The Lost Coast for the Lost Cause

Last week I was catching up with a dear friend of mine. We were reminiscing about the good old days and awesome memories we collected over the years.

One of those great memories was our road trip along the 101 (From Seattle all the way to Los Angeles)

We made stops in Washington State and Oregon (see previous posts) and saw fantastic places. But one of the most memorable moments was the day we drove to ‘The Lost Coast’.

The day started off with a visit to Redwood National Park which is known for its gigantic trees.

After a small walk we set¬†course south and¬†had some spare time for a little detour…

The thing with detours is… I love them !¬†Just leave the¬†main road a get¬†lost by taking¬†side roads.

That’s how my friend and I discovered ‘The Lost Coast’.

We got of the Highway 101 and planned to drive along the Highway 1 along the coast to see the sunset.

The only thing was, we discovered it with a half empty tank and in the late afternoon.

The small winding mountain road took us through a forest to end up in Shelter Cove when the sun was touching the ocean.

By now we were also desperately looking for a gas station to fill up our tank. We found a gas sign but couldn’t retrieve the gas station. So we made a stop at ‘Vernes’. The guy over there informed us that Shelter Cove is a ‘Dead End’ and you could only drive on that part of the Highway 1 with a SUV.

That also meant we had to drive all the way back over that little mountain road. Panic was complete when the guy informed us casually that the local gas station just closed for the day and we had to return all the way with an almost empty tank.

He left us with the very inspiring and memorable quote : “Hey, at least you saw the lost coast” – He snickered and left us speechless at the entrance of the bar…

The Lost Coast… This piece of land in Northern California was named like this because it was initially meant to be part of the highway but because of difficulties of building roads through the surrounding mountain they cancelled the road plans. Resulting little beach towns like Shelter Cove to become very secluded and only accessible by boat, plane and that stupid single winding mountain road.

We gave the ocean one last big glance, crossed our fingers and drove back to Thorn Junction, our closest gas station. Not much later we saw the empty fuel indicator glow.

Outside it was completely pitch-dark.

Half an hour of nerve wrecking turns we made it to Thorn Junction and pulled over at the gas station.

We made it.

So people, please fill up your tank whenever you can and don’t take unnecessary risks, hoping the next gas station will be only a few miles away.

Visit Oregon

Oregon is underrated.

When people talk about US travel destinations they always think about Sunny California, Vibrant New York or Hurricane season in Florida.

But it’s clear to say the US has so much beauty captured in one country each with its own charms.

Oregon is filled with beautiful places.

Visit Corvallis and go strolling through the city center.

Jump into Crater Lake, one of the deepest lakes on earth.

Hike Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain (but be well prepared)

Go try some beers in Portland

Make a stroll along the beach in Cannon Beach

Don’t hesitate – Crawl behind the wheel and take that drive.

You won’t be disappointed.

Just keep in mind that¬†Oregon is one of the two¬†states in the US where it is illegal to pump gas yourself. It’s one of those old laws ¬†where the government decided it was not safe for customers¬†to just get gas themselves.

Friday, Freedom, Fog, Falls … Flat Tire

To embark on the journey towards your goals and dreams requires bravery.

To remain on that path requires courage.

The bridge that merges the two is commitment. 

I saw Raine again at the airport of Seattle on a Thursday night in February.

She left the sunny weather from California behind and exchanged it for a rainy weekend in Washington State and Oregon.

From the airport we picked up our rental car and drove into the night down the Interstate 5 until we reached Vancouver, Washington State, right on the border with Oregon State and Portland. There we checked in to some local low budget hotel right off the interstate with free parking. This way we avoided the high hotel prices from Portland and an additional parking fee. Portland is only a half hour drive from there.

On Friday morning we entered Oregon.

But we didn’t drive to Portland right away.

Instead we decided to drive on one of the most scenic routes of the USA, The Historic Columbia River Highway. The scenic route starts in Troutdale and goes all the way to The Dalles. We were really excited to discover this stretch of awesomeness.

As soon as we left the Highway 30 it started to get foggy.

It was a curse and a blessing. The fog prevented us to look far around us and some lookout points we stopped at were just like we were staring at a blank wall like at Vista House.

But the fog on the empty road and between the woods made the experience so much more fun.

Until we got a flat tire.

We pulled over and evaluated the damage. We had to replace the tire with the spare donut we had underneath the car. After a little investigation and some good help of that one car that passed by and pulled over we got back on the road with only half an hour delay.

We had places to go that day.

Not much later we arrived at Latourell Falls and the fog disappeared for a bit. Latourell Falls is a little less popular then Multnomah Falls but definitely worth a visit. We hiked up to the top of the falls and enjoyed the stunning views along the way.

Not much later we arrived at the famous and marvellous ‘Multnomah Falls‘. Most of the visitors make the little hike up to the Benson Bridge which is pretty close. If you have more time and a little bit of hiking experience you can also continue the trail until¬†the top. The view up there is magnificent and worth the effort, even if it is a series of switchbacks you are about to conquer for the next mile.

We made Multnomah Falls our turnaround point on our scenic drive and drove off to Portland for more adventures where we switched our rental car at one of our rental car offices without any extra charges and a new full tank !

Winner !!

Keep Portland Weird

When you decide to visit Portland you will quickly be introduced to the funky vibe that this city possesses and the most awesome thing you can do is embrace it with both arms.

Portland is a city for bikers and for people who adore books, music, bridges, beer and one way streets.

One of the main things to do in Portland is visiting the Powell’s City of Books, where you need a travel map to go from Archeology to Zen.

Make time for a stroll in Riverside Park along the Willamette River. If you walk passed the Burnside Bridge you’ll find the famous ‘Made in Oregon’ sign on your left.

If you are hungry from all the walking and you are up for a snack than you can get a doughnut in the popular ‘Voodoo Doughnut‘ place. You might have to wait in line for a bit until you can devour your piece¬†of sugar.

Maybe you noticed it in the meantime… the state of Oregon has no sales tax which saves you some dollars on your shopping . Maybe a good time to by that new Iphone¬†in the Apple Store in Portland.

For good food you can always try Kenny & Zuke’s¬†and definitely try some local microbrews when you are in Portland.

The 101 – The Oregon Coast

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

One of my favourite parts of road tripping down the 101 is driving over the Astoria-Megler Bridge which connects Washington State (Megler) with Oregon State (Astoria). Tell your loved one in the passenger seat to keep the camera ready!

A little bit further down south you will arrive in another awesome spot, Cannon Beach. You most likely remember this beach from the end scene of ‘the Goonies’. Go to the beach, take off your shoes and enjoy a relaxing walk along the shore towards Haystack Rock. This enormous rock is accessible by foot at low tide during summertime. The first we visited Cannon Beach in July the weather conditions were perfect. The second year we went we missed that slot by far and got soaking wet in February instead. Still a fun and very natural experience. At least we¬†didn’t have to roll up our¬†pants anymore.

After our little walk, we basically almost drifted back to our lodge (Ecola Creek Lodge) to get a hot shower and jumped in the car to get some late night dinner. Because it was low season the town was quickly turning into a ghost town after 9 PM.

We lucked out and got a great meal at¬†Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse. They were¬†very kind to get us some food right before the kitchen closed and we got a great service and good food !

From Cannon Beach most people travel east to see the area around Portland.

Those who want to keep going along the 101 will experience some wonderful ocean views along the way. You’ll also make some stops in¬†Tillamook, Coos Bay or Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to get a break from sitting behind the wheel.¬†

The 101 – The Olympic Peninsula

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. 

Highway 101. Maybe one of the most iconic highways in the USA that runs from Los Angeles in California all the way to Olympia in Washington State, some 2500 km up north.

It’s a very popular road for road trippers from all over the world¬†who want to discover the Pacific Coast. The most popular part might be between Los Angeles and San Francisco but Oregon and Washington have some gems to offer as well.

When you start your journey from North to South then Olympia will be your starting point. From here you make a loop around the mystic Olympic National Park which is surely worth a visit.

Travel tip : If you are on a road trip through the USA and you are planning to visit 4 or more National Parks during your trip, then I would recommend you to buy an annual park pass as this would be more beneficial. Make sure the park you are visiting are National Parks as some regional parks are not included in the pass.

Continue your trip and you will pass along beautiful Lake Ozette, a great place to stretch your legs for a bit.

A little later you will arrive in Forks, the town that got popular because of the ‘twilight’ series. It’s a little town like any other in the area but if you are on your way to Forks you should definitely turn right before you enter the town and drive to La Push, an Indian reservation with pristine beaches.

Make a stop at First Beach and Second Beach and follow the trail through the mystic forest until you reach the beach and get rewarded with stunning views.

Lake Quinalt demands another stop before you make your way further south direction Oregon State.

You will also pass through (or overnight) in Aberdeen, birthplace and hometown of Kurt Cobain.

Speechless in Seattle

Seattle is a city for people who enjoy music, coffee, books, beer and rainy days. Although most of the times I visited this beautiful city I lucked out with the weather and had some sunny days.

Looking for a hostel ? Then the Green Tortoise might be a good idea. This hostel is centrally located right across from the Pike Place Market. Visit this market to excite your appetite and¬†witness how some jolly¬†fishermen throw fish at each other. Stroll around here for some souvenirs and grab a coffee at the very first Starbucks right across the street. Don’t want to wait in line for an hour, well don’t worry, there are plenty other Starbucks or other coffee places scattered all over town.

The Space Needle is definitely one of the landmarks of this city. When you are there, make sure you visit the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP) where you learn a lot about several music legends and you get the chance to try out some instruments yourself in a music studio. Pretty cool experience !

A must during your visit in Seattle is an Underground Tour. This tour will take you, well …¬†, underground and shows you the original streets of Seattle and its haunted history.

Don’t forget to try some clam chowder while you are out there. Pike Place Chowder is a great place to fill your belly with this good tasty stuff but expect there might be a waiting line.

Loving Lisbon

If you are looking for  your next European Citytrip destination than I might have an answer to your questioning.

Lisbon.

Lisbon has a lot to offer for every kind of traveller among us.

I visited Lisbon with one my closest friends on this trip. I have known her for almost half of my life now and must say I am a fortunate man to have her around. At least I am not the only one around who is clumsy and says embarrassing things.

In the early morning of our first day my friend already discovered she brought the wrong pair of shoes resulting in a huge blister on her foot before we even got to the airport… Luckily she brought some bandaids that stick… for like a full five minutes.

Once we arrived in Lisbon we took the subway to our hotel. Hotel Fenix Music, which is centrally located next to the subway station (Marqués de Pombal). This trendy hotel has a bunch of cool features like a rooftop bar (open until 1 AM) and swimming pool with great panoramic views over the city. You have also free internet throughout the entire hotel and free breakfast included.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and went for lunch.

Afterwards we strolled down Avenida Liberdad and sought coolness under the trees along the boulevard. We ended up at the Praça do Comércio, a big square at the banks of the Tagus.

From there you can proceed your stroll along the water to Cais do Sodré. Here you can take a train to Cascais, a little beach place where you can take a refreshing plunge, catch a tan on the lifeguarded beach or stroll some more along the picturesque path from Cascais to the Estoril train station where you can jump on the train back to Lisbon.

On your way back, make sure you stop at Bel√©m. Here you can visit the ‘Torre de Bel√©m‘ (tower) and the ‘Padr√£o dos Descobrimentos‘ (statue). From here many world explorers started their journey to find new land.

Getting hungry from all these history tales ? Than you have to try the famous ‘Pasteis de Bel√©m

From Cais do Sodré you can also take a ferry across the Tagus and go check out the statue of Christo Rei. A roundtrip with the ferry costs you 2,90 euro. Once you reached the other side you can jump on bus 101 that rides every half an hour up the hill. Roundtrip for the bus ticket is another 1,90 euro and can be paid on the bus. From the hill you have a great view over Lisboa, the Tagus and the Ponte 25 de Abril, a gigantic suspension bridge over the Tagus that looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Not high enough for you ? Well then you can take the elevator up to the statue for 4 euro.

Another must do in Lisbon is taking the yellow¬†Tram 28. This is a very popular attraction so the waiting line to catch the next tram might be longer than some lines in Disneyland. We decided to take this tram on our last day and spent two hours waiting in line at Martim Moniz, where the tram¬†starts its journey. Once you get on board the tram takes you through some of Lisbon’s most narrow streets and uphill all the way to the ‘Castelo de S√£o Jorge’. I would recommend to jump off the tram here and walk back down through the streets of Alfama.

At least that’s what most people do. We skipped the stop because we were running late to catch our flight but ended up in an even less convenient location to catch the subway back to the airport. We jumped back the tram and stayed on until the Baixa-Chiado stop. There we ran to our hotel to pick up our bags and made it all just in time to our flight.

So dear traveler, not a good idea to force Tram 28 into your last day.

The Land of Fire and Ice

It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves – William Shakespeare

In the fall of¬†2013 my sister and I decided to go on a ‘sibling’ trip. This was a sort of annual thing we tried to maintain.

That year Iceland became our choice of destination. Flights were surprisingly cheap from Amsterdam to Reykjavik with Icelandair and on a rainy November morning in November we left to the land of Fire and Ice.

We arrived in the evening in¬†Reykjavik at our apartment ‘Apartment K‘, which is centrally located and has a hip vibe.

We dropped our bags and booked a ‘Northern Lights Tour’ with¬†‘Super Jeep‘ that same night.

They pick you up at your hotel/apartment in a jeep on steroids and drive you to a central meeting point just outside the city.

Our tour started with a bumpy jeep climb up the hill so be careful with what you eat before the tour. We stopped on the top of the hill to take some awesome shots of Reykjavik by night. From this hill you can spot the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial for John Lennon from his wife Yoko Ono.

On the hill the drivers evaluate where the weather conditions would be the best to see the Northern Lights. As weather conditions are very unpredictable in Iceland they can never guarantee you will see the lights but you have a pretty fair chance you’ll see one. If not, they will give you a new ticket to ride for the next day.

After driving for a while we were rewarded for our patience. Out of nothing appeared a green light in the sky that soon changed into a curtain in the wind. Definitely one of the most asthonising things I have seen in my young life.

We also got some hot chocolate afterwards to celebrate and made our way back home. I had a great experience with Extreme Iceland and Super Jeep and could recommend them to anyone. This was only our first night here and the trip was already successful !

The second day we visited the city of Reykjavik. It’s a very cozy city with a great vibe. Plenty of little shops, trendy bars and restaurants and cool architecture. Make sure you visit the Harpa (concert hall) and the¬†Hallgr√≠mskirkja (really cool church).

The third and final day we rented a car and drove the ‘Golden Circle‘, a popular route that includes some jaw dropping¬†sights.

One of those is Thingvellir National Park where you can clearly spot the path of the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. A great spot to hike around.

Once we were returning to the car we saw the weather change from blue skies to grey big clouds. We checked the weather with the information desk and they warned us that a storm was coming our way and we had to be careful with driving. Once we started driving the roads quickly turned into a snow road combined with some decent gusts of wind.

We continued our way and drove along Strokkur, an active geyser that erupts every couple minutes.

A little further we arrived at Gulfoss, a majestic waterfall. Due to the winds and the cold we could only endure a couple minutes at the viewpoint before we hurried our asses inside the cafetaria to warm up and have some local lamb soup.

Once the weather cleared up a bit we made our way back direction Reykjavik. Since we were still on time and had the rental car until the end of the day we decided to drive to the Blue Lagoon. On our way the wind and rain picked up again and we arrived to find an empty blue lagoon due to the terrible weather.¬†Although we couldn’t have the¬†blue lagoon experience we still got a good idea of how it looks like.

Hopefully I get the chance to return to this awesome country during summer and explore more of its beauty.

Schnitzels and Str√ľdels in Vienna

Alright, so you got one day to see something in Vienna and I am sure you want to make the best of it. That is certainly what I was trying to do last week during my short visit in Vienna. I combined this trip with two days in Budapest.

Since Budapest is a cheap destination to fly to with Ryanair or Wizzair (from Charleroi) I managed to avoid the otherwise expensive flight from Brussels to Vienna. A little travel tip to see great places that tend to have expensive airfares.

So I took the train from Budapest to Vienna. It takes you about three hours to get there but the trains are pretty comfortable and not that expensive (Budapest-Vienna 30 euro return ticket).

My first impression of Vienna was the presence of all these historical buildings. A clear sign of how rich Austria was during the centuries and how it is still a rich country today.

Stephanplatz

Most likely you’ll start your journey here and scent the smell of horses when you walk around the Stephanzdom. Be prepared to see a lot of these ‘horse and carriage’ packages around the city.

Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn)

Somewhere during your visit, you will have to take some time for the Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens. Once you arrive you will be impressed by the largeness of this palace. But that is only a humble introduction. Once you make your way around the castle you will face a huge garden filled with perfect symmetry. These gardens also include the Vienna Zoo and the Gloriette. From the Gloriette you have a great view of the city so it is worth the climb.

Donauinsel

Wanna relax and get away from the city madness and overload of tourists? Then the Donauinsel will satisfy your needs. Take the metro to ‘Prater’ and stroll around the island in the city. Seems like a lot of locals come here with their family or friends to hang out. Some of them are sunbathing in the grass or along the docks while overlooking the Danube while others are running or rollerblading along the track.

Food

Fancy a hotdog? Well, then apparently Bitzinger Wurstelstand near the Albertina is your go-to place and the waiting line doesn’t lie. No time or no budget for this? No worries, ¬†there are plenty of other hot dog stands or food places around. But while you are there you might as well try it.