Mocárabe Dome, Hall of the Two Sisters, Alhambra, Spain
Best Moments

The Best Moments of 2018

Our 2018 travel story started in Death Valley National park. We were chasing the Moon shadows looking for a place to shoot the Milky Way. In the Spring Andalusia enchanted us by its grand cathedrals, and dreamlike Alhambra Palace that seems came from the pages of Arabian Nights book. Summer was about vampires and werewolves that avoided us by all means. And the Fall was the prickliest season in vast and hot Arizona Desert.

It genuinely seemed a mere yesterday at the Death Valley as we celebrated New Year’s 2019, and already it is practically gone… How to squeeze the year of travel into one post! We do not chase the number of visited countries, miles wandered or kilometers wound on the speedometer.

We sincerely enjoy going back to our favorite places to find something new. On the other hand, it is great to explore some unknown areas and leave a piece of heart there.

So, here are our most memorable travel moments of 2018:

The Best Night Trip

What could be better than traveling under the pale light of the moon? If you are not a driver… Soft moon shadows flickered around, transforming the landscape to shimmering waves of light and dark. We peered into the blackness searching for an ideal Joshua tree with spread out branches. 

“There, on the right, it looks pretty.”

The car stopped and photographers, dogs, and a support and lighting group fell out. It was freezing there, but we were eager to sacrifice for the sake of the great cause — a picturesque shot.

Joshua Tree in Death Valley, California
Joshua Tree in Death Valley, California

Sadly, the stunning beauty of the Milky Way was hidden under clouds, but a few glittering stars were shining above the multi-arm Joshua tree. Something grand and inspiring popped in my mind:

When the Moon sparkles at night
With its splendid and tender sickle,
My soul aspires to another world.

Konstantin Balmont

The Best Off-Road Trip

Why do I love Death Valley National Park in California so much? For its unspoiled beauty, emptiness, vastness… I could go on and on. But to truly appreciate it and see the magic, one must leave the paved road smoothness and feel every rough bump.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, California
Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, California

One of my favorite places in Death Valley is the mysterious Racetrack Playa. The only way to get there is via remote, rough, rocky roads through an expansive landscape. Dry Lake or Playa is famous for strange moving rocks. Some of these stones are quite heavy. They glide on the lake floor, leaving long trails behind.

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, California
Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, California

The Strangest Place — Jerome, Arizona

Cleopatra Hill, where Jerome is placed, amazingly resembles a green Christmas tree with hanging buildings instead of toys. The winding terraces climb up the hill and sometimes end in decks overlooking the peaceful valley.

Driving leisurely along a winding road, I contemplated why someone would settle there. The answer is clear — copper, gold and silver. Jerome had been a booming mining town once, but when the mines closed, it turned into an abandoned ghost town.

Jerome, Arizona
Jerome, Arizona

The Most Dangerous Park in the USA — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The park was the best way to immerse into the desert charm and wind down from hectic city life. The Organ Pipe cacti loomed as grand church organs. Saguaro cacti, like giant Atlases, were holding up the skies on their shoulders.

Fluffy Cholla or jumping cacti relaxed on the ground like nasty teddy bears. Just do not try to pet them or even come closer — the prickly thorns will stick tenaciously onto your finger. It will be hard to get rid of this souvenir.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

The park straddles to the Mexican border in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Twice a joyful message appeared on my phone — “Welcome to Mexico.” The main danger in the park is not wild animals or burning heat and lack of water, and not even prickly cacti, but proximity to the border and illegal activity that goes on.

Unexpected Discovery in The Desert — Mission San Xavier del Bak, Tucson, Arizona

Past the city of Tucson in Arizona, I noticed graceful spires that stand out against the azure sky. Mission San Xavier del Bac, prompted Google. In snow-white radiance, the building rose from the vast sands of Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation.

The mission, which the locals call the “White Pigeon of the Desert,” is over 200 years old. The interior is filled with brightly painted carvings of the saints and ornate statues that are draped in real clothing.

Mission San Xavier del Bak, Tucson, Arizona
Mission San Xavier del Bak, Tucson, Arizona

Treading in The Footsteps of Literary Heroes in Forks, Washington, USA

From time to time, the soul yearns to examine the source of what fascinates us, regardless of whether it’s grand or naive. Whether it be the Shroud of Turin, the grave of Jim Morrison or the city where Stephanie Mayer’s “Twilight Saga” unfolded, the pilgrimage has eternally been an ample motive for travel.

Airplane to Seattle, then by car to Port Angeles, then to Olympic National Park, where tremendous trees guard winding mountain roads, and at last to the tiny town of Forks.

Hall of Mosses Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
Hall of Mosses Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

From the 360 days when the sky over the Olympic Peninsula is obscured by clouds, we picked 5 sunny ones. Consequently, to our utter disappointment, there weren’t any vampires in Forks or werewolves in La Push to see. So, we left the tale behind to enjoy unreal but the true beauty of the peninsula.

Sunset in La Push, Hall of Mosses Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
Sunset in La Push, Hall of Mosses Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

The Explosion of Colors in Seattle, Washington

Our day in Seattle started in the enchanting realm of Chihuly Garden and Glass. My eyes wandered all over the place — dazzling ceilings, sparkling chandeliers, colossal pillars, fantastic plants, ocean worlds. Fun and the myriad of vibrant flowers! Without a doubt, the great artist Dale Chihuly breathes life into a glass.

Flower Forest, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington
Flower Forest, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington

Afterwards, it was relaxing to admire the golden highlights of Seattle skyscrapers as they flicker in the dusk slowly flooding the great city.

The Other Twilight Saga, Seattle, Washington
The Other Twilight Saga, Seattle, Washington

The Arabesque Tales — Andalusia, Spain

Andalusia has completely and totally captured our imaginations. We discovered tranquil white villages, enormous cathedrals filled with gold, vast museums, ornate architecture — the dazzling glory of the east with the face of the west.

Mezquita-Catedral of Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain
Mezquita-Catedral of Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain

We have rarely seen in our travels places so fascinating and charming that it made us gasp. One of them was the Alhambra Nasrid Palace in Granada. How adequately depict the play of brilliant lights and dark shadows, airy arabesque lace of ceilings, and the mellow murmur of flowing water!

Arabesque Lace, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Arabesque Lace, Alhambra, Granada, Spain

“To the traveler imbued with a feeling for the historical and poetical, so inseparably intertwined in the annals of romantic Spain, the Alhambra is as much an object of devotion as is the Caaba to all true Moslems. How many legends and traditions, true and fabulous; how many songs and ballads, Arabian and Spanish, of love and war and chivalry, are associated with this oriental pile!”

The Alhambra, Washington Irving
Arabian Night, Alhambra, Granada
Arabian Night, Alhambra, Granada

What is in store for 2019?

We hope to continue our discoveries in the year ahead. Where to in 2019? We have already visited fabulous ancient and modern Greece (the story is in the works) and are planning to visit Fiorenze, then toast the new year in Death Valley.

Stay with us for more adventures. And please share your tips – we are always open to new ideas!

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