Back in Spain

Spain was a dream, and a much needed rest after three months in Morocco.

simplelifespain4

After a short ferry ride over the straight of Gibraltar, we found ourselves in the windy city of Tarifa. Maybe it was the re-entry buzz, but I found Tarifa to be no less magical than Santiago’s description in The Alchemist.

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and he hurried his pace. He had suddenly remembered that, in Tarifa, there was an old woman who interpreted dreams.” -The Alchemist

The air smelled of sea breeze and fresh laundry, wind-surfers dotted the crystal blue water with a rainbow of kites, and Spanish kindness and culture assured us that everything was right in the world again.

Simplelifespain5

Like Santiago, I walked the quaint streets and viewed Africa in the distance from atop the ancient city walls.

A week passed in what seemed like an instant, and we traveled up to Sierra Elviera, Grenada for anther workaway experience.

We volunteered at a community called the Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad for two weeks, living in a community house with volunteers from Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, and the States. The Fundación is home to struggling families and single parents, and helps them get back on their feet. The best part were the volunteers we befriended, and how the majority of people spoke only Spanish or just a little English so it great to get out of my comfort zone and have to speak Spanish everyday.

Finally, we settled at last for a month in Almuñécar, a beautiful city on the Costa Del Sol. We rested, walked, caught up on school and work, visited the beach, and just enjoyed all the simple joys of life in Spain. Next, Italy. 🙂

simplelifespain

Kat on the beach

simplelifespain2

hiking on the coast

simplelifespain3

Santa Semana processions under our flat

What We Did in France

Colorful streets in france, green backpacks, family walking, blue sky

With backpacks in Chartres, France

After Denmark we flew through France by train. Our travel though France was a bit unusual to how we usually travel… We didn’t plan anything ahead, and stayed in cities for only one night, and we slept in hotels. Despite the short visit, it was great getting a quick taste of France and we will definitely have to come back to see the rest of the country.

We first entered France through Lillie Flanders after crossing Belgium. The most interesting part of travelling this way, by trains, was seeing the landscape and architecture change as we progressed west through Europe. The change was very visible upon entering France. The pointed roofs and brick houses of Belgium and Denmark were replaced by tall buildings with narrow windows and beautiful carved decorations that lined every street. We wandered around for a while, searching for a cheap hotel and checking out some Gothic cathedrals along the way.  As night aproached and hunger grew we were aquainted with French food for the first time (and French prices) and decided to have a hotel room picnic that night.

French design, tall narrow homes in lillie, France

Old and new in Lillie

The next day we took a one way train to Paris and spent the day walking around to see as much as possible. Despite the cloudy day, the city was beautiful. There was something interesting on every corner.

A news stand and street photo in Paris

People doing things in Paris

As a history nerd, seeing the Arc de Triomphe was my favorite. The Arc commemorates all who fought or died for France during the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars.

Paris, France and the Arc, busy road

The Arc

We also saw the well-known Café des Deux Moulins. The cafe is famous for being where Amelie, from the classic French movie under the same name, worked in the film.

people in the Café des Deux Moulins in Paris, france

Café des Deux Moulins

That evening we traveled to Chartres, France. This city was my favorite of all that we visited. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, and had a delicious bagel sandwich for breakfast in the square. The city was empty of tourists which made for a very peaceful day people watching and exploring.

amazing food in chartres, this is a colorful bagel sandwich

Look at the deliciousness!

After breakfast we looked around the cute streets of the old city, and saw the stunning Gothic architecture of the Notre Dam.

Gothic structure of the Notre Dam in Fance

Notre Dam in Chartres, France

That’s all for France. Next stop is Spain!

What we Did in Denmark

Denmark was the first stop along our travels through Europe this year. We stayed for a week in Tolne, which is a tiny train station town in the northernmost part of Denmark.

We arrived at Tolne Gjaestgivergaard, a pottery studio which attracts most of the visitors to the town.

tolnephoto7

Life in a pottery studio/ house

We discovered this place on Workaway, and despite not being all that artistically inclined we found plenty do at their annual international ceramic arts conference.

family travel, workaway, denmark, cooking in the kitchen

In the kitchen

For a week we helped with cooking and cleaning in exchange for lodging in the middle of a beautiful forest, and delicious Danish food everyday. Even better, we were able to make friends with a ton of amazing potters and ceramic artists! The studio is well-known for its resident artist programs, where artists from all over the world come to live and learn full-time at the studio. And they are always hosting many volunteers from workaway,  so there was always someone to talk to.

tolnephoto1

New friend Lea in Skagen

On one day all the volunteers and some artists went to visit Skagen, a larger city on the northern tip of Jutland, Denmark. Skagen is one of the most visited places in Denmark . The city has some historical background as being a very popular gathering place for artists in the summers of the 1800’s and 1900’s. Many Scandinavian artists came to paint the beautiful scenery and lighting. Much of the art has been preserved and can be seen at the Skagen museum.

tolnephoto5

The famous art of Skagen

tolnephoto2

Yellow streets of Skagen, Denmark

tolnephoto4

Kathryn eating a Danish danish

After the museum we visited famous Grenen Beach, the place where the North and Baltic seas meet. Supposedly, during the summer on a clear day you can’t tell where water ends and sky begins; the whole place looks like a huge blue dome. The day we went was rainy and grey, but dramatic and beautiful nonetheless.

tolnephoto3

Grenen beach, the northern most part of Denmark. In the distance you can see the North and Baltic seas meeting in forever clashing waves

Our time in Tolne was probably the most authentic Denmark experience possible. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming, and we felt like a part of the family almost instantly. I’m sure we will be back next time we are in Denmark, but until then I won’t forget the amazing people and memories made here.

Thanks for reading and happy travels! XX -Izzy

(P.S. if you want to learn more about Tolne Gjaestgivergaard and possible stay in their inn yourself you can click here. And if you want to learn about and donate to their resident artists project you can click here)

 

 

 

Foraging in Norway

Foraging in Norway, mushrooms in the forest

Foraging in Norway, Grass covered roofs of mountain cabins

On a warm Saturday morning, I woke up in one of the most magical places you can imagine. The sun rose slowly over the mountains, illuminating a thick blanket of fog and bringing light to our cozy Norwegian cabin.

The cabin had all the elements of a fairy tale cottage. From the wooden roof covered in grassy moss outside, and inside wool blankets and sheep skin draped on chairs for added warmth during cold norwegian winters.

After a lazy morning involving hot drinks, home cooked breakfast, and the warm glow of the fireplace we went outside to explore.

Foraging in Norway, A cozy wooden cabin in the fall

One of the most amazing parts of Norway is the appreciation Norwegians have for nature. Everyone and anyone is always out hiking, biking, walking, running, or even cross-country skiing on roller skates. Norwegians preserve their nature, and teach their children about its importance.

After only a few minutes of walking we came across a hilly slope, a creek, and a heap of blue berries to forage. What seems like such a simple thing was an amazing experience. Nowadays, even berry picking has been taken under the control of agriculture. You arrive at the farm and pick the berries. It’s ok, but there is something about the search that is so exciting. Being alone surrounded by trees and wildlife, stepping carefully over creeks, eating the berries right out of nature, and coming home with fingers and lips stained purple from the juices.

Foraging in Norway, wild blueberries in the mountains

After a while it is easy to get absorbed into the whole process. We spent hours collecting and eating as many berries as possible. At the end, I could barely feel my fingertips. It is the way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago; before agriculture, GMO’s, and supermarkets. 

Foraging in Norway, we made blueberry jam

We made jam

A week later we were lucky enough to be invited by our professional forager friends to go mushroom picking. They were very surprised when we told them that people don’t do this in the US. And it’s true, either everyone is too afraid to pick something and accidentally die, don’t know how, or don’t see the need to when there are mushrooms at the grocery store. Maybe a combination of the few. Occasionally my mom would pick mushrooms on hikes – but we were always afraid to actually eat them.

Foraging in Norway, mushrooms in the forest

The mushrooms we picked were no supermarket mushrooms. They tasted amazing, far better than any supermarket mushroom I’ve ever eaten. Again, we foraged for hours under the shade of giant green pines searching through leaves for a prize mushroom. Fall weather here has really been surprising us. It was very warm, with beams of sun peaking in between the branches of the trees. A perfect day for foraging. We learned a few tips and tricks as we went along, and had quite a few mushrooms between the eight of us in the end.

Foraging in Norway, girl stares at tall pine trees

I’ll finish this post with a quote about foraging from a book I recently finished and would definitely recommend to anyone who eats food or wants to learn about food, called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

“I don’t want to have to forage every meal. Most people don’t want to learn to garden or hunt. But we can change the way we make and get our food so that it becomes food again—something that feeds our bodies and our souls. Imagine it: Every meal would connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature.”

 

as always happy travels xx -Izzy

 

PS: Here is a link to a cool video by Jessie Hoff of www.jessehoff.com also about foraging in Norway. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-Ujr6e97mY.

 

Adventures in Croatia: Zadar

The wonderful city of Zadar

The Airbnb that my family stayed at was just a twenty-minute walk from downtown Zadar and the sea. We spent wonderful two weeks exploring the area.

Downtown Zadar is beautiful fortified city in Croatia. It is the oldest city in the country with evidence of human life since the late stone age. Walking down its smooth cobble stone streets you can see religious ruins from Roman times and gates from Venetian times. In the center of the Old City there is a lovely open area to have lunch, people watch, and relax by the sea.

2016_0426_17401100-COLLAGE.jpg

You can find lots of cafes, ice cream shops, and bakeries around every corner. They all have delicious food for a very inexpensive price. There are also nice restaurant serving dalmatian cuisine, but we did not go to any to save money. During the summer the streets get really busy with tourists, but during the off-season it is very tranquil.

2016-04-30 01.34.38 1.jpg

At night the city lights up. Near the harbor there is a giant circle in the pavement that is covered in 300 layered glass plates. It is over 20 meters wide. During the day it collects energy from the sun and at night it lights up for a gorgeous color show. Near it are the famous steps of the Zadar Sea Organ which plays music from the waves via tubes under the steps.
Zadar is a very interesting place. It is beautiful, historical, and has some delicious food. If you ever make a trip to Croatia during any season, I recommend you visit Zadar.

Thanks for reading! -Iz

Croatia: Swimming in the Adriatic Sea

Croatia: Swimming in the Adriatic Sea

The instant my toes touch the water they are numb. Ah so this is why no one swims here during the off-season, I say to sisters in between shivers ‘Here’ being the Adriatic Sea, the body of water which separates Italy and Croatia. During the summer thousands of tourists flock to Croatia and its hundreds of islands to swim or sail in it’s deep and mysterious, blue waters. The water is crystal clear, the clearest I have ever seen, and so calm. Tiny waves lap onto the pebbly shore creating the relaxing background music of the beach. In the background I can see hundreds of orange roofed houses resting peacefully on rolling green hills. Far as the eye can see are more blue-green islands, small compared to the vast sea and sky. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are finally starting to break letting warm rays of sun peek out warming the air a bit.

Despite the cold, the off-season has its perks. The beach is ours, no one around for miles. Only sail boats and the occasional ferry disturb the serenity of the sea. The weather is still nice, it’s sunny and in the sixties. My sisters and I swim and splash in the cold waters. We leap around rocks and shells until we can no longer stand the cold and then go to dry on the rocky shore. Soaking in the last rays of sunlight, we say goodbye to a wonderful day at the Adriatic Sea.

2016_0427_20103100-COLLAGE.jpg