Travels

Lapland, Part 3 (of 3)

On our last night in Lapland, we splurged and stayed in one of the glass igloos at the Arctic Snow Hotel. You can spend the night in the snow hotel itself, which stays at a constant temperature of about 30°F.  The glass igloo, on the other hand, was nice and warm, especially during the day when the sun turned it into a greenhouse! Beware, though:  the bathrooms are freezing at night! Even so, the igloos were absolutely lovely.

Interior, glass igloo, Arctic Snow Hotel

They are fairly new, built last fall and opened to guests in December. The showers are amazing, with fabulous water pressure and optional rainfall shower head. The igloos are equipped with an aurora alarm that buzzes when the northern lights make an appearance, so you can fall asleep and not have to worry about missing them. And since the igloos have adjustable beds, there’s no need to put your coat and boots on if you don’t want to, just crank the bed up and enjoy the show!

Northern Lights, seen from glass igloo

I do have one complaint, and you might be able to tell what it may be in the photo above. It seems the people staying in the other igloos didn’t know that in order to see the stars and the northern lights better, it’s best to minimize your own light pollution. In other words, turn your flipping lights off, dumbasses! I left a comment card with the hotel saying they should “suggest guests turn lights off after 10pm unless absolutely necessary.”

Glass igloos, lights ablaze

Another very minor thing I found funny – the bathrooms have frosted glass, for privacy while you do your business, which is appreciated (although, the ceiling is open to the room, so you had better be comfortable enough with your traveling companion if you’re going to do anything particularly noisy or smelly!). However, just along the edge of the bathroom there was a slight gap, so that this was my view as I got out of the shower, naked.

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(Made me wonder if others could see in!)

 

In addition to the glass igloos, there’s the snow hotel itself. It’s built new each year, so the rooms look different year to year. You can visit the snow hotel easily from Rovaniemi (it’s about half an hour away by car, and many of the tour companies offer this tour), and of course it’s tourable if you’re staying on site. The intricate designs are spectacular!

Room, Arctic Snow Hotel

Room, Arctic Snow Hotel

IRoom, Arctic Snow Hotel

There’s also a super friendly reindeer on site:

Reindeer

Since Baby J was sick, we opted to have dinner in the lodge (possibly our best meal on our entire trip), but they also have a restaurant in the snow hotel, along with an ice bar. The ice bar doesn’t open until 10pm, though – we would have had a drink there if there had been a bartender on site in the afternoon.

Ice restaurant, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice restaurant, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice Bar, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice Bar, Arctic Snow Hotel

It’s pricey, but certainly a once in a lifetime experience.  We saw a shooting star, a couple of satellites, and so many stars.  And, of course, if you get to see the northern lights, it’s even better!

Night sky

Night sky

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Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip for more photos!

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Categories: Finland, Travels | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Lapland, Part 2 (of 3)

Our second day in Lapland, we traveled about an hour southwest to the Ranua Zoo. A lot of the animals were sleeping, hiding, or hibernating, but we saw a lot of owls, and the polar bears were great! They seemed to think we had brought them some food in the form of a baby.

Polar bear

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Polar bear

I smell a little baby, Yum!

Polar bear

Did you bring me lunch?

"Did someone say lunch?" "They're not sharing."

“Did someone say lunch?”
“They’re not sharing.”

"Bastards." *sniff*

“Bastards.”
*sniff*

It was neat seeing polar bears in something close to their natural habitat:

Polar bears walking in the snow

On day 3, we went to a husky park and went dogsledding. We got a brief lesson in driving, including the suggestion that if the sled tips over, to hold onto it, because the dogs will keep going and leave you behind. Stephen drove while I held on to Baby J for dear life – and if the sled had tipped over, I would rather walk than be dragged along by the dogs, TYVM.

While on the trail, our guide stopped to let everyone change drivers (we opted not to), and he pointed up. “Look.”

This is the one photo I didn’t get that I so wish I had. We looked up and saw a crescent sun. Yes, a crescent sun, because where we were, right at the Arctic Circle in Finland, we had an 85-90% solar eclipse happening. It was just cloudy enough that you could look directly at it and see it without, you know, burning your retinas.  It. Was. Awesome.

Meanwhile, Baby J fell asleep on the sled.

On Day 4, we went out to Santa Claus Village – Home of the REAL Santa Claus! 😉 We visited with Santa for a bit, and Baby J was fascinated.

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I sent out a few postcards to friends’ kids, letting them know I had met with Santa and he said to tell them hi. We had intended on going on a reindeer ride, but Baby J was sick, so we opted out.

Side note:  If you have kids that you’re trying to break of the pacifier addiction, I thought this was a really neat idea. Have them send the pacifier to the baby elves at Santa’s Village!

Bin of Pacifiers with note

We may not have gotten to take a reindeer ride, but that night there was a reindeer race in Rovaniemi! We found a spot to watch from, and I got the camera ready. The first race happened so fast I literally missed it – man those suckers can move!! Was able to catch the second race, though:

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our trip, with photos from the Snow Hotel and more Northern Lights!

Read Part 1 and see my pictures of the Northern Lights!

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Barcelona – The Food! (Where to eat in Barcelona)

Churro being dipped in Chocolate

As usual, I was excited about the food options available to us while in Spain.  Tapas!  Paella!  Wine!

And once again, with the exception of the wine, my expectations exceeded the reality.  Not to say the food wasn’t good – it was!  We just had few outstanding meals.  I don’t know if my taste buds just haven’t been receptive, or if I’ve become a serious food snob, but I’ve been really hard to please lately.

The worst meal we had, by far was at Montserrat.  We ate at one of the cafeterias there, and it was…really not very good.  If you go to Montserrat, either bring a picnic, or pick up some food from the vendors that line the road leading to the monestary.  We really should have taken our guides advice on that!  Once you get there, you’ll pass 7-10 stalls that stock cheeses, jams, and some other food items.  We ended up buying a Manchego cheese and a Rosemary goat cheese, both of which were wonderful.  You can get samples, and decide what you like best.  And like I said, definitely consider buying some things here and having them for lunch.

We had a lot of mediocre meals, mostly at restaurants along Passeig de Gracia.  Our fault for simply sitting when we were hungry, rather than look for better options off the main drag – don’t make our mistake!

We did have some good meals, though:

La Pepita – this is a little (emphasis on little) tapas place just on the edge of the Gracia district.  It got wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor, and we kept trying to go, but every time we went it was jam packed with people and there was a long wait.  I’m not sure if they take reservations – worth a try, though.  If they don’t, try going at an off-time.  We finally managed to get in on one of our last days in town, and the tapas, wine, and service was wonderful.

Famen – Oh, my.  This counts (still, five months later) as the last meal I ate that blew me away.  We arrived at the restaurant early, Spain time – about 8:15pm.  We were the only ones in the restaurant for most of the meal.  I had narrowed my menu choices down to two, and asked our lovely waitress which would be better.  She recommended the ox with calvados apples.  When it came out, it was stacked – the ox, topped with the apples, topped with…something, I wasn’t sure what.  I took a small bite of the unknown substance to figure out what it was – and went to heaven.  It sounds disgusting, I know, but it was pure, crisped fat.  I’m talking eyes rolling back in my head, moaning, good.  A bit of the fat, a bit of the apples, and a bit of the ox, eaten in one bite…ooooohhhhhhhh.

9 Reinas – Stephen is a steak guy, but Finnish beef is nothing to write home about.  So when I saw there was an Argentian Beef restaurant in Barcelona, I made reservations (you need them) as a special treat for my husband.  Let’s be clear, this is not the place to go for local flavor – this is a white tablecloth steak restaurant, with prices to match.  We ordered two different cuts, and Stephen’s was far superior (and more expensive) than mine.  It was not Ruth’s Chris, but it was a nice steak for my poor steak-starved husband.

Toyo – If Stephen is a “loves steak can’t get good steak in Finland” kind of guy, I’m a “loves sushi can’t get good sushi in Finland” kind of girl.  While I can get it in Finland, I have to drive an hour or more to get it, so it doesn’t happen very often.  When we travel, though, I hunt down sushi places.  On one of our last days in Barcelona, I was looking for a sushi restaurant – but the first two we went to were closed (I think it was a Sunday).  Toyo, however, was open, so we chanced it.  Turns out, this place has a sushi buffet type set up, one with the little boats or a train going around in a circle.  We grabbed a couple of empty seats and started grabbing dishes as they came around.  It was a good chance to get a lot of variety for a very low price, and the sushi was great.  Aaaaannnddd…this was the last time I had sushi, as I soon found out I was pregnant…  (I think they have a full Japanese – aka cooked – menu, but you might want to check.)

Thai Gracia – yet another night of wandering around, looking for something open without too much of a wait, and just saying “Screw it, let’s go here.”  Thai food in Barcelona – why not?  While I can’t remember what I had, I can tell you it was wonderful thai food, if you’re in the mood for it.  And since it’s another thing we can’t get around these parts, it was good. One memorable part of the evening – Stephen shoving a carrot into his mouth, then discovering it wasn’t a carrot but a thai pepper.  He was hurting!

La Gran Cantonada – I mentioned this place in my “Day Trip” write up – this restaurant is in Casteldefels, about a 15 minute train ride from Barcelona.  We had a pitcher of sangria and split an order of Fideueada before heading to the beach.  Good food, good wine, lovely service.

Pitcher of Sangria

If you can, I highly recommend stopping at a few of the small shops and grabbing dinner like the locals.  Some cheese, cured meat, bread, and wine  – best dinner ever.

See more of our Barcelona trip:

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Barcelona – Day trips

Part 5 of our Barcelona trip!  We spent 10 days in Barcelona, which provided plenty of time for a couple of day trips.

We decided to head up to Montserrat, about an hour’s drive north of the city.  I had read about the mountain and the Benedictine Abbey there, and that it was an experience not to be missed.  The photos I saw didn’t really interest me, but I figured we might as well take the trip – and then follow it up with a nearby Cava winery. In the end, I’m so glad we went.  Montserrat was beautiful, very worth the experience.  It was cloudy on the drive up, and the top of the mountain was invisible or only partially visible a lot of the time.  But the clouds cleared out just after we arrived, and it was a beautiful, clear day.  We hiked along some of the trails, then went to the abbey to hear the boys’ choir sing.

day trip, Barcelona Spain

Montserrat hidden in the clouds

Barcelona Spain day trip

Montserrat and the Abbey, once the clouds cleared out.

day trip from Barcelona Spain

Sculpture at Montserrat – our guide said it was the stairway to heaven, or something like that.

The abbey is the home of the Virgin of Montserrat, which is housed in glass but has an orb that you can touch.  There were about 300 people in line, so we skipped that, but I was able to get a pretty good shot with my telephoto lens.

Day trips from Barcelona Spain

The Virgin of Montserrat, one of the black Madonnas of Europe.

After a few hours at Montserrat, we went to a Cava winery.  It was in a beautiful old house and we got to taste several samples.  I bought a bottle and brought it home…then found out I was pregnant.  We’ll celebrate the baby’s birth with cava from our trip!  🙂

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I desperately wanted to go to the beach while we were in a warm climate, but I had heard the beaches in Barcelona weren’t very good.  Instead, we decided to take the train to Casteldefels, which would take about 15 minutes.  Except…the train we got on was like an express train, and didn’t stop in Casteldefels…or any other place for over an hour!  When the train finally stopped, we hopped off, got on a train heading back to Barcelona, and crossed our fingers.  This time, we were able to get off in Casteldefels – good thing, too, as we were starving by this point!  We stopped at a restaurant near the beach and had Fideuada (kind of like paella, but with short spaghetti-ish noodles) and some sangria – so refreshing.

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Day trip from Barcelona Spain

Beach at Casteldefels

The beach was lovely, the water cool and refreshing, and the sun warm.  I was in heaven.  🙂

See more of our Barcelona trip:

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Barcelona at Night

It’s a different experience, walking around Barcelona at night.  Some photos:

Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia at night

Barcelona Spain

Stained glass on Sagrada Familia, lit up at night

Barcelona Spain

Spire at Sagrada Familia, lit up at night

Barcelona Spain

La Pedrera at night

Barcelona Spain

Casa Batllo lit up at night

Barcelona Spain, Gaudi

Casa Batllo roof lit up at night

Barcelona Spain at night

Lit balconies on a building along Passeig de Gracia

 

See more of our Barcelona trip:

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Barcelona Post #3 – random architecture

Both Stephen and I really enjoyed the architecture in the city – we were both constantly pointing and saying, “Look at that one.”  I especially loved the pretty balconies and stained glass windows.  Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

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Architecture, Barcelona Spain

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Barcelona Spain

Architecture Barcelona Spain

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Barcelona Spain

Unique door handle

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Agbar Tower

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Former bullfighting arena

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Barcelona – Gaudi

Finally!  After, what, 4 months, finally my second Barcelona post…

I took so many pictures of the main Gaudi attractions, it’s really quite sickening. Seriously, way too many.  My first run through this post, I had over 50 photos.  Somehow I managed to cut the number in half.  I’m sure there are a thousand of the same photo that other people have taken, so I’m not sure that I can offer a better perspective.  Still – enjoy:

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La Pedrera – Casa Milà

Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Casa Mila – exterior

La Pedrera, Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Atrium, Casa Mila

Guadi, Barcelona Spain

Windows and Smokestacks on the roof of La Pedrera

Gaudi, La Pedrera, Barcelona Spain

Doorknob inside Casa Mila – I feel in love with this thing.  It’s perfectly formed so that your fingers curve around it and your thumb rests on the end.  *want*

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Casa Batlló

Barcelona Spain, Gaudi

Casa Batllo, exterior

Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Inside Casa Batllo, overlooking Passeig de Gracia

Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Lightwell inside Casa Batllo. The tiles are darker blue toward the top, lighter toward the bottom, giving the entire lightwell the appearance of being one color throughout.

Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Smokestacks on the roof of Casa Batllo

Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Roof of Casa Batllo – this is supposed to be the ridge along the back of a dragon

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Sagrada Familia

Barcelona Spain

Sagrada Familia – Nativity Facade

Barcelona Spain

Doves on Glory Facade

Barcelona Spain

Detail – Doves on cypress tree

Gaudi Barcelona Spain

Detail from the Passion Facade

Barcelona Spain

Detail of door on the Nativity Facade.  The entire (massive) door (two of them) had words carved out – it was stunning.

Barcelona Spain

Detail on door at Sagrada Familia.  This set of doors was, I think, metal, and had all kinds of reliefs in it.

Barcelona Spain

Interior, ceiling of Sagada Familia

Barcelona Spain

Interior of Sagrada Familia – the columns are supposed to look like tree trunks, rising and branching out to the sky.

Barcelona Spain

Light spilling in from the ceiling and lighting up the triangle – I can’t remember, but I think this is supposed to represent God’s eye.  Can’t seem to find it online anywhere, anyone want to help me out?Gaudi, Barcelona Spain

Sagrada Familia – Model of what the Glory Facade will look like once complete

Here’s a great video showing the final stages of construction and what the cathedral will look like when finished (eta 2026):

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Park Güell

Barcelona Spain, Gaudi

The entrance of Parc Guell

Barcelona Spain

Parc Guell

Barcelona Spain

Ceiling and columns

Gaudi Barcelona Spain

The back side of the benches

Gaudi Barcelona Spain

Columns

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Stay tuned for the next post, with pretty pictures of non-Gaudi architecture.  Hopefully it won’t be another 4 months!

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Barcelona – Part 1!

View of Barcelona from Sagrada Familia

Oh, my gosh, Barcelona.  I had heard wonderful things about it, but I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did!

We arrived on a Friday night, and left on a Monday morning, giving us nine very full days there.  Not that we truly filled those days – we definitely took it easy!  We rented an apartment while there, so we took our time in the mornings and enjoyed an afternoon siesta each day.  It was super relaxing, and a “vacation to recover from the vacation” wasn’t needed.

We didn’t plan out much for the vacation – we just knew we wanted to see the main Gaudi sites, plus the architecture of the different parts of the city, and take a couple of day trips outside of the city.  So the first day, we headed out to the Holy Grail in Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia.  The line for tickets went around the building (and that’s a big building!), so we decided to buy tickets online and come back another day.  In fact, that’s a pretty good rule of thumb for almost anything you want to do in Barcelona!

We had planned our vacation before we checked the events calendar, and it just happened to coincide with the end of La Merce Festival.  I read a little about it, and then checked out some videos online.  And then, I couldn’t wait to check it all out!!  Human towers, Catalonian dancing, fireworks, parades…Oh boy!  We decided to forego the correfoc (fire run) for fear of getting burned, although I admit I would have loved to have gone!

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade, La Merce Festival

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade, La Merce Festival

Barcelona Spain

Catalonian Dancing

La Merce Festival, Barcelona Spain

Building a pyramid (we saw some towers, but as you can see by the heads in the way, taking photos was difficult!)

La Merce Festival, Barcelona Spain

Topping out the pyramid – a kid (but at least he’s wearing a helmet!)

We strolled through the City Park (Parc de la Ciutadella)…

Barcelona Spain

Fountain at the City Park

wandered down by the beach…

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

took the funicular, then the cable car, up to Montjuic Castle (really a fortress, with old cannons and amazing views of the sea and the city)…

Barcelona Spain

Montjuic Castle

View of sea from Montjuic

View from Montjuic

walked over by the National Palace (which looked much cooler from far away than it did up close)…

Palau Nacional Barcelona Spain

View of National Palace from Montjuic

Barcelona Spain

National Palace – fun fact:  The Palau Nacional was built as a temporary building over 3 years for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona.  They were going to tear it down after the exhibition!

checked out the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion (the polar opposite of Gaudi)…

Barcelona Spain

Mies van de Rohe Pavilion

Barcelona Spain

Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

On our last night, we finally made it out to the Magic Fountain, which was the fitting end to our vacation.

Montjuic, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain – Thursday-Sunday, starting at 9pm.

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

*****

I have five or six more posts on Barcelona in the works, including a whole post on Gaudi and a whole post on the food, which, let’s face it, is the most important part of vacation!  Oh, and a post about our day trips to Montserrat, Casteldefels, and a Cava winery.  Stay tuned for more.  🙂

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Family Vacation (Part 1)!

Stephen’s parents came to visit us over the last few weeks, and it was great seeing them!  We spent a few days around Rauma, then took the ferry to Stockholm, and ended our trip with a couple of days in Helsinki.  So much to see, so little time!

Nordic Museum, Stockholm Sweden

Nordic Museum, Stockholm Sweden

The obligatory trip to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm -

The obligatory trip to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm –

I had heard wonderful things about this museum, and it certainly is worth a visit!

I had heard wonderful things about this museum, and it certainly is worth a visit!

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

We also went to Skansen (the open air museum), the Swedish History Museum, and took a lovely canal cruise.

One afternoon, I went out to the Woodland Cemetery, a UNESCO site.  It was lovely, but it was still a cemetery – I didn’t see why it deserved World Heritage status.  The cemetery was split by a road, or so I thought.  When I crossed the road to the other side, I found the actual Woodland Cemetery.  I have no idea which cemetery I was at to begin with!

*Not* the Woodland Cemetery (but lovely in it's own right)

*Not* the Woodland Cemetery (but lovely in it’s own right)

Woodland Cemetery

The *real* Woodland Cemetery

Woodland Cemetery

Woodland Cemetery

While in Helsinki, we went to Suomenlinna (the fortress island off the coast), as well as Seurasaari (the open-air museum).  My back was absolutely killing me, so I left the camera at the hotel for the most part while we were there.  I did take the obligatory photos of the Cathedral, though:

Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

Part 2 of the family vacation will come in a couple of weeks, when my mom comes for a visit.  So excited!

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Kayak in Sicily (Sicily, Part 3)

I really wanted to do something different on this trip, something other than simply sightseeing. Since we were going to Italy, I immediately thought of doing a cooking class with an Italian Grandma, but I looked for other options. A special tour? Surfing? Kayaking?

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A company called Sicily in Kayak got rave reviews on tripadvisor. 54 “Excellent” reviews, 3 “Very Good” reviews, and no reviews below that. It had the added bonus of being in the Aeolian Islands, a place I really wanted to see on our trip. I contacted the owner, Eugenio, via email and set up a half day trip.

You guys, I can’t even tell you how absolutely spectacular Eugenio was. Spec-Freaking-Tacular. He responded almost immediately to my trip request, and it was set up via email with minimal fuss. He met us at the dock in Vulcano with a cheery smile. We ended up opting for a full day trip when we got there, so we went to a local market to pick up some sandwiches. Eugenio knew almost every person we passed and greeted them with a smile, a wave, a buon giorno or ciao. On our way to his kayak hut, he pointed out some spots on the island, including the old sulfur mines and the sulfur bath, where several people lay soaking in the mud.

Once we arrived at the kayak put in, Eugenio explained how the island of Vulcano was formed by four volcanoes, explained (with the help of a map) the geologic makeup of the island, and showed us the route we would be taking. He also offered to take some photos for us, which we took him up on because there was no way I was taking my camera on the water. He joked that he would take more photos than our wedding photographer, and he wasn’t far off!

Seeing the different rock formations from the different eras and volcanoes was really interesting. We went through a few caves, which was really fun. At the main beach area there is a vent in the water from the volcano, and it bubbles up to form a natural fountain. Oh, and there was this cave where the water was really warm from the volcano, but the sulfur smell was almost unbearable!

The natural fountain formed by an underwater vent.

The natural fountain formed by an underwater vent. The only active volcano on Vulcano is behind us in this photo.  Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

Coming out from under a natural arch

Coming out from under a natural arch. Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

In a cave, island of Vulcano.  Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

In a cave, island of Vulcano. Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

We stopped mid-day for lunch, munching on our sandwiches and talking with Eugenio, getting to know him and the island better. He opened Sicily in Kayak on Vulcano, in the Aeolian Islands, five years ago, but he’s been kayaking much longer than that. He’s from Messina, Sicily, and moved to Vulcano to follow his passion. We talked about our trip so far, then Eugenio brought out these fabulous cookies and made some Italian coffee.

Our picnic beach on Vulcano.  Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

Our picnic beach on Vulcano. Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

When we started back out, he told us it would be another hour down to the turnaround site, and then another hour to get back to the put in (you go slower on the way down to take in all the sights). About five minutes in, I knew there was simply no way I could make it another two hours. The sea had gotten a little rougher, the wind had picked up a bit, and my arms (and wrists, especially) were already worn out. So we ended up turning around and heading back early.

About halfway back, Eugenio started asking me if I wanted a tow. No, of course not, I’ll persevere! But then he started taunting me –

Eugenio taunting me with the tow line.  Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

Eugenio taunting me with the tow line. Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

And eventually, I was so worn out that I gave in.

Getting towed.  Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

Getting towed. Photo by Eugenio at Sicily in Kayak

Sadly, even towing me behind him, Eugenio was still faster than either Stephen or I could have ever been. And he just paddled along like he was out for a relaxing jaunt!

The weather was great the day we went, warm but not hot, and the water temperature was a little on the cool side. I didn’t care, I wanted to “accidentally” tip the kayak over and take a swim…until I saw the thousands of jellyfish surrounding me. I wish I could have gotten a photo of the mass of jellyfish – literally, I would put the paddle into the water on my right, look down, and see 6-8 jellyfish. Paddle in on the left side, look down, another 10. It was insane – and quite beautiful, really. But no swim for me!

One of thousands in the water that day-

One of thousands in the water that day-

When we got back to the put in, Eugenio shared some local wine – I can’t remember the name, but it was deliciously cold and refreshing. His business is just down the hill from a beautiful pool, so after our wine we were able to go up, shower the salt off our bodies, and enjoy the view. It was a lovely spot to relax and soak up some sun.

Now that's a view!

Now that’s a view!

When he drove us back to the dock, Eugenio asked if we had sampled granitas, a Sicilian specialty. We hadn’t, and he insisted on buying us a couple of them so we could try it. Granitas were originally made by bringing blocks of snow down from the mountains and packing it into cellars to keep for warmer months. Eugenio explained it in far greater detail, and I’ve unfortunately forgotten most of it, but the cold treat (I had lemon, Stephen had strawberry) was so refreshing!

Enjoying granitas-

Enjoying granitas-

One of the tripadvisor reviewers said their group had taken to calling Eugenio, “Eugenial,” because he was so genial. This is an absolutely perfect nickname for him. He was a wonderful host, an ambassador for both Vulcano and Sicily, and just a genuinely sweet man. His company, Sicily in Kayak, offers half day, full day, and multi day trips in the Aeolian Islands for beginners and advanced kayakers, and he offers both single kayaks and kayaks built for two. If you make plans to go to Sicily and enjoy kayaking, or if you’ve never kayaked and are interested in learning, I demand that you make a point of booking a trip with Eugenio. You will have a wonderful time.

Us with the wonderful Eugenio

Us with the wonderful Eugenio

Oh, and we were staying the night in Messina, where Eugenio is from, and where his dad runs a restaurant. We got the name and address (Al Gattopardo, on Via Santa Cecilia), and when we got to Messina we found out it was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel. We stopped in for dinner and said hello to Nino, Eugenio’s dad. It was such a great experience all around!

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip to Sicily, if you haven’t already!

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