, Astoria

Fort George Brewery, Astoria

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Columbia River Bar

Columbia River Bar

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

If you’re coming to Oregon – check out Astoria! Beautiful place with such interesting history.

And just for fun:

xxx

Koninginnedag!

For all the Amsterdammers celebrating Koninginnedag (or Queen’s Day) – Enjoy! It was one of my favorite days last year and one of the many reasons why the Netherlands is the best. It is a national holiday where the streets and canals are filled with orange-wearing revelers eating, drinking and blasting music all day long. For reasons unknown (other than the Dutch royalty likely having a contract with Mother Nature herself), there is always beautiful weather on Queen’s Day. Here are some pictures I took last year.

Queen's Day, Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Queen's Day, Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Queen's Day, Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Wish I could do this again! Guess I’ll just wear my orange today to pay tribute.

Party on.

xxx

P.S. Here is the original photo gallery I posted last year.

Monday Travel Memory: Swiss Forgiveness

A few months ago, Jaro and I took a impromptu two week road trip through Europe. I wrote about Switzerland. Specifically, how I pretty much hated it. It’s funny to look back on those thoughts in retrospect. I mean, what a drama queen. Yes, it was shockingly expensive. Yes, I thought I was going to die when I went paragliding in Interlaken. But now, I realize how little those things mattered in the grand scheme of things. Okay, well maybe fearing for my life does sort of matter… but as much as I complained, I trusted. I lived. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Not be that annoying American tourist (cringe) complaining about money all the time? Just forgive and enjoy?

Now that we have our desktop up and running, I scrolled through the pictures from that portion of the trip and am blown away by the stunning beauty everywhere we turned in that country. And how lucky I am to have lived close enough to go.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

J+J in Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Me enjoying Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

I truly only have wonderful memories about our time in Switzerland. I don’t remember the expense. I don’t remember if the food was mediocre. I don’t remember other negatives. I only look back on it warmly. With nostalgia. Sometimes you (okay, I) need time to realize things aren’t as bad as they seem. I strongly, highly, totally 100% recommend visitors to Europe to include Switzerland. Don’t have the attitude I did. Just enjoy it. Switzerland, I forgive you for your (very few) flaws. I hope you forgive me.

xxx

Daydreaming about… Oregon wine country

Hi friends. I’m enjoying a fantastic visit from my father this week. We’ve already done so much (new!) stuff around Oregon that I’ll be sharing soon. This weekend will consist of some house updating (this will be an ongoing battle for awhile), but also gluttonous (and well-deserved) meals and beverages around the city. Looking forward.

Today, I’m pining for a visit out to wine country here in my very own state. We have yet to visit any wineries (though we have tried our fair amount of the local varieties), and I’m eager to learn more about the ones around here. After seeing the grandeur of Napa Valley, quiet elegance of Sonoma, and enchanting Alsace region in France, I’m looking forward to discovering some low key and comfortable vineyards where the attitude is totally relaxed and a short drive away! The wineries around the Columbia River Gorge are just lovely… Columbia River Gorge Wineries

This blog post looks super helpful. Isn’t it gorgeous out there? I can’t wait for the warm dry summer months to leisurely explore it. I love seeing those vines heavy with grapes. Makes my eyelids heavy just thinking about it. I think I just need some wine and R&R after how busy we’ve been getting the house set up. Last night was a painting session that went well into morning.

Have a great weekend everybody! Here are some fun links I found this week:

Did you see this? What an amazing, unique way to capture your travels. If only we had a theme…

The world’s most colorful cities, according to someone with credibility. Disappointingly, I’ve only been to 3… so far.

A useful resource for making friends in a new city. I’m happy to report I’m off to a wonderful start.

I love the smart graphics in this Mad Men modernization.

PSA: Clean your computer. Right now.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Just All Of It

Fiji

Me in Fiji

Barcelona

Me in Barcelona

Istanbul, Turkey

Me in Istanbul

Kiev, Ukraine

Me in Kiev, Ukraine

Sahara Desert, Morocco

Me in the Sahara Desert

 San Gimignano, Italy

Me in San Gimignano

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days (weeks? I don’t even know what day it is).

I wish I could combine, in some way sum up, all the travel I have ever done in my life for this travel reflection. To keep this from getting out of control, I cut it down to these six similar images. It’s funny, all these pictures are all quiet moments I had while traveling over the past couple years. (Thanks for the shots, Jaro.) What’s funny about them is I can’t believe those are all of me. I mean, it looks like me. It’s my bod. I do not really remember being there. But all of it seems like a distant dream, a lifetime ago, something that may never really have actually happened but just been fabricated by my overactive imagination, when really it has only been a few months. Why?

Because I am now a homeowner.

Every single one of my thoughts is focused on this darn house. Every waking moment, I’m consumed by ideas for how to address the storage problem in our bedroom; deciding the right shade of paint color in our living room; getting those last few moving boxes out of our dining room. And don’t get me started on the renovation we want to start immediately on the bathroom.

Is this what happens? Instead of sitting on the floor daydreaming about trips to foreign lands, imagining myself sprawled on a deserted beach, dwarfed in a towering forest or lost in a crowded city, I’m distracted by the dust bunny in the corner and scramble over to catch it. Or find myself wondering how that little scratch got into the hardwoods and what I can do to fix it. Or sit there and go back to my paint color debate… It’s taking over 100% of my brain space. Is this what having a baby is like?

If so, I don’t think I’m ready.

Don’t worry – I’m not adding a pregnancy announcement to this post or likely any one soon. The house is enough for now. Still. I can’t believe how energy-zapping it is. How tired I am. How drained. And alarmed that my priorities have shifted so much. Not that it’s a bad thing. I’m proud we own a house. Right now, it’s just taking over my every waking thought a little time-consuming.

One saving grace: After 5 months of being apart, of living in other people’s spaces or the hollow hole of corporate housing, we are now reunited with our trinkets, big and small, from all of our travels. I finally dusted off that old globe from the Russian flea market and lovingly draped the blanket haggled from a Moroccan souk over a chair. I see these things and all the others, and smile. I’m pretty lucky to have visited a lot of incredible places.

Home may be here in Portland, but it is also all over the world.

Here’s to quiet moments, wherever they are. Here’s to being (finally) settled. And yet, here’s to re-igniting the little fire inside that beckons – but there’s so much more. 

xxx

P.S. One time I wrote about my favorite souvenirs.

Monday Travel Memory: Kauai

It’s spring break here in Portland and traffic was noticeably lighter this morning. Where is everyone? Oh, I know – HAWAII. I’d give anything to be on a warm beach right now. Anything except our house, that is. Alas, since we are moving into our house this coming weekend (oh my god, can you believe it?!) a proper spring break was not in the cards this year.

Jaro and I have been to Kauai together twice and are furiously itching to get back there again soon, especially now that it’s one short flight away. I won’t go into all the reasons why it is special (at least not in this post), suffice to say it’s one of our favorite places in the world for many, many reasons.

I took the photo below on our first visit back in 2008, when we hiked along the Kalalau Trail and soaked up the views of the incredible NaPali Coast. The sheer beauty of the island is truly awe-inspiring and this is one of the few instances in my life where I simply don’t have the words to describe it. Nothing seems to do it justice.NaPali Coast, KauaiIsn’t it… right?! Where are the words! Dumbstruck. It will have to hold me over until we figure out our life get settled enough to focus on a vacation.

To everyone on spring break – enjoy!! 

 

xxx

 

Hello Spring

Well, guys, spring is here! This is the season when my girly nature really goes nuts because I am obsessed with flowers. I just love them. They make me happy. Although it’s rainy here in Portland, I’m thinking about what all this rain will bring. I’m also reminded of that time last year when we went to Istanbul and I could not believe my eyes because there were so many gorgeous flowers everywhere. Especially the gardens at Topkapi Palace. It was just too much.

Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey

See what I mean? Spring is the best. So is Turkey.

xxx

P.S. Provence looks like an incredible place to visit in the spring.