Faraway Files #4

You guys. Have you been to Croatia? You have? Then you know. Seriously. That place. It’s amazing. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Just kidding. I’ve been reading, following, tracking and stalking about a million feeds on travel in Croatia for a couple years. I will admit that when we decided as a family that YES, we were ok with moving to Denmark and trying this living abroad thing, we started doing a little collective wanderlust wish-listing. All of those places that would be easier to explore from our future base in Copenhagen.

My middle son and I did that a lot. When sitting down at night to tuck him in. (He’s a teenager now – we don’t “tuck in” per se anymore – but a goodnight check in – everything cool kind of gig now – that I still cherish.) But backtrack with me, while we were still in Oregon two years ago, waiting ad nauseum for employment contract negotiations to work themselves out. He and I would sit and scour through Google images of where we’d like to visit. What we’d like to see. How many things we’d love to do. We still do.

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LOVE CROATIA

It was before we even moved to Europe that we knew Croatia had to be on our list. The short list. We had to go there. I just didn’t realize how much I WOULD LOVE IT. I know. I know. I say that about a TON of places. But I haven’t been this taken or mesmerized. Constantly awed and engaged by a single place. By a whole country. Croatia is freaking beautiful. Did you already know that? You’ve been there haven’t you. If you’ve been – you do. If you haven’t – look it up immediately. Everything you could want. I will have lots of posts to share soon to try to convince you to check it out if you haven’t already. And we didn’t even see the whole country – there is so much more to explore. I wanna go back! Like now.

 

 

But I’m not straying far from Copenhagen for awhile. Which isn’t so bad. Denmark is lovely in the fall. Wanderlust will have to turn to #FarawayFiles travel blog link up for the immediate future.

I want to thank everyone who joined last week’s Faraway Files #3 – we had a bunch of beautiful and truly inspiring posts. Keep ’em coming! You guys rock. Seriously there were some posts about rocks. Beautiful ones! Here are some of my favorites – for different reasons. It was difficult to whittle this week! So many good contributions!

Emma from Bavarian Sojourn took us to an Almabtrieb in the Italian Dolomites and I was charmed, intrigued and entertained. How colorful and charming are these cows? And her descriptions of the goats passing “…like a gaggle of arguing children on a school trip,” was perfection. Thanks Emma!

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Come see an Almabtrieb – annual procession of animals the Dolomites, Predazzo, Italy from Bavarian Sojourn

Hilary from HilaryStyle played tourist in her own backyard, which is easy to do in her home Southern California. She took us to somewhere close to my family’s heart – Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California. As it turns out – my Mother-in-law was a docent at the art museum there and I have heard stories of the beautiful Japanese Gardens for YEARS. Thank you Hilary for putting it back on my wish list! Good family fun in a gorgeous setting.

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The Desert Garden Heritage Walk at the Huntington Gardens, from HilaryStyle

From West Coast to East Coast – let’s visit city by the sea Portland, Maine with Corey of Fifi + Hop. The “other Portland” to this Oregon Girl – I loved seeing the similarities and differences between the two bi-coastal Portlands. “Families as much as hipsters enjoy visiting Portland,” … “whether you’re into the outdoors, the arts or excellent food, Portland has something for everyone.” Sound like Portlandia? In Oregon? Haha! I KNOW! But check out her post to see how the Maine Portland distinguishes itself in the most New England-y of ways.

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Lighthouses help – Portland, Maine City by the Sea by Fifi + Hop

And last, but definitely not least is this stunning post about Skelling Michael – an island off the coast of Kerry, Ireland by Different Shores Blog. The images are the most swoon worthy this week (IMHO) and despite the somewhat terrifying looking paths that one must traverse, I just might try it! Just to see those views and those puffins! Check it out.

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Different Shores takes us to Skelling Michael, Kerry Ireland

Special mention goes to #FarawayFiles newcomer A Nesting Nomad – her post about a train trip from Chicago, IL to Seattle, WA (that is a LONG WAY PEEPS) was not only charming and amusing, but informative – keep it up!

So where are you taking us this week? What will you add to the growing collection of #FarawayFiles? This week, I’m taking you back to Madrid. Spain. Come along for the ride – don’t have a post this week?  You can still engage with this growing travel community. Just read some of the linked posts to see where might pique your wanderlust this week… Here’s how to read along and link your own travel posts:



 

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Welcome to Faraway Files, the new travel link up hosted by Katy from Untold Morsels, Erin from Oregon Girl around the World and Clare fromSuitcases and Sandcastles.

This is the place to link up your travel posts every Thursday. Faraway Files is a weekly file of the best travel ideas on the web. We want to dream of faraway places, to make new travel plans and share our travel secrets. Inspire us to travel to places we’ve never considered before or revisit a place we thought we knew. We know that you can feel faraway even when you’re close to home so share your experiences of travels near and far wherever you are in the world.

We’d love you to join us in building a really supportive community who will inspire and share each other’s posts. All three of us will try to read and comment on every post and we’ll share them on social media too. Each week we’ll choose our favourites and highlight them on our blogs and social media channels using #FarawayFiles.

How it works:

  • Link up one travel-related post and add the Faraway Files badge onto the post or your blog (code below) or link back to the hosts.
  • The link up will go live every Thursday at 8am, UK time (9am, CET) until midnight on Friday. It will alternate between Untold Morsels, Suitcases and Sandcastles and Oregon Girl around the World. This week’s link up is right here at Untold Morsels. Head on over there and add your post!
  • Link ups work best if everyone shares so please comment on all three of the hosts’ posts and at least one other.
  • Share your #swoonworthy images on Instagram at tag @FarawayFiles and #FarawayFiles – we’ll repost our favorites.
  • We are posting each week’s links on our Faraway Files Pinterest page as well – come join us over there as well!

We can’t wait to see how far you’ll take us today. Cheers from Copenhagen! Erin

Grab badge to add to your linked post here:

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Madrid | Spain via Oregon Girl Around the World

Make Madrid Mine

Madrid didn’t do it for me. Not the first time. Millions and millions of Madrileños can’t be wrong. But it didn’t make my heart sing. Not at first.

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Maybe we missed the magic of Madrid. The first time.

Let’s rewind. For a minute. Two years ago. Having moved my family around the world to Copenhagen, Denmark. We took a flight leaving Portland, OR to Vancouver, Canada on to Frankfurt, Germany then finally landing in Copenhagen. Capital of Denmark. That alone was exhausting. We picked up a tiny (at the time) rental car and dropped seven HUGE overstuffed overweight bags at my husband’s office. What a great first impression that was. And then, after only two days in damp, dark Denmark, we took our very first European family trip.

Why? Why did you do that? Well. We had a few weeks before my husband’s job contract was to start and the children had open spots in their new school. We had to move out of our house in Oregon because we’d already rented it to incoming Aussies. What better way to spend those gap weeks than traveling. Immediately. I know it sounds intense. (As it turns out – it was.) But this was part of the reason we took the job in Denmark to begin with. All those amazing travel opportunities.

We decided on Spain. For a week. We planned to split the week between Barcelona and Madrid. That Renfe express train between the two cities is amazeballs. You should try it. It was November. It was definitely not peak season to visit Spain. Perfect timing we decided. The weather was pleasant. Not too hot. Not too cold. Definitely warmer and brighter and lighter than the dark, near December we encountered upon landing in Denmark.

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Fall in Retiro Park, Madrid SPAIN

This was Spain. This was my first visit to Spain. My husband’s first trip to Spain. My childrens’ first visit to Spain. This is why I chose it. Why we chose it. I wanted our first familial foray into European exploits to be a FIRST for us all. Perhaps in retrospect, a wee bit of familiarity might have been preferable. Make our transition easier. Maybe.

Madrid is amazing. But Madrid is a metropolis. The third largest capital in Europe behind London and Berlin. Madrid is HUGE. And crowded and bustling and busy and loud and large. We were overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Exhausted. And because of this, I will admit, we were underwhelmed with the Spanish capital. Lo ciento España. I’m sorry Madrid.

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Madrid is a METROPOLIS. It is mega huge.

We had a perfectly situated Airbnb apartment near Puerta del Sol. The epicenter of Madrid. Of Spain, really. This is kilometer zero. All mileage in Spain is calculated from this point. There is where first impressions are made. Ours ? A wary sense of outsider-ness. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.

It was different from Barcelona’s colorful, whimsical, mosaic’d and mercado’d  beach vibe. Madrid hit us like a Flamenco dancer – fast and loud – clapping and stomping to a beat we couldn’t hear. We couldn’t understand.

Maybe it was the somewhat intimidating costumed characters strolling around the plaza at Puerta del Sol looking for a little pocket change in exchange for a photo op from passing tourists. Chubby spider men busting the seams of their suits; slightly tarnished Mickey and Minnie Mouses taking breaks with their “head” under their arms. But the most disturbing and definitely creepiest – was the red headed giant butcher knife wielding Chucky looming atop the fountain mid plaza. THIS is what my daughter, then 8, remembers most about Madrid. Did you see him? He was creepy.

I have to jog her memory (and mine) about the delicious chocolate con churros at world famous Chocolatería San Ginés. OH YEAH! Those were good! Can we get those again? Maybe. We’ll see. And how about that stroll through Retiro Park, listening to the live music at that outdoor cafe while boats paddled in the nearby lake? Oh yeah! That was good too. Is THAT where we had the milkshake? Yes. Yes it was.

And how about renting bikes and riding along the canals down to Casa de Campo (a gorgeous green space/park five times the size of New York’s Central Park?) Remember we found the ropes course and climbing structure? That was MADRID? Yes. Yes it was. OH. That was cool! A little stressful I will admit as parents letting our 8 year old ride an adult sized bike in a not as bike-friendly town as our new home Copenhagen, but she did it. In spite of the hills!

And how about that kilo of bacon we bought at the Museo del Jamon? HAHAHAHA! Group chuckle inducing memory jog. Having just moved to Europe and not yet used to metric weight system, I ordered one kilo of bacon. It seemed reasonable at the time. There are five us and three are growing children. As we watched him slice and slice and slice….and SLICE. And. SLICE. And keep slicing. We soon realized we’d made a critical error. OH. Kilos. Got it. (For those of you – who like me – didn’t get the conversion immediately – one kilo of bacon is exactly 2.2 pounds of bacon.) Yep. I cooked that bacon for an hour. Couldn’t take raw bacon home to Denmark you know. I will admit – although I couldn’t shake that animal fat smell for days – it was delicious.

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So many fun memories when we sit and think about it. So why then the ho-hum response when we look back at Madrid on our list of places visited? Timing. Bad timing. Unfortunately I think our collective familial state of shock that we had actually packed up all our earthly goods, sold off half, put some on a ship and stored the rest in my mother’s attic and shlepped ourselves AROUND THE WORLD – before even establishing ourselves in our new home just MIGHT have had a little to do with it.

When my husband had an opportunity to travel back to Madrid for work, at first I wasn’t interested. Too many other places to see. Don’t need a repeat. But I am SO GLAD I did. Two years later. This September. I will be happy to show you how I made Madrid mine. More intimate. More accessible. More approachable.

How do you make a huge city feel less intimidating? More like yours? I’ve got ways. Now. I’ve had to learn. Ways we have made it work in the past two years. I’m happy to share. I’d like to hear yours. Madrid is mine part II to follow. Stay tuned. Memories help – a place looks better in retrospect sometimes. Look at all those things we did. We are grateful. That matters. It helps make a place like Madrid ours.

Cheers from Copenhagen, xoxo Erin

 

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Sharing with Faraway Files Travel Blog Community – a link up hosted by Katy at Untold Morsels, Clare at Suitcases and Sandcastles and me – Oregon Girl Around the World. Click the badge to add your own post or come over and read where to travel next! Cheers, Erin

 

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Fall in Sweden – Everyman’s Right to Roam

Sweden is super cool. Yep, you heard me. I know, I know. I live in Denmark. But our Scandi neighbor really is. Cool. In a completely different way than Denmark. I mean Copenhagen is cool. VERY COOL. Sometimes, maybe possibly – a little too cool for school. Don’t get me wrong. I love it here. In all it’s tatted, skinny black panted, chunky white trainer wearing, oversized trench coated, giant scarf wrapped, top-knotted or bearded, coffee drinking, Tuborg swilling, design toting, bicycling glory. I said I loved it – remember?

But today – it’s all about Sweden. Denmark’s tall leggy blond and blue eyed cousin -Sweden. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Not all Swedes are tall, blond or blue eyed. But… Sweden’s flag is blue and yellow. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And so is IKEA. All blue and yellow. (P.S. – you pronounce it ee-KAY-uh here. Not EYE-kea.) And every time you step inside one of those enormous Swedish box stores and think – jeesh, I just came in for cheap candles and a couple picture frames – do I really have to wind through all of these displays? Just think of how big Sweden is! Compared to Denmark anyway. It’a all relative. But Sweden is pretty big! Have you looked at a map? Much larger than Denmark. In fact, Sweden is the third largest country by area in the European Union. And it’s all kind of tall and long. Another coincidence? I don’t think so. (*wink, wink.)

SWEDISH FACTS:

AREA:  450,295 square kilometers (173, 860 square miles)
POPULATION:  9.9 million
DENSITY:  21 people/square kilometer (54 people/square mile)

And of all those 9.9 million people living in Sweden, 85% of them live in urban areas – mostly Stockholm, Gothenberg and Malmö. That means there is a lot of land with nobody on it. Lots of space for all the moose. And farms. And trees. And nature. Lots of nature. Want to know the coolest part about Sweden? All of that land and all of that nature is available to everyone.

You heard me. It’s open to EVERYONE. Sweden has a law called Allemansrätten that gives the right of public access to everyman. It literally translates to everyman’s right. Also known as outdoor access rights or freedom to roam, it means that you have the right to walk, hike, bike, ski or camp on any land in Sweden. The only exceptions to the rule being that you can’t tromp through someone’s private garden, across cultivated land or hang out near homes. Because that would be just rude and really kind of creepy. But everywhere else – open. Yep. It’s awesome.

As an Oregon girl – this resonates with me. In the state of Oregon we border the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful stretch of coastline. But when we visit, we don’t say we’re going to the beach or the shore – while both are there. We go to the coast. The Oregon Coast. It is also known as the “people’s coast.” And for good reason. Every inch of the Oregon Coast belongs to the people and because of that you have access to it. Where it is safe to do so – of course. My inner Oregon-ness appreciates Sweden. In fact – it feels a little like Oregon over there. Especially when you start throwing in evergreen trees across the landscape the further north you travel.

Come on over to Sweden. But bring your passport. You’ll be checked. Even if you’re Danish. Maybe especially if you’re Danish. Just kidding. Maybe. But once here – roam where you want to. Roam around the land. Explore Sweden. That is cool. Sup-ah cool. And Swedes take advantage of it. We’re lucky to have Swedish-American friends living in Sweden while we’ve been here who were willing to share one of their favorite places to hike and explore.

Today, we’re going to Skåne, the beautiful region at the tip of southern Sweden. Think rolling green hills, tall beech forests, farms full of brilliant yellow rapeseed, old castles, rocky coastlines, little inlets and islands all await you in Skåne. (Pronounced “skona.”) From Copenhagen – you can drive across the Øresund Bridge to Malmö and head north or take the short 20 minute ferry from Helsingør, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden. Then take the E20 north in the direction of Gothenberg. Need a place to stay? Try super charming little Torekov or nearby Båstad. It’s not a bad word. It’s pronounced BO-stah and is the home of the Swedish Open. And unless you’re a huge Björn Borg fan or are just really into tennis, steer clear of this place for two weeks in July every year. Otherwise it is a charming little outpost to base your outdoor exploits.

Now that you’re here. Let’s get outside! Only about 10 minutes outside Baståd heading east on route 115 is the gorgeous Naturreservat Osbecks. Officially you are now in Halland County, but just right on the border of Skåne County. If coming from the E20 motorway, take the exit towards Hasslöv. After 2 kilometers there is a sign saying “Hiking area”. There is should be a football field on your left. Turn right onto the gravel road and follow the road up to the car park. A forest of beech trees cover this open nature preserve. Parking here and pick a trail. Autumn is an amazing time to visit as the leaves are turning, coloring the landscape  and there is a crispness to the air.

Map to Osbecks Naturreservat, Halland Sweden

The trees here at Osbecks are mostly deciduous with many beeches, birches and old oaks, which is why it gleams in autumn. Some of the trees here loom overhead nearly 200 years old. History rocks at this nature reserve in the form of stone age and bronze age cairns. Literally piles of rocks that farmers of yore piled to the side of their plot – both marking their territory and allowing cultivation. See if you can find them! But remember, the general rule when accessing allmansrätt is:

Do not disturb – do not destroy.”

Look out for tree snails and song birds, ferns and funghi. Sweden is proud of the diversity that has taken root here. Plan ahead and pack a picnic. There are several spots where you can make a fire in the pits available. Firewood is available free for your use. We grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows while soaking in the views. It was a perfect end to a perfect afternoon.

Can you believe all this lovely is just over two hours from Copenhagen. Cross the big bridge or take the ferry. Go for a hike. Pick ligonberries. Hunt mushrooms. You can. It’s allowed. It’s allemansrätten. Tack Sverige! Thanks Sweden!

More inspiration to be found at Visit Sweden.

Danish ferry to Sweden on Øresund
Drive from Copenhagen north to Helsingnør and take the 20 minute ferry to Helsingborg, Sweden. Head north on E20.

Happy Fredag! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

Happy to link this post and introduce a new collaboration of travel bloggers today. Join myself, Katy of Untold Morsels and Clare of Suitcases and Sandcastles in a new supportive and inspiring linkup community we’re calling #FarawayFiles. Read more here about how we started it, what we want it to be and how you can engage. We’d love to see you there!

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Faraway Files – A new travel blog community with weekly linkup hosted by Katy @UntoldMorsels, Clare @suitsand and Erin @OregonGirlWorld

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Heart Song of San Juan Island, Washington

When Your Heart Sings for  Specific Space
Let’s Go to the San Juan Islands in Washington State

When speaking of spaces that stick with us, there is always an indescribable something special that makes our hearts sing. LAAAAAA. One of those places for me is the San Juan Islands in Washington State. An archipelago of islands sitting about as far west as you can get. But archipelago, while a beautiful word and super fun to say, doesn’t do this string of beautiful green treed bastions justice. There is something magical about this place.

Wait, wait you say. Still don’t know where I’m talking about it? Can’t place it? I hate when people talk about somewhere like everyone knows it. Ok. Let me help. Hand gestures over the interwebs can be tricky. Come with me. Picture the map of the United States – now look at the upper left corner in your brain, no need to Google it. Keep going. Over there. Up there. Yes. Do you feel me pointing? It’s almost Canada eh? Here. These are the San Juan Islands. I want to take you there. In fact, I would take everyone there. If I could. Let me try.

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By Pfly – Own work https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15730665

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Scenic McKenzie Highway – Road Trip to Sisters, Oregon

Oregon seeps under your skin, mossy and green. Like a salve for your soul. It is my from. If you’ve been playing along or you know me, this is no surprise. If you haven’t and you landed here today with this post – then first, let me say velkommen! Welcome! But you probably figured it out too. Right? The Oregon connection? It’s kind of obvious, hunh? Oregon Girl and all. Yep, ok. Back to Oregon. But what do you know about Oregon? I know some of you know a lot. But for those who don’t – here’s a tiny overview. Short and sweet and green.

One of the 50 United States, Oregon sits sandwiched on the West Coast (the best coast) between her more populous neighbors – Washington and California – both who can boast hosting a top 20 U.S. city, or two, within their borders. Both those states have their merits – a plenty. Believe me. As my husband and I both attended college in Washington, we have strong heart strings that pull us there. And he and his family call California their from, growing up in So Cal, all of them. But when I am outside of the States, I find that fewer people know much about Oregon, the West Coast’s middle sister.

As an expat currently living in Denmark, invariably the first question I get asked is: where are you from? And more often than not, people can quickly pick up my accent as soon as I answer and recognize that I am American. When I go on to say that I’m from Oregon – quizzical looks can follow. Ok – let me explain. Do you know where California is? Lights of recognition. Yes! Yes, I do! Of course. Everyone does. Go north. I say. That’s Oregon. And while California has many amazing things to share and offer both the resident and tourist alike, I like Oregon better. Sorry Cali. It’s me, not you. Don’t worry – I’ll still visit. (We did – post forthcoming!)

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