24
Sep 18

Dilofo, Greece

After dropping Lilly off on the weekend, we were all packed and ready to go to Greece for our summer vacay. Unfortunately for us, we had to get up super early this time – 3am to be exact, ready to be picked up for 4am by the taxi to take us to Gatwick. Everything went super smoothly, Gina even managed to get a few Zzz’s in on the plane, and we landed in Thessaloniki in no time.

Our first mission was to pick up the car, a nice little Citroen we named; Emanuel. After familiarising ourselves with the car, we departed Thessaloniki on the 4 hour drive over to Dilofo.

The drive took us right through the middle of the country, where we were greeted by some lovely views – and the Greek highways were super nice to drive on. We noticed loads of high fences on either side of the highways – these were to prevent bears entering onto the highways! How cool!

Dilofo

Iest & the church at Dilofo

We arrived at Dilofo just as the sun was starting to set. No cars are allowed into Dilofo – so we parked Emanuel in the car park that’s just on the outskirts of the village. Dilofo is amazing, an incredibly traditional, picturesque village that I don’t think has ever changed since the day it was built. All the houses and roads are made from the same stone, with the whole village nestled into the woods in the hills, making it look like a little fairy tail village. We dragged our suitcase over the stone cobbles, and found our fantastic hotel; Archontiko Dilofou that Gina had picked nicely for us. I can’t recommend this hotel enough, the rooms were beautiful – all rustic and super comfortable, with a lovely host that we got chatting to a lot. She made us feel very welcomed.

Archontiko Dilofou

The streets of Dilofo

After familiarising ourselves with the beautiful room, we headed out to take a tour of the little village. Dilofo is super quaint, with lovely old buildings everywhere, with a church in the middle of the village and narrow lanes connecting everything up. We walked the loop around the village, and eyed up a nice little restaurant for dinner; Taki’s place. We sat outside on the terrace, looking out towards the mountains as the moon was slowly rising up behind them. We ordered a whole lot of fantastic food, including the grilled feta with tomatoes and herbs – something so simple, yet incredibly delicious. We had a couple of beers, and then retired to bed for the night – since we’d been up since 3am (!) and we had a full day of exploring to do tomorrow.

Grilled Feta!

Moon rising


28
Aug 18

Oslo, Norway – Day 4

For our final morning and afternoon in Oslo, we decided to head on down to the waterfront – but this time over towards the Tjuvholmen sculpture park.

Our first stop however was the Historical Museum – as we had a free pass from the Viking Ship Museum – my plan was to see the only preserved Viking helmet in the world (!) but unfortunately, the museum was under some renovation, and the Viking helmet wasn’t around, so we didn’t get it see it. Such a shame. Next time! We then slowly made our way down to the waterfront, via a couple of shops.

Tjuvholmen sculpture park

Gina getting some sun

At Tjuvholmen sculpture park – we had a nice sit down in the sun, sipped some coffee, before heading on back to get our bags, and catch the train to the airport – all in all, a fantastic break to Oslo. We got to see so much!

A 50mm photoshoot

Mae’r haul bob amser yn disgleirio ar y locsyn coch


27
Aug 18

Oslo, Norway – Day 3

I had done some research, and found out one of the worlds top baristas had a coffee shop just around the corner from our well-chosen (by Gina) AirBnb – so, today was the morning that I’d get to taste such goodness! We headed out, and over to Tim Wendelboe – I wasn’t disappointed. I got myself one of the filters that was on sale that day, and sipped away before breakfast. Top stuff. They didn’t sell any breakfast stuff here at Tim’s, so we made our way back to where we had the fantastic breakfast the day before; Godt Brod Grunerlokka for some more Norwegian pastries.

Iest and his coffee

The mission for today was outdoor parks, as all the museums we’re closed on Mondays. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t 100% on our side today, with massive overcast skies, and spitting rain.

Our first stop was the oldest building in Oslo; the Old Aker Church and it’s surrounding graveyard; cemetery of Our Saviour – where we saw the graves of Edvard Munch, and a few of Norway’s other top painters, poets and playwrights like Henrik Ibsen. Just across the way from the South East entrance to the graveyard was the little pretty-street called ‘Damstredet’, a very charming and picturesque part of central Oslo with well-preserved and inhabited wooden houses from the late 1700s and the 1800s. So we took a few pics of the lovely little houses as we made our way down the the street.

Old Aker Church

Munch’s grave

Damstredet

Damstredet

We then made our way, walking through the streets towards The Vigeland Park – but we took the shopping streets way, just to see what kind of nice stores the Norwegians had, and I’m happy to report that Gina found her new fave store; Sostrene Grene :) and a few other nice, house-hold type store, all of which were very nice.

We arrived at the Vigeland Park just as the rain started to become a bit heavier, so we just made it around to see Gustav Vigeland biggest works; The Angry Boy, Monolith, and Wheel of Life before heading back into town for a coffee, cake and a sit-down. We saw some interesting birds in the park too – including someone’s pet canary!

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Monolith

Iest & Monolith

Wheel of Life

Gina having a cake

Next on the agenda was the Akershus Fortress. It’s a medieval castle that sits right at the waterfront but it’s now used a military base, and police station. It’s very nicely located, where you can walk around it and look out to sea, watching the ships come in and go – but there was a fair amount of tourists there on this day, trying their best to get that ‘oh so funny’ picture of themselves, so it ruined the vibe for us a bit, so didn’t stay too long. We headed back over towards the main shopping street of Karl Johans gate, for a more in-depth look at what was on the high-street shopping, before heading back for a little chill.

Fortress

Gina in her fave new shop

For the evening, I had done some more research, and landed on a restaurant called ‘Sentralen’ for our evening meal. I booked the table for us from London, so we were all set. They served Scandinavian ‘small plates’ where we chose three dishes each, each different and very, very nice.

Dessert at Sentralen


26
Aug 18

Oslo, Norway – Day 2 – Museum Day!

As I was the one in charge of planning this awesome weekend – I planned very nicely for us the best places for breakfast and coffee for the morning. Gina, really wanted to willy-nilly go into any old place that served breakfast, but I made sure stuck to our well planned places, and our breakfast destination for today was this lovely cafe called; Godt Brod Grunerlokka. It was a lovely place, great building with awesome Nordic pastries and coffee.

Gina and our Nordic breakfast

After breakfast, we bought some travel cards for the day as we were planning on zooming around the city quite a lot, and jumped on the bus to our first museum of the day – and the one that inspired Gina to get this awesome trip for us; The Viking Ship Museum!

The bus took us directly there, all the way to the other side of the peninsula, to the area known as Bygdøy. It was quite clear how busy the place was going to be, as the bus was jammed by the time we got to the museum. We hopped off the bus, and was pleasantly surprised by how lovely the purposely built building that housed the Viking boats was.

The first thing you see when entering the museum was the truly amazing Oseberg Ship, completely whole, excavated from the largest known ship burial in the world. This ship was massive, and so beautiful – and is commonly acknowledged to be the finer artefacts to have survived from the Viking era. Every single carving was still visible, especially at the bow and stern, together with the spiral structure at the bow and stern of the boat – which was remarkable. Standing under the massive structure really gave it a sense of scale.

Gina and the Oseberg

Oseberg from the viewing platform

There were two, almost as impressive boats in this amazing museum, the Gokstad ship and the Tune ship, which we spent time studying and admiring. The museum was such a lovely space, the ceilings were super high, which really gave scale to these boats, but there were also little overhangs/balconies to which you could climb up, to view the decks on which the Vikings would have been sitting on. There was also a few skeletal remains, which the archeologists found when they excavated the boats, and a whole lot of Viking era jewellery, bits of clothes, carriage, and an incredible animated short-film that was projected onto the walls and ceiling, depicting the story of a chieftain and his Viking ship. Amazing. I loved it.

Gokstad ship

We took 10 mins, and did a quick sketch of the boats, before heading around the corner to the second museum of the day; The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. This place was great. It’s;

…a museum of cultural history with [an] extensive collections of artefacts from all social groups and all regions of the country. It also incorporates a large open-air museum with more than 150 buildings, relocated from towns and rural districts.

It covers a large amount of land, and it’s all nicely laid out for you to walk around, and admire the amazing wooden buildings they’ve got from all over Norway. The most amazing building was the ‘The Gol Stave Church’ dating from around the 1200;

The Gol Stave Church

Iest and the church for scale

There are many other amazing buildings here, including a farm from the 1950’s, old towns building from Oslo ranging from 1600 – 19th century, to various old wooden storehouses from the 1700’s. You could pop into some of the buildings, where they had some of the furniture from the era, so it all looked quite amazing. There were a few shops dotted around too, selling food or sweets from the era that building was from. We were super lucky with the weather, so it was a beautiful morning out in the open-air museum.

From here, it was time for lunch, and I’d done my research, and took us to a rather nice restaurant called Lantern on the waterfront, where Gina had some sound and I had my first burger of the day.

Lantern, on the waterfront

Our lunch

After filling up, and walking through the lovely neighbourhood of incredible Scandi-architecture, we caught the bus back to the city centre, for our third museum of the day; The National Gallery. It houses Norway’s largest collection of art – so we were in for a great time! Their collection was quite wonderful, we got to see The Scream, Madonna, & The Sick Child, by Edvard Munch. I was quite surprised by how quiet it was around the ‘Scream’ – so I managed to get a good picture of it. We both loved Harald Sohlberg ‘Winter Night in the Mountains’ – the colours on it seemed like they glow in the dark somehow, really capturing the moonlight, but my favourite had to be Erik Werenskiold and his work ‘Peasant burial’ – with his incredibly detailed landscape and peasants.

Munch’s ‘Scream’

Munch’s ‘Madonna’

Sohlberg’s ‘Winter Night in the Mountains’

Heyerdahl’s ‘Fra Asgardstrand’

By the time we’d finished, and popped out – it had been raining, as all of Oslo was wet – so we were quite lucky, and timed the indoor museum very well! As we were in the area (and it was down in my itinerary) we walked over to Slottsplassen park for views and the Royal Palace, a sit down, and a sketch in our sketchbooks, before returning back to our AirBnb for a nice chill and some Norwegian style yogurt via the main shopping street of Olso; Karl Johans gate.

On our way to the Palace

The Royal Palace

Gina and a Guard

Festival at the waterfront

For the evening, we headed down towards the city to centre, only to find out there was a massive music festival taking place on the water – right infront of the Opera House. We chilled here for a bit, before heading back up for some dinner – tonight we were keeping it causal, so we had some Veggie burger at the well-recommended ‘Wunderburger’ which was just around the corner. They were indeed, great – so we sat by the window, enjoying watching people pass, before heading back for the night.


25
Aug 18

Oslo, Norway – Day 1

For my birthday, Gina treated me to a long weekend away in beautiful Oslo! I’ve always wanted to visit the Viking Museum to see the epic long boats they have there, so I was super excited to visit. I was in charge of planning this trip, so I made sure I planned it well :)

We dropped Lily off at our favourite cattery, and headed up to Stansted airport for our afternoon flight to Oslo. We arrived without a problem, smooth flight, and an even smoother train ride into Oslo city centre. We navigated our way to our Airbnb which Gina had picked for us nicely – centrally located. We dropped off our bags, and decided to take a walk down to the sea front to get our bearings and see what the city was like.

First stop, was the Oslo Opera house – it’s located right at the head of the Oslofjord, and looks out right across to the little islands and the peninsula across the other side. The building is so epic, that the roof angles down to the ground, which creates a marble plaza that invites people to walk up to its roof and enjoy some fantastic panoramic views of Oslo & the fjord – so that’s exactly what we did, with all the other tourists.

Gina on the Opera House

Iest, chilling

After taking in the sights, Gina thought it would be a good day to visit the headland that was just down the way to get some ever higher-up views of the city. The headland was part of the Ekebergparken Skulpturpark – which I had down on our itinerary for another day, but seeing as it was such a beautiful sunny day, we decided it would be a perfect evening stroll.

The Opera House

New Architecture

We made our way over, through the newly build buildings that lined the inlet, and walked up the hill through some woodland to start the sculpture trail. The first thing we came across happened to be the view in which Edvard Munch used as the backdrop for his most famous painting ‘The Scream’, which was a pleasant surprise. We continued on, ending up in a large opening at the top of the hill, where there were some interesting art hanging from trees, and some smoke-lined moody trees. We spent a couple of hours in total enjoying the park, and its many sculptures and statues – before heading back down towards the city centre as the sun was going down.

Iestyn’s ‘Scream’

Overlooking Oslo

Gina admiring the sculpture

Wood woman

Foggy Trees

By this point, we were both hungry for dinner – I had just been listening to a great podcast about Oslo’s food culture and the exciting Vippa community down on the waterfront, so that’s were we headed! It was a lovely little place, with about 12 different ‘sea containers’ halved, and turned into a kitchen, selling every kind of cuisine. We both had a fresh bowl of salmon Poke, while enjoying the sunset over the sea.

Gina at Vippa

Iest eating Poke

With full bellies, we headed back to our AirBnb, and chilled for the evening, as we had a full on culture day coming tomorrow!


20
Feb 18

Santa Barbara – London

20 February 187 miles (total 1,295 miles) 14°C 8:30am

Nice breakfast in Pismo, and just driving down to LA with a small stop in Santa Barbara. Arrived at Gatwick in time (the next day tho), and couple hours later reunited with Lily finally!


19
Feb 18

Morro Bay – Pismo Beach (via Big Sur)

19 February 152 miles (1,108 miles total) 5°C 7am

Early start as usual, early morning stroll in the marina front, fresh and beautiful – OTTERS! We did not even know they live here, so it was a nice (cute!) surprise seeing these little furry buggers frolic in the water. Plus also one hummingbird. All that before breakfast. Breakfast at The Coffee Pot – massive pancakes and bottomless coffee, just like we like it; great way to start the day.

Hummingbird

Drove over to Piedras Blancas for the main attraction of the day, elephant seals observation spot. Excellent season as they come to the beaches to breed before leaving in March. The beaches were jam-packed with the massive yet adorable beasts, and we spent a lot of time just admiring their beach life.

A lone Elephant Seal

The beach littered with seals!

Gina and the seals!

Iest and a seal

The lighthouse was closed and so was a good chunk of Highway 1 up to Big Sur due to last year’s mudslide, but we made it as far north on the coast as we could, enjoying the sun, ocean and fresh air. Had a traditional Olallieberry pie in Cambria, pleasant little coastal town, where we also bought a couple of bottles of local wines for home.

Ragged Point, Big Sur

Turkey Vulture

Oystercachers

Afterwards we took a stroll on the beach of San Simeon, which was not only beautiful but also had loads of oystercatchers. We made one last stop by the seals before driving down to Pismo Beach for our last night in sunny California. Our hotel was very nice and after checking out a couple of places in town we ended up in the hotel restaurant for a nice seafood dinner.

Gina & the San Simeon pier

San Simeon

Gina admiring the seals


18
Feb 18

Death Valley – Morro Bay

18 February 401 miles (956 miles total) 8°C 7am

Driving day! Needed to get from the Valley back to the coast – not many stops on the way, and the scenery nice but not spectacular and also not much diverse. Still in Death Valley we stopped by Mesquite flat sand dunes, bathed in soft morning light – Star Wars Tatoonie unmistakably, with the Panamint Ridge on the horizon! Drove through Stovepipe Wells again on the way out and had a last look back at the Valley from Father Crowley Vista.

Gina chillin at Mesquite sand dunes

Morning at Mesquite sand dunes

Father Crawley vista

Even out of Death Valley the scenery did not change for quite a while, very dry and desert-y. We soon had a great view of the Yosemite Ridge on the horizon, with all the snow-covered peaks. Lunch at a Mexican place in California City, very filling. Afterwards it was just driving all the way, through agri lands and rolling hills, progressively less dry and yellow and more lush and green. We reached our motel in Morro Bay at about 5pm – and finally took showers, first ones since Palm Springs! Felt great. Found a nice seafood place on tripadvisor, but still were so full that we decided to give dinner a miss and make a space for a nice breakfast tomorrow.


17
Feb 18

Death Valley

17 February 105 miles (total: 555 miles) 8°C 6:30am

Zabriskie Point

Creeping sun

Creeping sun

Super early morning, rushed out to catch the sunrise at the Zabriskie Point – we were by no means the only ones with this idea but it was still a very nice experience.

Gina at Zabriskie Point

Iest at Zabriskie Point

Afterwards we headed back to Furnace and managed to snatch an early spot in a beautiful tent-only camp (Texas Spring) from someone who’s just left. There was a lot of competition, that’s for sure. Amazing views. After breakfast it was still nice and early morning and we headed to the Golden Canyon for a nice hike before it got too hot. We chose a nice walk to the Red Cathedral combined with the Gower Gulch loop, and it got us to some pretty magnificent viewpoints. Not many people around either.

Golden Loop trailhead

Hiking through the canyons

Iest & his hat

Gina’s bicep

Us overlooking the canyon

Hiking to the highest point

The viewpoint at the top

Afterwards, the top afternoon heat, we went for the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America (some 86m below sea level). Top tourist spot but nice salt plains and an unearthly feel to the place.

Gina at Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin salt plains

On the way back we swung by a ‘natural bridge’ spot which was not really worth it tbh. Then we went once more to the visitor centre in Furnace Creek, to watch the half hour film on the history and geology of Death Valley, before heading for dinner all the way to Stovepipe Wells. Nice place and a first glimpse of data connection after like three days (since Palm Springs). We got some firewood and beer for the evening, although must be said I retired to my sleeping bag fairly soon, leaving Iest with the fire and all the stars.


16
Feb 18

Joshua Tree – Death Valley

204 miles (total: 450 miles) 3°C 7am

Iestyn jumped out of bed at 6am because he was too cold, and gave me no choice than to follow suit, even though I was nice and snug in mine. It was super cold but nice sunrise and there were rabbits hopping around the campsite. In no time we were cruising away from Joshua Tree. This was not very smart though because Iestyn wanted to find a place for breakfast somewhere on the way despite the fact that the best place would have been Joshua Tree village itself (I even had a place circled for that purpose in my guide).

Roads for days!

Mojave National Preserve

Scenery was amazing though, even before entering Mojave National Preserve. Short stop in Amboy ghost town on Route 66, with famous(-ish) Roy’s motel. In Mojave we stopped over at the Kelso dunes, and at Kelso proper.

Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes

Had lunch at a Greek place in Baker, and then continued our scenic drive up towards Death Valley with a short break for gas and terrible coffee at Shoshone village. We arrived at Furnace Creek in late afternoon – too late for one of the nice camps given that it is three-day weekend and prime season on the Valley. Had to settle for the Sunset camp among RVs but was not actually so terrible. Air was balmy, sun was setting, and we just about managed to make the Artist scenic drive at the best light of the day. Dinner at a local joint in Furnace Creek, not much choice of places, the saloon we were going for does not exist any more.