EXPLORING SANTIAGO WITH NERUDA

It wasn't until long after I moved to New York that I was introduced to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. As a lifelong Francophile, my literary interests always led me elsewhere, eastward - and quite honestly, I was intimidated by the thought of traveling to South America. Despite the beautiful Chilean imagery and love I found in his words, I found myself anxious at the thought of planning a trip south. I'm not exactly sure of the root of this travel anxiety, but I do distinctly remember hearing about Pinochet as a child and seeing scary footage on the TV. 

But discovering Neruda's work was just what I needed to kick me into gear to read more South American modern masters, and not surprisingly, this has shaken up my travel wishlist. So when I saw a good opportunity to head to Santiago for a long winter weekend, I packed my swimsuit and summer dresses and left my snowboots at home. After an overnight flight through Atlanta, I checked in bright and early to the Crowne Plaza (free stay, thanks to points!) and immediately set off to explore the nearby barrios - Lastarria and Bellavista. I was absolutely blown away by all the street art, which puts many areas of Brooklyn to shame. And the people were so friendly, and street life so vibrant! I even found myself in the middle of a parade celebrating dozens of native South American cultures - marching bands representing Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and more.

One of the highlights of my short trip was booking a guided photo walk through Foto Ruta Santiago. I met up the next morning with Cat, a local professional photographer, to explore street scenes off the beaten path. We met up at Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral to explore the beautiful and imposing campus, which has a complicated story that follows the arc of recent Chilean history. Originally built to be the venue for the United Nations trade and development conference in 1972, it was repurposed by Pinochet's military junta as the center of operations for the Ministry of Defense. Cat told me that to this day, people don't know the full story of all the terrible things planned within its walls. But now, it's been restored and reused as a beautiful cultural center at the heart of the city, and it was obvious how effective the restoration has been. We watched dozens of dance teams and musicians meet in its enclaves to convene and practice.

Setting off from the center, we explored the back streets and alleyways of the city, checking out star attractions like the Mercado de Flores and Mercado Central along the way. I loved seeing the city through her eyes and hearing about her experience living there, and it's definitely an experience I'd recommend for any photographer - especially one traveling solo as I was. Returning to my hotel afterwards, I was pleasantly exhausted and buzzing with stimulation, so grabbed my handy Neruda compendium and headed to the pool to relax and dream about my next trip back. Perhaps it should be to Valparaiso and the Pacific coast to see his houses at La Sebastiana and Isla Negra? Let's go!

All photos shot with either my Pentax 645N & Kodak Portra 400 or my iPhone.

DRIVING DOWN THE COAST OF PORTUGAL

Last year, I took a little trip to Portugal and thought Lisbon was the bee's knees. And yes - it's a super cool city with endless design shops, amazing food, and plenty of sunshine. I can't wait to find a good excuse to go back. But what I might've left out was how completely in love I fell with the countryside down south in Alentejo and along the Algarve coast.

 

On our way south from Lisbon, we stopped at every parque natural we could find and every last one was as gorgeous as the last. Coming home every night to a farm in Odemira, we explored the coast from Sines to Lagos. We hiked out to see the pounding surf and took long walks along the dunes. We drove through so many tiny whitewashed villages and took the long way home. We ate simply grilled fish and hearty seafood stews. Did I mention the wine?

You should find an excuse to go there, too. Be still my heart.

All photos shot with either my Pentax 645N & Kodak Portra 400 or my iPhone.

Portra just loves that Portuguese sunshine.

HIKING IN OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

Last November, I traveled to Seattle for the first time to help out with a new client for work. Though I've passed through the airport a number of times, I'd never actually gotten out and explored the area and all it has to offer - despite the encouragement of one of my closest photo-friends Peter, who packed up and headed from Brooklyn to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago. By the way - if you're not following his work or the adventures he and Emily have with their dog Aldo - you're totally missing out!

I made a snap decision to extend my trip into a long weekend and head west to explore at least one of the many national parks in the Seattle area. I also realized I could intercept the months-long road trip of my friend Jen, who has been a great partner in crime over the years as we have headed to crazy places like Alaska and Portugal. After getting a resounding 'Yes, let's go!' from Jen, and a successful round of client meetings, we decided to head for the hills and go exploring!

 

After hopping in the car on a Saturday morning and taking the ferry across to Bainbridge Island for an early brunch at Cafe Nola, we headed into the National Park and stopped into the lovely visitor's center at Hurricane Ridge. While some unexpected early-season snow (and a lack of on-duty plows) prevented us from making the drive up to see the ridge, we were content to drive through the dramatic mist and fog to check in at one of the few hotels inside the national park - the Lake Crescent Lodge.

The lodge is situated on the banks of the glacially carved Lake Crescent, and its water has very low nitrogen levels which results in exceptionally blue waters. We took a couple of lovely walks around the lake and enjoyed the gorgeous views - what an incredible place. Dinner at the lodge was also a great opportunity to catch up on lots of road trip news and plan our route for the next day. After lots of conversation to the tune of 'what am I going to do when I grow up?' (see also: extended road trip), we decided to start the next day with a short rainforest walk near the lodge, and then make the long drive down the bay roads to the lesser-visited southeastern part of the park. Our destination would be the Staircase entrance. 

Along the way, we stopped at lots of little state parks and bay beaches like Pleasant Harbor, Seal Rock and Triton Cove to enjoy the scenery. Lunch included a stop for some delicious Mexican at a tiny spot with an incredible view called El Puerto de Angeles. After fueling up, we drove back into the park at the Staircase entrance and laced up our hiking boots. We explored the North Fork of the Skokomish River for a few hours, including a hike out to see the Staircase Rapids and 4 Stream trails. Waterfalls, rapids, suspension bridges, old cedar forests - it was such a great reminder of the rejuvenating power of nature.

After getting our hike in, we drove back along the beautiful Lake Cushman at sunset, and as the light slowly faded, our last treat was to see incredible colors on our way back into the city. More to come about our adventures in Seattle!

All photographs shot with one of my crazy vintage cameras and expired film. Just kidding. IPHONE 6, BABY!