Ecclectic tales from an independent wanderer…

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Meandering through the Metro

Sometimes, the best way to get to know a city is to simply meander your way through its Metro system.

With a seven hour layover in Athens, I did just that. Purchasing a full day pass, I jumped onto the Blue Line at it’s end stop, the Athens International Airport ans began a 45 minute journey into the heart of oldtown.

On a mission, I had read about a self-guided walking tour, 3.5 km long along the base of the acropolis, past parliament, the temple of Zeus as well as Olympic Stadium, all before ending in the Monastraki Plaza which is home to a bustling market.  

 

A perfect way to reawaken my senses after a ten hour transatlantic flight, the short adventure also helped to heighten my senses and better prepare me for the rest of the day that laid ahead. 

 

Droves of school children gathered outside the Acroplis. Their energy infections as they giggle & play; free from the confines of traditiional school for the day. 

 

Lovers embrace one another in romantic landscapes, accented by ancient Greek ruins.

 The plethora of sights, sounds, smells all set within an alien environment can do wonders for your soul.

Plus, regardless of whether you speak the language or not, it’s never too hard to find your way on a linear metro rail system.

Next time you find yourself mometarily stuck in a fantastic metroploitan area, pay the few extra euros, dollars or yin, to store your luggage at the airport and take a micro adventure into the heart of the city.

Who knows what wonders the metro may provide. 

Prepared for Takeoff

  

There is something slightly electric in the air when a plane is loaded & ready for takeoff; More so when you are heading to a known tourist destination.

Friends traveling together add exclamations of  laughter as more people pile in. Hoards of tourists embark; each individual looking more eager & a bit out of place than the last.

Large groups may even complete with nametags. Lanyard laden “flags” that serve as a tagging system. A surefire indicator that the individual is probably thinking, “I’m not sure what’s going on here…”

Happy to be seperate from the heard, there’s a comfort that comes with traveling alone. The sensation of being a quiet observer rather than one of the bustling, chattering masses.

A smuttering of languages surrounds me, all combining into a hum of energy staccatoed by friendly laughter. Passengers are joyous, filled with excitement.

Nothing quiet comes close to the flood of excitement you experience just before a trip.

So may unknowns.

So many questions.

Often, you never really travel to get away from it all but instead, to get closer to yourself.

Next stop, Greece. The city of Athena.

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.

Becoming One with the Animals of the Galapagos

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An Article Written for FathomAway.com

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – In crystal blue waters, I frolick with sea lions. It’s a dance with twisting and turning currents, and the sea lions out-wit me every time. Their eyes open so wide the whites are almost comical through the lens of my goggles. Holding my breath, I try my best to dazzle with aquatic abilities but inevitably fall short. 

Brightly colored fish stick close together until a mammalian friend ventures too close, resulting in the instantaneous scattering of one hundred little bodies.

This is the Galápagos. An archipelago so unique, so diverse in its flora and fauna, it is the living cornerstone of Darwin’s theory of evolution. A place so uniquely diversified that no single island, animal, or plant goes without its own special set of characteristics.

It’s accessible to visitors in a number of ways, but cruising in small ships maximizes one’s exposure to each island. Forward-thinking when it comes to environmental impact, outfits like Ecoventura remain far ahead of the pack. I’m on a yacht with only 20 passengers and excursions are intimate.

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Every day, the islands hold a new set of experiences. There’s snorkeling with turtles off the beaches of Española, their massive shells harboring centuries of stories. Wise eyes connect with mine below the waves as bodies float on top of the water.

Sharks take shelter on the sea floor as water fills their gills. Silently disappearing, their absence fills me with an instant shot of adrenaline. Like ghosts, large rays glide along the bottom, shadows out of the darkness.

A birding paradise, species are abundant, each more mysterious and mesmerizing than the next. Unafraid, I can get close and enjoy the delicate lines, like fingerprints, on feathered plumage. Stoic mocking birds, boobies, and albatross with beautiful faces are highlighted by deep black eyes. Frigate birds, black as night, wear red breast “hearts” on their sleeves. Brightly colored finches bop along the trail like little soldiers.

In the rainforest of Santa Cruz, I spy giant tortoises. They have fascinating faces, wise and eerily attentive, with rough cracks and calluses on their feet like roadmaps depicting their slow journey through life. Almost pushed to extinction by the islands’ early explorers, the Darwin Research Center has been crucial to the breeding and repopulation of these gentle creatures.

Very few of the islands are inhabited by humans. Floreana Island remains the most mysterious. Riddled with unexplained deaths, disappearances, and even murder, its turbulent past originated from its reputation as a new Eden. As the word spread, other outsiders sought residence — including the Baroness Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet, who anointed herself Queen of Floreana. Disappearing with her lover in 1934, their mystery surrounded the shores of the island for decades. Stone ruins dotting the beach serve as a reminder of the past.

Few places hold onto magic as strongly as the Galápagos does. The islands leave a mark on the heart; past, present, and future are ingrained all at once in my mind.

 

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.
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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.

To the wind…

Sometimes in life, you are better off simply throwing all caution to the wind.

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Nearing my 30th birthday, I couldn’t help feeling an anxious twinge of disappointment, an emotion that wasn’t easily described. In many ways, this sentiment was brought around more in a manner of mourning the passing of my twenties, the closing of a door on a decade that through both its joys and adversities has helped to shape me into the person I am today.

In an attempt to celebrate this passing, rather than rejoice in the traditional manner, I decided to flee the jovialities and run away from my birthday.

Choosing my place of refuge was no easy task. Originally, I thought about Mexico, a place I hold dear in my heart. Then my thoughts turned further south, thinking a trek through the wine country of Chile or Argentina would be the soul food I was craving… After all, wine people are quick to lend a hand to a fellow enthusiast.

A financial turn of events steered me in a different direction however, when an unexpected $2,200 in repairs was needed on my seven year old Toyota Matrix.

Rather than put the cabosh on the trip entirely, I started looking at my resources and decided to cash in 30,000 in Alaska Airline miles and come to Hawaii.

The Big Island is my playground for the next few days as I traverse its stunning landscapes and dive into the unique phenomenon of AirBnB, staying with a new set of strangers at each destination.

Gratitude fills my heart as this unique journey begins.

Electrifying…

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In the summer of 2010, three friends and I took off on a backcountry camping trip into Colorado’s, Great Sand Dunes National Monument. What transpired that afternoon, changed us all forever.

Checking in at the visitor’s center, backcountry campers are required to sign a waiver, advised on supplies, are informed of the dangers and instructed to hike far enough in the Dunes to not be visible from the established campsites along the tree line. Roughly a distance 4 miles, getting into the thick of the landscape is no easy endeavor. Traversing each sandy hillside is a matter of one step forward, and three steps back. Hard work, hours pass before you make it deep into the wilderness.

With no water sources, backpacks are heavy going in, lighter coming out, and emergencies, meals and water rations, need to be prepared for.

Setting off later in the afternoon than I had hoped, wanting to skirt the heat of the day, inevitably thunderheads started rolling in. Hiking for over 2 hours, our party was tiring, but finally getting deep enough into the Dunes to start looking for a place to make our camp.

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Made up of myself, a gal pal and two male friends, she and I were both runners and in good shape. Consistently pulling ahead of the two men; we were in a constant game of ‘hurry up & wait.’ Making our way to the summit of a large dune, she & I sat down to catch our breath while we waited for the other two to make their way.

Suddenly, the sky erupted. A crooked rod of lightening struck the summit of a dune, no more than 75 yards away. Just as she and I looked at each other, mouths gaping, a deafening roll of thunder shook us to our skeletons.

Still climbing & out of breath, the men were ready for relief. With one glance, I told them they couldn’t stop. We had to get lower.

A nationally registered EMT, certified in Wilderness First Aid, I knew we were in a dangerous place.

Pulling ahead of the others she and I walked into the saddles of a large Dune. Far enough from the guys, we took pause and waited for them to join us.

Giving a little chuckle she asked quizzically, “ha, ha, why is your hair standing up on end?”

Turning to face her, like a spiny sea urchin, her hair was straight on its ends, framing her face in a ‘Mad Professor’ halo of brunette fly-aways.

“Drop your pack”, I exclaimed. Doing the same, we started making our way down the wall of the saddle. Not wanting to venture too far knowing the work it would cause on our way back. Catching up, I told the boys to do the same.

That was when the cloud-to-cloud lightening started.

Jumping back and forth above our heads, we had no choice but to go deep, down into the belly of the dune.

At the bottom, took the lightening crouch position; Butts in the air, one hand on the ground, tripods quivering with fear.

It rained.

Our hair stood up on end.

It hailed.

Our hair stood up on end.

Megan cried. I sang Christmas Carols, trying to lighten the mood. Every scenario played through my head, what we would do if one of us was struck. If it was anyone other than myself or Megan, I’d send her for help and stay with the victim. If it was her, I’d send one of the men. If it was me… I started making my peace with the world.

We waited in the belly of that Dune for close to an hour and even though the rain continued, we decided that with dusk quickly approaching, we needed to find a place to set-up camp and try to create some sense of shelter for the night.

Climbing out, we were greeted by a magnificent sight. The most incredible, double rainbow I have ever seen. Dipping below the horizon, both were crystal clear, extending past 180 degrees. Stunning.

Terrified, none of us bothered to take a picture. Instead we hurried along, keeping our eyes on the sky, looking for our next electric threat.

Cold, wet & exhausted, we made camp. Huddled in our tent, dinner was prepared, ‘Cup o’ Noodles,’ cheese, granola bars, all washed down with whiskey we had packed in.

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Shaken, we listened to The Beatles from an iPhone, watching the sky light-up above us.

The next day, we woke to crystal blue skies. Packed hard from driving rain, beautiful ripples crusted the sand. A hard surface to easily traverse through our exodus.

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Ready to leave, we made breakfast, packed camp, ready to hike out. Despite the beauty, we were tired of the landscape, ready to escape the clutches of this backcountry danger-field.

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To this day, my gal pal still gets tears in her eyes anytime a storm comes too close. Still shuddering, fear strikes me anytime lightening is within a threatening range.

Changing each of us in our own way, lightening inevitably leaves an invisible mark our memories. Harsh lines that course through our veins, year in & year out.

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