One week from now, I’ll be waking up in Guanajuato, Mexico — giddy, disoriented a bit, and searching for some breakfast. This trip has stalked up on us, and I have to plead that I’m feeling unprepared. Normally, the annual international trip is something I obsess over for months. Guide books lie scattered around the house; my “next trip” bookmarks folder swells to 60, 70, 80 bookmarks; doodles at work evolve from fighter jets and muscle cars to the rough outline of the country on my mind.
This morning I’m up before Hailey, which means I have a pot of coffee to work on and some color correcting to do for a client (in this case, Tim and Lexi — hey guys, your photos are now ready!). But I started thinking about travel and coffee and the moments where the two have collided beautifully. Travel tends to be an exercise of the senses. Obviously, sight + photography, but also sound + music (I’m working on a special Mexico playlist right now), flavor + food (just discovered they put molé on eggs in Guanajuato — yes!) and its cousin flavor + drink. In cases of this last pairing, I’m usually seeking out the holy trinity of liquids: wine, beer or coffee.
This morning, I’m compelled to write about coffee, and the best cups I ever did have. Warning: this is a self-indulgent exercise, but then again, so is blogging, right?
1. Italy (where to begin) – This cup starts in Varenna and has traversed the entire Boot wherever we’ve gone: the cappuccino. I had my first real one on Lake Como, and it was the first of many introductions to the beautiful details of Italian flavor. Enough espresso for every sip, a bold yet smooth flavor, and milk fading steadily into foam at the top. We can’t make these in America, at least not that I’ve found. In Seattle, they’re close, but as with many things and travel, its goodness is amplified by the setting. The cappuccino pictured above was our first in last year’s trip — served over breakfast at the Hotel Minervetta in Sorrento. When paired with a view of Vesuvius over the Bay of Naples, breakfast became less an exercise in sustanance, and more an exercise in realization — you are a long way from home, and its all good.
2. The Palms Cliff House, Big Island, Hawaii – Hailey and I honeymooned on the Big Island and Maui, and our first five nights were spent at this magnificent bed and breakfast on the wet coast north of Hilo. The amazing breakfasts were served on the lanai, accompanied by a hot cup of Kona. Mornings were always the right temperature. Pods of rain would splash the cliff-lined coast, cool things 5 degrees and cast a rainbow for 60 seconds, before moving on. The best cups of drip coffee I’ve had were on that porch, newly married, looking forward to everything.
3. Stella’s Cafe, Monteverde, Costa Rica – Here’s the magic formula of Stella’s: 1.) It’s backyard is the famous cloud forest of Monteverde, 2.) it’s patio featured an assortment of uber-comfy chairs, 3.) it’s local resident was an affectionate cat who had a penchant for sitting on your lap and purring, and 4.) they served mild shade-grown Costa Rican coffees. On top of all of that, our good friends Will and Liz were living up the road at a biology research center, meaning this was the place to meet up. On our first morning, we met a birdwatching guide here, and we hardly had to leave to see some of the area’s most magnificent birds. Across the street was a flock of golden-browed chlorophonias and a blue-crowned motmot perched nearby. Be sure to click the links to these birds — some of the craziest wildlife I’ve seen.
Unfortunately, this trip was a long time ago during my Nikon FM days — meaning I only have 4×6 prints of the trip, and crummy ones at that.
4. Seattle – If you love coffee and you’ve been to Seattle, you just can’t leave it off your list. I’ve been a handful of times, but on this last trip in November, I finally “got it” when it comes to this city’s coffee culture. That’s because it rained the whole freaking time, and without fail, there was always a coffee shop to duck into. Tops on my list wasn’t even a cafe: Macrina Bakery. It was one of those places where they specialize in one thing (incredible baked goods) and just so happen to know how to make cappuccinos like the Italians do. Bonus.
5. The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Belize – My final selection is another trip from the Nikon FM days. This memory is flavored by the sweetness of morning ritual. Every day, the routine was such: wake up at sunrise (courtesy of the chachalacas in the tree over our hut), walk onto the porch, lie in the hammock, listen to the rainforest wake up, and enjoy the rich coffee they delivered to our room. Next door to us were my Mom and Dad, they’re first tropical rainforest/ecolodge/birdwatching/coffee-drinking experience. There was a small and ornery ferruginous pygmy-owl who was nesting in a hollowed-out tree above our porch. While drinking our morning cup of Joe, we’d watch her chase the iguanas off the tree. On our final morning, she killed a hummingbird and feasted on it while we discussed breakfast. Of all the collisions of experience that travel brings, file that one under Strange Yet Sweet.
So here’s a heads up: I’m hoping to blog from Mexico next week. We leave Friday and return the Monday after Easter. We’ll see how the internet connection is at the two places we’re staying, but hopefully we’ll be able to chronicle our journey through Holy Week nightly. Looking forward to it.