Exploring Ecuador Slowly…But It’s Almost Over.

The weeks have zipped by in Ecuador, full of exploration and fun – so much so that I’ve neglected the blog without a moment of guilt…til now, as we see our three months in South America coming to an end.

Let’s rush back to Otavalo for a few minutes, which we enjoyed following the difficult overland trip from Popayan (see previous blog). Otavalo was the place in Ecuador we’d first thought might appeal as a place to “ex-patriate” ourselves for a while in the coming years. It isn’t as prominent on the overseas retirement list as its nearby sister city, Cotopaxi, or its far away kin, Cuenca, but we thought it might work for us, and spent a week there to see if we were right.

Otavalo Market Gossip

Otavalo Market Gossip

Summing it up, some of the reasons we liked Otavalo were because of its scale – smaller, walkable, and no high rise buildings. The climate in March was lovely, at 8500’ high in the Andes, with even higher areas to explore, including volcanic peaks and hot springs, and of course, the well-known craft market.  Not sure whether it’s the ginko we’ve been taking or not, but we’ve had NO altitude issues…yay!

Much as we enjoyed Otavalo though, we probably won’t return for a long-term stay – for some of the same reasons. At about 90,000 local residents, and a very small international community, there wasn’t as much variety in nightlife (restaurants) as we had imagined. Also, not yet an international bookstore or book exchange. And, surprisingly, the craft market itself was a little bit disappointing (see more below.)

All in all, Otavalo didn’t “feel” right, the way we later discovered Cuenca did. Someday it will – when more expats discover it, and have the energy and interest in building small businesses (like the great little coffee shop, The Daily Grind) – we’re just not the ones who want to create those enterprises.

The famed Otavalo market is overwhelming, in the way that you can have too much of a good thing. Dozens upon dozens of small stalls fill the Plaza des Ponchos, every day of the week in a maze of indigenous entrepreneurship. Except on Saturday, when the market expands from the Plaza and fills many surrounding streets as well. Many of those stalls are filled with the same items – from ponchos, sweaters, pants and pullovers to blankets, table runners and bags of many kinds. There are wood carvings, paintings and jewelry, wooden bowls and maracas. Some of it is beautiful, but there’s so much of everything that it’s mind-boggling. And brings to mind doubts of how much could possibly be “handmade.” It was truly staggering how much of everything there was, and how one stall resembled another. How to decide what to buy and who to buy it from? How could each of these merchants be making a living? And what about the actual storefronts we saw, where huge plastic bags were filled with the same trinkets, shawls and hats that we’d just seen in the market?

Many Many Many Crafts

Many Many Many Crafts

So I was pleased to see, from time to time, people (usually women) actually making something by hand – crocheting a bag, knitting a hat, weaving a bracelet. Even more rewarding was going on a day long trip with Runa Tupari, a tour operator in Otavalo (www.runatupari.com/index.php/en) during which we visited traditional craftspeople in their homes. Those were the moments I’ll remember.

82 Year Old Weaver

82 Year Old Weaver

Thus it was that after a week exploring, talking to people, and avoiding much shopping, Otavalo dropped from the list of potential residences; and nearby Cotopaxi never made the list at all – many of the local people had mentioned with bemusement that there was a neighborhood full of Norte Americanos there, and that it was like a little America – not what we’d be looking for if we live overseas again.

But, go to Otavalo, do.  And we’ll go back too.   It’s a charming small Ecuadorian town, and there’s a lot to do from there, from hiking to boating to exploring the traditional crafts refined over generations. There are a couple of great little coffee shops and a fantastic pie shop – yes, American style pies with thick fillings of amazing tasting Ecuadorian fruits. We went three times in the week we were there.

Food Adventures

Food Adventures

And the market, despite my concerns, is a visual extravaganza, which is why I spent more time taking pictures, and less time shopping. Next time, a bit more about Otavalo.

New Friends...

New Friends…

Bogota, Medillin, Cali…A City is a City is a ? Part 1 of 2

#blogguilt? Yep, six fascinating, challenging weeks exploring Colombia and we’re already across the border in Ecuador (more on that “interesting” experience in Part 2!).

We spent a lot of time in Colombia’s large cities, learning that as beautiful as the surrounding mountains might be, the cities themselves leave a bit to be desired. To be fair, Bogota (8mil), Medillin (4mil), & Cali (4mil) are just rougher versions of many other million plus population cities around the world – traffic is horrendous and diesel/gas fumes reek – walking is not a lot of fun. Until we get city transit issues sorted out and move away from private cars to public, shared & more environmentally sustainable transportation, the world’s largest cities will continue to be increasingly difficult places to live as they grow. (And that’s my quasi-political/social statement for this blog.)

But Colombia’s big cities offer a good look at the country’s history, its art (fantastic), and a peek at how a tourist industry (while not quite in its infancy – hello, Cuba?) is developing. If you’re planning a visit to Colombia and want to do it without a glossy tour company, be aware -you’ll need the following:

Patience – you’ll be taking buses much of the time, and there are generally not set hours for departure. You will go the terminal, search for a suitable bus line (vendors stand about calling destinations), and either find yourself among the first or last to board…and then, only when the bus is FULL will it depart! Along the route, the bus will stop to let passengers off any old place…despite having told you the bus is “direct” (this does NOT mean “non-stop”.) As seats are emptied, the bus will stop along the route to allow others to board, including vendors who offer drinks, fruits, banana chips…and yes, these impromptu snacks can be delicious.

Earplugs – ah, those buses again. Usually, the music will be turned on, loudly, immediately, and constantly throughout the trip, whether 1 hour or 6. Be prepared.

Toilet paper – if you like more than a couple of squares, you’ll be happier if you put a packet of tissues in your pocket before you venture out. You’ll usually pay for the use of the toilet at bus terminals. And, if you’re female, be prepared for lidless toilets…great for the thigh muscles as you attempt to pee without touching the ceramic.

Ok, tips on how to “journeywise” out of the way.

We loved visiting the main plazas in Colombia’s cities – many are named for Simon Bolivar, the “Liberator.” Statues varied from a soldierly and solemn Bolivar to a “Bolivar as Condor” in Manizales, and naked Bolivar on a horse in Pereira…along with your run-of-the-mill busts. The gentleman was everywhere doing good deeds, until he ran into political and financial difficulties and ended his life in exile.

Bolivar Nude - Pereira

Bolivar Nude – Pereira

Museums and outdoor art were also a complete pleasure. From Botero sculptures to murals and graffiti, Colombia (whether on purpose or not) has encouraged a public sharing of exuberant art – it’s everywhere, splashing color along highways, streets, alleys and parks. While most is “art” for art’s sake, there is also plenty of politically motivated art relating to both indigenous peoples and the FARC guerrilla movement. More photos are available on Instagram @tojourneywise and commentary about traveling, organic agriculture and random thoughts on the journey on Twitter @tojourneywise. Enjoy!

Botero Sculpture

Botero Sculpture

Wall Mural Medillin

Wall Mural Medillin

Part 2 coming soon, more on Colombia’s big cities next time…then on to Ecuador!

Chiva Bus - Colombia

Chiva Bus – Colombia

Bogota – Bewildering, Enchanting

We’re travelling for three months in Colombia and Ecuador, putting cities here through the same filter as some of our top home prospects in the U.S. Will we end up falling in love with Popayan or Manizales, Cuenca or Ibarra? Come along for the journey and see!

AirBnB View Bogota

AirBnB View Bogota

It now seems a good idea that I’ve let a few days pass by since we were in Bogota, as I’d drafted a rather negative post – it started:

Bogota feels in some ways like a third world city; why is that? Let me count the ways:
1) dog “popo” (yep, that’s what they say) everywhere; 2) gigundo (no that is not a Spanish word) holes in the sidewalks and streets; and 3)trash.

Pity the Taxi Drivers

Pity the Taxi Drivers

The State of the Sidewalks

The State of the Sidewalks

But Bogata is compelling in many ways, so let me count those too:

1. El Museo Botero – you know, the guy who paints and sculpts those wonderfully voluptuous people and objects. He donated a massive amount of his personal collection to the museum, which is set in an old colonial palacio with a lovely courtyard. Fantastic. Free. Culture.

Museo de Botero

Museo de Botero


2. El Museo de Oro – gold, gold and more gold. Antique, ancient gold, and plenty of English-translations so it’s easy to learn what the displays are all about. One section involves entering a circular, darkened room and listening to the chants of early Colombian religious ceremonies. During the chants soft lighting illuminates a 360 degree display of thousands of tiny gold objects, arranged in swooping arcs of flight and clouds.
Room of Chants and Gold

Room of Chants and Gold

3. Food – interesting and often tasty! Hot chocolate with cheese cubes (Chocolade SantaFerena.) Very sweet pastries and very dry pastries. Some amazingly good Peruvian food at “Pasion Peruana.” Incredible vegetarian lunch at “Quinua y Amaranto,” in La Candelaria neighborhood.

Hmm, Hot Chocolate with Cheese?

Hmm, Hot Chocolate with Cheese?

Vegetarian Lunch with Quinoa

Vegetarian Lunch with Quinoa

4. Architecture – from the tiny casas in La Candelaria to the palacios of the colonial era and through the early/mid 20th century, Bogota offers up some glorious buildings. The only risk is that by looking up, you may step in a nasty hole in the sidewalk hole while admiring the grimy but otherwise charming buildings.

Plaza Bolivar

Plaza Bolivar

Colorful Candelaria Street

Colorful Candelaria Street


Apartments in the Round

Apartments in the Round

Faenza Theater

Faenza Theater

5. Art – murals everywhere. If you follow me on Instagram (cnewmanwise) you’ll see more examples of the incredible art that’s on most available surfaces.

Sombrero Hombre Azul

Sombrero Hombre Azul

Beauty...

Beauty…

Where Are You Going, Bicycle Boy?

Where Are You Going, Bicycle Boy?

A few days in Bogota was a great introduction to Colombia and adding 10 hours of intensive Spanish lessons kickstarted our ability to get around. Angie, our teacher, can be reached at (spanish1.english1@gmail.com). She was a good instructor, understood that we wanted a crash course in survival Spanish, and that’s what we got, with smiles.

We’re off to Cartagena and the Caribbean coast next…flipflops at the ready!
City, 8000', Mountains Higher

And We’re Off….Vamanos!

The next stop on our quest for finding “our spot” is South America – specifically Colombia and Ecuador, where many expats have already found wonderful homes. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that last year we spent 4 months traversing the U.S. on the same quest.

We’ll be travelling for three months, trying to stay a minimum of a week in each of a number of different cities, including Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and Popayan (in Colombia), and Quito and Cuenca, at a minimum (in Ecuador). Along the way we’ll be visiting a number of organic and/or fairtrade agricultural communities; volunteering when we can.

So, logistics? Three months, altitudes ranging from sea level and a Caribbean climate to roughly 9000’ and rather chilly at night. We’ve got one rolling bag (High Sierra) and one small backpack (mine, Patagonia) apiece, which we hope will get lighter as we go along, giving up old paperbacks, some small gifts we brought along, and discarding clothing along the way. It’s said “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and though I’m not convinced, here are a couple of pics of the packing process:

All I'm taking, except the raincoat.

All I’m taking, except the raincoat.


It Fit, with lots of rolling!

It Fit, with lots of rolling!


Moments from Departure

Moments from Departure

I’ve worked hard at recalling Spanish from a long ago stint as an exchange student in Ecuador (yay, AFS!) courtesy of an app called “Duolingo.” And, we have 4 days of 2-3 hour Spanish lessons beginning the morning of our arrival. Don’t expect any blogging in Spanish though I may toss in the occasional “palabra” so you know I’m working on it!

The first two nights we’ll be at a small B&B called Churro de Queveda, and then we move to an airbnb in the same neighborhood of Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota. Nope, Bogota is not a candidate for our spot, but it is a great place to acclimate, learn a bit of Spanish, and enjoy some good food and culture before we move on. And with that, Buenos Noches de Colombia…

View from Churro de Queveda

View from Churro de Queveda

2015 and On the Road Again…

In 2014, we embarked on a journey to explore the world through the lens of organic agriculture, fair trade, small & local businesses (primarily food, beverage & books!). The ultimate goal is to find a spot that seems right for the next chapter, whether in the U.S. or abroad. And so, we’re about to set off again, this time for South America. Stay tuned…

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.          Jawaharlal Nehru

Indian Umbrellas

Indian Umbrellas

What’s Brewing? So Very Much!

Old Bust Head Brewery

Old Bust Head Brewery

This 13,000 mile 100 day plus journey has prompted one question more than any other – how are CW and I managing to spend so much time together, and still be together?  After 32 years of marriage when we rarely spent more than two full weeks together, we’re still smiling (at each other!) after four months of travel, in a car (…talk about close quarters!) If you’re contemplating anything like what we’ve just accomplished, it’s worth considering how you really prefer to spend your time, and agreeing on some simple ways to make sure you get enough “me” time – however you define it.  (This blog eventually comes round to lots of fun info about beer, brewing and beverages, so bear with me!)

Cooking with Spent Grain - Pizza Crust!

Cooking with Spent Grain – Pizza Crust!

We’re not oblivious to the pitfalls of travelling.  In fact, we think one of the greatest indicators of a potentially successful partnership is surviving the challenges of travelling together.  Those challenges are many and I’ll address those in a dedicated blog – but for now, I want to explore one of the most important ones for me:

Constant togetherness…

 

The Roasterie - So Good!

The Roasterie – So Good!

Boulevard Brewing - Around the Corner

Boulevard Brewing – Around the Corner

On this journeywise adventure, we knew from experience that a key strategy would be to find ways to have some occasional hours (ok, frequent hours) apart, to be on our own or at our separate pursuits.  And since we’re both very comfortable in new places (and really, nowhere in the U.S. was going to feel as strange as some of the other places we’ve been) we knew it would just take a little planning to engineer a few hours on our own every other day or so.

Evans Bros. Coffee - Idaho

Evans Bros. Coffee – Idaho

What helps immensely is that we’ve both created portable businesses: CW as what one of his brewery friends so aptly calls “an itinerant malt peddler,” and me, as a consultant and advisor to food and beverage startups in the organic, fair trade and natural sphere.  Charley does best with in-person calls on breweries, while I can manage primarily with phone, Skype, and email, though personal meetings are great when they can happen.  Our work means engaging with fun and interesting people who are working to nourish the world!

We didn’t consciously start our four-month long journey with a plan for how to incorporate independent time – but we learned quickly that CW’s most successful brewery visits would often take an hour or more, and if I could find a local coffee shop, farm market, or natural grocery to explore for at the very least an hour (and two hours was not at all a bad thing, I came to learn) then we’d both have a better time, with no anxiety for me over “when is he going to get back?!” nor CW worrying that I was getting antsy just when he was about to present the malts and whiskies, and getting to taste stellar beers, all with the point of actually leaving a sample of Copper Fox malt behind!

Tasting Brews Across the USA

Tasting Brews Across the USA

It’s far past time to give CW credit for a lot of the fun and exploring we’ve had on this journey.  Charley’s work with Copper Fox Distillery  http://www.copperfox.biz/index/ in Sperryville, Virginia has taken us (well, him) to over 60 craft breweries in 22 states and 4 Canadian provinces over the past 4 months, as he introduced brewers to the Distillery’s hand crafted, Virginia-grown barley malts.

We started the trip with about 100 pounds of the specialty smoked malts in the back of the car (along with our suitcases and camping gear), and picked up another 30 pounds (plus fresh bottles of the two whiskies) on the West Coast.  Although I’m now used to the slightly yeasty, warm-bread smell of sacks of the specialty malts wafting about in the car, I was happy that we left Boston for home having completely depleted the malt inventory!  CW’s pretty excited about that as well, as it means that across the U.S. and Canada, small and mid-sized craft breweries—now well over 30–are experimenting and creating new beers with Copper Fox’s apple and cherry wood smoked malt, and mesquite smoked malt.   Results of this summer’s visits already include brews on tap or soon on tap at Old Bust Head Brewing, in Warrenton, VA  http://www.oldbusthead.com/  Firehouse Brewing, in Rapid City, SD  http://www.firehousebrewing.com/  Sawtooth Brewing, in Ketchum, ID  http://sawtoothbrewery.com/         The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, in Canmore, Alberta (near Banff)  http://www.thegrizzlypaw.com/      and The Raw Deal/Real Deal Brewing, in Menomanie, WI  http://www.rawdeal-wi.com/  .   If you happen to be nearby any of these, you can enjoy a brew with a Copper Fox smoked malt as a key ingredient, and vicariously join our  “journeywise!”

Mural in Detroit

Mural in Detroit

There’s a bit more of the trip to catch up on, but we’ve now arrived back in Philadelphia, and midst the unpacking, sorting, and oh yes, planning the next trip, I’m behind my optimistic blogging schedule.  Soon to come – what did we learn and what’s next?  Stay tuned!

Truth Be Told…

It was July 21, the 71st day of our journey, and at long last (although that makes it sound as though we were actually eager to change direction…and we weren’t), we headed East, well, sort of!  We had planned to visit relatives in St. Paul, Minnesota after leaving California, but arrived via the states of Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa (yep, 7 states), and (pay attention!) having decided we needed to revisit Boise along the way.  “Ah,” you might be thinking, “they’re going back to Boise.”  And, you’d be right if you’re a tad suspicious about the reason.

YES – We have a number one “our spot” contender (for now) and it’s:  Boise, Idaho!  All this really means is that we know we’ll be going back to visit again, for longer, and in a different season.  No hasty decisions here, although truth be told, we did make a spontaneous offer on a house in downtown Boise, and perhaps for the best, we didn’t get it.  (Why we would make an offer that seems impetuous is a topic I’ll explore in another blog, especially because we did the same thing somewhere else!)  A close second is Fort Collins, Colorado, which feels welcoming each time we visit…but again, must go back for longer and not in the summer.

The feeling in the dusty red RAV4 is surprisingly different now that CW and I are driving into the rising sun in the mornings.  Some of the sense of excitement and exploration is muted – we’re covering a lot of territory quickly, and for now, spending time with friends and family instead of mostly on our own.  Only a few days of the remaining month will be in parts unknown (Canada, again.)

Three weeks after leaving Lake Tahoe, we drove away from St. Paul, rested, happy to have explored family roots and having reconnected with cousins, and now actually eager to travel on to Chicago and Detroit, with a few more visits to friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while.  Enjoy a small sampling of the photos I’m using both to record the journey and remind us of just why certain spots have seemed so very special!

Reno Diner - Right This Way!

Reno Diner – Right This Way!

Lonely Nevada Road

Lonely Nevada Road

Home for an RV!

Home for an RV!

Boise Downtown Lake

Boise Downtown Lake

Utah Agriculture

Utah Agriculture

More Utah Ag...

More Utah Ag…

Utah Sky

Utah Sky

Colorado Sky and ...

Colorado Sky and …

Softball Sized Dandelion

Softball Sized Dandelion

Colorado, Yes!

Colorado, Yes!

Fort Collins Suburb

Fort Collins Suburb

Larimer County Fair

Larimer County Fair

Fresh Eggs...Fort Collins

Fresh Eggs…Fort Collins

Nebraska Road

Nebraska Road

An Old Coca-Cola Sign

An Old Coca-Cola Sign

Wind Power in Iowa!

Wind Power in Iowa!

Minnesota Apples at the St. Paul Farm Market

Minnesota Apples at the St. Paul Farm Market

Cherry Tomato Bonanza

Cherry Tomato Bonanza

St. Paul Blooms at the Market

St. Paul Blooms at the Market

Home, Home, (Tent) on the Range…

We haven’t yet found even one spot to add to our “settle down wish list,” but we’ve enjoyed plenty of places that are perfect for exploring!  We left Yankton heading northwest across South Dakota, at first following the Missouri River, and Lewis & Clark’s journey.  Hours and hours (about 4, to be more precise) we were thrilled when the formidable peaks of Badlands National Park came into view.  We had a great hike that stretched the legs and let us clamber among the rocks and prairie grass as we learned about the geological forces that created the Badlands.  Our first buffalo sighting of the trip, too! And then, it was on to Rapid City, for an overnight stay before our first camping foray.

Badlands Ahead

Badlands Ahead

Wall Drug is a famous stop in South Dakota, with dozens of signs posted along the high way for miles and miles before you actually arrive.  I was fully prepped for the 5 cent coffee by the time we arrived (and for those of you who are following my Instagram posts – the doughnut!) Wall Drug is a funky huge maze of a store, and worth a visit if you are anywhere in the area.

Wall Drug's A'Comin!

Wall Drug’s A’Comin!

Lassos at Wall Drug

Lassos at Wall Drug

A short overnight stay in Rapid City was the first real exploration of a possible future home…yep, but I think it was just a brief fling!  Art Alley (check out the winsome blue baby at the far end of the alley) was an unexpected and fascinating discovery as we walked to Firehouse Brewery for dinner.  There are also life-size sculptures of the U.S. Presidents scattered around the city for discovery.

Art Alley Rapid City, SD

Art Alley Rapid City, SD

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

We passed Mt. Rushmore as we drove towards Custer State Park, and it was a “rush” to see the massive sculpted heads hovering over the highway.  Nope, didn’t stop by to get a closer look, truthfully – because we were so taken aback by the $11.00 parking fee that would go to a private parking concession…really?

From Mt. Rushmore we drove into Custer State Park via the Harney Peaks entrance, to camp and do a little hiking.  It is beautiful – Harney Peak is South Dakota’s highest point at 7200’, and much of the rest of the park is above 5000’.  The jagged, formidable looking peaks stretched to a beautiful cloud-filled sky, and we set up our tent at Central Lake for the next two nights, at 4600’.   Custer State Park is home to thousands of free-range buffalo, and though it’s nothing like the herds that roamed the prairies in millions in the 1800’s, the sight of these huge, magnificent animals was awe-inspiring.  And it’s calving season!

Harney Peak Area, Custer State Park

Harney Peak Area, Custer State Park

Ponderosa Pine Bark

Ponderosa Pine Bark

 

Beauty on the Trail

Beauty on the Trail

Stand Off!

Stand Off!

Buffalo weren’t the only “wildlife” we saw, as we left the park – the donkeys? mules?  were pretty funny.   Leaving South Dakota, we stopped in Custer at the Bitter Esters Brewhouse, and enjoyed, really really enjoyed, the Spent Grain Crust Pizza (check out my Yelp review for more), before heading on the long, straight road to Douglas, Wyoming…more on this, next time.

Road West with Clouds

Road West with Clouds

 

 

Detour for Architecture!

The middle part of the country is not-so-kindly referred to as the “flyover” zone – but we’ve enjoyed the drive.  And though it’s not an area that we’ve considered living in, we did take a full day to detour from the direct route to St. Louis, and headed north to Columbus, Indiana, one of the most important cities for architecture in the U.S. – right behind places like Chicago, New York, Boston and Sand Francisco.  The generosity of institutions like The Cummins Engine Foundation and individuals, including J. Irwin Miller, has created a community that enjoys a cornucopia of buildings, sculpture and gardens created by some of the world’s best architects and designers. (http://www.columbus.in.us/)

Columbus Indiana Fire Station

We started at the Columbus Visitor’s Center  and picked up a map to take our own walking tour.  We saw a library by I.M. Pei, and church by Eliel Saarinen, and a Henry Moore sculpture before we’d walked two blocks.  A quick stop at the Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor was a treat for our taste buds and a feast for the eyes – an amazingly restored shop from 1900 with original marble counters, Tiffany-like glass,  charming syrup dispensers and an old-timey candy store.  And the ice cream was pretty special too! (http://www.zaharakos.com/)

Zaharakos Decoration

Syrup Dispenser

Syrup Dispenser

The afternoon ended with a superb guided tour of The Miller House (http://www.imamuseum.org/visit/miller-house)- a 90 minute visit to a wonderful example of Modernist architecture, and a lived-in family home.  I wanted to leap into the conversation pit and invite friends over for wine and talk!  The house is starkly beautiful and the Alexander Girard interior design filled the house with color, joyful fabrics and folkloric collections.

Miller House Perimeter

For the evening, friends pointed us to the ramshackle Story Inn, (http://www.storyinn.com/) a former general store in a town that almost disappeared, but didn’t.  The winding and rolling back roads were beautiful and we arrived in time for a walk and exploring.  Breakfast was great!  House made raspberry jam and apple butter, smooth Brown County coffee, biscuits and local eggs and best of all, a leisurely hour in conversation before the long drive to St. Louis, Missouri.  Haven’t found a place we’d like to settle yet, but the exploring has been great fun!

The Story Inn

4 Months, 2 People, 1 Car, a Tent & a Plan…

We left Bethesda, MD yesterday and began a 4-month odyssey across the U.S. and British Columbia, and back to the east coast.  CW will be continuing his “maltrepreneurial” activities, introducing craft brewers across the country to his hand-crafted smoked malts from a small distillery in Virginia; I’m focused on finding farm to table restaurants and diners, local food production including coffee, chocolate, cheese & cider (the 4 “C’s!”), and oh, let’s add Kombucha even though it starts with a K, organic agriculture, unusual museums and experiencing the differences in climate and culture as we travel.

We’re also on a mission to explore communities to which we might someday move – there’s not really a checklist, but we are looking for access to hiking and the outdoors, culture and cultural diversity, a sustainable economy and food system, community, education & health care, among others.  “Climate” is a parameter on which we still have some differences.

Day 1 – we drove not far, from Maryland to Charlottesville, Virginia though the urban density of the greater Washington DC area, and into the gorgeous, verdant, rolling hills of Virginia horse country.  The pace will pick up soon, but these first few days are focused on Virginia breweries and Civil War sesquicentennial activities at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for the May 1864 Battle of New Market, in which CW’s great-grandfather, John S. Wise, participated as a VMI Cadet.

Dinner was at The Local, sourcing ingredients from nearby farms and engaging local craftspeople to create a rustic, comfortable restaurant with a balcony looking over the tiny village of Belmont.  http://thelocal-cville.com/  The dinner, from the fried green tomato and burrata salad, to the house-made fettucine and mushroom ragout, to the incredible peanut butter brownie sundae, was a rewarding end to day one.  Figuring out how to exercise on the road and work off the local meals we plan to enjoy is the next challenge!

 

Virginia Horse Country

Virginia Horse Country

Unexpected - Georgia O'Keefe Lived Here

Unexpected – Georgia O’Keefe Lived Here