Sunday, September 29, 2013

Going to Croatia this summer was one of those trips that felt like a dream while it was happening, and even more so now that it is definitely fall in Copenhagen. I'm still not quite sure how it all happened, with five of my favourite people coming from England, Toronto and Victoria to meet up on a tiny island in the mediterranean. It was all the best things about being a kid (people you've known forever, bunk beds and giggling late into the night, sharing everything down to swim goggles) and being an adult (drinking beers in the ocean, happy hour and card games every night, taking turns between doing dishes and dj'ing). I really don't have that many recommendations, since we just stayed on Korčula, but we were really happy with our decision to rent a house and to stay in one place to explore from there. I'm sure the rest of the country is just as beautiful though, so I don't think you can go too wrong. After planning trips and having guests for so much of the summer, it was nice to have a vacation where there wasn't much to decide besides which beach to go to that day. It was the perfect way to end the summer, and I couldn't have asked for better travel companions. I mean, look at these guys!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So, school is still kicking my butt. One day I'll get myself together to tell you more about it all. Until then, let's keep talking about vacations. When my dad came to visit in July, we took a little trip to the tiny Danish island of Bornholm. I'd never been before, and it has an almost mythical reputation here in Denmark. Danes love their holidays and traditions, and Bornholm is a nicely preserved island full of fish smokehouses, farms, craft workshops, and sandy beaches. Since it's further out in the Baltic Sea, it usually has better weather than the rest of Denmark. Suffice to say, it has a very different and much more laid back vibe then Copenhagen. A Scandinavian version of the Gulf Islands back home, you could say. We rented a car, but lots of people take their bikes for exploring since the island is nice and flat. You can easily see the whole island in a few days. There are some more pictures on Nicola's blog here from her bike trip, just before ours. I agree that one of the highlights was this adorable farm, thanks to Nicola's husband for the recommendation! Although there wasn't much for vegetarians to eat, the lovely atmosphere and good drinks made up for it. We had a great time road tripping around, stopping to walk around the different natural and historical sights, trying all the local specialities, and then playing card games once the sun went down. 

Camping in Scandinavia

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

After spending our last few summer vacations camping in Scandinavian/Nordic countries (Iceland, Sweden, and now Norway), I feel like we are starting to get the hang of it and have come up with a few things that have made it work better for us. I had previously only done car style camping along the North American west coast, which is a completely different way of camping. It can still get pretty wet in Scandinavia, but it's a lot colder and can get much stormier, and you also don't have campfires to keep you warm and to cook on. Plus, you don't have the luxury of throwing everything into your trunk and pulling up to your campsite. Camp sites in Europe in general are very different, they are often more like big grassy parking lots in more urban settings (no thanks). If you want to actually get out in nature, you have to take yourself there. I am just now starting to realize what a difference having the right gear makes for these kinds of trips, but I am still a total newb. So, while these things are essential to me, you might have a completely different list. In which case, fill me in!

1. A good tent - I know this one sounds like an obviously one and it is, but guys, the world of tents is huge and complex. Like any big ticket gear item, it's good to do your research on it. On the trips I'd been on before, any old tent with a tarp strung above it would do. In Scandinavia, there are often no trees around to tie tarps to (too high elevation for trees to grow), and it would be useless against the wind storms that often pick up at night. Our tent is a special kind of tunnel tent that stands up super well to wind and rain, and has a huge vestibule in the front to keep all your gear dry. I can't say how many times how nice it is to have a vestibule to eat dinner in if it's rainy, or to have space to put your muddy boots so that they aren't next to your face. This tent stays amazingly dry, like zero condensation in the mornings. I hate nothing more than a drippy tent, ugh. 

2. A down vest - I tend to get really cold on camping trips up here, especially once the sun goes down and the temperature drops, and then I get really grumpy. For this trip, I invested in wool long underwear (so good) and a lightweight down vest to layer over my fleece or under my rain jacket if I was super cold. The vest kept me so warm and cozy, it was like wearing a mini sleeping bag. They aren't the most fashionable in the world, and I resisted spending the money on one, but I quickly fell in love with the functionality. 

3. A silk sleeping bag liner - I know this sounds like a fancy item that you don't really need, but you do. Of course, a good sleeping bag is a good idea (preferably down, and rated for lower temperatures - Mark has one like this and I have the slightly cheaper and bulkier version), but a silk liner helps keep you much warmer. Plus, it's easy to wash once you get home and you can always use it on it's own for warmer trips or hostels. And they pack up into a tiny bundle. 

4. iPhone + Kindle App - Again this might seem like a luxury item, and I know there are people against taking technology on hiking/camping trips, but it's so worth it. We used our phones for GPS navigation (so helpful, and nice knowing that we wouldn't ever be totally lost), for taking photos and videos when it was too stormy to take out our big cameras, and although this last time I brought my Kindle, next time I'll definitely just use the app for reading. We've found that without having a campfire to tell stories around at night, reading something in our tent is the next best thing. 

5. A opaque water bottle + headlamp - I saw this little trick on Pinterest: a headlamp wrapped around a bottle gives a nice lantern effect. When you are hiking, you can't exactly bring actual lanterns with you and it gets pretty dark out in the wild, so it's really nice to have a bit of atmospheric light to read your bedtime stories by. Plus, these wide mouth Nalgenes are the best to gather water from streams with. It's nice to be able to see the water, and they are super lightweight.

6. Hot chocolate - Camping isn't camping to me if there isn't something with chocolate and marshmallows. Although you can't make s'mores, a good hot chocolate is also a very good thing when it's cold. We've just bought Nestle packs before, but next time I'm going to try making my own with this mix which we use at home, some powdered soy milk and mini marshmallows. Since hiking food is generally not super great, I've found that adding little luxury items makes a big difference: dried blueberries and mango in our morning oatmeal, nice gluten free crackers and vegetarian pate for lunch, etc. We always bring freeze dried hiking dinners with us, since they are by far the easiest, and so far this brand has been the winner. 

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