Moments in Spain, Andorra, and Portugal in video

Just recently I’ve realized that taking photos sometimes doesn’t suffice anymore, for me.  Most of my memories from the places I’ve traveled to, are captured in still shots – and they don’t always show what I might have seen or felt at the time.  So I invested in a 4k GoPro camera just before going to Europe in springtime this year, and I loved that it was so easy to carry around with me.  Here’s the video diary I made from our trip to Spain, Andorra, and Portugal. Enjoy!

Up and Down the Streets of Porto

Port wine may be famous all over the world, but it isn’t the only thing that makes Porto interesting.  Porto happens to be the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, and the city is one of the oldest European centers, so it comes as no surprise that Unesco has claimed it as a world heritage site since 1996.

What I saw in the streets proved more than enough reason to have the city preserved.  The Airbnb we stayed in, for example, was a beautiful 19th century home, with 15-foot high ceilings and verandas that welcomed a cool breeze in between spring and summer.  All the houses on the street had similar facades, and they intrigued me about the history and what it must have been like to live in this street more than a hundred years ago.

Oh Barcelona

A native man sang in a foreign tongue,
I still ache to know the song that he sung,
Barcelona…

It’s no wonder why a lot of people like the idea of getting lost in Barcelona.  A city thriving with culture, history, and delicious food and merriment, I myself would learn Spanish to stay in the city.

With thousands of years of history’s worth buried beneath its old houses and streets, it’s a mystery what stories are yet to be discovered.  On one afternoon, as we were walking along the historic center of La Rambla, we stopped outside a building that housed an ongoing excavation project.  Believe it or not, ruins of a Roman city that once stood there can still be found, underneath normal looking houses today.

Now that I’ve been to Barcelona, I cannot separate the city with the works of Gaudi, in my head.  Everywhere I look a snippet of Gaudi’s inspiration can be found.  From La Sagrada Familia, to commissioned family houses, to Park Guell, and even to tiles that decorate walls and plates, they all remind me of the artist’s work.  He lived a truly extraordinary life that is a great source of inspiration for artists all over the world.

I don’t even know where to begin with food… every small plate of tapas led to another until our hearts were full and content.  The explosion of flavors in our tongues was just heaven.  And of course we could not resist having paellas almost every other day.  My favorite will always be Paella Negra with squid ink, and it never seems to fail.

Locals do so many things that is almost unheard of in other countries.  Closing shop everyday after lunch for siesta sounded strange to me.  Having dinner at 9 or 10 also sounded too late to me.  But once you’re there, you’ll find it easy to fall into the same pattern as what locals do.  And it’s almost romantic how the culture can charm and enchant you, with sincere serenades from a Spanish guitar. 

Images from the Slot Canyons

Last week I had posted a short video from my unexpected trip through Canyon X.  During the same journey and prior to Canyon X, I had visited the lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, and captured the images you’ll see below of the stunning rock formations which have become what they are today through billions of years of transformation.

To give you an idea, there are two types of slot canyons in Page – the lower and the upper canyons.  What makes them different is that the upper is on the ground or upper level, while the lower canyons are under ground level. By definition, slot canyons are narrow canyons formed by the wear of water rushing through rocks over time.  And they are significantly deeper than they are wide.  In some canyons the drop could be more than 30 meters (100 ft or similar to a 10-storey building) to the floor of the canyon.

Although they are very beautiful, it’s always important to check flash flood warnings prior to hiking.  If it rains in any surrounding area, the probability of water from anywhere upstream flowing down to the canyons can be very dangerous, and in most slot canyons, it could be miles before you find the nearest exit.  In the image below, you will see behind the girl and before the slopes are interesting patterns on the ground.  These are the surface areas of the lower canyons. The gaps on the surface let light come through, and you will see in the photos that follow what they look like when you’re inside the canyons.

Canyon X, the Unexpected

Over the last few days, I had driven more than a thousand miles across different landscapes from Phoenix, Arizona to the borders of Utah.  Along the way I managed to stay in a small motel along the historic Route 66 in Flagstaff, see the Grand Canyons from different angles in varying times of the day, breathe fresh chilly air up in Jacob Lake among alpine trees covered in snow, and walk through amazing rock formations and slot canyons in Page.

On the third day of my journey, I was driving somewhere in the afternoon about 11 miles away from Page when I saw a dirt road that I decided to turn to. On the map, it seemed that the small dirt road would lead me somewhere close to a portion of the Colorado River, although I knew it would require me to hike a long distance from where the road ends.  I still decided to give it a try. Barely halfway through the dirt road, I was beginning to realize that my intermediate sized vehicle was not made for such roads, and I decided to turn back at the halfway point. But as I was just about to leave from the dirt road, all of a sudden my car couldn’t go any further.  My feet pressed on the gas as far as it could go, but to no avail.  I realized my car was stuck in deep fine sand.

This has never happened to me before, and I started thinking of ways to get out of my situation.  I started digging the sand with my hands and throwing it to the side, and then tried to accelerate the car after removing enough sand from the front wheels.  I moved about an inch.  Frustrated, I tried reversing the vehicle, which didn’t really help but probably got me even deeper into the sand.  I realized pressing on gas was probably not helping me in any way, so I put the car in neutral and tried to push it forward with what arm strength I had. Sadly that didn’t work one bit.

I sat back in the car and decided to call up roadside assistance.  Luckily there was reception from my mobile network even though I was in the middle of nowhere! The agent said through the phone that it would take about an hour for a tow service to come, but that was not guaranteed and I might end up waiting longer depending on the availability of the nearest tow truck.  I decided to wait it out, but was also strongly fighting the urge to pee. About 500 yards away was the main road, where cars were zooming past in high speed through the highway – and that didn’t really help with my situation.

Across the highway was a dirt lot that carried a sign saying Canyon X Tours, and I decided to cross the highway to ask for help.  The family who runs that tour company offered to help, they were natives of Navajo Nation, and they showed me the canyons that they own.  This video was the result of that afternoon – of the misadventures and later on realization that everything really happens for a reason.