Ecclectic tales from an independent wanderer…

Food

Beer by the Bridge

 

fullsizerenderBrimming with historic buildings, downtown Albany Oregon epitomizes Pacific Northwest charm & character. Because of its access to the Willamette River, Albany used to carry much of the weight of the state on its shoulders when it was known as “Hub City.” Now, undergoing a renaissance of economic development, it’s becoming a hot bed for entrepreneurs embarking on their dreams.

Proud to welcome the No Rails Ale House to our community, owner James Van Deusen started getting serious about his passion for beer in 2013. Three years later, on Sunday January 29th, that dream became a reality as he opened the doors of his 50 tap facility, and welcomed in beer loving enthusiasts from all over the Willamette Valley.

Sit a spell while you sample beers by the tasting flight, glass or pint and be sure to fill your growler to go, or browse their over 800 square foot selection of unique domestic & international finished goods. (more…)


No Reservations

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Atop the Pindus Mountains, in the heart of Greece.


A term made famous by Mr. Anthony Bourdain, it’s my preferred method of travel.

But what exactly does it mean to say that you travel with “no reservations?”

That’s a question that can be a little be more difficult to answer, but more than anything I believe it’s a silent statement of traveling with both an open mind and an open heart.

For conversation sake & in more technical terms, here are my thoughts on the subject. Traveling with no reservations, specifically refers to these three things…

1) I truly do like to travel with no itinerary or hotel reservations. In many ways, I like to make my own way, go with the flow and let the journey engulf me in all its magic.
If I do opt for making travel arrangements, I usually limit them to the first and last nights of my journey. This can be extremely helpful if your luggage is lost as well, or if you know that jet-lag may be a reality for you after a long flight.
2) Always trusting my intuition, I NEVER turn down an invitation. A great example of this took place on my spring journey through Greece with Tripology Adventures last May. Following an incredible day of traversing mountain roads in a 4×4 caravan, a gentleman affiliated with the organization offered to talk me on a four-wheel-drive ride in a vintage Mercedes he had outfitted.
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The town of Karpenisi is located high in the Pindus Mountains and is recognized as having some of the cleanest air in all or Europe. Touted as being the Alps of Greece, this Colorado Girl can legitimately say that these peaks and valley’s made the Rocky Mountains look like Kansas. An avid off-roader (my first car was a Jeep Wrangler, Rio Grande addition complete with a front mounted winch & leopard print steering wheel cover) I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to do some real 4-wheeling in this picturesque landscape)
Outside of the hotel, I met my guide – Theodoros Gravanis & his retrofitted, army issue rock-crawler.
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Theo & His Rock-Crawling Machine

The vehicle had no seat-belts, no airbags, no top and was basically set-up to be an all around, trail tackling, mud-busting, mama’s worst nightmare death machine.
Thrilled, I jumped right in – thinking to myself that what Mama-Didn’t-Know, wouldn’t kill her.
The ride was crazy, exhilarating & adrenaline pumping fun with Theodoros dropping it into four-low, taking the vehicle nearly vertical down steep ravines and up blind hills. Surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery I had ever seen, I was in car junky heaven, all the while holding on for dear life.
Atop an incredible summit with 360 degree views, Theodoros even let me get behind the wheel and take it for a spin. Both of us swapping stories in broken English & Greek and each with shit eating grins of pure joy plastered on our faces.
My lack of “reservations” led to one of the most memorable experiences of the entire trip and in seriousness, an afternoon that I will never forget.
3) Don’t let yourself be reserved by habits, eating or otherwise that might possibly have you miss out on something spectacular. Food is another great example of this…
Once upon a time in Pacific Mexico, a family offered to host my travel companion & I for dinner in their generations old hacienda. On the menu, Lengua – Cow Tongue which very much maintains it’s look and tastebud texture.
Hesitant to try it, I closed my eyes, shoved it in and was amazed at the eruption of flavors that washed through my mouth! Incredible, delicious and again, something that I will never forget.
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Traditional Cuy – Rotisserie Guinea Pig at a Roadside Restaurant outside Riobamba, Ecuador

I can tell you so many similar stories – Like the time I ate the Guinea Pig or “Cuy” as they call it, at a road side restaurant in Ecuador. All the locals looked on as a tried my first bites, avoiding the toenails that were still attached and the leather thick skin from its open fire rotisserie for who knows how many hours. One nibble in particular didn’t taste or feel right and resulted in a silent, but very obvious gag. The on lookers all roared with laughter and in that brief moment, we bonded – my culinary right of passage.
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Roadside, Rotisserie Cuy Outside Riobamba, Ecuador

Just because it looks funny, smells different or is something you have never once pondered putting in your mouth, give it a go. Chances are, you won’t be sorry.

When did all this begin for me?
Although it is hard to say as my wanderlust set in at a very early age, I know that one specific trip ignited my current drive for adventure and changed my perspective as a young adult.
In 2003 following my first year of University study at the University of Colorado, my very non-adventurous mother and I took a trip to Spain.
A spanish major, I had done my research, spoken with many different people and developed an idea of what I thought the trip would be.
My mother and I departed Denver on a two and a half week journey without one single hotel reservation or plan in mind.
Upon arrival, we found the airport information desk and were given metro instructions and a tourist map. I’ll never forget the train arriving to the platform and the two of us staring at the doors as they refused to open. An attendant ran up to us and instructed us to “Push the Button.” Laughing and feeling a bit insecure, we jumped aboard, bags in tow.
We left the airport in Madrid on the Metro, headed for the Puerto Del Sol, an area of the city that my Basques, Spanish professor had insured me was spectacular. Happy to stay in a hostel, we were told at the airport information desk that we would find many there.
Emerging from the underground metro station, not only did we find ourselves in the middle of a holy parade, but we didn’t see a single Hostel. I asked a shopkeeper, showing her a map with the circled destination. She chuckle and in Spanish replied – “You’re simply not looking high enough…” and then with a grin gestured to the upper stories of the ancient buildings above us where sign after sign displayed “Hostel Aqui.”
The rest of our time, resulted in laughter, tears, adventures, debates about returning home early and ultimately stories that she & I still tell with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.
Go. Travel. Open your heart and let the world fill it with endless treasures…

In the Shadow of Saints

 
From an outdoor terrace, the sun is setting over the spine of snowcapped Pindus mountains and a lush sunbathed valley, enfurls below you.   

Hard not to relax in this environment, clean mountain air fills your body with each passing breath as you sink deeper into the atmosphere all around you. More than the natural beauty, something nearly electric in the air captivates every fiber of your being.  

You are sitting in the shadow of saints.

In the heart of Greece, there is a magical place. A holy place for many believers and non-believers alike.

This, is Metéora – The final stop on our off-pavement pilgrimage through this land of myth & mystery. 

  
Rising from the once oceanic valley floor, gigantic sandstone pillars reach ever closer to the heavens. Atop many of these towers, handbuilt monestaries & convents that have stoicly stood here for centuries. Inside, faitful residents pray to cherished icons and keeping a watchful eye over mankind below. 
The word Metéora itself, translates to “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” and although the desire to be “closer to God,” has been evident across clutures & throughout centuries, the monastaries of Metéora carry with them a unique dedication to the spiritual pursuits that many other sites simply do not posses. 

Active today, the six  structures make up the largest and most important collection of Monastaries in Greece to the Greek Orthodox Church. Words can be dificult to find here.

Aesthetically rising out of the stone spires themselves, each structure has been delicately constructed, piece by piece over the course of centuries. Simple pully systems  were errected to  delviver supplies of all nature from the ground below.

Inside eleborate chapels are adorned with Icons of the savior & saints, relics that managed to survive the Spanish Inquisition & even the Crusades. Bones line walls of ossuaries, holy thombs for the devotees that helped to create these holy buildings.

   
   
From places near & far, believers flock with their families to enter these holy buildings paying homage to the patron saints, asking for blessings or seeking forgiveness. Places of reverence, it is hard note to be moved by the devotion expressed by those around you.

   

 


The Road to Ruin

Our Tripology crew is well underway along mountainous passes & cliffside villages.   Yesterday, a road block was encountered which created a good deal of excitement but held us up for awhile prior to our picnic lunch on the precipice of a holy hill, topped with a church & bells.   

 Weaving our way through fog filled valleys capped by blue sky’s. 

The Pindus Mountains of Greece are our current host on our adventure through this culture rich country.  

From now on, we’re all trying to “Steer Clear” of road hazards.   

   


Talking to Strangers

Interesting observations from a woman who travels solo. 

 

Being an only child makes you inherently comfortable with spending time alone. It simply comes with the territory. Still, many only children are extremely social by nature. The level of comfort we take in solidarity doesn’t necessarily mean that is our preference.

Now thirty, my passion for travel is raging more than ever. Independent, I often find myself with the time & finances to travel and very few friends who are interested or able to accompany me. 

Now, I simply dive in on my own, not thinking too much of it anymore.

Interestingly enough, it’s others reactions to knowing I am alone that still tend to surprise me. For instance, yesterday I flew from Athens to Crete and in the airport, sparked a conversation with a man in an Oregon State University sweatshirt. 

Turns out, he’s not from Oregon or even the US but rather South Africa; traveling with his parents to visit is Brother in Law (the OSU alum) who is an American now stationed at the Naval Base on Crete.

He mentioned to his parents that I was traveling alone & his father got a very worried look on his face. 

Later, in baggage claim, the kind man introduced himself to me and suggested they pick me up to go tour the island together. 

Politely, I declined the invitation, telling him that I was staying an hour away in a small village. 

He asked me how I was getting there and when I told him my host from AirBnB was picking me up, his ebony face nearly turned white. 

“It’s okay,” I told him. “I feel very safe & always use good judgement.” 

Sure enough, outside of the airport was my host Basilis, the absolutely picture of a handsome Greek man. 

Again, the kind man asked me if I was certain and I smiled, shaking his hand and told him everything would be alright.

Fast forward an hour and Basilis & I arrived at his home. A beautiful traditional stone house, the quiet village welcomes you in with an immediate air of tranquility. His mother Popi was there to great us and asked quickly if I would like a Greek Coffee. 

Together the three dined alfresco, farm fresh eggs over-easy with bright runny yolks, pan fried potatoes, crispy bread & traditional “Docas” like large bruschetta topped with fresh cheese, tomatoes & oregano. All of this was paired perfectly with locally produced Raki, a clear drink high in alcohol but smooth in flavor and back dropped by a stunning sunset. The evening could not have been any more delightful. 

 

Conversation followed and Basilis asked me to tell him about my life. Interested in my travels he looked at me perplexed and ask “how do you feel traveling alone?”

“Fine,” I told him as I went through my normal response. It was his next question that really threw me for a loop though.

“What do you do when you want to talk to someone?” he asked.

“I just talk to someone.” was my immediate response.

“But how?” he replied. “Do you simply go up to a stranger & say ‘hey you! come talk to me.'”

“Kind of” I told him. ” People are always curious to learn about someone new and different and I guess I’m just far from shy.”

Perplexed, he simply smiled & shook his head at me.

We sat together swapping stories & sipping Raki until the sun fully set & I retired to my apartment after a very long day of travel.

“From halfway around the world” he says.

Indeed. Making long journies and talking to strangers who quickly become friends.

 


It’s All Greek to Me

In true intrepid fashion, this amazon is hitting the road and heading to the land of mythology

  

 A lenghty journey is ahead of me including a seven hour layover in Athens where I’ll be puruising the city dedicated to the goddess herself.

From there, it’s a quick flight over to the island of Crete where my mysterious AirBnB host will be greeting me at the airport and wisking me an hour west, to the small coastal village of Platanos.

Spending four days in a traditional stone house, I’m diving right into the local culture and will be traversing the island by way of a Vespa scooter.

Fasten your seat belts and get ready for takeoff, because your along for the ride with this Intrepid Amazon.


A Review of Recent Vintages

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With recent acclaim flying around the Oregon Wine Industry’s 2012 Vintage, I thought we would take a moment to share some tasting notes with you on a few of Carlton Cellars more notable Pinot Noirs.
Happy reading, and sipping…
Carlton Cellars Pinot NoirRoads End
2010: This vintage spent a little less time in the oak (just over 10 months) and the result is a beautifully balanced wine with a nice prescence of both oak & grape tannins. True to a pinot noir & with a little age on it, the color should be a beautiful rust hue. Nice berry fruit flavors will present on the front of the palate followed by a medium finish.
2011One of my favorite vintages, the 2011’s are drinking spectacularly at the moment and are a wonderful representation of what a little bottle aging can accomplish. Aged 18 months in French Oak barrels, this wine exhibits both bold & delicate characteristics as it manages to have a different effect on each part of your palate.
2012: So much can be said about this vintage, including the fact that it is only going to get better & better with each passing year. A goldilocks growing season, the fruit that went into this wine could not have been in better condition. Our three primary clones of the Pinot grape, 777, Pommard & Wadenville, partnered with is 50% New French Oak aging, created the perfect combination for a stunning wine that is perfectly balanced from start to finish.
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2009: Again, another of my Carlton Cellars favorites, this vintage is bold, jammy, fruit forward, spicy & supremely balanced. Typically only 25% New Oak is used to age the Cape Lookout Pinots. The result is a rich wine that lends a wonderful example of Oregon Pinot Noir. New world excellence that embodies the old world traditions.
2010Wine Spectator was a fan of this wine awarding it a 91 point score. An accolade that was evident when the wine was savored, the gentle growing season left its mark on this Pinot with soft fruit tannins that were complimented by its oak regime.
estate-frontEstate Pinot Noir
2011Another great 2011, I’m a big fan of the way that we handle the Estate in the Cellar. 25% New French oak for 10 months helps to create a strikingly balanced wine that is both fruit forward and spice driven.
2012A delicious fruit bomb, this wine explodes with flavors of black cherries, plum & current. Aged with a healthy dose of 25% new oak, this wine is fantastic to drink now while having the tannic strength to stand up to some aging.