Posts Tagged ‘traveling’

Exploring the Eldhraun Lava Field in Iceland

Nordic Little Red Riding Hood

Exploring Iceland’s second-largest lava field, Eldhraun, was like being transported into some moody Nordic fairytale. Discovering and photographing Eldhraun was an unexpected joy in southern Iceland. I wouldn’t have found this highly photogenic area without the help of my photo guide, Jorunn of Iceland Photo Tours who took Anastasia and I here on the first day of our Two Day Photo Tour of The Glacial Lagoon.

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Scenes from Eldraun: Woolly fringe moss grows thick as a futon over lava rock

Moss has grown thick as a mattress on the rocky craters of lava, which date back to an eruption from 1783-84, when Iceland was still part of the Danish Kingdom. The Eldhraun lava field covers about 218 square miles (565 square kilometers) of ground in southern Iceland.



Left: Anastasia exploring Eldhraun Right: a crevice in the Eldhraun lava field

Now there is plant life peeking through the woolly fringe moss (scientific name Racomitrium lanuginosum) adding unexpected pops of color to this already moody and magical landscape.

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Yellow leaves in the wooly moss

With the skies shifting colors, I keep expecting to see Jon Snow, or at least a wildling or five.

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Left: Ana wandering through Eldraun Right: Red rain coat in Iceland’s second largest lava field

Having Anastasia wear a red raincoat added some extra contrast and interest to the landscape and transformed her into a Nordic Little Red Riding Hood.


Plant life amidst the wooly moss of Eldhraun

The crew of the Apollo 11 (US astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) practiced before their moonlanding on this otherworldly landscape.

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Searching for trolls in  the Eldhraun 

In 2014 a new eruption created the Holuhraun lava field, which is now the biggest in Iceland. It’s also located in the Icelandic Highlands.


The starkly beautiful moody landscape of Eldraun

 Eldhraun means “fire lava.”

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Red Rain Coat in the Eldraun Lava Field in Iceland

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A Girls Trip Based at the Four Seasons Seattle

Welcome amenity- complete with a chocolate Seattle skyline- at the Four Seasons Seattle

I’m a big believer in all kinds of travel. I love traveling solo, exploring things at my own pace and taking as many photos as I like.  I also enjoy traveling with my husband– we met while traveling and it’s a mutual passion we’ve shared throughout our relationship.

Traveling with friends is something I’ve made an effort to do throughout my adult life– it’s a great way to bond and get into deeper conversations than are possible when we catch up just for dinner and drinks. I particularly enjoy girls trips– which are often the hardest to arrange due to busy schedules, and demands on our time (and resources) by families and careers.

I’ve always been a girl’s girl. And while I have many male friends, it’s spending time with my girlfriends, both new and old, that makes me smile the most effortlessly. Since I’ve started this blog, traveling with my girlfriends often comes with a little bit of baggage. I sometimes have to take time out from meaningful conversation to photograph room service or take a property tour because, well, that is what I do. Of course girlfriends are understanding about this stuff– that’s why they’re my girlfriends. In my real life I have several close friends who don’t have Facebook pages, Instagram accounts or “know what a twitter is.” We need actual face time to touch base. Besides, it’s rude to assume all your friends read your blog.

Modern, understated luxury at the Four Seasons Seattle

My recent girls trip to Seattle with my friend, Erica Hargreave of Roamancing, was fun and relaxing for a few different reasons, not the least of which is because our friends at The Four Seasons Seattle put us up and we got to use the hotel as our basecamp for our girls trip.

Erica and I met about a year and a half ago in Cairo where we both presented at the IOETI conference on digital tourism and have since become friends. Erica lives in Vancouver and we’d been talking about meeting up in Seattle for a girls weekend, which we finally made happen a few weeks ago after several months of planning (see above re: busy schedules).

Left: an artistic in-room lighting fixture Right: Orchids at reception

Since Erica is a digital storyteller, I didn’t have to explain why I was instagramming room service or live tweeting. She was doing it to. We sipped on room service lattes– delivered in a speedy 9 minutes after the operator estimated a window of 15-20 minutes– while simultaneously blogging in pajamas.

Testing out room service is one of the perks of the job

Girls trips differ from others because they are refreshingly devoid of war memorials and usually include a little bit of pampering. Getting time away with a girlfriend is a luxury in itself but Erica and I also got to check out the signature services offered by the Four Seasons spa (you can read my post about Spa Style here).

Bathrobes and a deep tub– appreciated luxurious touches to a girls trip

Erica enjoying the television in the mirror feature at the Four Seasons Seattle


Erica took advantage of outdoor pool every day

Erica arranged for us to check out Savor Seattle’s Gourmet Seattle Food & Cultural Tour-– something I probably wouldn’t have done if I had been planning a solo trip (where I probably would have arranged a photo tour of some kind). I was happy to go along with it and found that I really enjoyed it. Traveling with girlfriends can challenge me in a different way than other traveling companions, and it’s always good to challenge yourself. I discovered that I really enjoyed the food tour, and found plenty of photo opportunities on it.

Not only did Erica and I get to relax and reconnect while on our girls trip– we also got to try out new things and enjoyed doing it. When I suggested we order Bloody Marys from room service and have them delivered to the hotel’s hot tub, I learned that Canadians don’t have Bloody Marys as a brunch beverage staple. We also learned– from fellow hotel guests in the hot tub with us– that we should try the Bacon Bloody Mary or the Beef Bloody Mary next time.

A view of Seattle’s Great Wheel from The Four Seasons

With Mother’s Day coming up, I encourage this blog’s female readers to think about taking a girls trip– whether it’s a relaxing weekend away or just a brunch date. Reach out to your mother, your sister or a female friend and try to find the time for the two of you to relax and reconnect. Friendships are one of life’s great treasures and it’s good to make nurturing them a priority in your busy, adult life.

I think I have a few other girlfriends who would enjoy trying a bacon bloody mary. I’m going to call one of them later today.

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Analog Post Cards From the Aughts- Cuba Edition

Above: This is the postcard I sent to my late Nanny from Havana circa 2003

Editors Note: Before I started this blog I used to be a prolific postcard writer. During my travels I’d send over 30 postcards to my friends, family, my friend’s kids. Many of the people who received these postcards have kept them.

My dear friend, Gabrielle, who dresses me for my travels from her amazing store Bleu Clothing, has been very supportive of this blog since I first had the idea to create it. Recently, when I was complaining about the petty business of running a travel blog (google analytics, traffic and such), Gabrielle pulled out her collection of my old school analog postcards. She suggested that I re-read and revisit the postcards I had written to remind myself of why I traveled in the first place and what it meant to me before I was focused on creating content for this blog. I thought it was a good idea, especially since my original intent with this blog was to create a modern day book of digital postcards, using my own photos, as a way to both document my travels and digitize my photo archives.

This is the first installment of a new series for the blog, called Analog Postcards from the Aughts. This is a postcard I sent to my late Nanny in 2003. I wrote it on my first trip to Cuba. Nanny lived in Sun City Center, Florida and kept all the postcards I sent her over the years. Her collection was returned to me after she passed away. – Jen

Dear Nanny-

Hola from Havana. Cuba may only be 90 miles away from Florida but this place is a whole different world. I went on a very interesting tour of a cigar factory today which gave me a whole new appreciation for stogies. Cuba is also the birthplace of some of the world’s finest cocktails: the daiquiri, the mojito, and of course the Cuba Libre were all mixed first in Havana bars. It’s a good thing the drinks are tasty since the food is pretty poor. The best way to explore the city is Hemingway style- drinking your way across town. Adios, Jen

The colorful cars in Old Habana were fun to photograph. This image was shot on film on my lomo and cross-processed.

Left: the streets of Habana Viegjo, Right: Kids in the crumbling building where my favorite Paladar is located

Man on a balcony in Habana Viejo

Kids at play in the streets of Habana Viegjo.

Here are some of my favorite Havana Highlights:

The Partagas Cigar Factory tour is one of the most fascinating tours I’ve ever been one. You’ll leave with a whole new appreciation of the hardworking hand craftsmanship involved, even if you don’t smoke.

Partagas Cigar Factory worker loading finished cigars onto a truck.

Fábrica de Tabaco Partagás (Partagás Cigar Factory, Industria #520, e/ Dragones y Barcelona, tel. 07/863-5766, Mon.–Fri. 9–11 a.m. and noon–3 p.m., guided tour CUC10)

Hotel: Hotel Nacional de Cuba

A couple on their wedding day in a beautiful car outside the Hotel Nacional, where I’ve stayed on my trips to Havana.

Left: Bridal Couple at the Hotel Nacional, Right: There’s always a show, or water ballet, happening at the Hotel Nacional

Above: A cigar sommelier at the Hotel Nacional

La Guarida Paladar is the best restaurant I’ve eaten at in Cuba. It’s located inside a crumbling residential building, where you can’t help but notice the beauty of decay.

The Havana Club and Rum Museum, also known as Museo del Ron, Fundación Havana Club features rum, rum, and some pretty great music at the end.

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