Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain

Gorbea Natural Park was one big reason we stayed at Hotel Ellauri. In our desire to detox from city life, we wanted easy access to nature, and Ellauri sits near the edge of the park.

On our second day in Spain, we went hiking in Gorbea. Kepa and Randa, Ellauri’s innkeepers, were very knowledgable about the trails. They gave us several options, ranging in length from two to eight hours. We weren’t quite feeling an all-day hike, so we chose a nearby trail that would take an hour and a half to ascend, and an hour to descend.

After breakfast, we went to Zeanuri’s tiny store for fruit, bread and cheese. That afternoon, we drove through the tiny town of Areatza and up a narrow, winding road to the trailhead. We parked in the Pagomakurre area, then started the Arraba-Kargaleku trek.

Hiking in Gorbea Natural Park | nycexpeditionist.com

It was the perfect day for hiking—sunny, yet cool.

Hiking in Gorbea Natural Park | nycexpeditionist.com

The gravelly path made for pretty easy walking; the ascent wasn’t very steep.

Gorbea Natural Park | nycexpeditionist.com

Along the way, we passed a few other hikers, most who were on their way down. That was one nice thing about the trail—there was never a point when we were hiking alongside or behind anyone.

Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

About 20 minutes into the hike, we came across a herd of grazing goats. Each one had a bell tied to his neck. The collective sound was a mellifluous symphony.

Goats at Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Shortly after, we came across some cows. They, too, had bells around their necks, though of a different size from the goats. They created their own melody.

Cow at Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Cows grazing at Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Farther along the way, horses grazed. Of course, they had their own bells.

Horse at Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Horses at Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

I’d never hiked a trail with so many animals—and such musical ones! The sounds of the different bells, plus the green landscape, were incredibly soothing and relaxing.

After about an hour and a half of hiking, we reached what appeared to be the summit of our trail.

Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We stopped for a snack…

M & P at Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and just enjoyed the view.

Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

As we ate, we realized that hikers were coming over the ridge. It was possible to go from summit to summit. We asked how far to the next one; it would take about an hour and a half.

We debated whether to continue on. Peter was game, but Mal and I weren’t sure we were up for walking another 4+ hours. (There and back, plus returning to our car.)

So we took a few more photos…

M&P, Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

H&M, Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…before hiking back down.

Hotel Ellauri: Zeanuri, Spain

We began our northern Spain trip in Basque Country. The autonomous region’s most well-known destinations include the coastal cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian, though we opted to start with neither.

As you might have gleaned from my previous entries, I was feeling a little burnt on city life—as was my family! We wanted to start our trip somewhere quaint and relaxing, away from tightly packed buildings and lots of people.

That’s how we ended up at Hotel Ellauri, in Zeanuri. The pretty little village is in the countryside, about 45 minutes outside Bilbao. It has all of 1,100 inhabitants.

Hotel Ellauri is up a narrow, winding road, on a hillside outside the town center.

Hotel Ellauri | nycexpeditionist.com

Mal, Peter and I arrived on a Thursday afternoon (a day before our parents) and were the only guests there! Not that we minded.

Ellauri is the kind of place I love patronizing. The owners, a lovely couple named Randa and Kepa, built the hotel five years ago. They’re Zeanuri natives, and I could feel the care that went into the place. Each element seemed to highlight the natural surroundings. My room was bright and airy; I especially loved the vaulted wood ceiling and lively green wall.

Hotel Ellauri room | nycexpeditionist.com

The fixtures and bedding were all high quality. And best of all, there were double doors that swung open…

Hotel Ellauri windows | nycexpeditionist.com

…to reveal this view!

Zeanuri, from Hotel Ellauri | nycexpeditionist.com

Just what I’d been waiting for.

Hotel Ellauri felt wonderfully away from it all.

And it was.

On our first night, we tried to have a quick dinner nearby. Randa had hinted that there were no real dining options in Zeanuri or Areatza, another medieval village, and that we’d be better off driving into Bilbao or Vitoria-Gasteiz, larger cities about 30-40 minutes from the hotel, in opposite directions.

But, we figured, how slim were the local pickings? A quiet dinner in the village sounded good to us!

We drove into Areatza to try one of its three bars. (An actual restaurant didn’t seem to be an option.) The hamlet was quiet, and the bars looked like empty townie sports bars. Not quite what we had in mind for our first meal in Spain.

So we headed into Bilbao with no specific restaurant in mind. In our sleep-deprived/jet-lagged/famished state, we spent an embarrassing amount of time circling Casco Viejo for parking. After an hour and a half, we finally realized we’d passed an underground garage multiple times. Once we’d parked, most restaurants were winding down service for the night. But we had a simple yet satisfying meal at La Deliciosa, on Calle Jardines. Though anything would have been deliciosa, at that point!

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The following evening, once my parents had arrived, we ate at Ellauri’s restaurant. Kepa and Randa prepared a fabulous meal of rice and cockles…

Rice and cockles

…and steak and peppers. It was one of the most delicious steaks I’ve ever eaten.

Peppers and steak

Ellauri proved to be in a prime spot. During our time there, we explored more of Bilbao and the Basque coast, as well as Gorbea Natural Park—whose mountains you could see from the hotel.

Hotel Ellauri | nycexpeditionist.com

…more on those places, in posts to come!

I’m Back!

HE, San Sebastian

…from both my Spain trip and my brief time unplugging!

My family and I squeezed in a ton, during our vacation! I’m still wowed at all we were able to do. We hiked mountains, explored cities, walked through vineyards, and ate countless pintxos.

We started our 11-day northern Spain trip in and around Bilbao. Then we headed west to the Picos de Europa, then southeast to the La Rioja wine region. We finished up in San Sebastian—a city that’s pretty much my idea of a perfect place. (Where the above photo was taken.)

Most importantly, I’m glad I had that time with four of my favorite people: my mom, stepdad, Mal and Peter.

I’m excited to share photos and highlights over the next several posts. And I’m looking forward to evolving this space!

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’d fallen into the blogger trap of feeling pressured to post more frequently. As a result, I hadn’t been spending enough time on the posts I most enjoyed writing: longer pieces about places I’ve visited, meals I’ve eaten, thoughts on stories I’ve read. I’m planning on sharing more of that kind of content with accompanying original photography—as I learn to use the DSLR I recently acquired! (So bear with me on that!)

I will, of course, still share photos and art projects that I’ve stumbled upon and enjoyed. But those will hopefully make up a smaller portion of my posts.

If you don’t already, please sign up to get my post notifications by email, via the box in the right rail. Or, follow me on Twitter.

I’m happy to launch into this new evolution of NYC Expeditionist! Thanks for joining me on the journey. :)

Off to Spain!

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

I’m heading to Spain for 10 days and thrilled about that!

I’m feeling a bit burnt, and in need of a vacation. (Could you tell from my last post?) I don’t get a ton of time off, and I haven’t taken many days, yet, this year. And I’m feeling the effects! Life can seem so hectic while juggling work, passion projects, time with friends and family.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what really makes me happy—and how I can do more of those things in the time that I have.

One area I’ve been reevaluating is this blog. Over the past few months, I’ve been posting more frequently. But in doing so, I’ve also been posting more about things I’ve found (usually online) and enjoyed, rather than things I’ve done. And I’d really like to refocus on the latter—more pieces about places I’ve been to, or experiences I’ve had, with people I love.

I’m excited about some new ideas I have for this space. I’m going to spend some time thinking through them during my time away.

But don’t worry—I won’t be working the whole time. A week and a half in Basque Country awaits. Along with all the txakoli, pintxos, old towns, vineyards, mountains and beaches that go along with it.

¡Hasta pronto!

(Image of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe by Patrick Dobeson)

The Desire to Unplug

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Last week, I read an awesome, thought-provoking Outside piece by David Roberts. He’s a longtime Grist blogger, which means that he—like most of us—spends a crazy amount of time in front of a screen: blogging, tweeting, reading, etc. As he put it:

My mind was perpetually in the state that researcher and technology writer Linda Stone termed continuous partial attention. I was never completely where I was, never entirely doing what I was doing. I always had one eye on the virtual world. Every bit of conversation was a potential tweet, every sunset a potential Instagram.

For one year, though, he took an unpaid sabbatical from his job and just unplugged. No work e-mail, no social media, no daily news cycles. His journey from over-connected to disconnected is fascinating; read the whole thing here.

I’m quite envious of Roberts’ year off the grid. I estimate that I spend about 10-11 hours in front of a screen per day. (I work a full time digital job and, of course, post here, in my spare time.) I try to limit my screen time whenever possible—taking walks during lunch, reading paperbacks instead of ebooks while commuting—but it’s hard! I do love writing, blogging and seeing/reading other peoples’ works online. Plus, my livelihood requires it.

I can feel the effects of being so plugged in, though. My neck and shoulders are always stiff. I often feel dazed and slightly headachy when I step away from my computer, at the end of the day.

There’s no doubt in my mind that’s why I value ballet and traveling so much. Ballet is one of the few times in a day when I can completely unplug and be in the moment. It certainly helps that we dance to live music. And you really can’t dance if your mind is more on your to-do list than on ballet combinations.

It’s the same with travel. When I’m outside of NYC, I check my email as little as possible. I just enjoy the experience of being in a different place with its own sights, sounds and smells. Sure, I take photos and note down things I want to remember. (Or post on this blog.) But it’s just so liberating to be away from 11 hour days in front of a computer. I can actually feel myself relax and slow down during that time.

…as you can imagine, I am counting the days until my trip to Spain.

Do you often feel the need to unplug, too?

(Image via Pinterest)

How Three Australian Ballet Dancers Prep Their Pointe Shoes

Pointe shoe prep

The other day I watched this video that’s been making its way around social: how dancers from the Australian Ballet prepare their pointe shoes.

Maybe it’s because I’m one myself, but I’m always curious about other dancers’ pointe shoes. I wonder what brands they use, how they break them in, and any other rituals they have to make the shoes feel natural on their feet. It’s such a personal thing.

So I appreciated seeing what these three pros do. Take a look:

(As someone learning pointe as an adult, trying to make up for lost time, I don’t have too much of my own pointe shoe prep process, yet. I sew my ribbons and elastics a specific way—from the base of the shoe—stomp on the box, and water the sides the first wearing or two, for flexibility.)

Other dancers: How do you prep your pointe shoes? Or if you do another sport or activity, what’s your ritual?

2015 Travel the World Calendar

The other day, when I was browsing in Anthropologie, a calendar caught my eye. Later, upon leaving the store, Mal, who was with me, mentioned that she’d seen a calendar that seemed like something I’d post on this blog. How well she knows me (and my style)!

That calendar is by Rifle Paper Co., a Florida-based stationary and design brand, and it’s called “Travel the World.” Each month features a romantic, vintage-style illustration of an iconic place.

New York, London and Paris are, of course, among the cities. But I loved how more off-the-beaten path places were included, like Petra…

2015 TRAVEL THE WORLD | Rifle Paper Co.

…Havana…

2015 TRAVEL THE WORLD | Rifle Paper Co.

…and Bali.

2015 TRAVEL THE WORLD | Rifle Paper Co.

I’d love to have this in my work cube to brighten the space—and remind me of all the amazing places I’ve yet to visit.

(Images from “2015 Travel the World Calendar” by Rifle Paper Co.)