Photo Set: Northern Ireland

The trip to Northern Ireland was by far the most important part of my trip. I was going to meet a “new” friend, someone I’d written about extensively over the last five months, to interview him and speak with him about the project. This is what I love about writing! 
Our adventure started at Waterloo Station…

Northern Ireland is picturesque, with rolling green hills of farmland and trees. It is a place of tradition, simple needs, and simple wants. Life on the family farm. Animals.IMG_1445  This is the cottage my friend Colm built, by hand, on his family’s land, which he can trace back thousands of years.… and these are his cows!The first night he took us to Brysons for dinner and a couple of pints (of Guinness, naturally). He’s well known around there, and rightfully so, he’s been going to that same bar for over 30 years!After a morning spent working, we decided to break for the afternoon and do a little exploring around Northern Ireland. We had a couple destinations on our list, but we were up for the adventure! Colm told us some great history about the places we visited!
This is the Northern Coast!
As a Game of Thrones nerd, Matt absolutely had to see The Dark Hedges!We also checked out Dunluce Castle!The last night was really special though, when Colm took us to The Crosskeys, a bar that’s been operating since 1654. Yes, 1654. The history there is never-ending, and there’s even a ghost that haunts the bar! We stayed late (like 3 AM), long after the bar had closed, drinking Guinness and singing songs with the a group of guys and the owner. It was one of those nights when I was given a rare opportunity to get a peek inside someone’s idyllic life, and it felt like a scene from a musical. Despite the downsides, and Colm’s had many, his life is rather wonderful.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early on Sunday, but spending the weekend with Colm was an experience I’ll never forget. Until next time, he’ll just be “going with the flow.”
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BONUS: In the picture below, I am holding an actual comm, a letter written on cigarette paper and smuggled out of Long Kesh Prison in the early 1980’s. These tiny pieces of history were integral in spreading the horrors of what happened inside those walls.

This finishes my European trip! Relive the beauty, starting back at Photo Set: Love in the South of France!

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Photo Set: London and Rochester, England

I’d had about as much romance as I could handle, so it was finally time to say goodbye to France and move onto the next destination. I hopped on the high-speed train from Paris to London, under the English Channel.IMG_1146
It was a really cool experience, and apparently super efficient, which made me question why we don’t have these high-speed trains in the United States. Commuting around California would be so much easier!
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My time in London was going to be primarily spent writing and researching, but I did manage to get out and see a few things. The first night I spent with my cousin, then joined my friend in Waterloo for the week. It was go time!
Naturally, I checked out the London Eye and Big Ben because they were so close by!IMG_1190IMG_1194IMG_1239
Here’s a segment of the World War II memorial. I couldn’t possibly capture it all.IMG_1223
And Big Ben! IMG_1225
This is a Marriot hotel now, but for 64 years, this building was the London County Hall!IMG_1237Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican businesswoman known for setting up the “British Hotel,” a pseudo-hospital for sick and convalescent soldiers during the Crimean War. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton.IMG_1690
I ran into a friend in a tiny bar (small world right?) and she invited us to join her and her friends for their Fourth of July festivities, on the lawn by Tower Bridge. We may have been on the other side of the pond, but we held it down for ‘Murca. Shotgun!IMG_1292
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment… naturally.IMG_1300
One of my favorite little gems in London is The Graffiti Cave and The Vaults Theatre, by Waterloo Station. If you’re into street art, this is the place to check out! The entrance is relatively unassuming, reeking of danger and “Do Not Enter,” but we all know that’s where the best stuff is normally hiding…
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It’s an entire tunnel covered in graffiti, top to bottom. It’s unbelievable! So colorful!IMG_1305IMG_1312
This is a shot of the ceiling! Anybody know the artist?IMG_1313
… if so, let’s get on a conference call! (That was a joke about the four phone booths.)IMG_1333
It turns out, a friend of mine from my days in Australia lived just outside London in Rochester, so I took a day to go see her and explore Rochester. It’s a really cool city! And look, another awesome castle!
IMG_1345The Rochester Castle was built in 1087 to protect England’s south–east coast from invasion.IMG_1591IMG_1360
And this beautiful church!
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Charles Dickens lived in Rochester, and is said to haunt the moat on Christmas Eve.IMG_1372

As a first-time American traveler in Europe, I was enamored at the age (old) and resilience of the buildings and castles. There’s so much history in Europe, it’s like America is brand new!

I took the train back to London late on Thursday night, because we had to be up and out early on Friday. The sole reason for my trip, the research, the history, was the next destination on my trip… Northern Ireland.

CHE

Did you see the other photo sets? Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-MichelPhoto Set: Normandy and Cancale, and Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

We left Saint-Malo and headed toward Paris, not without making a pitstop in Dinan, a beautiful old village along the way. Gorgeous old architecture, and beautiful views!IMG_0887IMG_0919IMG_0909IMG_0938IMG_0898IMG_0896We arrived in Paris at the perfect time, rush hour… which also happened to be happy hour! I booked a bed in the Generator Hostel, located not too far from where Graham and Kate were staying, so after taking this picture from their window, I kissed them goodbye and headed toward my hostel.IMG_0965IMG_0974IMG_0986IMG_0991I only had one day in Paris, and as I wandered around one of the most romantic cities in the world, I was making a list of the places I wanted to see in Paris… when I come back with someone I love. (Yeah, that’s sappy, whatever! It’s my trip!)IMG_0995IMG_1059Accordingly, I spent most of my day at the Eiffel Tower, eating a baguette, drinking Rose, smoking cigarettes (sorry, mom!), and writing in my journal. It was so quintessentially perfect that I couldn’t possibly not, you know what I mean?IMG_1062I also made this cool time-lapse!ezgif.com-optimize
My last night in Paris could have been a quiet one, if everything had gone to plan. As I was heading up to the rooftop bar to watch the sunset, I ran into a group of young travelers from Southern California. We chatted, drank, played foozball, then headed out to Bastille for dancing. This is the last clear picture I took that night.IMG_1140.jpgThe last morning in Paris, I checked out, and walked along the river (trying not to throw up from a vicious hangover), heading to the train station…IMG_1114IMG_1123
My trip to Paris was far too short, but I definitely have a list of things I need to come back to see. What’s the old phrase, “Always leave them wanting more?” Well I want more Paris, that’s for sure.
But now, the adventure must continue, I was about to jump on a train to London!

BONUS: Is it just me, or is this Space Invader?
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Check out my other photo sets from France! Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-Michel, and Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale.

Photo Set: Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located approximately a kilometer off the Normandy coast of France, and it looks like a goddamn fairy tale. (It is, nearly, a fairy tale, as the city was the inspiration for the Disney film Tangled.)IMG_0399Part monastery, part fort, part village, Mont Saint-Michel is designed to mirror the feudal system, with the monastery at the top, the village at the bottom, and there were allegedly houses outside the walls for farmers and fisherman.IMG_0407We arrived in the afternoon so the tide was still low, allowing you to walk around the outside of the walls (if you so desired). It was really rocky and muddy, so I decided to pass, but inside the walls is unbelievable… yep, that’s a drawbridge!IMG_0409Narrow, steep streets, lined with little shops, restaurants, and cafes.IMG_0412According to the legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on this rocky islet. From then on, it was referred to as Mont Saint-Michel.IMG_0418Saint Michael, considered an “archangel,” was not only a healer, but also a defender of the people, famously depicted slaying Satan in the form of a serpent. The Eagle represents Saint Michael himself, so there’s gorgeous gilded statues interlaced with the architecture. Here’s the Eagle head!IMG_0444IMG_0462Behold… the abbey! A destination for monks (and once used as a prison), the abbey is breathtaking, silent and still, a series of Gothic rooms and vaulted architecture. Since the island is somewhat small, and flat land is difficult to come by, the sacred space is divided into many rooms for their individual purposes!IMG_0467

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The dining hall had a beautiful overhanging installation of feathers, hanging over the middle of the room. It was easy to imagine the long tables of monks dining here.IMG_0496IMG_0512One of my favorite parts of Mont Saint-Michel is the giant tread-wheel, which required six workers to power the hamster-style wheel, allowing the monks to haul up thousands of pounds of stones and supplies from the landing below!

IMG_0533IMG_0521IMG_0575IMG_0473From the ramparts, you can see (intruders?) for miles! The tide’s starting to come in!IMG_0558IMG_0557The bridge to access the island was built in 2014, allowing later access to the island and helping with the tidal flow around the island. (See how the water came in?!)IMG_0607
Walking along the walls and ramparts, it’s hard not to feel a little romance, right?IMG_0632
Cemeteries in magical places like these are especially fascinating to me, when you consider the small population (under 50) that has lived here consistently over the generations, and those that have fallen here by chance, now remain forever.IMG_0657IMG_0660Mont Saint-Michel is by FAR one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to in my life, so I had to snap this panorama before I left, and I think it’s the best photo I got.IMG_0685And the trip continues! Where to next you ask? We take a somber, rainy trip, to the American Cemetery in Normandy.

CHE

Did you see the photos from Chateau de Bouthonvilliers and Saint-Malo, The Walled City? You gotta check them out!

Photo Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled City

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Saint-Malo, located in Brittany, Northwestern France, is a walled port city on the English Channel. A friend of mine read All The Light We Cannot See, which takes place in St. Malo, and convinced us to spend a few days there intra muros… inside the walls.

Saint-Malo, a port town, was historically notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and pirates. Walking around the port, you can see why this little city has been so popular for so long.

Jacques Cartier, credited as the discoverer of Canada, hailed from Saint-Malo!

I was immediately enamored with the old cobbled stone streets, narrow and caked in history, with the intricate brick patterns guiding you down the city’s adorable streets and alleyways, where you could find boutiques, bakeries, and high-end jewelry shops.

In late 1944, General Patton’s US 3rd Army, advancing into western France, laid siege to Saint-Malo and it was only through a large scale bombardment that the last stubborn German defenders were dislodged. Accordingly, a majority of the city was destroyed… but they rebuilt, and it’s remarkable.

 

The tide plays a major role in the defensibility of the city. When the tide rises, the beaches disappear and accessibility is limited, or completely eliminated all together. This swimming pool is above ground at low tide, and the diving platform is completely under water at high tide.

The National Fort, built in 1689 is only accessible at low tide.

 

You can walk (almost) all the way around the entire city on the raised walls, looking outward or inward. There was a little bit of construction so a segment was blocked off, but we walked most of it!

Quality people watching going on up here!

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… and some delicious crepes. Check out that chocolate!IMG_0260Last, but certainly not least, I knew I would love Saint-Malo forever because their official mascot is an Ermine wearing a cape. Yes, you read that correctly, a weasel wearing a motherfuckin’ cape. Here’s a shot of their drain covers to prove it:Saint-Malo is definitely on my list of places to recommend to anyone traveling through Northwestern France. Really cool spot. Lots of history and gorgeous views.

Where to next? Mont Saint-Michel!

CHE

Did you see my photo post about Chateau de Bouthonvilliers?

Go Camping in the Rain

There’s nothing quite like camping the rain…

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It was raining before we even left Portland. We’d been planning this camping trip for a while now, having been postponed a handful of times this summer. Time was running out to go camping. A little rain wasn’t going to stop us from getting our “nature time.”

We pulled into the campsite and immediately go to work setting up the tent and canopy. The ground was wet and there was a trickle of smoke from the remains of the last campers. We decided it was best to put the canopy over the fire pit to start drying it out for a fire later. I wandered off to collect wood for the fire. I had a feeling we were going to need a lot of them. The best way to find firewood at these kinds of camping sites is not to go into the woods, just go next door. I found a trash can full of nearly dry wood for the fire.

Once everything was set up, the weather lightened up to a slight drizzle, so we went for a walk in the direction of the pools. We didn’t know how far away they were exactly, but we knew we were walking in the general direction and they would be hard to miss. At one point, we veered off the path and headed down the water. We walked by a family campsite, where they yelled “ya’ll want some liquid sunshine?”

We walked over to the campsite, seeking refuge under their canopy.

“Do you know how far are we from Opal Creek?” We asked them.

“Probably 15 miles.” One of them responded. “You want a beer?”

Sure. Why not.

This was a beautiful moment. It took us wandering around in a forest in the rain to encounter to be reminded that we’re all in this together. Walking around in the rain sucks. It sucks a little less if you’ve got a slight buzz on. Seek shelter and share a moment with us. We talked about the weather, getting into camp late, what we studied in school, and when we’re heading home. Chances are, in any other place than that moment, I would have said nothing to these people. I’ve grown a little bit. Thanks, nature! We finished our drinks, said our goodbyes and good lucks.

We headed back to camp, jumped in the car, and found a closer trail head to the Opal Creek Pool on the other side of the river. We’d do it tomorrow. It was time to head home and build a fire. Building a fire in the rain, with wet wood and sticks, is a challenge. It’s absolutely doable, but it’s a feat worth putting yourself through. Enjoy the struggle, because the satisfaction of sitting around a warm campfire when it’s raining is a beautiful thing. You created the fire that’s giving off warmth. You’ve contributed. You succeeded. Be proud and char that weenie.

The rain didn’t give up all night, beating ceaselessly against our tent as we cuddled up in our sleeping bags. Who knows how much sleep we actually got. But when we peaked our heads out of the tent in the morning, the rain had stopped. Again, I got to making the fire and again, it was a struggle. Finally, it caught and we agreed to burn all the wood I collected. Pure satisfaction. And sure enough, the rain picked up again, but we didn’t care. After lunch we packed up the campsite and drove to the trail head. Even in the rain, the hike to the Opal Creek Pool is beautiful. It’s just over 3 miles to the pools, with a walk through the Jawbone Flats creek near the end. It’s a great hike. Beautiful.

I’ve been on a lot of hikes. Short hikes. Extended day trips. Sunny hikes and rainy hikes. Growing up in Southern California during a drought, I always had an odd perspective on rain. I know the Earth needed it, but when it finally did rain, we stayed indoors out of it’s reach. Is that a negative connection? Maybe. But hiking in the rain makes you more cognizant of the little things. You’re thankful for shelter. You’re thankful for the reliability of your car. You’re thankful for the food you eat. Even the air tastes and feels better when you breathe it in. This is a slice of an inglorious life in the middle of mother nature, far away from the comforts of your everyday life. Camping inspires you to grow through appreciation.

It’s only when things are not ideal, when you’re camping in the rain, do you realize how truly fortunate you are to just “be.” Get outside. Go into nature. Go get wet.

CHE

 

Bee Stings & Pollinator Scholarships

I’m allergic to bees… or at least, I used to be.

The worst time I got stung was in sixth grade. We were scheduled to take a week long trip out to Catalina Island, off the Santa Barbara coast. We’d stay there for a week, learning about plants and wildlife on the island, and aquatic sea life out in the ocean. It was a pretty sweet gig.

Sunday, the day before we were leaving, I was swimming in the pool with my neighbor Jeremy. We were racing back-and-forth in my boot shaped pool on Foothill Lane when I slapped the edge of the pool, squishing a bee and being stung in the right pointer finger, just above the seam to my hand. I iced it but the following day, my hand was really swollen. Like one of those plastic gloves you blow into to inflate. If there was ever a question before, the answer’s “yes,” I’m allergic to bees.IMG_5579

Nevertheless, I took some medication and went on the field trip out to the Island. But while I was there, on the first day, I somehow managed to lose the medication. The island’s medical staff gave me some anti-inflammatories, but nothing was helping. It continued to swell and hurt. I honestly thought my skin was going to tear open.

One night I tied my arm above my body with a string tied to the ceiling of our bungalow (or whatever kind of tent we were sleeping in). When I woke up the next morning, the swelling in my hand had gone down… down into my lower arm! I looked like Popeye with my huge forearms.

Eventually, the swelling went down, and I’m happy to say, I haven’t been stung by a bee since. I used to carry an epi-pen, but even that’s expired. But in my time away from bees, I’ve come to appreciate them so much more…

For instance… did you know that pollinators (like honey bees) are directly responsible for 70% of the food we eat? Think about that for a second. 70% of our food. Bees do that shit.

This has only recently popped back into my head because of my job at Bee Thinking. We’re manufacturers and retailers of Cedar beehives. The founder of the company, Matt Reed, was on Shark Tank last year and Beyond the Tank earlier this year. It was exciting to join a company that is growing, as a creative business and a leader in “natural beekeeping.”

12552544_10153960563162853_3895236193445091538_nThe thing that makes Bee Thinking different is our philosophy of natural beekeeping. Bees have been making honey for hundreds of thousands of years without our help or input, there’s no reason why they need us now. This means no chemicals, no queen marking, foundationless frames, screened bottoms, and the list goes on. Natural and treatment free. Other companies may offer these features, but Bee Thinking truly does it the best.

I’ve signed up to be a Brand Ambassador for Bee Thinking. I am excited about the company and I believe in it. They offer three different kinds of beehive, for the urban backyard beekeeper to the commercial apiarist. They’re made from Western Red Cedar which means they’re going to last a long time. They absolutely beautiful.

We also offer a large assortment of bee-related products. We’re talking candles, honey, books, glasses, stickers, if it’s got a bee on it, we might carry it. (Okay, may not that many things, but you should seriously check out what they carry.) But there’s some seriously cool and interesting stuff. Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 7.56.25 PM

The part that I am most excited about is that we, as brand ambassadors, are generating reveneue for Pollinator Scholarships! Bee Thinking will pledge $10 for every order over $100 made using a bee ambassador code to be put towards the pollinator scholarship program. The more ambassador codes get used, the more funds are raised!

My ambassador code is “BeeChrisE” good for 10% off!

 

Here are some of my favorite offerings from Bee Thinking:

  • Valhalla Horn Cup – I LOVE this cup. I just brought mine to What The Festival this past weekend and it was a lifesaver whenever I had to grab a drink of water! Not to mention you’re always feeling like a Viking when you have it on your hip.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping – I read this book cover-to-cover and I found it absolutely enlightening. You don’t get weighed down in the science or the author’s opinion on how to keep bees. Simple language. Great spark!
  • Pomade – The Bees Knees pomade is no joke. It’s super sticky so it keeps really well… sometimes a little too well.
  • California Bee Sticker – Gotta keep up my home state pride! They also offer Texas, Oregon, and Washington.
  • DIY Candle Kit – Super cool gift idea. Make your own candles at home!
  • Baby Rattle – My friend Max is going to have a kid soon, and I am totally giving this to them as a gift. It’s beautiful and safe for the baby to put in their mouth. So Max, if you’re reading this, don’t buy this. Thanks.
  • Mason Bee House – If you’re not into bees, Mason Bees are definitely the way to go. They 95% pollinators and they crash land! They’re really fun to watch and this is one chic house.
  • Top Bar Hive Starter Kit – If I could have any beehive, I’d want the Kenyan Top Bar Hive. Look how gorgeous this thing is! The top bars, when filled with honey and wax, is only 7 pounds! And the display window is so cool!

There’s a TON more stuff over at their website and there’s new stuff going up all the time. But for now, if you want to help me save the bees, pick up something fun and use the coupon code “BeeChrisE” to save yourself 10%.

Don’t forget! Bees die if they sting you. If you just remain calm and don’t swat at them, they should leave as peacefully as they came. And be extra careful around open water sources… like pools.

CHE

*I wrote this blog entirely on my off-hours under no direction of Bee Thinking or any of it’s members. The opinions expressed in this blog post are strictly my own.

The Person I’m Pretending To Be

“You are what you pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

tumblr_nzok6g7MX41rt7qgbo1_500At this point in my life, I’m doing a serious amount of introspection. At 30 years old, I feel like I’m caught in the first of my life’s major crossroads; there’s the person I currently am at 30 years old, the person I thought I would be at 30 years old, and the person I want to be after 30. For whatever reason, some people my age have given up on becoming the person they wanted to be and have been forced to settle into the existence of the person they’ve become. I fully recognize those two perspectives of myself are vastly different, but rather than dwell on those differences (and personal failures), I’m still mainly focused on the third road: becoming the person I want to be.

Some established businessmen (like Mark Cuban) may refer to me as a “want-repreneur.” While I was initially offended by this title (think “poser” of businessmen) I eventually realized that while somewhat patronizing, it’s also a truthful badge of honor about where I am in the process. I am, by every definition, a “want-repreneur,” mostly because I don’t believe my purpose on this planet is to help somebody else actualize their dreams while my own lay dormant. I want to be in control of my own destiny, and ultimately, that means being in charge of my financial gain and work situation. In the meantime, I have to make the best of my need for a consistent paycheck, so I work a day job.

The person I want to be will travel the world and experience different cultures. While the experiences of traveling are hard to “fake,” the desire, motivation, and information I can collect about all the places I want to go, and live, are more easily available then they’ve ever been before. I may not be able to go to Bali later this month, but in the meantime, I can do research into the local communities, see pictures and videos of people visiting Bali, learn about the local cuisine, and pick up tips on places to stay in order to make the traveling experience truly unique. When I get to wherever I want to be, I want it to feel like home. That’s the life I want. I won’t lie to you about where I’ve been (New Zealand!), but I also won’t lie about how badly I want to go to the exotic places I haven’t been yet. (I wanna go to Chile really bad!)

Then there’s money. I’m definitely living paycheck-to-check, but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally picking up a round of drinks. My true desire is to be affluent to a point of actualized creativity. I think there’s an important line to draw here when it comes to “how rich do you want to be?” I don’t want to be rich enough to have 12 sports cars, rather I want to be rich enough to buy all the pieces, and the personal time, to build my own sports car. I don’t want to eat out at restaurants every night, I want to cook at home with the freshest, best ingredients! I don’t want to be rich enough to put people down, I want to be rich enough to pick people up. I don’t want to be rich enough to have priceless art on my walls, I want to be rich enough to make art whenever the inspiration strikes me. That’s priceless. The type of affluence I am striving for is the freedom to create art without boundaries or limitations, until then, I’m having hot ramen for lunch.

But what about happiness? I truly believe sometimes “pretending” is super important when it comes to happiness. If you let every little speed bump knock you around, you would never drive your car. If you let every little conflict, every difference of opinion, every squabble redirect the entire course of your day (and happiness), you will never ever be happy. But if you “pretend” you’re happy, even when you’re not, the low-points won’t seem all that low. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you turn into an over-positive psychopath or something, but positivity breeds positivity. Give yourself some perspective and realize all the good in your life. That should make you happy… just a little bit?

So, until that time when I am where I want to be, I will have to follow Vonnegut’s wisdom and just pretend. This post may have pulled back my curtain a little bit, but honestly, I don’t mind. Outside of this post, however, in the real world’s meetings and social gatherings, I will continue to do what I have to do to be perceived as the successful entrepreneur, traveler, intellectual, and financially flush guy to live a great life and create the spur-of-the-moment art as I please. In maintaining that facade of control, the right opportunity may one day present itself to me.

That day, I won’t be pretending… I’ll just be me.

CHE

Photo Set: Tahoe National Forest

I recently spent a week in the Tahoe National Forest. First with my family in North Lake Tahoe, and then two days with my friend in Echo Lake. The effects of the California drought were staggering. The Truckee River was lower than I’ve ever seen it. The mountains were more gray then green, beautiful in its own, eerie way. We adventured into the mountains to find the spring the fed our house and spent some time being one with nature.

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