Every so often we spin through our photos and let the fates take us to a particular image. Each issue of "Travel Roulette" shows the image that was randomly selected and the memories it triggered.
Travel isn't always pretty, but there are no second chances here. It doesn't matter if we don't like the image or memory because well, travel is often messy.
Travel Roulette No. 51: The World War Bunkers of the Brittany Coast
The evidence of the two world wars is so present in Europe, but all the monuments to fallen soldiers and museums pale in comparison to these bunkers we saw along the coast in Brittany, France.
Imagine going for a walk on a brisk winter day. For lunch you may have had the famous crepe and cider or oysters, which are in season. Maybe you had a breton cake at a cafe and soaked up the sun. Your walk took you amongst rocks and a wide expansive beach. Nearby are mysterious standing stones placed there ages ago for unknown reasons.
Turning a corner you encounter a row of what could be seen as brutalist modern homes with amazing views. If it weren't for the bullet holes and the plaques. It turns out these were built by the French but they fell to the Germans and then were taken back. It's a sobering reminder that we don't (as Americans) often get. Nearly all of our recent wars were fought on foreign soil. You have to travel a bit to see evidence of any conflict. Not so in France or the rest of Europe, where a sunny stroll turns into a grim reminder of the past.
Travel Roulette No. 50: Early Morning ESpresso in Barcelona, Spain
One of the ways Jill plans a city is by looking for all the good coffee shops. This is a sign of true love as she doesn't drink coffee or take caffeine at all. It's also a very practical act, as a good coffee shop is a good indication of the quality of a neighborhood.
But over the years I've grown less and less interested in what other people consider to be the best coffee shop in any given city. This isn't always true, but generally the coffee is more expensive, the atmosphere looks like it came from Instagram, and all the patrons look like me.
I don't know why you travel, but I travel to escape people who look like me, or to put a fine point on it, I travel to have experiences I can't get everywhere else.
I say all this because around the corner from where this picture was taken was a great coffee shop, but it did fall out of Instagram. I went for a run and when I was finished I walked by said coffee shop and heard nothing but english as spoken by Americans. I kept walking and found myself down a small pee smelling alley/street. I stopped by where there was a cluster of people smoking and drinking coffee and went in.
The espresso was amazing, but what made it better is that I was basically alone with a heap of locals in a spot that was open and serving coffee because that's what people need at that time of day. Later in the day they have vermouth and small bites, but in the morning it's filled with locals passing through.
Travel Roulette No. 49: Breakfast near Galle, Sri Lanka
This was but a small part of the daily breakfast that was served at the beautiful house we stayed in near the beach outside of Galle, Sri Lanka. This was a great way to start our day which usually went something like this: wake up to the sunshine, shower in the outdoor shower, move out to the terrace for breakfast (see above), tuk tuk to the beach, have some juice, have some lunch, tuk tuk from the beach, swim, walk to dinner. This was our favorite part of our short time in Sri Lanka and the only part we speak fondly about. The rest are stories for another time.
Travel Roulette no. 48: Huelgoat, Brittany, France
Oh the mossy rocks of Huelgoat in Brittany, France. We absolutely adored this small town that was very near our house sit in the winter of 2016 and returned many times to walk this quick little trail through these giant boulders bathed in sunlight (or mist from fog or rain). This place just felt so magical that I half expected a tiny fairy to appear hovering just above the boulders as she flitted about in the sun's rays.
Travel Roulette No. 47: Santa Domingo Church in Uayma, Mexico
We were in the Yucatan for a wedding and decided to rent a car and take a day trip out to Valladolid. We should have stayed a bit longer in that tiny and awesome town, but started our drive back after only one night. So not exactly a day trip. Maybe a night trip?
On the way back to Merida, we wandered towards this amazing church whose outside facade was covered with mosaic wheels like this. It was cool and sunny inside and I found a few more mosaic wheels near the altar. I loved the simplicity of the colors and how there is a statue of Mary sitting in front of a statue of Mary.
The rest of the church was quite bare. Almost a modern design aesthetic in the simplicity of the decoration. But I suppose you don't really need any decoration when your walls look like this!
This church was heavily damaged by the Maya in their attempts to rid the region of reminders of the Spanish. The Spanish had built it in a grand style to impress the locals with the notion of their might and power and wealth. They used many stones from old Mayan ruins in the area, including Ek Balam and Chichen Itza.
Luckily it's still here, as it's a beautiful reminder of the cultures of the area.
issue no. 46: Street Art in Porto, Portugal
I remember this moment quite well. Porto is hilly and we were walking around like we do, wandering with intent, looking for a coffee shop or lunch or something. There was a staircase with a couple landings, each of them smelling like piss and body odor.
We had little choice but to continue, and we were rewarded with several stencils like the one you see here, and a few other pieces of street art.
I love the symmetry and the blue hue of the light and that I had no idea what she was saying to herself. Are they twins? Is this the artist herself? Is there a mirror involved? Is she talking to herself? They seem to be speaking at the same time, which adds to the complexity.
Now that I'm back at my laptop months later (this is the beauty of travel roulette series, if you ask me!) I can look this up and translate it for you, compliments of Google of course.
"You're not crazy, but you gotta stop this story, you should leave."
issue no. 45: Under the sculpture in the garden of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London
I know this looks like I might be standing underneath the Eiffel Tour but I am not. I am standing under this beautifully woven fiber sculpture that was in the garden of the V&A museum in London back in early 2016. I absolutely fell in love with the V&A and this sculpture was just icing on the cake. The garden of the V&A seems to be a gathering place for friends and families, and it was full of a super positive energy the day we visited in early spring. This sculpture wound it's way around the park and offered amazing angles and images of the surrounding buildings and landscapes. But the most interesting part of this sculpture was that it was being added to every minute of every day. The sculpture was being created by a robotic set of arms and just continued to build and build every second of every day throughout the duration of the exhibit. So, what I saw that day was not going to be the same the next. I love when art builds itself and is every changing as the environment it is placed in.
issue no. 44: Cooking in the Sahara
At first glance it looks like this is a moment of repose. Staring into the fire after a long day of walking in the Sahara. But there is no rest in the Sahara. This is preparing the fire for dinner. If you look closely you can see that Hicham is breaking a piece of dried branch across his knee. In the sand next to him are potatoes and maybe some eggplant.
We didn’t cook like this every night, but a few times we would get the fire really hot and then bury them in the sand next to the fire. They would cook under the coals and sand and while I would like to say there wasn’t any sand on them, it would be a lie. There was always sand everywhere. That’s how you know you are in the Sahara.
We started to consider the sand to be extra seasoning, and while it didn't enhance the flavor of any of the dishes, it certainly added to the ambiance.
Issue no. 43: Handmade buttons in Sefrou Morocco
We had signed up to take a tour of artisans in a small town 45 minutes outside of Fez. The first stop was the cultural center - a building designed to promote and house small traditional crafts known in the area. We were told that nearly every town in Morocco has one or more of these outposts, and they act like a tourist information center, only with people practicing their craft.
We saw a woodcarver and a man making thread and spinning it with a small machine. We didn't see the buttons being made, but learned that they are made by women in their homes and are a cottage industry in Morocco. The prices are really low for these buttons, but nobody would raise their prices in the market because they would never sell. If one woman raised her price or did something different with the buttons, nobody would buy them.
In one way this is how tradition is kept, but in other ways this is how a culture and people can be left behind. There is no union to demand better wages because there is always somebody who will continue to sell their buttons at the originally low wage. Since there is little opportunity for women, they continue to make the buttons at home, and don't dare to branch out.
issue no. 42: Street art in Quimper, France
We absolutely loved our day trip to Quimper in the Brittany region of France. We visited a couple of times as I had one of the best pain aux raisins I have ever eaten in my life while there. As we wandered around the town, we saw mural after mural decorating the walls of old and new buildings alike.
We were quite surprised to see so many murals in such a traditional town, but they added such a layer of beauty to the buildings. I loved coming upon this piece and seeing this very French seeming girl in such largess. I love the cubist elements and the gradation of the colors in her shirt. I love the way her hair is shaped and outlined evoking an ever so slight movement. And the glasses. Oh how I love the glasses. This just speaks to me of the way we move throughout the world and how we identify ourselves at various points in time.
issue no. 42: Jill crossing a suspension bridge in Borjomi, Geogia
For those of you who don't know, I (Jill) have a fear of suspension bridges. I am not a fan of the way they sway and bounce and just generally fuck with your sense of where your body is in relation to the Earth. However, I do love hiking and so inevitably one finds one's self crossing many suspension bridges. This one in Borjomi was pretty easy on me. It was pretty long so had a fair amount of bounce but at this point in my travels, I've crossed much scarier. Don't let my current bravado fool you; I still insisted on being the ONLY person on the bridge and I walked as lightly as possible (to limit the bounce) while constantly touching the top of the rail. But yeh, it was easy.
issue no. 41: Peninsular War Monument in Porto, Portugal
I remember this day distinctly. We were walking over to get our rental car before leaving Porto on our drive through Portugal and noticed the very top of this statue from a long way off. It's hard to see, but it's a lion standing on a huge eagle. Like most moments when you travel, it's hard to find the time to learn about everything you see - you just take a picture and then move on. If you are lucky you'll remember to do some research a little later. This is why we have travel roulette! It's so we don't forget these little moments. So let me show you what I learned about this statue (beyond the name).
It turns out that this monument is dedicated to the fallen Portuguese soldiers who fought with the British and Irish against Napoleon as the French attempted to take the Iberian Peninsula in 1804.
The lion represents the parties defending Portugal against the French and the fallen eagle is of course, the French. Once Portugal was secured, it was used as a base to help the Spanish to rid themselves of the French who had taken the country.
As Napoleon pushed east into Russia, their forces were strained and Spain was freed from French rule. But this took years. There you have it! A mini history lesson for us all!
Issue No. 40: a bowl of cherries, yerevan, armenia
Cherries were a recurring theme in Yerevan. First our neighbor knocked on our door and offered us a bunch of cherries, and then I went to get a haircut and was offered even more. It was one of the stranger haircuts I've had in these two + years of full time travel. To begin, the barber was underground in a tunnel lined with shops - shoe repair, watch repair, toilet. The whole tunnel was designed to get you across the street safely. When I walked into the barber, she was rinsing cherries in the smallest little sink in the corner of what was a really small shop. It had one chair in which I put my butt.
We spoke no language in common, but she offered me some cherries and wouldn't take no for an answer. I ate so many cherries. So many. She cut my hair and then gave me a head and shoulder massage. She told me somehow that she is a dancer and singer and gives massages (but not in the hotel). She gave me her number so that I could schedule a massage, but I had no idea what that would look like, so didn't take her up on the offer. It was a friendly interaction, much like most we had in Armenia!
Issue No. 39: Structural Remains on the Great Wall, Beijing, China
The past few weeks have been a bit rough for Travel Roulette; the images not so great, nor highlighting the most exciting moments of our travels. But, this is what this feature of the site is all about. There are random things along the way that catch my eye for some reason and then they stay forever in my photos. I'm not going to pretend I have the slightest idea where we were exactly along the Great Wall when I took this photo, nor that I have any idea the story behind it. What I can tell you is that right now I imagine I was pulled in by the varying textures and the light. As I look at this photo now, 1.5 years on, my eye travels around the soft paper peeling off the wall and the stark lines made by the wooden pieces in contrast. But more than this I am drawn to the soft filtered light coming in from the left as the insistent brightness of light creates orbs in the center.
Issue no. 38: Cannery Roscoff, Brittany, France
Not the most flattering pic of Roscoff I'll admit, but we were mightily charmed by the city on the northern coast of France. We climbed to the top of this little hill on the east side of town and had a great view out to the sea. I took this photo because I was struck with the contrast between these indistrial buildings right next to the beautiful stone work buildings. This was minutes before a storm rolled in and we saw one of the most vivid rainbows that we have ever seen. It was a perfect January day.
issue no. 37: Chinese New Year fireworks Hong Kong 2016
This is neither the best nor worst photo I took of the CNY celebrations in Hong Kong back in early 2016. I am no lover of fireworks nor large crowds of people. But when in Hong Kong for CNY one must take part in the fireworks celebrations regardless of one's issues. These did not disappoint. The fireworks lit the sky fantastically all set against the backdrop of Hong Kong's beautiful skyline. We were able to see both the fireworks and the light show on the buildings at the same time. Families were crowded around, kids on the shoulders of their parents or sitting on top of the few cars that were along the waterfront. The echo of the boom from the fireworks throughout the cavernous streets was incredible. The sound became muffled and truly something all together different than the original thunderous boom. All this conspired for an intoxicating half hour and I was completely mesmerized. I still dislike fireworks but this was a great evening.
issue no. 36: Hans Hartung at the fond leclerc, brittany, france
It's funny I landed on this photo this morning because we have been gorging on art while in Barcelona. The Fonds LeClerc was the first modern art we had seen in a long time and we absolutely feasted while there. The building is beautiful and the day could not have been more spectacular. The foundation had a Hans Hartung exhibit running when we were there. I had no idea who this person was and had never seen any of his works. This one is called T1974-E27 from 1974. Sexy title I know. But that is what I loved about the exhibit. There wasn't a ton of explanation of the paintings and what the artist's message was behind each one. It was all totally up to the viewer's interpretation. This reminded me of ruffled bird feathers.
issue no. 35: Hotel Towel Display, Republic of Georgia
It took a minute to figure out what I was looking at as I scrolled through my images for this edition of Travel Roulette. The day meant nothing to me. May 18 2018. But then I scrolled to either side and saw a great image of soup and then mountains and then a cat. The mountains triggered it for me. Yes. Our brilliant 14 day tour ofThe Republic of Georgia.
I remembered the cold room and some fatigue at moving on every morning to a different town. Living out of the top of my bag and not feeling well for some reason. Maybe the cold. From here I only got sicker and by the time we got to the Black Sea our guide was urging me to drink chacha as a cure. “Not just one shot, many.”
One of the worst pictures I took there no doubt. I still don’t know why took a snap of the two towels sitting on our bed. But this is the beauty of Travel Roulette. It’s totally random!
issue no. 34: School's out in Hanoi, Vietnam
When we were in Vietnam, and Hanoi specifically, we were absolutely amazed at the number of motorbikes that were on the road. We were then even more surprised to see all that was carried on these motorbikes and how no one ever wanted to stop driving; even at intersections! On this day we were wandering around town and saw all the parents waiting for their kids when school let out. We stood amazed as families piled 4 deep onto the little motorbikes and zoomed off without taking but a second to get situated. This was well-rehearsed choreography that seems like it would take years to perfect. We were amazed at the way the kids just hopped on and neither they nor their parents seemed concerned with safety. Or maybe it just didn't occur to them that this wasn't safe. Because even though there's so much craziness here, and no traffic signals and just hoards and hoards of people on bikes, we did not witness any accidents or acts of aggression against any other driver. So we wandered on an marveled at other fascinating aspects of this great city.
Issue No. 33: The River crossing at Hvalfjaroarsveit, Iceland, 2015
Hvalfjaroarsveit. A name or place that just rolls off the tongue. If you are Bjork that is. Honestly I'm not sure if that's even correct, but that's what the tag on my phone says. It was October 11, almost exactly two years ago as of this writing. We were new to our vagabond ways. We had just left the states on our first round the world trip and Iceland was our first stop. A dream stop on what would turn out to be a dream trip that hasn't ended yet!
What you see before you are two women holding onto a wire and crossing a rushing glacial river. The first part isn't deep, but it's cold. Very cold. By the time you get to the log, you can't feel your feet. By the time you get across the log, you are a chattering box of teeth and bone.
Reportedly there is a way across the river on the other side the waterfall, but that didn't seem like a great idea, so we returned the same way, much to Jill's chagrin.
issue no. 32: Calligraphy Lesson Hong Kong 2016
We were wandering the streets of Hong Kong during Chinese New Year celebrations and saw this man teaching people how to do calligraphy on the staircase near where we were staying. We stopped for a look and the man pulled Zac in for a quick lesson. I stood aside and watched as the man first showed Zac how it was done, then stood behind Zac holding his hand while Zac moved the brush and finally Zac flying solo with the brushwork. This all took about 5 minutes (maybe less) and I absolutely loved watching Zac and this man communicate with each other without any shared language. I cannot tell you what Zac wrote out on this sheet but we thought he did a great job. I suspect we did not send this item back to our storage unit, so I hope whoever found it in our tiny hotel room enjoyed the end product as much as we enjoyed the process.
issue no. 31: Road signage in Australia
I love that I landed on this image. We had such great fun seeing all of the varying creatures depicted on the road signs as we drove around Australia. None of the run-of-the-mill cows, horses, people or even sheep for these folks. Nope, they have all many of animals crossing the streets. I just love these. This just made my day.
Issue No. 30: Fallen petals Kanazawa, Japan
This is a perfect example of Travel Roulette. This picture is totally throw away and nothing that anyone should ever really see. But here we are with the rules being such as they are so this is the photo we get. But here's what I love about this image. It could have been taken anywhere (which seems to be my aesthetic) but still feels very Japanese to me. I remember being struck with the beauty of the highlights from the sun across the varying shades of green and just absolutely swooning over the pops of pink provided by the flowers. They just seem to have been dropped from their trees with a sort of whimsy. I was undoubtedly high on cherry blossom viewing when I took this photo and was just struck with the beauty of everything. But that's not a bad way of seeing things now, is it?
Issue No. 29: The Negev Desert, Israel
The rocks rose and fell like waves moving at the pace of the universe. Serpentine vertebrae pushing from the earth. You have to pass through this massive wall of stone cut to make way for the road in order to see the small surveillance blimp hovering in the sky like a tiny remote controlled cloud.
You squint into the sun and shield your eyes with the flat of your hand like a sailor looking at the horizon looking for land.
Did it move? You think it's getting closer. You think it's watching you because there really is literally nothing else out here to watch.
Except for the bus load of Israeli students taking a break in the shade of the only tree. A dusty sad and litter strewn eucalyptus looking sad and forlorn, maybe even a little embarrassed at the circumstances that led it to this place.
This is one of the few places in Israel not irrigated to a verdant lushness from an ancient aquifer in the middle of the country.
Maybe that's what the drone is doing. Calculating where the sprinklers will eventually go.
issue no. 28: Along the Kumano Kodo, Japan
I am so happy I landed on this image. As soon as I saw it a flood of memories and emotions just instantly struck my core. I got short of breath and a bit teary eyed, to be honest. Walking part of the Kumano Kodo in Japan is one of my all-time favorite experiences I have ever had. The image that you see here marked the end of what would be the toughest day on the trail. It was the longest day, miles wise, and rained the entire time. Some points were an absolute downpour while others were just a light mist that coated every ounce of you. We had rain gear but still felt wet to the core. The air was that bone chilling sort that accompanies being in a thick forest in the spring rain. We were nearing the end of our journey when we saw these two people taking cover from the rain as they left one of the shrines that can be seen along the journey. I was so taken with the beauty of the flags and the umbrellas against the pops of color in the trees. I still am taken with it. We ended our day at a small guesthouse and finally got warm after taking a bath in the incredible hot onsen. I'm just going to sit here and relive some more of my time along the trail.
issue no. 27: Street art, london
As I recall, we were wandering around the Brick Lane area of London one afternoon and stumbled upon a ton of street art. Well, we were purposely in the area to search for such creation and for markets, but were so happy to stumble across so many pieces we loved. There's so much about this piece that I love - the "pinstripe suit" quality of the background juxtaposed with the more bold, incomplete lines of the head. I love how the face pops from what seems like a scarf wrapped around her head. The colors of the scarf contrasting with the dual eye color and continued hashmarks on the face. There's a beauty here, geometry, sadness, hopefulness, playfulness. It feel to me that it reflects much of the world around us. The complexities of living amongst one another, trying to make sense of what we see and can apply a name to. There are contrasts here, but also similarities. An ease in finding this to be a beautifully rendered piece on a wall, on a street in London.
Issue No. 26: Musee de Pont-Aven in Pont-Aven, France
I didn't study art and I'm not an artist. I do tend to be totally bored by most 19th century landscape paintings, and I suspect that I would have been bored by most of the paintings at the Musee de Pont-Aven had we not been to the Brittany coast first.
The Brittany coast literally looks like this painting. The sky, the clouds, the sun setting, the vague hint of cold winds blowing in from the Atlantic and the rocks. Oh the rocks. They are perfect windswept sculptures of the kind you can climb and aren't relegated to a rich few people who can commission their creation or wall them off to charge admission.
But you can't climb these paintings, or even take pictures of them. It's a shame about the latter because I was reprimanded in curt French by the young attendant who kept a close eye on me until we left.
Issue No. 25: Crumbling fortress in borjomi, Republic of georgia
I wish I landed on a better photo from when we visited Borjomi, Georgia, but alas, I landed on this one. Still, this conjures super fond memories of heading out for a walk in this small area of Georgia known for it's medicinal springs, mineral water and beautiful scenery. It had been raining for most of our time in Borjomi and the sun came out to light up this beautiful blue sky. We wasted no time in heading out on a walk along the train tracks and headed toward this fortress. I don't really remember much about the fortress but, I do remember it was necessary to climb, climb, climb to reach it, and that we didn't have time to get there. We left late in the day and Zac had a call with a client and so we decided to go up as far as we thought we had time for and then head back down. So this is really the best view of the fortress on top of the hill that we could find. It's not always about the destination but how you get there. And we enjoyed this walk immensely.
Issue No. 24: Textile Exhibit at the Metropolitan Arts Center in Belfast
It's funny that I landed on this photo. We flew to Belfast from Glasgow for an overnight visit in order to see Kate Tempest perform at the Empire Music Hall. We arrived in Belfast really early in the morning and started out exploring the city straight away. Zac had booked a taxi tour of the city which picked us up from the airport and then drove around with an incredibly fun guy as we saw the sites of the conflicts that had plagued this area for many, many years. Our afternoon lightened up a bit and we found ourselves wandering over to a hip part of the city and to a great coffee shop. It was late in the day and quite chilly out (it was November in Belfast after all). The coffee shop was a spare, modern affair and was packed with people on their lap tops, having meetings, socializing with friends over coffee or tea and some lovely baked goods. We took our seats and casually sipped our coffee and tea treats as we watched the windows steam over. The street outside became invisible as the windows were covered first with steam and then the water dripping down. We headed to the MAC afterwards for a little treat for our eyes. There wasn't a whole ton on display, but the building is an interesting combination of disciplines. I was so happy to stumble upon this room of beautiful knitted sculptures. I failed to get the artist's name, however, because I was entranced with wandering around within the space.
Issue no. 23: Hiking the Great Wall of China
I have this strange vertigo when it comes to steep steep stairs. Which is why it's really odd that we keep finding ourselves on some of the steepest stairs and walls in the known world. The Great Wall of China, where we hiked for 6 days and nights is a classic example. The "stairs" are so steep that it's more like a stone ladder. My travel partners thought I made it to the top of this incline because I'm fit but it's really because I was propelled by sheer terror of falling backwards and then off the face of the earth entirely where I would float into space tumbling like an untethered astronaut.
(bear with me while I wipe the sweat from my palms)
Believe me when I tell you this wasn't the most terrifying moment on our Great Wall hike, and forgive me for not wanting to recount them in detail here. I'm saving this post and walking away from my computer for a bit.
issue no. 22: Car Camping on the South Island of New Zealand
I think I have landed on images of New Zealand than on any other place on my phone. I'm not sure what this is telling me, but I was so happy to arrive at this photo. Zac took this shot one night as we were camped amongst the mountains of the gorgeous south island. It was a particularly windy and rainy evening so the fact that he was able to get out and get a clean shot was incredible. It had been a long time since I was in a storm like that in what is essentially a tin can, but for some reason it was so much fun. I was super grateful that we had a van in which we could comfortably sit (and stand) in order to sit out the duration of the storm. Heading out to pee was no picnic, but hey, I was comfy while I was inside. This night and this van continually help fuel my fond memories of car camping and have me looking forward to more outings of the sort in the near future.
Issue No. 21: Cows in the field, vermiglio, italy
It's total serendipity that I landed on this photo of cows in the field in Vermiglio, Italy. It's serendipity because we will be heading back to this very field in a couple of weeks and we could not be more excited. These cows came to visit us towards the end of our time picking flowers in the field just above where these cows are situated. They had just come back down from grazing in the mountains all summer and had free range of fields in town. One morning they decided to make their way up to the field right next to where we were picking flowers and they spent a few days hanging out with us. They didn't seem to mind our presence and we welcome theirs. I loved hearing the little tearing sound of their mouths ripping their favorite greens from the ground. I hope we get to see them again this year.
ISSUE NO. 20: Kinlochleven, West Highland Way Scotland 2016
We had been walking through the Scottish Highlands for maybe five days or more at this point. Sections of the West Highland Way (as it's known) were not always pretty. The inhabitants of the region were forcibly evacuated in the 18th and 19th centuries to make way for massive amounts of sheep. Many of those displaced people left for America and Canada. This is where I learned that Nova Scotia means "New Scotland".
It is also on the West Highland Way that Jill learned that her shoes didn't fit, causing her to sit out a day of the walk. And it's too bad because it was one of the most varied in terms of terrain. As you can see, the valley we had been in for days was starting to narrow and the rocky landscape turned into scrubby grass and a smattering of trees. The trail remained the centuries old military road we had been on, but it too began to narrow to a footpath around the munroe you see in the middle of the photograph. Several hours later the famous Ben Nevis came into view wearing a crown of cotton clouds.
issue no. 18: Cherry Blossoms at Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa, Japan 2016
I loved Kanazawa, Japan. It was our first Japanese city outside of Tokyo and it was incredible. It didn't hurt that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom either. Everywhere we went we were greeted by such beautiful blooms in such a well preserved town. As we wandered the streets, I remember feeling a sense of calm and history surrounding me. I remember standing outside this Japanese Castle and thinking how fortunate I am to be witnessing this amazing bloom. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty and tranquility of this place that we just sort of stopped and stood amongst the blossoms for a really long time. It's been a while since I've felt quite so at peace as I did while here. This really was a magical place. I hope you can feel the tranquility of the surroundings and bring a little of that into your day, where ever you may be.
ISSUE NO. 19: Calcified waterfall AT hierve el agua, oaxaca, Mexico 2015
We walked through a few small villages with our local guide who was trying to bring tourism dollars to their community. It was the day after my birthday, and this was my birthday present - a visit to one of two calcified waterfalls in the world. The route we took to Herive el Agua was lesser known and infrequently travelled. We passed a tree with a long stick leaning against it. I asked our guide what it was for and he explained that it was a wild papaya tree, and the stick was placed there to enable easy picking of the fruit by anybody passing through. The thought pleased me tremendously and speaks to the strong ties these small communities have with the land and to each other.
We crossed a small spring of water and swam in it's cooling depths before continuing towards the waterfall that was just beginning to show it's hardened face through the jungle around us. We sat in silence at it's silent feet, marveling at the density of time that contains a patience we can't fathom.
At the top looking down you can see the source of water bubbling up from the earth and the slow trail it makes over the edge. You can see the halted attempts to commercialize the enterprise. Halted because of money. Halted because of time. Halted over disputes of ownership and proprietary laws.
issue no. 16: Special dinner at black sesame kitchen, beijing, china
I was so happy when I landed on this image. Not because it's a great photo or anything, but it is a great memory. It was our last night in Beijing and we had booked into a special multi-course private dinner at Black Sesame Kitchen. We were super excited about it and when we met a fabulous brother and sister duo on our Great Wall walk we decided to invite them along. They were totally game for the event and we added them straightaway. This was not only incredible food, but incredible company as well. There was a huge group of Australians at the table and conversation quickly turned to the US election. This was before Trump won the Republican nomination and they just kept asking if his candidacy was a joke. Filled with confidence we responded yes and then had to eat our words several times over the next few months. The food was fantastic as well and ranged from dumplings to asparagus with goji berries to kung pao chicken followed by candied bananas with homemade black sesame ice cream. We loved every dish and this was absolutely the perfect way to close out an otherwise ok stay in Beijing. We definitely saved the best for last.
issue no. 17: Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City
We had just sold our house and possessions the month before, packed up what was left and headed for Mexico. First stop was Mexico City, and then we spent about three weeks in Oaxaca.
I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the size and population of Mexico City, but what I didn't realize is that it has the most parks and museums of any city in the world (outside of Paris). So when I see this photo I think of how new everything seemed. Our new full time travel lifestyle hadn't sunk in yet. I hadn't yet fired my biggest and most annoying client - that came in Oaxaca, so I was working in the morning and in the evening but wandering around Mexico City eating street food and visiting the cool shade of their many parks and museums.
I had just begun to experiment with the timer feature on my iPhone. So I set the timer in this stairwell and put the phone on the ground facing up and walked away. To me it looks like a decaying sun. To me it looks like bubbles rising. To me it looks like the end of so many things.
ISSUE NO.15: Olive Farm, Croatia 2015
Istria is a small region of Croatia that used to be Italy, and you can feel that vibe still to this day. Istria seems to have everything one could want - small towns connected by twisty roads some of which lay in ruins, festivals to celebrate every kind of harvest and seafood. When I say every kind of harvest I really mean it. Olives, wine, chestnuts, truffles, asparagus, scallops, you name it. If they grow or harvest it, they have a festival for it.
This view is from the balcony of our apartment. Every morning the sun would rise to reveal the mist that had rolled in throughout the night. Through it you could hear the dogs howling during their truffle hunt. By mid morning the fog had receeded revealing the truffle hunters lining the roads with their trunks open like mouths waiting for a meal. Our hosts were spectacular and we picked olives and they fed us and made us coffee. It was truly a magical place.
issue no.14: Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Japan 2016
It's funny that I landed on this photo. FB used this same one for a memory of mine today. So the Universe is telling me to think of cherry blossoms. Which isn't really hard to do because I often think of our time in Japan. It was one of our favorite places we've been and maybe part of that is because of these guys. We went absolutely insane for them when we were there. They are intoxicating and deserve their rightful spot as a Japanese obsession. I think part of what made them so magical was to see the joy in everyone's eyes as they wandered around under the beautiful blossom umbrellas. There were people taking photos of the blossoms alone and then those trying to get just the right selfie with the perfect bloom. There were traffic jams of people walking along the paths trying to view the fleeting blooms. There were festivals and oh so many picnics under their canopy. This is what makes cherry blossom season for me. Yes, the blooms are perfection in their short time with us. But more importantly, people bloom for this short period of time as well.
issue no. 13: Blue wall, frida Kahlo house mexico city, mexico 2015
It was August of 2015. We had just sold our house and belongings to travel the world. Our first stop was Mexico City where we stayed for a week before heading to Oaxaca to finish out the month. The line was long to get into the Frida Kahlo Museum, but we basked in the glow of the blue made famous by her. There is such an energy in this color, and in this museum complex. It's part studio part home, part hospital for Frida. You can feel the happiness and misery they had in their lives not fighting for attention, but balancing each other out.
The street is lined with people waiting to get in, but is shaded with magnificent trees that are pulling up the sidewalk with their roots. Lizards make their way along the wall, your feet, the trees. It doesn't feel like you are waiting in line, it feels like this is part of the museum, part of the experience.
issue No. 12: culzean castle, ayreshire, scotland
We decided to descend upon Culzean castle one bright but chilly day in late November. We knew the castle itself would be closed, but had read the grounds were amazing for a nice walk about. This was true. The walks through the woods are really lovely. The property overlooks the water and there are llamas out and about. What more could a girl ask for? Well, it turns out there was a wedding fair at the castle the day we visited. Thinking this would be a great way to see the inside of the castle, Zac and I hastened to the event. We are used to more "open house" sorts of events than how this one was organized. At the door we were greeted by a lovely woman asking if we would like some champagne. "Of course!". Then she started asking the really hard questions - when are you getting married, have you relocated here in Scotland or is this a destination wedding, when are you getting married, how many people, budget, etc. Undaunted, we just started crafting little stories of our relationship. We've been together a long time (true) and finally decided to make it official. Our families were eager for us to have a wedding and would happily come to Scotland. We were whisked off by another woman who gave us the full tour of a small portion of the castle where we could hold our nuptials. We could say our vows at the top of the spiral staircase with our loved ones nestled in chairs all the way down. We could stand at the apex of the atrium while looking down on our guests as well. The possibilities were endless. There was one room that was really charming and I said I wanted to marry in there - it had sea views. We joked that we would have our backs to everyone in the room just so we could look outside while we said our vows. The tour ended and so did our charade. We found ourselves back outside, long married and in the mood for a nice long walk through the woods. The llamas were calling.
issue no. 11: Cape Meares State Park, Oregon, USA
It was March, 2015 when we came to the Oregon coast for the second time. This trip was to determine if we wanted to permanently relocate from Minnesota. The Minnesota we left was still under sheets of ice - the roads were just two worn tracks for your tires. It was a terrible winter, and when we arrived in Oregon to blooming flowers and the ocean we considered our lives. We had a few perfect days of waking and doing yoga and deciding what to do. We had no other schedule or timeline, and decided we wanted every day of our lives to be like that - owning the time allotted to us on this earth to do as we pleased, and not for money. This is when Visa-Vis was conceived. On the coast of Oregon, on this beach. By August we had sold everything and were in Mexico.
issue no. 10: Black Sand beach, huia, north island, new zealand
This was the morning of our second night spent in the camper van at the area in Huia, New Zealand. One thing to know about New Zealand is that it takes forever to drive anywhere. Honestly, you need to drive about 20 miles and it takes like 3 hours or something. There are signs everywhere about not falling asleep because of the fatigue that sets in. We were well used to the exceedingly long drives at this point and pushed on down this dirt track onto a grassy area to get near this beach. It was completely muddy where we parked the van but taking a 5 minute walk to this beach in the morning was worth it. At sunrise, the surface sparkled as if millions of diamonds were hidden beneath the trillions of grains of sand. This was also one of the silkiest of sands I've ever felt between my toes. On this morning we carried our beverages down to the beach and said "good morning" to the local men who had set up tables and chairs to have their morning breakfast ritual on the beach. Too bad we had to wind back up that dirt road later on that day. At least we were well rested and relaxed after this gorgeous start to the day.
issue no. 9: rock formations at petroglyph national monument, nm usa
Freshly back from Mexico and hot off my mother's memorial in Cleveland, we were still so new to all this. I had fired my biggest client while in Oaxaca and was preparing final documents as we drove from Minneapolis to Cleveland to Kentucky before heading west to our final destination - a reunion trek with friends in Colorado.
We don’t do anything by half measures, so we took the long route. Skimming Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas we arrived in New Mexico for a few days with my ex-girlfriend her husband and little baby. The weather was brilliant. The sky even more so. We took off hiking for the day and got lost in the shapes.
I love nooks like this where the wind and rain and the baking sun all leave their evidence. As I stare at formations like this I can’t help but think of what it looked like 400 or a 1000 years ago, and what it will be like in another thousand. Eventually trees will grow here. Nobody will know what lay beneath the forest floor.
issue no. 8: ice cream from the cow & moon, sydney, Australia
God I wish I could remember exactly what these flavors were. I think the one on the left was a raspberry crumble and the right is pistachio. That's probably pretty close - though could also be really far off. The flavors at Cow & Moon in Sydney can tend to the different, so the flavors I mentioned may just be too tame. None of this really matters though, because the most important thing you should take away from this is the next time you find yourself in Sydney, you must stop at the Cow & Moon. The amazing hosts at our B&B just down the street mentioned Cow & Moon to us almost immediately on our arrival. They extolled the virtues of this amazing ice cream and told us of their numerous awards. We are not one to turn our noses up at such a glowing recommendation by such lovely people so we immediately headed over (ok, we ate some dinner first, but it was really quick). Normally, Jill is all about splitting our sweet treats (less calories, etc.) but she was so excited by their flavors that she insisted we each go it alone. Then she doubled down. It was that good.
issue No. 7: DD's Wedding, Minnesota
We labored with how we could fit a visit back to the US to attend DD's wedding. We had planned on going from Italy to somewhere east. Turkey or the Middle East or India. We had no intention of coming back. But it was so worth the journey. She is one of our favorite people in the world, and she has been from the moment we first met.
I'm sure you have people like this in your life - you just love them from the word go. People whose crabbyness doesn't even bother you. Not that D is ever crabby. But you know what I mean. You just love them no matter what they do. It's magical.
We didn't expect to spend a ton of time with her at the wedding, which made those few one on one moments all the more special. She was radiant, and brings out that light in everybody.
issue No. 6: Meander falls, tasmania
I have so many photos like this from our travels - closeups of the various flora we encounter on our walks. Something about the various shades of pink in these "berries" drew my eye while we were walking through Meander Falls in Tasmania. This walk is considered one of the "60 Great Short Walks" for this area. I remember it being really lovely. I also remember that for some reason I was expecting the trail to be rather level, but neglected to really understand that this trail went to falls. And with all trails that involve falls, there's some incline involved. It wasn't much, but if memory serves, we had done some good incline the previous day and I was wanting to rest my quads. But, alas, we did not and were rewarded with a quiet, beautiful trail full of bright pops of pink berries. My legs rested on the drive back to our inn.
ISSUE NO. 5: Isle of Arran Scotland: KING'S Cave Circuit
We had almost dismissed this hiking circuit on the Isle of Arran because we thought the main focus (a cave where Robert the Bruce encountered a spider or some shit) was really boring. I mean, it's not like it was a megalith predating Stonehenge or anything, which can also be found just up the road on Arran.
But our ferry didn't leave for another three hours so we decided to give it a go. The King's Cave Circuit is a shorter and easier route, but is mainly along the coast as you see here. It is stunningly beautiful, and when you turn to go back towards the car, you wind your way through some mossy mushroomy forest that is quiet and mysterious.
Lesson learned - if you are there and have the time, why the hell not? You never know what surprise awaits you.
Issue No. 4: Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is on the North Island of New Zealand. We spent a few weeks car camping around the North after having been in the South. Everything about the North felt different; the weather included. We had planned on walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but upon stopping at the Center were told that it was too windy and rainy to pass in the days we planned on being in the park. So, we opted for a much shorter trail to Taranaki Falls. This is a view from that trail. I wish I could remember more about that day. I remember being disappointed we weren't going to do the hike we came for. I remember being thrown off our plan for the North island because of the terrible rain we were having. I remember feeling in awe of the beauty of the falls (that I would see in the photo next to this one on my phone) and I remember feeling like I wished we had left more time for the South Island and not so much for the North. It's not that I didn't enjoy this walk, because I did. I love a good rocky walk along a river and if falls are included I am in love. It's just that there was so much to figure out while we were there (like where we were going to sleep) that I let that get in my way of enjoying the moment. Seems hard, I know. But reality creeps in at the most inopportune times.
ISSUE NO. 3 - art deco theater bangkok
This is a true example of what Travel Roulette is meant to be. I scrolled through my phone and landed here and had no idea where or what it was. It isn't the greatest picture. it's off center, kinda blurry. Are those people behind the counter? Is this a bank?
Oh no, it's that art deco theater that we sought out! That's it. The photo says January 31st, 2017. Usually my phone adds a geotag, making this much easier. Where were we then? South East Asia. Hanoi? No...I think...Saigon. The photos before this are of the Jim Thompson house. So Bangkok. A quick google search of "art deco theater bangkok" reveals the name: The Scala Theater!
Other memories flood back. The little street this deco theater was tucked into could have been lifted from an American main street. If it weren't for the heat and the smells and the hum of mopeds. Little shops lined this short block. Across the street was what looked like a travel agent whose logo and font were of a bird in flight, wings vertical in the air, long body extended for flight.
Before this we had gone to the Jim Thompson house, but I don't remember them together. I remember trying to beat the heat with an overpriced and over sweet mango coconut milk boba tea in a modern mega mall - only to find a cheaper better looking one near this art deco theater called The Scala.
Issue No. 2 - Hong Kong Street Art
This photo was taken on the streets of Hong Kong in February 2016. Hong Kong has an incredible amount of street art which seems to be enhanced by HK Walls - a yearly event in which artists take over walls throughout the city. We came across this amazing piece quite by accident (we had been following an HK Walls 2015 map) and instantly fell in love with the piece. Even looking at it now, I'm transported into another time and another place. I love how dynamic the coloring around her eyes is and particularly love the streaks of color "running" from the mask. This combined with the mirrored color behind is just incredible. The expressions on these two say so much. One last thing I loved about this scene is the man sitting in front of this mural preparing some food for the day. This is the beauty of street art - the mash up of beauty and creativity with the need to use the streets to live one's life. Such a gorgeous exchange.
Issue No. 1 - Volti di somacort dinner Festival, Vermiglio, Italy
This festival has no name that I can find, but it was a village wide progressive dinner with no less than 8 courses. You buy a ticket and wander house to house eating traditional dishes from the region and as the sun goes down the music starts. The houses included in the tour were those that survived the bombing of WWI. The walls were lined with old farm tools and taxidermied animals or looked like old cellars where the cows were once milked.
These two women picked their way over the cobblestones on stilts dressed like they were riding swans. So very Alice in Wonderland. I do believe earlier in the festivity one of them tapped Jill on the shoulder and terrified her. It was after the sun went down that they turned on their lights, making the illusion of floating all the more apparent.