Freedom Has Four Wheels

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The lighthouse of Cudillero

Cudillero – coastal, charming, and fifty shades of green. *sigh*

Settling back into a routine of balancing work, family, and fun has been difficult. Not only does the mercury in Madrid continue to dance above and around 30 degrees (celsius ya’ll!), but my mind is clouded with daydreams of barefoot toes and mojitos. The carefree days of summer may be a couple of weeks behind us, but they’re still visible in the rearview mirror. The temperatures are a reminder of that. But just when I’ve reached my limit of heat and stress, the sun begins to set on the Spanish capital, the temperatures fall, and I remember Cudillero.

Owning a car and living in a major metropolis seems, well, unncessary. It’s true that the public transit system can get you anywhere you need to go. But, where you need to go and where you want to go are quite different. Sure, I need to get to work, but do I want to go to work? *insert Spanish shoulder shrug* When Jeff and I are on our own time, our free time, what we want are wide open spaces – freedom of the open road. We’re willing to go anywhere four wheels and a tank of gas will take us, and Asturias was our first roadtrip destination.

Beautiful, mountainous, chilly, green Asturias; a contradiction of Madrid in every way. Even as I sit here comfortable in my living room, a cool early evening breeze blowing through the open doors, I’m distracted by thoughts of verdant mountains and crisp nights in the little fisherman’s village of Cudillero. We spent little more than forty-eight hours there, and much of that time was spent behind the wheel. Why? Because we wanted to. We zig-zagged up and around forested mountains, visited a bee and blackberry farm, explored a secluded beach, and stumbled upon a locals-only restaurant serving up the most unbelievable BBQ platter one has ever set out to devour in a single sitting. These little discoveries may seem ordinary, but having traded the suburban life for that of a concrete jungle I realize that I crave the connection with all things green and natural each time I assume the role of navigator in the passenger seat. We have to drive a bit further to find it in central Spain, but when we do my senses are once again awakened to what I want, and in this case what I also need.

Cudillero is calling me back…

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Santorini: Blue, White and Blackout

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Well, we’ve done it again. Our latest run-in with misadventure struck during our trip to the island paradise of Santorini last week. It never fails. Despite our careful planning and extensive research that goes into preparing for a trip to our next destination, misadventure always finds us. Remember Not Your Average Travelers in Turkey or Bull Run of Another Kind in the countryside of Cataluña? It seems to be waiting in the wings ready to pounce at that perfect moment when you’ve switched to vacation mode and have left the real world behind. “Relaxation? Not so fast!” it taunts. We are uncertain when or how it will strike, but we can be certain it will without fail. Santorini was no exception.

A jewel of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is one of the most famous of the cluster of Greek islands knowns as the Cyclades, and for good reason. The biggest island, Thira, is a crescent shaped outcropping of craggy cliffs left behind from a massive ancient volcanic eruption. Thira faces a handful of other smaller islands that are a result of the submerged volcano. Together, with the water-filled caldera at the center, this circle of islands is called Santorini – and it is undeniably beautiful.

Idyllic white-washed villages cling to the cliffsides as if to stake claim to their rightful position in paradise. Gracefully domed churches of the deepest and softest blues meld with the skies above and the sea below. Winding cobblestone paths saunter in, out, and around cave houses and boutique shops teetering on the edge of land and sea. And then there are the sunsets. Oh, those sunsets! I’m not sure I have ever witnessed Mother Nature put on a more magnetic display of color and beauty. Remember that vacation mode switch I mentioned earlier? The sunset on that first night flipped the vacation switch to “on”.

Or did it?…

Sunset from Ammoudi Port
Sunset over the caldera from Fira

What happens when the one and only power transformer on an island explodes? In August? In Greece? BLACKOUT. The entire island is left without electricity and running water, and it remains this way for nearly two days!! Once the initial panic gave way to frustration and realization that no power meant no showers and no air conditioning after spending a day in the blazing summer sun, I resigned myself to remember that this is Greece. And not only is it Greece, but it is an island far from the mainland. I would have to cast my “fix it now” expectations aside and instead change my perspective to see the positives in this situation.

Oia with power
Oia without power literally five minutes after the picture above was taken.

So, what was the outcome? For those first 36 hours I found the Aegean to be quite refreshing and cleansing after a long day in the sun. Dinners by candlelight were enchanting and romantic. Restaurants hung lanterns from rafters and tree limbs which cast a soft glow in plazas under a harvest moon. Sleeping with the doors open allowed a cool sea breeze to fill the room, the distant sound of crashing waves lulling you to sleep. No wifi, no devices, no TV. We were officially off the grid and loving every minute of it. Establishments, including our hotel, gradually invested in generators that at least provided running water at all times, but power remained touch and go until Saturday, our last day. While we were grateful to have the comforts that electricity brings once again, we found ourselves longing for the simplicity and tranquility of the blackout.

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