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Archive for March, 2009

Bridle Loop Path, Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire (Photo by Josh Roberts)

Who: Josh Roberts

Where: Bridle Loop Path, Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire

When: May 2006

What: The nine-mile Bridle Path Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains takes in two of the state’s tallest peaks, Lafayette and Lincoln. I love this particular trail because it rewards you with all the best elements of hiking in the Northeast: an extended traverse along an exposed ridge, a series of roaring waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Presidentials and Pemigewasset Wilderness all the way to Mount Washington.

That’s my wife in the foreground, toughing it out even though we probably hiked the trail a little too early in the season. There were still huge swaths of snow below the treeline, and up on the exposed ridge all of the rocks and alpine plants were coated with hoarfrost. But man was it fun!

Here’s how I described it in the September 2006 edition of my American Adventurer column: “The trail climbs, steeply and steadily, over exposed rocks and up through a forest of beech, birch, and maple to the knife’s edge of rocks and windswept ledges that is Franconia Ridge … There you stand, a mile high, with the world spread before you and nothing between you and the next peak but a narrow, undulating ridge. The next mile and a half is all ups and downs, all jagged rocks and tumbled boulders, with every step of the way punctuated by loose rubble, patches of dwarf pines, and vast stretches of hardy alpine scrub.”

If that doesn’t sound like fun, I don’t know what does.

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tobago_sunset

Who: Josh Roberts

Where: Tobago, West Indies

When: April 2006

What: I took this photo from a private beach on the grounds of the Arnos Vale eco-lodge (a former sugar plantation) in Tobago. I love the way the sunset filters through the clouds, but what really makes the shot for me is the lonely sailboat off in the distance. I think it perfectly captures the whole laidback Caribbean experience.

Further inland, Tobago’s rainforest has been legally protected from human interference for more than 200 years, which has allowed more than 210 species of birds, 23 types of butterflies, 16 lizards, and even some fish-eating bats to thrive. No doubt about it, Tobago is one of the last truly undisturbed Caribbean gems.

The best way to make sense of all the biodiversity is by choosing an experienced guide. I went with Harris McDonald, a native of Tobago who calls the jungle his “playground.” He has twice won Tobago’s top tour guide award, and his jungle tours set the standard for the island.

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view-from-caana3

Who: Christine Sarkis

Where:  Belize

When: November 2006

What: There’s so much to love about Belize. Drive down any of the five (it’s a small country) main highways and you’ll see the cultural and ethnic diversity as you pass Maya villages and Mennonites wearing straw hats and overalls walking along the side of the road. Snorkel off the coast to discover the world’s second longest barrier reef. Head into any restaurant anywhere and savor the country’s magic condiment: Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce.

The dense jungle of the Peten district in western Belize is yet another thing to love about the country. If you know where to look, you’ll find incredible wildlife and the soaring remains of ancient Maya civilizations. This photo was taken at the Caracol archeological site, accessible via four-wheel drive vehicle, patience, and a high tolerance for rutted dirt roads. The city, still under excavation, may have once been home to 140,000 people and was larger than modern day Belize City.

This photo was taken atop the Caana pyramid. To get a sense of just how high it is (nearly 150 feet if I remember correctly), look across to the smaller pyramid on the left of the photo. See the even tinier person in blue way down there? That was our six-foot-tall guide. See how small those palm trees in the center of the photo are? Yup, this is one substantial piece of 3,000 year-old architecture.

Off in the distance is the jungle that separates Belize and Guatemala. On this day, the visibility was so good we could see into Guatemala. Not that there was much to see. Aside from more trees.

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Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland (Photo by Josh Roberts)

Who: Josh Roberts

Where: Isle of Skye, Scotland

When: September 2000

What: I snapped this photo while climbing a muddy footpath to the top of the Quiraing on Skye. This easy day hike is one of my favorites on the island because it offers so much of what I love about the Scottish landscape: dramatic cliffs, heaving hills, and blue-green lochs visible in the distance. From the top of the Quiraing I could see as far as the Black Cuillins in one direction and the wide open Atlantic in the other.

I’ll also never forget the day I took this picture. It was September 18, 2000, my first wedding anniversary. Probably the best vacation my wife and I have ever taken, and definitely the one of which I have the best and most vivid memories.

Quiraing, incidentally, means “pillared stronghold.” As you can see, it takes its name from a series of natural rock formations that spiral up to the sky with breathtaking abandon.

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Chez Louisette, 18th arrondissement in Paris (Photo by Christine Sarkis)

Who: Christine Sarkis

Where: Chez Louisette, Marché Vernaison at the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, 18th arrondissement in Paris (M: Porte de Clignancourt)

What: Behold Chez Louisette. On a trip to Paris in the early 90s, my aunt and mom found this tiny and endearingly strange restaurant tucked in among the stalls at the marché Vernaison (part of the larger Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen). When my sister and I moved to Paris a decade later, we made this a regular pilgrimage point.

We’d spend the morning scouring stalls for our latest obsessions. Hundred-year-old First Communion announcements, antique tarot cards, nibs for fountain pens, cast-off newswire photos from the 1960s: The marché Vernaison was a treasure trove.

For lunch, we’d wind our way to Chez Louisette. I haven’t been back in years, but at the time, even in summer the whole place looked like it had been decorated for Christmas. Christmas, 1967. You can see it here: The tattered gold garlands and string lights floating above the ground-floor dining room. Upstairs offered a perfect vantage point from which to watch the festivities. And what festivities…

Rumor has it that Edith Piaf used to sing here. Singing is still a major part of the experience, at least on Sundays. The same two singers, who may or may not have also been waiting tables between numbers (hard to tell if they were holding down the job or just helping out in a fit of stage-induced giddiness), were there every time: the older man in the suit with a red flower tucked into the lapel and a rather sharp hat, and a Diana Rigg lookalike who had aged dramatically but never abandoned the dress or the makeup of the Avengers decade. They sang, they swayed, the accordion bellowed harmoniously. They threw themselves into the old standards, the crowd pleasers by Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and others. The patrons were mostly French whenever I was there, and they clapped and danced along, flushed with wine and joy.

The food? Meh. But what a wonderful place to be early on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

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