Wanderlust: An Adventure of Selflessness

The notion of travel among a majority of the U.S. population is that of retreat.  We head out-of-town, out of country to escape the lives we currently live, to relax, to get present.  Yet, it has occurred to me in my adventures around the world that travel is an opportunity to immerse yourself, to learn about lives far different from your own, to experience people with priorities nowhere near yours, to test out and take on a new language rather than expect others to know yours, to step outside your comfort zone and live life from another perspective.  This type of travel may be extreme to some but for me its the type that live for.

I know you are now wondering what has brought on this explanation of what travel means to me and what I believe it should mean to others.  Honestly — it’s an ode to an individual that has done what others never dream of, perhaps never contemplate or think twice about.  One that has displayed an overwhelming amount of courage, selflessness and spirit of adventure.  My boyfriend — Chris’ brother, Cory joined the Peace Corps in June of 2011. He is currently stationed in the rather large pueblo of La Reina in El Salvador.

Cory will spend 27 months in El Salvador working within his pueblo to influence and encourage the community around him.  He writes a blog to keep all of us at home informed on his whereabouts and happenings.  I read each post with greater admiration than the last.  Admiration for the humanitarian he has become, for the courage to live life away from what is well-known, and mostly for the experience that will change not only his life but those that love him at home and all those he comes across within El Salvador.

Follow his adventure at http://www.crokodilelyle.blogspot.com/

Yolanda - Cory's first House Mom

Casa de la Cultura

Cory & some school boys

Cory giving a speech to his community (In Spanish)!

La Reina from above

Weekend Getaway: To Wine Country

wine, california, vineyards

Paso Robles, The Undiscovered Wine County of California

Vineyards. Vino. California. Sonoma, Napa Valley, perhaps?  Not this time.  I am biased toward a smaller, less renown (for now) vino destination.  One where the vines grow strong, the grapes plentiful and the vino bottled with just as much expertise as passion.  A seemingly forgotten or unknown destination for both NorCo and SoCo dwellers.  One with foodie love, cowboy disposition and small town charm.  Paso Robles, an unseen destination — yet a favorite for those fortunate enough to have discovered.  Nestled behind the San Lucia Coastal Range mountains this town is the fastest growing city in San Luis Obispo county.

A mere 3.5 hours from Los Angeles, Paso Robles screams weekend with the girls, romantic retreat, or family reunion.  With 147 vineyards, a robust town square and plenty of gorgeous views it is one not to be missed.

For the last two year’s I have celebrated the holiday of food and wine in Paso Robles, with loved ones and family.  What I love most is the chill of fall in the air, the changing of the leaves and the small town feel that you just can’t find in Southern California.  A great big thanks to the Lyle’s for introducing me to Paso and a cheers to a successful and memorable Thanksgiving, with both families!

So next time your headed north, make Paso Robles your destination.  Eat, drink and play through a town like no other.

Downtown Paso Robles Square

Wineries to Discover…

Eberle Winery

A 1979 aged-well winery, known for their Cabernets, Eberle Winery holds their ground in a town of vinos.  Mostly recognized for their 16,000 square feet aging wine caves located beneath the tasting room.  Tours and tastings are complimentary, it’s one to definitely add to the list.

eberle, vineyard

Eberle Patio with the Family

wine caves

Eberle Wine Caves

Opolo Winery

A Lyle (Chris’ family) and now Jones family favorite, Opolo Vineyards produces fabulous well-rounded wines of all kinds and serves up some house made sausages and brick oven pizza for our enjoyment.  Voted best of class by both families:

  • 2009 Sangiovese
  • 2009 Montagna Mare
  • 2009 Malbec
  • 2008 Tampranillo

Tastings run you a mere $5 and are waived with purchase and you should defiantly purchase!

winery tasting

Opolo Tasting, $5 - Complimentary with Purchase

winery, pizza

Opolo Winery, Tasting Rooms & Outdoor Pizza Kitchen

Tablas Creek Winery

Tablas Creek Winery founded in 1987, by native French Perrin family from Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands, had a dream to recreate the wines of France in California. In 1987, they began what turned out to be a very lengthy process, the creation of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style vineyard from scratch in California. Today Tablas Creek is dedicated to organically farmed Rhone varietals and Châteauneuf style blends.

Tastings run you $10, waived with purchase.

tablas creek winery

Tablas Creek Winery - $10 tasting fee - free with purchase

picnic, winery

Wine & Dine at Tablas Creek Winery Picnic Area

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. 

Okay, I’ll admit it I am not a vino, I love and would never trade beer for wine.  I do and probably always will prefer one over the other and it just so happens Paso Robles is home to Firestone Walker Brewing Co.  If you are a beer fan and haven’t had a Firestone brew it’s a must try.

My favorites:

  • Firestone DBA
  • Double Jack IPA
  • Walker’s Reserve Porter
brewery, california, beer

Firestone Walker Brewery, Paso Robles

firestone, beer

Firestone 4 oz tasters - Any combination for $6

Eats in Paso Worth a Taste Test

Thomas Hill Organic

A bistro with a promise to serve organic dishes from their own garden and vino’s from the Central California Coast.  Thomas Hill Organics, homegrown flavor and the careful precision in which they pull together unique dishes is not to be missed.  (It’s so good I have stopped on a road trip from SF to LA, seriously check it out!)

Outdoor Enclosed Patio

Thomas Hill Organic

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Now on the east coast small town Christmas tree lightings are plentiful, but I can’t say that I have been able to re-live that experience in California, with the exception of the a lighting in Paso Robles.  The Day-After Thanksgiving Tree Lighting is not Rockafella Center spectacular, but the town meets up in the center square to bring in the holiday season with carols and laughter.  If you’re in town is worth a stop.

Tree Lighting Complete with Carols & Candles

Go Madrid! Now turn right!

Madrid although a very walkable city has a ton museums, monuments, churches, palaces, stadiums, and plazas to see.  The problem is how do you go about conquering them all in just a few days.  Most would jump on the “now found in every major city, double-decker red bus tour”.  Where you can get on and off as you please and a headset tells you about the sites you are passing by in over 10 different languages.

However I have never been a fan of traditional sightseeing.  The more random the adventure the better.  So as you can imagine when I stumble upon something called a “GoCar” tour my imagination and fascination get the better of me.

What is a GoCar?

A GoCar is a hideously “pay attention to me” yellow, two-person trike.  It has no gas pedals or steering wheel, but rather drives like a motorcycle minus the gears.  It runs a tour off a programmed GPS route.  As you drive by the GoCar tells you the history of the sights you are passing, while giving you directions on where to go.

GoCar!

The Tour

As we pull out of the GoCar garage amped up and ready to take on Madrid from a tiny convertible, a foot off the ground — a young British woman begins to scream at us.  Not an innocent bystander or a passenger from a fellow car, but rather our GoCar herself.  She is shouting directions and “interesting” facts as we venture out onto the road carefully following each step with precaution. In the beginning there is little to no time to actually see anything we pass as we are overcome with laughter at the ridiculous car we are driving, our helmets, and matching boots.

A Serious GoCar Driver at Work

Matching Riding Boots

Rocking the Helmets

We meander down major streets, roundabouts and tiny cobblestone throughfares followed by constant onlookers — laughing, shouting, and snapping photos.  We turn from tourists lost in a crowd to GoCar spokeswomen and the laughing-stock of Madrid.  As we drive down the “snobby” street of Madrid, or so the GoCar screams as we are stopped at a light with 20 plus people trying to cross. Warding off the stares, the light turns green and we drive straight — out of nowhere a Volkswagon turns without acknowledging our minor existence on the road and crash right into the left corner of our GoCar!!

As we sit in the GoCar completely shocked, both cars butting noses.  A woman in the VW begins screaming at us in Spanish out the window.  As we can’t back up because the car has no reverse, I scream to my co-pilot to get out and push!  Alarmed yet?  No worries, this story has a happy ending, we didn’t get pinged with some crazy GoCar fee or have to get the local policia involved, but it did give us an adventure we will never forget.  (The accident was really minor and not our fault.  No damage was done!)

It’s defiantly not a conventional way to see a city, nor is it accident proof, but we had a hell of a time and a great story to add to the books.  Just remember if your decide to take your own GoCar tour — it’s at your own risk!

GoCar Cities

  • San Francisco
  • San Diego
  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Lisbon

Cost in Madrid

  • 1st Hour       35 Euros
  • 2nd Hour    +25 Euros
  • 3rd Hour     +20 Euros
  • All Day         99 Euros

Madrid. Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.

Palace de Cristal

The past, the present and the future are notions, measures of time that we are taught to live from, in, and for.  However does anyone ever prepare you for the moment when you encounter a place, a culture or a lifestyle that stands one foot in the past and one foot in the present with the future not yet determined?

Calle de Santiago

Segovia

Madrid and its countryside have caused me to re-think what I once considered to be two measures of time.  Castles from the 1600s, aqueducts built by the Romans, traditions that run through the blood of each generation, a common reluctance if not inability to speak outside their native tongue.  The people and the places within Madrid and its nearby suburbs live and tell the story of Spain in the past.

However, the Madrid I experienced today is what simply seems to be an adaptation of the past.  Of course Madrid has its fair share of modern cuisine, technology, transportation, architecture, etc.  Yet, the surroundings and the way of life are based on a simple balance of how it has always been done and minor changes that have been accepted — in time.

Modern Madrid

Segovia Aqcueduct

It’s the contrast of the city that I found most appealing.  The Plaza Mayor with its traditional Spanish architecture, cafes, and coin shops which sits adjacent to the newly restored and updated Mercado San Miguel.  An old covered market that has recently been restored only to become a center for high quality local food products, tapas, and drink.  A Roman aqueduct stands since the 1st century, yet the street leading up to it is full of sunglasses, lingerie, and mobile telephone stores.

The contrast can be mesmerizing at every turn, yet the most enduring quality of Madrid is the attitude to everyday life.  The difference between Americans and Spaniards is that Americans spend their entire life trying to figure it out — where as Spaniards simply live it.

The average workday is long yet nobody complains, 8am – 8pm with a 1.5 – 2 hour “Lunch” break around 2 o’clock (biggest meal of the day) .  Dinner begins around 10pm and consists mainly of small plates or tapas.  They never stay in one place for too long, they live for family, friends, food, and drink.  They are passionate, loud, and energetic.  They make this city and this country easy to fall in love with.

Museo del Jamon

Tapas with Friends

My hope is that Spain stands its ground — one foot based in the past with their history, tradition, and lifestyle… yet continues to adapt to the world around it, taking only those aspects of the present and the future that will encourage the country and it’s people to grow stronger than that of which they already are.

An Itch That Won’t Quit

Wanderlust.  The concept is a breeze to grasp but the mystery is why? Why do the images and thoughts of wander encourage great feelings of unrest and desire that just won’t quit?

A few videos that make my itch to travel and experience worlds other than my own stronger with each image.

Wanderlust by ThinkLab

A short that embodies what Wanderlust is all about, evoking the feelings of traveling instead of the places you will go.

50 People, 1 Question – New York by 50 People, 1 Question

An incredible video that points to the facts that we spend a great deal of time being indecisive and unknowing.  Why not start the day with a wish?

Morocco & Spain by Mike Matas

Mike and his girlfriend travelled 1000 miles, in two weeks, took 4000 pictures and combined them into a journey to share.  Matt’s genius is taking these still photos and placing them in a way that brings them life.

Taiwan Trip by D1 Production

A montage that will make you feel the need to run off to explore the city of Taiwan. Beautifully done.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have memories captured like this?

A Day in California

I ran across this video today, compiled with over 10,000 photographs to create a two-minute short film, “A Day in California.”  Having lived here for almost 8 years and been visiting this massive state of California for my entire life, I still forget just how many climates and landscapes are left to be explored.

Check out Ryan Killackey and his wife Sheri’s effort to capture the wonder’s that are and make California a fantastic place to live or visit.

 

Some recognized places in the video: