Island Life

Words and Photographs by Emma Lavelle

Earlier this year, my feet began to itch and I found myself desperate to explore somewhere a little off the beaten track. My previous summer’s adventures in Iceland were still fresh in my memory and I craved empty roads, isolated hot springs and dramatic landscapes. With the budget tight I spent days searching for European destinations that offered everything I needed – and then I saw a friend’s Instagram photo and knew instantly where I was heading: the Azores.

If you haven’t come across this island chain before, I’m not surprised. Situated smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic, over two hours by plane from Portugal, they’re pretty isolated. As hopping between individual islands isn’t exactly cheap (or easy) I concentrated on the largest isle, São MiguelThe perfect juxtaposition of the geothermal landscapes of Iceland and a tropical, Lost World paradise, São Miguel appears like a mirage in the grey Atlantic. Filled with cloud-covered peaks, hot springs, dense greenery and waterfalls, it’s like nowhere else in Europe.

Hiring a car, my boyfriend and I based ourselves in the capital, Ponta Delgada, and split the island into easily digestible chunks to be explored over four days. Our adventures began in the island’s west, driving up steep roads in search of the elusive views of the Sete Cidades Lakes. Elusive because of the relentless mist, not for the lack of places to pull over and admire the scene. The twin lakes lie in a gigantic volcanic crater and local legend says that they were formed from the tears of a blue-eyed princess and her green-eyed lover, shed when her father would not allow them to marry. On a clear day, the lakes do indeed appear to be different colours, despite actually being one body of water divided by a road. Also worth admiring is Vista do Rei, where the ruins of a brutalist concrete hotel greets you through the mist. Then there’s the utterly sublime Boca do Inferno viewpoint, where the view of the crater, lakes and coastline in the distance is nothing short of spectacular.

A short journey from the lakes takes you to one of the island’s most alluring hot springs, Ponta da Ferraria, which is the only São Miguel hot spring found in the sea. A pink path leads first to a modernist changing hut, then down to a black volcanic beach where a ladder descends into a rock pool. As waves crash into the pool, visitors can hold a rope to steady themselves, enjoying the change in temperature as cold water rushes in to meet the warm.

Looking for the perfect end to a day exploring the west of the island? Visit the small coastal town of Mosteiro to feast on the seafood that São Miguel is famed for. My top tip: always order the octopus.

We also make a stop at Furnas, a geothermal town situated inside a volcanic crater. There are two areas boasting hot springs here – Poça da Dona Beija offers a series of small, relaxing natural jacuzzis, but it’s Parque Terra Nostra that shouldn’t be missed. Situated inside these majestic tropical gardens is a huge yellow-hued geothermal lake perfect for swimming. Furnas also offers a collection of smouldering caldeiras and anyone interested in local cuisine should head to the lake to see how traditional stew is made by burying pots underground for several hours. The earth steams here and the smell of sulphur seems to rise up into the thick mist enveloping the mountains above.

The final hot springs of São Miguel are found at the protected Caldeira Velha, where you must venture along a harrowing road and wander through thick tropical forest to reach the pools. Climb the hill to find a couple of small wooden changing huts before plunging, admiring a small waterfall trickling down from the cliff above. 

Across the island lie a network of hiking trails; those that snake along the numerous crater lakes are perhaps the most dramatic but don’t underestimate how strenuous these routes can be. If you prefer to admire the scenery from the comfort of a car, the drive along the coastal road that winds along the east coast is unmissable. Perhaps the most perilous and slowest road to navigate on São Miguel, the views of the ocean and towering cliffs are as dramatic as they get.

How to end a trip to São Miguel? Whale watching was at the top of our agenda but, alas, high winds thwarted our plans. If you visit during calmer weather conditions don’t miss a chance to take to the sea as these Atlantic islands are one of the best places in the world to spot a wide array of cetacean species including sperm whales, blue whales and dolphins. Other highlights for landlubbers include visiting the tea and pineapple and plantations, the latter featuring on almost all of the island’s restaurant menus.

São Miguel is like nowhere else in Europe. Hot springs, luscious  forests, towering cliffs, crater lakes, tea plantations and cascading waterfalls all collide to create an otherworldly landscape. My advice? Take a punt on an island not yet on the tourist trail – for there’s something rather magical about having a hot spring in the forest all to yourself. 

Be sure to check out more of Emma’s work here

Meteora Wandering

Words and photographs by Angela Terrell. 

Travel reveals many wonders; it may be an unexpected destination, a spectacular meal, curious wildlife or scenery that far surpasses any postcard (from any era). But it can also reveal something far deeper – a sense of our place in time. 

Greece, renowned for the relics of its ancient civilisations, is the perfect place to really grasp the tiny role we play in the narrative of human history. Either walking over hillsides of olive groves that have seen the toil and sweat of countless generations or through the remains of amphitheatres and temples, you can’t help but be moved by the thought you’re walking in the footsteps of those who’ve come before you, who like us, were both an integral part of the big picture, and fleeting snapshots in time.

So many destinations here have withstood the eons, but it’s Meteora in central Greece where the whispers of history hold special significance, and spending time here you feel lucky to be part of its rich and varied story. Here, massive pillars of conglomerate rock rise almost vertically from the valley floor, their shapes alluring from a distance and magically morphing into elephants, monkeys and even old men with furrowed brows as you draw closer. Searching for solitude, hermits once lived in the hollows of the cliff-faces, but it was monks, centuries later, in their desire to further connect with the Divine, who built an estimated 24 Eastern Orthodox monasteries atop these spectacular rock formations. Marvels of ancient engineering, they’re the perfect unity of nature, culture and history, their stalwart walls merging seamlessly with the cliff faces that plummet to the valley below. Even today the tranquil isolation the monks once sought is still palpable and, despite the tourists, you can envision the sense of protection these towers offered all those centuries ago.

There are roads to the six monasteries that remain, but walking up to them from the valley is not only an exercise in stamina but the chance to really feel the peace the area affords. From Kastraki and Kalambaka, the nearest towns, we trekked to Megalo Meteoro, Varlaam and Agia Triada, and soon after leaving the villages with their hotchpotch of colour and delightful gardens we were climbing through a combination of cool forest and sparse, rocky vegetation baked by the sun. Constantly dwarfed by the soaring monoliths, their monasteries haloed by the sun’s rays, we felt part of history as we walked, our steps further polishing the stone path already smooth from the footsteps of the monks, pilgrims and travellers who had been here before. Once at the top and seeing todays inhabitants tend the sanctuaries and their gardens, we took comfort in the thought that with such care Meteora’s story should become history’s future narrative.

It was later in the evening, watching the sunset from the rocks above Roussanou monastery and admiring the magnificence of the silhouetted shapes against the coloured sky, that we sought words for how we felt. Awed, humbled, amazed? Maybe they all suited. One thing for sure though, in the future there will be many more sitting in the same place watching the sky turn crimson who will in turn be playing their own small part in its epic story.

 

 

Through the Larder

Källagården

For our new book with New Heroes & Pioneers (click here to find out more), Tom Bunning and Jen Harrison Bunning ventured to Skåne in Southern Sweden to meet the chefs and producers who are transforming the region into a gourmand’s dream. While their chapter in Lodestars Anthology: Pathways is a delight (please ignore our proud-parent bias), many of their wonderful images and words simply didn’t fit in the book – there are just never enough pages. So we thought we’d share some of their unpublished gems here below while we think of summer and Sweden’s foodie delights . . . 

. . . Hörte Brygga’s indoor kitchen is integrated into the dining spaces, the grilling shed with its up-cycled-rubbish-bin-smoker runs out to the terrace bar, which takes you on down to the sea, or back into the kitchen where the chefs and staff work amidst the guests, stopping every so often to change the record on the turntable. The menu is small and ever-changing, inspired by the best of whatever Martin can get from his producers, or pull from his generous store of pickled goods . . .

. . . Bookings can be made from March through to December for intimate suppers, tasting menu feasts and special evenings with guest chefs, but the rest of the time Hörte Brygga operates on an ‘open to all’ basis. By abandoning lunch reservations, encouraging people of all ages and from all walks of life to drop by for coffee, drinks, food, or a browse through the shelves of the farm shop in the newly-converted boat-house, Emma and Martin’s singular vision of a community-focused, produce-led, friendly place to eat has been more than just realised; it’s a triumph . . .

. . . Arriving at Villa Strandvägen is like stepping into a deliciously relaxed home from home. Designed in 1899 by acclaimed Danish-born architect Peter Boisen, this unassuming wood-panelled country home sits in a quiet corner of southern Sweden’s most southerly tip, amidst lush gardens and surrounding woodland . . .

With its seven cosy bedrooms, black and white photos from the owners’ personal collections lining the walls, and intimate drawing room-cum-kitchen-cum-dining room bedecked in New England-inspired florals and stripes, Villa Strandvägen delivers Swedish costal luxury with oodles of homely pleasure and a generous dash of romanticism . . .

. . . Nature-lover and hiking-enthusiast Helena is a modern farmer, conscious of her duty to handle the land and its offerings with a light touch, but also of her responsibility to keep her grandparents’ legacy alive. In addition to her core role as farmer and producer, she runs a bed and breakfast and local tours for visitors, sells meat and skins from her flock, and performs sheep-whispering on her apple-obsessed beasts . . .

. . . She is also savvy, for Källagården, together with some 90 other growers from relatively small farms in Skåne and its surrounding counties, is a member of the Äppelriket collective: an outfit that stores, sells and markets its members’ fruit as a single enterprise. By clubbing together, saving on storage space, packing costs, and labour, Äppelriket gives its members the power in numbers required to compete with bigger, more commercial farms on price and production, and the strength to protect themselves from grocers’ price wars. All in all, very simple, very effective, very fair, and very Swedish . . .

. . . The family-run Spirit of Hven distillery produces organic pot-distilled vodka, gin, rum, eau de vie and schnapps, much of it made from grain grown on the Island of Ven, but it is their single malt island whisky that they’re best-known for. Whisky enthusiasts can come here to stay in the 4* hotel, take a tour around the world-class distillery, or just to while away an evening in the Backafallsbyn bar with its some 500 different whiskies from the best distilleries around the world . . .

. . . Here at Spirit of Hven they’re practicing the art of precision spirit production. Mashing, fermenting, distilling, oak-cask ageing and bottling all takes place under one roof. The contents of bright copper stills bubble away in the distilling chamber, barrels are racked in neat rows in the adjoining cask room to age – some hooked-up to speakers for a dose of radio-wave maturation experimentation. Next door, bottle necks are hand-dipped in simmering wax to give them their distinctive seal, whilst upstairs in the laboratory, test-tubes spin and sampling machines blink continuously. This is the seriously scientific craft of spirit-making, and distillers from all over the world send samples to Hven’s laboratory to undergo their rigorous analysis process . . .

. . . Next stop, Malmö Saluhall: a bustling market hall that’s home to grocers, butchers, florists, fish-mongers, ice-cream parlours and food stalls in a formerly dilapidated 19th-century freight depot. At Papi’s open kitchen and bar we sampled spicy Fegatelli and damp cellar-hung mortadella procured from ham rock-star Massimo Spigaroli’s farm, soft strips of lardo and home-cured prosciutto, accompanied by hunks of chewy bread and a glass of very good red wine. Saluhall is busy but not overcrowded: it’s rather like our beloved Borough Market in miniature and without the hoards of tourists, and we could have stayed here all day, chatting wine and food with the guys over the bar and pottering around the stores. But next on the agenda was a not-to-be-missed date with the nation’s top pastry chef, so off we went to the old Rosengård district for our first ice-cream of the year with Joel Lindqvist . . . 

. . . We stepped off a busy main throughway into the serene Mat- & Chokladstudion world of grey-limed walls, birch shelves bearing assorted glass jars and beautiful books, with a vast oak tasting table at its centre. But this is no colourless land: this is Willy Wonka chocolatiering Skandi-style . . .

. . . There is no menu or wine list at Bloom in the Park. The menu is inspired by seasonal ingredients and changes each day according to what chef Titti Qvarnström can procure from her band of trusted producers, and from her own garden.

In the small patch of land around her home in one of Malmo’s sleepy suburbs, Titti has created a kitchen garden of dreams. With basket and scissors in-hand, we trail Titti around the garden as she gathers hyssop, goosefoot, wild strawberries, rose petals, elderflower and more, stopping here and there to smell or taste from our harvest, chattering all the way. One last stop to poach a few sprigs of mockorange over a neighbour’s wall and then we are on our way back to the city for lunch in a 60s shopping centre (us) and prep (Titti) . . .

. . . We left Bloom to wander back to our hotel, stopping for a nightcap in the buzzing Möllevången district. The Bloom card with its QR code to look up the menu and wine list for the evening sat on the table between us, but our phones stayed in our pockets and the menu remained unknown. For us, the magic of this particular meal could not be confined to a list of ingredients or a description of plating. Our evening at Bloom would remain the icing atop a perfect day, flavoured by the people we’d met, scented by our afternoon in our chef’s garden: its tastes, smells and textures committed firmly to memory . . .

Extracted from the full article, commissioned for Lodestars Anthology: Pathways.

 

 

Israel – Fahrenheit Fair Enough

Photographs and words by Cihan Bacak – @cihanbacak

I bought my new camera earlier this summer, just 48 hours before boarding a plane to Israel. The lens was as impressive as the Tel Aviv temperature and I was itching to document the light and life of a country I had read so much about. I had a week in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Bethlehem and Jericho, and although I lost a few kilos in my attempt to capture this series under the Middle Eastern sun, I cannot wait to go back.

Coming from Istanbul (a huge city with 17 millions inhabitants) Tel Aviv was like a breath of fresh air. I loved the fact that people de-layered right after work and walked straight to the beach. You don’t even need loud music or alcohol to party in the city; a late-night bike ride by the beach in Old Jaffa was heavenly enough. The fact that I hailed from Istanbul roused Israeli interest and I, in return, couldn’t help but feel jealous – everything just seemed so effortless, chic and laid-back here, in both modern Tel Aviv and the Old City. Perhaps that has something to do with the allure of foreign shores …

Later I spent time in the desert by the Jordan border and the light here was something else. Although I strive to see new places each time I travel, the urge to return to this place continues to grow. In that desert vastness I found a different kind of tranquility that shocked me. I never felt like an outsider in Israel, nor did it feel like my first or last time in the Holy Land. All I know is that there is much, much more to capture.

 

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.