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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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I signed off last time by saying you’d be hearing from us in England. Truth is, I was WAY too busy having a blast to keep up on the blog. We stayed with the loveliest family in Somerset and were kept occupied with our multiple odd-jobs and everyday tasks. During our stay we visited the elegant, historic city of Bath, hitch-hiked to and from Stonehenge, frequented the nearby village of Bruton and explored the ethereal Stourhead Gardens. Our time on the farm itself was such a treat: feeding the heritage-breed chickens and Shetland sheep each morning, helping with painting a neighbor friend’s house, burning bonfires of wood scraps, participating in Three King’s Day (a biodynamic thing), house-sitting with a brand new puppy and her auntie for a week, and teasing and carding mountains of wool. Our last day of work was a 26-ton, 10 hour job of moving freshly cut wood into a pile in the farm shed. But it was a thing of beauty when finished.
Samantha and Guy, our hard-working hosts, had three exceedingly sweet daughters—the younger two (8 and 6 years old) we spent lots of time with and it was such a treat to be with young children and in a family environment: we were suffering from an acute bout of homesickness. The skies dumped a good two feet of snow while we were there, completely transforming the landscape into a silent, motionless backdrop to the daily routine. Loran showed the girls the basics of building an igloo, and it turned out fantastic once the whole family joined in. Well, truth be told it looked rather like an awfully perky breast (chimney on top!) but it was a job very well done. We fell in love with their two Spanish waterdogs, Moro and baby Luna, whom we took care of for a week. Samantha and Guy had a healthy abhorrence of modern-day pet grub and fed their lucky dogs an amazing diet close to what dogs would have had in the wild. Much closer than kibbles, anyway.

little Luna

little Luna

The farm was situated on the border of Stourhead Forest. One crisp, foggy afternoon we walked towards the back of the farm, headed for the woods. Forty-five beautiful minutes later we discovered Stourhead Gardens, our purpose for the trip. We had entered a dreamscape. The fog kept the gardens hidden, so every 100 yards was an unfolding of colors, of architectural wonders, of 18th century grandeur.

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the grotto~

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reflections.

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Apollo’s Temple

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so lovely~

One weekday we were able to make a trip (by train) out to Bath. It was an architectural fantasy. You could easily spend all day admiring the buildings, wandering the streets. It was especially beautiful at the time we went—snow had recently fallen and the city was blanketed in white, more peaceful than usual. We did the touristy thing, visited the Roman Bathhouse, the Royal Crescent, the Circus. All wondrous constructions. We only had a few hours, and we spent our remaining time wandering the streets, soaking up the city experience before heading back to the countryside.

Bath~

Bath~

Our mutual first experience hitching was to none other than the iconic Stonehenge. It went so smoothly! Of course I pictured some serious weirdos picking us up and chatting us to death, but then I remembered: all the scary ax-murderers are back home in the States. So after about 12 cars passed us by, or 25 minutes waiting, we only slightly nervously slid into the seats of a nice Englishman’s car. It wasn’t awkward at all—we swapped travel stories, explained what exactly we were doing, inquired into his career. Twenty minutes later we were dropped at the Stonehenge parking lot.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Like most famous travel destinations (the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Colosseum), Stonehenge was smaller than I expected. BUT, as with our visit to Bath, snow covered the surrounding field and the scenery was breathtaking: a beautiful, cloudy day with just enough sun peeking through for an appearance in our photographs. We spent about an hour with the automated tour guide glued to our heads, ooh-ing and aah-ing over interesting facts we’ve already forgotten.

Our hitch home took two trips. A really lovely artsy couple picked us up just outside of Stonehenge (they had been drawing the site and had seen our hitching sign) and dropped us off at a busier street. There we were picked up about five minutes later by a really friendly guy named Triss. Five minutes into our ride, we discovered he was actually friends with our hosts and we were dropped at the door. Serendipity? YES.

All in all, England treated us incredibly well. The true countryside of England is heavily romanticized about, and for good reason. It is breathtaking, tranquil, unadulterated. I know I’ve said this countless times, but we cannot wait to go back.

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Today Loran and I busted away on clearing Kate & Ray’s strawberry bed. Have you ever seen a strawberry bed at the end of the season? It’s a tangled mass of confusion–every single plant has reeeeeeeally long arms just running away from their parents as fast as they can!– sticking roots down every which way, attempting to multiply as quickly as possible.

It makes a mess. And looks a bit like this:

Craziness

We tackled it anyway. But it took a couple of hours–a couple of thinking hours. And I was thinking about how we are strawberry runners!! Loran and I have been running around Europe (slowly & steadily) for nearly 6 months now. We may not have been multiplying everywhere we go…but every place we’ve set down little roots before shooting off to the next destination and depositing new roots– in the form of a friend we continue to keep in contact with or simply hard work we’ve left behind to nourish and grow into something beautiful and practical.

Our Irish rootbundle will be pretty hefty. And I’m proud of that :)

This is how much I love my job, my life~

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Mornings.

 

The last rose of the season~

 

Today’s Project – Before

 

The nearly-finished product

 

Caught my eye.

Well. Day No. 2 has been a success. Maybe I even got a little ahead of myself…I just couldn’t choose only one!

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Since you’ve last heard from us, we have explored the ancient ruins of Rome, strolled along the cobbled streets of Verona, relished sunset swims of Tuscany, milked Norman cows and made our own wheel of cheese, survived a hoarder’s palace in the Bay of Mt St Michel, traversed the English Channel (trying our absolute best not to hurl over the rails), cycled the emerald hills of Ireland, toiled on a lavish estate and, finally, pored over the worldly treasures of Ireland’s capital city.

Visiting Children at Play; Galbusera Bianca

Verona

Musei Vaticani, Roma

Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

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Baratti Bay, Tuscany

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Flax Harvest, Baratti Bay, Tuscany

Kitty! La Denée Earl, Céaucé

Hard Work, La Denée Earl, Céaucé

The Hoarder Queen’s Palace, La Jaunière, Vezins, France

The Bay of Mt St Michel, Normandy, France

Planting Kohlrabi, Dunbrody Park Estates, Arthurstown, Ireland

Daddy! Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Anyway, we apologize for the hiatus. Now that we have a fully operable laptop charger (thanks, dad!) updating with posts & pictures is again possible. Also, a sincere thank you for the lovely birthday wishes. You all are missed.

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The Italians have a lovely expression that complements a person of their healthy appetite. They will say a person is una buona forchetta [for-KE-ta]; lit. “a good fork”. It’s such a great saying and we were taught it after a sweaty, muggy day working outdoors; we were certainly very good forks that night. But with such amazing spreads as these, how could we not be?

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Loran and I have the pleasure of working with a young Italian couple, Sylvia and Toti, who speak English(!) and have been such a help in getting us started; Anna, who lives in Lithuania but is from West Virginia; Roberto, full-blown Italian, speaks very little English but is already a great teacher; and  Jacqueline who has been living in France and is originally from San Fransisco.

After an evening of good food and great company, our first full day on the farm began with a breakfast of caffé (the kind brewed in an authentic “espresso”pot), biscotti (not true biscotti, but little buttery cookies), and muesli with milk that may have been sweetened. Not exactly what we’re used to, and not entirely satisfying, but filling all the same. The night before had thundered & lighting’d, leaving us with a soggy morning, and so instead of trudging through the gardens we worked on the terrace, stripping dried herbs from their stems. For four hours we chatted and stripped, chatted and stripped, comparing our cultures and teaching each other jokes, figures of speech, tongue twisters. My personal favorite was the Italian tongue twister, “Tre tigre contro tre tigre” (three tigers against three tigers) to which we Americans countered “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…”.

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We are learning so much already and particularly enjoying the cultural differences between Europe (specifically Italy) and the U.S. There were four discussions we found the most interesting…

  • In the U.S. we rarely participate in political discourse/debate. Instead we practically attack people with our opinions, and get offended too easily. Toti and Sylvia explained to us that in Italy (& I’m sure many places of Europe in general) politics is simply something to discuss, another topic of conversation. If people don’t agree, they usually just laugh it off or tease; we get sulky and defensive!
  • Eating sensitivities!! In Italy if someone comments about your healthy appetite, it’s taken as an appreciation, a positive thing. Here in the States, of course, it is a highly sensitive issue, and again: we get very offended—“are you saying I’m FAT?!”
  • Italy and France have this interesting competitiveness about them, similar to our “competition” with England, though much less subtle. Sylvia loved telling us about how the French have such high opinions of themselves and their belief that everything from France is superior (especially wine, cheese, etc).
  • This I found most interesting: Toti and Sylvia spent a good deal of time in Costa Rica, taking busses the ENTIRE way. They told us they had a great time, good experience, no problems. When they came to the USA, specifically NYC, their experience was quite different. They had a customs official yell at them to stay single file in line and would refuse to answer simple questions. Sylvia told us that she felt much more threatened in that situation than in any she encountered in Costa Rica. Interesting, interesting.

We’ve been having a lot of fun, and the tasks haven’t been the same every day, which is great. Loran and I have picked strawberries and sugar peas, set up tomato trellises, and mucked around in a lot of manure.

Check back soon. We hope to update with a little something on our East Coast travels & definitely more pictures of the great food & beautiful region.

Ciao!!

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It all started with this mad craving; a lust for alternative living. Our modern wage economy has chronically sapped our motivation. Our solution: educating ourselves in pursuit of a self-sustainable future. First step: volunteer farming.

We, that is Loran and Samantha, two 20-year-old Pacific Northwesterners, have selected WWOOF as our medium and our passion for the next year (…give or take). For those who are in the dark, this program originated in England in 1971 and was referred to as “Working Weekends On Organic Farms”. It was essentially a way for city dwellers to have their countryside escapes now and again, to the benefit of both themselves and the farmers housing them. Since then the program been known as “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” and, currently, “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”.

Essentially it is a loosely-based organization with 52 participating countries that link farms and volunteers. The farms, in nearly all cases, provide the workers with rooms or caravans and all meals in exchange of 4-8 hours of work 5-6 days a week.

We each have individual aspirations and expectations for our journeys of self-discovery, but our overall goal is to learn the art of sustainable farming, building, cycling, cooking, and overall living. We will be traveling primarily using our bikes, supplemented with the occasional train or bus.

Our departure date is quickly approaching! In exactly 2 months and 22 days we leave JFK May 31st and arrive in Milan the next evening at 8:45. The plan is to crash at an as-of-yet-undetermined hostel, overcome our inevitable jet lag and set off for our first booked farm, Galbusera Bianca Biodiversity Oasis, about 25 miles northeast of Milan. The farm is stunning, a perfectly serene portrayal of bliss. And this we’re just getting from their pictures! Here’s the link.

Of course we still have an extensive to-do list. We still need, for example, traveler’s insurance, some supplies (like panniers, first aid kit, plug adapters, a water purifier), an international bank account & ATM card, and our itinerary! Much of our travels will be planned along the way, hopefully with room for spontaneity, but for mental ease and safety purposes we’re steadily approaching a workable schedule.

More to come soon. Both of us would love to outline, at some point, the planning/ scheming process that we have experienced these past 12 months, so you can expect to see something of the like before too long….

Check back soon!
Loran & Samantha

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