Captain and Clark http://captainandclark.com The Modern Cartographers, Charting Your World. Tue, 04 Aug 2015 02:32:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Our Experience with the Sensory Deprivation Tank http://captainandclark.com/2015/08/03/our-experience-with-the-sensory-deprivation-tank/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/08/03/our-experience-with-the-sensory-deprivation-tank/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 02:32:16 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16204 I was naked. My ears were stuffed with a high-tech wax. In front of me there was a long coffin-shaped box with a space shuttle hatch on the front. Inside it looked like one of the tubes that they put people in cyrostasis for space travel. I took a deep breath, climbed into the hatch, and sealed it behind me. All around me was super dense salt water about a foot deep, and no light at all.

floating in the sensory deprevation tank in Portland OR

This was how the greatest dread and highest high of my life began.

You might think that I was gearing up for space travel, and in a sense you’d be right. This was our foray into sensory deprivation, or “floating” as the kids are calling it these day.

Have you ever wanted to experience weightlessness? Do you want to jump through the looking-glass of your own mind and experience a trip without drugs? Well, we have something for you. This was by far the most fascinating trip we’ve ever taken without leaving our home coast.

IMG_2066

Float On, in Portland, OR is the largest float tank center in the USA. Tawny and I had heard about float tanks but never experienced anything like it or heard from anyone who could really describe it. I haven’t ever experienced anything to prepare me for the kind of sensation that you feel in a float tank.

Things to know:

You are weightless: There is over 850 lbs of Epsom salt in the water. When you lie back you float like an apple in a bucket. It feels like you’re drifting through space.

You lose track of your own body: The water is heated to 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is water that is “skin-receptor neutral” meaning that after a few minutes you lose the ability to tell where you end and the water begins.

There is NO light: The chamber is perfectly dark.

You’re naked: This was a surprise for me, but you float solo, in a dark chamber, in a private room. So, chill, it’s worth it.

IMG_2062

IMG_2067

The first four minutes were full of absolute dread. You would think that it would be claustrophobia but it was in fact the exact opposite. I couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything. When I opened my eyes it was pitch black. I took a deep breath and laid back, wiling myself to relax. For those first few minutes I had to hold my hands behind my head because my shoulders ached so badly. I hadn’t realized how much tension I had been carrying in them. It took, what I assume was, ten minutes for them to unwind and I could float without any tension at all.

I could feel myself unwind, and start to relax inch by inch.

IMG_2061

My mind started to wander. Completely uninhibited, it spun off. I was warm, and there was nothing at all to distract me. You really do start to lose track of where your hands and feet are because the water feels so similar to your own finger tips after a while. Sort of like you’re melting into it. Even the water doesn’t feel anything like normal water. Not really. It feels more like you are being pushed upwards. The salt solution is so buoyant that it actually repels you from sinking at all. You drift.

I would love to tell you that I thought long and hard about many deep subjects. Tawny did. After her float she was aglow with new ideas and pitches and she could hardly wait to write them all down. Me? I went to some secret animal part of my brain. It felt like I was a wild mountain cat running through my own head. Strangely serene, despite how it sounds. Like a cougar on a misty morning.

It only felt like a few minutes but we floated for an hour and a half. The minimum time for a float. Soft music gets pumped into your chamber when your time is up and you sort of gently drift back to reality. You jump out, shower, get changed and emerge reborn into the world.

I felt younger. It was like the high after a great massage or a long sleep. All the tension in my shoulders was gone and it felt like my senses were electric. The water bar in the lobby was the most delicious thing I had tasted in days. Lemon water tasted like fine booze all of a sudden.

If you get the chance, you have to try one.

Have you floated before? Let us know about it in the comments below? Tell us if it compares to the Dead Sea.

]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/08/03/our-experience-with-the-sensory-deprivation-tank/feed/ 1
A look at Luxembourg http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/26/a-look-at-luxembourg/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/26/a-look-at-luxembourg/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 05:59:08 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16276 We really had no clue what to expect when we stepped off our bus in Luxembourg city. This was our first time in the country and we knew relatively little about it. I tend to relish in researching a new destination before we arrive, but with Luxembourg, we were so caught up in our duties at our friends’ wedding that happened just days before, that we didn’t have the time to adequately prepare for our two days in the country. It almost worked out for the best since we were surprised at how diverse Luxembourg really is.

With such a short amount of time in the country, we knew we’d have to make the most of it. We dropped off our bags at the boutique hotel, Hotel Simoncini and set off to explore the capital city.

Our first stop was in what could be described as the hipster part of town. We ducked into Konrad Cage & Bar for a creamy bowl of delicious vegan curry and a piping hot latte. With map in tow, we planned the remainder of our 48 hours in Luxembourg.

Luxembourg hipster scene

 

If I had to describe Luxembourg city in one word I would choose: walkable. It’s easy to navigate and is small enough that one could explore most of it by walking or biking. We chose the former as we took in the Grand Ducal Palace, the labyrinth of underground casemates, and the sights of the Old City.

The Grand Ducal Palace

The Grand Ducal Palace of Luxembourg

I particularly enjoyed the mix of old world and contemporary styles that are found throughout the city. It was also a bit disorientating to hear a melange of languages spoken as we explored. From the three official languages of French, German, and Luxembourgish to everything in between, it was hard to decipher if we were speaking to eaves dropping on a local or one of the city’s many transplants.

Exploring a new city from below is a unique treat and both Chris and I really enjoyed wandering around the Bock casemates. These subterranean defense passageways date back to 1644 and helped protect Count Seigfried’s fortified castle. These casemates also helped seal Luxembourg’s title of “Gibraltar of the North”. With over 23 kilometers of winding caves, be sure to stick close to your guide in order not to get too lost.

Luxembourg casemates

And it wouldn’t be a trip to Luxembourg without taking in the beautiful Old City. Located in its own secluded little pocket of town, the Old City seems as if it’s been frozen in time. It’s much quieter than it’s industrial counterpart of boasts museums, bars, coffee shops, art galleries, and even a local brewery. If we lived in the city, this place would be our jam.

Overall, we really enjoyed our short time discovering the capital city and all it has to offer. There was still so much that we just didn’t have the time to see, but we walked away with a great first impression. If anything, our brief introduction gave us a thirst for more.

Luxembourg's Old City

 

Want to see more of our Luxembourg adventures? Take a look at the fun video below. We’ll also have another post all about our adventures outside of Luxembourg City. Stay tuned for castles, adventure, and more…

 

Disclosure: We were invited by the Luxembourg Tourism Board to explore this lovely country. As always, our thoughts and opinions remain our own. 
]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/26/a-look-at-luxembourg/feed/ 1
Go Pro HERO4 Session: Review http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/15/go-pro-hero4-session-review/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/15/go-pro-hero4-session-review/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 19:55:48 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16258 Go Pro sent us a HERO4 to review. Our opinions are 100% our own.

The results are in, we love the new Go Pro HERO4 Session. Check out the video above to see what we thought initially. We have more videos to come as we put this camera through its paces and see all the greatness we can squeeze out of the 1″ camera.

Highlights include:

– 1 square inch design

– Fully waterproof

– Compatible with Go Pro HERO3 mounts

– ProTUNE

– Wide variety of options in the App

CHECK IT OUT!
 

]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/15/go-pro-hero4-session-review/feed/ 4
Top things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/13/top-things-to-do-in-vilnius-lithuania/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/13/top-things-to-do-in-vilnius-lithuania/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 18:51:55 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16202 The last stop on our Baltics trip with JayWay Travel was Lithuania. This was the country that we knew the least about and if there’s one word to describe it, we would have to choose “unexpected”. Our very first stop in Lithuania was the Hill of Crosses, a monument that is exactly what it sounds like. It’s said that the hill has over 400,000 crosses with more being added daily.

Lithuania's Hill of Crosses

It’s claimed that the first crosses were erected by the families of deceased rebels from the 1831 rebellion. In 1993, the Hill of Crosses was visited by Pope John Paul II and was said to have left a great impression on him. Now, the Hill is frequented as a place of reflection, vows, and prayer. I could have easily spend the entire afternoon wandering though the twisted trails and reading the inscriptions on each cross. It’s definitely a place that I would love to return to in the future.

After our stop at the Hill of Crosses, we made way for Vilnius. With only three days in the city, we knew we had to make the most of it. And we did. Here are a few of our recommendations for the best things to do in Vilnius.

Explore

Honestly, the best way to get a feel for the city is to walk it. We would recommend jumping on board one of the many walking tours available. JayWay Travels offers a great local guide that will take you on a very informative tour of the city. We walked through the old city center (a UNESCO World Heritage site), up Gediminas Hill, and through Užupis, the old Jewish ghetto. My favorite stop was when we dipped into the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity. It’s still undergoing renovations, but so much of the original character remained.

 

Things to do in Vilnius Lithuania

Eat

To say that we ate well in Vilnius would be an understatement. Traditional Lithuanian food is incredibly hearty but extremely delicious. Our first meal was at Šnekutis. There are a few different locations around town, but our favorite was the original. It’s an unassuming shack that’s outfitted with a bizarre melange of trinkets.

The best places to eat in Vilnius

We feasted on traditional Lithuanian fare that included Cepelinai (potato dumplings), pig ears, creamy cheeses, and my personal favorite, deep fried bread. If you ever make it to Vilnius, be sure to stop at Šnekutis. The owner (who graces every page of the menu) might be around and will be more than happy to help with your meal selections. The guy is a character, let me tell you.

Šnekutis in Vilnius Lithuania

For something a little more modern, stop by Kitchen, located right by Town Square, for a delicious lunch or dinner. After the hearty meal at Šnekutis the night before, I more than welcomed the sight of a fresh garden salad with grilled chicken. I also had Kitchen’s tomato basil soup for an appetizer and was not disappointed. The restaurant is in a prime location, with clean and modern decor, a friendly staff, and exceptional food. I could have probably eaten there every day of our trip.

The Kitchen in Vilnius Lithuania

If you’re truly looking to treat yourself, you must stop into Kempinski Hotel Cathedral Square’s Telegrafas restaurant for a little haute cuisine. Our 4-course meal was exquisite with dishes that were almost too pretty to eat. Emphasis on Almost. The dishes were light and flavorful.

Our starter course was a traditional cold beet soup with quail egg and marinated herring. You can see what it looked like below before the beet soup was actually added. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

photo cred: Charles Neville

photo cred: Charles Neville

Our beet soup was followed by a pan-fried curonian lagoon zander with potato and spinach stoemp, black truffle mushrooms, and a basil gremolata. We then moved on to my personal favorite, a roe deer filet (from the Zemaitia forest), svilpikai (think potato dumplings), finished with a tasty blueberry gel and au jus.

To top it all off, we were served a platter of assorted local cheese and fresh jam. And right when we thought this beautiful meal had come to an end, the servers surprised us with a dessert platter of gourmet lollipops and petit fours. I was in heaven.

Play

There’s no shortage of epic things to do in Vilnius. My favorite activity happened early in the morning just outside of the capital city when we hopped onboard a hot air balloon and drifted over the sleepy countryside. The scenery was breathtaking. I particularly enjoyed the views we were treated to of Trakai castle.

Our hot air balloon ride ended with us getting baptized with fire, earth, and wine… but that’s an entirely different post.

Hot air balloon Vilnius

 

To combine two of my favorite passions, we also visited one of Vilnius’ cat cafes, Murrr. The kitties were cute, the coffees were hot, and my allergies didn’t hit until 3o minutes of feline play time. The cat cafe was a great way to relax after a day spent on our feet wandering around the city. Just watch out for the sneaky siamese that tries to escape every time the door opens.

Vilnius cat cafe

Our last night in Vilnius was spent concocting culinary masterpieces at a modern Lithuanian cooking class. The Vilnius Tourism Board hooked us up with our instructor, Chef Marc (a Frenchman who presides in Vilnius), who was incredibly patient, as we chopped, diced, and prepared each course of our dinner. I was in charge of the potatoes au gratin while Chris whipped up a delicious meringue for dessert. With the combined efforts of the group, we feasted on a colorful chilled beet soup, melt-in-your-mouth venison, and a tasty meringue with fresh berries. All in all, it was a roaring success!

Best Lithuanian cooking class

Sleep

Our three nights in Vilnius were spent at the wonderful Moon Garden Art Hotel. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to remain within walking distance of nearly everything in the city. We were welcomed at the reception and shown to our beautiful and spacious room.

Chris and I are huge fans of natural light and comfortable beds and our room at Moon Garden did not disappoint. As travel bloggers, it’s also extremely important that we have fast and reliable Wi-Fi and we were thrilled with the speed and quality that we found at this hotel.

Breakfast at the hotel was fantastic. There was a buffet of cereals, yogurt, and baked goods as well as an a la carte menu. One morning I ordered an omelette that was so good I contemplated asking for another serving.

The staff at Moon Garden was incredibly friendly and helpful, with great recommendations on things to do and places to eat in the city. If you ever find yourself in Vilnius, consider staying at this gorgeous boutique hotel.

Overall, our time in Vilnius was incredible. I would love to return to explore even more of the city. Until then, I’ll reminisce by looking at our photos from our time in the country. Did we miss anything? What are your recommendations for the best things to do in Vilnius? We’d love to hear them in the comment section below!

 

Our time in Vilnius was arranged in conjunction with the JayWay Travel and the Vilnius Tourist Board. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post remain our own. Be on the lookout for more posts from our trip and be sure to check out our instagram account (@captainandclark) to keep track of our travels. 
]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/13/top-things-to-do-in-vilnius-lithuania/feed/ 1
Night Kayaking in Riga, Latvia http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/11/night-kayaking-in-riga-latvia/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/11/night-kayaking-in-riga-latvia/#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2015 22:36:00 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16143 It was cold. It was dark. I glanced at the screen on my phone and it was already past 10PM. As our guide handed me my life jacket I began to wonder what exactly I was gearing myself up for. Would we even be able to see anything?

It was our second night in Latvia’s capital city of Riga and our group had already covered most of the city by foot. Tonight, however, we were going to do one of Riga’s top activities a little differently. We were going to kayak. At night.

We were picked up from the front of the iconic St. Peter’s church in the heart of Riga. A fifteen minute drive found us outside of a wooden shack along the Daugava river. Our group of JayWay Travel bloggers was paired off and after a brief introduction to the art of kayaking (paddling, in particular), we were suited with our vessels for the night.

Things to do in Riga

Truth be told, I was a little nervous. It wasn’t because of the cold or dark, but mostly due to the fact that Chris and I would be sharing a kayak. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, two-person couple sports can often end in disaster. Don’t even get me started on the bicycle-built-for-two catastrophe of 2009. Communication and patience were definitely going to be key.

We boarded our kayak and after five minutes of practice in the small bay, calibrating our strokes through the water, we felt ready to hit the river. As if to mark our small success, fireworks went off in the background. Our fellow adventurers watched with awe until everyone was in the water and felt comfortable enough proceed.

The Daugava river (also referred to as the “river of fate”) is 635 miles long and was an important trading route for furs in medieval times. Our roughly three hour tour started with us paddling north on the river. And while I was terrified by kayaking in the dark on what seemed like a rather large body of water, I enjoyed the serenity of watching the world go by as we quietly sailed on the water.

Top activities in Riga Latvia

A few kilometers on the water found as at the entrance to the city’s canals. You probably remember that it was only a few days prior that we feasted on a certain rodent in Estonia. Imagine my surprise when we rounded a corner on the canal and spotted a large beaver on our starboard side. It was much bigger than I expected it to be and didn’t seem to mind us too much. He would pop up around our kayak before disappearing into the water. We ended up spotting at least four more as we paddled along the quiet banks of the canal.

Exploring the canals at night offer unique views that you won’t get in the daylight. It’s much more quiet with less distraction. It allows you to take in more of the city and really appreciate its beauty.

Top things to do in Riga Latvia

The bridges we came across were lit in a multitude of colors (although I somehow only captured them while blue), making our trip picturesque and not as creepy as I initially thought it would be. My favorite parts of the canal were being able to see the iconic sights of Riga from a new perspective. The old zeppelin hangars that make up the city’s Central Market were eerily quiet; such a stark contrast from our walk through just hours before.

Best things to do in Riga

The night ended with a challenge. To see who could reach a finish line beacon first. Of course, being in the same kayak as one of the most competitive people on the planet, we immediately set off through the water.

Unbeknownest to me, my skills (or lack thereof) resulted in Chris sporting sopping pants for the remainder of the night. But the good news? We definitely won.

Best things to do in Riga Latvia

 

Know before you go:

Dress accordingly. Even though it was May when we were in Riga, the weather was still temperamental and dipped at night. We would recommend bringing gloves and a hat to help keep you warm. If you’re planning on going in the colder months, be sure to wear multiple layers.

You don’t have to worry about finding the launching dock. Pick up and drop off is provided by your outfitter and JayWay Travel will be happy to book these activities for you.

No previous experience is required. Our guide was great about setting the pace for our entire group of novices.

Bring a waterproof camera to capture your memories. If you don’t have a waterproof camera, consider buying a dry sack that you can take along with you. That way you’ll be able to keep your valuables safe from the water. I happened to have a ziplock back on me that I used to store my phone.

Would you try night kayaking? What are other activities that you’ve done at night? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment section below. 

Night kayaking in Riga

This unique activity was sponsored by JayWay Travel as part of our tour through the Baltics. As always, thoughts and opinions remain our own. 

]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/07/11/night-kayaking-in-riga-latvia/feed/ 2
Sharing the aloha on Maui http://captainandclark.com/2015/06/16/sharing-the-aloha-on-maui/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/06/16/sharing-the-aloha-on-maui/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 05:24:17 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16099 When it comes to my family tree, I am a tiny leaf on a long branch of Hawaii-born family members. My maternal great-grandfather came from the Philippines to work on one of the many pineapple farms on Maui.  And while my mother is technically full Filipino, she was born and raised on the islands and identifies more towards Hawaiian culture than Filipino.

Both of my parents were essentially raised on the island of Oahu. It’s where they met, fell in love, and eventually had me. Hawaiian culture is prevalent in our day-to-day lives. I still remove my shoes when I enter a house. I speak pidgin with my grandmother and other relatives still residing on the islands. I’ve taught Chris to say “pau” when he’s finished with something and “ono” when a meal is particularly delicious. And SPAM, rice, and eggs is one of my favorite breakfast meals of all time.

I have always felt close to the islands and I’ve really enjoyed introducing Chris to the nuances of Hawaiian culture. It’s been even more fun to explore new islands together. Just in the past two years, we’ve been to Hawai’i (commonly referred to as the Big Island), Kauai, and Lana’i- all islands I had never visited before.

As a child, I had been to Maui a few times but remember very little. Fortunately, Chris and I had the opportunity to visit last year for the first time and quickly fell in love with the island. We were thrilled when we learned that we were going to go back for our annual Expedia Viewfinder summit and this time we’d be with some of our favorite friends and travelers (click here to check out our fellow Expedia Viewfinders).

With a full seven days on the island, we knew we would have plenty of time for fellowship, exploration, and food. Lots of food.

I captured a few of my highlights and posted them to our Instagram account:

 

 

@tripstyler thoroughly enjoying our @fairmontkealani outrigger canoe adventure. We even saw Dolphins! #picturemaui

 

A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on

 

This is how we #pictureMaui. Look at the view from our home for the next 7 days at @GrandWailea Ho’olei 🌴🌴 A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on

Making beautiful leis at @FairmontKeaLani. They smell amazing! #PictureMaui A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on

 

Gorgeous rainbow trees on the road to Hana! #PictureMaui #TeamHana

 

A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on

Red sand beaches of Hana. We dig them. #PictureMaui #TeamHana A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on

 

We spent most of today at the @grandwailea pool. Lazy rivers, water slides, and yummy drinks all day long, #PictureMaui

 

A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on

While our last trip to Maui was simply magical, this time was a little different. In so many ways it was even more special than the first. I think what set it apart was the people that we were able to share the island with. Chris and I loved coming back to our Grand Wailea Ho’olei Villa that we shared with Kent and Canaan from No Vacation Required. It was fun to just hop over next door where Rick and Sandi (Midlife Roadtrip) and Kara (The Vacation Gals) were staying and borrow a cup of sugar wine. This sense of community–if only for a few days–really made Maui seem like home.

The best part was being able to share Maui with friends. To watch as they hunted for the perfect malasada. Or to be there when Sandi tackled her fears and stood proudly on her board while SUPing at Makena Point with Hawaiian Paddle Sports. I loved watching our troop make their own personal bowls of poke and witnessing everyone’s creativity emerge while stringing our own leis.   

Meals were obviously a personal favorite. Whether it was a locally foraged dinner at the Grand Wailea’s Humuhumunukunukuapua’a or unique Hawaiian fusion at The Fairmont Kea Lani, there’s nothing better than good food enjoyed with great people.  

What I took away from our time on Maui was that I have an overwhelming pride in my culture… but also in these people that I have come to call family. I feel so blessed to be able to work alongside this talented group of travelers and writers. I love our camaraderie and sheer love and respect that we have for one another. 

And this. I love this photo that the NVR guys took. I feel like it encapsulates all of the love and excitement we have when we’re together.

Disclosure: our time on Maui for our Expedia Viewfinder summit was hosted by Expedia and the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau. As always, our thoughts and opinions remain our own. 
]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/06/16/sharing-the-aloha-on-maui/feed/ 7
Suprises in Estonia http://captainandclark.com/2015/06/12/suprises-in-estonia/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/06/12/suprises-in-estonia/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 04:07:27 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16067 As an American (you know, complete with our whole Fourth of July backyard BBQ culture), it comes as a shock to most people that I’ve never really been a ribs person. For the same reason that I hate chicken wings. If I’m going to eat meat, I’d like it to be in big chunks that I can pop into my mouth and chew. I don’t want to have to work hard and navigate around bones in order to enjoy a few scraps of meat. It has to be a really tasty plate of ribs in order to make it worth the extra work… and the sticky mess. In over forty countries, I’ve managed to avoid any meat-related complications but that all changed on our most recent trip to Estonia.

Truth be told, Chris and I were thrilled when we were invited to experience the Baltics on a JayWay Travel tour through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. We had our first taste of Estonia back in January and although we were only in Tallinn for a few days, we fell in love with the place. We spent those three days wandering around Old Town, ducking into medieval themed restaurants, and reveling in the spirit of the place. We were so enamored with Estonia that we knew it would be a country that we would have to make it back to.

Fun things to do in Tallinn, Estonia

I was giddy with excitement as we pulled up to our hotel for our three nights in Tallinn. Hotel Telegraaf is located in the heart of Old Town and is quite possibly one of the most comfortable hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The staff was incredibly helpful and friendly, always greeting us with smiles and waves. And while we absolutely adore Tallinn, we were torn between wanting to explore the town while simultaneously being tempted to spend the entire day in our amazing hotel room. It doesn’t hurt that one of the best restaurants, Tchaikovsky is located in the hotel. That’s winning all around.

But Tchaikovsky would have to wait for another day because our first meal in town was going to be at Porgu. While the name “Porgu” actually translates to “hell” in Estonian, the food tasted like sheer heaven. Located in a cellar underground one of Old Town’s beautifully preserved buildings, this cave-like restaurant serves up hearty meals traditional to the region. Our group was greeted by platters of anchovy sandwiches, pepper lard with rye bread chips, chili and garlic pickled olives, and duck carpaccio with rocket salad. The food was still coming as we arranged ourselves around a large wooden table in the back corner.

It was then that I noticed an overwhelming aroma of garlic. Set in front of me was a steaming plate of ribs and a large bowl of giant beans. Before I even knew what was happening, my hands were reaching for the ribs. I took one meager little bite just to see if I enjoyed the taste. The flavor hit me full on and before I knew it, there was a pile of bones on my plate. The ribs paired wonderfully with the garlic beans and I caught myself analyzing the two dishes so that I could recreate them at home. And for research sake, I had to order another plate.

If I had to choose one word to describe our time in Estonia, it would be: surprising.

Those ribs set the tone for the rest of our time in Estonia. The country seems to take things that we might encounter in every day life and make them extraordinary. From our bog walking and beaver eating experience to exploring the hipster district of Kalamaja, we were constantly finding ourselves in a state of awe and wonder.

A particular highlight was our walking tour around Tallinn. Chris and I stayed close to Old Town on our first trip, but this tour took us around the city and through the budding hipster district of Kalamaja. It’s definitely a place where I could see us living. Abandoned warehouses have been transformed into chic boutiques, quirky restaurants, and unique art galleries. Our lunch at F-hoone was the epitome of hipster chic with its eclectic decor and trendy entrees. I ordered a furger (aberdeen angus beef topped with smoked cream cheese, chili sauce, pickles, red onions, lettuce, and cheddar cheese) that was quite literally the size of my head. It was the perfect sustenance to keep me energized through our extensive tour.

Tallinn street art Kalamaja

On our free time, we managed to sneak away to one of our favorite haunts in Old Town, Ill Draaken. This tavern looks and feels like it’s straight out of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Head in and order from any of the serving wenches. Our personal favorites are the elk soup, meat pies, and any of their beers. Oh, and with your purchase you’ll have the opportunity to go pickle spearing in one of the large oak barrels. I would definitely recommend it as the pickles are delicious and when else will you have the opportunity ?

Our third day in Estonia was spent outside of the capital, bog walking through one of the biggest bogs in Europe. With my affinity for foraging, I had the best time searching for the tart cranberries found within the bog. I did keep a wary eye for bears and wolves that are sometimes spotted in the area.

Bog Walking Estonia

Dinner that night was at Farm. I remember the restaurant from our first visit. Their display window features taxidermy animals that appear to be having some sort of woodland tea party. The creativity carried through to the meal while was beautiful, tasty, and very unique. Take, for example, our dessert. Chris ordered the rich-caraway fresh cream sea-buckthorn jelly with chocolate spelt wheat cookies (I have no idea what 75% of those ingredients are) while I enjoyed the meringue with whipped cream, cream cheese, fresh berries, and farm-made muesli. Both were ridiculously good.

Farm restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia

Overall, our time in Estonia has just left me wanting more. Croatia has a run for its money as one of our top countries. The more we talk about countries we want to return to, the more Estonia has been popping up. I can’t wait to show you what the rest of our trip had in store.

What about you? What country have you visited that’s surprised you the most? Let us know in the comment section below. 

 

 

Our tour of the Baltic States was sponsored by JayWay Travel. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post remain our own. Be on the lookout for more posts from our trip and be sure to check out our instagram account (@captainandclark) to keep track of our travels. 
]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/06/12/suprises-in-estonia/feed/ 3
Eating rodent for lunch in Estonia http://captainandclark.com/2015/05/18/eating-rodent-for-lunch-in-estonia/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/05/18/eating-rodent-for-lunch-in-estonia/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 21:58:23 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16034 It smelled delicious. My stomach had started its hangry gurgle over an hour ago and I was more than ready for this meal. Our first course was a garden salad topped with shrimp and white fish. My aversion to all seafood (with the exception of canned tuna), had me quickly passing my plate to Chris before our hosts noticed my lack on enthusiasm for the starter. I had managed to enhale most of the bread and garlic butter that was placed on the table and was anxiously awaiting the main course. From the smell alone, I knew it was going to be hearty and delicious. It was also confirmed that it was meat.

Bog Walking in Estonia

When we initially reached this quirky home restaurant in the remote fishing village of Kolga Aabla outside of Tallinn, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Our group of seven JayWay Travel bloggers had spent the morning walking through Estonia’s Kõnnu Suursoo bog. We sported “bog shoes” or what those of us in the Pacific Northwest would refer to as snow shoes, to prevent us from sinking as we squished and squashed through one of the country’s largest bogs. Our guide pointed out patches of wild cranberries and I happily stopped along our route to pick a handful here and there. And while fresh cranberries are delicious, a hearty meal they are not.

Cranberries in the Estonia bog

Mer Mer, the home restaurant, is perched on a wide piece of countryside overlooking the Juminda peninsula. Our hosts, Jaan and Merritt, greeted us as we cautiously entered their home. They are an older couple, Jaan sporting a furried, wild brow and pair of white pants that had colorful paint stains dripping down the legs. His partner, a smiling blonde, beckoned us in and helped us hang our damp jackets. A quick scan of the room revealed paintings of the couple in various scenarios. The one below had them looking remarkably younger… and darker.

Our quirky lunch hosts in Estonia

We took our seats around a large rectangular table and embraced the setting. Large glass windows revealed a beautiful water view with rippling waves that chased the distant rain clouds. From hidden speakers, soft rock hits from the early nineties were playing. The interior of the house was beautiful. Exposed beams and a flood of natural light made for the perfect ambiance. Perched on the wall opposite the table was a rather large and elaborate painting depicting the couple and their large bulldog, Hummer, on a grassy knoll. The mister was holding a large staff while his lady was nude and screaming. I struggled to grasp what exactly what happening in the painting before I become distracted by the delicious smells wafting from the open kitchen.

The main course from our home restaurant in Estonia. Eating beaver for lunch.

The main course was on its way and was accompanied by personal bowls of butter-drenched mashed potatoes. I peered into the large bowl and saw what appeared to be some sort of meat stew. I greedily scooped spoonful after spoonful onto my plate, looked around to make sure the others had started eating, and then stuffed a hearty helping into my mouth.

It was perfection. The meat had to have been boiling for hours and it practically melted in my mouth. The mashed potatoes? Heavenly. Merritt stood at the head of the table, just in front of the bewildering painting of herself, with a sly grin. “Do you know what you’re eating?” she asked. The seven of us peered up from our plates and silently shook our heads. “Go ahead and take a guess.”

“Elk?”

“Venison!”

“Reindeer?”

We cautiously submitted our guesses. With each one Merritt shook her head. “No, it’s smaller.”

“Well, crap,” I thought. It was clearly red meat… but what is something smaller that is also edible? We couldn’t be eating rat, could we? It was that thought that eventually led me to the correct answer. Something bigger than a rat and clearly more delicious.

“Is it beaver?” I ventured.

Merritt smiled and nodded. “What do you think?”

Well, it was delicious. So delicious that I helped myself to another scoop on the spot. Apparently, beaver meat is one of the cleanest as the mammals, only eating tree bark and foliage. And it tasted it. There wasn’t the game-y flavor that typically accompanies foreign meat.

Of course, inappropriate references and jokes followed all through dessert, but it was definitely an experience that I’ll never forget. Or probably ever replicate. Because as Laura from Travel Addicts stated, “When does one eat beaver to Phil Collins?”

Please don’t answer that.

Dessert at Mer Mer home restaurant in Estonia

 

 

 

This day trip was arranged for us by the Estonian Tourist Board, during our tour of the Baltic States sponsored by JayWay Travel. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post remain our own. Be on the lookout for more posts from our trip and be sure to check out our instagram account (@captainandclark) to keep track of our travels. 

 

]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/05/18/eating-rodent-for-lunch-in-estonia/feed/ 20
Returning to Costa Brava http://captainandclark.com/2015/05/07/returning-to-costa-brava/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/05/07/returning-to-costa-brava/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 22:01:58 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=16018 We knew that our return to Costa Brava wasn’t going to be the same as our previous trip. Although it was exactly a year to the day that we first landed in the beautiful Spanish region, there were two key figures missing from our adventure.

Last year we spent ten incredible days exploring Costa Brava with our dear friends Kent and Caanan from No Vacation Required. We stormed castles, soared in a hot air balloon, pumped Iggy Azalea as we rolled through medieval towns, overdosed on bubbly cava and crema Catalana, and bonded over our shared love of adventure. By the end of our trip, the four of us were closer than ever before.

Chris and Tawny Captain and Clark in Spain

Enjoying daiquiris in Lloret de Mar

This time was different. For starters, it was just Chris and me. We had no one to finished our “Fancy” solos or ask us deep questions over six bottles of cava. And aside from our lacking our beloved companions, we only had 42 hours in the country. Since we knew there wasn’t a ton of time to explore one of our favorite places, we made a list of three “must dos.” Did we accomplish any of them? We’ll let you decide.

1. Surprise our friends

Reunited with fellow Travel Videographers Mike (Kick the Grind) & Steve (Backpacker).

Reunited with fellow Travel Videographers Mike (Kick the Grind) & Steve (Back-packer).

Nailed it. So many of our travel friends were attending the Travel Blogging Exchange (TBEX) conference in Lloret de Mar. A few pals that knew of our pit stop in Spain convinced us to drive the hour from Barcelona to Lloret de Mar in order to surprise our buddies at the conference. While we didn’t get in until midnight, we still managed to sneak into the after party and shock many of our pals.

2. Spend time in Girona

My Girona, Spain

I mean, come on. Girona is just plain magical. We knew we wanted to frequent the city for at least a few hours before jumping on our plane out of the country. Luck was on our side when our friends from Hecktic Travels offered us one of their spare Airbnb bedrooms that just so happened to be along the water, right in the heart of our favorite part of town.

The four of us managed to spend an entire day wandering the city and eating all the delicious things. There are very few cities in the world that appeal to us as places to settle down and Girona is definitely one of them.

3. Go back to Rocambolesc for a delicious gelato

My creative confection on Rocambolesc

My creative confection on Rocambolesc

That, my friends, is a coconut violet gelato that has been topped with rainbow star sprinkles, fresh strawberries, butter cookie crumbs, and a giant violet marshmallow. Rocambolesc Gelateria in Girona trumps any old ice cream shop back home. It tasted so good that I’m not even mad a friend on facebook referred to my concoction as unicorn poop.

In conclusion?

All in all, I would say it was a pretty successful trip. If I could change one thing it would be to extend our stay in Costa Brava by about ten extra days. Luckily, we have a project that is taking us to Barcelona in the fall and we’ve already decided to tag on a few extra days at the end.

 

Have you been to Spain? What were your favorite cities? Let us know in the comment section below. 

Keep track of our adventures on instagram: @captainandclark

]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/05/07/returning-to-costa-brava/feed/ 3
What it means to come back to Hawaii http://captainandclark.com/2015/04/13/what-it-means-to-come-back-to-hawaii/ http://captainandclark.com/2015/04/13/what-it-means-to-come-back-to-hawaii/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:49:55 +0000 http://captainandclark.com/?p=15947 I’m sitting on the beach, waiting for my SPF 1000 to dry, as I flip through my Dad’s Facebook updates.  He’s on a quest to find our first Staudingers, the one’s that came across the Oregon trail and settled in. They made a home in Oregon, a home that led to us. “I’ve never felt so connected to a place,” he tells me on a call last week before Tawny and I flew here to Hawaii. It’s fitting somehow, because as I read his updates I’m about to free dive a reef and look for my first humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaii’s state fish) and ultimately, we’re looking for the same thing.

I had never been to Oahu before Tawny came along. I had been to Maui, and docked once on the big island to refuel for an around the world voyage, but never Oahu. When Tawny and I first started dating she always told me stories (mostly about the food) of Oahu, the land of her birth. She used to talk about her great-grandfather, George, who was the first of her family to come to Hawaii from the Philippines. He was a stowaway on a merchant ship. All of these were stories she used to entice me to go with her. It wasn’t until we got engaged that we started to talk seriously about coming to the island together, not as stowaways, but as a real couple. This trip is now my third time to Oahu, and it feels different.

I wasn’t prepared the first time. I wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming the landscape would be. When I thought of Hawaii I thought of beaches but never the sheer, impassible, razor-edged mountains that sever the island in half. You can see all the pictures you want of the Hawaiian islands but it will never prepare you for how sweeping they are. The island of Oahu is divided right down the center by a mountain range. This effectively gives us the windward side (where the predominant winds blow from the Pacific) and the leeward (a calmer and sunnier side) of the islands. Tawny’s family lives on the leeward side. This is where my courtship with Hawaii began.

In so many ways, Tawny and I have a similar lineage. Our people just came to their homelands on different ships.

IMG_0676

Tawny’s people.

IMG_0674

My people.

That connection feels important somehow; as if we were two souls that got separated a long time ago and are just now finding one another. That first trip, back in 2013 was a wild ride. Not only did I get to drink in all the majestic and gut-wrenchingly beautiful landscape, but I was able to meet all of Tawny’s family for the first time. Tawny’s dad, a haole like me (“white guy” in Pidgin) warned me that it might be a lot to take in the first time. Tawny herself warned me, countless times, that I probably wouldn’t be able to understand grandpa. Certainly not on the first trip. Maybe not ever.

That was never an issue. The first time I walked through the door, Grandpa hugged me and said, “Wow. He tall. Good. He change all the lights.”

That set the tone for the rest of our relationship.

He never did ask me to change a light.

IMG_4246

That first morning I got to sit down with grandma. I asked her, “What’s the story of great-grandpa George? I heard he stowed away on a ship and sailed away to Hawaii to escape the Philippines.”

“What you talking about?” she asked me. Shaking her head. “Nooooo, my dad come to Hawaii from outside Cebu, Philippines. My mom was born here on Hawaii, and she had to get married to someone working on the islands so that she wouldn’t get sent back to the Philippines.”

“Wait. What about someone stowing away on a ship and sneaking into Hawaii? That’s what Tawny told me.” I was very confused at this point.

“What you talking about? Sneaking on a ship? Maybe George? George the Loner. Yeah, he came later. He knew the family.”

That’s all it took for my world to be rocked and for Tawny to have to come into the kitchen and relearn her whole family history. We were both enthralled.

That was the pace of the first trip. Me learning Pidgin, “Why do we say, open the light, not turn it on?”

“That’s how it is, yeah,” Grandma says. (You have to add the yeah to the end of most sentences.)

“But we say, kodakum (take a picture)?”

“Yeah.”

“Got it.”

Or I was meeting the family. “This is Aunty Lee,” Grandma tells me.

“So, she’s your sister?” I asked.

“No. She lives next door, yeah.”

“Everyone is aunty,” Tawny tells me (a month too late).

“Got it.”

I got to know the family. I got to know the story. (The real one.)

FullSizeRender

Grandma and Grandpa BarutFullSizeRender(1)Grandma’s family. She’s the second from the left. You can tell because she always wore a different outfit than the rest of the family. “Pretty, yeah?” she asks when you point her out.

There was exploration. That trip was the first time I would see Byodo-In Temple. The phoenix temple. It’s our little sanctuary, hidden behind a graveyard on the windward side. We go there and feed the koi fish and ring the bell before I light incense for our ancestors. I always try to remember my own grandparents, who formed so much of my narrative today. They never stowed away, but they were pioneers. All of them. Today, Tawny and I go back every time and take the same picture, measuring our lives against the bamboo. Tradition is important, yeah.

IMG_4076

IMG_0654

Tawny took me around the house that she knew her whole life. She played the ukulele for us, and took me to the secret beaches of her youth. We roamed the whole island trying to uncover which memories of hers were real and which were fables.

IMG_1977

IMG_4141

IMG_2561

That first trip, I was inundated with Hawaiian knowledge. Uncle Ron (actually an uncle) sat me down the first night to watch The Night Marchers. It’s a film that recounts the legend of the Night Marchers. They are the spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors that return at night to protect sacred areas on the island. You can tell when they are coming because you see the torches and hear drums. To avoid harm, you need to get naked and lie face-down on the ground. When they see you in submission they will pass on by. Uncle Ron told me that the H3 Interstate was built across sacred ground and that a lot of the old-timers on Hawaii won’t take it, even though it is the fastest way across the island. I laughed a little the first time, but we took the H3 once and our transmission blew out. So, you can draw your own conclusions.

IMG_3902King Kamehameha unifying the Hawaiian islands. Coincidentally he is also driving his enemies off the cliff that overlooks H3 today.

No matter what you think, there is a magic here. You hear it in the way the people talk story about sacred areas. You feel it in the rain on the windward side. I saw it one time, when a group of native Hawaiians got together to roast a pig the old way, buried in the ground, surrounded by heated rocks. They buried the pig in the “imu” outside of a local church. They offered us Heineken and the chance to come back tomorrow and join them in the feast. There is real magic in the traditions and events, like the Merrie Monarch Festival. An annual event where elite hula dancers join together in Hilo, Hawaii and have a three day showcase/competition of hula. Real hula. Traditional hula, the kind that tells stories, and keeps history.

This is Hawaii. I get that now. There was supposed to be magic in the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, but of course, I had never seen one. It’s just fun to say.

IMG_0623From Merrie Monarch Festival 2015 – Shared from MANA Magazine, via Facebook.

On my second trip back to Oahu, it was for our wedding reception. This time I was in deep. I could speak Pidgin, understand Grandpa, and eat all the raw fish that Tawny still hates (for whatever reason.) Good thing too, since the family came out in force. Everyone who couldn’t make it to the mainland, came to the reception Grandpa and Grandma threw us.

This time, I was really family. I started to recognize the highways, and know which shop sells the best shave ice (it’s Matsumoto’s by the way.) I could tell the windward from the leeward side and knew which one was my favorite. I could tell you why the imu was important and why hula tells the story of the people, or that only men did hula in the old days. Hawaii had somehow become mine, a piece of it did anyway. Or maybe I became a part of it.

1518360_839661220470_86524565_n

My dad is in Oregon right now, chasing our legacy, our story. He is finding a sense of place. As a counter point I’m here in Hawaii. We went to see Grandpa’s grave site today. He passed the spring of 2014, but I had gotten to know him. I had the chance to carry that piece of him in me, and make it mine. We’re family now. All of us. All of this on the day that I finally got to swim in Hanauma Bay. This was quite the feat, since the weather, or the jellyfish, or the tourists have always been too bad for us to get in.

It wasn’t the perfect water or the labyrinth of reef that made the bay so special today, it was the fish. Deep in a cove on the edge of the blue, where the current ran cold and wild into the sheltered bay, the was a lone humuhumunukunukuapua’a. It was the first one I have ever seen in real life and it was even more beautiful than I ever imagined. It flicked away into the ocean after a bit, but for a moment it wove itself into my story, and maybe I made it into his.

 humu

]]>
http://captainandclark.com/2015/04/13/what-it-means-to-come-back-to-hawaii/feed/ 15