Who is Iceland?

She. The one I’ve been dreaming of for years. As everything you dream of, eventually I started inventing her a little… later a lot.

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She is the one Borges called “ Iceland of the Seas”, the youngest geological formation of our planet  (so young she is only 25 million years old). Has the North Pole as a neighbor. Though been a part of Europe,  she really isn’t because floats far away. Remote. Forgotten by many – even by me- until made myself a promise to remember her.

Called “The Land of Ice and Fire”,  honestly I don’t think there is a better way to describe her. Land of contrasts, where the unexpected is expected. More than 200 volcanoes, 10000 miles of glaciers, 800 thermal areas and geysers, surrounded by fjords, spectacular waterfalls, translucent lakes, tectonic plates that leave cracks as evidence, fantastic caves; all of them conform such a unique landscape, that will surely mesmerize every visitor.

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Declared also: “Last Natural Paradise in Europe” honor that comes with the responsibility to conserve her intact.

UNESCO declared  Reykjavik  “ City of Literature“ because of the enormous contribution she has made to literature. Birthplace of a Nobel price and creators of two literary genders: Edas and Sagas. Their gift to humanity also includes documenting  the Germanic Culture of the X century.

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Bold and Fearless are the words that come to my mind to describe her. Resilient to the extreme. Life’s pulse can be felt in Iceland, that need to flourish from dirt and rocks is not just an allegory here, it is for real. With only 11% of the land good for farming  and long and dark winters, life in Iceland was probably very hard before electricity. Cold and famine lethal.

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Iceland is also the land of democracy and peace. They brag about been the first democracy of the world, their parliament was founded more than 1000 years ago. Without having an army of any sort they became independent  from Denmark in 1944 and the only thing they asked back was their most precious treasure: The Codex Regious and their Manuscripts.

My theory is that adversity has turned them into a very special society, mature and wise.

Visiting her is a pleasure, a visual adventure. Getting to know her is a once in a lifetime experience that we all deserve to enjoy.

My next post will be an Iceland Guide, so you will be really tempted to pack your bags and go.

 

Top 10 Reasons to Visit London in Summer:

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London is undeniably a great destination always. An amazing city that will please even those hard-to-please travelers. But if given a choice, mine will be to visit during summer. In the northern hemisphere some cities become too hot for pleasurable walk, but not London. Plus the fact that it’s longer days allow the visitor more time to enjoy it.

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  1. Wimbledon: Even if you are not a tennis fan, the energy of the city during the tournament is special. Londoners become friendlier with visitors the city feels more welcoming. Restaurants, hotels and bars, find their decor inspiration in the tournament . Pubs are crowded with people that share a beer while watching the daily matches. Around town streets and parks display gigantic screens. Strangers riding the tube share their opinions about the latest developments.IMG_7008IMG_7026_2
  2. Roof Top Bars: I have a particular affection for them, don’t know why. Whenever I visit a new city try to explore a few. In London the fact that at 11pm at night in summer the sun still shines, makes it even more appealing. The views of the city from up there are beautiful and allow you to see it from a different perspective. A calmer one. My favorite roof top bars in London are: “Radio Bar” at the ME Hotel, “Aqua Spirits”, “The Roof Gardens”, “Boundary” y  “The Lost Format Society”.
  3. The Hampton Court Flower Festival: The biggest floral exposition of the world: 50 gardens exhibit here including the marvelous water gardens. One of my favorite ones is the tent dedicated to roses, as well as visiting the innovators in conceptual gardening.
  4. Picnics : English love their picnics indeed. As soon as the weather is nice they run for their lifes to one of the many parks, with baskets full of goodies in hand. Places like “Harrods” and “Fortnum and Mason” have a wide variety of them ready for purchase and delivery. Some hotels also offer the picnic basket as part of their services. In my opinion the best parks for a picnic are: Primrose Hill Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park.IMG_0372Processed with VSCO with s3 preset
  5. Sales: June and july are the best time for bargains in Europe. It’s true that some stores can be too crowded at times but I think the wait is worth it, reductions can go as far as 70% off. Even the designer brands that traditionaly don’t offer discounts, do it in summer.IMG_0492
  6. Open Air Theater: What about watching Shakespeare under the light of the moon? In summer you can, many places offer open air theater, Regent Park is probably the most famous, but there are other venues like St Pauls Church in Covent Garden and The Globe Playhouse .
  7. Dinner with a View: Foggy London can’t always offer this. But summer is your best bet. The restaurants that I would recommend are: “Fenchurch at Sky Garden”, “Duck And Waffles” and “Serpentine Bar and Kitchen”
  8. Street Markets: If you have read me before you know I “have a thing” for markets. In London there are many and the weather in summer is perfect for visiting them. One of the most alluring ones for me is the Portobello Road Market, walking it is a pleasure and make sure you keep your eyes opened for The Humming Bird Bakery http://www.thehummingbirdbakery.com that offers the best chocolate cake in London.IMG_0503
  9. Music Festivals: Can’t expect less from the birth land of The Beatles, Adele, Amy Whinehouse and Coldplay. The amount and variety of them is huge, from the famous Festival at Sommerset House to the Eastern Electrics Festival,  ideal for the electronic music fanatics.
  10.  Sundance Film Festival: Since 2012 this wonderful festival that takes place on January in USA comes to London in June, which allows the cinema fans from the other side of the ocean to enjoy it.IMG_0359

Galapagos Islands in a few words.

When we arrived, I apologyzed. Couldn’t find the right words to describe the place nor my feelings about it. Back home, I must confess that the whole week I have been trying, looking up for new words on the dictionary, watching over and over pictures and videos of the trip – which has been counterproductive because with each image I am left speechless again. So I have decided to write only the few thoughts that coherently I can articulate, and let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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Galapagos is not a place, is a time space. You arrive by plane or ship from continental Ecuador, but seems like you’ve traveled in a time machine to a parallel universe. To a place where for some reason time doesn’t goes by at the same pace. Or perhaps hours and days go by, but not years? I am thinking that maybe in Lewis Carroll’s world or at a Kubric’s movie some of this makes sense.

Nirvana,  that stage of complete bliss and enlightenment, that some religions have as the ultimate state to achieve, is the word that comes to mind. I felt like that, as if every cell of my body was full of oxygen and nutrients. As if everything was perfect, lacking nothing. Felt like a millionaire of life.

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Galapago’s animals seem like Saint Francis of Assisi trained them. They don’t fear humans or vice versa. Sharks and penguins swim close, with the confidence that gives them the fact of have never been harmed. Sea lions take naps on the pier or on boats, while black iguanas lay back in the sun careless. Once in a while, a stingray flies out a bit just to get noticed.

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Nature looks intact, unchanged from what it probably looked like for thousand of years.

 

Humans that inhabit there (very limited numbers) seem to be fully aware of their blessings and take good care of the islands. Visitors understand it very soon  too.Processed with VSCO with s3 preset

In case you have plans to go, here is a list of hotels and restaurants that I love:

Best Hotels

www.finchbayhotel.com

www.angermeyer-waterfront-inn.com

www.pikaialodge.com

http://www.royalpalmgalapagos.com

Best eats:

La Garrapata: Restaurant and bar

Il Giardino: Restaurant and Gelateria

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Angermeyer Cafe:  The food is delicious, cocktails are great too; but the view is priceless. Great place to watch the sunset.

I’m Galapagos’s obsessed now. Since I left, I only want to go back.

 

Atlanta: do you need a reason?

Atlanta isn’t on everybody’s bucket-list. There are far to many places around the world tempting us, even inside USA there are many more iconic cities on the top of our lists.

This wonderful city is mostly visited for business – Atlanta’s airport is the busiest world wide– after all it’s the third city, behind NY and Houston, to be home for more Fortune 500 companies. Among them: Delta Airlines, Southwestern Airlines, CNN, Coca Cola. This is the reason for the  huge variety of retail stores and restaurants, enough to please the most demanding travelers.

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I have visited it many times, for various reasons, nonetheless never ceases to amaze me. Atlanta’s allure for me, is that is REAL. A real city. The streets exude a history full of contradictions and differences, war and suffering, tradition and change, rebirth and generosity, dignity and peace. The people you encounter are mostly residents, many of them students that bring to the city a good amount of needed  heterodoxy. Nothing is staged for tourists, the energy is authentic.

 

During the Civil War, Atlanta was a strategic location for the Confederate Troops… it was constantly attacked. Numerous battles took place nearby, before falling definitely on 1864. It’s siege and evacuation were later (1936)  immortalized by Margaret Mitchell on her famous novel “Gone with the Wind”

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During the 60’s, this city was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement, leaded by Martin Luther King (born in Atlanta 1929). Later the city was the first one in America to have an African-American as an elected mayor. Today  is a city of great importance for the GLBT community. The opennes of the city and its habitants  was recently materialized in the new Museum dedicated to Civil an Political Rights, a place that I would recommend everyone to visit for an eye opening experience.

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The architecture of the city is different than other Southern cities, they decided to change the classical structures and buildings by more modern ones. Renzo Piano, John Portman and Richard Meier are some of the famous architects that have contribute to this new skyline.

Cinema and literature are also interesting in Atlanta, after the approval of a tax incentive’s program designed to promote the production of  films and television   – and with the undenniable benefit of the weather– has become a mayor destination for the industry, the most famous and recent TV series is probably “The Walking Dead” that isn’t only filmed there, but has Atlanta as setting for the story. The beauty of this city has also been the backdrop of great films like Driving Miss Daisy (1989); Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and American Beauty (1999).

Every year on April,  the city hosts the “Atlanta Film Festival” which offers a wide array of independent films to the public, as well as conferences and events.  The city also hosts the biggest Independent Book Festival in USA, besides being the city where authors like Natasha Trethewey and Chandler Harris were born.

Last but not least, the southern hospitality is real, you feel it everywhere you go, and that makes your visit a very pleasant one.

As you see, there are many reasons to visit Atlanta, on my next post I will recommend you the places I treasure the most.

 

 

 

 

About Heroes and Cheesecake.

According to the dictionary a hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievement or nobel qualities. To my mind come, firemen, soldiers, Batman, martyrs, Ghandi.

I don’t entirely agree with that definition. I mean, I recognize those are heroes, but feel that many others are excluded, I call them “everyday heroes”. Semantics and editorial dictatorship is one of the perks of owning a blog.

These everyday heroes will never have streets named after them, nor statues. Legends won’t surround them. They probably don’t recognize themselves as heroic either. But for me they are. Neither perfect, nor saints. I haven’t romanticized their existences ( I do that sometimes) they are flesh and bone, but in my dictionary they do hazardous and extraordinary things every day; they follow their dreams. Even if those dreams sound wild or absurd to others. Most of the time they triumph – even though that isn’t a requirement to be considered heroic by me– they go the extra mile and sacrifice, but mostly they perform ordinary activities with extraordinary love, as Mother Theresa said.

Foolish dreams deserve so much respect.  “I dream about been a professional diver” “Ice Cream Salesman” “Ride my bike around the world” “Give a rock concert”. People apologyze about having them, breaks my heart. Even I have apologyzed about mine. So many unnecessary explanations…

When your dream is becoming famous or a millionaire everybody agrees. But saying out loud: “I want to be a Yoga Teacher; ride a hot air balloon around the world, bake the BEST cheesecake ever” takes a lot of courage. Sometimes the wildest dream is just to look yourself in the mirror with acceptance and compassion.

Joseph Higgs  is one of this dreamers.  After graduating in USA he went back to Providenciales and announced his family he wanted to bake the best cheesecake of the world… Not exactly, but almost.  He came back to the island and got a job at the Power Plant, but started dedicating his free time to his passion: baking.

He tells me how much he wanted to try and bake a good cheesecake. After doing lots of research he baked his first one around one year and a half ago, the reaction of families and friends was extraordinary. “My family would go straight to my fridge to try new cheesecake flavors after that.” It was them who convinced him to offer the cheesecakes for sale for Valentines day (2015). The orders never stopped.

When I ask him to give advice to other dreamers he says: “HARD WORK, be willing to sacrifice a lot” In his case the sacrifice has involved time and money, but he doesn’t want to stop until his dessert are famous worldwide.  He continues with advice: “Keep setting goals even after accomplishing one.
There will be many people who will not understand what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, but that’s okay, what’s in your heart and mind to do, can’t be hindered by anything.”

Among the succes he has had this past year are many things like being  featured on Turks and Caicos Mag and offered to sell his cheesecakes on the biggest supermarket chain on the island. But certainly the most important is being a wonderful example for his two years old son Nathan– he is the reason behind the name of the bakery-.

If you go to Turks and Caicos please try  Nathan’s Cheesecakes at any of the following locations: KayJos Restaurant, The Caravel Restaurant- Grace Bay, Danny Buoys- Grace Bay, Chopsticks- Grace Bay, Tongue & Groove Cafe’ (located at the do it center) Leeward Highway. In the meanwhile enjoy his pictures at @nathanscheesecakes