Friday, August 29, 2008

A Short Pause in London

I'm here between adventures, preparing for my last one (upcoming) before I return to the States. More on that later.

For now, I'm just enjoying where I am. I do love this city, London. It's probably the only city in the world I've visited where I think I could be happy actually living in the city itself. Below was a part of my experience two nights ago strolling along the south bank of the River Thames.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Favorite Places on Earth

After we'd flown back to the mainland and most had gone separate ways in Barcelona, Nicole and I returned by bus with German to his home just outside of Bilbao, Spain. After we arrived, we discussed what to do with our few remaining hours of daylight.

I said that I had just one request. I wanted to visit the bar I'd frequented so often two years ago in Bilbao's port town, Getxo while part of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's shore team preparing his boat for his solo round the world race.

Once we arrived and I sat sipping my beer at El Patron (The Skipper), I was overcome with the sense that this was one of my favorite places on earth. It was here that my adventure with Sir Robin blossomed into such a collection of new friends. Not twenty feet from where I sat that evening was the table where I met German, Rafa, and Saioa, who I have come to value so much and through whom I've gained a whole new world of friends and experiences in Spain (and elsewhere).

It was here that I'd slump into a chair with a beer at the end of each day in October of 2006, exhausted but glowing with supreme satisfaction in my soul from the combination of productive hard work and a sense of being an enviable part of something grand.

I've already commited to support another remarkable human being in the next edition of the Velux 5 Oceans in 2010.

When I'd first met German at that bar in 2006, he'd asked me what else I'd seen of the region in the two weeks we'd been docked in Getxo. "This bar is as far as I've got," I told him. "We don't have the time or energy to venture any further."

Sipping my beer again in Getxo today, long removed from Sir Robin's voyage around the world and my own that followed, it was clear to me that the joy of a location isn't really about the location itself but what's associated with it. Getxo and the region of Northern Spain is beautiful, no doubt, but all my strongest joys seemed to end up coming from the people and the experiences we share, such as those I've found in the Spanish port of Getxo.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Balearic Islands

Last year's week of sailing around with Croatia with German (at the wheel here last week) and others was so enjoyable that Jamie and German started planning another trip while I was away at sea. I was the host of last year's adventure. This time around, German was the host and the location was the Balearic Islands.

I had a lot of empathy for him, knowing the weight of responsibility I felt I needed to bear last year for not only everyone's enjoyment, but their safety as well.

We had nine people on a boat designed for seven. No matter. German and I slept on the deck each night.

Clockwise around the table starting with me: Jamie, Mike, Nicole, Ander, Odei, Narea (partially obscured), Donna, and German. The tenth, Cristina, lives in Palma and joined us only on land at the beginning and end of our week.

We visited the coasts of both Mallorca and Menorca, employing a night sail to cross the channel between the two islands.

I'm extremely grateful to German for undertaking the organization of this trip. Next year's is already in the planning, only this time it will be Jamie's turn to work out all the details. German and I, the only sailors, will just be laborers...quite happily.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Laragne, France

I've spent this last week in the south of France...

...with Dutch friends Daphne and Koos...

...supporting them as they compete in yet another hang gliding competition.

When not flying, we enjoy the simple pleasures of the region...

...and the goodness of each other.

They've just left the camp this evening to begin the journey back home to the Netherlands. Tomorrow I'm off to Barcelona to meet up with Jamie, German, and others for our week of sailing among the Balearic Islands off the Mediterranean coast of eastern Spain.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Italy Wrap Up

An enchanting land...

...full of hidden beauty.

Furthermore, two people dear to my heart achieved their dreams: Corinna her 4th World Championship (Women, Flexwing); Alex his 2nd (Men, Rigidwing).

An explanation of just what the difference is between a flex and a rigid wing, as well as the compilation of all the video I shot, will have to wait until October, when I plan to be back in the States and have the time to write the tale.

For now, I'll leave it with just these photos of my friends' moments of triumph, as well as a 42 second video of Alex discussing his coming in 20 minutes behind that day's winner; Christian (Alex's good friend and neighbor in Italy, also two time (2002, 2004) world hang gliding champion in the rigid wing class).