Designer & Photographer

Posts

Posts in Stories
Barcelona

The fourth most densely populated city in the European Union; Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, and is one of Europe's leading tourist, economic, and cultural centers. It is a city known for the art of Picasso and the architecture of Gaudí, and is home to the Blaugrana and their Nou Camp. It sits on the Mediterranean sea between Llobregat and Besós rivers, and is protected by the Serra de Collserola mountains. It was also, the destination we chose for the second-leg of our trip to Spain.

Barcelona from Sagrada Família's Nativity Tower.

Pamplona & Montserrat

With our time San Sebastián coming to an end on Wednesday, October 11, we checked out of our hotel, got in our rental car, and began the journey to Barcelona.

Pamplona

First stop of the morning led us through Pamplona's ancient city walls, and into its medieval city center. After just missing the opening of the market on Plaza del Castillo, we checked out the exterior of city's famous bull ring, Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, and then made our way back towards our parking garage, and before long were on the road to Montserrat.

The next few hours were spent driving through more mountainous Spanish countryside of Aragon and Huesca, passing though Parque Natural de la Sierra y Cañones de Guara, and ultimately arriving in the early evening at Montserrat.

Yesa Reservoir in Aragon.

Montserrat

Since we arrived late in the day, Montserrat's activity for the day was already beginning to slow. We explore the monastery grounds, and made sure to take the funicular up to the top of Saint Joan, where we looked out over Catalonia in the day's fading light, but after a full day of driving, we were beat, so off to the airport we headed to drop off our rental car. Once there, we hopped in a cab, and headed to our hotel in Barcelona's El Born neighborhood. We checked in, cleaned ourselves up a bit, found ourselves some tapas, and called it a night.

Barceloneta Beach, Parc de la Ciutadella & Catalunya Square

The next morning, we got an early start, and after coffee at a neighborhood cafe, we spent the morning learning about the life of Pablo Picasso, at his museum. While many of his most famous works reside in galleries throughout the world, the museum's curators have done an admirable job of telling a story about the career and life journey of one of the 20th century's most famous artists.

Barceloneta Beach

Morning in Barcelona, near the beach.

Our next stop was a walk to and along the beach in Barceloneta. We dodged the many street vendors, did our fair share of people-watching, grabbed a vacation cocktail at a beachside bar, and ultimately had a delicious lunch of tuna tartare and grilled octopus at Agua on the beach.

Parc de la Ciutadella & Catalunya Square

With bellies full of delicious seafood, we made our way inland to check out Barcelona's downtown area. Our route took us around and through Parc de la Ciutadella, under Barcelona's Arc de Triomf (European's love their arches), eventually leading us to Catalunya Square, and the top of the famed Las Ramblas. Here we encountered the only real bit of political demonstration (outside of the ever-present Catalonia flags hanging from balconies) during out time in Spain: the remnants of a morning pro-Spain unity demonstration, which mostly consisted of a few groups carrying flags and chanting, "Barcelona is Spain; Spain is Barcelona".

The leftover stage from a morning political demonstration on Catalunya Square.

By this point, our feet were starting to tire, so we found a tapas bar recommended to us by two different friends, [Tapas 24], where we shared a pitcher of sangria, patatas bravas, croquetas, and more. Our evening ended with a walk back through El Born to our hotel, and an obligatory dinner of Paella at a local restaurant.

Park Güell, La Boqueria & Sagrad Família

Park Güell

Our final full day in Spain started with a metro journey through town to visit Gaudí's Park Güell. The park certainly has its merits, but to me, the story of Gaudí's vision was more fascinating than the park itself. While I appreciated the intricacies of the mosaic work throughout the park, the crowds of people have turned what should be a peaceful escape in the city into something a bit more hectic.

Part of the ceiling mosaic in Park Güell's market area.

Part of the ceiling mosaic in Park Güell's market area.

La Boqueria

After doing our best to relax in the park for a few, we journeyed back towards our hotel, and walked through the Gothic Quarter to La Boqueria. We'd heard that Bar Pinotxo was not to be missed, and we made sure not to miss it. A bar that has been open for nearly 100 years, and continues to be family-owned and operated to this day; it was not to be missed.

'Pinotxo' (Juanito), himself!

On the day we visited, we counted three generations preparing the food, including the patriarch of the family, Juanito (Pinotxo, himself). After a brief wait, we were able to secure two of the fourteen bar stools, and sat down to wonderful lunch of freshly prepared specialties. The white beans with baby squid, prawns, and chickpeas were all delicious. We washed lunch down with a couple of beers, vacated our stools, and started to make our way back across town to see the final attraction of our trip: Sagrada Família.

Sagrada Família

Despite the fact that we were, at this point, beginning to run our steam from constantly being on the move. We decided to head to the famous, in-progress basilica on foot, stopping on the way to see a few of Gaudí's famous apartment buildings, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera.

After admiring these two sculpture-like dwellings, we made a pit stop for some local souvenirs, and made it to the basilica just-in-time for our 5:15 entrance time.

Sagrada Família

A truly grand structure, Sagrada Família's construction commenced in 1882, and is still in-progess to this day. Estimates suggest that the structure might finally be finished in 2026 (the centenary of Gaudí's passing), but despite being unfinished, the basilica truly is an impressive piece of architecture.

Our tickets gave us entry to the basilica, as well as access to the Nativity Tower. After a bit of a wait, it was our turn, and up we went. The details of the cathedral from above, as well as views out over the city were truly stunning. We began our descent, making sure to take in the views that the tower had to offer. Once more on the ground, we came away from our visit feeling like we had found an appropriate finale to our trip. Sagrada Família is a beautiful structure, and deserving of its must-see status.

A tip for future travelers: Make sure to try to book your tower visit for later in the day, as the late afternoon sun makes the city and towers glow.

We ended our trip with a dinner and drinks a few blocks from our hotel, and went to the sleep feeling like we got the most out of our week in Spain.

For more photos from the Barcelona leg of our trip, take a peak at the full album on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7r4L7r.

San Sebastián

Situated in the northern coast of Spain, San Sebastián (or Donostia, if you’re Basque) sits just 20 km from the French border. It is the capital city of Spanish province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque region, has a wonderful blend of food, culture, and people, and sits on a gorgeous beach on the Bay of Biscay.

The view of San Sebastián from Monte Urgull.

The view of San Sebastián from Monte Urgull.

Tarragona & Zaragoza

Our visit to this beautiful city commenced on Sunday, October 8 following an overnight flight into Barcelona and journey via car across Spain (with pit stops in Tarragona for breakfast and Zaragoza for lunch) that took most of the morning & afternoon to complete.

Tarragona

Zaragoza

Once we arrived, checked into our hotel (Astoria7, which I highly recommend), and shook off our travel weariness, we set out upon the town and enjoyed our first pintxo bar experiences, but not without first making our way to beach.

After a later than expected evening (a glass of wine or two might have been consumed along with all of the delicious food), we called it a night, returned to the hotel, and rested up for a couple of very busy days.

Zurriola Beach, Old Town, Bodegón Alejandro, Monte Urgull & La Concha Beach

Zurriola Beach

Monday morning began with a needed coffee and delicious poached egg over avocado toast at Sakona Coffee Roasters. From there, we headed down to the beach, on what was a gorgeous morning, and took in the sights at the surfing beach, Zurriola.

PEN-F-2017-October-09-019-of-175.jpg

Old Town & Bodegon Alejandro

San Sebastián is a city known for its wonderful culinary tradition. It boasts, per capita, the 2nd most Michelin Stars of any city in the world (trailing only Kyoto, Japan), so we felt like we needed to experience at least one of these recognized eateries. So, after a stroll back through town, we decided on one of San Sebastián’s many Michelin recognized restaurants, Bodegón Alejandro, where we stuffed ourselves silly with a six-course tasting menu. I won’t soon forget the Anchovy Lasagna, the standout dish in a meal full of excellent flavors.

Anchovy Lasagna

Anchovy Lasagna

Monte Urgull

With bellies full, Lauren and I crossed town once again, and began our ascent up Monte Urgull, where we stopped often to both catch our breath and to take in the magnificent views.

After sitting for a beverage at the bar near Monte Urgull’s summit, we descended the mountain, and ambitiously set out for the funicular at Monte Igueldo on the other side of the bay. Rather than take a taxi or bus, we decided to hoof it along San Sebastián’s picturesque La Concha beach.

La Concha Beach

As the sun began to set, we had high hopes for the views atop Monte Igueldo, but alas, it was not meant to be, as we arrived at the funicular entrance only a few minutes before its scheduled 19:00 closing time to find the ticket counter closed up, and the day’s funicular rides all completed. While we were disappointed, we were also exhausted from the ~10 miles we covered on foot, and decided, after a stop at a local bar for some pintxos, to call it an evening.

Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz & Amelia

Our third day in San Sebastián began with an audible. We knew we were very close to the France-Spain border, had access to our rental car, and were interested in exploring what the French side of Basque Country had to offer. With that in mind, we grabbed our morning coffee and hopped in the car.

Biarritz

The 'surfing' beach in Biarritz.

The 'surfing' beach in Biarritz.

First stop on our French day trip was the city of Biarritz. After a wrong turn or two, we found ourselves a parking spot by its famed surfing beach, and began exploring.

Mussels & Frites at Le Tandem

Mussels & Frites at Le Tandem

While in town, we found a bistro to our liking, Le Tandem, where we had shared some mussels & frites for lunch. Following lunch, we explored the city's beach areas a bit more, noting the interesting juxtaposition between surfing culture on Plage de la Côte des Basques, and the luxury feel found along Grande Plage.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

The second stop on our brief tour of France's Basque coast, led us to Saint-Jean-de-Luz. A much needed afternoon soda helped us recharge our batteries, and we wandered off of the boardwalk into town's shops.

After an enjoyable hour and a half of exploring we returned to the car, thinking we'd hop in and make our way back to Spain without incident. All was going according to plan until I realized that I had lost our garage ticket. In a panic, I searched, re-search, and triple-searched the car, my pockets, and the floor of the garage. Lauren then waited behind with the car while I headed off to attempt to procure a new ticket somehow. When that failed, I meekly pressed the 'Help' button on the garage's payment kiosk. A broken conversation between myself and the non-English speaking attendant, eventually ended in me mustering enough Spanish words (I say words, because they were in no way grammatically or structurally correct) to coax the gentleman to come to the garage to help. Thankfully, he arrived promptly, and was able to help us escape the parking garage. 45 minutes later, we were safely back in San Sebastián, kicking our feet back for a few, and resting up before our final in meal in town at Amelia.

Amelia

Our menu at Amelia.

Our menu at Amelia.

We decided for our final meal in San Sebastián, we wanted one more great culinary experience. Unfortunately, we had not been able to secure a table at Arzak, or one of other famous restaurants of its ilk. However, after a bit of research, we realized that Amelia, was new on the scene and its chef, Paulo Airaudo, had in fact, spent time in the kitchens of restaurants like Arzak and The Fat Duck, and already had Michelin star under his belt at La Bottega. We opted for the six course tasting menu with the sommelier's wine pairings. The meal was a great experience, culminating with a chance to visit the kitchen and say 'hi' to Chef Airaudo.

We thoroughly enjoyed each course, but the star of the show for me, was our dessert course: a frozen lemon custard paired with a dill-infused oil.

Yum.

Yum.

With our grand finale of the part one of our Spanish trip in the books, we retreated to the our hotel to get some rest in preparation for our journey back to Barcelona.

For more photos from the San Sebastián leg of our trip, take a peak at the full album on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4z91hh

Night over the bay in San Sebastián.

Night over the bay in San Sebastián.

Acadia National Park
Hiking through woods of Acadia

Hiking through woods of Acadia

Early this spring, on the heels of a successful trip to Iceland, John, Luis, and I began discussing the idea of late summer trip to "somewhere fun". After a series of emails and text messages, Acadia National Park in Maine was chosen, and our good pal, Brandon, had eagerly joined in on the fun. Flights were booked, a rental apartment was found, and hikes were researched. We planned to pack as much fun into our extended weekend as was reasonably possible. I think we were successful.

A Mainecation in Acadia

Day 1

A Lost Day of Travel

John, Luis, and Brandon all chose to book an earlier afternoon flight, which boarded, took off, and landed without a hitch. I, however, had a different path. A cancellation, 3 re-booked flights, and a brief delay on the tarmac unfortunately delayed my arrival until after the boys had called it a night.

Day 2

Road to Southwest Harbor and St. Sauveur and Acadia Mountain Loop

The day started rather poorly when, with little sleep and less water, I nearly passed out scrambling over some rocks during a sunrise shoot with Brandon. Things started looking up rather quickly though, as we grabbed a quick breakfast at The Holy Donut, and hit the road for Southwest Harbor.

Sunrise view a light from Fort Williams Park in Portland, ME.

Sunrise view a light from Fort Williams Park in Portland, ME.

We made two pit stops on our way to Southwest Harbor, once for lunch at a quaint little deli, whose name I don't recall, and again in Rockland to check out the Rockland Breakwater Light

From here, we made the rest of the approximately 3 hour journey to our homebase for the weekend: Southwest Harbor. Our rental for the weekend was a great little apartment in the Cannery building at Dysart's Marina.

Once settled, we hopped right back into the car, and made our way into the park for a couple of afternoon hikes.

We decided to stick to an area of the Acadia a short drive from Southwest Harbor, the St. Sauveur and Acadia Mountain Loop. A 3.9 mile loop spanning two summits (Acadia & Sauveur), this hike featured some incredible views of Valley Cove and Somes Sound. This hike proved to be a good warm-up for the weekend, sapping us of our remaining day one energy, and sending us home excited for more.

John, Brandon, and Luis look out over Acadia National Park from the summit of Mt. Sauveur.

Dinner post-hike took us first to Bass Harbor Lighthouse for sunset, and then to a lobster pound, Thurston's (Brandon was a repeat customer). After fighting off the bugs and personal-space-unaware patrons, we polished off a steamed lobster each, and called it a night.

Day 3

Cadillac Mountain, The Beehive, and Ocean Loop (and Gorham Mountain)

After looking at the weather forecast, we realized that we'd have the opportunity for a nice sunrise before the day's hikes, so alarms were set, coffee was prepared, lunches were packed, and off we went at 4:30 in the morning to catch the country's first light from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. It's hard to even describe how incredible the view and light was from this vantage point. While it certainly was crowded, it's an experience I'd recommend to anyone visitng the Northeast.

For the day's hikes, we made our to the parking lot at Sand Beach, dropped the car off, and made the short walk over to The Beehive for the park's 2nd most difficult hike, which checked in at 1.3 miles.

(Author's Note: Unfortunately, my fear of heights conquered me about 2/3 of the way up the mountain, so I made my way back down to wait for John, Luis, and Brandon, who quickly and fearlessly conquered the summit, iron rungs, bridges, and all.)

After the Beehive, we chose to take the relaxing and scenic Ocean Trail (4.2 miles roundtrip). We made our way past landmarks such as Thunder Hole and Monument Cove, ultimately stopping when we arrived at Otter Cliff for some relaxation. Our return trip to the car led us to the top of the day's second summit, Gorham Mountain, where we ate our lunch, and relaxed for a few before trudging back to the car.

Looking to do something unique for dinner, we booked a water taxi from our adopted marina home through the fog to Little Cranberry Island for drinks and a fantastic meal at Isleford Dock Restaurant.

Day 4

Precipice Trail, Jordan Pond, and Bubble Rock

Luis snaps a photo of Champlain Mountain after climbing to the top of Precipice.

Luis snaps a photo of Champlain Mountain after climbing to the top of Precipice.

After a couple days of hiking we decided to skip sunrise for our final day in the park. Instead, we woke up, and headed straight for Precipice Trail (1.5 miles). After my experience at the The Beehive, I opted for the "scenic route", (adding about a mile to my journey), and began my ascent up the Champlain North Ridge Trail, where I met the guys at the summit of Champlain Mountain. Unfortunately, it was yet another foggy morning, so there weren't many views to be had at the top.

Following Precipice, we hopped in the car with an eye towards one more summit, South Bubble, in order to marvel at the impossibility that is Bubble Rock. After our 6th summit (well, 5th for me, technically) in 3 days, we moseyed our way back to the car along the Jordan Pond Loop, and left the park for the weekend's final time.

Knowing that we only had one evening left before heading back home to recover, we were left with no choice but to consume, you guessed it, more lobster (this time at Beal's Lobster Pier). With full bellies and tired legs, we stumbled back to our weekend rental, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing with a few beverages and many episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Dark & Stormy, Lobster Stew, Onion Rings, and a Lobster Roll w/Garlic Aioli.

Dark & Stormy, Lobster Stew, Onion Rings, and a Lobster Roll w/Garlic Aioli.

Day 5

Maine Brewing Company, Allagash Brewery, and Portland.

After a filling breakfast at Eat-a-Pita in Southwest Harbor, we got in the car, hopped on the highway, and began making our way back to Portland. Stops for tastings at Maine Beer Company in Freeport and Allagash Brewing Company in Portland hit the spot. We were all on an early evening flight, so after some time relaxing at a local park, we headed to the airport for the flight home, but not before two more lobster-based meals: lobster mac at Andy's Old Port Pub and lobster grilled cheese at Linda Bean's Maine Kitchen.


I think I speak for Brandon, John, and Luis when I say that this trip was absolutely fantastic. We hiked, we ate, we laughed, we nursed sore legs, we dragged cameras with us anywhere and everywhere, and we had nothing but fun. I'd wholeheartedly recommend just about everything that we did on our trip to anyone looking for an adventure in the northeast. It's an incredible part of the country with spectacular scenery.

As I've hopefully demonstrated in this post, it's hard to find a better place to bring a camera, and capture some images that you'll cherish for the rest of your life.

I look forward to my next visit. If you're planning a visit to Acadia, and have questions, feel free to reach out.