Back To The California Coast

Below is an extract from our new book with New Heroes & Pioneers, to be released just in time for Christmas. You can learn more about the project and order a copy by clicking here.

Enamoured with foreign landscapes and the promise of escape, it is difficult to resist the romance of distant shores. Some of these yearnings may remain idle, little more than wanderlust-infused daydreams, while others are enough to see us journey into the unknown. Yet, as glorious as the new and undiscovered may be, once we have explored a destination (living like a local and venturing beyond the tourist trail), it’s not uncommon to find that there are certain spots we can’t help but return to. While first encounters are marvellous, following a pathway back to the familiar can be just as inspiring.

Photographer Virginia Woods-Jack has visited the Californian coast on many occasions, enthralled by its natural wonders and soulful inhabitants. Seeing her depictions of Venice Beach, with its laid-back surfing vibes, and the mellow scenes of the Encinitas area, it’s not difficult to imagine why.

From her first visit to these glowing shores, Virginia felt like she was coming home; somewhere she hadn’t been for a while that was familiar nonetheless. With the beauty of the scenes and the calm of the people observed remaining constant, each visit was a reminder of that first encounter – a chance to once again capture smiles, soft light and rolling waves. However, Virginia’s lens was also drawn to the subtle changes in the landscape, the shifts in mood and colour that arose with the turning seasons. Over time these changes helped bring the setting to life, elevating it from mere ‘holiday destination’ into something alive and ever-evolving. And so, with each return Virginia asked herself the same question – what would life be like if this was truly home?

It is by revisiting certain destinations that we are able to reflect on the pathways we have chosen: where we find ourselves, where we have been and who we wish to be. From here, far from the constraints of the everyday, we can do more than recall fond memories or sate our inner vagabond. We can instead focus on the minute, appreciate the altering patterns and perfection of nature and plot future journeys surrounded by a setting that remains strangely familiar. We know the scenes before us will transform before we return, and we might too – the sense of possibility forever promising.

Words by Yvette Edwards and photographs by Virginia Woods-Jack.

 

 

 

Aro Hā

Translating to ‘in the presence of divine breath’, Aro Hā is a health and wellness retreat sure to inspire, invigorate and surprise.

Something has gone awry in our modern world. At a time when so much exists to make things easier, how is it that everyone seems so terribly busy? Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the art of taking a break, of disconnecting, of being in the moment. So when I discovered Aro Hā, a wellness retreat nestled in the sun-kissed mountains south of Glenorchy, I began to wonder – could this be the antidote to our increasingly frenetic lives?

Despite Aro Hā’s promise of quietude, I found myself hesitant to go. You see, I was a bit of a wellness sceptic. Perhaps most of us are, an unfortunate side effect of that aforementioned busyness. But, as with most things in life, if you give the unfamiliar a chance, it will repeatedly surprise you.

As it turns out, such nervousness was unwarranted for it’s remarkably easy to embrace the Aro Hā routine. Each morning I woke for yoga to the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl, while stars still filled the late-autumn sky. The view from the studio’s window – through which you can spy pre-dawn clouds hanging over Lake Wakatipu – may make poses wobbly but such faux pas are understandable. Readjusting for a better view of the sunrise is sure to complicate the downward dog of even the most experienced yogi.

Then I’d hike – uphill more often than not but wondrous nonetheless – before restoring my aching limbs in the Aro Hā spa. While this space may come with Nordic overtones when it comes to design, watching a trio of cows graze on a nearby hill while soaking in the outdoor plunge pool, you can’t doubt where in the world you are. Afternoons are filled with pilates, meditation, dynamic playground sessions (where you break a sweat moving to mighty fine tunes) and, the pièce de résistance, a daily massage. There are also classes in the kitchen, an open space where culinary questions are encouraged, flavours delight and edible flowers are grown in abundance.

Which brings me to the meals; colourful, nutrient-rich creations that demonstrate just how artful raw, vegan cuisine can be. Capable of keeping my penchant for cheese, caffeine and alcohol at bay, everything here tastes a little bolder and looks a little brighter with as many ingredients as possible grown on site.

Such repose and splendour wouldn’t be possible without a remarkable team. The friendly, knowledgeable staff – their skin aglow and their energy limitless – are a testament to the Aro Hā lifestyle; and the most glowing of all is Co-Founder Damian Chaparro, for whom Aro Hā is more than just a labour of love. He’s built a hideaway that showcases the environment (this luxury, eco-friendly complex simply couldn’t exist anywhere else) and remains on site to guide guests through their experience. He cares, smiles and informs, and acts as if every personal discovery is the first he’s been privy to.

Encouraged to abandon technology and lose track of time, I experienced periods of euphoria, followed by moments of exhaustion, somehow arriving at the end of my six day escape at a restful, more accepting place. For you see, odd things happen on retreats. You’ll probably cry and you might not know why. And if you do, the cause will seem far more conquerable come morning. And while the experience may lead to a physical change, what’s fascinating is how open you become, how much you’re willing to share. At Aro Hā you scale mountains, cross lakes, hike along icons (the Routeburn Track is as stunning as everyone says), dance blindfolded and embrace your inner child, leaving with a sense of calm you may have never thought possible. Scepticism be damned.

This piece appeared in the New Zealand issue of Lodestars Anthology – you can order a copy here.

New Zealand Outtakes

At Lodestars Anthology magazine we adore our travelling contributors. Every issue we are sent beautiful words, images and illustrations that inspire wanderlust and remind us just how many talented folks are out there creating in the world. One of the biggest challenges however is selecting just a few of the images sent to us – we may be given 30 shots from a photographer, yet we only have 6 pages to fill. So, we’ve decided to share some of the unpublished gems from our latest New Zealand magazine, which you can buy here … along with Liz’s editor’s letter. Yet again, proof that digital and print can work rather wonderfully together. 

I must confess, this is the part of the magazine I always face last – a final cathartic hurdle before breath is held, pages are approved and a new issue is sent into the world. And while I am writing this, yet again, when all stories have been submitted, it explores an idea that occurred to me early on in my Aotearoa tour; an odyssey that took in as much of the South Island as time and geographic limitations would allow.

I wondered in those early travelling days what I should dedicate this editor’s letter to – how to best define the mood and grandeur of this great island nation. I could have waxed lyrical about its beauty (the work of a dramatic past and pioneering spirits), its residents’ creativity, or the friendliness that accompanies every interaction. There was food, wine, landscapes and adventure. But, after spending a few days around the north-east coast, none of this seemed quite right.

In November 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikoura. And, while New Zealand is a country well acquainted with geological instability, this was different. The township of Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching, coastline and community spirit, yet five months after the incident it was the ravages of the quake that stood out. There was a quietness, with tourists scarce and many buildings abandoned – in some cases the structural damage was immediately apparent but in others it was difficult to fathom why their doors remained closed. Locals described how they’d been cut off from the rest of the country (the highway from Christchurch had only just re-opened and the road north to Marlborough remained impassable) and the heartbreak felt when the bumper summer season they depended on simply didn’t happen. It couldn’t. No-one could get there.

With this part of the South Island continuing to dust itself off, I took a moment to consider why I am so drawn to travel. While it may be a mode of discovery, the chance to see unchartered terrain and encounter icons, it also comes with a sense of purpose. In places like Kaikoura, damaged through no fault of their own, the one thing we can do as travellers to aid their recovery is visit. If we are lucky enough to be able to see the world, and willing to do so, we should take in these communities, play our part and, more often than not, find something remarkable in the process.

So book your New Zealand ticket – as the following pages will attest it’s a staggeringly magnificent place. Not only will this county soothe your soul, leave you speechless and make you yearn for more, but I know a town that will thank you for it.

Images by Angela Terrell, Evi Ritter, Virginia Woods-Jack, Liz Schaffer and Georgina Skinner.

Spanish Shapes

It may be an utter cliche but, well, it’s true – photos really do say 1,000 words. We thought that with this post we’d keep things simple and let the photographs of Tom Bunning speak for themselves and, while the combination may seem odd (Andalsuian ponies and the roads of Mallorca), we clearly just have a thing for Spanish shapes.

You can see more of Tom’s work here – and in the pages of Lodestars Anthology of course!

“Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir

For more of Tom’s work visit www.tombunning.com.

Mount Takao

Photo essay by Lucy Saunders.

The climb up Mount Takao offered a beautiful escape from the 36 degree heat of Tokyo (when people say summer in Japan can be humid, they’re not lying) and the surrounding trees (illuminated as they were by dappled sunlight) provided welcome patches of shade. That said, even at this height the heat was blistering – which no doubt played a part in making the mountainside appear entirely isolated. It felt peaceful, almost timeless. There was a quietness that felt worlds away from the bustling city I had left only hours before.

I saw in the distance, swooping in the trees, a swish of white, like some mountain spirit celebrating the sun. Bug catchers were dancing around the tree trunks with their nets, sliding down the steep mountain slopes or clinging to branches as if it were second nature. I watched them for hours, enthralled by their agility, and they paused to show me their collections – beetles, butterflies, cicadas and moths presented in carefully selected boxes, handled with the upmost care.

There was something particularly beautiful about being in such a treasured, spiritual place and watching locals move through the setting as if it were entirely their own. Everyone I spoke to seemed to know one tree species from another, the name of each insect, where they sleep and exactly how to hold and care for them. They were also careful to ensure that they gave something back to the land each time it was kind enough to bestow a treasure upon them. Shrines and temples were found along my walk up Mount Takao and at each you could stop to pray – following the advice of smiling locals – taking part in an ancient Shinto practice that felt as old as these mountains. 

Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous religion – one that, rather than following a set ruler or doctrine, focuses on the concepts of purity and respect. There is a deep admiration for nature and its power, with the natural world being the domain of kami, deities that can take almost any form and add a sense of order to our somewhat chaotic world. They may be in a tree, stream or the mist itself.

These spirits watch over the humans of the city below, as they always have. And although it may seem to be a strange concept at first, when you sit and embrace these surroundings you can’t help but sense that nature is somehow watching out for you. Being in a natural location this powerful had a very interesting effect. You come to appreciate your place in the world anew. Indeed, even when I descended Mount Takao and returned to the man-made brilliance of Tokyo I couldn’t help but notice little pockets of natural beauty and, pausing to acknowledge their power, found that Japan felt more and more like home. 

You can see more of Lucy’s work on her website: www.lucy-janephotography.com or over on Instagram @lucyjanesaunders.

Path of the Gods

Words by Angela Terrell

For beauty, beaches and lemons, look no further than the Amalfi Coast, the Italian seaside escape synonymous with summer and the sweet life.

We set off as the sun’s soft rays kissed the mountaintops, its tendrils turning the spectacular limestone cliffs golden. Birds heralded the waking day while church bells welcomed early worshippers. Having ably contended with the 534 steep stairs down to the local beach the day before, we thought a quick 1,000 step climb skywards before breakfast would be a breeze.

Our jaunt rapidly became a quest. Stairs hewn from ancient stone rose tortuously, clinging to the land like veins on the heart, ours soon pounding with effort. We rounded corners breathlessly seeking the next Station of the Cross, a constant reminder of the area’s sanctity, but under the rising sun a tantalising promise of sublime destinations and a chance to pause. Old ladies burdened with shopping bags put us to shame by stoically climbing alongside us, stopping only momentarily to pray at grottos along the way.

Finally, with feet firmly on the ground yet spirits soaring, we reached the Sentiero degli Dei, the Path of the Gods. Still used as a mule track by locals who live and farm at these perilous heights, it’s from here that the true magnificence of the Amalfi Coast is revealed. Linking Bomerano with Nocelle, the route passes through olive groves, Mediterranean scrub and chestnut woods, with scattered shepherding ruins adding poignancy to the scene.

Life here continues unchanged by the passage of time. We listened to goat bells echoing across the cliff face and families chattering as they tended vines steadfastly growing on terraces sculpted to provide precious arable land in this dramatic landscape for each generation. Spirit and tradition are carved into the hills themselves.

The path appears to float above the world in an almost celestial way. Far below is the glistening Tyrrhenian and the rickety wooden handrail, although precarious, guided tentative footsteps as hypnotising views were absorbed. Dramatic plunging cliffs line the coast and Capri’s Faraglioni Rocks and the Li Galli Islands can be glimpsed against the horizon where the azure sky and turquoise water meet. Positano nestles peacefully across the bay, immense mountains dwarfing the brilliant buildings all seemingly piled upon each other and cascading down to the sea. Below is a flurry of activity with fishing boats and luxury cruisers leaving artistically patterned wakes swirling in the water.

With this remarkable panorama etched into our psyche and the sun high we turned back towards Casa
Angelina in search of a well-deserved breakfast. Enjoying one of the best views on the coast, this boutique hotel hugs the mountainside at the end of a twisting driveway that tests even the bravest of Italian drivers. Here cutting edge design is paramount and, instead of appearing incongruous in the ancient landscape, the hotel’s clean lines, all-white interiors and soaring windows are a perfect framework for the canvas of natural beauty beyond.

Created to be a relaxing yet opulent villa for guests to enjoy, Casa Angelina also showcases the owner’s private art collection. An involvement in toy manufacturing could explain the whimsical nature of the objects d’art, vibrantly playful Murano glass sculptures and Impressionist-inspired paintings that adorn this tranquil space. Pieces such as smiling moon-men lamp bases and flower-filled table tops add to the enjoyment of staying here – and the sense you’re residing within an ever-changing art installation.

Pristine white furnishings maintain the calming palette in the expansive rooms. Beachside fishermen’s cottages have been converted into apartments for those requiring solitude, but no matter the accommodation, never ending sea views ensure constant tranquillity and ‘barefoot luxe’ encourages you to feel simultaneously extravagant and content.

The outdoor terrace of Un Piano Nel Cielo Restaurant allows meals to be enjoyed above soaring seagulls. Breakfast, designed to be brunch, meets all tastes, but after our arduous morning we particularly enjoyed tasting creamy fior di latte, a mozzarella crafted by locals residing in the hills we had just climbed. Later, as lights from Positano twinkle across the water, this window to the world transforms into a candlelit haven where chef Vincenzo Vanacore wields his magic – the La Gavitella tasting menu is a must.

Little can prepare you for the spectacular beauty of the Costiera Amalfitana. This 50 kilometre stretch of coastline claims to be Europe’s most beautiful and it’s hard to disagree. Cantilevered takes on new meaning here with glamorous hotels and bougainvillea-bedecked villas suspended mid-air. Driving along the corniche with its 1,000 hairpin bends is literally breathtaking and the bus drivers who negotiate precipitous corners over plummeting cliffs are miracle-workers; although you’re unlikely to see them bat an eyelid.

A maritime republic once rivalling Venice, the town of Amalfi was virtually destroyed by a tsunami in 1343, but young aristocrats following the Grand Tour of the 18th century ensured its rediscovery. Today tourism merges with the age old lifestyle as bright orange beach umbrellas flutter over timber fishing boats readied for the morning’s catch and tourists sip Campanellos alongside chess playing locals.

A melange of buildings flow down the cloud-capped mountainside to the bustling harbour and the glazed majolica roof of Cattedrale di Sant’Andrea dominates the town. Piazza Duomo is the place to watch the passing parade. Cyclists fill water bottles from the resplendent fountain’s sculpted marble breasts and gelato is savoured whilst sitting on the imposing staircase leading to the Duomo’s golden façade.

Following a map is pointless; roaming is the way to discover the real beauty. Cobbled streets become passageways wending their way betwixt and between pastel-hued buildings and, as you wander under fluttering washing, the spirited sounds of life echo off timeworn walls.

Many charming towns adorn this coastline but Praiano, where we had embarked on our adventurous morning climb, is a gem. Almost tourist-free, this former fishing village near Positano is the only town on the coast where the sun is enjoyed morning to dusk and fiery sunsets are watched from either of its two beaches, La Praia or La Gavitella. Life at the beach is as bright as the bougainvillea. Local boys dance, Campari in hand, to music bouncing over the waves, hoping to draw the attention of girls sun-bathing nearby. Watermelon hour sees the ceremonial ‘cutting of the melon’, everyone sharing in the dripping sweetness of the fruit before washing off the excess in the warmth of the sea. Cosmopolitan life is the essence of this rocky hamlet.

Atrani is reached by following a meandering pathway from Amalfi. Its timeless charm is pervasive, the beach welcoming and the cheerful piazza full of cafes serving limoncello and local delicacies. From the piazza narrow alleyways lead up to the Valley of the Dragon path. Steep, winding and sometimes filled with grazing goats, it takes you through terraces of luscious lemons and sun-ripened vegetables to lofty Ravello.

For centuries artists, writers, musicians and Hollywood stars have been drawn to this fantastic location – and the charm is evident. The town square appears to be perched on top of the world, and from one of its many cafes you can savour a spritz and watch the promenading of locals and tourists alike. The music-centric Ravello Festival takes place in the showpiece gardens of Villa Rufolo, once boasting more rooms than days in the year. Flowerbeds, palm trees and newly discovered Roman baths adorn the picturesque gardens, many of which seem to float like clouds over the sea far below.

The magical gardens of Villa Cimbrone are designed in the English aesthetic to reinterpret the Roman villa. Mixing exotic and local vegetation with fountains and nymphs, they are both theatrical and grandiose, and the Avenue of Immensity leading to the Terrace of Infinity are breathtaking examples of redefined Roman opulence. With such an evocative name the Terrace of Infinity, adorned with marble busts suspended high over the Gulf of Salerno, has a magnificence that is in no way understated. The view indeed appears infinite and standing by the balustrade you feel insignificant yet strangely calm.

The Amalfi Coast is more than picture-perfect, it has an intensity that seduces. The colours of the landscape are deeper, the expansive sky is bluer and the mesmerising panoramas wider. And of course the stairs are definitely steeper.

Loch Lomond

As lovers of literature, escape and Scotland in general we were delighted to come across a new series of literary guides for travellers from I.B.Tauris. When it comes to independent travel, with a dash of history, these books are sure to inspire a spot of creative wanderlust. Below is an extract from Garry MacKenzie‘s guide to Scotland, a delightful read that explores the literary allure of Loch Lomond. We’ve run it with a selection of images from our own Scotland magazine – oh to return to those bonnie braes! 

Jules Verne, the famed French author of Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, loved Scotland and even claimed Scottish ancestry. He set three of his lesser-known novels in the country. The earliest of these is a fictionalised account of his own travels in Scotland in 1859, a work that lay forgotten for well over a century before being rediscovered and published in France in 1989. In 1992, Janice Valls-Russell’s English translation, titled Backwards to Britain, was released. Verne’s impressions of Scotland are narrated by a character named Jacques Lavaret, who travels with a friend from Edinburgh to Glasgow and then on to the Trossachs, visiting landmarks such as Arthur’s Seat, Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. Jacques, like Verne, is passionately excited about being in Scotland, to the extent that he even waxes lyrical about a steam-operated sausage machine in a Glasgow butcher’s window: ‘“What a people,” Jacques exclaimed. “What genius to apply steam to charcuterie! No wonder the British are the masters of the world!”’ Upon reaching Loch Lomond, the two travellers sail from Balloch, on the southern shore, and Jacques can’t help being reminded of ‘his favourite novels’, including Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, and anyone seeking similarities between Verne’s writing and that of Scott will and them in this description of the loch:

The first, overwhelming impression of Loch Lomond is of countless delightful islands of every shape and size imaginable. The Prince Albert weaved its way between them, skirting their rugged outlines and revealing a myriad different countrysides: here a fertile plain, there a solitary glen, elsewhere a forbidding ravine bristling with age-old rocks. Ancient legends clung to every shore, and the history of this land is written in these gigantic characters of islands and mountains.

The large area of Loch Lomond, and its position on the Highland Boundary Fault, mean that it feels less like a single body of water than like a series of interconnected lochs with changing characteristics. At its southern end it’s broad and surrounded by fields and parkland. As Verne points out, there are numerous islands, some of which are inhabited and many of which can be visited on boat trips. The south of Loch Lomond is busy with yachts and jet skis; on a sunny day the villages and pubs on its shores are filled with Glaswegians escaping the city.

The northern half of the loch is very different. About a third of the way up it narrows, and slopes rise on either side for almost 1,000 metres to form the mountains of Ben Lomond and Ben Vorlich. Lochside fields give way to wooded crags and banks of ferns. There are fewer pleasure boats on the water. On the eastern bank the road ends altogether at the hamlet of Rowardennan and only a rough footpath continues northwards to another settlement, Inversnaid. In Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, the rough country to the east of Loch Lomond is the territory of the eponymous outlaw, a real historical figure whom Scott describes as a Robin Hood character, a ‘kind and gentle robber’. Rob Roy MacGregor lived in the early eighteenth century and was both a cattle drover and, latterly, a cattle thief who earned a living by rustling. He’s the presiding spirit, but not really the hero, of Scott’s novel. Instead much of the action follows Frank Osbaldistone, a young Englishman caught up in intrigue involving Jacobites.

Such was the popularity of Scott’s Highland romance that countless tourists sought out its landscapes for themselves. ‘We ought to traverse the district novel in hand,’ says one Victorian guidebook of ‘Rob Roy’s country’, searching for locations such as ‘the precise spot where Francis Osbaldistone for a moment pressed the flushed cheek of Diana Vernon’. In the summer of 1817, the year before the novel was published, Scott came here himself, visiting ‘Rob Roy’s Cave’, not far from Inversnaid. The cave is one of countless landmarks in the area associated with Rob, an indication of his reputation as a folk hero. It’s allegedly one of his hideouts, though there might be little truth in this – it’s really just a cleft in a pile of boulders, and for visitors today the solitude of the location is more rewarding than the cave itself. Scott himself may have been disappointed by the cave, as he didn’t even mention it in his novel. For those seeking the real Rob Roy, a good place to start is Balquhidder, a quiet village an hour’s drive north of Aberfoyle, at the eastern end of Loch Voil. Rob Roy farmed at Balquhidder and his grave lies in the village church.

For hikers on the West Highland Way, the 100-mile footpath from Glasgow to Fort William, Inversnaid is something of an oasis, the only natural stopping point on the lochside on the rough path north from Rowardennan, and the site of a hotel and a cosy bunkhouse. In 1881 a young Jesuit priest based in Glasgow, Gerard Manley Hopkins, stopped briefly at Inversnaid. Hopkins found life in the big city oppressive and came north with a yearning for wilderness. His poem ‘Inversnaid’, with his distinctive rhythmical stresses, is a brilliant evocation of the sounds, colours and movements of the waterfall at the edge of this hamlet where Arklet Water cascades into Loch Lomond:

This darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the eece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

[. . .]

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wilderness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Today a bridge crosses in front of the waterfall, affording spectacular views. Inversnaid itself is difficult to reach – visitors must either walk here from Rowardennan, navigate a long and twisting road from Aberfoyle or take a ferry from Tarbet on the western shore. As a proto-environmentalist Hopkins would be pleased that Inversnaid now lies within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which was established in 2002.

 

There are less than 30 copies of the Lodestars Anthology Scotland magazine remaining and you can grab your copy here.

To get your hands on one of these brilliant guides from I.B. Tauris click here, the code Lodestars30 will also get you 30 percent off. Brilliance.