Flying back I wondered what new surprises were going to greet me; seems something always goes haywire when you’re away.
Then I thought, “I’m coming back better. How can I best use ‘coming back better?’”
Looking at it differently I felt breathing space open up, my instincts sharpen – I knew my ability to ditch the negativity was better. I already had new ideas for streamlining.
Austria & Switzerland
Monaco and French Riviera
Glimpses into Adventure
Leaving the clogging crowd of selfie snapping tourists behind, we jumped in our little car and zipped up the twisting turning Damlatian cost, tiny hamlets of grey stones houses with orange tile roofs emerged in tiny coves that opened to the sparkling Adriatic Sea. That’s when we saw the island…
After the obligatory tourist circuit (Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Champs Elysees…) I wondered what happened to the Paris I imagined. That’s when I did one thing; I stepped off the grid to see if I could find it.
Screaming down the mountain I was hoping the bicycle would hold together. Then leaning into a bend the road leveled out and we veered to the left into the small harbor town where a boat would meet us to the other side of the deep dark loch, but there was no boat in sight.
Staying in small rustic cottages along the bicycle route through the Carpathian Mountains we received our sleeping instructions late – mine was on the other side of the old village, down the gravel road, over the stone bridge and foggy creek, around the corner past the crumbling old church. Visions of Dracula in my head, shadows everywhere, I walked out into the moonlit night.
Slicing through the inky dark blue of a Swedish midsummer night suddenly my navigation screen went blank. Unfolding the large paper map under the dashboard lights, I could go anywhere – grand Stockholm to the east, warm Gothenburg to the west, archipelagos on both coasts clear deep lakes boarded by red summer cottages between. What I found changed my life.
Seeing my son pop out of the branches at the top of the large climbing tree in Hyde Park I thought about all the exotic ideas and experiences I’ve had about London this was never one that crossed my mind, yet it’s the coolest I could have imagined. Leaving the park what was next had just changed.
Rounding the corner the old train glided down the hill and into the station, as the whole Fjord opened up before our eyes.
“Don’t feed them and hold on to your sunglasses,” echoed off the cave walls as we emerged paddling our kayaks from the dark cave into a lagoon now surrounded by a troop of hungry looking and now excited monkeys.
Passing around the ceremonial stone bowl filled with Kava I took a big swing just as the large dark man with the broad smile and grass skirt said, “Oh yeah, it makes your tongue numb and you may hallucinate,”
Pitch black night chugging up Ganges, Hinduism’s Holy River at one of the holiest of cities, Varanasi; bells ringing in the distance, light bulbs strung on wires, dogs, cows wandering through the rubble and smoke from fires along one side of the river. That’s when the boat turned toward the shore and as we came closer to the fires I realized they were funeral pyres.
Climbing the treacherous path in the driving rain to the top of the sacred mountain, my son and I found the old temple and knocked on the door. The silent old monk graciously bowed us in and showed us to our room – he’d been expecting us.
Waking up in the middle of the night I heard a huffing sound outside the thin fabric tent wall. We were in grizzly country and hiker had been killed just days before. I reached for my gun. Silence. And then, oh no, I need to use the WC, which means a tree outside. Holding off as long as I could, I unzipped the tent flap and peeked out into the cold dark night.
Austria & Switzerland
Hiking through the dense forest in the mountains outside of Salzburg, I confidently knew exactly where we were, until we happened upon an unexpected crossroads. That’s when I looked at the map and realized nothing fit, we were lost.
Itching for something less typical we arranged to meet an eccentric local guide at a dusty remote trailhead. She immediately raised our eyebrows pointing out the dildo cactus and taught us how to “fish for tarantulas” with a piece of stiff grass stuck down their den. Then turning to us declaring, “No crybabies! There’s thorns and bugs and who knows what down there,” she issued us each machetes and marched us down into a ravine.
Looking over the ledge into 4000’ feet of the murky unknown abyss of the Cayman Trench can be disorienting, cause panic. Now, nearly 100’ down, I marked my son’s location and drifted closer to the edge.
Of course you must see Venice – at night, and Florence, with a local. When in Rome you’ll check off all the things that everyone else sees, but if you sing a song in the Pantheon, ride bicycles to the catacombs, race across Rome marking off the path of the killer in Angels and Demons you’ll have singular experiences that will make you smile forever, but adventuring in this quiet little seaside town may trump them all.
Monaco and French Riviera
“You’ve got to meet up with my brother, he lives in Cannes,” is what my prim conservative friend said when she heard I was headed to the south of France – so I did. Expecting a male version of her I suddenly knew I had it all wrong as we ascended the elevator to a rooftop club, doors opened, euro music thumping, masks, feathers, glitter… my friend’s bother, was not like her at all – he lived in a totally different world – we stepped into the crowd.
Driving up the canyon, well past where all the tourists taper off, we parked and headed off into the jungley brush trail – miles later in the middle of nowhere a torrential rain came at us in sheets. Water flowed down the path making muddy torrent. Hanging on to branches and vines we clambered and skidded and then the rain stopped and jungle stopped. What we saw was jaw dropping.
Antonio our driver said, “Athens is good for one day.” He took us some of the places everyone goes and most of the places nobody goes, but should – in Delphi and we drank from the purifying spring of the ancients before they spoke with the gods – we were the only ones there. Then he pulled out a map and pointed to an island, “Here he said, go here…” Setting foot on the island, was like stepping onto the set of Mama Mia.
Descending into a valley deep in the remote jungle of Belize we found the old concrete bridge flooded. Some turned back, but we stayed, wondering if we could make it – the Mayan ruins and excavation site were just on the other side. Remembering what my grandfather taught me about driving on frozen lakes in northern Minnesota – roll down your windows and unbuckle your seat belts – if we go down, you want to be able to get out – we started over the flooded bridge.
The Ice Hotel
Waking from a dream of snowshoeing under the northern lights, I found myself in an igloo-like room with ice sculptures and beautiful young woman dressed in white at the foot of my ice and reindeer hide bed. She smiled an angelic smile, said something in Swedish and as I rubbed my eyes thinking this must be a dream, she stepped nearer…
Exploring all the beaches and communities of San Diego took months and we loved it – still do – but we’d thought we’d seen it all. That’s when we turned our sights east, toward the desert, thinking we’d just drive out one day and give it a look. What we found changed what we do in San Diego every time we go.
Exploring along the coastline of Pembrokshire my son and I trekked, climbed and swam 30 miles of the most beautiful, rugged and exciting coastline there is in all the world, linking villages all the way to the very end, St Davids. Surveying the town we found an old cathedral and opening the large doors discovered it was empty, and a bit spooky, we went in. Looking around we found what appeared to be a secret door to a dark staircase and turning the lights on our phones, we started up the creaking steps…
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