Indian Canyons – Palm Springs California

Palm Springs is one of our favorite places in the world to hike. We always go in the winter when the weather here in Oregon is at its worst and the weather in the desert is the best. One of our favorite locals is Indian Canyons a group of hiking and equestrian trails on the native Aqua Caliente lands.

294

There are couple trail heads and several trails at each trial head. Some hikes providing these lovely stream and palmed canyons and some higher up in the hills with endless views of the valley.

Admission costs are per car and then per person as well. The money goes to the native groups that live and work to maintain the land so I don’t mind one bit having to say it. Since there is a pay gate you have to wait in line, so I would suggest getting there early to avoid waiting. Some of the hikes are fairly long too so getting there early will behoove you anyway. When you drive in they provide a driving and trial map which helps since there really isn’t any road signs once you get in.

310

Parking is also fairly limited at both trail heads so again, get there early. At the main trail head there is a trading post that sells souvenirs and snacks as well as providing real bathrooms. The smaller trail head only has pit toilets.

I don’t think I would call any of the hikes easy, and I only say this because no matter how short some of the hikes may be there are still some very steep parts. Even getting to the interpretive area at the base of the main trail head you have to walk down a canyon hill from the parking lot and trading post.

315

We have hiked the larger hills twice, once with my parents on an insanely sunny day and once we got to the top we spent most of the time just sitting and looking at the views. It was also REALLY hot for being December and I didn’t want to push it so I took a seat on a sunny rock and just enjoyed my surroundings.

The second time around we hiked alone and the weather was the exact opposite, we got warnings from the park rangers that it was raining in the hills and to look out for flash flooding. We brave stupid Oregonians pressed on, lucky for us it was just a light drizzle and because of the weather we had the trail to ourselves. It was beautiful to see the desert come to life with the light rain and to be all alone out there was restorative and peaceful. In retrospect it was pretty stupid, we could have really gotten hurt and probably should have just not gone that day.

Where: 38520 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA

When: Open daily October through June. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (July through September). 8am to 5pm, but last entrance is at 4pm.

How: By car to get there, it is quite far from town even though it looks like it is close to town. Once there you can go by foot or bring a horse and go by hoof.

As always please be prepared, hiking in the desert can be dangerous. Sunny weather can mean dehydration, sun stroke stumbling onto snakes or scorpions. Cloudy weather can mean flash flooding, trail wash outs and sink holes. Always dress appropriately, bring food, water, sun screen and a basic medical kit.

The Convent of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel – Lisbon Portugal 

 

One of the things I knew I wanted to see while we were over in Lisbon was the Carmo Convent, or The Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. All I knew about it going in was that it was a church that lost it’s roof allowing you to stand beneath the arches of it’s gothic structure and see the bright open sky.

 

 

As with everything else I found in Lisbon, the ruins of the church were everything I had hoped. After a short walk up the hill from the main shopping street in the Baixa (pronounced Bai-jha) district of Lisbon we found ourselves standing in a small square outside the convent next to a shoe store (more on that later) and a government building (more on that later as well).

The cost to get into the convent was minimal, I think perhaps two or three euro, and while the attraction itself is quite small it is very much worth it in my opinion.

 

The convent was built starting in 1389, and survived in tact up until the 1755 earthquake that flattened most of Lisbon, with the exception of the Alfama district which was protected by the large rock that it sits on.

Some attempts were made to repair the church, but in 1969 another earthquake hit the area toppling again most the of the repair attempts.

 

Today it acts as a monument and archeological museum, though as mentioned it is small, it is quite nice. There are a few gothic tombs on display as well as some local artifacts from Roman, Visigoth, and Moorish excavations. As well as a few artifacts from Peruvian digs.

There is a nice book store on the far left inside the museum itself, which sells quite a few children’s books, as well as tour and religious texts. There is also a public restroom near the entrance on the inside of the convent which is always good to know and not often found it seems when touring Europe.

 

Oh look at that, I take terrible selfies.

How to get there and links for more information:

Where: Largo do Carmo 1200 | Largo do Carmo, Lisbon 1200-092, Portugal
How: Metro – Baixa-Chiado Station, or walk which is what we did.
When: 10AM-5PM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmo_Convent_(Lisbon)

http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/carmo-church.html

 

La Rambla – McMinville, Oregon

For our anniversary this last year we decided not to do anything big. Instead we spent a weekend in a small town just south of where we live that happens to house one of my all time favorite restaurants in the world.

I discovered La Rambla a number of years ago, right around the time my parents and I were discussing spending Christmas in Barcelona. I had started researching things to do and places to eat in Barcelona and as Google has a tendency to do, it pointed me to a restaurant near me (in Oregon) that was named after one of the attractions we were looking at in Spain. So I had to try it. The rest is history.

La Rambla is a small tapas restaurant  in McMinnville Oregon. Frequented by locals and wine enthusiasts alike the restaurant has never been anything but packed regardless of day or time I have visited. The small intimate restaurant offers a wine list that is 7 pages long and a small but comprehensive list of snacks, entrees and desserts. And of course cheese.

As luck would have it (or perhaps my one track mind when it comes to a decent cheese plate) I forgot to take any pictures of our latest visit. Except the one of the cheese menu. Which I took so that I could remember the name of the goat cheese that knocked my socks off (Cana de Cabra in case you were wondering).

For our meal we shared a bottle of wine,  a few cheeses, a small flat bread ending the meal with churros and chocolate. We were happily stuffed and also slightly disappointed we didn’t get to try more from their outstanding seasonal menu. I guess that just means we will have to go back. I think I would be pretty okay with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basílica da Estrela – Lisbon Portugal

One thing that my Stepdad really wanted to see was the Estrela Basilica which was something that was not even on my radar. But I could not be happier that he drug us on the long trek (by foot) across town to visit it and I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in seeing the top sites in Lisbon.

The church itself was commissioned by Queen Maria I of Portugal in the late baroque architectural style. Queen Maria was the first undisputed queen regent of Portugal. Meaning she was heir to the throne and even though she married to Peter III his power would cease and pass to her oldest living child upon her death.

 

According to my stepdad’s research (though I cannot attest to it because I didn’t read the information myself) Maria had trouble conceiving a child and prayed on the matter for years. Long story short when she did finally have a child she built the Basilica in commemoration as promised for answering her prayers of a child.  She has a hard reign, loosing her husband, and then being moved to Brazil to rule during the Napoleonic occupation of Portugal. Over the years she slowly slipped into a state of madness and eventually died at 81 at which time her son took over the country. She is currently entombed at the Estrela Basilica.

As I mentioned we walked there from the Baixa neighborhood though the old Tram 28 will take you there as well. It is free and open to the public in the main church area, though as with most religious building donations are accepted and appreciated. I did not light a candle this time for fear of nearly setting fire to someone again.

 

We however found a man who may or may not have been affiliated with the church that we paid three euro each to walk up a VERY narrow staircase to get to the roof of the church. My husband lead the charge, I had no idea what was happening and one point thought perhaps we were not only getting scammed but possibly robed. It turned out fine and the views were spectacular, totally worth the hundred some-odd stairs we wound our way up.

We stood on the roof for a while and took in the views and the sun. The PNW doesn’t get any sun this time of year so being in such a pleasant place was a really nice break. Plus in all my years of touring Europe I had never gotten to be on the roof of a church so I was digging the new experience.

 

The bells started going, so we retreated into the dome structure, if you think church bells are loud wait until you are standing next to them! Once inside the upper portion of the dome you can walk around the whole space and look down on the church floor. The dome was big.

Loved the detailed work on the arches, always a fan of arches.

 

Looking back toward the main doors…

Looking down on the main alter…

The last and final thing of note about this church is there is a famous 500 piece nativity set carved out of cork that can be seen. We found ourselves there on a day when the viewing was not available. Which didn’t really stop my parents, though they did get caught skulking around areas of the church they shouldn’t have been and promptly got booted out by the guy who let us up the stairs to the roof. Again no idea if he was affiliated with the church, but evidently did have enough authority to kick my parents out.

There is also a very nice park across the street with a café next to a pond, the bathrooms looked horrifying though. We did not venture.

Address and additional information:Praça da Estrela, 1200-667 Lisboa, Portugal

Ruddick/Wood Tavern – Newberg, Oregon

One of the harder things about leaving the city is that suddenly there aren’t a lot of local places to pop into for a drink or a snack. At least that seems that case in the Portland area. Though given how little I drink leaving the bar scene wasn’t a sacrifice by any means.

Though from time to time a girl needs a local place to sit down with her girlfriend for a good old fashioned gab fest and have a glass of champagne and a plate of fries. Enter the Ruddick/Wood Tavern in Newberg Oregon.

It has all the relaxed PNW charm without any of the traffic or parking challenges of it’s city counterparty. The interior was left mostly salvaged and the walls are adorned with topographical maps of the local hills.

It’s not a large place but it does offer a fair amount of seating options, and while it has always been pretty busy when we go in we have always found a seat. We try to make it on Wednesdays for their “Whiskey Wednesday” specials. The selection is extensive and I have not yet had to order the same drink twice, except for their sparkling rose. But that was on purpose because it is so delicious it is hard not to repeat the glass, bottle <insert serving of choice> over and over again.

Every time we go in we make a pact to order something different off the food menu, I think it has really only worked about half the time. They have an excellent rotating cheese plate that we keep ordering and have never been disappointed. I think we may order it because the menu says “cheese and accoutrements” which halfway through a bottle of champagne becomes too much for us to handle and we probably wind up ordering it because we find it so funny.

The other must order is the fries plate, which comes in a variety of options. We have ordered them all and I don’t think I can say which is my favorite. They are all good and worth a try.

You can find the Ruddick/Wood Tavern at 720 E. First St, Newberg, OR 97132. It is around the corner from the main restaurant Ruddick/Wood which serves lunch and dinner from 11:30am to 9pm.

 

São Jorge Castle – Lisbon Portugal

The São Jorge Castle is a Moorish Castle that dates back to the 2nd century BC, though ongoing archeological digs has reveled that human occupation of the site started long before the existing castle was built. The castle and the surrounding neighborhood of Alfama was relatively unscathed by the 1755 earthquake that flattened the city and killed over 100 thousand residents. The earthquake did however damage the castle to a certain degree leaving only the walls of the old structure.

It is one of the more popular sties in Lisbon. Due to it’s closeness to the docking point for tour ships as well as it being one of the only sites open on Monday’s it was quite crowded when we toured. We were lucky enough to get to the ticket office, which is just outside the main gate, right at opening and got in before a line formed. But we did end up leaving a little early because the crowds were unmanageable (see picture above for the end of line to get in). I would suggest going early and not on a Monday when other sites are open which may alleviate the crowdedness.

 

I may have enjoyed watching cars try to pass through the crowds waiting to get into the castle a little too much. One of my favorite things about Europe is the abject not giving an F. Don’t get me wrong, I love Europe and the kindness of everyone I have met. But in the states everything has to be carefully controlled. This type of thing would NEVER happen back home, there would be safety rails and specific places for people to queue up. You would never be allowed to walk and drive in the same place. I love seeing people have the freedom to make their own decisions and look out for their own safety rather than constantly being babysat. Social rant over, back to castles!

 

There were about 7 peacocks and peahens roaming around the gardens and grounds. Naturally they were a big attraction to tourists. I was happily taking a picture of one and then looked up and realized there was one in a tree looking down on me. That ended the picture taking for me quickly. They are very pretty but a tad big to be comfortably standing over me.

Once done wandering around the grounds you can enter the castle and make your way up and around the castle walls. The views were amazing, though the passage ways and stairs narrow and with all the other tourists it got to be a bit much for us. So we wandered back to the court yard, got a coffee (espresso) and sat in the sun and enjoyed the views for a  while.

The views from the court yard are truly unparalleled, you can walk around the whole southern tip of the top of the Alfama hill which overlooks the whole city from the west to east. My mom couldn’t stop taking pictures, so I took pictures of her taking pictures.

Sometimes I accidently take pictures of myself and they turn out better than the posed ones.

I was completely obsessed with these houses and their gardens. I took about a hundred pictures, dreaming up big plans for my own yard this spring. Too bad my house doesn’t come with stone walls and a terracotta roof. Someday, maybe, here is to hoping!

Address and additional information: R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal

Fernhill Wetlands

There are an inordinate number of places to go walking and hiking in the Pacific North West. It is sort of what we are known for. The problem with this is two fold. First because we are known of our stunning views and gorgeous well-kept our door trails, everyone knows about it, and thus everyone is on them. Second because you can wind up in decision paralysis trying to decide exactly WHICH trail you want to take on while you are out visiting. And truth be told you really cannot go wrong.

If however, you are looking for something very specific it can be harder to locate that trail that is juuuuuuust right.If you happen to be looking for something that is easy, flat and you enjoy bird watching or nature photography this is your trail.

The wetlands are actually a water natural treatment facility first (but don’t worry it doesn’t smell funny) which has been expanded out and carefully landscaped to provide shelter for migratory birds.

I have spent a good amount of time there over this past spring and now into fall. I avoided it over the summer because I don’t like being hot and the entire trail is exposed. I truly love walking around this space, the one mile loop trail provides beautiful views of a very natural Oregon and the birds that live here.


I end up making several loops around the sanctuary a week. Because it is open, well traveled but not overly populated and close to my house it makes for a perfect and safe spot for someone walking alone.

To plan your visit start with the website here. If you want to continue your exploration of the area I suggest trying to Adiri Winery or McMenamins Grande Lodge.

Questions:

Are there any natural walking areas in your home town that you just LOVE?