The Mystery and Magic of Quinta da Regaleira- Sintra, Portugal

My second day in Portugal started out at about the same time as the first- that is, way too early at 6am since my body was still adjusting to the time change but it was nice to get a few hours to myself to just chill, send messages to friends and eventually eat a hearty breakfast before heading out to the first stop of the day, the historic estate of Quinta da Regaleira.

Quinta da Regaleria, also know as the Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” was one of the places I was most excited to get to visit, amid all the many others to be found there in Sintra it seemed to be the one with an air of beautiful mystery that just called to be explored. I arrived right after opening at 9:30am and lucked out to a mostly clear day and no tour crowds to be seen yet. I knew I wanted to explore the grounds and most especially to see the popular Initiation well.

I got turned around a few times because to say the estate is sprawling would be an understatement but eventually I found myself looking down at the inverted tower- it’s a “well” in name only as it’s never held water and was used for ceremonial purposes- and debating if I wanted to walk down the spiraling stairs.

I did eventually walk down carefully and the view from below up was definitely worth it. Getting out proved a little tricky as I followed one of the underground tunnels to a green lagoon area underneath a small waterfall and couldn’t quite figure out where to go from there. There was a path of rocks that led across the bright green water to the other side i wanted to go to and though it seems like a foolhardy idea, in my head this must be the way to go, so out I stepped.

It’s probably a minor miracle I didn’t fall into the green goo but I made it across…. only to see a sign from that side saying to please stay off the rocks. Flushed with mortification I carefully hurried away but unfortunately a couple of people had seen me crossing and were inspired to try and recreate my journey back across to the tunnels. I want to hope they didn’t fall in either but I had disappeared into the trees before they could turn to ask for advice.

After about two hours of just wandering around and exploring the grounds I finally took a break at the small cafe and enjoyed the quiet. The crowds were just starting to come in as I finished my break so I figured I should wrap things up with a tour through the main building and then head on to the next stop which was to be Queluz National Palace.

Sadly though, most of the areas inside the building were closed and all of the upstairs was under renovation so I didn’t get to see much or read up on the history of the estate. That was only a slight negative in terms of the whole visit though because the true beauty of Quinta da Regaleira is really in the grounds, all the hidden gems, odd statues and utterly impossible to resist trails leading to who knows what. I could have easily spent a good few more hours here but the rain I had managed to avoid that morning finally caught up with me and I decided the best bet was to move on and see one more place for the day.

The story of how I met the worlds nicest uber driver and how I got yet another phone number from a concerned Portuguese citizen wanting to make sure I was ok traveling alone is for the next post.

~m

Basilica Di San Marco and Museo Correr- Venice, Italy

Our second day in Venice started bright and early, with the determination to see as much as possible now that our leisurely day of walking around (and souvenir buying) had been allocated. After eating a pretty delicious breakfast at the hotel, we booked it to the Piazza San Marco to see if we could either get into the Doges Palace or the visit the Basilica Di San Marco first. The previous day when we had walked by the Basilica we had seen a line that rounded back towards the exit of the church and we had seen something similar with the Doges Palace, so we had decided that waking up early would be the best bet to get the chance to see more without having to be stuck in line for too long (and also cut down on costs by not buying skip the line tickets- they’re great when you’re more pressed for time but in general if you can just wake up early, it’s always nicer to save that money for other things).

We found only a couple of people in line to enter San Marcos at 9:15 (it opens at 9:30, and is free admission but they do check to make sure you’re not carrying large backpacks) and so we figured that was our best bet for getting a chance to explore the most famous of all churches in Venice and one of the most beautiful examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Photography is not allowed inside the Basilica but, I don’t think any photography would really do justice to how beautiful and just awe-inspiring the interior is. I’ve been to my fair share of churches (and I would continue to visit yet more on this trip) but the clear and heavy influence of Byzantine artifacts and style here- like the beautiful mosaic work in the floor- makes it a genuine favorite.

After exiting the main area of the church we decided to wander up and pay the fee to visit the accompanying museum thats housed on the upper level. I would highly recommend paying the 5€ ticket fee even if you’ve absolutely no interest in the historical context of the Basilica or the artwork it houses (although I’m judging you something fierce if you’re here at all and have no interest- the heck are you wasting your time like that for?) if only for the view of the square and part of the Doges Palace that you can only get if you go up to the second level.

After sitting down for a good bit to bask in the veritable splendor of the basilica, we took ourselves back downstairs and across the square, to the Museo Correr. We decided to do this rather than go straight to the Doges Palaces because we found out that if you bought tickets at the Museo Correr, they were also valid for the Palace and would enable you to skip the regular line, and since I had wanted to visit this museum anyways, it worked out perfectly.

The Correr Musuem encompasses both the art and history of Venice and it’s a fantastic primer for someone who’s never been before and has only a small idea of what Venetian history contains (I really only know the history of Venice as it intersected rather bloodily with Byzantine history, namely the 4th crusade). Though the Doges palace also contains plenty concerning the history of Venice, I would really recommend visiting the Correr Museum if you have the time during your visit here because the art on display is supremely interesting, the building itself is gorgeous and honestly there’s just so much to see here alone that we didn’t realize two hours had already passed until we checked the time.

We would have spent longer there, but for reasons not quite well explained to us, the Doge’s palace wouldn’t be open it’s full hours until 6pm that day, and would instead close much earlier. So we exited back onto the now very familiar Piazza San Marco and headed to the Doges Palace, for a taste of another kind of opulence.

~m

Quiet and Calm, Rust and Rot- Creede, CO











You know it’s not a roadtrip unless we end up exploring abandoned places…

Coming down the Bachelors Loop back towards Creede to head back to South Fork, we pulled off so I could take a better look at a structure partially obscured by trees and snow. Of course that ended up with me grabbing my camera and dragging myself (and the bf) to go up and over the hill, to better explore what looked more and and more interesting by the second.

I’m still not quite sure what this place is/was to be perfectly honest. When I looked at the Bachelor Loop map more close, it looks like this isn’t actually on there? The closest spot is #15, which is the Creede Cemetery (where I took the photo of that church from the end of my last post) but after that is #14 which is the Creede Scenic Overlook (again from where I took last posts photos). I remember passing a sign that said “Ponderosa” but thats about the best my memory serves me and no matter how much googling i’ve done, i’ve come up with nothing to give a name to this abandoned structure. To be sure, I also don’t remember any “Private Property” signs- which we saw a lot of while doing the other parts of the Bachelor Loop- and given the graffiti we saw inside plus the general air of disuse, i’m pretty sure I didn’t go stumbling through just anywhere.

What I do know for certain is that it was entirely unexpected but more wonderfully interesting and i’m always happy to get a chance to explore gems like this, even if I can’t always put a name to them.

~m

A Sea of Salt and Bombay Beach- the Salton Sea, California

Salton Sea, California
Salton Sea, California
the beach at Salton Sea, California
dead fish on the beach at Salton Sea, California
the Salton Sea, California
Bird on the Salton Sea, California
the waves at Salton Sea, California
Dead fish on the beach at Salton Sea, California


Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California

There’s been so many articles, think-pieces, documentaries, podcast episodes and yes, even blog-posts done about the Salton Sea that if I were to try and compile a list of them it would take me longer than it did to drive out there. So this post isn’t going to be me explaining how the Salton Sea happened (an engineering disaster) or it’s history of glamour and now near destitution. For that I’ll direct you to this article/podcast on the subject,A Sea Worth It’s Salt, produced by one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible.

This post is just me sharing the photos I took on the trip out there, and inviting anyone who has an interest in the odd, interesting or just plain weird to visit this area, and not just Sea. We came out here because i’ve had a strong fascination with the area since I still lived in California, starting when I was around 13 or so, and the pull this whole place has that makes weirdness converge like nowhere else. It’s less than an hours drive from Joshua Tree National Park, so it’s definetly easy to make it a day trip and while the whole beach was deserted when we visited, the visitor center staffed a wonderfully charming guy who put on some music while me and the bf browsed for postcards and who seemed genuinely passionate about working there.

We didn’t take a dip in the waters of the Sea before we left, because no matter how beach-y and idyllic it may look, your feet are actually crunching down on dead fish and tiny fishbones instead of just sand. The weather had skyrocketed up to the high 90’s as well, so we booked it out down the road towards Salvation Mountain, but pulled into Bombay Beach first, to check out the abandoned houses we’d read were scattered all over. To tell you the truth though, this place was definetly more populated than we expected and the further away from the main road we go, the more Mad Max things started to become. Our bright orange Jeep was definetly an outsider and before long we left to keep heading out towards our original destination.

Visit for the novelty, for the weirdness, even just for the sense of odd peacefulness you get as the water laps up the shore and you step over dead fish to look out across the great expanse. Maybe I just like weird places and maybe my wanting to visit since I was a teenager clouds my judgement a little, but both the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach were amazing places to visit and get to explore, that sense of being off the beaten path never felt so strong as when I was there.

~m

Badwater Basin- Death Valley National Park, California

After leaving Dante’s View and venturing down to Badwater Basin, I was inclined to think my whole trip to this park could be easily summed up as “unexpectedly weird”.  I’ve already mentioned how Death Valley was oddly whimsical in nature, given the names of some of the locations, but I probably should also have remembered this is still So-Cal, and So-Cal folks are nothing if not a weirdly awesome bunch.

We spotted at least two photographers shooting with their models using the basin as their backdrop, both models wearing flowing colorful scarfs that fluttered gently in the hot breeze. Also spotted were about a dozen interestingly dressed couples or dapperly attired dudes sporting selfie sticks to full take advantage of the epic location.

And what an epic location it was- not only did the temperature get slightly scorching and reflect heat back up off the white landscape but the sapphire colored sky above made everything feel more than a little surreal, in a really fantastic way. I would definitely recommend visiting earlier in the day, by the time we got here around 10am the temps were about 85F/29C and climbing, so definitely bring water and sunscreen, especially if you plan to walk out onto the basin. Sunglasses and hats are also highly recommended. It’s a very super popular location and tour buses arrive almost even 20 minuets so keep that in mind as well if you’ve a mind to visit, especially if you expect a bit more desolation and a bit less Coachella.

Basically, just stay chill in all ways possible and enjoy the experience of being at the lowest point in North America.

~m