Calpe is a small town on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, in the Alicante province near Valencia. It’s most remembered for the Penyal d’Ifach, the northern counterpart to the south’s rock of Gibraltar. This photo was taken as I ascended the Penyal d’Ifach, looking down at the resort and ocean below. The rock is also a protected bird sanctuary, and so the prevalence of birds in nesting season made it impossible to get a picture without a bird in the shot (or, alternatively, dive-bombing me and my tripod). Of course, I was too much of a scaredy-cat to ascend the entire rock, but I was quite content with this view of clear blue skies and even bluer waters.
On our brewery-inspired Denver adventure, we took a day trip to Boulder, Colorado to get a taste of the Rocky Mountains in the American mid-west (and a taste of more beer too, of course). The Flatirons are a symbol of Boulder and a staple in Chautauqua Park. Chautauqua was an adult education movement that began in New York, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua, according to Theodore Roosevelt, was the “most American thing in America.” While the Flatiron mountains are not as high or grand as the mountains I’m used to in the Albertan rockies, they have a unique shape and character. Whereas the trees at home were bare, these mountains were embraced by autumn leaves at even October’s end. We hiked around for a bit, enjoying the warmth before we decided that beer was calling.
Our first day in Madrid was spent walking to the Palacio Real and its corresponding gardens. Street musicians played in the corridors of the hedges while young couples leaned against each other as they traced their fingers in fountains. The palace itself is the Spanish version of Versailles – minus the crowds. In the photo, you see the Palacio Real and the Palace Gardens, with the spire of the nearby Catedral de la Almudena in the background. We found ourselves falling asleep in the shadow of trees after we sat down to rest our legs, the sounds of Pachelbel on violin singing us into our nap.
The unusual Hraunfosser Falls just outside of Reykholt, Iceland, flow into the Hvítá river, a series of rivulets that flow across 900 metres of a lava field (hraun means “lava”). Attempting to get the whole width of the waterfall was a task only a wide-angle fish eye lens could succeed at. Just a little further down the Hvítá river is another waterfall, Barnafoss, which means the waterfall of the kids. The name comes from a legend wherein two children were playing on the bridge that crossed over the falls, and then fell to their deaths. In light of our guide telling us this story, I held a little tighter to the rails of that bridge as I crossed.
I have always been in awe of the beauty of horses. So upon my first visit to Iceland, I was obviously very keen on riding Icelandic horses, one of the purest equine breeds, across Icelandic lava fields. Icelandic horses are incredibly playful and cute, but they’re also sturdy and strong. Their unique gait, the tolt, is a mix between a trot and a canter, and allows them to smoothly navigate the rough stones of Iceland’s lava fields. Dressed head to toe in my warmest clothing, I rode with one American girl and our Danish guide. We were given one break midway through to explore a lava cave. Though I took an intermediate tour as an experienced rider, interacting with these sweet creatures is an experience I recommend to all going to Iceland.
Somewhere amidst the chunks of moss-covered lava rock is, supposedly, the homes of the huldufolk, or mythical elves. Travellers are advised to never kick lava rocks in case it’s an elf stone and you get cursed. Elves only make themselves visible to the people who they want to see them, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen any elves, but there is a certain quality of mythology present in the formation of these landscapes themselves. On land and from above, the landscape is otherworldly, like it came from a fairy tale or an alien planet. And this place even casts a spell on the visitor, since my thoughts have been filled with nothing but Iceland ever since I returned.
I don’t think I fully appreciated the beautiful city of Sevilla while I was in Spain. The exceptionally high temperatures (39 degrees Celsius) and a mugginess barely cured by passing misters at restaurant patios made sightseeing take a bigger physical toil on me than usual. And when the air conditioning in our hostel broke on the second night (and the two of us were already sharing a room with four other people), Sevilla was beginning to feel unbearable. I was craving the Atlantic breeze of Lisboa, our next destination, and consequently, taking in less of Sevilla’s unique beauty. When I talk about my Spain trip now to friends and coworkers, I find myself talking most about Sevilla, but not the negative aspects like the heat – as mentioned in my post about tapas, some of the best food I ate was in Sevilla. And Plaza España is a beautiful piece of architecture, with all the major towns and cities of Spain receiving their own special, decorated “shrine” of sorts. And how fitting that Plaza España …
We had thought, after an unusually brisk day in Gibraltar, that we would be able to enjoy a pleasant beach afternoon in Tarifa, which was just a short drive away. I checked the forecast on my phone, and while it wasn’t promising immense heat – just 24 Celsius – I thought I’d be in the very least be able to sit on the beach with a book. Upon arrival in Tarifa, the clouds did not look promising. It was only when we stepped outside our rental car and I was nearly blown sideways by the rashest winds I’ve experienced since Iceland, that I knew a beach afternoon was not in the cards. Tarifa is small, so after checking in at our hostel we walked down to the beach. The wind had swept sand over the sidewalks like a blanket. And the closer we got to the beach, the more sand pelted our faces and bare skin like little bullets. Palm trees swayed and fog clouded the not-so-distant mountains of Morocco, and the town was quiet. …
Many of Banff’s most serious hikers will tell you to avoid the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike at Lake Louise due to the crowds. The four hour round trip is appealing to families and those with less endurance, though the first two hours are definitely a fairly solid uphill. The truth is, some of the prettiest views in the world (not all) you will likely never see alone. The Lake Agnes trail has gorgeous views of the azure waters of Lake Louise as you ascend, along with a waterfall that cascades from Lake Agnes down the mountain below. And while there are multitudes of people at Lake Agnes, lined up out the door for tea and biscuits, and while the lake does not have the same distinct blue as Lake Louise, the water’s clarity made for a pretty mountain picture.
On our descent from Crypt Lake on Waterton’s infamous Crypt Lake hike, a fellow hiker told us, “If you haven’t taken the path to the left to see the top of the waterfall, you gotta do it. I’m not sure what I was expecting with viewing the top of a waterfall, but it wasn’t this pristine, exceptionally colourful view of nature in its wildest form. You could hear the narrow falls beginning their roar from the creek’s edge, but other than that noise it was a peaceful haven away from the hoards of hikers, and a gentle respite prior to scrambling along a mountain ledge once again.