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I knew that Sunday, as we parked the car overlooking a hay field in the lush green of the Basque countryside and walked by a garden leading to a red-tiled farmhouse restaurant, that our lunch at Mugaritz was going to be good.

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Douro Valley

Years ago when people thought only les vins français were worth drinking, our neighbour Jim started a little company importing wine from Spain and Portugal. When his son visited this month and inventoried the remaining bottles, I thought back to two Januaries ago and a eulogy at Jim’s Celebration of Life. “I knew nothing about wine,” said his business partner Scott. “But Jim told me wine regions attract interesting characters and convinced me, via our many trips together, that wherever you have good wine, you’re also certain to find good food.” Now that’s worth thinking about when you’re planning a trip somewhere isn’t it?

Which took us to Portugal’s Douro Valley, designated UNESCO World Heritage status in 2001.

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Lake Manapouri

“Did you like Milford Sound?”

That’s the first question you’ll be asked when you tell people you were on the South Island of New Zealand for three weeks.

When Magellan and I answer meekly, “We didn’t go there,” we’re met with the same dumbfounded expression you’d give to people visiting the Rockies and admitting they didn’t go to Lake Louise.

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Canaan Peak Grand Staircase

If you think of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSE) as a staircase, imagine it now only half as wide—the new “Liddle” Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Last week we addressed Trump’s December 4 proclamation to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by 85%. On the same day, he cut our favourite place in Utah—Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—by 46%, from 2,000,000 acres to 997,490 acres.

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Talasnal Bar

“It’s hidden under this vase,” said the young man, pulling out the house key. “A typical Portuguese hiding place,” he laughed.

“Good thing we’re sharing the house with a couple who got here before dark and know what’s going on,” said Magellan as we introduced ourselves to Gil and Sebastião.

Until we arrived in the abandoned village of Talasnal half an hour earlier and called Paulo, the house’s owner, (who lives 50 kilometres away) to find out where the key was, we didn’t know we’d be sharing the house. The news didn’t exactly excite me.

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Faro Cabo Vilan Lighthouse

Have you heard about the Costa da Morte on the Galician coast of northwestern Spain? Until a few months ago when planning a hiking trip to Spain’s Picos de Europa combined with our first visit to Portugal we hadn’t. Looking like a jagged heart atop Portugal, the Costa da Morte seemed like a good waypoint. Instead, it was a highlight—the subject of our first blog about this five-week trip. Life in Camariñas, the town with slogan The Heart of the Death Coast, grabbed us by the heartstrings.

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