Wander & Discover : Croatia

Last Fall I attended a First We Eat Workshop that filled my heart with so much warmth and my tummy full of local ingredients. It truly was magical.

Then the magic continued as I my husband flew out and joined me for a week exploring this beautiful country.

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I would be lying if I said we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Neither of us knew much about Croatia. And this is actually my favorite way of seeing and exploring a new place.

I don’t have expectations or images in my head to live up to. I just go! To me that is being FREE.


So, the journey began in Zagreb.

Once Joel arrived we jumped into our rental car and headed to our Airbnb downtown.

We were greeted by a pup that was being framed by a wall of beautiful vines and greens covering the building. The dream state was already sinking in.

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After a good nights rest we were ready to drive on and explore the next town.

We had our week planned out with some hikes in mind, long drives, and what cities we wanted to explore during our stay. And with each stop our love for this place grew. Quickly we noticed our pace slow down, and the level of appreciation for such a unique country grew more evident.

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Plitvick Lakes

Plitvick Lakes

I was very excited to make a stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is a forest reserve in central Croatia. Walkways wind around the falls and lakes as you settle into a zen state following the wood planks. Their are 16 terraced lakes, that are connected by waterfalls, that extend into a limestone canyon. And depending on the time of year you go, your experience will be completely different. We enjoyed the Fall colors and deepness of auburn and yellows hues. But look forward to returning to the Lakes some summer to soak up the warmth of the sun and rich and lush greens this place would provide.

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DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE

DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE

As soon as we entered Split we knew our venture had just begun. Our Airbnb was located in Old Town. Little did we know the roads to get to this area and our ‘apartment’ for the night were nearly un-driveable. But, Joel went into the streets winding through old stone buildings as the street narrowed and narrowed. Oncoming traffic for a barely one lane road would approach, and only way out was to drive the whole windy road back in reverse to allow locals to pass. It was nerve racking and impressive to say the least.

But this introduction to Split was intimidate and gave us an immediate impression of the area. Within its white stone walls and under its courtyards are a cathedral and numerous shops, bars, cafes, hotels and houses.

Its full of life, history, and old! Very Old. Incredibly breathtaking.

I could walk these side streets for days

I could walk these side streets for days

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A must visit in Split is the Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius. It is regarded as the Oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world that's still in the original structure. The bell tower architecture started in the 13th century with reconstruction that took place in the 20th century. It stands at 57m high.

And if your not afraid of heights, I recommend climbing the stairs to the top of the Bell Tower where the views will take your breath away.

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After two days in Split we planned a boat ride to the island of Hvar.

We understood that Hvar island may be a tad more sleepy this time of year ( October ) but it worked in our favor of enjoying the area with less people and chill vibes. Dogs were wandering around loose and greeting people. Last minuet boat tours had space available, and no need for reservation at restaurants. All in all, it worked out okay!

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Amfora Grand Beach Resort was the first ‘real’ hotel we had stayed in during our stay in Croatia. When entering our room, we noticed a kind note wishing us a Happy 10yr Wedding anniversary and fancy dessert. It was such a nice touch and made our stay feel personalized.

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As much as we have been enjoying the old romantic towns, small streets, ancient history, and incredible structures, we were so excited to spend the day on & in the water. We booked a day tour with Hvar Tours where they took us to cliff jump, the smallest beach, and the blue caves!

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Next stop on the agenda was Split!

And this is when I am at a loss for words. This place.

Most know it from Game of Thrones.

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View out our bedroom window

View out our bedroom window

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I am happy to have a partner that is willing to stand on the edge with me -    THE BELLTOWER

I am happy to have a partner that is willing to stand on the edge with me - THE BELLTOWER

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blue cave

blue cave

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After returning from a full day on the water we took a hike to catch the sunset.

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Because we were traveling at the end of peak season not all the tours or boats were running. So, instead of taking a ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik we had a driver take us the long way through the villas and towns.

It was such an amazing way to cover more ground and see more of the country side of Croatia.

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Our tour guide recommended we headed up the tallest hill to reach the Fortress at the top of city that overlooks the islands.

Little to our surprise the sunset that night would color the town pink.

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Dubrovnik was our final stop on our trip. It is a popular city in southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea that is known for its Old Town. Along the water sits old ancient city walls that were completed in the 16th century. These walls create a city within the city. Dubrovnik’s uniqueness is so charming with its limestone streets and stairs that fill alley ways for the most romantic of night walks.

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The Dubrovnik City Walls Walk is the perfect way to appreciate the structure of this wall along with all of the rich terra-cotta roof tops and lively square.

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After a day of wandering around the square and walking the wall we took the Cable Car to watch the sunset from above.

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We spent our last two days eating pasta with truffle and exploring these great walls… it was a lovely way to end a trip that I in conclusion feel was simply magic. A place I would recommend anyone go visit.



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ICELAND { First We Eat}

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Words are not my strong suit but I will do my best to share this amazing experience with imagery and a few words mixed in here & there.  

 
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First We Meet

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Day 1 :

 After arriving in Reykjavik, I was patiently awaiting to start the  First We Eat Workshop!  

Soon I would be meeting Eva Kosmas Flores and Carey Nershi, the hosts of FWE and joining the rest of the group.

 

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This was my second trip to Iceland, and I hope not my last.  The magic of this place has not changed, but this journey was quite different than from my first.

I have to take a minute to share how  brilliant this workshop truly was.  FWE was hosted by two of the most talented young ladies along with the talented Linda LomeliMaggie Pate, and Ingrid Hofstra.  All in which had a huge part in my experience.  Together they made a wonderful team- busted their asses, showed us iceland, and fed us well!  


To be photographing along side of these ladies; learning, observing, and exploring is a real gift.  I thank each and every one of them! 

After a full nights rest, I woke up in Mosfellsdalur with a wonderful homemade breakfast and a day full of surprise and education ahead of me.  I was well rested and ready for anything!

 

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Waterfalls are so powerful and moving.  They have such a huge presence, and the ones in Iceland are no exception.  Eva & Cary took the whole group to visit Seljalandsfoss along with a secret hidden waterfall ( my favorite ).

 I found myself escaping the crowds and running around like a kid, exploring the hills and views behind the falls.  I can just stand and watch a waterfall for hours...so captivating.

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 Laxnes Horse RanchThis was one of my favorite activities during this visit to Iceland.  I do not have much experience riding horses, and my little guy, kinda scared me here and there, but he kept me safe and it was an incredible ride.  The area in which we rode was full of rolling hills, green mossy mounds, and lava rocks!   We were not allowed to bring our cameras, but I managed to sneak a few with my phone.

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What a day... Following horse back riding, picture taking, and food (of course) we headed to the Secret Lagoon!  Had a little picnic outside, with light drizzle and then enjoyed the geothermal pools.

fine group of ladies

fine group of ladies

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 Linda Lomeli seriously makes some of the best looking, and tasting baked goods.

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This bundt cake had us all over the table - shooting at all angles! 

After a little lesson on how to style your own images, we were given some time, props, and a slice of cake to play around with.

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Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

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After chasing waterfalls, we went to on dirt roads to reach Keldur (grass houses that are thousands of years old on ancient farm land).

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Upon our return to our sweet little cottage (Airbnb) in Mosfellsdalur was this incredible full rainbow!  It was such a nice little treat to come home to.  We quickly recollected ourselves and prepped for a wonderful dinner and mini photoshoot.

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breakfast hash

breakfast hash

I loved waking up, walking outside, being surrounded with beautiful views and a table full of stunning desserts to photograph,  No better way to start the day.

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Then walk inside to enjoy homemade soup and a perfectly set table.

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On the last full day of the FWE workshop we had some extra time to choose which activity we wished to partake in.  Some ventured downtown to shop in Reykjavik, others went to geothermal pools, some needed to rest, and a few went on a hike.                  

Which activity do you think I choose?

 

Perfect rainbow over   Laxnes Horse Ranch

Perfect rainbow over Laxnes Horse Ranch

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Erla Gretarsdottir

Erla Gretarsdottir

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After everyone came back together to the house, we got ready for our last meal!  The weather had cleared up so we were able to eat outside, with beautiful rolling hills and mountains in the near distance.

 And of course, one last pictuesque dessert. 

We followed this wonderful meal with a little lesson by Maggie Pate on textiles and how to weave a loom.

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As the Workshop was coming to an end, the goodbyes started going around. Though, I was saying goodbye to the group I was not saying goodbye to Iceland.  Not yet! 

I had planned to rent a car and drive around for two more days before flying home.  Erla, a local to Iceland, helped me map out my next two days in Iceland.

I was ready for lots of driving and some solo time.

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After getting my car, I stopped at  Reykjavik Coffee Roasters, got a Swiss Mocha and went onward with my journey into the beautiful landscapes of Iceland.

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The Snæfellsnes peninsula

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After driving up and around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula , stopping in Hellnar for a nights sleep, and exploring Arnarstapi, I headed to Reykjanesbaer. 

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My last night in Iceland was spent at OkHotel in Reykjavik.  

After a full day of driving around it was nice to be on foot and walk around the city.  Jen, one of the gals that I met during the worshop was still in Iceland, so we met up at Kaffi Vinyl for some vegan food.  Afterwards we wondered around some stores before I went back to my hotel...I had to get up at 4am.

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I thank Erla for my detour to the Southern Peninsula of Iceland.  

Reykjanesviti was stunning!  Just a short drive from the city you can find yourself in geothermal fields, views of the oldest lighthouse in Iceland, and cliffs with crashing waves against black beaches.  

On my last trip to Iceland, I visited Vik.  I was so bummed to not be revisiting those beaches this time around, but Reykjanes Peninsula totally made up for it!

 

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Grindavikurbaer

Grindavikurbaer

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On the drive to the airport, in the wee hours of the morning, I enjoyed the full moon over the mountains and sun rising on the water.  It was so emotionally beautiful. 

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Till we meet again... Iceland you will be missed!




Outdoor Project

This past summer I landed my dream job; getting paid to hike and photograph the beautiful outdoors.

The Outdoor Project is an amazing company that is designed to educate those outdoor lovers on trail conditions, campgrounds, and a variety of different types of adventures that may be just steps from your doorstep.

I spent between 5 to 6 days a week from June to November driving to some of the most amazing hiking trails in the Washington area.  It was so educational as well as meditative. I was so lucky to have had this opportunity to document the beauty that surrounds me!  Here are some of my favorite images from my season job in the woods.  Enjoy