Travel At Home to Ireland

In this months installment travel inspired multi media and foods we are going to travel at home to Ireland. A couple years ago now I hiked for a week on the western coast of Ireland and had the absolute best time. In preparation I read as much as I possibly could to try to get my head in the right space to be in a new place. I have included all my favorite books that I read during that time period, as well as movies I love and movies that were filmed where I visited. Ireland History I am not a historian and would never be able to do any place justice by recapping its long and complicated history but somethings to note before you start diving into Ireland multimedia. The first settlers of the area were neolithic people, hunter gatherers who wandered up into land that was newly released from last glacial period. During the Iron Age the Celtic language and culture emerged, though from where and how is still largely debated. Between then and now they were invaded by Vikings, Danish, Romans and the English. Through all the invasions, the brutal political upheavals and oppression they still maintained their Celtics past. In fact even though English is the official language of Ireland, Irish (celtic) is primarily spoken on the western coast of the island. For those folks of the Gaeltacht region English is second language and people from all over Ireland send their children to schools on the west coast for immersion programs to learn the ancient language. Ireland Books Before I left for my trekking trip in Ireland I wanted to get a good sense of the history of the place so I made sure I read Edward Rutherford’s books The Princes of Ireland and Rebels of Ireland. What I learned very quickly was that there hasn’t been a lot of cheery goings on in their history. But what I learned immediately upon entering the country is that despite that fact they are the nicest people on the planet. Needless to say it can be difficult to find books that take place in Ireland that aren’t completely gut wrenching but that’s kind of okay I think. It’s important to understand the struggles of our pasts, so I cannot guarantee any of these books will be tear free. The Yellow House is a novel about politics in Northern Ireland during the 20th century which is only really touched on at the very end of Rebels of Ireland. For something a little lighter Santa Montefiore wrote a series called The Deverill Chronicles which are easy reads but still provide a feeling of being in Ireland. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes was quite popular for a long while. Forever by Peter Hamill takes place mostly in New York but the first bit takes place in Ireland and was a really incredible read. Or you could go classic with James Joyce’s Dubliners. Or if you do not like the sounds of any of my suggestions there are nearly 600 books set in Ireland listed on goodreads to help you find your way. Ireland Movies If you aren’t in the mood for books there are quite a few movies with Ireland scenery or about Ireland. Angela’s Ashes again as the book was made into a movie in the late 90s. Far and Away as well as Ryan’s Daughter were both filmed where I was hiking a couple years ago, as well as scenes from the new Star Wars movies. Braveheart, Enemy at the Gates, Saving Private Ryan and Princess Bride all have scenes filmed in Ireland even though they did not take place there. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Leap Year and Laws of Attraction two very cheesy romantic comedies that are easy watching and oh so happy. I should also mention there is a very lovely youtuber that goes by the name Fairyland Cottage who lives in Ireland and discusses slow living and sustainable choices. She is wonderful and her videos are so relaxing. Ireland Foods I was a little hesitant to try Irish food, by no fault of theirs I was more worried about the English influence. This was before I had spent any time in England and my only experience was terrible airport food during a terrible layover. Turns out Irish food is phenomenal. There is nothing quite like tucking into a good Irish Stew with Soda Bread, it will warm you right up on the coldest winter days. My favorite meal while over there was actually a zucchini soup, topped with cheese toasties. The area of Ireland I was in was especially know of their shellfish, particularly oysters and mussels but I cannot eat them so I never got to experience that part of the cuisine. Fish and chips in all the pubs though were honestly some of the best meals I have ever had. We also saw a lot of oatmeal at breakfast (if you weren’t eating a full Irish) and mushy peas on the side of dinner dishes instead of potatoes. As well as simple tomato and cheese sandwiches which were packed in all our hiking lunches. And you can of course wash it all down with a nice glass of Guinness or Irish Whiskey. Or if you are a lightweight like me a nice hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea. I hope this little snippet of information will help keep you busy in the coming months. And helps inspire you to travel to new places whether that be physically or travel at home to Ireland.
Continue reading

Travel at Home to Bath England

This week let us travel at home to Bath England. In general I try to stay away from discussing world events or other hot topics. I am by no means an expert and feel it best to not add another voice to the crowd.  I also never want to see like I am exploiting the situation to gain followers. But as I am facing the reality of  having to cancel an upcoming trip due to travel bans and many of us are looking at or in the middle of mandatory quarantines I figured it might be a good time to move a few blog posts around. We may all be dreaming of leaving our homes, but making plans to do so aren’t exactly top of the list. I have rounded up some of my favorite books, movies and recipes to help make your time at home a little more magical, enjoy!

History of Bath England
There is evidence that the area of Bath saw human activity as early as the Mesolithic period, there is evidence that the current Roman Bath’s main spring was treated as a holy site by early Britons prior to Roman Occupation. A temple was constructed about 60-70AD but the main complex wasn’t completed until 300 or so year later. And further excavation in 2012 revealed that the original town wall was likely built by the Romans in the third century. Over the years that was quite a bit of turnover between waring kingdoms and a variety of invading peoples. Both Bath Abbey and the baths themselves have seen several rebuilds over the very long history of the town. The town you see today was mostly expanded during the Stuart and Georgian periods which is mainly responsible for the creamy yellow limestone façade that nearly the entire town is built with. The rock is quarried in the area mostly from the Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines which was contracted by John Wood the Elder and his son when they began building in the area. The area had been originally designated as a royal borough and as such house many members of the English Aristocracy throughout history, many coming to the are to take the baths to heal. Additionally Bath has been home a large volume of creatives over the years authors such as Jane Austen, Mary Shelly and Charles Dickens all took to the area to find creativity and quite from the busy city life.

Books of Bath England
Two of Jane Austen’s book take place in Bath, both Persuasion and  Northanger Abbey are great books to read if you are looking to transport yourself to this lovely little town. Additionally Bath makes an appearance in Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. If you are looking for something a bit more on the nonfiction side there is a large volume of books specifically around the baths themselves and the architecture of the area. Bath by Kirsten Elliot and Bath: An Architectural Guide by Thom Gorst both provide great background to better understand the atmosphere of the area. Where as books like Roman Bath Discovered by Barry W. Cunliffy and The Waters of the Gap: The Mythology of Aquae Sulis by R.J. Stewart provide in-depth information on the baths themselves. Or if you are looking for a more sweeping that covers both history and entertaining stories I would pick up Sarum by Edward Rutherford the book focuses mainly on the area just south of Bath in Salisbury but he does touch on Bath and the history of the area covered is quite expansive.

Movies of Bath England
Want to see what Bath England looks like for yourself, and have about 15 hours to kill? Scenes from the Harry Potter series were filmed in and around Bath, I am not quite sure which movies and which scenes but they are such fun movies you may as well just watch them all again. If kids movies aren’t your ideal form of entertainment period dramas are very commonly filmed in Bath due to the architecture of the area so look no further than Vanity Fair, The Duchess, Northanger Abbey, The Remains of the Day, Poldark, The Other Boleyn Girl, Sense and Sensibility among others to get a glimpse of the spa town that was once so popular with royalty.

Foods of Bath England
Bath is known for a variety of foods, some no longer eaten as much (like Bath Chaps), but others such as Bath Buns which are a sweet bun covered in sugar crystals and currents are still made and eaten there today. Bath is also known for their soft cheese, these specially would be harder to get in the states due to importing laws, but you could always make a picnic with a variety of soft cheese and pretend. My personal favorites while in bath were the Fish and Chips, the meat pies and of course their tea service.


I hope these resources help you feel more connected with at least one other place in the world and enjoy the opportunity to travel at home to Bath England even if its just for one meal or one book. And one day when this is all over if you are looking to plan a trip to England I have quite a few resources for you here. 

Continue reading

Travel At Home to Barcelona

Barcelona, what can one possibly say about Barcelona and do it any sort of justice. The city is a city apart in Spain, the capital seat of the region of Catalonia which if you have ever met a Catalan, they will tell you they are not Spanish nor a part of Spain. Here are some of my favorite books, movies and foods to help you get the flavor of the gorgeous city so that you can travel at home to Barcelona. Barcelona Spain History of Barcelona The city is quite old, not much is know of the early settlements but according to legends in the 3rd century BC a settlement in the area was named Barcino by Hannibal’s father Hamilcar Barca. If you aren’t looking for legends but known facts, in 15BC Roman troops created a camp in the area which was later conquered by the Visigoths in the early 8th century. The are was then united with all of Spain when Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabelle Castile married creating the boundaries of what we know as Spain today (mostly). They are known perhaps best for the Spanish Inquisition, it was politically a move consolidate power under the new monarchs and all the people as Roman Catholics. It effectively drove out the Islamic Moors who had long lived in the southern parts of the country. Though largely what we hear of the Spanish Inquisition is actually rhetoric from the French and an overstatement of brutality. Don’t get me wrong I have no doubt it was a terrible thing to live though, but the French certainly had their reasons to exaggerate. They are also known for their particularly bloody civil war, their fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Their alleged neutrality during WWII but historians still debate which side they helped more. But of course Spain and specifically Barcelona is probably best known for Antoni Gaudi whose architecture is ever present in the ancient city. Barcelona Books My trip to Barcelona actually started with a book. I don’t know how my step-dad wound up with the book. But he read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz-Zafon, and then my mom did and then I did. And before I knew it we were planning our first international family Christmas trip to Barcelona Spain. When we read the Shadow of the Wind it was one book, many years later it is now four total books which make of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The books focus mostly around the early 20th century. If you are looking for fiction that takes place closer to the unification of Spain then The Queen’s Vow by C.W Gortner is quite good. I have never been a big fan of Hemingway but I always did love For Whom The Bell Tolls, it is a terribly depressing novel but if you are interested in the era around the Spanish Civil War it would be a good read. And if you are looking for something a little more on the medieval side of things Cathedral of the Sea is a really incredible book. If you are looking for nonfiction, Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City’s Past provides a really thorough explanation of the conflict between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. For a personal and detailed account of the Spanish Civil War you could pick up George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia which is his personal experiences fighting against Franco’s Fascists. Or of a similar name Homage to Barcelona which details the personal account of author Colm Toibin’s life living there. Barcelona Movies If you are more of a movie watcher than a reader then I would first and foremost recommend Viki Christina Barcelona. I know that Woody Allen isn’t for everyone but the movie actually does a really nice job of making you feel like you are in Barcelona, with gorgeous street scenes, it is a very slow paced romance/comedy but not a romantic comedy you will see why when you watch it. Todo Sobre Mi Madre by Pedro Almodovar starts in Madrid but very shortly moves on to Barcelona where you get the joys seeing the true spirit of the city. Land and Freedom directed by Ken Loach is actually an homage to the previously mentioned Orwell book, while you don’t get a lot of Barcelona scenery in the movie, you do get a very visceral idea of what the Spanish Civil War was like to live through. Movies you don’t expect to have been filmed in Barcelona, would be titles such as The Machinist, Perfume, The Gunman, Grand Piano and perhaps the most surprising Beyond Re-Animator the third in the Re-Animator horror trilogy. Barcelona Foods To complete the at home travel experience try adding in some Catalan dishes to your kitchen. Tapas are an easy commitment free way to try new dishes, small and usually made from only a few ingredients you will get all the flavors and none of the fuss. For a great at home Tapas recipe book a local Portland restaurant called Toro Bravo put together this gem a few years also. You could go simple with a bottle of Tempranillo and some Imberico Ham and Manchego cheese for a snack. Or if you are feeling something sweet Churros and Chocolate are always a favorite with my family. Whether you are looking for travel inspiration or looking for a way to experience another culture without leaving your home I hope this post finds you well. And perhaps this winter you will be able to travel at home to Barcelona even if its just for one meal or one book.
Continue reading

Dunes – Oregon

The Oregon Sand Dunes are one of the largest expanses of coastal sand dunes in the world. They stretch for 40 miles along the Oregon coast and is designated as a National Recreation Area  or NRA (the other NRA) as a part of the Siuslaw National Forest.

Within the larger park system, there are many different road access points, usage areas, and activities. Everything from horse back riding, to off roading, fishing and hiking. There are also camp sites and some have camping cabins (my favorite way to camp).

Even without all the added recreation options the dune are impressive. Some as tall as 500 ft and ever shifting with the wind and rain. They are dotted with trees and takes, tide pools and local flowers that are brave enough to grow in shifting sand.

We went down last for our anniversary trip in March, the weather could have been better. Dry and low winds but slightly cloudy made for the prefect day of walking around. And boy is it hard walking around on them, let alone trying to race up them. I didn’t win.
In some areas there are trails but in a lot of the park you just head out straight into the dunes. It feels other worldly and rumor has it they inspired Frank Herbert to write his science fiction epic Dune.

Continue reading

Book Soup – Los Angeles, California 

Book Soup is an independent book store and mainstay on the Sunset Blvd since the 1970s. Popular with tourist and celebrities alike the store specializes in hard to find and high end art books but also has a very comprehensive fiction section as well.

The store will suck you in from the street with a beautiful New York style newsstand display at the front door. Where you can then see the curved and towering bookshelves that are begging to be explored. Once in a person could spend hours (and I did) browsing the displays and finding all sorts of new books you want to read.

I found no less that 10 books immediately that I had not heard of and wanted to read. And that doesn’t include the pile of glossy art books that I would have snatched up had I not been on foot and several miles away from where I was staying. I went in more than once, spending at least an hour on my own. But I also wet in once with my family. Every time we were ready to leave we would be missing a member of our party, and in going to try to find them we would find more books that caught our attention and then again someone would be missing and the cycle would continue. Like I said it sucks you in, in the best possible way.

I sadly did not have the pleasure of being there on days with any special events or while one of the many famous locals made their way into the shop. But it is known to be a popular location for celebrity sightings and hosts a large number of events including talks on art and literate as well as book signings.
If you are a fan of books this is a Los Angeles sight not to be missed, but come with dollars because you will windup spending a lot. Even if not on their perfectly curated collection of books, their gifts and souvenirs are impossible to pass up and I wound up spending way too much money on greeting cards which I in no way regret doing.

Continue reading

Travel liturature 

I listen to a lot of podcasts, one of which is Gretchen Rubin’s Happier. It’s a lovely little bit of media, all positive and well, happy. A while back before heading off to Portugal there was an episode about recovering from vacation let down, those inevitable few weeks after a great trip where a person is forced to adjust back to real life. What a drag. One suggestion offered was to find books about the places you just went and read them while adjusting back to reality, in theory this lessens the blow of having to go back to work, the gym, the schedule, what ever it is that you are dreading etc.
I have pulled together a few suggestions and plan on working my way through some more as I remember them and as I read more (I read a lot).
-For a fun historical fiction look for books by Indu Sundaresan these include the Taj Trilogy:

Twentieth Wife
The Feast of Roses
Shadow Princess

– If you have a lot of time on your hands:

Shantoram – By Gregory David Roberts
Red Earth and Pouring Rain – By Vikram Chandra
Sacred Games – Also by VIkram Chandra

– For a more literate heavy read try:

The Enchantress of Florence – By Salman Rushdie

Or for the non readers out there watch Johda Akbar a Bollywood film about the relationship between the Mughal ruler Akbar the great and his Rajput princess Johda. There is a really interesting connection between this film and the Salman Rushdie book. Two sides of a historical debate about the truth behind Akbar and his relationship with the Rajput princess. Though if you love the story in Johda Akbar you may not want to read the Rushdie book.
Switzerland and Italy:

Night Letters – By Robert Dessaix

It’s funny, I was gifted this book back in college and remember loving it. I remember getting a sense of riding on trains at night, and rambling through ancient streets on a path to discovery. But I cannot for the life of me remember what the book was about. When I looked it up again I had no memory of the story itself. But the impressions still haunt me, when ever I am on train or traveling through Italy I think of this book.
Spain, all books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon but in particular the three (the fourth is set to publish this year) listed below. They are a set but the first in particular was published in some editions with a walking tour of Barcelona and should not be missed.

The Shadow of the Wind
The Angels Game
The Prisoner of Heaven
The Labyrinth of Sprits

Spain, Morocco and Portugal:

The Time In Between – By Maria Duenas

There is also an excellent Spanish language mini series on Netflix right now of the book also titled The Time in Between. Everything was filmed on location and it is truly a work of art. I cannot recommend the show or the novel enough.
Alan Brennert wrote a couple really lovely novels that take place in Hawaii.


If you are looking for something a lot more serious try:

Hawaii –  By James A. Michener

Michener wrote 26 novels in the course of his career, each terribly comprehensive and rich in the locations they are set. He also wrote 30ish non-fiction pieces and had his very first novel adapted into the Rodger and Hammerstein’s Broadway epic South Pacific.
There are so very many books I have read that take place in France but I think the most important is probably Paris by Edward Rutherford. The book is huge, not just in page number of the amount of material is covered. It follows six families starting at the Belle Epoc period but sweeps back and fourth throughout history giving one of the most singular overviews of French history I have ever read. Rutherford himself much like Michener has had a terribly successful career and has published eight epic novels about locations around the world. I was reading New York prior to loosing my Kindle (doh) and plan on tackling Dublin and Ireland Awakening prior to my 2018 trip with my mom.  Stay tuned for reviews on those.
I hope these suggestions either help motivate you to travel somewhere new or help cushion the return to post vacation reality. As I mentioned I will post more as I come across them. Read on and happy adventuring!

Continue reading